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The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Lichen on a picnic table: I enjoy noticing and recording tiny details

I’m here to explore my personal history with the aim of sharing it more widely. The more queer stories out there, the better chance of people finding those they can relate to.

Sharing my process here is a gesture of trust. It’s mainly so that others on that questioning path might find recognisable signposts or comfort, but it’s also for my loved ones to understand The Transgender Thing a bit better. Some thought that it came out of the blue, because I’d not shared until the last minute. Some thought it a whimsical or trendy choice, despite my total inability to be on-trend in other areas of my life.

‘Just Joey’ rose

Thoughtful, compassionate questions are welcome and I will do my best to answer them in a way that respects both parties. I will not be engaging with trolls, as it is a blatant waste of everybody’s time.

If you are a grammar nerd, please feel free to leave your corrections in the comments. I mean that in all seriousness. Constructive criticism of any variety is welcome. I wish to do better. Thank you for caring.

All photography is my own.

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Memory Lane: Darwin, NT

While listening to the radio this morning, my mind was slingshotted (slung?) back to 1990 Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, the setting of my first panic attack.

The radio program was on the subject of East Timor’s 1999 historic vote for independence and the subsequent Indonesian violence. Back in 1990 I knew a few white Aussie activists who were working to help the East Timorese. I was meeting activists from all kinds of social and environmental campaigns. Darwin being so close to East Timor, and having a miniscule population in comparison with Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, it was super easy to find people with similar interests and goals.

That didn’t mean that I had the social skills or wherewithal to help them in their campaigns, though. I was merely interested and impressed and feeling grossly inadequate.

Lou-Ann*, barely 20, flew alone to East Timor to gather information and take spectacular landscape photos. Having heard multiple hair-raising stories from solo female travelling friends, I thought her incredibly strong and was relieved when she returned safely. She was university-educated, confident, outspoken and had an outstanding grasp of the politics of the region. She tolerated my ignorance to a point, then treated me with disdain. Being virulently self-hating myself, I tolerated her rudeness to a point, then thought her a menace.

Tom*, a couple of years older, seemed just as socially awkward as myself and we hung out a bit together on the periphery. He spoke often of his work to help liberate the East Timorese. I understood him to be a pacifist, also. One day he reappeared in army greens and told me that he’d joined up because “girls like men in uniform”. “Not this little black duck,” I said, gobsmacked. That was the last I saw of Tom and I missed him.

I soon realised I couldn’t hang around all day like a groupie, trying to figure out what was happening and how to contribute. My savings from my last job rapidly dwindling, I enrolled at the nearest university and applied for student allowance or whatever it was called back then. I won’t tell you what I enrolled in. It hardly matters now. Although my parents couldn’t afford to financially support me, my student allowance application was eventually denied due to their income. I was under 25 and those were the new rules. So that ended that and I left after only a month or two, with further-depleted savings and my first university tuition bill.

Meanwhile, I’d found a part time position at the local Toy Library and was thoroughly enjoying that. One of my favourite memories from that time is of the camping trip we took to a place called Batchelor. My co-workers were delightful and so were the children. And as I’d been living in a Darwin suburb called Fannie Bay, I was starting to wonder who had named these places and whether they had inhaled.

Pausing here to decipher my cat’s code. Anyone know what 14 means, when they type it? What’s a code 14? Anyone?

Now I’ve completely lost my train of thought, thanks to her and someone knocking at my door. It doesn’t take much. Where the heck was I?

Panic attacks, activists, small towns and cities, funny names… Oh yes. As the rest is a fast stop-motion blur of people and activities, I’ll present them here as such:

Immediately wilting from the ferocious heat upon leaving the air-conditioned interstate bus. Calling my parents from a phone box and forgetting the time difference between states. My mother telling me I sounded chirpy. Turning porn magazines back-to-front on their shelves while looking for a bicycle at the second-hand stores. Drinking rivers of soy milk from tetra packs, as I was often too overheated to eat and the drinking fountains were far too cold for me to use. Shyly flirting with a librarian who had helped me locate articles on ecofeminism. Being tutored by a wonderfully warm and intellectually luminous woman who turned out to be the mother of a Melbourne friend. Walking home from university in the dark, as I’d missed the last bus. Realising that the person I’d travelled so far to spend time with had a new best friend and thought I was hopeless. Wearing a rainbow-dyed Earth First! t-shirt to a dance and telling an over-excited older man that it was just a pretty tee to me, to evade his interest. Meeting so many lesbians that I simultaneously thought I’d gone to heaven and wanted to avoid them all. Hearing a loud, abusive argument between two lesbians after a dance and wondering whether someone was going to end up bloody. Living in a shared house of mostly straight women, despite it being known in the neighbourhood as the Dyke House. Reading the poem, First they came… on the fridge.

