TRANNY SHAGGERS

Now, I’m no Samantha Brick, but I have, however, bagged myself a good deal of men in my time. (I’ve also romanced a fair few women, but that’s another matter.) From 18 to 48, muscular to skinny; from the stupid to the smart and the rich to the poor; white men, black men, Brits, Americans, Asians and Irish; Tom, Dick and Harry have all had a slice of the Paris pie. Discrimination sucks. There’s plenty of fish in the sea, and so, in my wilder years, I would always cast my nets wide. In other words, on the subject of men who sleep with trans women, I can, with some legitimacy, claim expert status.

Many of these men were dicks. Most of them, actually. I loved them all at the time, naturally, but my admiration for them was discarded routinely with the condom wrappers. My life is different now, but my retrospective opinion of these men suggests that they were, on the whole, pathetic, deceptive, selfish and cruel. Obviously, my findings do not apply to all Men Who Sleep With Trans Women, just a significant subcategory: Men Who Slept With Paris. It is from this special (and of course historical) subgroup that I shall now draw some universal truths…

Some men find some trans women highly attractive. Some of these men are perfectly well-behaved and respect their sexual partners.

Transmisogyny is widespread but this cannot be divorced from social pressure on men to conform. Many trans people – who did not transition till adulthood – should well understand that fear of social ostracism can, and does, lead to duplicitous and insensitive behaviour. Many men who desire trans women behave in exactly the same way for exactly the same reasons.

Are they fetishists though? ‘Gay’, ‘straight’ and ‘bi’ don’t really describe sexual attraction towards trans women with penises. ‘Tranny shaggers’ is used, I suppose. There’s an unfortunate social dynamic, ‘cotton ceiling’ if you will, that makes these men ashamed of such desires. As a result, they may compartmentalise, objectify and disrespect trans women. No excuse, of course, but worth noting.

I’d also suggest that not all trans women who find themselves the willing object of these attentions are themselves free of internalised transphobia.

The resulting behaviours may seem loveless. In the male ‘chaser’ it might be described as sleazy, perverse or fetishistic. The trans woman, as described in Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia, may only feel able to ‘enact’ femininity and fear the intimacy of all but anonymous sex.

Men throughout history have treated ‘unacceptable’ women (whether due to class, race, disability or sexual knowledge) with a similar degree of contempt. Disrespect for these women’s identities and indeed their humanity is common because they are seen as ‘less than women’. Misogyny, in a word.

Many sites fetishise trans women. Is this different from gay or straight hook up sites?

Classifying attraction to pre/non-operative trans women as a fetish creates, I fear, a catch 22. I remember being appalled once that a friend of mine had pulled a ‘chaser’. Why was this man aroused by breasts and a penis on the same body? What was wrong with him?

If we broke this cycle of fear and ridicule, these men might learn to treat trans women better. This includes, perhaps, a bit more patience and less condemnation heaped on them by trans women themselves.

But isn’t pinning the locus of desire onto a certain body part a fetish by definition – even if this is widely accepted as normal? It certainly goes with Lacan and Freud’s ideas about polymorphous perversion before the ego separates and absolute jouissance ends.

Should desire for the body always stem from desire for the person and not desire-for-the-body applied onto the person?

Some suggest a distinction between ‘chasers’ who see trans people as elements of a preconceived fantasy and those who want the person, sex-variant body included. Consider: “I fancy her because she’ll be my submissive Oriental flower” versus “I fancy her because I fancy her, and part of that is her almond eyes and silky black hair”. There’s also, of course, a big difference between somebody saying “I don’t usually find Asian men attractive” and “I don’t fancy Asian men”. But how about “I don’t fancy brunettes” – is that acceptable?

And what about a man who wants to bed ‘Daphne’ because she’s a woman, versus a man who has fallen for Daphne? Does it always have to be the latter?

Of course, some people just fall in love and genitals are a secondary consideration.

Either way, there should be no judgement placed on anybody’s sexual attractions. So long as it is consensual and they experience pleasure, maybe even love, why should male ‘chasers’ be excluded from this? Surely this also applies to anyone who’s turned on by a man with a vagina.

