Tag Archives: transsexual


Four years ago I uploaded a video to YouTube. I was nervous. It was the first time I’d spoken so openly about being transgender and I knew I might later regret it if I decided to go stealth again. I wasn’t so sure of myself back then. I had a breakdown, once, after something horrific happened to me for no other reason than me being trans. Funnily enough it wasn’t the event that made me nearly lose all hope – not to mention my mind – but rather the fear of becoming a national talking point. I’m rather bold and outgoing. I don’t know if Lucy Meadows was introvert or extravert but the sort of things that can happen to people like us terrified me.

Photo: Ryan Harding

Photo: Ryan Harding

In the video I talk about guys, which, before I became an equality campaigner, was my specialist subject. I’ve been with lots of guys. When I first transitioned (from male to female) I let many of those guys treat me badly. Without wanting to generalize about half the population, let’s say that some men treat some girls rather poorly. Trans girls, in my experience, are often treated the worst. These guys will fuck you, sure, but don’t expect an invitation to dinner: he doesn’t want to be seen out with someone like you. I believed that for a few years and was convinced I’d spend the rest of my life alone. Dating is hard anyway but harder when you’re trans. I’m hot stuff and was single for four years so, obviously, that’s my only explanation. And anyway who wouldn’t want to date a narcissist?

If I’d really thought so highly of myself, though, I wouldn’t have let men disrespect me. Regardless of gender I suspect many people feel this way. Would you let people treat you the way they did when you were 17? You get burnt and you get smart. You demand respect if you have healthy self-esteem. Or maybe you don’t and you get sucked into toxic relationships based on inequality, shame and fear. Many trans people suffer low self-esteem from living in a culture that constantly tells us we are less than everyone else, less attractive, less serious, less important – and less entitled to the privacy, decency and basic human dignity afforded everyone else. Many trans people suffer toxic relationships.

I started demanding respect. Are you a hunk? Great, let’s get it on! Do you respect me? No? See you later! It’s funny but, after years of letting people treat me like shit, the moment I started demanding respect, I got it. I told guys that if they wanted to see me, they could take me for dinner. If they wanted to get me drunk, they could take me for cocktails. I only had time for a man who was proud to walk out with me hand in hand and now I spend most of my time holding hands with such a man. We’ve just bought a house together.

It’s been an interesting week for me and it’s got me thinking. My relationship with the media is like my relationship with men. All I could see at first was the shitty way people like me should expect to be treated. I thought, ah well, that’s the way of things. I put up with it. I let myself be inferior because I let others see me as inferior. We were in it together, we’d made a pact. There were rules I had to obey, not to be seen or heard or else risk abuse, violence or ridicule. “If you ever see me in town, you won’t say hello to me or anything will you?” – that’s what I used to get asked by the men who wanted to be intimate with me. “Oh no of course not,” I’d reply, ‘I wouldn’t embarrass you like that!”

We let people take advantage of us when we are low, don’t we? We let men in late at night to penetrate us without kissing us, because we’re lonely. We let documentary makers penetrate our privacy because we want to make ourselves real. We put makeup on to meet other people’s beauty standards and show our before-and-after photos to make them like us more. It’s what they want from us and, at first, we don’t know any other way to be.

Well how about we tell them to fuck off? Over the past two years I’ve turned down several offers to appear in the media because the people making them didn’t respect me. I worried, though. What if I didn’t get another chance to get my message out? It was no different to my former fear that I would be alone for the rest of my life. I held out for respect and both times I was right.

Trans people, like many types of people, are starting to demand respect from the media. Katherine O’Donnell is night editor of the Times in Scotland. Juliet Jacques blogs for the Guardian. Bethany Black is a standup comedian. You might laugh at Bethany’s jokes but you don’t laugh at these women (and others like them) because they haven’t compromised. Don’t compromise. As Juliet wrote for the New Statesman recently, on the way the media treats trans people, compromise is neither desirable nor possible.

Stop feeding the lions. Stop jerking the jerks. They can all sort themselves out.