Still feeling so wilted from the heat that I feared I’d lost my backbone. Hearing Big Boned Gal for the first time. Sitting on the top step of the front verandah and spitting seeds and throwing watermelon rind into the garden for the ants. Those ants were voracious and swift! Jumping fully clothed into the swimming pool to evade said ants when I’d stood still too long in their territory (the backyard). Drying myself after a shower and immediately needing another. White people regularly walking past our house on the busy street, drunk and incoherently shouting and singing. White people casually making racist remarks about the drinking habits of Indigenous Australians. Hearing someone sing To Her Door for the first time. Fresh barramundi fish, often. Finding fresh tropical fruit and vegetables and Asian delicacies at the night market. Joining the arthouse movie club, to meet people. Being hit by a female driver who chose to check on her child in the back seat instead of stopping at the stop sign (instead of replacing my broken bicycle, she dropped me home and sent her father around to intimidate me into silence). Being perceived as a less-than-intelligent person by flatmates in another house, due to inarticulate shyness and my unfortunate haircut (by a friend, months earlier). Knocking on the door of a verbally-abusive flatmate and calmly telling him to stop yelling and that his behaviour toward his partner was unacceptable. Watching a friend’s brother’s land rights presentation at one of those eternal white colonial land grab trials. Seeing Bran Nue Dae live at a wonderful venue that may have been a church. Camping in Kakadu National Park with friends. Having my first panic attack at the air-conditioned shopping mall and thinking I was dying of a heart attack at the age of 22.

Finally, travelling to Perth with someone I’d met only once before, and discovering that although we didn’t like each other much, we could get along well enough to arrive safely. She even gave me my first driving lesson on a long stretch of straight highway, and promptly napped while my mind raced with every possible disaster, hands sweaty on the steering wheel. Feeling the sand vibrate and sing beneath my bare feet at a coastal camping ground. All those shellfish, merrily shellfishing away beneath me in the dark. Magic!

Considering I was only there for three months, it was a pretty sweet time and a useful one. A few years later, in Aotearoa New Zealand, I wrote short stories and dreadful poetry about it.

Note: Due to chronic prudence, I’ve used pseudonyms for those people marked with an *asterisk. 🙂

Muttering into my stubble

Almost Friday and I’m already sputtering, little fuel left in the tank. Few coherent thoughts and a strong desire to hide. But I’m happy! I’ve accomplished a series of tasks that patchworked a fortnight of socialising, exercising and working in the Spring garden.

Show the reader, don’t tell them, said my creative writing teacher. Fiddlesticks, say I. When you show someone, everything is open to interpretation. When I want it to be very clear how something affected me, I’ll bloomin’-well tell you. It’s like looking at a field full of flowering gorse bushes in New Zealand. One person will say it’s pretty, another will say it’s full of weeds. And the star of Fools and Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest, a botanist called Hugh Wilson, would say those bushes are a splendid nurse crop for native trees. It’s all in the interpretation.

I’ve not written anything substantial in weeks and that’s ok. Ebb and flow, growth and fallow, inside and outside among the insects and blossoms. Naturally I still wonder when I’ll ever finish the book and whether I even want to, any more. That’s ok too, it’s a rich mix of compost up there in my noggin. Consistency is manageable for me when nurturing plants and animals, not with creative projects. If I push too hard, I fall. Hard. Nurturing projects includes giving myself space to process new things, assimilate, laugh, rest. And today I’m happy to have fulfilled the tasks I set myself, despite the terror of facing them. So I’m resting and blabbing away, possibly incoherently, here. Yay me. Yay you too!

