Transwomen in the media, an open letter to the world

Ah, another day, another ‘let’s laugh at a transwoman’ story in the national press. There’s no point in me saying which one, they are published practically every day. Sadly.

As someone who is married to a transgender woman who is currently going through gender reassignment treatment, I am so sick and tired of the British media parading transwomen on their websites and in their publications as the new Victorian freak shows. Someone who was born into the wrong body by an accident at birth does not deserve to be treated as some sort of circus exhibit. Anyone who was born into the body they are happy with cannot possibly understand, or empathise with, the dangers that transwomen are in, just trying to live their lives. It seems that people in general would like transwomen to be invisible. Or at least disappear until they have completed treatment and look “like a normal woman”. The waiting lists from initial referral to actual surgery can sometimes be up to 5 years. How can people expect transgender women to simply “disappear” for 5 years?

By media outlets publishing these “comedy pieces”, they are encouraging people with little knowledge, or understanding, of trans issues to mock, bully, laugh at and berate complete strangers, just because they are on their transgender journey. Why on earth is this behaviour being encouraged? It is nothing but bullying, and you rarely hear any good news stories featuring trans women.

Also, constantly publishing photos of transwomen like Caitlyn Jenner or Laverne Cox, and holding them up as examples of what all transwomen should look like, is no better than trying to brainwash all women that unless you’re a stunning size 8, your life has no meaning and that you should disappear until you look like these air-brushed magazine covers. Cis women (basically women who were born female and were happy to be born female) don’t typically get beaten up/harassed/verbally abused because they’re not wearing make up today, or are wearing trousers. But transwomen are expected to dress like supermodels about to go on the catwalk at any moment, all dolled up no matter whether they’re popping to the shops, or going to work. How is all of that social pressure supposed to help a transwoman who is just trying to live day to day, waiting between appointments (of which there are many)?

Transwomen don’t just rock up to their GP and say, “I’ve always known I was a woman”, their GP says “fine” and hands them some hormones, all the while booking them in for surgery next week. There are many “gatekeeper” appointments and hoops to jump through, just to convince perfect strangers that they are what they say they are: a female born into a male body.

Then there’s the slur that “why should a transwoman get treatment on the NHS?” Puhlease, spare me. Anyone who injures themselves playing a sport, or gets so drunk on a Saturday night out that they need an ambulance doesn’t think to themselves, ‘hmm, this NHS money could be put to better use, I’ll just suffer through the pain until I feel better/my broken leg heals’. No, they get NHS treatment and no-one passes judgement. Transwomen were born into the wrong body, by a sheer twist of fate at birth. BIRTH! If your mum still held a grudge against you because you peed on her at 6 weeks old, wouldn’t that seem a tad over the top? But holding something against someone because they were born into the wrong body, that’s totally okay to berate them, bully them, beat them, subject them to a life of fear, of depression, of isolation? What kind of world do we live in where transwomen are some kind of sub-class of people?

People tell me that I’m “brave” to stay with Michelle, to support her on her journey to becoming who she should have been all these years. Yes, I am brave. Brave because I have to be aware of how much abuse she could be in for from complete strangers, people who don’t even know her, and most probably have shady behaviours that I wouldn’t tolerate, but I’m not allowed to say anything, or defend her. Shady behaviours, like abusing strangers. So yes, I do need to brave, because I will defend her to the ends of the earth, because she is my wife and deserves respect, because she is one awesome human being.