Years before this lockdown us trans people had been in our own lockdown; our very own trans lockdown. Sadly, just as we were coming out of quite an intense trans lockdown, involving legislation and attacks in the press, we had another lockdown.
Nothing worse than when your own lockdown clashes with a global lockdown – let me tell you. Just when we were getting over our fear of stepping outside, we all became afraid to step outside. The waiting game continues…
Are you feeling lonely and hopeless – like life is passing you by? Well, come with me. Let’s walk together; let’s retrace the TransPride march down along the seafront to Brunswick Square. Let’s wave a trans flag, let’s chant “trans rights are human rights”…come on, let’s celebrate being trans for a day.
I want to tell you about these three trans femmes; about what they are waiting for, what they are grateful for, how they are stepping over obstacles and still finding new ones, how they miss their friends, their lovers and their hard-won TransPrides
Let’s start with Kate: a 50 year old trans femme who, with great sadness and a touch of bitterness, had given up on romance and wondered if her time might be better spent learning new things – like a language, or dressmaking as clothes very rarely fit trans bodies…or maybe sailing?..Why not?
When her friends said: “come on, don’t give up, there’s someone out there for everyone!”
She would remind them how fucked up dating can be for trans people, especially older trans people. And yes, she felt old. She let them know how the dating world was not made for trans folk. She often joked about starting a dating site called “miss-match.com” – something freer, queerer but for now she was left waiting and wanting
Kate had given up on dating. Her last (and final) attempt took place in a garden centre with a man who talked non stop about his wife for 15 minutes and then asked if she had a clitoris. Kate stood up and with no explanation, said “I have to go”. But then she couldn’t find her way out, she zig-zagged back and forth past the perennials but she couldn’t find her way out, she just couldn’t find her way out of this mess because when you’re 50 and you’re trans and looking for love…it’s basically shit.
Erin was 15 when she started taking hormones. Frustrated with the NHS, she went off road, she went DIY and found her own supply. Next she dropped out of school. Being autistic, Erin found connecting with people digitally a challenge and being trans was so very online. You can’t read facial expressions in a text – you need to see their face and you need them to see your non-binary face. She was only 16 when she went to her first Transpride – little did she know it would be her last for a while – thanks to the other lockdown.
On that sunny day, standing by the gates at Brighton station wearing her comfortable Burgundy hoodie, she was finally meeting some trans friends off-line. She was nervous. She pushed her hands deep into the pockets of her hoodie. It was amazing to see their faces; to read their expressions, to not have that barrier, to feel trans.
Tee opened TransPride by hanging out of the window of the Marlborough pub and it
became one of those iconic moments.
Tee had just split up from someone they had been with for a year and a half and without being wanky, this was also the year they were getting well known as a performer and writer. They weren’t particularly loving it, as fame culture is fucked and not queer and they were more used to DIY spaces. Being well-known didn’t feel punk. But, as their friend – who travelled with them to Brighton – pointed out: neither did getting a taxi from south London to Paddington and travelling first class…good point but Tee needed a bit of luxury, it had been a long year! And anyway, Tee had a plan – this year it was all about celebrating the community and not themselves.
Kate decided she would never date a straight cis gendered man ever again. When she told her friends they gently asked “how’s that going to work?” She didn’t know.
There was this trans man called Taylor that Kate had been flirting with for nearly two years. He lived in Brighton and whenever she was in town they would meet up and talk about how difficult it was to find love. They would very casually let each other know they fancied each other but, for some reason, it never got to a date.
Kate just waited as the trans lockdown got longer and longer
One day her young trans friend Grace asked: “when was the last time you had sex?”
Erin stood with her new friends at the back of the crowd who had gathered round the Marlborough pub. She felt safe at the back. They were all still getting to know each other and Erin was getting to know what it was like to be part of this community. Then suddenly the crowd turned and the back of the crowd became the front of the march. Without any warning Erin was about to lead her first TransPride. She looked down and to her delight there trotting alongside her was a white fluffy dog with the trans flag colours in chalk on its fur – her very own TransPride mascot! Erin saw trans people up close and knew that being trans was real and that she wanted to look like them one day. She smiled and took her hands out of the pockets of her comfortable hoodie.
