Movements (Feminism, LGBT Rights, Marriage Equality), 2 Diaries, 1
Trans Woman's Message
(c) TaraElla 2017. All rights reserved.
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effort has been made to describe accurately the historical events
referenced in the book, the accuracy of such events described cannot
could have written a manifesto of inclusive feminism, but I know that
some of you would still be unconvinced.
instead here is a story, inspired by real life stories I have known.
I am sure many of you will be convinced of the need for a more
inclusive feminism after reading this.
strong and keep the dream alive,
Chapter 1: 2003 Entries
is the first entry, so I'll introduce myself.
name is Natalie. Or this is what I call myself, because others call
me a different name. You see, they perceive me as a boy, even though
I'm really a girl. I'll have to resolve this later. But for now, this
is how it is.
have just turned 16.
like music, getting to know different cultures, collecting things,
and computers. And I'm developing an increasing interest in politics
hope that over the coming months and years, you will come to know me
School Have To Be Like This?
hate putting on my school uniform. Why? It marks me out as 'male'.
But the rules say I have to wear it anyway.
do schools have to be so mean, to make rules that make people
unhappy? Well, you may say that they don't make these rules for trans
people. That's definitely true, trans people are so rare that schools
and rule makers are generally unaware of our existence. I mean, my
school isn't 'bad' anyway, they have made an effort to make gay
students feel included, for example, which is better than what many
other schools are like. You can't expect them to know about trans
why does the school have to have a male and female uniform? Out
there, in the real world, many clothes are unisex nowadays. But
schools are like, stuck in the 19th century, where all clothes are
either male or female.
ask another question. Why can't trans students go to school as their
real gender? This would work well, right? But there would certainly
be an uproar from other parents. There have indeed been a few cases
around the world where trans students have attempted to go to school
as their real gender, but it hasn't always worked out well
apparently. Which explains why there have only been very few cases of
this happening. This also only happens in some very open-minded,
'progressive' areas, and I'm sure where I live doesn't count as one.
Furthermore, all of the handful of cases I know of are in places
where students don't have to wear a uniform. I guess this makes it
brings me back to the uniform, and rules in general. Rules are bad
for minorities. Rules are inflexible, and minorities who aren't well
catered for get caught up in them. Which is why society shouldn't
have that many rigid rules, in my opinion.
Marriage, Milestone One
gay marriages have arrived in the English-speaking world. The Supreme
Court in Ontario, Canada declared that gay marriages should be legal,
and the Canadian Prime Minister decided that he would accept the
ruling. Ontario has since started issuing marriage licences, even
though gay marriages have not been legalised in federal law yet.
Prime Minister Chretian says his government will do this next, but
the conservative opposition wants to ban gay marriages instead, so it
can go either way now. But even if the future is uncertain, many
Canadian gay couples have already applied to get married, and even
several couples here in Australia plan to travel there to get
married. It appears that they will take any opportunity available.
opinion is generally not on the side of gay marriage. There's been an
increase in support since the 1990s when the issue was first debated,
but supporters are still in the minority even in most Western
months ago I had a long and deep thought about this matter, and I
decided that I should support gay marriage. I mean, gay people aren't
going to change or go away, so why deny them something that they
want? Last month I talked about how rigid rules were making minority
people's lives hard, and here's another good example of this. If gay
marriage is legal, most men will still marry women and most women
will still marry men, and life will still go on. But for about 2% of
the population, it will mean everything to them. Why is this so hard
to understand, for the majority of people?
least, this is the first milestone for gay marriage in the
English-speaking world. While the issue has been debated on-and-off
for some time as some kind of far-fetched idea, it is finally
'getting real'. We don't know where this will lead, but I'm happy
that at least the conversation has started properly.
important task for all women is to develop a sense of dress. A dress
style that suits your body type and presents your personality. While
genetic girls have many years to develop this, trans girls don't. I
haven't even come out to my family yet, but I see this as an
important part of my preparation for the future.
truth, it's all trial and error. I can't count how many times I've
bought something that doesn't really suit me, and wasted what little
money that I've got. On the internet there are older trans women with
websites regularly showing off new outfits that they have bought, but
as a teenager I don't have nearly as big a budget. Not that I would
want to look like them either - they look like they are going to a
fashion show every day, but I just want to look 'normal'. But it's
really a challenge to 'explore' your sense of style on such a limited
budget either way.
girls also lack the benefit of sharing opinions about dress styles
with other girls, as they grow up. However, the internet trans
community is of great help in filling this void nowadays. We can
upload and share our photos, and encourage each other in our
comments. I'm not confident enough to share my style with the world
yet, but hopefully soon I will be confident enough to start engaging
in this process.
Chapter 2: 2004 Entries
Girls Not Welcome?
I have been very into reality TV. American Idol is my favourite, but
there are many others. I like watching people chase their dreams,
stepping up to new challenges week after week, trying to do their
best. In fact, their spirit has become great inspiration to many
people around the world. For most shows, there are also internet
forums, where fans can gather to discuss the show, and of course,
cheer on their favourites. Quite a few on there have also said that
their favourites have inspired them to try out next year.
what about me? Do I want to try out? It's complicated. In an ideal
world, I would. But I wouldn't want to go 'as a boy'. It's not the
real me, and I don't want people cheering on someone that's not the
real me. Can I go 'as a girl'? Maybe. After all, drag queen Courtney
Act was on last year's Australian Idol. But then, she didn't get into
the top 12. Besides, drag queens are often seen as just a bit of
entertainment, actual trans girls may be seen quite differently. So
it's probably not worth it.
complain about the glass ceiling limiting women's advancement. But
then, trans girls don't get even the opportunities average people
enjoy. How can this not be a bigger problem?
