Written by Jemima Isobel Grant

Trans Subculture

Trans Subculture.

My experience of being part of trans communities, both online and in person, has been mixed. I have found they focus so much on perception and negativity. It feels like a funeral of life. I see pride events which are celebrations of life. Its a community connected by being different, but rather than integrate and become part of the world, we isolate and fight mental battles. There is a penchant to blame, and to be desperate to be in a pigeonhole. I fully appreciate this is how humanity and culture has worked for generations. I find the negative communities paradoxical.

I think for all of us it boils down to fear. Fear of being judged, being hurt, being left, fear of learning to live. We are so focused on our dysphoria, our anxieties and our fundamental fear, that we forget. Forget to enjoy this.

This life is so brief, we need to celebrate what we have, enjoying our transition. Be part of the world. Share your stories, your decision, your life. We need to educate not isolate. We also need to breathe and take it all in. Trans is also short for transition, the first time i spoke to a member of the LGBT community their advice was patience!

Everyone is in a rush for HRT, surgery, do I pass?. The language we use is negative, deadname, gatekeeping, TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) Nobody is focusing on the joy of the transition, enjoying this journey.

Learning to express myself openly for the first time, being comfortable in conversations and learning my new voice. Every single smile from a stranger. That feeling when someone a little nervous finally asks you about yourself, and you end up learning something brand new.

Im Pre HRT and have been out for almost 2 years. In that time i have tried to be part of a few communities, but sadly because of this spiralling negativity, I have had to distance myself from due to this almost scripted response by people transitioning. These groups, tend to get very hive mind like, and while i think it is also something that happens a lot in life, it becomes quite difficult to form true relationships with people who almost seem to hate being transgender.

I love the transition, i love the pride. I will always try to be a light, even in my dimmest moments I will be a brightness in someone’s life.

 

 

Butterflies, Leicester

These were the group associated with the LGBT centre in Leicester. I had such a wonderful experience with advice at the centre, I went into this group full of hope. It was Nov 7th 2016, the night America was voting for president. The pub we met in Leicester, was cute and cosy, with a roaring fire, on a winter’s evening, this felt like a comfortable and safe place.

We arrived, and weren’t really introduced or given time to say hello, then the “spokesperson” of the group began to talk about the death of a trans woman, who was once part of the group. They then requested everyone shared memories of the woman whose life had been cut short. Only one person stated some positives words, the others ummed and ahhed. They only knew her as a trans woman, part of their group. They began to argue about what she would have wanted.

I was sat next to a very abrasive older woman, who was learing over me while constantly showing me pictures of nude female models. Saying constantly she wanted that style, The group were talking, but i had been held almost hostage. Arguments seemed commonplace. Next came a round of Trump sympathy, and constant football conversation. I like football, but the cute cozy look of the pub had disappeared for me, I now saw the old brick, the local propping up the bar, this was an old working mans pub, All the members of this group were over 40 and I began to understand, the only thing we had in common was transitioning. I felt like a school kid, stuck in the PE changing room, with only boys, covering myself out of shame to be myself.

Trans subgroup, Inclusive, Peterborough

Another cute pub, this time in Peterborough. A lonely old building down a long pebble drive. The inside of the building was low beams and small rooms. It was homely, but felt a bit awkward, especially when our group was moved to an activities room away from the ambience of the pub. It felt like we were hiding.

I found out normally, this group would meet in a private location in a business park to avoid negative contact. This group was set up by 2 parents of a trans teen. Both these people, were happy and energetic and it was a true pleasure to see such supportive parents. This was a very diverse group, It had another set of parents and their trans son of 14, there were a group of 3 girls sat a table together, clearly friends and close. One of the group was non-binary, and autistic.