Hey, it was Suicide Prevention day or week or something, this week. It seems nonsense to wait for one day or week per year to check in with people, so I aim to keep in touch with everyone on a fairly regular basis, but I’ve let things slide a little and I’m sorry. I never want to become someone who habitually says sorry for being too busy. A family member has just been discharged from hospital after self-harming and although this isn’t an isolated event, it hits me hard each time as someone who loves them and wants to be more supportive than I even know how. I didn’t even realise how worried I was until they returned home and I cried. We’ve had some good conversations since then and I’m happy about that. We’ve worked hard to be good to each other over the years.

So, I’m happy. Tired and a tad irritable and praising myself for not scheduling anything for me to go outside for, today, and happy. Sometimes good things happen. Sometimes I overcome my anxiety. Sometimes I get online and tell complete strangers intensely personal things about myself!

Persisting when it’s hard

This post is specifically for any trans person who is currently navigating the medical or psychiatric systems in search of validation and support.

If it’s going well, congratulations! That’s fantastic.

It can be hard. If you’re struggling, you might think that it will never end or that you’ll never find the right person or people to help you. I know how that feels. I see you. I hear you.

There were times when I thought that I’d never be able to access what I needed. Why had I bothered doing all that reflection and research? Why had I bothered coming out to others and being courageous enough to disclose my intention to pursue medical transition? There were times when I was so discouraged that I considered donating my surgery savings to someone else, so that someone could benefit. Goodness knows that money is often a barrier for us! There were times when I considered self harm, which meant that once again I needed to reach out for mental health support (I hate it, but it works for me).

My life is gently re-shaping itself and being trans feels as normal to me now as being left-handed. I’ve enough loving people in my life to make the nay-sayers irrelevent. I guess I’m here to say that it gets better. Anything you’re thinking or feeling has likely been experienced by thousands before you. You’re NOT weird or crazy. More importantly, you’re not alone and you’re lovable just as you are, right now.

I found it hard to find people who understood how difficult the process is and knew what to say. Back then, I knew very few others like myself. When seeking empathy and validation, I was often left emotionally shredded. I’d never felt more lonely. Often I felt as though I was on a disintegrating iceberg, surrounded by well-meaning sharks. Hurray for the internet and for online support.

Here’s an example of an unhelpful psych appointment. Several years ago I made copious notes after consulting a local, government-employed psychiatrist. They had admitted that they were a beginner in the field and expressed a willingness to learn. Hopeful, yes? However the appointment showcased their ignorance and arrogance and was a stellar lesson in how to distress a gender-diverse person. Imagine everything you wouldn’t want to hear from a mental health professional, and they probably said it to me, while talking over me, jumping to conclusions and disregarding my lived experience. If they’d truly been willing to learn and to respect my experience and knowledge, I’d have been ok with that. If they’d been arrogant but excellent, I’d have managed. But ignorant AND arrogant left us with nowhere to go. I wrote them a carefully worded letter, knowing that those are kept on file, and moved on.

Then fell in a heap for a while. Then moved on. Persistence and resilience are key.

Like I said, things are smoother, easier now. I needed support and reassurance back then – I needed to know that I wasn’t weird or crazy or unlovable, and that I wasn’t alone in finding the process incredibly difficult. In the end, I made it through with the help of people who loved me and who did their best. Support people helped keep me afloat while all my coping skills were thoroughly tested. It was a modern replay of my first coming out process – lonely and fearful and confusing – but with the benefit of internet and life experience.

Use what works for you and please, persist. You are loved and valued.

For any allies reading this, here are a few things that affirm and validate my identity. You may choose to support your trans loved ones in similar ways:

Strangers call me sir, buddy, mate, mister, etc. My support people use my pronouns (he/him or they/them) when referring to me in conversations or paperwork. My sibling refers to me as their brother. Mail arrives correctly addressed – Mr (or no title) then my chosen name. A friend tells me I’m handsome. A medical specialist shakes my hand at the beginning and end of each appointment. A friend who is still coming to terms with my identity uses non-gendered language around me as a compromise. I appreciate all these things.

On Agoraphobia

As usual I see ghostly strands of thought and oddly shaped puzzle pieces connecting myself to the wider world. It would be satisfying to think of myself as wholly self-contained, and yet I’d be mistaken. My friend’s latest blog post, the articles on agoraphobia I downloaded years ago, even today’s heart-jolting awakening by unannounced tradespeople, they all contains bits and bobs that bind me together.

