Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Current Debate About Whether Trans Women Are Women Scares Me.


Trans Women and Trans Historied women have been around for a long time.  They have a long history of fighting oppression. 

Of late I've been trying hard to reach out and understand the concerns of my Exclusionary Feminist Sisters. I've done so as society bravely attempts to define what we mean by the terms 'man' and 'woman'.  Those terms seem to be changing forever.  As a trans-historied woman it has begun to scare me a little too.

I grew up a dutiful little feminist daughter, imbibing the second wave doctrines expounded by my mother. Now I'm not so sure.  A trans-historied female, I've fought alongside my older feminist sisters to combat oppression and to promote an agenda in which we were united by a common experience of misogyny. In sharing my common experiences I genuinely believed we were allies and friends with the same cause.

As women our experiences are parallel. Natal born women cannot know what it was like to grow up a Trans girl. Trans born women cannot know it felt growing up a natal girl. We can however LISTEN and APPRECIATE each other's experiences. Here are mine: I was the three year old who insisted that she wasn't a boy, the one they beat up constantly at school.  I was the awkward, shy, brown haired girl downtown buying new clothes and records in an attempt to fit in. I grew up experiencing my teens as a girl; Men opened doors for me and I was flattered. By the time I was a young single mother seeking a return to her career, the same men slammed doors in my face. As a child I was abused by a man who saw me as a sexual novelty. I've lived half my adult life free from a fake existence forced on me by others. Now I'm lucky to be a happily married woman, working alongside a husband who cares about me. I work as a trained counsellor in the LGBTQIA community.  As a woman I work hard to make a difference to the lives of others.

In all this, I never expected to be excluded by my sisters or told that I was actually 'the enemy'. To divide one group of women from another appears to strike at the very foundations of feminism. Is that what we want?

I unearthed this article in order to establish an overview of the debate.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2 

It was published some years ago but is still relevant today. It is thought provoking and insightful if you want to understand the vitriol and anger behind RadFem's denunciation of Trans Women. I'm trying hard to empathise with how they feel. This article is my own attempt to reach out to them. I'm asking for them to listen and empathise.

Meanwhile the stand off between Radical Feminism and Trans Feminists rages on.

There are many more burning issues that still face us all like pay inequality, oppression in the workplace, objectification and unequal rights. Why are we so obsessed with talking about women's only spaces as though it is the only current issue? 

suspect that while we take our eyes off the ball and fight each other tooth and nail; we may lose everything that we have fought together so far to achieve.

HUGGS, in sisterhood,

Jane xx

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Why Is The First Transgender Playboy Cover Girl Such A Big Deal?



‘Big deal; is this a momentous and consequential event or am I just being ironic?  I’ve heard both reactions in response to Giuliana Farfalla’s cover shot on the cover of German Playboy magazine this month. Giuliana is certainly stunning; a lady with 219k of Instagram followers and clearly well liked by her many fans. Ms. Farfalla is the epitome of classical female beauty but also the subject of transphobia.  Press articles and published comments are awash with praise but also disgust. The use of male pronouns by some commentators make it quite clear they consider Giuliana to be a man. If I’m being ironic, Giuliana is clearly a beautiful sexy woman but so are many other models, is it such a big deal that she’s on the cover of Playboy? What’s all the fuss about?

Giuliana Farfalla has clearly always been unhappy with her assigned birth gender.  She is reported as having felt female from an early age, trapped in the wrong body.  I too felt trapped, imprisoned to be more precise; hostage to a midwife who took one quick peek and pronounced me male.  I grew up presenting as a girl when allowed and a boy when compelled to by others. I lived the uncomfortable half life of many transgender teens; passing easily and treated as female on occasions, bullied and beaten up on others. There was no male privilege but neither was there acknowledgement of prettiness or beauty, just the pain of wanting it all resolved. Growing up trans, you tend to live in your head.  You dream of being a princess, of being beautiful and admired, of being in love and being happy.  Small wonder if Giuliana aspired to be a catwalk model and to be complimented for her beauty.  I felt just the same.

High profile Trans Women inevitably come in for their share of transphobia. There has been much of it in the press recently.  Transphobic reactions seek to legitimise bigotry by emphasising the bizarre or by making it into an issue about the rights of women or of children.  Other girls are apt to cry foul when someone they see as male wins a beauty contest. In the end, no matter how beautiful or complete a trans woman may look it is seldom sufficient to ensure acceptance. So while this is indeed a positive step for Trans women there is a catch. In celebrating beautiful Trans women, we try to counter the myth that Trans women are not really women.  Giuliana is undoubtedly beautiful and were she not to have revealed her gender status most of us would be none the wiser.  Yet being a woman is seldom just about being beautiful. 

