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We Need Allies: A Day in Transgender Remembrance

2010 December 9

I attended the International Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Brighton with my best friend on the 21st of November.  I went with the full intent to write about it, and then spent the entire afternoon afterwards in my shellshocked, harrowed-out daze, wondering what the hell to say.

There are a couple of things I’d like to get out of the way first.  Firstly, some readers may be aware, others aren’t – I’m transgendered.  I’m a guy with non-factory-standard genitals.  So there’s that.

Secondly, I have some privileges of my own that I want to lay down.  I’m white, I’m able-bodied, I don’t have any disabilities or illnesses that anyone can see, I’m middle-class and I have a house.  I do my best to work around these in how I treat people and the world around me, but I know that sometimes, they’re going to cause me to fuck up a bit.  So there’s that, too.

Oh – one other thing I have: I have passing privilege, sometimes.  Not all the time, but sometimes.  Which is great, but also a thing to consider, because then I get to have male privilege, too.

We got to the venue for the remembrance service, and I was nervous.  I’ve never really been to any specifically trans-inclusive spaces – let alone a church! – and didn’t know what to expect.  I was surprised!  It was very welcoming, very inclusive and friendly, and the service was well thought-out.  I felt as though I was on friendly territory.  Which was nice.

Now: the service.  What happened was, after a vigil for the loss of a member of the Brighton trans*1 community, the list of victims between 2009 and 2010 was read out.  Name, age, date of death – and manner in which they were killed.

If this sounds horrifying and harrowing, let me tell you: it is absolutely nothing compared to the experience.  It was so horrible.  It was so hard to read, so numbingly dreadful and so damn depressing that I just burst into tears after reading my first victim’s name.  She was stabbed up and abandoned in a dump.  I thought, is this really the world I’m transitioning in today?  Is this the reception I’m to expect from the public?  Is this a true reflection of how transgender people are perceived?

There were photographs of some of the victims, too.  Now, here I’m brought back to passing privilege.  There is an insidious, embarrassing, totally inaccurate and highly offensive supposition in the media (that appears to have been slowly, very slowly, dying out since the 1970s) that all trans* people are trans women who don’t pass.  These victims were not they.  The victims whose pictures I saw were women with passing privilege.  These were not the cruel media’s “favourite” sort of transgendered victim; the pantomime parody that’s miles and miles away from real trans* people and does more to inspire mockery in the public rather than righteous anger on their behalf.

This realisation served to remind me how bloody vulnerable trans* people are in the face of a society that can’t or won’t understand them.  These people were the members of our community who had that enviable passing privilege that’s meant to help one lead a “normal” life (for whatever definition of “normal” you prefer).  I know that when I don’t have passing privilege, I feel intensely isolated; like some inexplicable, unintelligible Other that will never be able to, say, use a public bathroom without coming under suspicion and scrutiny.  The transgender experience is, whatever your level of passing privilege, a very isolating one.

There are support groups, but they’re few and far between, lost in a tide of support groups for lesbian, gay and bisexual people who also have their own unfair share of discrimination and isolation.  I know I have trouble finding anything outside of London, which is where I’m not.  I know it’s often quite hard to find other trans guys within accessible transgender communities (we’re outnumbered by the ladies 10 to 1 in Britain!  Isn’t that interesting?) if we can work up courage enough to go at all.  Many of us can’t find support in our family – quite the opposite, sometimes – and coming out to social groups often ensures the sloughing of manifestly unhelpful acquaintances.

It’s lonely.  We need allies.  We need allies that are close to us, and we need allies that are further away in the media and government.  I mused upon this as I moistened my best friend’s shoulder at the service, and then mused upon it further as we nerded out over different sorts of tea later.  I did some extra musing when I emerged, resplendent, from the bathroom and announced excitedly to her that I’d been read as male there, and she was gleeful and pleased for me.  We need people like this in our lives.  My friend is cisgendered and she understands.  She makes the effort to understand and to support and include.  She does this, and in doing so, she’s one member of the majority that will encourage others to do the same.

So, hurrah for allies.  Thank god for allies within the LGBTQI community that go against the distressing trend of leaving off the “T” from the acronym, or argue with those that would claim trans women who like women to not be “real lesbians”.  Thank god for allies within the feminist community who don’t agree with Germaine Greer or Julie Bindel’s frankly disgusting attitudes towards transgendered people.  But perhaps most of all, I’m thankful for cisgendered allies who love and care for their trans* friends and make the effort to spread tolerance, support and understanding within the majority.

I started writing this post hideously disaffected, thinking about my challenging relationship with my family and how far-reaching crimes against trans* people are.  But now I’ve remembered that there are people, like you, dear BadRep reader, who don’t suck, and do get it.  So thank you, too.  Here’s a comic of me and my friend having a tea-off.  You’re welcome.

black and white comic strip showing Markgraf and friend drinking tea - 'Is it okay to put sugar in jasmine tea?' 'Well, I've put one in my African mint... then again, it's MEANT to be served sweet.'

