A Year of Existence

It was on the 8th of January 2015 that I began this blog, following the advice of my friend Jason, with no very clear idea but plenty of trepidation as to what might come out of it. Now seems as good a time as any to take stock of what I have learned and gained…

1. THE BLOG ITSELF

The Good – After a quiet start, interest and sympathy started to flow in, and rarely let up pace, from trans bloggers, from those in relationships with trans people, from non-binary activists, to supportive people in general. Particularly honourable mentions go to…

Ambivalence Girl

Anna Secret-Poet

Ariadne

Charissa Grace

Curiouser and Curiouser

Daniella Argento

Fairy Jerbear

Georgia Kevin

A Kinder Way

Kira Moore

Kit

La Quemada

Plain T

Tish Wolfsong

…among many other generous and uplifting voices who have encouraged me to keep this extended muse / rant as a going concern. My profuse thanks and love to you all. xxx

The Bad – Thankfully, little negativity has drifted this way, at least proportionally. Some critical feedback was drawn from Radical Feminists (a bit more on that later), and some downright hostile feedback from an older transperson who thought (and still thinks) me a charlatan, but not to name any names. The positives have vastly outweighed the negatives, and overall, the blog was a sound move that has helped me to keep a sense of purpose and progress, as I had dared hope that it might.

2. MEDICAL TRANSITION / THE NHS

The Good – Initially, this went unexpectedly well. It was with great fear that I came out to a new GP in January, and they proved incredibly sympathetic, totally helpful, validating of my new identity, and not at all judgemental. Although they did warn me I would need patience…

In February, I saw a local psychiatrist with a view of obtaining a gender clinic referral. This too went not only smoothly but pleasantly, with no hostile questioning, no attempts to sow doubt, and complete consideration shown to my (by then) firmly established transgender identity. The referral was quickly processed, and I was (fairly) promptly informed that I was on the waiting list for the gender clinic.

The Bad – Progress for the past few months, alas, has been non-existent. This was expected. Worse, however, since the referral my permanent GP  (sadly, not the one I initially saw) has declined to help me at all. I have, like the majority of transwomen-in-waiting, ended up self-medicating with internet-bought hormones and androgen blockers. This is not supposed to happen, but the interim NHS guidelines for Gender Dysphoria, like the Pirates’ Code, are all too rarely followed, and I may be doing this for months (or years, even) to come.

legopiratequeen

Disturbingly, I am in spite of this doing better than my husband Cal, who applied around the same time as me and still has yet to hear news of his referral. Also, we have by now encountered insensitivity from some GPs, and according to information Cal obtained from the gender clinic (which ran an informal workshop), many of the profession still do not see gender dysphoria as a genuine medical issue. Thankfully, the medical status of GD is still official NHS policy, but until we actually have our diagnoses we will continue, I fear, to fret over the outcome, and the possibility of policy changes that could leave us with no option at all.

3. FEMINISM

The Good – I had a suspicion right from the beginning, even before I had any experience in the murky world of online transpolitics, that feminists might look askance at transpeople, though I had no idea back then of the whole Liberal / Radical divide. For someone who began the year with little academic knowledge of Feminism, I have learned a lot in the course of understanding this debate, but apologies if I err in the following…

At a very basic level, and as I understand it, Liberal Feminism (such as espoused very early in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792) holds the view that sexism in society arises from custom, tradition, and ignorance rather than by preconceived malice, and can thus be effectively fought through the reform of existing structures. Radical Feminism (such as pioneered by Second-Wave feminists like Andrea Dworkin in Woman Hating, 1974) by contrast holds that gender and patriarchy are deliberate tools of oppression, constructed with the full, misogynistic intention of keeping women as second-class citizens and an exploitable resource, and can thus only be effectively fought by the complete overhaul of the existing, corrupt social order.

Given that Radical Feminism posits an intentional campaign of hatred and control with the oppressor / oppressed rigidly delineated by biology (specifically, males conspiring to control and exploit females as unpaid labour, sexual slavery, and breeding stock), it naturally has very little scope to accommodate not only transwomen but any queer gender identities, finding them irrelevant at best, or at worst a malicious attempt by men to impinge on what rights and spaces women have obtained. This notwithstanding, there is no monolithic Radfem community or party line, and I have met those who tentatively accept transwomen as women, albeit with the (perfectly logical) caveat that they are not biologically female, even post-transition, and should be respectful that Radfem issues will often be specific to natal women. There are some transwomen even active and generally welcome within this community, although they qualify themselves as “allies” rather than as feminists per se.