The Borghese Hermaphroditus

The Borghese Hermaphroditus

I say this as someone who has suffered some of the very worst male behaviour, ranging from violence to simple lack of tact. Behold this line from a male friend, describing our first meeting: “It was at that party, remember, I was chatting you up… then someone told me”. Thanks, Lee. Make me feel special why don’t you?

I don’t believe in blanket bans but, still, if someone isn’t attracted to certain genitalia, what can you do? Likewise if they are. Ultimately, we’ve all got different bits and we either like them or we don’t – and other people have a right to feel that way too.

The problem, if there is one, is ‘radical’ feminists and other prudes in cisgender society imposing ideology on mere sexual desire. Should we define or compartmentalise sexual orientation? Describing behaviour which defies heteronormative strictures as fetishistic destroys self-esteem and propels a vicious cycle.

I can imagine a very different world where no man need ever feel ashamed to introduce the woman of his dreams to his mum, whatever her genital configuration.

If a bad girl like me can do it…


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THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Earlier today I blogged about my friend Katie and her recent struggles. The gender clinic recommended her for hormone replacement therapy over a year ago, but her doctor(s) refuse to prescribe it. In desperation, she decided to ask the internet for help (my answer to everything).

And help it did! Her target was £500 so she could seek private medical care. Earlier today, she had £100 towards that sum. Following my blog, which was widely shared on Twitter, she has now exceeded the goal she set and donations stand at £820! One particularly generous benefactor left £500. Wow!

Katie was let down by people who have a duty of care towards her. Today, she saw a kinder side of humanity, the kindness of strangers. She also had help from friends and, combined, this really felt like a community coming together. Good. By helping our weakest we raise each other up too.

Congratulations to everyone who spread the word and to those who donated, no matter what the sum. I know she will use it wisely.

She has also received messages from people who are going to help her challenge her local health authority and take on the system which failed her. This is important, as she shouldn’t have had to resort to fundraising.

Katie just called me and I asked her if she had any messages to pass on. Here’s what she had to say:

“It is absolutely amazing, I’d like to thank everyone who donated, from the £5 to the amazing person who donated £500. I can’t believe people out there… there are some decent human beings that are willing to help a stranger.”

I also asked her how she felt:

“Well, I’m still kind of in shock at the moment, but I feel like it is going to change my life completely. I feel like I have the means and the power to move forward and grasp life with both hands, and I’m going to do that”.

It’s yet another victory for the online trans community, and a lovely end to the day. Thank you.


KATIE

Life is hard. Sometimes it pushes us down with such force that we haven’t the strength to resist. Trans people are particularly likely to find themselves feeling isolated, powerless and depressed. So it was for me and so it was for many others. So it is for Katie.

Katie, looking rather glam after her makeover at my house

Katie, looking rather glam after her makeover at my house

I’ve been friends with Katie for over a year now: we met online and augmented our friendship in the real world. She’s intelligent, kind and pretty savvy about the way the world works. She’s made some really useful suggestions to me in the past, like when she advised me to buy ParisLees.com.

Last August, I blogged about the difficulties Katie was facing with her doctor. She asked for anonymity then, but has since given me permission to reveal her identity. You see, she’s had enough. She’s had enough of being messed about by the NHS. She’s sick of changing doctors only to be told again and again that they won’t prescribe the hormones which her gender clinic has advised she take. So now she is doing what she can with what she’s got, and I’m incredibly proud of her.

I’ve said it before, but when you’re at your lowest ebb, just going to the local shop for milk can seem like an insurmountable task. I don’t think Katie will mind me saying that I’ve been worried about her mental health this past year. I have been specifically concerned that she might take her own life. I tried to cheer her up last year by giving her a makeover, something which she’d told me she would enjoy. She did, but it was only a short-term boost.

Katie wants to see a private gender specialist who can prescribe the hormone replacement therapy she’s so desperately waited for. She is, like many trans people, talented but unemployed. She has gender dysphoria and, like many trans people, spends much of her time at home. She’s currently trying to sort herself a passport so she has some identification which reflects her femaleness. She wants to work.