I am a Transgender Erotic model whose images have appeared in UK and European magazines. I was never overtly out as transgender in those features. I was wary about setting myself up as any sort of role model for young trans women to follow. To me, I was just lucky. Models are not everyday women:  Winners of a genetic lottery we just happen to conform to a widely held ideal of female beauty. Many Trans women don’t have the good fortune to look that way. If you have the bad luck to conform to the public perception of ‘awkward man in a dress’, you will struggle for acceptance. Moreover you will also be the subject of deep humiliation and suffer being seen as a freak and disgusting.

No matter how wonderful it is for Giuliana and Trans Women to be celebrated in this way, womanhood is so much more than being classically beautiful.  My lived experience of trans womanhood has included; struggling with teenage depression; becoming a single Mum; a classroom assistant; a young person’s counsellor, a successful businesswoman, wife to a loving husband and working in the legal sex industry. Most of these roles are anything but glamorous.  They are nonetheless valid. Through it all we encounter our share of misogyny. We’re treated in much the same way as other women; variously admired, coveted, dismissed, condescended to, groped, put on as pedestal or passed over for promotion.  What is missing in our portrayal of Trans women are real life stories.  They are seldom exceptional.  They are striking solely for their close similarity to the experiences of many other (natal) women. In truth, we need Trans role models of a more everyday nature.   When Trans women are identified as exceptional mothers, partners, teachers, health workers, business women and many more  we will have provided a breadth of achievable examples for young trans girls to emulate. While the role models are only in Playboy and Vogue we run the risk of setting up the same unattainable standards for Trans women as we do for every other female.

Huggs, Jane xx

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A New Year's Wish For 2018


We're on the cold threshold of a New Year. What will it bring? The last year has been a tough one; I've fought stigmatization and hate as I turned my back on one life and began another. But here's a thought:

At the start of 2018, make the decision to change your mind about someone or a group of people you have judged and condemned. It is one of the toughest things isn't it? However, this isn't a rehearsal. If you don't do it now you probably never will. 

Peace, Jane xx

Friday, October 27, 2017

Why Do We Mistrust Black Cats And Trans Women So Much?

Binx - Image Credit: Martin Williams
Eight months ago, my cat Star died unexpectedly.  The unexpected grief I felt was devastating.  His death came as everything else in my life began to come right. He had arrived 11 years earlier when it was all going wrong. A beautiful cat, he came to live with me and my daughter at really difficult time for us both.  I was a single Mum, she was a teen in turmoil.  I'm Trans and my daughter lesbian. When Star arrived, I was facing discrimination at work and she at school.  The gift of a new kitten brought us focus, joy and light during distinctly dark times.  Whereas others can cast you as less than human, a kitten accepts you without question, depending on you totally. 

Fifteen weeks ago, two lesbian friends gave me a black kitten to adopt. His name is Binx. I welcomed him with open arms, yet black cats have a hard time being accepted in mainstream culture.  Cat Shelters report they are much harder to re-home with up to 70% of their cats being black or black and white. People are unhappy to have one cross their path. They’ll switch to the opposite side of the street to avoid one. Black cats are mistrusted.  It is much the same if you’re Trans. Early in my transition, few wanted to be my friend outside the LGBT community.  Even within the Gay community there was mistrust, especially from radical feminist lesbians.  A girly girl, I rapidly learned to be cautious of femininity lest I get put down for it. These were people I had looked up to and I felt hurt to be accused of perpetuating and reinforcing gender stereotypes. So much of that mistrust comes from misunderstandings about the nature of being Trans.  Folklore abounds: I was variously told that I was a Gay man who couldn't hack being male, a pervert, a threat to women, delusional, fetishistic and a freak of nature.

I'm a woman with a black cat. I've studied and trained as a therapeutic counsellor. I think independently and write publicly about alternative issues and lifestyles. I am not someone's stereotype of a submissive female with no mind of my own. I am proud of who I am, fiercely defensive of my femininity and I just happen to love felines. Many years ago, lone, learned women skilled in healing and marginalised from society kept cats as companion animals. If you were single and female, just possessing a black cat would raise suspicions you were a witch.  Those black cats were thought to be a witches' familiars, their magical servants or personal demons. Just like being Trans, nobody saw these women for what they really were; herbalists, healers, sympathetic with the natural world and too learned for the likes of male dominated society. These women were often convicted at trials on the hearsay of others or simply being acknowledged to be a witch.  It seems bizarre today.  These poor women were put to death with no justice at all simply on the say so of others.

