“And cisterns might fly” — a letter to a bathroom transphobe

“Don’t read the comments” they say — and it’s very good advice, as they’re often a cesspit of ghastliness demonstrating the very worst in human nature.

Nevertheless many of us get sucked in sometimes, and like many people, there are short little scribblings of mine on various subjects all over various articles and blogposts around the internet. This blogpost is based on just one of them.

How about we are born either one sex or another and can be who we like without having to fit into a box? So as a woman I sometimes go out in make up and a dress and sometimes jeans and no make up? Should my husband be able to do the same? Yes.

The trouble with trans activists is many of them completely discount women and how women feel about male genitals in their space. What if equality, so called, bills go through and self identity means transwomen can freely have access to women’s changing rooms and refuges? Is that okay for women? Should all women just move aside?

Gender roles were invented to keep women oppressed and now our sex is being denied to silence us again.

Research on American inmates shows that transition does not alter the risk men pose to women, so with that in mind why not let men in our safe space too?-

I don’t know who you are (I seem to be one of the few people who uses my real name in comments on forums!), but I understand that you say you feel that you don’t want to share the women’s room with transgender (trans) people.

I assume that you’re a cisgender (cis) person. I suspect you have an agenda too, but let’s leave that for now.

However, I really don’t think that you’ve thought this through. Quite frankly you seem afraid of trans people like me — or, more likely — afraid of a stereotype of trans people like me. That stereotype is probably grounded in what little you know about actual trans people, and if what I’ve learnt over the past decade and a half is anything to go by, it’s probably one that’s not at all representative.

People have a tendency to be much more varied and interesting than stereotypes allow for.

In that I’m no exception. Yes, I’m trans. I’m also a parent, a Christian, a runner, a not-quite-but-nearly vegetarian chilli grower…and lots more. And — here’s the clincher —I’m a woman (I’m relatively uncomplicated in that have a straightforward binary identity).

I have been using female facilities since I came out in 2001. I transitioned permanently at the end of 2002 (on Christmas Day, believe it or not), and I’ve not looked back since.

In all that time — with the exception of one man (because of course it was) objecting to me using a store changing room right at the start of my transition— no one has ever raised an objection to my presence in a female changing room or bathroom. Like you, most of the time I wear jeans and minimal (if any) makeup.

The past decade and a half has taught me a few things. It’s taught me that I shouldn’t need to be afraid anymore, and yet I often still am (but I imagine that’s no different from most women). It’s taught me that when I’m out running, some men will stare at my chest as I run past. It’s taught me that true friends are everything, that the field I work in (software engineering) is much more progressive than I expected, that some people I thought would help me would rather turn their backs on me and pretend I didn’t exist — and that some feminists I thought would be our natural allies are actually nasty and vindictive.

It’s also taught me that there are still far too many in our world still like to see people like me persecuted or killed. That’s terrifying.

But, it’s also taught me that when you talk to people you spread understanding, that empathy changes everything…and that I have amazing friends who have stuck by me and care that I’m OK. It’s taught me that I can stand up in front of others and talk about stuff that I wouldn’t have dreamed of being public about when I first came out.

So I refuse to be so afraid anymore. I’m comfortable with my identity now, and that’s a healthy, wonderful thing. Being open about it rather than feeling I need to hide is the rather yummy icing on the cake.

At 5'7", UK size 10 and with 15+ years of oestrogen therapy under my belt I’m also physically no more threat to anyone than any other woman. In that time, HRT has changed my build dramatically, to the point where I’m much more slight than I was pre-transition. Even my feet are noticeably smaller (UK size 6.5, for the curious).

However I’m also now far less vulnerable and less likely to be attacked for being trans than I was when I was newly “out” over a decade ago. If it happens now, it’s just as likely to be as a result of me being a woman rather than because of my transness.

When I first came out in 2001 the overwhelming sense of dysphoria nearly killed me, and merely being able to dress as I pleased wouldn’t have helped with that as who I was (and still am, of course) went far, far deeper than fashion.

Holding it together through each day was a real challenge….but somehow I did, and by the following year things were moving forward.

Back then I was much more visibly “trans” and in the midst of life changes which were at best harrowing and at worst soul destroying. Looking back, I’m sometimes amazed I made it through at all, let alone as well as I have.

I was no threat to anyone — indeed some others were a very real threat to me — and as such I needed the safety of female spaces even more than I do now. I was young, naive and vulnerable….quite literally a teenager going through puberty for the second time in a 36 year old body.

Fortunately, teenagers learn fast.

What shape my genitals were was — and still is — quite frankly irrelevant unless you intend to start a relationship with me, and even then it’s not a topic for the first date (besides, human genitals can develop in more than two configurations, and I don’t know anything about yours, either…).

By contrast I blend in far better today, and I’m far happier in mixed company than I was then — but I’m very conscious of the many vulnerable trans people who are still in the same terrifying place I once was.

So I think I have some perspective. In the sixteen and a half years since that fateful day when I finally admitted to myself that I was trans I’ve pretty much seen it all. Although things have improved a great deal since then, believe me when I say that even today trans folks are still more wary of you than you are of us.

Indeed we’ve learnt to be wary as often our very survival depends on it.

We know that whatever we do, it won’t be enough for some. Maybe you are one of those people, and maybe not.

But regardless of what your opinions are biology isn’t as simple as you may have been led to believe and ultimately, it is the brain that determines our sense of self and identity, not our chromosomal karyotype (or karyotypes — some people have more than one) or genital configuration.

Trans people don’t suddenly wake up one morning and “change” their gender on a whim — it’s a much more torturous process than that, and many don’t make it. Quite honestly we’d like your help, or at least quiet acceptance rather than active hindrance.

Trans women are women and not (as some trans-exclusive feminists would argue) deluded or predatory men. Likewise, trans men are men and not women who are deluded enough to want to leave the sisterhood when they could just live as tomboys or butches.

It’s worth remembering that if you can’t accept the above, what you are effectively saying that you would prefer to have trans men in women’s spaces rather than pee alongside trans women like me. Quite honestly I really don’t follow that logic.

In case you’re in any doubt, the violence which happens to trans women also mirrors that which happens to cis women (having been involved in Transgender Day of Remembrance events for a while now that’s a subject I’ve learnt more about than I care to describe).

We should stand together. What’s good for us is good for you, and what’s bad for us is bad for you.

So please don’t be afraid of sharing a space with me, or with any of my trans sisters. Believe me when I say that we have far more in common than anything which divides us.

Go in peace sister…I’m sure I’ll see you in the bathroom sooner or later!

P.S. I’m still not going to discuss the intricacies of my genital configuration with you until at least the second date. But if you really, really, really feel you must ask, I wrote about it years ago so please just go and read that.

This post is based on a comment I posted ages ago on the article “The gender-fluid generation: young people on being male, female or non-binary”. The comment I was replying to is reproduced at the start of the post.

Note that I’ve deliberately avoided discussing nonbinary, genderfluid and agender identities in this post as I wanted to keep it simple. If your identity differs from mine, I hope you won’t feel left out.

Dedicated to the memory of Leelah Alcorn, Ekai Lersundi and all of the other trans people who didn’t make it.



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Anna-Jayne Metcalfe

Anna-Jayne Metcalfe

Software engineer, aerial yoga addict and halberd owning, camera waving, Daywalker of Scones. #trans #lgbt #christian https://www.annasplace.me.uk