Can Go Either Way Now
year ago, gay marriage arrived in the English-speaking world, in
Ontario, Canada. Since then, court rulings in Massachusetts have made
it the first US state to have gay marriage, and similar rulings have
also been handed down in several other Canadian provinces. Gay
marriage is shaping up to be a hot topic this year.
there also appears to be a danger in this. Forces opposed to reform
are now mobilising, especially for the US Presidential elections
later this year. They plan to set up referenda in many states across
the US to prohibit similar court rulings in the future. With public
opinion still firmly against gay marriage, they expect to win.
President Bush may even support a nationwide gay marriage ban, it's
currently unclear whether he may pursue this. Meanwhile, Democratic
candidate John Kerry has said that he does not support gay marriage
either, but appears to be open to civil unions, i.e. arrangements
like marriage but not called marriage. Still much better than what
we've got now.
Religious Right in Politics
is increasing interest in the rise of the so-called religious right
in politics, in the light of their efforts to place gay marriage bans
on the ballot in multiple US states in November this year.
read a few articles discussing this, and I also did a bit of
research. And it has got me worried. Real worried. Apparently, the
religious right has a vast network of resources, and have been busily
spreading fear about gay marriage and encouraging opponents to enrol
to vote for November. It appears that the Republican Party likes this
too, as these 'new voters' are very likely to go their way. It is at
least partially for electoral advantage too that they are considering
a federal ban on gay marriage. Meanwhile, even though John Kerry has
ruled out supporting gay marriage, even his sympathy to civil unions
is not acceptable to this crowd. Apparently, they believe gay couples
should have exactly no rights before the law.
religious right campaign may have already had some effect on the
presidential race. Earlier this year, Kerry was clearly in front, but
now it appears that Bush is the favourite. Which I don't like to see,
not only because of the gay rights issue, but also because I believe
Bush should be punished for last year's War in Iraq.
I also worry that the religious right agenda is not just about being
anti gay marriage. I also found that sections of the religious right,
being Christian fundamentalists, are very hostile to those of other
religions. Since 2001, in the wake of 9/11, there's already been a
worrying problem of rising Islamophobia and its associated
encouragement of xenophobia and hawkish foreign policy. We really
don't need the religious right to encourage this further. We want
world peace, not religious wars.
Bans Gay Marriage Too
happens in the US politically is sure to affect events in Australia.
This week, Prime Minister John Howard successfully imported the idea
of introducing bans on gay marriage to prevent courts from ordering
its recognition. A few cases before the Family Court involving gay
couples married overseas asking for recognition have given Howard the
in the US, electoral politics is a strong part of the consideration,
notwithstanding Howard's own conservatism on gay rights. The
opposition Labor party had been dragging its feet on this issue for a
few months now, but now that an election is coming up in several
weeks' time, they too fear electoral backlash if they didn't allow
Howard to get his way. So they waved this unjust piece of legislation
through, although quite a few Labor politicians abstained from the
should be noted that while I have personally been a passionate
supporter of gay marriage for nearly two years now, it's actually
still not a major topic even among gay activists here. Why? The main
reason lies in the existence of de-facto couple rights in Australia,
at least on the state level. In Australia, couples who live together
for a period of time have most of the rights of marriage. At state
level, these rights have been extended to gay couples in recent
years. At federal level, the Howard government remains resistant to
this idea, but if the Labor party wins office, it is expected that
they will take it up. So the main reason for needing gay marriage in
the US, i.e. that everything from hospital visitation rights to the
joint filing of taxes necessarily depends on it, does not exist here.
if the legal rights of marriage can be obtained otherwise, a
substantial segment of the gay community just wouldn't want to fight
for marriage rights. And it's not just because they would rather have
one less fight. Many gay people remain sceptical, even oppositional,
to the idea of marriage, saying that it is assimilationist. I really
don't understand this, to be frank. Gay people don't form a race of
their own, like black people or Asian people, because they aren't
necessarily born and raised in gay families. Hence there's no issue
of 'assimilationism' vs 'multiculturalism', of retaining or losing
one's heritage culture. The fact that they aren't accepted fully by
mainstream society is another matter. But wouldn't gay marriage just
now that the battle lines have been drawn, I'm sure Australian gay
activists will be more interested in the marriage issue. Already
there have been protests around Howard's actions. I'm sure the
interest won't die down. Howard may have given us a gift, ironically.
was never likely to end happily, but this year's US elections were
horrible. Anti gay marriage referenda passed in every state they were
on the ballot, meaning that the introduction of gay marriage by
courts or state legislatures is now prohibited in more than 30
states. The Republicans' strategy to court the religious vote also
triumphed: not only has President Bush been returned, but they now
control both houses of Congress. Analysts are already wondering if
the Democratic party has any chance at all of getting back into
government in the short to medium term. With the Republican party
benefiting so much from the religious right, this bloc is expected to
have an increased say in future government policies.
analysis have paid particular attention to the religious vote, or
'values voters'. Which is probably just a nicer way to say voters who
were stridently opposed to gay marriage, given that this was the only
'values' issue being widely debated this year. There are now
suggestions that the Democrats should engage with these voters, and
perhaps somewhat alter their platform to suit these voters. This
makes me very worried indeed. While the immediate results of this
election was bad enough, if a 'bipartisan consensus' forms around a
need to bow down to the demands of the religious right, a lot of
needed reform will be blocked for a generation or more.
it was only a 'messaging' problem, other people have suggested. For
example, the religious right has painted gay marriage and its
supporters as anti-family, and their platform as pro-family-values.