But maybe it isn't so bizarre.  Communities in fear always look to outsiders to blame.  In times past, if a child died unexpectedly, witches were suspected of cursing them. Anything unnatural was thought the devil's work.  Witch hunts ensued as people struggled to deal with things they couldn't understand. Few people truly understand what it means to be Trans. The term witch hunt passed into modern parlance and the practice still persists.  Are Trans females seen as the new witches? When I listen to the arguments around banning Trans women from using female toilets I fear they are. Trans women are suspected of being men in disguise, deliberately invading female only spaces to violate women. I have lost count of anecdotes and hearsay about men in dresses who insisted they were women but clearly behaved in an overtly male and threatening way.  The inference is that these individuals are not to be trusted, they are rapists at heart and should be stopped.  In reality, we go to the loo to pee, wash our hands and do our make-up. Seeing us as a threat is about as logical as a black cat bringing misfortune.

I hate to disappoint people, but we need to ascribe bad luck and threats to women to some other cause: Black cats are just cats and Trans females? They're simply women.

Huggs, 
Jane xx


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It’s Time to Reject Objectification And Harassment for All Women NotJust a Selection.

Image credit: Martin Williams
There is often debate about whether Trans Women like myself are real women. It focuses partly on our supposed lack of shared experiences. Together with other women, I’ve been aware the past few weeks have been very much about powerful men and sex, objectification and sexual harassment. Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine died at the end of September. In the last few days Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of The Weinstein Company has been constantly in the news. The public outcry over Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment of women has featured on just about every media channel.  Objectification and sexual harassment are closely linked.  The first dehumanises us by focusing solely on our body parts, the second takes that focus and assumes an entitlement to sexual gratification from us. I’m not here to comment on Hefner or Weinstein; others have done so ad infinitum in recent days. Celebrities have been very vocal in making accusations and giving opinions but what about ordinary women or Trans women for that matter?

Most women I suspect have endured their share of objectification; ass grouping; skirt lifting; breast touching and being felt up. In spite of those who mistakenly argue we enjoy male privilege; objectification, harassment and abuse are a regular occurrence for Trans women too. Most of us suffer in silence. I grew up gender non-conforming in a world where these things were everyday. It scared me a good deal then, and even more now. An ambivalent, sensitive child I attracted the wrong type of attention. I didn’t exactly come out but I was hardly in either. I borrowed my Mum’s clothes, generally with her knowledge.  I dressed attractively and was brave enough to be myself; a teen girl who happened to have a boy’s birth certificate.  I was all too aware of things adult men shouldn’t do to girls but when a Gay friend of my parent’s groped me I said nothing. I felt like a freak and as such I didn’t expect to be protected. It happened frequently and often.  I came to dread meeting him and I grew to hate men. By the time I was 13 it had become sexual abuse. That abuse was dehumanising. It left me with a depressing feeling that my sex parts were all that mattered to others, even if they were the wrong ones. I couldn’t begin to discuss my gender identity with adults let alone my abuse. When I grew up I promised myself that things would change.

When I came out again and began transitioning I thought the world had indeed altered.  It was a new millennium after all. The Gay community had secured a greater acceptance. I took a low paid job, a flat in a seaside town and got on with the job of raising my 11 year old daughter and being myself. I was grateful to get a replacement birth certificate showing the right gender this time but now objectification took on a new guise. The first time someone quizzes you about your body parts you respond politely.  The request is usually prefaced with ‘I hope you don’t think I’m being intrusive but…’ At work, complaints were made about which toilets I used and the changing facilities. The focus was always on my genitals. It was as though being Trans, this was the only important thing about me. I lost count of the number of times I was touched down there or asked if my breasts or hair were real. It was the men who touched me.  It was the women who asked me. Was it to find out what sex I was or to have the novelty of touching a Transsexual woman? The male response was at least familiar, that from other women floored me and sent me home in tears. I had expected support from most but I got it from only a small group of my female colleagues. I desperately needed a job to pay my rent and bring up my daughter. I didn’t dare complain. Not for the first time I was given the impression that as a Trans female I had brought all this on myself.