I’m not a huge fan of asking people for money and I find guilt-appeals rather intrusive. I hope, though, that some of the people who read this blog will identify with Katie and perhaps take some pleasure in helping a sister. Don’t underestimate the strength it took her to set up this fund. She needs help and she’s finally asked for it.

She needs £500 to cover two appointments. So far she’s received £100. If you could help her, even with an amount like £5, you’d be doing a wonderful thing for a wonderful person.


CHANGE IS POSSIBLE

In the great cities of the world groups of dissidents form their gaunt nexi of discontent and send the roots of change through the black soil of our existence.

Fay Weldon, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil

In a dusty Delhi side street, deep inside a mother’s womb, life grows. A flush of hormones flood the tiny being and mesodermal tissues react and morph. The future is formed in flesh as testosterone stimulates the Wolffian duct and male sexual organs take shape; the Müllerian duct, so full of fallopian potential, degrades. Cells multiply. Screens flicker. A neural tube is created, a brain, a tiny seed of consciousness waiting to be watered. Eyes to see emerge, and ears to listen too. There will be much to see and much to hear. This is the youngest trans person in the world.

Outside. In the Incan heat of Peru, a mother smothers her own child. Appalled, she also kills herself. She writes their names in the book of dead, a woman who created life only to end it, a baby which was neither boy nor girl. The winds blow.

In Africa, a newborn takes its first breath. Around the world, tectonic plates shift, human bones replace themselves and snakes slither from their skins. Winds tear the leaves from the trees and dreams sink to the ocean bed as a billion ejaculations inject the globe with the scripts of a million species. The weak march together, in Turkey, Toronto and Tashkent, and demonstrate their strength. Icy villages house those who thank the cold and cover their bodies in shame. In Australia, a weathered face is held up to the mirror one last time. It blinks.

I converse with the air. Like the sun, which contacts my skin, our dialogue never changes. It recognises nothing new in me. It cannot detect my rage, the meaning behind livid tears, which evaporate from my cheeks, rising up to become part of it. I fly through the vapour, and gaze upon black clouds.

Loud voices shout about my people, filling me with fear. Perhaps they are reading the lies about my life, printed on papers which litter our vessel? I look at time, dangling from my hands, and long to land in a nexus of discontent.

At first they ignored us, pretended we didn’t exist. We have always existed. In the bible we are Eunuchs, castrated and seedless, or angels, genderless and beautiful. In the tribes of North America, long before European intrusion, we took our place in public life, respected and integrated. In sticky Eastern climes, Buddhas have watched us for centuries, and rags have hidden the space between our legs, and bound our breasts, since the times of Homer. Our gods are ancient.

But still they laugh at us. They humiliate us on the streets, spit on us, give us names which reduce and ridicule. They joke about us on their stages, and refuse to present us as equals. We appear, but it is as body parts, display items, oddities. We are questioned. Afterwards, we are harassed, genitals grabbed and groped in order to satisfy a hostile world’s claim on us. We call out, but it’s hard to make our voices heard. When we ask for basic respect, we are accused of seeking special treatment.

Now. They fight us. They tell lies about us: malicious mendax, masquerading as concern. They don’t care about us. They discuss our state of being purely to entertain one another, and repulse our truths. They say our experience is not valid. Sometimes, others defend our right to simply be, but we’re held back from defending ourselves. That which could not be more personal becomes a story told by others; nasty, false, and cruel. Its authors claim we are unfit people, that we endanger growing minds, because their own are so closed. They ignore the damage they’ve inflicted on ours for centuries.

Now. It’s time. We must not be bullied. We must be angry. We must mobilise. Our friends must join us, but it starts with you. Today. We can no longer kill ourselves. Instead, we must give birth to a better world, one which celebrates our natural diversity. We can live in that world. You have seen, in recent years, that determined minds can achieve great things. Yes, change is possible; we of all people know this. But only you can make it happen.

Now.

Jonathan Ross: You Should Know Better

POOR COMPANY: Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais share a joke about "mongs and ladyboys". Perhaps.