But what's so anti-family about encouraging gay couples to get
committed and 'settle down'? These election results have also
prompted the rise of a 'religious left', who criticise the religious
right for failing to address the economic needs of many struggling
families. How is this consistent with family values? The truth is
that the religious right agenda is not 'the family values agenda',
and its opponents are not anti-family either. We need to get this
message out, before it's too late.
what we have got is a wake-up call. We really need to fight for our
values. We really need to engage with the public and explain and
argue for what we believe in. Otherwise, our opponents will gain the
upper hand, by default.
Chapter 3: 2005 Entries
Out As A Supporter
have just realised that there has been a silver lining to last year's
gay marriage setbacks: that most people who know me, including my
parents, now know my support for the reform. My parents still don't
support it, but they have not tried to change me either. Best of all,
I didn't need to specifically discuss this issue. I just made it one
of the reasons I didn't like Bush and Howard, whenever I was
discussing politics in the past few months.
only coming out as trans was as easy.
tomorrow I start university. It represents the first 'reasonable'
opportunity in which I can be my real self. While openly trans
students in high school are extremely rare, I know of plenty of
people who are openly trans (or even trans but in 'stealth mode') in
universities around the world. Unlike in high school, many
universities have anti-discrimination policies, and there isn't going
to be an uproar from other parents in any case.
would have loved to start as my real self, but I know it's really not
happening now. I had all summer to work up the courage to come out,
but I still didn't. I really fear how my parents would react. You
never know. But I guess it wouldn't be entirely smooth, to say the
least. Starting at a new school is stressful enough, and part of me
really thinks I don't need this extra stress. So the whole summer was
spent wrestling between action and inaction. And inaction won out.
I didn't come out to my parents, going to university as my real self
would pose several problems. The biggest one is that several people
on campus are my parents' friends, and word of me presenting as
'someone else' will quickly get back to them. It will even spread
among their friends, causing them much embarrassment. This is really
NOT a good way to come out.
tomorrow could have really been the start of a new life. But let's
face it - it won't be.
in the Netherlands?
still struggling with coming out: what (to say), when, how. One of
the biggest problems is that people have been used to who I appeared
as, even though that's not entirely the real me. I mean, the
personality is real, but I would rather present as a different
gender. Would people understand?
it have been simpler if I could have 'always' lived authentically?
Or, as close to that as possible, like coming out very early on? I
mean, I've known since age 3 anyway, so I've already lost nearly 15
years. Which is almost inevitable for trans people. I mean, none of
us get to come out and live authentically before a certain age
anyway. There are some things trans people always miss out on, and
the first decade and a half or so of gender appropriate experiences
is one of them.
you were born in the Netherlands, and recently. There have been
recent reports from that country that some transgender kids have been
allowed to live authentically from a very young age. If only we all
had the same opportunity! But the Netherlands is a special country.
It was the first to legalise gay marriage, for example. (It's been
four years and the sky hasn't fallen in.)
Marriage in Canada
appears that the government of Canada has finally been able to
legalise gay marriage nationwide, after a very tight vote in
parliament. Along with the Netherlands and Belgium, three countries
now have gay marriage. However, it may still be premature to
celebrate as yet, as opponents of gay marriage have said they will
continue to fight it. It still cannot be ruled out that a future
conservative government may repeal gay marriage altogether.
people are already celebrating. With victories so hard won and hard
to come by in recent times, any victory, 'solid' or not, deserves to
be celebrated. Even if the future is uncertain, it is certainly wise
to make the most of every opportunity available.
expected, not everyone is celebrating. My friends in Canada have told
me that there has been homophobic graffiti in their city recently.
But that's just to be expected. With every progress comes resistance.
I understand that the UK is considering the introduction of Civil
Partnerships, also often called 'civil unions' in other
jurisdictions. This type of scheme would allow almost all the rights
of marriage to be granted to gay couples, but without access to the
'title' of marriage. Still unfair, but still better than what's
available right now. And of course, much less controversial and
'easier' for politicians to support and enact.
of Missing Out
will say this: trans people often feel like we're only living half a
missed out on more than 18 years of gender appropriate experiences
already, and every day I'm missing out on more. It won't change until
I work up the courage to come out and present as my real self. I
still don't know when I will be confident enough to overcome the
I'm indeed sick of missing out. I've missed out on gender appropriate
experiences all my life. Like being treated like a girl. Dresses.
Certain toys. Not having to play sport with the boys. Going out as a
group of girls to see our favourite pop bands.
the list is still growing. Recent additions include graduating high
school as a girl, proudly having her graduation photo taken. Also,
starting university as a confident young woman.
things are taken for granted by almost every one. But when you have
to watch others experience them while you continue to live a lie, it
really scared I won't have the courage to do anything about it, and
life will just pass me by as I grow old, the list of missed
experiences getting longer and longer every year.
Feminism Relevant Anymore?