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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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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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Recipe for Misunderstanding

Gotta love Nigella Lawson. She’s smart, sexy: knows her way around a kitchen. She looked great on the cover of DIVA back in March, seemingly un-airbrushed. But did you know that, before she became a saucy TV chef, she was a journalist with some rather questionable views on “transsexuals”? No, me neither.

But after her name popped up on twitter last night, my friend told me she still hadn’t “quite forgiven Nigella yet”. Forgiven her for what? Baking cakes and faffing about with chilli oil? Making you want to go round her house for dinner and wash your fingers in little bowls of water with slices of lime floating about in them? Nigella: you’re forgiven!

Well, turns out that on February 6th, 1996, (not too long after I was born) she wrote this in the Times:

Sex change operations don’t work

I know, to my cost, that adverse comment about the Royal Family or the airing of insufficiently sentimental and therefore unEnglish views about animals inevitably excite the biggest postbag. But for sheer vitriol and threatening aggression or perhaps rather more accurately, defensiveness you cannot beat the transsexual correspondent.

I have twice, in completely different contexts, written about transsexuality. In neither case did I ridicule or sneer at those who claim to be trapped – that is inevitably, word for word, the complaint – in the wrong body, but I did question them, and it: and hence a batch of letters, the hostility of which it is hard to convey.

Nigella, was that you? I thought you were the nice cake lady!

Perhaps one of the most telling symptoms of the transsexual is that there is no other interpretation allowed of their malaise than the one they choose to put on it.

Wtf? Transsexualism’s an internationally recognised medical condition. Why on earth would you look for other explanations if your doctor diagnosed you with it?

As tonight’s moving television programme, The Wrong Body (part of Channel 4’s Decision series) shows, even while transsexuals complain about the intolerance that the rest of us have for them and their condition, it is they who are so intolerant.

In the first instance, they cannot tolerate their sex, in fact are so unable to tolerate it that the only way they have of dealing with it is first to deny it and then, if possible, to do away with it.

Come on Nigella, you were having a laugh there, surely? Imagine if she’d written: “Blacks just won’t accept racism, and that’s what makes them the truly intolerant ones.” I’ve never really got this whole ‘tolerance’ thing anyway – why has what I do with my life and body got anything to do with anyone else? I don’t really like heavy metal music but I’m not horrible to people who do: I just treat them like I do all people. Does that make me ‘tolerant’?

But this intolerance extends to a refusal to consider any other explanation for their distress, indeed to a tendency to feel annihilated by any such unauthorised approach. There is obviously an identity problem here, but I cannot help feeling that it is not one that can always so easily be solved with a sex-change operation or, as it is now called, gender reassignment.

The issue of this operation, and whether it should be available on the National Health Service, is becoming ever hotter. More and more health authorities are refusing treatment, and indeed only last week a number of transsexuals who have been unable to receive the treatment they want on the NHS began legal action to try to enforce their rights to it.

At the same time, a rather more straightforward legal battle is being fought to allow transsexuals to alter their birth certificates after surgery, so that their given sex accords with the sex they have been changed into. I’ll agree that it does seem crassly illogical to allow people to have sex-change operations perfectly legally, but then use the law to prevent their living as the sex they have, to all intents and purposes, become.

OK, fair enough… but I hope you’re not about to say that such operations should be outlawed Nigella?

What I’m not saying is that such operations should be outlawed.


Those who want undiseased breasts and wombs and penises removed are right, of course, to say that it is their body, their choice. The NHS may also be right, at times, to respond that it is their budget, their choice. But it must be wrong for the issue to be decided on grounds of funds and finance. The question is, what is the nature of the problem and what therefore is the appropriate treatment?

Undiseased? Wonder what Nigella would think about a woman who discovered she had a pair of healthy testes lurking about her innards.

Treatment there should definitely be – these people are suffering horrendously – but I cannot see that this should inevitably be in the form of surgery. All transsexuals are utterly convinced that they are, as they say, trapped in the wrong body. But does this make them right? I know psychiatric care is already provided, but there must be some kind of approach that might help people really to work out what is at the root of this incredible distress.

“All transsexuals”. All Muslims? All wheelchair users? Just why do cisgender writers – no matter how sympathetic to our sufferings – feel they have a right to talk about trans people’s bodies and motivations with such baseless authority?

