Monday 23 April 2012

RIP Aerie

As I mentioned in my first ever blog, one of the first things I did when I first arrived in the UK was a visit to Manchester for a weekend event called Sparkle. It’s like the trans version of a gay Pride event, but more sparkley. One of the first people I met that weekend was someone called Aerie. I remembered mostly her brightly coloured hair and her cider drinking, potty mouth. At over 6 foot tall in heels Aerie liked to stand out. I got to know her that weekend and shared a ride back home with Bobby and was struck by how quiet this person became. Maybe it was the hangover, maybe it was because Aerie was how Bobby preferred to express herself, either way, I’d already decided that I thought this person was pretty cool.

Over the next few months Aerie came up in conversation a few times and in person once or twice and I learned a bit more about how he lived his life. He came from a rough part of Cardiff and his family, by all accounts, had a reputation for being typical rowdy Welshmen. Bobby was different. Bobby was also Aerie. Unlike most other transvestites, he was open to his family about his weekend hobby. I was once told a story that when Bobby told his family that he liked to dress as female occasionally his brothers told him “that’s OK, just don’t do it round here because we’ll have to get into fights defending you.” Even Bob’s Facebook page bore both his male and female name, Aerie wasn’t ashamed of who he was. Why can’t more people be like you, Aerie?

Aerie was liked by almost everyone she met, reading through the comments people left after hearing of the sad news, a theme emerged; ‘I’ve only met you a few times and wish I’d have got to know you more’. Aerie left an impression in so many peoples lives. I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for the way Aerie lived, at a time in my life when I was just starting to come out, here was someone who lived with the openness I wanted for my life. We shared a love for swearing too much, drinking too much and we shared some demons too.

When I think of Aerie I will always remember that weekend in Manchester, and like others, I wish I’d have had the chance to get to know her more. I hope that in death he finds the peace he was looking for, he will be very sorely missed by very many people.

Trans on TV, A Word Of Caution

Since the airing of My Transsexual Summer and the enormous reaction it caused, both in the trans community and the wider public I have been aware of a number of other production companies who have been pitching ideas to trans people about including them in a new television show. I’ve heard from people asking for advice from me and I’ve even spoken directly to one production company, resisting their attempt to extract contact details of people who may be helpful to them and trying to find out more details about how they would represent anyone who might be involved.

Whilst I understand some trans peoples eagerness to get involved with these projects, maybe an attempt to try and emulate the success of MTS, I cannot help but be very suspicious of any TV company who is seeking out trans people to make a show with. During the run up to starting filming for MTS and throughout the production and editing process all of us involved went to great lengths to ensure that we would be shown with dignity and respect, not some kind of freak show to be made fun of. And we still didn’t get it perfectly right.

You really do dance with the devil when you get involved with TV. Trans people in the past have had to flee their homes in the middle of the night because of the reaction they received from opening up their lives to national TV cameras. I am aware of a few examples of trans folk that deeply regret their involvement with television.

My Transsexual Summer raised the bar considerably when it comes to how trans people are represented on TV but that’s not to say it was a total game changer. There still will be production companies that mean well but are just looking to the trans community to make a quick buck, to exploit us and sometimes even to make fun of us.

By all means, get involved with a television show but please approach with extreme caution. Be aware that the tone of the show will mostly be set by editors you may never meet. Take into consideration where you live, how people you have never met will react to knowing you are trans. Be prepared for a negative reaction. The night MTS went out was the most nervous night of my life, I thought I had prepared myself for idiots on Twitter laying into me, I was wrong. Some of the things written about me was really upsetting and it was a steep learning curve for me to be able to cope with that.
Seek written assurances from the production company about how they will represent you. Speak to Trans Media Watch and GIRES, ask for their help. If the production company has never heard about these groups, let alone asked for their guidance then be EXTREMELY cautious about getting involved. This is your life they are asking to broadcast to the world, stay in control.

Since MTS there have been a few shows on TV covering the trans genre and one or two of them have been quite positive but this does not mean all future ones will be. Approach any TV project with open eyes and an inquisitive mind. I am all for the trans community to be represented in the media more and wish anyone thinking of getting involved with it my very best. If anyone wants some advice please do not hesitate to contact Trans Media Watch or myself.

Friday 6 April 2012

I Didn’t Fuckin’ Choose This! (Dating)

So I have been chatting to this guy online for a while now, he is an artist, a graphical designer and seemed an all round interesting kinda guy… He had been asking me for a few weeks to meet up with me for a drink and today, I thought to myself ‘why not, what have I got to lose?’ I agreed to meet him in a pub on a busy Brighton street, somewhere I could easily slip away if it didn’t go well and I would be safe enough if he turned out to be a nutter. Now, I like to think of myself as a good judge of character, I hope I can ‘read’ people well and see the motivation behind the way they act, this weekend marks my thirtieth year on this planet and I genuinely hope I am street wise, mature enough to know when someone is playing me.

I thought that during my online chats with this guy he was interested in me as a person, the fact that I happen to be trans didn’t even factor into his attraction to me, in fact, I thought that I had gone out of my way to make sure that I wasn’t some kind of ‘fantasy shag’ to him, a box to be ticked off on his list of sexual conquests… This all flew out of the window when he said to me “I just want to explore my bi side, you’re not gonna have ‘it’ chopped off are you?”

My body is not some vessel for a random stranger to use as experimentation with. I am not something for you to satisfy your curiosity with. I am a fucking person who wants to be treated as such. If I had ANY other choice I wouldn’t be this way. I would have lived my life the way I was born and would have been happy with that. I didn’t choose to be trans. If I hadn’t have transitioned I would be dead by now, and that is not me being a drama queen, that is stone cold fact.

So as I sat alone on the bus home, my eyes leaking as I realised that this dating game is bullshit but maybe it’s just my fears manifesting themselves in other people, maybe this guy actually did like me for who I am but was just incapable of communicating with some semblance of empathy. Even so, those words cut, they cut fucking deep and, as much as I doubt it, I hope I never hear them again.