Do you experience agoraphobia? Have you ever? I’ve tried to explain it to numerous people over the years and yet some still encourage me to go for a relaxing drive, or to travel unaccompanied to see family, as though it were no great thing. Once again they prompt me to question my communicative abilities along with their listening skills.

Those who have experienced it, however, truly get it. And those with uncommonly wonderful listening skills, well, I’m thankful beyond measure for them. Without them I felt formless, unfathomable, and sad.

Today I was rereading the academic papers I’d downloaded and printed snippets of, and all manner of connections were pealing like bells in my head. I started thinking of traditional Maori healing and what I’ve heard about its holistic nature. I remembered how thankful I’d been for the feminist bookshop, even though my experience of working there was dire. Feminists and feminist literature had made so much sense of my own experience, during my early adulthood, that I’d thought I could stop searching and start enjoying life. Now I connected dots between identity, personal relationships and cults, sensitisation to invalidation and coercion and shopping malls, and between my interests in bio-biologie, Temple Grandin and outdoor pursuits. I started seeing my ‘affliction’ in a whole new light. And I wanted to write again, after a period of wondering what’s the point.

At this point my lovely new cat is making alarming editorial decisions, forcing me to cut this post short. Here’s a link to one of the helpful scholarly items, and here’s another. Please share any links that you think I’d enjoy or find helpful. Thank you!

Theory vs reality

Although I knew from a young age that giving birth wasn’t really for me, I went through a phase of romanticising home births and midwifery. It was during my New Age vegetarian, commune-dwelling phase, which makes sense to me, at least. I daydreamed about being a midwife, encouraged by a book called Spiritual Midwifery.

When I shared this romantic vision with older women, they were scathing. It was bad enough being subjected to male doctors in hospitals, but who would want a young midwife who hadn’t given birth themselves, at a home birth? I was hurt… and promptly moved onto my next obsession (herbs, seed saving or finding Amelia Earhart, probably).

I think of this whenever someone wants to be a therapist without experiencing therapy themselves, or wants to design gardens without having ever gardened. There’s something about the lived experience that you just can’t learn any other way. You can learn a lot through careful reading and deep listening, but experience is something else.

I’ve been thinking a lot about knowledge and who owns it and who is entitled to it. Who gets to share it, and with whom. There’s a lot of information about certain indigenous Australian and NZ plants that I’m not entitled to because it’s cultural knowledge, for example. I can’t just rock up with my hand out and my white entitlement blaring and expect to be bestowed with another culture’s treasures. There are pre-requisites and responsibilities and consequences beyond my understanding. I can complain and be offended all I like and it just makes me look silly.

Nor can I speak on the subject except in vague, broad terms. I can talk about my own personal use of these plants, but I’ll never be an expert. If I claimed to be, well, silly me.

I bet you can see where I’m going with this.

Yes, back to gender, and sharing information and experiences about this, on a platform such as this. There are limits. For me, at least. Some things I will only share in person, with people entitled to hear it. That’s fair, right? Don’t we all make judgement calls about this stuff? As willing as I am to embrace vulnerability, there is a time and a place. There is too much scope for misunderstanding and misuse by the wrong people.

This week I was talking with a friend about their autism and they told me about a book, a compilation of writing by autistic people, edited by someone who recognised that he couldn’t speak on their behalf. Instead of theorising and speculating, he listened. Really listened. How refreshing!

All too often I have shared a tiny part of my gender transition process with a non-trans person and they’ve started theorising right in front of me. Then offered their ‘insights’ as though I should be impressed and grateful. What the heck, people? What happened to listening to the person actually living that experience right in front of you?

I don’t know what that’s about but it’s annoying and isolating. I tend to clam up instead of calling them out, because… I don’t know, shock or politeness? Gratitude that they still want me in their life? That’s just sad. I need to raise the bar and have those difficult conversations and yes, risk hearing that I am being tolerated rather than appreciated. Or that my lived experience is worthless in their eyes.

