Trans positive; the AAA Girls!

I recently went to an event in Sackville Gardens in the the Gay village of Manchester called ‘Village People in the Park’. I was lucky enough to have VIP tickets allowing me to actually meet my idols; the American Apparel Ad girls!

The girls, Willam Belli, Courtney Act and Alaska 5000 are known for being contestants on Rupaul’s Drag Race, as well having a big presence online. They’re drag queens and they’re my heroes .

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Why am I telling you this? Well, it was during that meet and greet that I finally became comfortable in my own skin…

Before the meet and greet we waited on a staircase. I couldn’t hear them, I couldn’t see them but I just knew they were in the next room. Before the woman at the door allowed us into the room, to await our turn (and buy some merchandise), she lay down some “rules”. No selfies, don’t be too long, etc etc.

All of this was making me anxious, but honestly I was anxious already, because I had another weight on my shoulders. Would they see right through me? What should I say my name was? Would I look like a right weirdo if I said my name is Ben but am obviously female?

What I am really writing about here isn’t just a great fan experience: It’s more so the fact that I have never experienced such a trans-positive moment in my life.

In retrospect, all those questions I asked myself seemed stupid, but they were crippling me. While I was at the stall buying merchandise it was suddenly my friend and I’s turn to meet them! I was late so had to rush, trying to put my wallet in the pocket of my skinny jeans (a difficult task, even when you’re not shaking in fear).

To be honest, the meet and greet hadn’t really sunk in before we were called up to wait. I was still revelling about how amazing their live set was about an hour before, but when I was standing on those stairs is when it finally hit me. I didn’t really have any time at all to control my nerves.

By the time I had sorted myself out, my friend had already said hello, so Willam said hi to me. She asked whether I was a miss or a sir; obviously sensing who I really am without my needing to explain. I mumbled something about being “technically miss”. She said to me that a lot of their fans were trans people, and so she wanted to get it just right.

It was then I could fully admit who I was.

“Yeah, that’s me, I’m trans” I said with a half smile and a nervous laugh.

“Well then, I should call you Sir,” smiled Willam with all the confidence in the world. A big supportive hug ensued.

I finally plucked up the courage to ask her to sign my newly purchased merchandise. “So, what’s your name?” she asked, using her hand as a writing desk.

“Ben” I said.

She nodded and said she liked it. I mumbled something odd about liking the name Willam (which is also her out of drag name) and we started having a brief conversation about names and things. My nerves were lessening at this point. I was accepted.

It got even better when my friend came back to talk with us. Courtney, another of my idols, who was standing in the middle of the group curved her arm around me and pulled me in for a massive hug.

“Hello, Ben,” she said and then she introduced me to Alaska making sure to put emphasis on my name. “Ben, this is Alaska. Alaska this is Ben”

“Hiiiiiiii” I said, which is one of Alaska’s catch phrase. I instantly regretted how unoriginal I was.

“How many times have you heard that today?” I cringed.

“About eightteen,” she smiled jokingly.

“Have you been counting?”

Then me Courtney and Alaska chatted for a bit. I felt like we were in a weird way, friends.

To be honest, I’d been struggling with finding a name that suited me and Ben was a name I hadn’t had for long, so I was still trying to come to terms with it, but with Courtney calling me Ben, I felt my name really fit for the first time properly. It was an amazing feeling….

After more chat – including Willam liking my ‘Hasta La Pizza, Baby’ shirt and calling me fun – as well as a photo, I could tell that the woman running it was getting a little impatient because we were taking so long. I was still shaking. Willam asked why I was shaking and I cast it off as the few red bull and vodkas that I had had that evening, which had them laughing.

Of course they saw that I was nervous. The whole time I could feel that they were being protective over me. It felt nice. They seemed to genuinely want to keep chatting to me. They seemed to like me.