Regarding the two schools of Feminism, I am still very much a learner. I have been fortunate enough to make friends in both quarters. However…

The Bad – I have, alas, read some strikingly inept journalism from trans Libfems including inappropriate comparisons between deficient trans rights and deliberate human rights atrocities, ironic attempts to shame confused allies for not being quite sensitive enough (in the journalist’s view), and accusations of really quite moderate, even reconciliationist feminists as “TERFs” (such as Helen Lewis and Penny White). This makes me hugely sceptical of the value of lending my weight, such as it is, to trans Liberal Feminism (or Liberal Transfeminism).

However, whilst there is no particular value in harping on with the “TERF” line (it is construed as an insult, and for me to disrespect anyone else’s chosen or rejected identification seems too ironic), I would strongly advise any transwoman to be very wary of most Radfem circles, even if invited to comment. If you do, expect hostility sooner or later, and do not expect to sway any perceptions or allay any scepticism, even if your intention is allyship. For everyone who appreciates such gestures of support, there will be others who construe them as patronising or hypocritical. I have had to watch two dear friends in the course of this year being slandered and grotesquely insulted in Radfem social media circles, one of whom was broadly sympathetic (at first) and one of whom was actually a long-standing ally (but has since disavowed that role). The hatred is there, make no mistake. As one of the commenters on the previously linked article by Penny White (who, incidentally, has always been very kind to me on Twitter) felt the need to put it…

“You should be listening to what WOMEN say, and not cowardly men who would rather claim womanhood and redefine the language we use for ourselves rather than break away from the patriarchal system they benefit from and embrace their gender non-conformity AS MEN. Trans “women” are not women, they are not female, they are not her or she, they are gender non-conforming men, and if they were brave enough to face that fact, they might actually be strong allies. Instead they’re men who reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, that help maintain the patriarchal oppression of women.”

Not for me to state my own courage, or lack of… but suffice it to say that this view is representative enough. Engage with these politics at your peril.

4. FAMILY

The Good – Our respective families, with understandable concern, have been quick to offer their support, and given that many transpeople face rejection, this is something to be hugely grateful for. Also, I feel easier in my conscience now, as the weight of my dishonesty all of these years is finally lifted, and has not been held against me. Cal’s family have also accepted me as their daughter-in-law, which is a tremendous relief. Any fears we might have had of being isolated as a couple, with only ourselves to rely upon, have been beautifully dispelled.

The Bad – Sadly, the timing of our coming-out did prove embarrassing enough that we were required to attend a family wedding as our old selves, in order to avoid a scene. Hashtag awkward… Thankfully, it is understood that this will not be happening again, whatever the occasion.

5. ODDS AND ENDS…

The Good – Rediscovering modelling was a joy this year, and one that helped me to raise my public confidence. The main project has been a short film (which is finally in post-production) called “Imago,” and when it eventually became necessary for me to do a shoot in “boy mode,” I felt so awkward and unnatural that it was wholly unnecessary to act up my melancholy for the scene… I am very pleased with the results, at least, so we shan’t be needing to revisit that concept. I also had studio and location shoots to rebuild my portfolio (having junked all of my male-model shots), and have shamelessly ripped off the most iconic trans editorial shot of 2015 (and probably of ever). Take a wild guess whose…

_MG_2630

…although I wanted to Goth it up a whole lot more. The photographer (Alan) talked me out of that, his philosophy of plagiarism being to do it as faithfully as one can.

Coming out in work was unexpectedly easy. The Royal Mail policy has proven cast-iron to the extent that I have even been included on a women’s workplace development program. There has been no outspoken discrimination since (although I gather some unkind gossip).

Administrative changes proved easier than I dared to anticipate. I have now amended my NHS details, my bank details, changed my name by deed poll, changed my PhD certificate, and best of all obtained a new passport marked with an “F” in the gender box. I feel this part of transition is, to all practical intents and purposes, completed.

Also surprisingly, my church participation increased a lot this year with extremely positive outcomes, including my invitation to speak on being a trans Christian at Pride Cymru 2015 (at around the 13:50 mark for anyone wishing to hear my weird voice again…).

The Bad – Chavs making abusive comments on the street, white van men doing the same, misogynistic creeps messaging me on Facebook, elderly gentleman insisting on knowing my old name prior to lecturing me on why I am an ungodly rebel, the person who started the “dirty freak eleanor antony burns” Facebook group… oh, and electrolysis really hurts and I have many months of it to look forward to.

REGRETS

None.