POOR COMPANY: Jonathan Ross and Ricky Gervais share a joke about "mongs and ladyboys". Perhaps.

Jonathan Ross will be lucky if my mum watches his show tonight. He managed to infuriate her last week, and my mum’s ever so difficult to annoy, even when you try, really hard – even if you give her tacky, worn jewellery for Christmas; or forget her birthday, twice, consecutively; or secretly redecorate her house, horrendously, while she’s on holiday, in a style you know she’ll hate. But Wossy, somehow, really made her snarl. It all boiled down to his intro (available here, 2 minutes, 30 seconds in):

Have you seen this story, I love this story today, a Thai airline, a company called PC Air has announced an exciting new recruitment policy – they’re going to recruit more ladyboys to be air stewards! [pauses: audience laughter]

Unlike most airlines, they’re actually encouraging you to take a concealed weapon on board, it’s a whole new, it’s a whole new (just waiting for some of you) it’s a whole new (I would! I think I have for one of them…)

The biggest shock on that plane is when the plane hits turbulence because it’s not just the oxygen masks that fall down in front of your face. [audience express disgust]

What a great way to spend a flight though, because you wouldn’t need puzzles or movies, because you’d just be, “Is she? Is he? Is she?” And when you want to find out the answer you just press the buzzer and go, “Excuse me, do you have any nuts?”

Soon after it aired, mother called. Have you seen it, Paris? Isn’t it disgusting? How is he allowed to get away with it? What are you going to do about it? My only question was: why are you so surprised? I suppose she’s only just started noticing crap like this which has, in fact, been there all along. I’m both glad that she gets it, and sad that she’ll now get so very much of it. Welcome to my world, mother.

Last year, a Russell Howard’s Good News sketch caused outrage after deriving humour in exactly the same way from exactly the same news story. (Yeah: this joke is old.) Then too we saw a focus on genitals, audience disgust, and laughter that such a serious scheme should help such ridiculous people. Ladyboys! The RHGN team defended the shit skit, saying it wasn’t about trans people, not really. After meeting one of the show’s producers, I’m inclined to think they actually believed this. Targeting a vulnerable minority wasn’t Russell’s aim: the boy just wanted to drag up. So what’s Jonathan’s excuse? His words relate unequivocally to real trans people, who face equally real discrimination.

CRUEL RESPONSE: Jonathan's shocking reply to a critic on Twitter

Is it even worth mentioning the £150,000 fine his obscene phone messages cost the BBC? Or the time he claimed to be “mortified” by accusations of homophobia? I wonder how he’d feel about being labelled a transphobe. As my mum noted, Ross was in the news again just days before his “ladyboy” comments, revealing his love and support for gay daughter Betty. Speaking to Gaydar Radio, Ross said he wanted his children to be “good, happy, stable people”. Funny, because that’s precisely what my mum wants for me. How do you think she feels then, Jonathan, when she turns on the TV and sees you ridiculing people like her daughter? For added empathy, go back and read your words about trans people, replacing “ladyboy” with “lesbian”. Still laughing?

Maddeningly, Jonathan and I have mutual friends. Trans friends. Oblivious, he makes cheap cracks about people within his own social circle, jokes which I doubt he’d make in person. Of course, comedy should be free to lampoon indiscriminately, but it’s rather galling when this freedom is abused by dominant social groups to humiliate the downtrodden and the disenfranchised. More than that though, the humour in question is both lazy and unsophisticated – which is fine, sometimes – but don’t we deserve at least some intelligent comedy about gender, you know, every now and then? Please? Is this really the best Ross and Russell can come up with: sniggering at people’s genitals and making rubbish “nuts” jokes? Wossy, you may have upset my mum on behalf of trans people and their loved ones, but that didn’t offend me. I’m insulted on behalf of comedy.

Now, where did I put my Tim Minchin DVD?


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Queer Utopia

Up until last month, I hadn’t been abroad for ten years. Two trips to Crete, aged 13 and 14, and then I found myself in a desert. A travel one.