I know it’s sounds just like a teenager meeting Justin Bieber and making a meal of it, but I can assure you it’s not like that at all. Maybe, and probably, they are just lovely to everyone they meet, but that’s not the point to me. What I am really writing about here isn’t just a great fan experience: It’s more so the fact that I have never experienced such a trans-positive moment in my life.

That meeting put me in such a confident mood where I was more comfortable in myself; and I’ve been there ever since.

I’ve noticed some bad rep in the Trans community about drag queens, because some feel that they mock trans issues. With my experience that night I can guarantee that this is not true whatsoever for the majority of queens who are out there.

After all, I think they are in a similar boat to ours. They understand what we are going through.

I wrote this article because I didn’t have the chance to explain how appreciative I was to the Queens themselves. I was far too nervous. My mental state prevented me from doing so. I want to thank them for being so positive. For being understanding and supportive. I look forward to meeting them again at some point in the future.

I wont be so nervous next time.

Ben

Ben 01

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April Ashley ‘Citizen of Honour’

Inspirational transgender campaigner, April Ashley, has been named a ‘Citizen of Honour’ in her home city of Liverpool.

At an intimate ceremony in the beautiful Council Chamber of Liverpool Town Hall, April was awarded the honour in recognition of her work fighting for transgender equality. Wednesday 29 April also marked April’s 80th birthday so was a fitting way for her to celebrate this landmark occasion.

April award

April Ashley, Citizen of Honour. Picture courtesy of Liverpool Echo.

Lord Mayor of Liverpool Councillor Erica Kemp CBE said: “I am delighted to be honouring this outstanding lady for her dedication and commitment to ensuring that the transgender, gay, lesbian & bisexual community are listened to and given equal rights.

“Her tireless campaigning, determination and courage make her a most worthy recipient of this honour. I hope that by awarding April a Citizen of Honour we can highlight the inequalities that individuals still suffer today and encourage those who feel lost and confused to reach out and realise that they are not alone.”

April Ashley said: “It is wonderful to be receiving this honour in my home city and for such a worthy cause. We all have a responsibility to stand up and fight for basic human rights and to be recognised for this is truly wonderful.”

“It is also a fantastic way to celebrate a landmark birthday in one of our most historic and stunning buildings.”

Born in Liverpool on 29 April 1935 as George Jamieson at the age of 25 she was one of the first people to have gender reassignment. Since then from her platform as a successful model, she has been instrumental in the campaign for transgender and LGBT equality.

Liverpool’s first Transgender Pride Flag now in the Museum of Liverpool archive. Pictured: Lord Mayor Erica Kemp, Scottie Oxton, April Ashley, Sophie Green, MoL’s Kay Jones & Vriska Serket.

In 2012 in recognition for her services to transgender equality she was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours. She speaks regularly on LGBT rights, including most recently in 2008 at St George’s Hall.

In addition this week, Liverpool’s first Transgender Pride Flag will be given to the Museum of Liverpool.

Sophie Green, from Liverpool Trans said: “It’s incredibly empowering to see your community represented and the Transgender Pride flag represents a group which often faces huge prejudice and intolerance.

To witness members of the transgender community raise the flag above Town Hall was an incredibly proud moment and I’m delighted it is now part of the Museum of Liverpool Archive”

The Transgender Pride flag was first presented to the Lord Mayor, Councillor Erica Kemp, by members of the local transgender community in November 2014. It was flown for the first time in support of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a global event, held annually on the 20th November to remember transgender lives lost to violence and prejudice.

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A book of 80th Birthday messages for April from the trans community.

During the ceremony Liverpool Trans also presented April with a book of 80th Birthday messages and photographs from members of the transgender community; collated from online submissions during their birthday messages for April campaign.

 

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April Ashley’s 80th Birthday Book

At Liverpool Trans HQ we were overwhelmed by the number of responses to our birthday message for April campaign, it was so good to have so many of you involved! Against serious time constraints (we launched the campaign on Sunday afternoon, April’s Birthday was Wednesday!) we managed to get everything together, and we’re pretty pleased with the results!