Thank you for helping me through a tumultuous but overall wonderful year. xxx

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29 thoughts on “A Year of Existence

  1. Happy new year Eleanor! It looks like, if the length of the “good” vs “bad” paragraphs are anything to go off of, that this year has been rather positive for you. I’m happy to hear that you’ve seen increased recognition, support, and community. The photo shoots have been lovely, but I disagree that plagarism has to be done as faithfully as possible: whatever your artistic vision is, do it up!

    Feminism as always is a mixed bag; it’s social science combined with raw emotion, and we all experience womanhood in different ways, and unfortunately we can’t all agree on everything. Infighting isn’t the answer though, have we learned nothing about how society pits women against each other? Gaahhh…

    May 2016 bring you many more blessings, you beautiful soul!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is writing a post like this that helps me to appreciate how much positivity there has actually been, bearing in mind the past couple of days have been quite trying for both Cal and I. It never hurts to count the blessings… 🙂

      I agree with you re: artistic licence, and I did also post a version of the Caitlyn shot closer to what I intended, but fair play to Alan – I think he did a good job of nailing the iconic pose and expression. It also cost us a lot less than the original (about 30 pounds, including clothes and train fare).

      The feminist saga has, for better or worse, been one of the most interesting aspects of my transition this year, and I don’t expect we’ve heard the last of it. My fear is there really is no constructive niche for transwomen within these issues and the best we can offer is our discretion… I still hope I may be proven wrong, though.

      Thank you for all your kindness, and I hope you will have a wonderful 2016 as well. 🙂 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: On gratitude and sap | Queering the Nerd

  3. Happy New Year and thank you for this overview of the year. I am glad to hear you have ‘zero regrets’ for your own sake but also because I’m attuned to ‘trans regret’ for my own reasons, as you know :-).
    Thank you in particular for your rundown of some of the isms and schisms in feminism. Your delineations sound about right, to me. You are also right to point out that there are justified critiques on all sides of this debate.
    I am often irked by the tendency (online and elsewhere) to categorise and label in an absolute fashion. My own beliefs are probably most closely aligned with so-called liberal feminism but I hate the reductive effect of this. For one thing, most people are thinking of the US understanding of ‘liberal’, which is not at all the same as being liberal in Australia, UK or indeed the rest of the Western world. And to many it seems to denote some very passive idea of inclusiveness and making peace with patriarchal structures, which I am not at all OK with.
    On the other hand, I am personal appalled at the discrimination and hatred spread by women in the name of feminism. It will Not Do at all and I condemn it. You have fared badly – and I think it’s pertinent that the trolling, doxxing and online violence has largely been promoted by women on the left. I’m still horrified. This realisation has probably changed my regard for socialism and feminism for good.
    On a brighter note, I watched some of the video, in particular to see how you looked and sounded. It was another piece in the process of getting to know ‘Eleanor’ (including the fact that with my Australian accent I had been mispronouncing your name). Thank you for sharing it xx.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was hesitant to share it, never mind re-share it, as I don’t care for the sound of my voice at all, but self-acceptance has been part of this year’s lessons, and it got a very positive reaction at the time so I’ll assume my reservations are all paranoia (again). At all events, I hope you liked it. 🙂

      I have to admit, after all this debate and while accepting that most trans-inclusiveness is found in Libfem circles, I don’t know that it does address the actual root causes of misogyny with enough vigour. We’re a long way down the line from 1792, and I think it might be safe to say that institutional sexism cannot all be laid at the door of “innocently bigoted” social thinkers like Rousseau, but some deliberate cynicism and malice might also be at work (and from what I have heard of women in elite British organisations such as the judiciary, the Commons, the BBC, the higher one goes the more predatory it gets). However, I doubt Radical Feminism will do any better at tackling this if it alienates women and transwomen both, which I have seen it doing. Nor for all its protestations can it seem to resist “slut shaming,” which is unlikely to endear it to many. I see a huge frustration in some Radfems that other people “just don’t get it” when it seems obvious to them – ironically, much the same impatience which has turned me off queer politics (This idea that if the “cis people” don’t understand, then tough luck because we all know better…).

      Sadly, I don’t think we have heard the end of this story, which is a pity as I would do well to get out of the politics completely. But misogyny is part of my life now and Feminism in some form also needs to be. And the whole messy business was part of how I got to know you better, and appreciate your courage and kindness. 🙂 Happy 2016, and thank you so much for helping me stay sane through the previous… xxxxx

      Like

  4. Wow has it only been a year? I always love reading your posts, you’re a great writer! I wish I was able to comment on them constructively but I’d just show myself up lol 😄 You look absolutely stunning in your photo by the way. Long may you continue! X

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, I really should have put your name in this list as well. 🙂 You were one of the first people to support me here. I shall rectify that in the next edit…

      It does feel like more than a year. “Anthony” feels like an alien being from this perspective, although I must be careful not to fall into the habit of rejecting the past. I am the same person. I could not imagine ever trying to reclaim my old identity, though. I may be in limbo right now, but it still feels like a much better place than where I was.

