Prince William’s statement on Tuesday (June 25th), that it would be ‘absolutely fine’ if George, Charlotte or Louis were LGBT, was an important step forward in terms of normalising those who do not conform to a stereotypical view of gender or sexuality. The Duke of Cambridge also said that “his only concern would be for any “hate or persecution” they would endure.” – While it is unfortunately true that trans people are still targeted and not always accepted within society, it is often this very struggle that is an intrinsic part of shaping who we are.
The presumption by heteronormative/ cisnormative people that being different automatically means life will be harder, plays right in to the hands of those who believe that to be different is to be labelled a freak. A fear which stops so many people from being free to be themselves.
In 1991, when a climate of fear surrounding AIDS was demonising homosexuality, Princess Diana took a stand. When she took the hand of a dying man in one fell swoop she humanised those suffering from the disease, turning them from something to be feared into someone’s son, brother, father. Human beings, deserving of a princesses touch and warmth.
Today’s anti trans climate is no different. We are demonised, positioned as something to be feared – in case what we have is catching. It isn’t. Being trans is as normal to me, as being cis is to you. It is a perfectly ordinary variation of the human condition.
I have often been asked if there was a pill to stop me from being trans, would I take it? The short answer is no, I wouldn’t. And this is why.
Being transgender has stripped me of what would have been my white male privilege and replaced it with something which is no doubt tougher to navigate, but which gives me a level of compassion which I am convinced I would not have had without my trans identity.
Being transgender has taught me to care about all minority sections of society, to understand the plight of the down trodden and those who are seen as lesser, because they do not conform to the stereotypical view of what is, or what is not, “acceptable”.
Being transgender has coloured my world view, helped me to see past my privilege and it has lead me to where I am now, in my role as a specialist gender counsellor: helping other people who struggle just to wake up in the morning and live any kind of a life.
It is precisely because I am transgender that I am able to help these people.
I know what it is like to have real hatred levied against me. Just for my very existence, for being born this way. I have experienced prejudice first hand, I have been discriminated against and I have been judged. And despite all of this, I have survived, I have learned to look after my self emotionally and physically, trusting my instincts to help keep me safe. I am nothing if not resourceful, I have had to be.
I have felt and continue to feel the threat of vulnerability, hanging over me like a shadow and I understand the importance of continually moving, to keep both myself and my family safe. I have learned not to rely too much on others.
Being transgender has allowed me to nurture certain qualities that I may never have even acknowledged, had I been born a cis white male. What kind of a person would I be without these experiences, what kind of partner, what kind of parent? And what kind of friend would I be, if that part of my identity was not there? What values would I hold dear, where would my moral compass point?
My life experience is intrinsically linked to my gender identity, just as it is for anyone else, only my gender identity differs from the one I was assigned at birth…that does not make it any less a part of who I am.
I sometimes wish I could let people see the world through my eyes, to walk in my shoes. I do not see being transgender as anything more than a challenge that has helped to form my character. It is not a flaw, it is not a disability and it is certainly not a sexual deviation. Being trans is simply part of who I am.
I have a son who is autistic, had he been born without autism, I have no doubt that his life would have been easier – he has faced a world which wasn’t set up to support his needs but he has grown, fought and flourished in spite of this. I know, long after I am gone, that he will be better able to survive this world because of these challenges. And I couldn’t be more proud.
We have to change the narrative. This world is full of beautiful colour, we must embrace diversity in all its glory instead of trying to make everyone fit into a cookie cutter version of what society expects. To do so is to negate the very thing that makes us individuals.
When I step into my counselling room, the challenges I see faced by the cis people I meet, are no less consuming than those faced by the trans people I work with – they are just different. Being born in the gender with which you identify, it seems, does not free you from life’s stresses and strains, so why are we trying to suggest that it does?
Victims are not born. They are made. Why should we expect that life will be harder, just because we are different? As though we have no choice, as though society cannot possibly adapt to accommodate us. It can and it should.
I urge everyone – including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to consider what they can do to promote not only acceptance, but celebration of diversity. Let’s create a world where being different is not only OK, it’s also seen as kind of cool.