There’s no way to tidy this post up and tie a bow around it. So I’ll end it here, all misshapen and muddy, and plant a stick to remind me to return and think some more. Thank you for listening. 😊

My new pet makes me happy

After much deliberation I adopted an adult cat.

I considered rats instead, since I’d been denied that pleasure as a child. My siblings and I had enjoyed pet mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats and birds galore, so I’m not too bitter, but I always wanted rats. Sigh. But I know where I am with cats and I had to consider who might look after my pets if I ever managed to go away somewhere. I can just imagine my friends’ faces if confronted with friendly long-tailed rodents. Hmm…

My new pal had been surrendered to the animal shelter for reasons unknown. I know the stated reason. I just don’t believe it. But that doesn’t really matter because I’m not here to judge. Things happen. She’s obviously been well treated and is now quickly adjusting to her new home and purring up a storm. She’s a corker.

She also has a strange name that I can’t share here. Not sure I’ll change it on the paperwork because agh, bureaucracy, but at home she’s Meg or Mog.

People here were so sweet about the death of Puss. Thank you, thank you. It was much appreciated. ❤

Cults: my own experience

Fair warning: this is a long one, so I’ll give you the short version first:

In my youth I was involved in a cult and in some special interest groups that exhibited cult-like qualities. I later left an abusive relationship with a person who had plans to become the charismatic leader of their own cult – motivated, I believe, by their traumatic experiences in an evangelical church/cult. So when I encountered accusations of cult-like behaviour in transgender communities, I was alarmed and did my own research. I now believe that my own trans-centric, transfabulous social experiences do not qualify them/us for cult status.

Now here’s the long version:

One of the things I truly, madly, deeply appreciate about my trans community is the phrase “you do you.” This is conveys a message of inclusion to people who are frequently subjected to exclusion by the wider community. The message is that you don’t have to pretend to be anyone but yourself with us. You are great as you are. We celebrate diversity. Welcome!

I’d like to emphasise the point that we are often subjected to exclusion (and worse) by the wider community. As a result, many of us have depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

Early on in my decisionmaking process, I noticed that there were people who were detransitioning. For those who aren’t familiar with the lingo, detransitioning is when someone who started gender transition (otherwise known as gender affirmation) decides to stop medical treatment and reverse the process as far as possible. I say as far as possible because some aspects are irreversible. This was all discussed with me in depth, as part of my hormone approval process.

Because I am nothing if not thorough when making decisions, I paid attention to what people said about their own experiences of detransitioning. I read their blog posts and sought out YouTube videos on the subject. I like need to think ahead and factor in Plans B, C and D. Just in case.

Some people had been excluded from their straight/gay/lesbian/religious communities when they came out as trans, and that had been highly distressing. It had left them without suitable support while navigating the inevitable ups and downs of transition, and sometimes it was too much to handle alone. Upon detransitioning, they were welcomed back into the fold, with or without recriminations. Or they remained in the trans community. Or they were left with nowhere to turn, because humans can be grotesquely cruel.

Some had reluctantly detransitioned due to complex and unforeseen medical complications, and I made a note of what they were, given my own age and medical history.

Others had come to the realisation that they had made their decision to transition prematurely, without thinking it through clearly enough. Or the information they’d based their decision on had been inadequate. Sometimes they blamed others for this.

And then there were those who had made the best decision possible at the start, only to discover that their priorities had changed with age. Maybe they wanted to start a family and hadn’t been able to afford to freeze eggs/sperm at the outset. Or they were thrilled with some side effects and struggled too hard with others. Or they could no longer afford the hormones. Or their partner/family/children/employer needed them to perform a different role. There are shiploads of reasons why people choose to detransition and I was pleased to know that it was possible. Just in case. You know, because I’m a worrier.

I was interested in the themes of blame. In those who did not accept responsibility for their own decisions. It’s not new, I’m sure tattoo artists hear similar stories, as do plastic surgeons, teachers, AA members and so on. It was the booze, my mum, the dog, my boyfriend. I may be an adult but don’t you dare hold me responsible for my own behaviour. I know, this sounds harsh and I’m tempted to edit it out for that reason. I don’t want to poke anyone in tender places. I guess I just don’t understand.

What interested me most in all these stories was the occasional assertion that trans communities are cults. Apparently we recruit (queers, does this sound familiar?), we coerce, we manipulate, etc. To what end, though? I needed to investigate.