I was stunned in the programme by two unconnected comments by a couple of the girls who wish to be boys. The one, in her/his late teens, spoke of her/his horror at developing breasts at puberty: “I wanted to be like my father.” The other, a child of 13, brought up by mother and stepfather, said that she/he wanted to be called Rick “short for Richard which is my Dad’s name”. You don’t need to be Freud to see there is something going on there.

Freud? Pfft. And no ‘normal’ little boy wishes to be like his dad, does he?

Is that a phallic symbol you've got there Sigmund, or are you just pleased to see me?

Is that a phallic symbol you've got there, or are you just pleased to see me?

Nigella concludes:

The voice-over of tonight’s programme, however, reported that some post-mortems of transsexuals showed that their brains accorded with the sex they thought they should be rather than with the sex their genes made them. This, if true, would indeed be staggering evidence, though the vague, unscientific nature of its reporting hardly makes it sound, so far, conclusive.

Nigella Lawson clearly wrote a whole feature about transsexual people – including whether or not we should receive NHS treatment, the suggestion that we’re delusional, and sweeping generalisations – without doing much more research than watching a Channel 4 documentary. It beggars belief.

This is not a Nigella-bashing blog. She’s probably really lovely, and would no doubt feel rather embarrassed about this now. It was 15 years ago. People change. Awareness spreads.

But not fast enough. The reason I chose to revisit this entry is because it really highlights some of the key problems we’re currently facing in the media and society at large:

1. Ignorance & Arrogance

Why do people who clearly know very little about transsexualism – who most likely have no trans people in either their family or close circle of friends – feel so incredibly comfortable discussing our lives? Spouting on about what is, essentially, a misunderstood medical condition. Without doing any research. But not only that – then questioning whether we should even receive treatment. If I was posing the question that a certain procedure shouldn’t be available on the health service I’d bloody well read up on it first. And then she thinks we’re hostile which, I have to admit, made me laugh. We probably are. But can you imagine if she were talking about Jewish people? “This is the third time I’ve written about Jews: they reacted really badly the first two times but I still feel I have something more to say….”

2. Sweeping generalisations

I don’t feel like anyone trapped inside anything. I’m just me, and that happens to be someone who feels more comfortable in a female body; expressing themselves through a traditionally feminine set of behaviours. But such generalisations are, largely, a by product of:

3. Learning about trans people through the media
Do you think documentary makers fully grasp the power they wield over our community? A large proportion of the public get all their information about trans people from the media – just as Nigella appeared to have done. She didn’t seem to question that the programme presented a distorted and edited version of these people’s lives.

4. Othering
I sometimes feel a bit pedantic pointing out that transsexual is an adjective, not a noun, but it makes a big difference. This piece really gives the impression that it was written for people who aren’t themselves transsexual. Very much “us and them”. If you don’t quite see it, re-read the piece but just swap ‘transsexuals’ for ‘gays’, ‘blacks’ or ‘retards’.

5. Branding trans people hostile/unreasonable/touchy
Kind of like when someone says that black people have a chip on their shoulder, no? Quite a clever trick, this accusation has often been used to ignore completely valid expressions of anger. The best idea is to always remain calm.

So that’s it really. I’m sure Nigella’s an absolute pearl and all that, and yes: this is donkey’s years old, but the points it raises are just as relevant 15 years on. Indeed, there are still many fairly decent, fairly educated and fairly open-minded people out there who, nevertheless, don’t have a frigging clue what transsexualism is.

Which is fine. I just wish those people would stop creating news features, documentaries and other media output about transsexualism. Stop focusing on the surgeries some people may choose to have. Is that too much to ask?

But, if I got my wish, would we ever see anything about trans people in the media again?

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For the love of Channel 4…

Tenancy agreement renewed today: must be a week for signing documents. One year ago, exactly, I was packing, prepping and pooing myself ahead of the big move to London. (Pronounced emphatically as “Lun-den” round my hometown; which isn’t London, but Nottingham.) 24 hours ago, approximately, I was introducing the Coalition Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, at a glitzy and groundbreaking gathering of media producers, political figures and the country’s top trans activists. There were more MBEs and OBEs than you could shake a stick at and a bit of Hollyoaks glamour for good measure. Par-tay is not the word.