I thought this seemed nice. Rachel (my personal assistant) was happy talking to them, I quickly got talking to one of the group, who was happily explaining her transition and realisation. It was nice to hear her story, but it very quickly drove to all the negative; “since i transitioned, this is all i lost, this is how bad it is”. I tried to talk about the positives of therapy, that made me able to appreciate myself and living in my mind. This turned into a tirade about mental health professionals and lack of support and funding, this transitioned on to talk about the Gender Clinic. They have very long waiting lists, being disabled has probably given me more patience for being a patient. Constant complaining about waiting times is a popular theme, along with “gatekeeping”. This piqued the interest of the other 2 women at the table, who piped in to agree, that people should not be stopping our access to HRT based on mental health and RLE (real life experience, living as your chosen gender definition). The whole conversation is so born around frustration and bitterness. It makes me realise being a trans specialist Doctor or Nurse, must be very difficult, having to making life changing decisions for your patient,

The group then quieted as they began to discuss more administrative aspects. From organising Peterborough’s first pride, to their next meetings. Which would be in the private location. They were talking about getting people in to teach us how to sit, and walk, and a make up specialist. I thought this all sounded great, but why does it have to be hidden, why cut ourselves off from public. While I was pondering this, an argument had subtly broken out. One of the girls had felt put out-of-place by herself not being able to do our makeup. I felt very out of place as another group devolved into arguments in front of me. My opinion was asked, and I had to be honest and state that it was my first time and i couldn’t voice an opinion about parties i didn’t know. It led to an awkward evening.

Trans UK, Discord Chat Server

Discord is a very popular VOIP app, mostly used by gaming communities, with lots of functionality and convenient administration, all for free! It’s easy to see why it is a good place for trans culture to find safe space.

I have used Reddit to lurk and read many people’s stories of coming out and transition, and I had heard in passing that there was a Trans UK Discord group. I asked to join and was greeted by a wonderful trans woman, whom was welcoming and polite and explained that there were some rules to stop “infiltration”. This term is common in trans communities, with lots of online journalists posing to gain access to hidden and private groups.

It is easy to see, why anyone coming into these small microcosm of community, could misunderstand them. There is 200 members with approximately 30-40 active members.

This is where I feel the trans community can get lost in itself. The server can become an echo chamber of opinions. It had a feel of student accommodation at university. I felt once again like the outsider looking in on a culture i didn’t recognise. I felt old among the younger members of this group that seems to be mostly 18-25. So much of their transition was anarchistic and rebellious. They wanted to scream and be understood, they wanted to wallow and hate the world, they wanted to pick a fight.

This is where the server had elements of difficulty for myself, I couldn’t relate to the transition these people, it was so involved with depression and anger.

For me transition is liberating, a source of positivity and openness. I had truly never seen such a negative attitude to transition. I felt so many conversations revolved around “my dysphoria”. In some ways I recognise the conversations. It is similar to when I had to accept living with disabilities. So easily, we use our own insecurities towards ourselves, we push those insecurities onto the world around us. We can spend so long painting ourselves as unworthy of others acceptance, that we forget the most simple fact; To accept ourselves!

I constantly saw people talking about hiding and “being stealth”. In the 2 years of living openly as a woman, I have literally only ever heard 1 slur direct at me. I have seen so many more smiles of support, knowing nods of understanding and conversations with allies. Yet this group blames the outside world for trapping them in their dysphoria.

I see younger people struggling already with their identity, and acceptance, struggling to be themselves because of fear. The fear is amplified within these communities who focus on sharing negative experiences.

This is quite a common issue with social media in general. People swarm to negativity and complaint, while rarely celebrating positivity, gratitude and success.

Love yourself

If you are reading this, no matter if you are Trans, disabled, an ally, or even a troll. Focus on yourself, what do YOU want? Who do YOU want to be? Don’t waste time in your own mind tearing yourself down! Build yourself up! Give yourself time!

I wrote this to express my feelings about not feeling comfortable within a community of what should my peers. The main thing I have learnt to be more confident and happy in the woman I have become. I felt I needed to be part of these groups to confirm whom I was, and while I haven’t found any bonds with people, I have learned more about myself.

These groups all set up to support and help trans individuals. They have definitely helped me, and they give a wonderful outlet to many a person who is trapped in their identity.

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