As a student in Brighton, I saw little point in holidaying. My money went on rent, laser hair removal and my appearance, yet social phobia kept me indoors for fortnights at a time.

I’m not scared of life anymore. I fear death. But earlier this year, the constant battle of my activism started taking its toll, and I needed a break.

I renewed my passport two years ago, as clubs had started to question anyone who looked under 25, let alone 18. I didn’t need a government document to be me, yet getting it was like a stamp of legitimacy on my identity: tangible proof that the state agrees I am female. I wanted to travel.

Imagine, then, how pleased I was to be offered an all-expenses covered trip to Germany. Yes, thank you Grungtvig. I had no expectations other than a series of workshops with European activists: but for someone who used to struggle to reach the corner shop, flying to another country, to catch two trains, was a big deal.

Sod it, I thought. I got on the plane.

The Waldschlösschen – literally “forest-castle” – lies 13km southeast of the university town Göttingen amid beautiful, hilly woodlands. It was an attractive destination both in my mind and in reality. Es war wunderschön. Nothing was foreign: the trees seemed to grow as though from my very childhood, the forest of fairy tails; Brothers Grimm-like, deep, dark and green. I wanted to run away and become lost there… frightened.

Our wonderful hosts, Ulli, Volker and Stephan, told us how the grand building, just a few miles away from the former Iron Curtain, had been taken over by queers in the 80s. Now it has evolved into a life-long learning centre and we were there. Even the Pope was in town.

It soon became apparent that, in addition to my fine surroundings, I was in exquisite company. Never before have I seen such a diverse collection of human experience, intelligence and kindness.

Ulrich is quite possibly one of the nicest human beings I’ve met, along with his delightful “friend” Anna, who came with us to one of Göttingen’s charming and apparently conservative coffee houses. Anna enoyed provoking reactions from people with her appearance – reactions which left me unamused.

But I was moved to tears by Deborah’s amazing history, shared with us by the log fire. Ania’s account of being beaten by the police in Eastern Europe made me angry, while Dagmar and Heino humbled me with news of their fantastic work organising Baltic Pride amid fierce hostility. Why had I never heard of these people before?

In Germany, a drag queen is given her title by a more established artiste. I think Frau Doktor – “Mrs Doctor” – got lucky with this tradition, and she proved to be as fabulously funny as her name.

Claudia… what an amazing person: full of laughter, charisma and light. And how lucky I feel to have met such inspirations as Frank and Kathryn. Lesbian, trans, bi, gay – these were my people. I’ve never had any doubt that gender and sexual minorities are fighting the same battle, and everyone present seemed to agree.

Outsiders won’t appreciate the magic. By turns, it was a holiday, cultural exchange, conference, health spa, networking opportunity, therapy session… all these things and more. As the lovely Tony says: “It was life changing”.

I lived by the shore for three years, yet swam in the sea no more than five times. I was ashamed of my body. But I felt completely comfortable stepping into the huge sauna with my new friends at the Waldschlösschen, a veritable sauna-virgin. Well, I had to be a virgin of something.

What a great mix of expertise, ages, nationalities, genders, and sexualities. How often do you find yourself in the same room as one of the driving forces behind LGBT History Month, a leading Polish gay rights activist, and Norway’s answer to Christine Jorgenson? I’m looking at you, Jeff, Adam and Jeannette.

Geert was a giggler, and I warmed to him immediately. And Vreer, thank you for showing me your alter ego, Astral-Sausage. I’ve never seen anyone pull off a silver PVC cat suit quite like that! Nadine was the “gurrrl” who straightened my hair in the early hours of the morning, after I’d been flirting and posing in the sauna with Kieran and Saulo.

On the last night we ate delicious food, as we did every night, but afterwards we played games and danced to Bowie, CeCe Peniston and the Pet Shop Boys.

Lying in bed just hours before our flight home, the wooden beams on the ceiling reminded me of pictures from German textbooks back in school. I’d always wanted to have a foreign pen pal to visit, but never felt confident I’d be safe in someone else’s home – I didn’t feel that welcome in my own. I also felt excluded at school, and wouldn’t have dreamt of going on any of the various German trips our teachers organised.