Belatedly now I’m speaking out, fortunately from a better place in life.  I’m married to a really understanding guy. I run my own business and I’m positive about my gender identity and sexual expression. When I was a girl I had no inspirational stories to read that helped me understand who I was. I had a choice; either become stealth and keep quiet or write and inspire others.   As an adult therefore, I chose being out and writing about my experiences. Fortunately I now have supportive friends who don’t ask about my genitalia and who accept that I’m just another woman. They do this by, surprise surprise, treating me like everyone else. My breasts, my hair, my figure, my bum and my vagina are all my own but more importantly they are just one aspect of a person with a life, feelings and a mind of her own. I freely admit that I’m an erotic model but that’s just a job.  It doesn’t give strangers the entitlement to sexually touch or harass me. I still get groped and touched in clubs these days but I don’t remain silent anymore. Women have the right to reject objectification and abuse.  It is time to reinforce that right applies to ALL women including those of us who happen to be Trans or who work in the Sex Industry.

Huggs, Jane xx

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

As a Trans Woman, Being Investigated For My Second Job As an Erotic Model Has Felt Like a 17th Century Witch Trial


Image Credit: Jane Williams

On Tuesday September 12th this year, my life turned upside down.  A Fitness to Practice Hearing took place in Ewloe, Flintshire, to determine if my work as an erotic model was unprofessional. It was held by Wales' Education Watchdog. I had previously worked as a Teaching Assistant in a College there. After countless job applications, it had been the only work I could get as a Trans Woman with a Teaching Certificate and a PhD. 

Inevitably, the hearing was attended by journalists from the tabloids. When the story aired the following day, the words 'witch hunt' crop up repeatedly in people’s online comments. Flintshire's last witch hunt took place exactly 360 years ago to the month in 1657.

Some women like myself pose professionally for erotic photographs; this isn't an illegal activity. Some men spend their time looking at them; this isn't illegal either. It was a male colleague who outed me to my employers after finding my photos of me online.  I lost my career and resigned because of my second job.  He appears to have kept his from what I understand.

I didn't attend the hearing. I'm an event caterer, not a teaching assistant. I have a thriving business running a pop-up Barista service at events and festivals; in full swing at this time of year. I had bookings to honour and customers to serve. Nobody would have compensated me for losses had I cancelled them. Despite repeated requests for a delay the professional body failed to acquiesce or to send documents in a format my computer could process. I didn't even have a date or time. My absence of response should have indicated I wouldn't be there.  Nonetheless the hearing went ahead.

Research into the cost of hearings held by this professional body’s predecessor reveals that eight years ago,  an average of £17,400 was spent on each one day hearing.  Mine was a two day hearing. It isn't clear how much it cost but £17,400 is not far off twice what I earned as a Teaching Assistant.

Speaking to me after the event last week, a freelance journalist working for one of the tabloids remarked; 

"It was like a North Korean show trial. They kept us waiting for six hours while they made their decision. The wouldn't even tell us how to spell your name properly." 

It was also clear talking to other journalists that they themselves felt badly treated. They remarked on the 'one sided' nature of the hearing and of me 'being treated unfairly’.

I have made no secret that transphobic treatment at work meant I would never return to the field of education.  Education, particularly in Wales, can be extremely narrow minded.  You can withstand these things for so long.  I endured it for 10 years as a single Mum bringing up a family.  I hate taking handouts and I needed a job; it provided a means to survive, no more. When I quit in Spring 2016, I moved back to Northern England for good. It makes me wonder why, 18 months later, an organisation from a neighbouring country still seeks to ban me from a job I don’t want and in such a costly manner.  It seems bizarre, pointless, and an shameful waste of public resources.

Being Trans is tough enough.  You learn to cope and adjust to the public intolerance but when you do something others disapprove of, the term 'transgender' is pinned to you like a pink triangle.  I was described variously in the national press as a 'Transgender Porn Star' and 'Transgender Teaching Assistant'. Quite how the prefix 'transgender' is supposed to help the public understanding, I'm not quite sure. I'm a heterosexual woman, I did straight porn that appears, shrink wrapped on the top shelf of almost every corner newsagent in the UK. Surely my being Trans was irrelevant. Maybe the addition of ‘transgender’ is intended to make the story seem smuttier and more salacious.