You can view all the messages below or via our facebook page (go tag yourselves!). We did include as many of your messages as we could, unfortunately some did arrive a little too late!

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April Ashley is presented with a book of 80th birthday messages from representatives of the Liverpool Trans community. Pictured: Scottie Oxton, April Ashley, Sophie Green, Liverpool Lord Mayor Erica Kemp and Vriska Serket.

A message from team April!..

‘Yesterday was an amazing day and April had a wonderful time! April loved her 80th birthday book and asked me to read every single message to her over a gin and tonic. She was very touched by how thoughtful a gift it was. Thank you Liverpool Trans community.’

Bev Ayre, Homotopia

Well done folks! Will do it all again on her 90th! 🙂

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Wish April Ashley a happy 80th birthday

On Wednesday 29th April, Liverpool born April Ashley, trans icon, model,  actress and advocate,  will celebrate her 80th birthday. We at Liverpool Trans adore her and would like to let her know just how much she means to us and to our little community.

To mark this fabulous occasion we thought we’d ask you dear reader, to leave a message for April, wish her a happy birthday and let her know what she means to you. We’ll compile all your lovely messages and present them to her personally (more info to follow soon!), we’ll also share as many of your wonderful messages as we can online!

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If you want to share your messages with us on Twitter and Facebook use hashtag #April80

If you don’t know April, we insist you get to know her!

Leave your messages below and our little team at Liverpool Trans will do the rest!

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Liverpool Trans at Reclaim the Night

Reclaim the Night campaigns for an end to Violence Against Women, challenging street harassment and ending rape culture. On the 24th April 2015 100 women marched through the streets of Liverpool, loud and proud.

The Rallying point included a host of wonderful women speakers and performers, among them was Sophie Green who proudly spoke on behalf of Transgender Day of remembrance. This is her full speech.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is held annually on the 20th November.

Across the world candlelit vigils and events are held to remember those lives that have been lost; killed due to transphobic violence and discrimination. Transgender communities and their allies came together across the globe to read the names of the dead and honour their passing.

If I wasn’t being objectified with unwanted attention from guys in clubs because I was trans, then I might be subjected to a bit of transphobic abuse on the way home.

Last year Liverpool marked the day with several events, among them there were talks at the Museum of Liverpool’s April Ashley archive; and the raising of the Transgender Pride flag by members of the trans community above Liverpool Town Hall.

In St John’s Gardens, people gathered to read aloud the names of the 270 transgender people whose lives were known to have been lost due to transphobic violence.

Reclaim the night

Being transgender can place you on the furthest fringe of society, experiencing high levels of discrimination. A lack of legal protections aside, many counties have no adequate gender recognition laws and little or no trans specific health care. Without family or financial support how do you successfully transition and allow yourself to flourish?

In the United States transgender women of colour continue to be the victims of murder and violence.

  • Of the 14 US transgender murders reported 10 were trans women of color.
  • 40% of all LGBT US murders were of trans women.
  • 15 of those murdered were trans women under the age of 19.
  • Brazil, rife with transphobia, accounted for 58% of all reported trans murders.
  • Closer to home, recorded hate crimes in England and Wales for 2013/14 show a 54% increase in transgender hate crime.

So what can happen when you fight back?

Trans woman Cece Mcdonald and her friends were subjected to a transphobic and racist attack in her hometown of Minneapolis. Following a verbal assault, Cece was struck in the face with glass, When Cece tried to run her assailant chased her. Scared for her life Cece pulled a pair of scissors from her bag stabbing the man in the chest, killing him.

Cece didn’t fit the standard narrative, she survived; on any other day she would have been another name to the TDOR role call. But she stood her ground, refusing to die. For fighting back Cece served 19 months for manslaughter, in a men’s prison.

