Attending the trans residential weekend

Just got back from the trans residential organised by Lancashire LGBT.  It was an overnight stay at Borwick Hall with a series of workshops on both Saturday and Sunday.  I can’t go into too much detail of what went on as we agreed to a confidentiality pact to protect all the participants but I’ll provide a brief overview of the weekend and it’s activities.

Day 1 of the programme kicked off with an induction session outlining the objectives of the weekend and an introduction with the other participants.  There was a cross section of ages and a mix of transfeminine, transmasculine and non-binary folks.  The first workshop was Gendernauts presented by Sal Harris which explores gender identity and expression in a safe and inclusive space.  The next workshop I attended was a jam packed information session about hormones and surgery for transmasculine folk.  This was super useful and gave a lot of insight into the process and pitfalls of different medical procedures.  It was also excellent to have the opinions of people who’d actually had the procedures.  The evening was an opportunity to socialise within the group and enjoy music from singer/songwriter Ellie.

Day 2 started with a seminar on personal presentation and dressing for transmacsuline folk debunking the myth that trans guys should dress exclusively in multiple layers of black, baggy clothing while slouching!  This was followed by a session about promoting good mental health.  The weekend programme closed with a debriefing session.  There were other workshops over the two days aimed more specifically at transfeminine people so it had a broad people for all the participants.

The accommodation at Borwick Hall was somewhat basic but the food was excellent.  The weekend was both informative and thought-provoking as well as providing an opportunity to meet a wide range of like minded individuals in an informal and relaxed environment.

Trans pride

I’ve been pondering a lot lately on the notion of transgender pride.  It’s a hot topic on some of the Facebook groups I’m part of – some of the lads are very into it and very proud to be trans.  There’s even a flag for it!

Trans Flag

At the risk of being controversial and I’m not trying to be offensive, I’m going to make a confession – I just don’t get it.  I’m not proud to be trans.  I’m not ashamed either.  It’s not an identity for me, it’s a matter of fact – like having blue eyes or mousy brown hair (the bits that aren’t grey anyway!).  I wouldn’t say I was proud to have blue eyes or mousy brown hair so why would I be proud to be trans?

In fact the whole transgender label makes me vaguely uncomfortable.  When people describe me as a trans man or trans guy it makes me cringe like the scraping of fingernails on a chalkboard.  When I first came out I struggled to describe to other people what was happening and define who/what I was.  I initially chose ‘gender reassignment’ but that didn’t feel right as it sounds like I just fancied a change.  So then I opted for ‘undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria’ but that necessitated explaining what gender dysphoria was which got tedious.  On the upside though it did tend to legitimise the experience by framing it as a physical ailment, a type of birth defect, rather than a choice or even worse, a kind of crazy.  In fact, it is only in the latest incarnation of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) released in June 2018 that gender incongruence has been de-classified as a mental health disorder.

As time has progressed I’ve gotten comfortable with not feeling the need to justify or define myself.  When applying for jobs I proved my eligibility to work in the UK with my birth certificate accompanied by my change of name deed.  I handed them both over without comment and never received any comment in return nor did I expect to.  I don’t feel the need to disclose at every opportunity and I only explain when it suits me to do so.  In my experience it’s only an issue for people who don’t know if you make it one.  I guess for some people being stealth like this would be a betrayal, as for them trans pride is about increasing awareness and visibility – proving our existence to those debating whether trans is actually a thing!  However, I still find this notion problematic as this is my life not a sociological experiment or a discourse on gender politics and I’ve got an awful lot of bills for someone who doesn’t exist.