I read an article discussing if feminism is relevant to our times
anymore. The author made the point that most young women don't
actively identify as feminists nowadays, because they do not feel its
relevance to them. They feel that the main goals of feminism, like
voting rights, equal pay for the same work and anti-discrimination
laws have all been achieved even before they were born. They just
don't feel that feminism has anything to offer them.
think that if young women today don't embrace feminism, it's not
their fault. Rather, it may be the fault of feminism itself. If
feminism claims to be a movement that is about empowering women, it
certainly isn't living up to its ideal, from the point of view of
today's young women. Maybe it's because feminism isn't listening.
What I mean is, it hasn't been inclusive and adaptive enough to meet
the needs of modern young women.
as somebody who identifies as female, feminism has also failed me.
While they claim to be against the 'patriarchy', many feminists are
even more transphobic than the patriarchy itself. Moreover, the
'rights' that the feminist movement are all about sometimes feel like
another layer of exclusion to me. The anti-discrimination that they
support is clearly for 'women born women' only, and some feminists
have even opposed anti-discrimination laws for trans people. The
affirmative action they support is again for 'women born women' only,
and every time I apply for something and know that I will be
considered as a 'man' for the purposes of affirmative action, it
increases my gender dysphoria ten-fold. Most feminists don't even
care about the likes of myself.
point is, if feminism has ceased to be relevant, it's because older
feminists haven't actually listened to what young women really want,
and haven't been inclusive enough.
Chapter 4: 2006 Entries
Up The Courage
working up the courage to come out. To my parents at least, because
otherwise it would be impossible to go 'full time' at university. I
am determined to start this year authentically.
it's really not easy. Firstly, there's the uncertainty of what will
happen. It is not even unheard of for parents to disown their trans
children, even though I don't believe this is likely in my case.
Still, invalidation and some form of rejection is likely, and it's
not going to be a nice feeling.
since trans awareness is so low, my parents may mistakenly think that
I am mentally ill, and drag me to some psychiatrist. Which is not a
bad outcome in and of itself, both because they would be able to
explain to my parents what transgender (or gender dysphoria, the
technical term) is, and because trans people have to go through a
psychiatrist to get treatment anyway. Having my parents pay for some
of these sessions would be great. However, having my parents fear
that I may be mentally ill will create a very stressful situation at
there's also the issue of what to say, exactly. The idea of
transgender doesn't come up in everyday conversations, you see. I
have to think of a way to bring it up, without making it sound like a
joke, and without causing misunderstanding. It's much harder than it
sounds. It's almost like trying to tell someone you're actually an
alien all along.
Hope I Can Make This Work
came out to my parents three weeks ago. Coming out was rough, as
expected. It turned out that my parents hadn't even heard of trans
people before, except for one controversial case before the Family
Court of a trans teen seeking treatment two years ago. They did drag
me to a psychiatrist, who did convince them I didn't go mad. So that
part is now resolved.
here's the deal I got. I am free to do whatever at university, but
can't walk out of their house 'in a dress'. So I can dress in a
unisex manner, perhaps with some makeup, when leaving home, but I
would have to change once I get to my campus. And I would have to
change again before I come home.
not ideal, but I think I can make it work. At least it's a chance to
start a new life.
can't say my parents are accepting at this stage, but there's going
to be plenty of time to work on that.
Far, So Good
been five weeks of 'new me' at university. And it's been surprisingly
my friends have accepted the 'new me'. A few were surprised, but they
were OK with it. Unlike my parents, they did understand what being
trans was. Perhaps the younger generation has had more exposure to
stories of trans people.
was advised by some to visit the LGBT centre on campus, to see if I
could get support there. Not surprisingly, even the staff there
hadn't seen a trans person before. (That's how rare we are!) I was a
curiosity even there. Nor were they able to provide any support,
beyond some words of comfort. Therefore, I didn't go back.
then, life has simply gone on.
am gradually 'transitioning' my dress style. I still dress unisex,
feminine unisex is how I would describe it. I will gradually present
more femininely. It's more comfortable for everyone this way.
assessment: so far, so good.
Still Feels Surreal
been several months since I came out to everyone. And it still feels
still feels surreal that I've let the world know my 'lifelong
mean, to be trans in and of itself has always carried with it a
surreal feeling. Being trans, I have always been aware that I have a
'condition' that almost nobody on Earth understands, and that is
shared by less than 1/1000 people (or even less than 1/10000 people
by some estimates).
to talk about it again and again, having to explain it again and
again in the past few months only made it even more surreal.
now preparing to dress more femininely. The first thing to do was of
course to 'test drive' my new dress style. So I travelled across town
for the sole purpose of walking around in a shopping mall in a dress,
to see if I get any stares or strange looks. Luckily I got none. But
the whole experience felt surreal, almost as if I was playing Second
Life, but with me being physically in the computer walking around the
virtual landscapes. Maybe it was because I was actually a bit
nervous. It's not as if it was my first time wearing a dress, but
still it was my first time doing so in public.
life still feels normal. But every now and then, there has been an
extra surreal quality to it, especially when dealing with transition
related stuff. Sort of just like the idea of being trans is surreal
to most people.
of the hassles of gender transition is the need to change your
documents. And even though I am only 20, and I don't have bank loans,
mortgages, insurance policies, or even a car, there are actually many
documents to be changed. To make things more difficult, each document
is handled by a different organisation or government department, each
with different rules on what other documents you need to bring, and
what forms you need to fill out. (In contrast, most people only
change their name due to marriage, and a marriage certificate would
generally suffice for that.) To make things even more difficult, some
departments are only open on certain days, and some are located at
inconvenient locations I've never been before.
key to success here is to have good organisation. Firstly, you need
to decide which ones to change first. Doing them in a certain order
can make everything more convenient. Secondly, each document to be
changed needs to be treated like a project on its own, ideally with
its own folder. For every such 'project', there are forms to fill and
supporting documents to keep track of. Finally, you need to arrange
for times to visit the departments, some of which require bookings. I
guess in this regard I'm luckier because I'm still a student.
then there's the nervousness, and the surreal quality of it all.
