The interview is here and my full response to the questions are below.
Miranda Yardley is a transsexual and publisher of the extreme music magazine ‘Terrorizer’ Miranda has written for New Statesman and Morning Star, tweets from @TerrorizerMir and blogs at www.MirandaYardley.com
1. When did you come out as trans?
I have been generally out to my friends, work colleagues and some members of my family since 1994. I was very careful who I told even completely hiding this from people for several years in the early/mid 2000s. After a lot of counselling and soul-searching I made to decision in 2008 to accept that I am transsexual, and began my social transition in the October of that year.
2. How did your loved ones react?
I did not tell my immediate family (parents and brother) until I had made the decision to transition in 2008. There is a whole load of complexity over my relationship with my parents, and I have come to learn that much of the difficulty surrounding my relationship with them was little to do with my decision to transition -but it brought those issues to a head. This has been a very painful process as I have always had a very close, if not special relationship with my mother and because of the factors that my transition brought out we grew apart. I have always tried to keep this relationship functioning, and we are presently enjoying a renaissance.
The best response to coming out I ever had was from my grandmother, who at the time was 98. She said to me ‘I would never come between you and your relationship with your parents, but I want you to know that as long as I am alive, you always have a home under my roof’.
My daughter struggled with my transition, which is of course understandable.
3. Have you transitioned and if so what was the process of talking through that with your doctor like?
Yes, I finally went through with this in 2008. I planned the whole process meticulously, I even wrote a plan. Speaking with my GP about it was not difficult, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I was well-prepared.
4. What advice would you give to other trans people, particularly those who haven’t come out yet?
I’d advise anyone to think very carefully about this and the implications for yourself and those around you. Particularly if you are serious about transitioning, make sure that before you enter into an emotionally committed relationship with anyone that they are fully aware that this is something that you are considering.
I would always advise anyone to undertake some meaningful counselling – I don’t mean therapy that is, from the start, meant to facilitate transition, rather something that will challenge you and force you to address ideas about sex and gender open mindedly and critically, and if possible read feminist analyses of gender.
If you are a trans man, beware and be careful of men. If you are a trans woman, the same applies; furthermore, always respect and listen to women. What women do not say is just as important as what they do say, remember women are raised to be submissive to authority (and to males).
I describe myself as transsexual, I resist being described as being transgender as this has in essence become a political position based on Queer Theory and identity politics; transgenderism is not the only way to be transsexual, in many ways it is anti-transsexual. Transgenderism makes someone be what they say they are, in spite of visible or material evidence to the contrary. Accepting a male as female just because they say so, especially if until recently living as a man and enjoying the privileges and benefits that accrue, makes a mockery of the sex-based protections that society has implemented to help make women safe from male violence.
At the heart of the ‘transgender movement’ is the deeply toxic ideology that, for example trans women are, and always have been, women. This erases the meaning of both what it actually means to be trans as well as what it means to be a woman. Clearly this is absurd when it is applied to individuals who transition in their mid-60s, having fathered children. If you are a trans woman, embrace the fact that you are, and always will be, male; there is nothing wrong with this, it is neither a judgement nor a value statement, and believe me when I say you will be a happier person accepting this.
The corollary of the last paragraph is, of course, that the lived lives of women and trans women are different. We should respect this, and that from birth we all are subject to sex-based socialisation which favours males above females. Deconstructing your socialisation is one of the most important things a trans person can do, as this affects how you behave towards and are treated by other people.
Please always respect women’s entitlement to set their own boundaries, whether this relates to their body (lesbians are not being transphobic by not considering trans women viable dating partners) or their own spaces, for example organisations, festivals and political movements. Anybody can show respect to women, but to show respect to women, you actually have to show respect to women. And understand that ‘no’ means ‘no’.
If I could recommend any single book for someone to read to help them understand the injustices that society inflicts on women, I would suggest ‘Pornography’ by Andrea Dworkin. This is freely available on the internet and is, itself, a paradigm shift.
5. How do you feel about trans representation in mainstream media at the moment?
I believe that trans people are poorly represented in media. Some of the highest profile trans women are deeply problematic, for example Caitlyn Jenner has presented the world with what is essentially a 65 year old male becoming a man’s idea of what a woman is. That Jenner appears to oppose equal marriage is helpful to nobody but the most deeply reactionary conservatives. There are instances where other trans people have written published articles celebrating that they have been catcalled in the street. This is explicitly condoning overt sexism and street harassment in the name of personal validation, which is incredibly damaging to women and girls.
My initial impression of ‘Boy Meets Girl’ is that the programme is held together on a single premise and I believe this could have been executed so much better without resorting to two-dimensional stereotypes of pretty much every single character. Contrast this with Laverne Cox’s character Sophia Burset in the first season of ‘Orange is the New Black’; Burset listens to advice from Sister Jane Ingalls and puts her wife’s feelings first. This is the type of representation trans people need in media.