The names recorded for #TDOR are the tip of the iceberg. Many more murders are unreported, and others victims not identified as trans in reports, or whose trans identities have been erased in the wake of their deaths, as was the case with transgender teen Leeah Alcorn.

Leelah Alcorn was raised in a conservative Christian household in Ohio. At age 14 Leelah came out as transgender to her parents, who refused to accept her female gender identity. At 16 the denied her request to undergo transition treatment, instead sending her to Christian conversion therapy.

With a lack of family support, and seeing no future for herself, Leelah took her own life.

Leelah’s suicide note soon went viral, and her family quickly stepped in to remove her blog and with it her trans identity.

Without the pixies of the internet saving her blog and re-posting, Leelah’s whole trans history, her identity, her calls for acceptance and support for others like her could have been lost. How many other trans lives have been erased like this?

Growing up I didn’t know who I was; I didn’t know the word transgender and I certainly didn’t know anyone like me.

I saw approximations of people I thought were like me, caricatures on television, punchlines in newspapers, the message I was getting about trans was not good. The media’s representations of trans women were as punchlines, perverts, or deceivers, people to be mocked. Trans women were viewed as mocking femininity and to be avoided at all costs.

I was a scared teen; I didn’t want anyone to know I was one of those people so I hid myself from the world, I was suffocating as I let life go on around me.

The weight of gender dysphoria eventually became so great that for me it was transition or……I’d exhausted my options, and transition was the only I could see myself having any kind of a future.

Many trans women are particularly visible at the beginning of their transitions, lack of confidence in your appearance to ‘pass’ and the absence of girlhood experience makes the world an incredibly scary place to be, you have to push yourself out of the door every day.

I found myself in potentially dangerous situations to feel validated as female. If I wasn’t being objectified with unwanted attention from guys in clubs because I was trans, then I might be subjected to a bit of transphobic abuse on the way home. I placed little value on who I was. I had been conditioned to believe that nobody would want a relationship with a trans girl and I should be grateful for any affection I could get.

It took years for me to truly find myself, to accept myself and to begin to love myself.

We are beginning to move forward. I now find myself in a place where the transgender movement is gathering momentum with more and more trans identified people standing up and sharing their stories, supporting and empowering each other. We stand on the shoulders of giants, brave pioneers, and now we are beginning to tell our stories and write our own histories.

With each advance, we gain more allies, and more informed voices to effect a positive change. I’m involved in workshops in schools and am amazed when the kids tell me what transgender means, there’s a long way to go for acceptance, but it’s incredibly encouraging.

Being visibly transgender isn’t an option for everyone, but for those that are able, transgender visibility creates empathy and that leads to acceptance, it’s a positive thing for everybody. Changing societies attitudes is key to winning rights and penalising those who try to hurt us, the trans movement needs its allies!

Ultimately, I’ve come to realise that with the right support to help you through, there is nothing wrong with being Trans.

It’s other people that try to make it a problem.

sophie

 

Sophie Green

 

 

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Transition Without Destination

My heart sometimes falls when I hear the word “transition”. Often because, to many people, it represents a medical transition, with a clear end point. It’s almost as much of an oversimplification as condensing the whole of trans experience into one magical “op”.

I am nonbinary, and have chosen not to transition medically. Just writing that, I feel an overwhelming need to explain myself, to prove myself trans enough to be part of this community.

Yes, I experience dysphoria. No, I don’t have an underlying condition that makes medical transition impossible. No, I absolutely do not represent other nonbinary people in feeling this way; in fact I know of at least one binary trans person who has chosen not to have any medical intervention. For me, it is nothing more than an utterly personal decision, based on the circumstances of my life as I see it.

Two years ago, I sought referral to the GIC. I was referred to a mental health professional for screening, after which I was told it would be straightforward enough to send me on. Two days before my screening, my father attempted suicide. In tears, I explained the situation to the receptionist, who booked me another appointment for three months later. Not having my own car, I asked my then partner to give me a lift. He explained that he did not feel that then was the right time. I realise now that he meant for him, not for me.