From left to right: Lynne Featherstone MP, Jennie Kermode, TMW Chair, Paris Lees and Head of Creative Diversity at Channel 4, Stuart Cosgrove.

But even more surreal than hosting a do with such an impressive guest list was the fact that we should even be holding it at all. Sure, it’s superexcellent (that’s definitely a word) that Channel 4 is on board with the Trans Media Watch Memorandum of Understanding. But isn’t it rather odd we need to campaign for the aims it promotes?

Accuracy. Dignity. Respect. Three journalistic principles which should be upheld in all forms of media production. You’re not meant to mock people because they’re different, and it’s rather poor form to report inaccurate facts and figures. It’s illegal. As ascending human rights lawyer David Allen Green notes, the invasion of trans people’s lives is more than simply a trans issue: it is a human issue. If a person has an operation on a part of their body, then that is a private matter between them and their health professional – not a news story.

I feel like a broken record saying this sometimes. I mean it’s simple huh? We don’t go around discussing other people’s genitals do we? You’d never catch me doing that, not even to make a political point through allegory.

Campaign groups from around the world have contacted TMW with messages of support telling us we are a model for their own activism. Our method is to work with and not fight the media. I asked Christine Burns at the MoU launch if she shared my feeling that something momentous was taking place. She should know. She agreed it was zeitgeisty; there was electricity in the air.

We’ve had bags of support at TMW. That’s why I know our message is a strong ’un, needs to be said – and it’s brought the trans community together like nothing I’ve ever seen. We’ve been working with Mermaids, GIRES, the Gender Trust, FTM London, the LGBT Excellence Centre, Christine Burns MBE, Roz Kaveney… and it turned out last night that some of these allies aren’t just little rectangles on my laptop, but living, breathing organisms. Ones that drink wine.

I love Channel 4. I grew up watching lesbos on Brookside; Ellen’s big coming out big party, Graham Norton being filthy on Friday nights. I just adored the voiceovers on shows like Equinox and Dispatches and seeing Nadia Almada win Big Brother 5 was a huge turning point in both my life and that of a close friend. It was the first time we’d seen a trans woman presented as a normal person on television and it revolutionised our perceptions of transgender people. I started to consider transition as a viable option. “I could still go to the shops,” I told myself. I could go to college. I could have friends, family; remain a functioning human being. Astonishing.

When I was little, my only knowledge of trans people was these men in wigs who’d occasionally turn up for everyone to laugh at or ridicule. Or incredibly alien beings in tired old ‘poor-tranny’ documentaries: the ‘brave’ ones sitting in hospital beds waiting for all-important surgery. Where did these people live? What shops did they go to, where did they buy milk? I just couldn’t answer those questions. The people concerned seemed so strange and far-removed from anything I’d come into contact with that the thought of actually meeting someone like them was inconceivable. So much so, I didn’t make the connection between their experiences and my own deeply-felt conviction of being female.

Well things are changing folks – it’s the only thing one can ever be sure of. You’ll always have idiots who think it’s OK to call someone a paki, or whatever current racial slur. Queer bashings still happen. But we’ve come a long way since the 60s and 70s. True, you could leave your door open back then and if someone happened to be passing by, well you’d ask them in for a cup of tea – so long as they weren’t black, bent or barmy. But in 2011 life is measurably better for many sexual and ethnic minorities, and the same progress can be achieved for the trans community.

We’ve met some great folks at Channel 4, people who really care about getting this issue right. And if nothing else, Head of Creative Diversity, Mr Stuart Cosgrove and his plucky wee assistant, Caroline Cawley, are great at organising canapés and flowing alcohol – nuff respect. Don’t imagine you’ve seen your last dressing-table scene though. And I’ll be a long time dead before transphobic violence and bullying disappear altogether. But our collaboration with Channel 4 is an historic step in the right direction – don’t you think? In big fat fuck-off fuck-me heels. Naturally.

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