You can read my friend’s companion post on TDOR here

  1. I’m using the term “trans*” to specifically include anyone with a trans – transgender, transsexual, whoever. I’m using it as a catch-all inclusive term for those with a non-binary gender identity, regardless of status in transition or not, what or where. []
19 Responses leave one →
  1. December 9, 2010

    There’s a lot I don’t know about (negative) attitudes towards trans people – what does Germaine Greer say? (Also, what’s the I in LGBTQI? I’ve not seen the I before).

    • December 9, 2010

      The I is for Intersex.

    • Markgraf permalink
      December 9, 2010

      Hey Zoe,

      Aaah, Germaine. She is of the prominent opinion that women are “born, not made” and that, therefore, trans women aren’t women, which is bollocks. I’d Google you up some citations, but I’m posting this from my HTC and the complexity of doing so is too much for my mighty paws.

      The I stands for Intersex. It is argued off our banner far too frequently!

      • December 9, 2010

        That’s pretty rubbish. Although I like her sometimes I did find her speculation about how children should be raised to be ridiculous. I know the heteronormative family isn’t exactly some golden ideal but it’s not necessarily some kind of prison for women. Some are actually quite functional.

    • Markgraf permalink
      December 9, 2010

      Thanks, Rob! Saved my mighty paws!

    • Helen permalink
      December 9, 2010

      Argh. Oh gods. That makes me so angry. How dare she deny the existence of something she has never experienced? She is so wise she *knows* how other people feel does she?

      • Miranda permalink*
        December 9, 2010

        What really scares me about it is that she has so much influence as a benchmark “face of feminism”. I read her book “The Whole Woman” at about fifteen. It has a whole section about her views on trans people, and I had never really read anything detailed about the issues before. It still saddens me that that was the first interaction between feminism and trans issues that I ever had an opportunity to read about – I had no internet access at the time, so I didn’t come across any other views until I was in my twenties.

        Her feminism is profoundly not my feminism. I hope that now we’re in an age of greater information access, young budding teen feminists won’t have views like that as their first and only educational experience.

        And the idea that not being bigoted is an “academic feminist” pursuit is just such outrageous guff!

        • December 9, 2010

          Greer frustrates me tremendously – because sometimes she says things that are really right, and I’m totally in agreement with her.

          And then she has opinions like she does about trans people or the ‘born not made’ thing as if nature/nurture is entirely irrelevant.

          It makes me want to hit my head repeatedly against my desk.

      • Markgraf permalink
        December 9, 2010


        She can shut up, frankly. She can shut all the way up. I met her once after a film seminar at University. To my credit, I didn’t vomit on her.

        • Custard permalink
          December 9, 2010

          You totally win :)

          I get the feeling Greer spent so much time proclaiming the power of her own c*nt that she couldn’t take it back once someone pointed out that sex and gender aren’t the same thing *fail*

        • Helen permalink
          December 10, 2010

          The bit that wound me up most was somewhere in one of those she says something about if every trans woman had to have ovaries and a uterus transplanted it would put them off. I don’t think that sort of surgery is even possible at the moment and actually I think there are probably a number of trans woman who would be delighted to have that option. Plus I thought the point of feminism was that the sum of a woman is not her uterus. BLARGH

  2. December 9, 2010

    This article looks like it was hard to write. Parts of it were hard to read; previously I have hardly thought about the way that society approaches trans people, but I knew it wasn’t with universal support (or even indifference). Thank you for writing this.

  3. Freya permalink
    December 9, 2010

    Brilliant post, and the Tea Snobbery comic made me laugh!

    • Miranda permalink*
      December 9, 2010

      I can’t drink jasmine tea without remembering my faux pas. :D

      I am very proud of Markgraf for making this post. I wrote one too, and it’ll go up at 1pm today, but his is better.

      • Russell permalink
        December 9, 2010

        I love how horrified you look in the first panel Mim. Though that may be because the awful statistics mentioned in the post have already induced within you a state of horror worsened by your sweetening of the jasmine tea.

  4. December 9, 2010

    OMG this is so weird as I am coincidentally currently drinking jasmine tea.

  5. Rowan permalink
    December 10, 2010

    Thank you for writing this.

    I sometimes try to ignore how much fail there is out there to trans issues as else I would not be able to face them rather then fighting for trans rights as I am. It’s just scary and something I can’t being to understand.

  6. December 16, 2010

    An excellent article. I could not make it to the day, but it is an important reminder as to the continued extent of transphobic crime. Thank you for sharing.

    If anyone reading this has been a victim of T-crime, then please report it here:

    It is a new service we at GIRES have setup (I’m a trustee) in the hope of exposing the extent of the problem. There is also lots of advice on transphobic bullying at school and in the workplace on the site.


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