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Transgender reality

Posted in: Our Communities
By Diane Sparkes - 7th May 2015

In part one of this series, Diane Sparkes discussed transgender acceptance. Now she takes on reality.

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Transgender people young and old, of every race, and every culture need acceptance and support. When a transgender person comes to terms with the fact they may never be accepted as who they are, suicide is seldom far from the mind.

Today’s youth evolve in a world so very changed from the past, a world where if you were different you kept quiet about it, to do otherwise was to tempt fate. Just as in the way they have little concept of a society at war, so too do they have little concept of the cruelty of a world that only recognised two genders and one kind of sexual orientation. Perhaps it has been necessary for society to go through this process to get to where we are, but it has to be admitted, change in attitude and acceptance towards a gay community is finally taking place.

For the transgender community this has yet to happen, although change is happening, problem is still how do we educate a public on an issue so alien to everything they understand? Every single person on this planet is born as a baby, no question about it, but not every baby is born the gender assigned at birth.

When the doctor says to a mum you have a healthy baby boy or girl, she is usually happy, but the reality is only the baby knows whether it is a boy or girl for sure, and it has known who it is for many months.

It takes time for a baby to evolve into who he or she is and eventually that baby will grow into a child and finally an adult. Mostly this happens seamlessly without question, and parents do as parents have always done, treat the child’s gender in the normal way. Problem is, doing what seems normal may actually be wrong, and it starts right at the time of birth. We are really clever today, medical science using ultrasound technology can tell the gender they perceive the child to be before birth, and parents go along with this in the age old way, by purchasing baby clothes; pink for a girl blue for a boy, in fact there is quite an industry is involved in this process.

Because the baby cannot be questioned on how it sees itself there is a great danger of influencing the child’s true gender. Thankfully this process gets it right most of the time, but occasionally about 1 to 5 in a 1,000 births, the assigned gender is wrong and a transgender child is the result.

That in itself is not a problem, for the child that is; but for the parent this can be tragic news, it gets even worse when a parent desperately wants a child of a specific gender. Even more so if the child has been influenced by society’s idea of a binary gender, is the issue of bringing up a child in this way; and in the process, creating doubt and confusion its own mind.

Parents mostly never give their child’s gender a second thought, occasionally and more frequently reported today is the way a child is able to tell the parent they are unhappy with the gender assigned them. While this is most likely nothing new, it should be remembered that in the past a child was given very little recognition, with the old concept that they should be seen but not heard! Additionally due to a misguided understanding of gender, even the medical profession attempted to appease parents telling them such ideas would go away eventually, which might just happen. But for those whose gender issue does not go away; they were often deemed to have mental problems and consigned to mental institutions.

Transgender people have constantly told the medical profession for years that there was nothing wrong with them; it was just that society, even the doctors could not get the idea of gender identity, for the simple reason “their own was never in question”.

Attempts to make society come to terms with transgender people are changing very slowly, but it is the concept of not being the sex you were born as, that requires understanding.

For today’s youth this is a real challenge, standing up and saying you are transgender all too frequently sets them up for discrimination and violence, especially when they get bullied at school! Sadly some parents fail to get their head around having a transgender child, seeking advice in religion with catastrophic consequences, instead of just accepting and loving them.

For a transgender youth without acceptance and love to help them survive, it is not too hard to see why suicide may seem a way out.

Naturally this problem is not just limited to the young, in fact as a transgender individual gets older they become more involved in an ever discriminating world where understanding of who they are is limited.

Faced with such consequences a transgender person makes the only decision they can to survive - live a life of denial in total secrecy, or take the alternative.

Reality of that very secrecy is that we will never know the extent being transgender exists in society some will actually go to their grave in silence, such is their pain, and there are no statistics.

Trying to set aside their reality, some attempt to take on manly pursuits by for example joining the Army, or organisations, even getting married in fact anything that gives the impression of being a “normal male”, however they invariably fail because being transgender never ever goes away.

This very important fact is something that many in the gay community fail to understand. For them the issue is about sexuality and they know who they are, the transgender individual also knows who they are; but society fails to accept them and their truth.

The plight of a transwoman, if she is lucky enough to blend in with the female society, can survive, problem is the incidence of being transgender is not limited to those that blend in. It also hits so very cruelly those who do not, the person with broad shoulders, large physique and big feet who will never look female and is the reason for the often heard cisgender whispers of “look a guy in a dress”.

If anyone thinks women have body issues then think again the issues a transwoman might have.

Meanwhile it is important to recognise our present older transgender community who have already lived much of their lives unsupported and unaccepted in a violent and discriminating society. They too still need to survive in today’s world; some like me will eventually cease to exist as time goes by as will many others. Societies challenge is to make the lives of ‘every’ transgender person better.

To do this effectively our community has first to be more supportive of its own.

Forget the issue of youth, of age, of race, of colour, of culture for they are all meaningless when being transgender affects us all in the same way. No prizes for being an old or young trans woman or a black trans woman, a Polynesian or Maori trans woman, we all face the same issue, we are seen as different and need acceptance!

In a similar manner gay people who have experienced a lack of acceptance in the past, still do in some circles; however in taking a collective approach towards acceptance; a societal change is actually taking place.

This is their reality, transgender folk must now do the same; working together is the only way to achieve a common goal. Looking around to see what support exists and telling our stories just like Bruce Jenner educating society and being involved.

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And remember it is just possible those that have lived a life of secrecy just might have something meaningful to say.

Above all, be Proud to be Transgender, and share this beautiful flag with the World!

- Diane Sparkes is a retired teacher who is now a trans advocate


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Diane Sparkes - 7th May 2015

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