Throughout the process, I kept wondering what the man or woman
reading my application was thinking. Did they see me as weird? Have
they handled other trans cases before? (Probably not.) Are they
surprised to receive my case? (Probably yes.) Everyone I've come
across have been very professional, though.
no wonder that some trans people just keep putting off the whole
process for years, or only do some of it. Besides actually costing
some money, it is also both intellectually and emotionally demanding,
especially if you want to get it right in one go. I guess it would be
particularly difficult for those in a depressed mood.
it be easier?
Internet Trans Community
internet has been a gift for trans people. In fact, before there was
an internet, there probably wasn't a trans community per se. There
were trans support groups and organisations in some large cities, but
they could hardly be called a 'community'. Trans individuals are so
rare that it would be difficult for them to form a community in any
physical location, except maybe San Francisco.
internet has been the first place many trans people, myself included,
first learned about the options for transitioning. It was also the
first place in which many trans people, myself included, came out to
the wider world. It also appears that the trans community has an
especially high proportion of computer geeks. This perhaps explains
why the trans community has very effectively utilised the internet
since its early days.
the internet, we learn about the existence of other trans people, so
that we feel less lonely. We are also able to share 'passing tips',
comment on each other’s photos, and sort of go through things
like coming out at school or work and the endless document changes
together. These are all trans-specific experiences that many trans
people would have to go through alone if not for the internet.
previously discussed, gender transition has felt surreal in multiple
aspects for me. Knowing that other people are also going through
similar things has made it less surreal, though. Even if they may
live on the other side of the world.
Chapter 5: 2007 Entries
trans people, to 'pass' simply means to be taken as a member of the
gender you present as. I would like to think that I 'pass' most days,
but there are still days when I don't. Or more accurately maybe,
people to whom which I don't.
brings me to the pronoun fear. To be referred to by the wrong
pronouns is an invalidation of our identity. And, for me, it also
feels like 'punishment' for not passing. Each time someone refers to
me by the wrong pronoun, it feels like being punched in the stomach.
It's probably something only trans people can understand.
only we lived in a world where people simply understood and accepted
trans people, where there wouldn't be a need to 'pass', and where
people will always use pronouns accordingly. If only.
then trans people are so rare, it would probably be impossible (and
unreasonable) to ask the world to change the way it runs for us.
Year at University
marks the beginning of my third year at university.
year was sort of overshadowed by trans issues, but hopefully this
year I will be just another student again. Things like coming out to
people, having to explain yourself again and again. Things like
changing your paperwork, going through the so-called paperwork trail,
having to explain yourself all the way. Hopefully now that it's over,
life can be a bit more, well, 'normal' again.
I would be the last person to want to be 'average' in anything, but
when it comes to being overtly trans vs blending in, I prefer to be
'more average', like most trans people. If the world didn't see us as
either freaks or curiosities then maybe we would have a different
attitude. But then, we don't live in that world.
trans shouldn't dominate my life for more than a short period of
time, and hopefully it won't.
That Much Has Changed
favourite topic of discussion among the internet trans community is
'how is life different now that you're perceived as a different
be honest, not that much has changed. I love the way I look and I
love my clothes, but I don't see much of a change in my life.
Certainly, you would expect that people who know already me wouldn't
treat me differently. But I am a university student and I meet new
people every day. I can say with confidence that I have not noticed
any substantial change in the way strangers or newly introduced
people treat me.
have been a few subtle changes, like other women complimenting me on
my clothes and accessories, and that's very nice. I feel that men are
more likely to hold doors open for me, but this is not a consistent
thing, nor did this consistently not happen last year. I like the
subtle changes, but I have to say they are subtle.
more changes will come. Maybe not. We'll see.
relationship between transwomen and feminism is, complicated.
are currently divided on how they perceive us. There are those who
think that only 'women born women' (as if we aren't) should be
included, and there are those who believe that transwomen should be
included too. Those who want to exclude us have traditionally been
the majority view in feminism, but some younger generation feminists
are now arguing for change in their movement. Still, it appears that
those who want to exclude us continue to have the upper hand.
the other hand, many transwomen actually want to be feminists. It is
as if they see being a feminist, and acceptance by other feminists,
as the ultimate validation of their identity as a woman. Transwomen
who are feminists often call themselves transfeminists. In fact,
there are websites dedicated to the idea of transfeminism.
Transfeminists regularly join with other trans-friendly feminists to
argue for trans inclusion, against old-school feminists, using the
internet as their battleground.
see it this way: I have no interest in joining a club that doesn't
want me there anyway. I do appreciate that quite a few younger
feminists want to welcome us into their movement, but it is clear
that many feminists, maybe the majority, are still hostile to us. I
feel that, in the feminist club, I would have to battle even harder
to have my identity recognised than in the outside world. So, no
the way, it's not as if you have to be in the feminist club to be a
real woman. Just two years ago, I read a newspaper article
questioning if feminism is still relevant. Many young women our age
actually don't want to identify as feminists. Some feel that the term
is associated with a 'boys vs girls' attitude, and others think that
the big feminist fights are over in the West anyway. So not belonging
to the feminist club doesn't make you less of a woman. In fact, it
may mean that you are simply with the majority of young women
That's The Way It Should Be
few months ago I recorded whatever (few) changes I saw in my life as
a result of being perceived as a different gender. At the time I was
semi-expecting to see more changes as time went on.
