My view from a bench in Sackville Gardens, where I spent my day off
Although all work and no play makes for finishing my first draft sooner, I am not one to ignore the full richness of life for the sake of my word count. Despite that, it now stands at a noble 5800, a whole 3800 ahead of schedule. This is me, patting myself on the back.
Hooray for me. However, this is a long post, so strap yourselves in or get lost.
Anyway, in order to stop myself becoming a dull boy (/man/woman/whatever), I have scheduled a day off a week, which I may or may not take. So, this week, I have been eating a thoroughly excellent bean casserole I prepared with the last of my food every day rather than doing any shopping, so that I could afford to attend Sparkle.
For people who don’t know, Sparkle is the main UK transgender pride event, and runs in Manchester for a whole weekend. I am so glad I did, because it reaffirmed to me what I am trying to do in my writing.
It was incredible. I have never seen so many trans people gathered in one place, which although unsurprising, was generally the comment I heard most from first-time attendees.
On Friday evening, I wandered down to Sackville Gardens and spent a cool evening writing. Even though the majority of events didn’t start until Saturday afternoon, there were still a fair few trans people milling about, as well as an amusingly large number of people who couldn’t work out where all the transwomen were coming from.
I did, unfortunately, get stared at, but there are worse things. The kids who spotted me said, “There’s a person sitting on that bench,” which is all I caught and all I cared to hear- I am a person, and I was indeed sitting on a bench.
Saturday was where the real fun began. Loitering early, I met a transwoman who promised to give me her t-shirt after she changed into her “regalia”, but unfortunately I couldn’t find her. I was corralled into helping with the family area, and I am so glad that I was.
In doing so, I managed to make contact with Manchester’s trans youth group, which, as I’m moving to Manchester in September, I wanted to do anyway. In them I found a truly astonishing group of people.
Not astonishing in that they were particularly inspirational, or heroic, or any of these terms that get attached to teenage cancer patients/disability poster-children/orphans. They were normal kids, enjoying a normal day out in the park.
When we see transgender children in the media, it’s horrifying. We get this picture of isolated freaks, being screamed at from the Daily Mail Online comments section. Not kids, playing on a bouncy castle, lounging around drinking pop, going swimming. Transgenderism is seen all too often as a life-ruining aberration, when it should be nothing more than a minor adjustment.
Some of the kids I spoke to had been forced to leave school- not by the actions of their peers, but because of the school itself. The very institution that was supposed to be acting in loco parentis neglected their duty of care, in some cases enabling and perpetuating discrimination on a daily basis.
Although I am young enough to join the group, I want to act more in a voluntary role, to help with their education campaigns. When I was at school, not long ago, our sex education was crap. In year 9 (when we were 14), a nurse came in and rolled a condom onto a plastic dick. The rest of our information on contraception, we got mainly from RE classes.
Despite Section 28 (which forbade mentioning homosexuality in government spaces), being abolished the year I started secondary school, the closest I got to LGBT inclusive education was, aside again from RE, in the comments made by my peers. Not towards me- I have a tendency to keep my head down- but I did hear other, braver members of my peer group actively despised simply for being LGB.
When it came to growing up trans, I had no idea what I was. Other children occasionally saw that I was different too, and the stories I have of those instances are sad indeed.
This, I think, is why I want to write a novel featuring a transgender character. Because, although I believe I am a good writer, capable of excellent fact-checking and writing a generic novel that some, if not many, people would be happy to read, I feel that the state of transgender education in this country (I cannot speak for anywhere else) is literally destroying lives.
The attempted suicide rate for living trans people in the UK is 35%. 1 in 12 trans women worldwide will be murdered.
I don’t care what people think about trans people inside their own heads, but when they start killing people, or passively leading a transperson to kill themselves, it’s wrong. I don’t care how immoral you think it is for someone to wear a dress- it does not give you the right to hurt them.
You know what I saw on Saturday? Normal kids. Kids who have as much right to an education, to family, to a day out at the park, as anyone else. And it makes me sick that by pretending these people don’t exist, we perpetuate the misery of children, who cannot comprehend what they have done to deserve so much anger.
I’m sorry it’s been a long one. But this is why I have to become a teacher, even if my gender identity means I can’t do it for long. This is why, although my gender identity is a footnote to my day-to-day life, it features so heavily in my writing. Because there are young people out there who don’t know why they feel the way they do, and they don’t deserve to be hurt any more.