In short, my brief attempt to take the standard route did not work out. Looking back, I’m still not sure how I feel about this. My life was taken out of my hands by two people who claimed to love me, and yet acted, for whatever reason, with utter selfishness. Yet I have little desire to try again.

There is no “passing” or “living stealth” as nonbinary

Why not? It makes my life harder than it needs to be. I devote time and money to disguising my decidedly binary body. Even amongst trans people, I live in a permanent state of prepubescence. New acquaintances offer up words of wisdom: “Once you start to transition…”

I started my transition four years ago. I’m not exactly an old hand, but I’ve at least got to the point where misgendering confuses, rather than upsets me. So being tucked under someone’s admittedly well-meaning wing tends to grate.

So why stay as I am? Simply put, because changing my body will not change the way people see me.

My transition has no endgame. I live for those rare, beautiful moments where someone recognises that I am outside the binary.

“Can I see your ticket, young man?” asked a train conductor recently, before correcting himself, “Sorry, young… whatever.”

“Young whatever’s about right,” I smiled, and he reciprocated as he clipped my ticket.

The absurdity of that little exchange is not lost on me. For almost anyone else, that would be a terrible moment, and yet it absolutely made my day. Because it’s sickeningly rare.

There is no “passing” or “living stealth” as nonbinary. Most people have an overwhelming need to fit complete strangers into neat little pink and blue boxes. Yet, how can I blame them? Everything about the society we live in is so rigidly binary. Forget passports, nonbinary folk can’t even get a Tesco Clubcard! And don’t get me started on Kinder eggs.

Shaving my ridiculous peach fuzz every week is a five minute job. Binding is sweaty and stifling, but very rarely painful. Trying to work out which bathroom I can use in safety? That is my day to day.

The one time I tried to come out to a potential employer, she asked me to stand up and turn around so that she could better see the fit of my binder. She said that she’d have to speak to her business partner about whether or not they could employ me; I never heard from her again.

So for now my focus is on being visible. I’ve had my little victories- I asked National Rail to give the option of a gender neutral title on railcards, and they did. I can’t say for sure that I’ll never try my hand again at the GIC, though their poor track record with nonbinary patients is astonishing. I just know for me, right now, it’s not important.

So, just think the next time you use the word “transition”, and see if it’s really what you mean.

Parker Dell

Parker Dell

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The power of #TDOV and living visibly

Yesterday was Transgender Day of Visibility, an event held annually on March 31st celebrating the lives of transgender people. It’s intention is to applaud achievements of the trans* community while also highlighting the many issues and prejudices it faces.

Liverpool Trans contribution to #TDOV was to create a profile picture upload tool so people could show their support for #TDOV across social media. We were optimistic that we’d get a bit of interest, it was a fun, it was engaging and it was a positive way to show support for what was a relatively new event.

Amazed to say since launching on Monday, there have been over 1500 profile pictures created. Some we’ve uploaded and on our Facebook Page we’re sharing our favourite #TDOV pictures and asking community members to nominate their own trans* visibility icons.

Janet TDOV Geena TDOV Kate TDOV

Last night we frantically tweeted, messaging our way to some of the trans communities finest, with contributions from author and TV Host Janet Mock, author and performer ‘Aunty’ Kate Bornstein (in a rather fetching Grey Fez) and model and Genderproud advocate Geena Rocero. It’s fair to say we were giddy as love struck teenagers to have them involved.

Representation came from writers, artists, DJs, film makers, actors, models, Army, Navy, Air Force, presenters, teachers, performers, government, engineers, singers, athletes, tutors & students. Transgender people getting their voices heard, their stories are shared, building a more understanding society.

Heartfelt thanks and pride to everyone that made this happen.

This is a bit special…

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