I have to say, no, my life is still mostly the same as before. I love
not being referred to by a male name and male pronouns, but
apparently I'm still the same person. As I'm still the same person
with the same personality, the way I interact with people and the way
people treat me have remained very similar to before. What else
should I expect?
in this day and age, it's not like that men and women are treated
very differently anyway. We don't live in the 1950s anymore, and I'm
thankful for that. So what was I thinking, expecting that people
would somehow treat me 'very differently'?
guess the idea of being treated 'very differently' as a result of
gender transition comes from the observation that masculine men and
feminine women are certainly treated in different ways by their
peers, mainly as a result of the different ways they interact with
the world. But trans people don't go from very masculine men to very
feminine women. I didn't put up a masculine act two years ago, and I
don't put up an ultra feminine act now. I wouldn't have interacted
with the world like the very masculine man back then, and don't
interact with the world like the very feminine woman today. Whatever
gender I am perceived as, I always interact with the world as myself,
in my own style. Consequently, it shouldn't be surprising that I am
received in a similar manner.
internet trans women love to say things like they lost 'male
privilege'. I don't know if it's a genuine reflection or just another
attempt to look 'feminist'. Even before transition I did not notice
much 'male privilege' in everyday life, but back then, as I had not
experienced living as a girl my opinion probably wasn't as valid. But
recent experience has, if anything, confirmed my previous view.
Certainly, there may be an element of 'male privilege' if you want to
be a CEO or a politician, but to experience 'male privilege' or
'female disprivilege' everywhere in everyday life is a bit of a
stretch of imagination in my opinion.
of the surprisingly important things I have learnt through gender
transition is that gender is only one 'property' of a person, and not
the most important one by far. It doesn't undermine the importance of
my transition though, as I had to do it to get the gender
'distraction' out of the way. (It DOES undermine the argument that
marriage must be between a man and a woman, and I feel glad that I
can now use my personal experience to argue for same-sex marriage.)
Back Into Politics
upcoming Australian election has gotten me back to paying attention
to news and politics.
serving Prime Minister John Howard is up against Labor opponent Kevin
Rudd this time, and polls are indicating that Rudd will win. Which is
good news because it means Australia will likely pull out of the Iraq
recently been some controversy around Rudd's refusal to support
same-sex marriage. As I understand it, Labor's platform will provide
for equal rights for gay couples through both extending the
nation-wide de-facto (cohabitation) relationship recognition system
to all couples, and the recognition of civil union or registered
partnership systems to be set up by state governments. In other
words, gay couples will have equal rights finally, but not 'marriage'
really not surprising, given that this appears to be the most common
approach among 'progressive' side major parties in the Western world
at the moment. Two years ago the UK Labor government set up a civil
partnership scheme for gay couples, but maintained that marriage
would not change. The New Zealand Labor government also made similar
moves. It's really about electoral politics, I guess. Polls have
indicated 38% support for same-sex marriage in both Australia and the
UK just a few years ago, and you wouldn't expect majority support at
this point. We just need to take what we can, and aim to win the
battle over the long run. Progress comes in steps.
other thing that can potentially hold back same-sex marriage is the
lack of enthusiasm for it among some gay activists. Both in Australia
and the UK, some gay and lesbian commentators have even said that
they prefer civil partnerships because they did not like the idea of
'marriage', presumably because of their own feminist or radical
beliefs. Just last year some local gay groups and leaders refused to
support pushing for the reform, citing other priorities. I think this
attitude is unhelpful. Since some gay couples want to get married and
denying them this right is discrimination based on sexual
orientation, gay activist groups are indeed obliged to fight for this
right, whether the leaders themselves like the idea of marriage or
not! Wake up!
Chapter 6: 2008 Entries
is Similar But Different
it's been one year since my entry about how life is actually quite
similar, even when you are perceived as a different gender. And one
year on, it's still like that.
come to view it this way. Transition doesn't make you a different
person. Rather, it makes you a better version of yourself, one
unhindered by discomfort on the gender front. It takes away that
burden, and lets the person beneath shine.
is still similar, of course. I have similar interests, similar
attitudes, a similar outlook on life, even similar political views.
But life is different too, because I'm more confident in my
interactions, and more naturally at home 'in my own skin', so to say.
It's something taken for granted by most people, but it's something I
have only had since recently.
biggest difference is that, I can finally feel confident enough to
move into the future knowing that I've left that 'something wrong'
behind. All my life until two years ago I had wondered when I would
be able to fix this 'problem', and when I would have the courage to
do so. I had wondered what would happen when I 'came out', and what
effect it would have on both myself and the people around me. It
feels good to not have to think about those things anymore.
