Hello! If you’ve found this page, it’s probably because we’ve become friends on Facebook, you’ve noticed that it says I’m “trans” in my bio, and you’d like to know more about what that means – or possibly, I’ve sent you the link to answer some questions you have. Either way, I hope you find this post helpful, and I’m grateful that you’ve decided to read it rather than remaining unsure or uncomfortable.
Here’s some info which I hope will answer your questions, and make life a bit easier for both of us.
- The word “trans” is short for “transgender”. This is an umbrella term that covers everyone who doesn’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. It’s an adjective, not a noun (so “a transgender person”, not “a transgender”; “trans issues”, not “the issue of transgender”; etc.)
- In my case, I was assigned female at birth, but I identify as male. Please refer to me as “he” or “him”. The noun for someone in my situation is a “trans man”: we always talk about trans people in a way that validates their current gender identity, not the one they were assigned at birth.
- I don’t consider myself to have been “born female”. Like most trans people, I prefer the phrase “assigned female at birth”, because it shows that I haven’t “changed” gender: I’ve always been male, I just had an incorrect label slapped on me as a baby.
- (I actually don’t feel at all comfortable with the idea of “the gender binary” – the inaccurate idea that there are only two genders, and everybody has to be one or the other – but in my case, that isn’t really something you have to worry about. It’s a very useful concept to be aware of, though.)
- I came out as trans in late 2014. I wrote various posts on this blog, articulating my identity in different ways as I worked it out. They’re still public for archival purposes, but I wouldn’t bother reading them if I were you; this one is the most definitive.
- I am openly trans: it’s not a secret and it never will be. (I’d find it far too stressful trying to keep it as one!) However, now that my voice has broken, I get read as male in 99.9% of situations. This makes me really happy, but it does create a slightly awkward situation, because normal conversation doesn’t present many opportunities to say, “Oh, by the way, I’m transgender!” Even when it does, I usually avoid doing it, because there’s no telling how people will react, given that many people aren’t confident in discussing trans issues. As a result, the first time that some friends will find out I’m trans is when they add me on Facebook… hence my writing this post!
- In terms of sexuality, I identify as gay. My gay identity is really important to me, and being trans doesn’t make me any less gay! I also use the word queer to describe myself, which for me means that I’m politically critical of, and don’t fit into, societal norms of gender and sexuality.
- Alex (my husband) identifies as bisexual. Alex and I got married before I came out as trans, but my coming out wasn’t really a surprise to him and hasn’t caused any issues in our marriage (in his words, “I married you, not your gender!”)
- I usually don’t mind talking about:
– My experiences being trans in society/in work
– My job as a freelance trans awareness trainer
– How I realised I was trans
– Support for people you know who are trans or questioning their gender
– My LGBT activism and my related academic work
However, please be sensitive to context if you bring these things up! Is there someone nearby who doesn’t know I’m trans, and who might feel awkward or confused at overhearing it? Are we in an environment that might be unsafe for trans people or be more likely to contain people who are transphobic (e.g. a gendered toilet or a religious setting)? If so, please save the conversation until later.
- I’d prefer not to talk about:
– What my birth name was
– My medical transition (treatments I’ve had, or future plans)
– Media “debates” about trans people, the validity of our genders, trans children, gender-neutral school uniforms, the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, etc. etc. etc. Like many trans people, I find the current media onslaught against us exhausting and upsetting. Even if you’re on my side – even if you’re asking for tips on how to support trans people in arguments – please, unless I bring it up myself, assume that I would really prefer not to have to think about this stuff.
If you still have unanswered questions, then please:
- Consider why you’re asking: do you need to know in order to support/respect me, or are you just curious? (Remember it’s not necessary to understand everything about being trans in order to accept what trans people say as valid – in fact, if you’re not trans it’s probably impossible to understand it completely!)
- If yes, could you Google the answer?
- If no, drop me a message and I’ll do my best to answer when I have the time and energy.
Thanks very much for reading this. I’m sorry if it’s seemed heavy-handed or like I’m telling you what to do: please let me say that I’m really grateful that you care enough about our friendship to have read this, and that my main aim is to ensure that friendship can continue smoothly without either of us feeling secretly uncomfortable. Don’t feel you have to acknowledge it in any way. You can if you really want, but it’s more intended as, I dunno, a sign on my forehead which you read, digest and nod in understanding before continuing our previous conversation – which I’m looking forward to.