      Thank you for your kindness and support. 🙂 I think 2016 is off to a good start… xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh! So much to say! I’m so touched to be on your list. I have to admit to raising my hand to my chest and tearing up a bit. (Maybe this east coaster has lived in the south too long…was I looking for my pearls?) It makes me happy that I’ve been a good for your year. (Back at you by the way!)
    Reading about the negatives was hard to hear. It frustrates me to no end that people will use energy to be hurtful to someone. I find that I can’t even discuss that type of ignorance without getting so flustered that I end up looking like the fool. They will get a rise out me..the one they are so desperate for. I still do it though. I can’t help myself.
    The picture is stunning.
    The video was wonderful and as someone else already said, made me feel that I know you a little better now.
    Cal’s name! Ha! Lie to me was one of my husbands favorite shows.
    Your explanation of Eleanor was fantastic!
    ‘No regrets’….beautiful and all that matters.
    Great big hugs from me. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Happy to know if I have done anything to brighten up your year. 🙂 You have certainly cheered me up, especially of late. Social media has been quite poisonous for me and my friends this festive season…
      Cal did indeed take his name from “Lie to Me,” although I only heard of the show on account of this whole business. It was a fun discovery, though.
      I think on the whole the negatives have been easier than I worried they might be at the start of the year. 🙂 Though they would all have been harder to bear without such kind support as yours. ***Hugs*** ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. 🙂 I felt it my responsibility to understand the situation… not that I am much closer to understanding. The wonderful friends I have made in the course of this learning more than justifies the venom. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have tried to understand it, along with racist ideologies but really, I don’t get them beyond the theoretical. Beyond self-centered power, what is there to gain from hateful and close-minded thinking and actions?

        Liked by 2 people

      • I think from having spent way too much time hovering on the fringes of Radfem circles the distrust is genuine, and then it turns into hatred and glee as an exercise in bonding and solidarity. At least that was the impression I got watching them dig into my friends this year. Uninspiring, but I guess they can always say men should not have the monopoly on nastiness (though I’ve always been a sceptic of fighting fire with fire).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Congratulations on the anniversary of your blog, and thanks for a year of always thought-provoking, interesting posts. I’m grateful also for your always supportive comments on my blog and… well, just to know you. I like you, and I’m cheering you on from the US west coast. Just in case you like cheerleaders.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. P.S. Re: feminism. I have not kept up with the latest writings, but what about feminist work on intersectionality? Among the good work done on how gender and race and class combine to shape identities, are there writers you like who also discuss trans issues?

    Liked by 2 people

    • At some point I do need to get around reading Judith Butler, whom I gather put queer theory on the map (and is thus not held in high esteem by Radical Feminism). There are also numerous trans feminists writing on such themes, although I am in part sad that it seems very hard for a trans voice to get involved in feminism without the subject coming back around to trans issues. I suppose it is not easy to get beyond, and it certainly influences our perspective, though I would like to think it does not always have to be the be-all and end-all.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such an inspiring read – I feel proud of you, for making such an important transition, despite living in a world that often does not easily welcome such transition and acceptance. People like you are making it better for everyone else who will follow. Thank you for sharing, I am really happy for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the shout out. Ironically, in light of your section on Feminism, I have just posted a piece about Intersectional Feminism which really makes sense to me. I have always believed that I can’t separate out my life as a disabled person and the abelism I deal with from my life as a trans/agender person any more than a Black Trans Woman can’t separate out her race and the effects of racism from her identity as a trans woman. I have felt that way more broadly about oppressed groups supporting each other’s activism to achieve basic human rights. So that’s the way my thinking has evolved.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Most importantly is that you have no regrets! I always smile when you talk about yourself in a somewhat negative way knowing the flip side of that is this positively free spirit. You are so beautiful and I pray that you have more than mere glimpses of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am too British to ever talk about myself in a relentlessly positive way, but it’s certainly what’s inside that counts. 😉 I feel so much happier for the whole process, though with increased optimism comes fear: I do dread what obstacles might come in our way, even the NHS losing its funding and our mutual dream thus coming to an ignominious end. I have burned all my bridges without regret, but it would certainly be a nightmare on so many levels to have to resurrect Anthony from the depths of administrative Hades…

      Liked by 1 person

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