US Democrats appear to be getting closer to having Barack Obama as
their presidential candidate this year. If elected, he will be the
first black president. Two of his most popular slogans are 'hope' and
stated attitude to same-sex marriage appears to be similar to that of
Kevin Rudd: gay couples should be able to have equal rights under
another name, but not 'marriage'. I guess electorally same-sex
marriage is still too controversial to embrace. 'Gay marriage bans'
have passed in more states in 2006 and some more are under
consideration this year, and I guess it also can't help that the
Canadian government which legalised it was voted out less than a year
still, it's clear that his attitude to 'family values' does include
gay couples. Which is a great start, because opposition to same-sex
marriage is based mostly on a version of 'family values' that exclude
gay couples. Like Rudd, Obama has based his opposition to same-sex
marriage on just the way things have traditionally been. But I guess
this is ultimately a circular argument, and wouldn't hold out for
long if the homophobic version of 'family values' is defeated.
no inherent reason why 'family values' should be anti-gay. LGBT
people are part of many families too, and an increasing number of
parents are fighting for the rights of their LGBT children. A version
of 'family values' that exclude these families would be no 'family
values' at all.
time that 'family values' start including LGBT people. I also believe
that when we get this new consensus same-sex marriage will become
Done With Transition. Or Am I?
guess I can say that I'm done with gender transition. It's not much
of an issue for me anymore, in everyday life. I just live my life,
without needing to think too much about gender nowadays. On most
then some people say that a trans person is never really done with
transition. There are always some 'trans' aspects of your life that
may pop up. Like some document that you forgot to change, or some
medical consultation where you have to discuss your medical history.
Or even just old friends from high school or earlier who reappear in
your life after many years. It may be awkward, but I know I'll have
to be prepared for these possibilities.
difficult thing with being trans is that, whenever something
trans-specific comes up, we feel like we have to explain ourselves,
to people who may not understand, or even worse, may be transphobic.
I guess the same applies to gay people too. But at least people
generally know what being gay entails. This comes from the fact that
most people know at least several gay people in their lives. Since
only one in a few thousand people are trans and many aren't even out,
it is unlikely for most people to personally know a trans person.
Therefore, it is not uncommon for people to either have no
understanding of trans issues at all, or even have misunderstandings.
It's almost like being gay in the 1950s, in this sense.
then, the need to 'explain myself' doesn't really come up often. So
most days I'll just be a normal young woman. In this sense,
transition is done. I could live with that.
Chapter 7: 2012 Entries
to Restart My Diary
used to have another diary, where I talked about my gender transition
and LGBT politics, particularly same-sex marriage, which by the way
is called marriage equality now. I left that diary behind when I felt
like I had nothing more to say, mainly because I was done with
transition. But recent political and cultural events have made me
re-read my old diary. I feel like the world is on the verge of major
change, and many of the hopes, dreams and even daydreams I had about
a better world may be coming true.
is where we are, after the big year of 2012:
equality is now legal in more than ten countries. Furthermore, the
conservative governments of the UK and New Zealand, as well as the
newly elected left-wing government of France, are likely to legalise
it soon. US President Barack Obama's endorsement of marriage equality
a few months ago has provided a further boost to our cause, despite
the fact that marriage is decided state-by-state in the US. Just last
month, marriage equality passed 52-48 by referendum in the states of
Washington and Maryland, the first time a majority vote actually
approved of marriage equality anywhere in the world. It means that
anti-equality conservatives can't simply point to marriage equality's
previous 100% referendum-losing record and say that reform is being
forced on unwilling silent majorities anymore.
and the entertainment industry have become major backers of marriage
equality in recent years. Many celebrities have openly supported the
cause. You would think that dance pop singers, who generally have
large gay fanbases, would support equality if only for the sake of
their own careers. But even several country singers have come out in
support of the cause, risking backlash from their conservative
fanbases. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian characters and couples have
become more and more common in storylines on both the small screen
and the big screen.
in Australia, we have an atheist, left-wing Prime Minister who
remains opposed to marriage equality, quite a unique situation.
Actually, the governing Labor party itself has a strong majority in
support of marriage equality, as proven by a vote at their national
conference last year and a parliamentary vote in September this year.
But still, with the conservative opposition binding their MPs to vote
no (justified on the grounds that the party did not support or
discuss marriage equality at all in the previous election), the vote
itself was lost 98-42. The media reported it as an 'overwhelming'
defeat, but I would say this is sensationalism, especially since
Labor was the only major party granting a conscience vote, and there
was majority Labor support. As for why Prime Minister Julia Gillard
remains opposed, some including myself think that her 'traditional'
(i.e. 1970s or 80s) feminist beliefs are probably to blame. You see,
until recently many feminists have hated the idea of marriage in and
issues are starting to gain awareness too. In April this year, Jenna
Talackova became the first trans contestant of a mainstream beauty
pageant, Miss Universe Canada. Controversy over her admission, which
was ultimately resolved in her favour, have hit news headlines around
the world, and most people's comments were surprisingly supportive. I
have also noticed that the language used in media reports about trans
people have become more polite, and the use of offensive,
sensationalist terms like 'sex change' or 'sex swap' have certainly
gone down. There is now hope for a better conversation. Also this
year, hit TV series Glee (often called the 'gayest show on Earth' for
its many gay characters and storylines) have started featuring a
trans character. Does all this signal that trans people are about to
hit the mainstream?
Chapter 8: 2013 Entries
in a Name?