I accepted by resigning that my two jobs were considered to be incompatible.  I did not behave unprofessionally. I never mixed my two roles or discussed one while doing the other.  Yet in the end it was clearly best for me to leave: My employer no longer wanted me, I hated my job and I hated transphobia ridden education.  I moved away gladly from a community which had often shown intolerance. It is my body; my choice; my life. I chose a new life where I could be myself.

My resignation should have been an end to things. Instead, the investigation was raised and been relentlessly pursued ever since.

The press report that the hearing was adjourned indefinitely. You can read about it if you wish in the online editions of the tabloids.  See what you think. My heart sank as I read them.  It is 2017 not 1657. Yet 360 years on, Wales seems to have taken a complete circle back to it's witch hunting past.


Huggs, Jane xx

Friday, August 11, 2017

It Is Time To Treat Erotic Models As People

I am trans, I'm also an ambitious and well educated woman with a higher degree. However, like many trans women post transition, I've found that barriers to working as a professional abound.  My mother, a feminist, politician and writer taught me to aspire to be the best I could possibly be.  Consequently I trained as an educator, working in universities, colleges and schools. Well qualified, I found it easy to get jobs. After coming out however, few would employ me. I spent ten years working as a low paid teaching assistant on little more than minimum wage.  With a child to care for and rent to pay, I had little option but to take what was given. Having to prostitute myself by debasing the skills I had worked so hard to learn was saddening and depressing in the extreme.  Like so many, I began to ask myself why I had worked so hard at education only to be paid less than a man with the same skills. In consequence, I chose to live as economically as possible, saving hard to become independent and self-employed. I spent each day looking forward to the time I could work for myself and do so with dignity. 

I'm a feminist like my mum, but deeply shocking to some, I am also an erotic model. I have been for some time. The money I earn has been a lifeline on an otherwise low income. It wasn't the reason I chose to do it however. Coming out as trans, there are always those who question your right to be called a woman. I chose porn modelling because it was validating.  I'm a woman attracted to men.  I'm unashamedly pleased and flattered when a man finds me sexually attractive. I don't need it to feel good but it is gratifying. It doesn't mean that he gets to have sex with me, that is my choice.  I choose my partners and I seek out sexual experiences I enjoy and which fulfil me. I know good sex and won't accept anything less. Porn modelling can be an extension of that - work I like doing and which is empowering to me as a woman. It is an expression of my female sexuality and a positive statement. One which emphasises that women enjoy sex too. It does not have to be objectifying. When I remove my clothes and pose in front of the camera it is my choice and I do not demean myself in the process. On shoots, I am always treated courteously and respectfully.  Unlike my later work in education it does not feel like prostitution. I have talent and genetic advantages. Pro rata I get paid well. I love my work.


If you work in the legal sex industry, privacy will always be a problem.  My work has appeared in numerous adult magazines, yet fans tend to take it onto social media. Like it or not, when you sell photographs of yourself, you do make those images public. Among men who enjoy seeking out images of you, there will always be some, who through guilt or self righteousness, want to out and despise you. To me, it says much about their sense of shame around sex and their patriarchal view of a woman's role in it. To these men, women should be chaste and pure, at least their wives and girlfriends. Sex is something a man enjoys and a woman provides. Consequently, the idea of a body positive woman showing she enjoys sex, is wrong.

Some time ago, I had to leave my previous job when a man outed me as a porn model to my employer. I had never connected my two separate roles.  I worked with adults and not children. I had little choice, either I faced disciplinary action or left. Even the union that claimed to protect my rights refused to help me.  It was an object lesson in how some in society still view women and sex. I am not complaining. I chose to leave and move on. There was little point in fighting for a job in which I felt prostituted and undervalued. Taking the plunge, I decided the time was right to start living my dream. I now run my own event catering business with my husband. It is good to be the boss, living confidently and feeling proud. The day I decided to employ myself was a positive step forward toward doing a job I love. My mother, who taught me to bake and have high standards in the kitchen, would have been proud.

I also still model and I'm not ashamed to do so. The workforce body I was compelled to join, weeks before leaving, want to censor me still.  I am faced with being denied entry to a role I no longer want, in a country where I no longer live. It seems a waste of energy to carry out what is essentially a slut shaming process. One which maintains a stereotype of women who do porn as victims. Women who do porn are people.  They do it for many reasons, not all good. It is however, a job some of us are proud of, one that can be validating and sex positive.  Men have long since had the freedom to do what they want with their own bodies. As a feminist I believe women should be free to do the same. We chose this work because we wanted to. It is time to start treating us as human beings like everyone else.

Huggs,

Jane xox