Excerpt for 3 Movements (Feminism, LGBT Rights, Marriage Equality), 2 Diaries, 1 Trans Woman's Message by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

3 Movements (Feminism, LGBT Rights, Marriage Equality), 2 Diaries, 1 Trans Woman's Message

Copyright (c) TaraElla 2017. All rights reserved.

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While effort has been made to describe accurately the historical events referenced in the book, the accuracy of such events described cannot be guaranteed.

Opening Words

I could have written a manifesto of inclusive feminism, but I know that some of you would still be unconvinced.

So 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.

Stay strong and keep the dream alive,


Diary One

Chapter 1: 2003 Entries

April 2003


Dear diary,

This is the first entry, so I'll introduce myself.

My 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.

I have just turned 16.

I like music, getting to know different cultures, collecting things, and computers. And I'm developing an increasing interest in politics too.

I hope that over the coming months and years, you will come to know me better.



May 2003

Does School Have To Be Like This?

I hate putting on my school uniform. Why? It marks me out as 'male'. But the rules say I have to wear it anyway.

Why 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 students, right?

But 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.

Let's 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 easier too.

Which 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.

June 2003

Gay Marriage, Milestone One

So 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.

Public 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 countries.

Several 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?

At 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.

October 2003

Developing An Image

One 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.

In 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.

Trans 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

April 2004

Trans Girls Not Welcome?

Lately 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.

So 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.

Feminists 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?

June 2004

It Can Go Either Way Now

One 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.

But 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.

July 2004

The Religious Right in Politics

There 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.

I 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.

The 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

August 2004

Australia Bans Gay Marriage Too

Whatever 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 perfect opportunity.

As 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 vote.

It 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.

And 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 address this?

Anyway, 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.

November 2004

The Worst Result

It 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.

Post-election 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.

Perhaps 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.

Perhaps 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

January 2005

Coming Out As A Supporter

I 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.

If only coming out as trans was as easy.

February 2005

A Missed Opportunity

So 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.

I 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.

Because 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.

So tomorrow could have really been the start of a new life. But let's face it - it won't be.

April 2005

Only in the Netherlands?

I'm 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?

Wouldn't 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.

Unless 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.)

June 2005

Gay Marriage in Canada

It 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.

Still, 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.

As 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

September 2005

Sick of Missing Out

I will say this: trans people often feel like we're only living half a life.

I've 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 barriers involved.

But 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.

And 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.

These 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 hurts.

I'm 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.

October 2005

Is Feminism Relevant Anymore?

Today, 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.

I 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.

Speaking 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.

The 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

January 2006

Working Up The Courage

I'm 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.

But 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.

Secondly, 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 home.

Finally, 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.

February 2006

I Hope I Can Make This Work

I 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.

So 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.

It's not ideal, but I think I can make it work. At least it's a chance to start a new life.

I can't say my parents are accepting at this stage, but there's going to be plenty of time to work on that.

April 2006

So Far, So Good

It's been five weeks of 'new me' at university. And it's been surprisingly 'smooth'.

All 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.

I 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.

Since then, life has simply gone on.

I 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.

My assessment: so far, so good.

June 2006

It Still Feels Surreal

It's been several months since I came out to everyone. And it still feels surreal.

It still feels surreal that I've let the world know my 'lifelong secret'.

I 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).

Having 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.

I'm 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.

Overall, 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.

August 2006

The Paper Trail

One 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.

The 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.

And 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.

It's 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.

Shouldn't it be easier?

October 2006

The Internet Trans Community

The 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.

The 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.

Through 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.

As 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

January 2007

The Pronoun Fear

For 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.

Which 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.

If 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.

But 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.

February 2007

New Year at University

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my third year at university.

Last 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.

Normally, 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.

Being trans shouldn't dominate my life for more than a short period of time, and hopefully it won't.

March 2007

Not That Much Has Changed

A favourite topic of discussion among the internet trans community is 'how is life different now that you're perceived as a different gender'.

To 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.

There 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.

Maybe more changes will come. Maybe not. We'll see.

May 2007

Trans and Feminism

The relationship between transwomen and feminism is, complicated.

Feminists 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.

On 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.

I 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 thanks.

By 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 nowadays.

August 2007

Maybe That's The Way It Should Be

A 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.

But 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?

And 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'?

I 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.

Many 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.

One 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.)

November 2007

Getting Back Into Politics

The upcoming Australian election has gotten me back to paying attention to news and politics.

Long 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 war finally.

There's 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' itself.

It's 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.

The 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

March 2008

Life is Similar But Different

So 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.

I've 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.

Life 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.

The 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.

April 2008

Hope and Change

The 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 'change'.

His 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 later.

But 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.

There's 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.

It's time that 'family values' start including LGBT people. I also believe that when we get this new consensus same-sex marriage will become widely supported.

June 2008

I'm Done With Transition. Or Am I?

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 days, anyway.

But 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.

The 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.

But 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.

Diary Two

Chapter 7: 2012 Entries

December 2012

Inspired to Restart My Diary

I 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.

Here is where we are, after the big year of 2012:

Marriage 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.

Hollywood 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.

Here 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 of itself.

Trans 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

January 2013

What's in a Name?

As 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.

There 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.

I 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.

So 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.

February 2013

Marriage Equality Tops The Charts

Rapper 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.

Maybe 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 both countries.

Maybe, just maybe, people are buying the song so that our politicians will listen.

April 2013

The Conservative Case for Marriage Equality

New 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.

Ever 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.

I 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

However, 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.

June 2013

Getting Back Into Trans World

Since 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.

But 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.

It 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 later.

August 2013

More Important Things

In 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.

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