I said in my last entry, same-sex marriage is now called 'marriage
equality' by most supporters and activists. The name most favoured by
opponents remains 'gay marriage', which confusingly is still a name
sometimes used by supporters.
are two justifications for using 'marriage equality'. Firstly, it
highlights that gay couples do not want an additional right, and are
merely asking for equal treatment under the law. Secondly, it is
inclusive of trans and intersex people, who may not be in a same-sex
relationship but would still require legal reform to be able to
marry. I think these two issues are very valid, and therefore have
adopted the new term myself.
am concerned that some activists have indeed become very 'politically
correct' here though, almost as if 'same-sex marriage' and 'gay
marriage' are now homophobic terms. Guess what? They are not. I
remember that former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin indeed
called it 'same-sex marriage' when he presided over the reform in
2005, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron called it 'gay marriage' in
his now famous speech about supporting marriage equality and his
conservative values. If these are terms that our supporters use too,
they should not be derided, even if they are not the best terms.
Political correctness turns people off, remember.
here is what I'll do: I will use the term 'marriage equality' myself,
but defend the right of people to use 'same-sex marriage' and 'gay
marriage' if they feel like it.
Equality Tops The Charts
Macklemore's marriage equality song Same Love has now been at the top
of the official Australian music charts for a while. Originally
written for the marriage equality referendum in Washington state last
year, so far it has failed to make a big impact on most countries'
music scene. But somehow enough Australians bought it to make it
number one. Now there is also an Australian cover of the song, with
the lyrics changed to reflect the local political situation,
including some criticism for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
people in Australia are more frustrated over this issue than in other
countries. For example, there's not much to be frustrated about in
the UK by comparison. Last month the Cameron government's marriage
equality bill passed the House of Commons, and it now goes to the
House of Lords where it is likely to be approved to become law. While
Australian parliament voted more than 2:1 against equality, British
parliament voted 2:1 for equality. In Australia both the Prime
Minister and the opposition leader remain opposed, while in the UK
both the Prime Minister and opposition leader are supportive. This is
despite polls showing similar levels of support for the reform in
just maybe, people are buying the song so that our politicians will
Conservative Case for Marriage Equality
Zealand has become the second English-speaking country where marriage
equality is passed under a conservative government. In fact, because
unlike the UK the legislation does not need to go before the upper
house for confirmation, we should probably say it's the first. The
fact that this contrasts with Australia's left-wing Prime Minister
Julia Gillard's refusal to support the reform has also not gone
unnoticed in Australian media. It just shows that even conservatives
may support marriage equality, while 'progressives' are not
guaranteed to do so.
since UK Prime Minister David Cameron's speech last year, where he
said he supported marriage equality because he was a conservative who
believed in marriage, there has been an increased interest in the
so-called conservative case for marriage equality worldwide. It's
actually nothing new. I remember reading articles about this idea
written by some US Republicans, going as far back as 2009. At that
time, it was treated as just a curiosity. But Cameron's stance has
propelled this idea into the mainstream.
remember saying that a new approach to LGBT rights and marriage
equality, where they are seen as an extension of 'family values'
rather than something radical and challenging to existing society,
will help the reform gain widespread support. It appears that my
prediction has come true.
Australia's conservative opposition party still refuses to grant
their MPs a conscience vote, which actually represents the biggest
roadblock to reform here. (Despite Gillard's personal objection, most
of the Labor party already support equality.) Local marriage equality
activists have recently sought to bring about discussion of the
conservative case for marriage equality here, in an attempt to
increase conservative support and solve this impasse. I think this is
a brilliant idea. Reform can only be achieved when we bring as many
people together as possible, ideally from across the political
spectrum. As activists often like to say, no one party can achieve
marriage equality alone.
even the beginnings of this new phase of the marriage equality
campaign has drawn fire from more radical activists. They claim that
this focus will leave the more radical elements of the LGBT community
behind. Guess what? Marriage is not meant for those who want radical
relationships anyway, gay or straight. Those who believe in radical
relationships have left marriage behind already, in this sense.
Marriage equality is mainly a reform that is important to those gay
couples who want to get married, and to achieve it soon. Such couples
cherish marriage, in the same way as Cameron and other conservatives
do. Therefore, the conservative case for marriage equality is
actually the voice of a substantial number, perhaps even the
majority, of those marriage equality will affect most. I believe that
radicals are in effect oppressing gay couples who believe in marriage
if they disallow this voice to be heard.
Back Into Trans World
the time that I felt my gender transition was essentially complete,
about five years ago, I had gradually lost contact with most
'transition friends' and haven't paid much attention to the 'trans
world'. It's actually quite a common thing for trans people. Only
relatively few stay in the community and become long term activists.
I may be re-entering trans world in the near future, for the sake of
a friend. You see, one of my transition time friends, Maria, who
almost came out to her family and started transition but never did,
is planning to attempt transition again soon. Back in 2006, we
promised each other that we would be there for each other’s
transition and the difficulties involved, no matter what. However,
she was never quite able to get her transition started, for multiple
reasons. She was there for my transition though, and I really have to
help her through it this time.
is actually not uncommon for trans people to require multiple
attempts at starting or finishing transition. The whole process is
complex and ridden with stress everywhere. This was especially the
case back in the 1990s and 2000s, with even fewer support services
than today. Combine this with the difficult things that can happen to
people's lives, sometimes it just becomes too much to handle.
Sometimes, there's simply no choice, but to turn back, and try again
terms of marriage equality, next month's Australian election provides
a clear choice: the recently returned Kevin Rudd, who has also become
the first Prime Minister to support marriage equality, or Tony
Abbott, who does not support the reform. Unfortunately, the polls
indicate that Abbott is in front.