As clichéd as this sounds, I realised that the Waldschlösschen was the school trip I’d never had. It was the sweet-end of bittersweet. Thank you.

Perhaps the saddest part of leaving was not saying goodbye, but knowing that we were returning to heteronormativity. As a group, we shared a keen sense of injustice. We see the gap between how things are, and how we would like them to be, and we work hard to remove it. At the Waldschlösschen, there was no gap.

It was beautiful.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

State of Hate

Is anyone really surprised by the UK riots? The only thing that’s come close to shocking me over the past few days are the reactions of people who seem to think humanity has suddenly taken on some dark new direction.

In the words of my new found hero – the woman whose daring speech to rioters went viral this week – get real. Human violence and destruction, mindless or otherwise, have been around for millennia. At any given point, the events witnessed in London this past week are happening in cities across the world. It happened here when I was a kid. Civilisation has a thin veneer, and it doesn’t take much to smash it.

But, like the bookies’ windows and sportswear store shop fronts, everything will soon be back to normal. When the repairs are done, we can all get back to shopping and gambling. The question is, what happens to the hatred and complete lack of respect which precipitated these attacks?

Because, make no mistake, hate is at the heart of this. I have no illusions that the vast majority of those involved in looting and violence are apolitical in their motives. To restate, again, that these riots are mindless is entirely banal, and I’m sick of hearing politicians do so. What’s not being discussed by our corrupt elite is how it, and the rest of the state, helped to create the context into which these young people’s thuggery has so spectacularly erupted.

As the wonderful Darcus Howe says, this is not so much a riot, as an insurrection. I’m not completely convinced on that point, but I do think the powers that be, and the police in particular, have a lot to answer for. (NB: It should go without saying that trying to explain the reasons behind the rioting is not the same thing as excusing it.)

So, hate. I’m from a working class background, brought up on a council estate and educated at a dire state comprehensive. I like to think I’ve quietly shuffled up into the middle class (forgive me!) and my family and social circle reflect both these sections of society. I have no idea how representative my personal observations are, but I do know that a significant proportion of my peer group regard this country’s police force as absolute scum.

I’d like to make clear that’s not my own view. The force is a huge organisation and, of course, it contains honourable women and men. I even have good friends who are police officers! Past lovers, too. When my best friend is cursing the feds, I’m prone to respond with things like: “Yeah, but if anyone took your baby you’d be on the phone to them straight away wouldn’t you?”

Nevertheless, that still doesn’t change the fact that, in my experience, an unsettling amount of people despise the very institution we should trust and respect most. In some areas, among working class people – especially young adults and teenagers – it goes without saying that the police are the enemy. The pigs, the feds, the scum. Legalised bullying. And it’s not just a criminal underclass that thinks this way. Many of my university educated friends, professionals and city workers also hold such views. But what do you expect?

My social circle doesn’t respect the police. At best, we’re scared of them and, as has been demonstrated by the London riots, when that fear is removed, there is nothing else. The riots haven’t been so much a cry for help as a “Fuck you” to an establishment which only the biggest fool could seriously be expected to trust or admire.

You earn respect. I want to know why, you, the police have not secured ours. Society pays for you to serve and protect us, and yet you have positioned yourself as the enemy. I demand that you demand our respect. I demand that you stop colluding with corruption, protecting rich and powerful criminals, pulling the less able out of wheelchairs, killing innocent people and then refusing to accept responsibility. Beating men down as they walk home, kettling peaceful protesters, students. And what about those “pre arrests”, where you locked people away to ensure the Royal Wedding went off seamlessly – even though they hadn’t actually done anything? You didn’t want the world to know that some of us are unhappy with the establishment. Kind of backfired now, huh?

We need a real police force, one which is known to be decent, honest and fair. There has been more civil unrest in this country over the past six months than most people my age can remember, and I doubt this is the last of it. If the ruling class wants to avoid a revolution, it had better begin one – starting with an overhaul of the police, and an end to decades of corruption and state-endorsed violence. As my hero says, get it real.

*

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