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“It’s difficult to exist outside the gender binary”

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VOICES: bristol pride, gender, human rights, lgbt+, youth

A non-binary perspective on the south-west’s first ever Trans Pride event.

Photo: Wendy Glos / Trans Pride South West

Please note: A non-binary person is someone whose gender identity doesn’t fit within the binary of man and woman. A cisgender person is someone whose gender identity matches the one they were assigned at birth.

I’m a non-binary person, and my pronouns are they/them. I find it’s difficult to exist outside the gender binary when so much of public life is structured around it.

I find it frustrating to think how much better I’m treated now that I’m read as a man.

With the south-west’s first ever Trans Pride coming up in Bristol, I’m hoping for real breakthroughs for trans equality. In my experience, while many think of Bristol as particularly open-minded and inclusive, there is still significant discrimination, hostility and violence.

Before I began testosterone hormone therapy, men would publicly harass me for being unfeminine, and it was hard to find barbers who’d cut my hair without being creepy or refusing to do it because they “don’t cut women’s hair”. These men are now among those who call me ‘mate’ and ‘buddy’. I find it frustrating to think how much better I’m treated now that I’m read as a man.

I’m trans-masculine, so my transition has made me become more masculine, and it means I’m less likely to receive abuse than trans-feminine people, gaining many of the privileges of cisgender men in our society. My trans-feminine friends have received verbal and physical abuse in Bristol, even in ‘safe’ areas at ‘safe’ times. So while I perhaps don’t need Trans Pride as urgently as others, I’ve also had many unpleasant experiences.

Finding gender-neutral toilets in public is a challenge, and I’m often scared to use the men’s at night or when people have been drinking – I feel like ‘vulnerable’ is written on my forehead. However if I use the women’s, I’m seen as a threat or called a creep.

That said, trans-feminine people generally suffer much worse hostility in public bathrooms, and I think we need more campaigns like those run by the University of Bristol’s LGBT+ society last year. Signs went up around the university, saying, “If you’re in a public bathroom and you think a stranger’s gender doesn’t match the sign on the door, follow these steps: 1. Don’t worry about it, they know better than you.”

At Trans Pride South West I hope all bathrooms will be safe for trans women, and I’m particularly glad to hear that gender-neutral toilets will be available at all venues. It’s disappointing, however, that the opening event and launch party are not wheelchair-accessible. Trans Pride should be inclusive of minorities within the community. We shouldn’t celebrate the Pride of the more privileged while leaving some out in the cold. I’ve been told that the organisers are working on this for next year, but it’s still frustrating.

When I speak to people about trans issues, there is often reluctance to admit the urgency of these problems, because other social justice issues are more visible to the cisgender public. Something I often hear is “I’ve never met a trans person before”, which is probably untrue for most people. Apparently we have to declare ourselves, or be somehow ‘obvious’ for cisgender people to think we exist.

I would like fewer people to be able to make that claim as a result of Trans Pride, and for the public to realise that trans people aren’t as rare as some might think. It’s always moving to see people lining the streets for the annual LGBT+ Pride event – and I hope people will be equally supportive of this first Trans Pride in our region.

We need to address why 48% of trans youth attempt suicide[1]. We need healthcare which respects trans people, we need to dismantle public structures which enforce binary genders, and we need more trans role models in pop culture who aren’t just tragic stories, or played by cisgender actors.

I want to see drives to improve gender-neutral toilet provision in Bristol. I want to see awareness of gender-neutral pronouns and titles. I would like to stop having to convince people that my title, Mx, is legally recognised.

Maybe Trans Pride South West will start to improve the lives of trans people, or maybe it will just give us a weekend to party and feel visible.

Either way, I’m grateful to the organisers for making it happen, and I hope Trans Prides continue to spread across the country.

[1] Nodin, N., Peel, E., Tylor, A., Rivers, I., 2015, The RaRE Research Report. LGB&T mental health risk and resilience explored, Accessed via www.researchgate.net on 06/09/16

800px-transgender_pride_flag-svg

The most common ‘Trans Pride’ flag, made by Monica Helms in 1999. It’s not universally accepted and I dislike the colours for enforcing binary gender stereotypes, but it is well-recognised.

 

jennifer_pellinen_transgender_flag-svg

The alternative flag made by Jennifer Pellinen in 2002, which I prefer because it reflects trans diversity, and feels inclusive of me as a non-binary person.

Trans Pride South West is taking place on 22nd – 25th of September

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