Tee went all out with their outfits – blue for day pink for night. Tee was feeling moody so wore sunglasses. They looked distinctly trans, there was no passing going on here. They looked exactly like the papers say we look – they didn’t shave, had a ton of make up on and felt great. Tee didn’t normally hug strangers but that day the sun was shining and they just couldn’t stop themselves , they were hugging everyone. They got so lost in the love that the event started late “I’m coming I’m coming!” Tee finally got up to that window at the Marlborough and looked down at the crowd who stretched as far as Sainsbury’s on Saint James’s Street – so many people! Tee looked out over their sunglasses on that bright, trans, sunny day and thought “ this is really cool.”
“Had sex?” Kate couldn’t remember; it had been years. Grace reminded her “you’re an attractive woman, you should be having sex.” Kate started to cry – a lot. And, as her friend handed her tissues, Kate thought: never mind sex, when was the last time I kissed someone? more tears, more tissues and then suddenly she saw a way out of this sexless trans lockdown Okay, sex might be far off but kissing – that felt possible and fun. She blew her nose and hugged her friend.
“Trans women are women trans men are men and non binary is valid” Erin felt very off line right now, this was a lot .She found a quiet spot in Brunswick place and sat with her new friends knowing this would be one of her favourite days.
It was the good part of being trans, it wasn’t like waiting to be trans. It wasn’t like having to conform to the “mascara lipstick and hope” set up by gender clinics. It wasn’t like waiting to be referred to adult services and then, a year later, still waiting for an appointment – it didn’t feel like being stuck in the trans lockdown. It wasn’t any of those tiring miserable things we have to do – that day It was just about being trans. Trans pride was the day Erin decided to move to Brighton. It was the day she met her non-binary partner who she would move in with during the other lockdown and it was the day she didn’t have to hide inside her hoodie. She still wears that hoodie but not in the same way – now it just lets the world know she’s more than ok being androgynous. Felling comfortable in the world is currently all behind closed doors and back online for Erin. She is looking forward to being face to face trans again.
“We’re so lucky to be where we are right now!!” The crowd cheered. Tee replaced any anxiety about being recognised with gratitude – gratitude that people trusted them and connected with them and let them into their lives. Brighton-by-the-sea on that sunny day was theirs. Tee walked with friends along the seafront. They didn’t chant much, it was a quiet day, it was a quiet march. Tee noticed how normally you would be the odd one out on the street but today you’re not and that really excited them . You know you’re at a good gig when you walk into a room full of queers and you feel bland, you don’t stand out and that was how this felt. Later that night, while hosting TramFrau in their pink outfit, Tee noted it was one of those nights when you can’t see the end of the room; you couldn’t get round all the fabulous queers even if you tried. But sadly, for now, the rooms are small, the zoom rooms are smaller. We can only be in rooms with a few people. Tee misses those rooms, those nights when you can see trans people all the way to the Sainsbury’s on Saint James’s Street.
July 2016 It was the night before the trans pride march and Kate sat facing Taylor on what felt like a date. Taylor had managed to get a last minute table at the veggie cafe “Food For Friends” – a step up from that coffee at that garden centre. Enjoying her new-found confidence, she reminded him that they’d known each other for years; that they fancied each other and that he should seriously think about kissing her in the very near future.
He laughed nervously, not sure if she was joking or not.
The next day Kate was in a taxi on her way to the Marlborough pub where the march would begin. She was late due to trying on 5 outfits. The place was mobbed and full of trans joy and excitement – this was our day, our town. There were so many people, she could’t see Taylor then she spotted his text… “I had to set off with the Rainbow Chorus come and find me.” Kate skipped along the street feeling like a kid going to a party.
She felt ready for the cherry on top of the icing on top of this hard-earned cake. Wearing her #STANDBYYOURTRANS t-shirt, she ran to find him with her beautiful trans Army by her side.
“Kate!!” She turned and there he was, looking more handsome and happy than she had ever seen him. He took her hand and with out saying a word they joined in a chant “trans rights are human rights, trans rights are human rights…”
When they arrived at Brunswick Square, he pulled her away from the crowd:
“How about that kiss then?”
Here’s to all the trans love waiting to happen after this lockdown is over. Here’s to all the trans joy we have to come, all the marches, all the chants, all those rooms full of us, all the friends we will meet offline ,all the trans visibility we have to catch up on.
Thanks for celebrating TransPride and Brighton and trans femmes and for planting your trans flag. Till we meet again, how about one last chant?
Cut to chanting