I hope you have a refreshing beverage at hand.

First, let’s look at the key elements of a cult. I’ll quickly do an online search and see if it matches my personal experience.

These are from an article, ‘What makes a cult?‘ by Rick Ross of the Guardian.

  1. Charismatic leader
  2. Process of indoctrination or coercive persuasion (brainwashing)
  3. Economic, sexual and other exploitation

They are the three primary characteristics of a cult, according to psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, as detailed in the article. It summarises all I’ve read to date.

In one religious group I was briefly part of, all three aspects of this list ring true. We had a charismatic guru and our days were full of activities dictated by him. Every aspect of our lives was monitored. Sleep deprivation contributed to my submissiveness. Although personal interaction with loved ones in the outside world was discouraged, we were sent out into that big bad world to fundraise and we received none of the proceeds for our private use. Instead, it was considered selfless service and part payment for our (spartan) housing and food. I was often barefoot and inadequately dressed for the weather. It could be argued that I was a victim of a cult. However I did not feel like a victim. It was my choice to join and I chose to leave when I recognised the red flags. Although people tried to talk me out of leaving, I was not punished for it.

One of my family members belongs to a religious group that I consider a cult. Again there is an authoritarian leader and a strict set of rules to obey. Members are threatened with being shunned if they leave, and can be shunned for transgressions including spending time with family members who are ‘sinful’. They are sent out into the sinful world for the purpose of recruiting and there are negative consequences for not participating in this. My relation’s beliefs regarding creation vs evolution, and many other topics have radically changed over the years as a result of their indoctrination. While privately horrified, I support them doing what’s right for them. So far it is working out ok.

I’ve written before about being in groups that fostered conformity rather than diversity and critical thinking. If you’ve ever fallen off the vegan/animal rights wagon, switched political parties or come out as bisexual after living with lesbian separatists, you’ll know what I mean about possible negative social consequences. I’ve come to distrust groups that are exclusively inward-looking and insular. I distrust organisations, spiritual or otherwise, that encourage submerging your own needs in the cause of the common good, especially if those needs involve adequate food, housing, clothing and recreation. And I distrust groups and individuals who insist that their theories are Truth, while discouraging discussion or dissent.

A lot of these red flags were common to my experience with an abusive partner. They wanted me socially isolated and sleep deprived and obedient. They believed that they were the way, the truth and the light, and woe betide me if I wanted to leave. I’m sure that rings bells for other survivors. My ex had a traumatic history involving a charismatic leader and an evangelical religious group that punished people for being gay or gender non-conforming. When they spoke harshly to me, I could hear those words being dredged up from past trauma and recycled. Recognising this made it easier to leave. I learned much from that experience.

When it comes to trans communities, I find them completely different. Yes, we sometimes bond over the shared experience of being mistreated or misunderstood. They are very real experiences, rather than the imaginary threat of eternal damnation or promises of enlightenment or eternal life. Nobody is encouraging me to cut ties with loved ones or other groups, or to pledge obedience. Yes, there are individuals who get off on power trips and superiority, but there are no charismatic leaders as such. Unless I’m totally out of the loop or we are including YouTube personalities in that category? Some would argue so I guess, but good luck enforcing any perceived authority. As far as I can tell there is no systematic exploitation either. Nobody has pressured me to do anything except refrain from being a jerk. Does that sound cultish? Yeah, nah.

As for the indoctrination aspect, well, maybe there’s a case to be made. I’m not saying I was brainwashed, but learning the lingo was one of the hardest parts for me. All I wanted was a Transgender for Dummies booklet, letting me know the basics and how to access non-judgemental and informed people with whom I could talk things through. Instead, for the longest time I felt as though I would never measure up and never get the hang of the language. That can still be daunting but it’s not a necessary element of membership. I still couldn’t pass an exam if anyone set one. It just slowed me down.

It does help to learn which words are painful for others to hear, and when people are in pain they often lash out at those closest, so I’ve been told off a few times for inadvertently hurting others. Having said that, empathy and consideration are greatly appreciated. Diversity is celebrated. Plus, I can leave at any time. If anyone dared tell me otherwise, I’d see them for the insecure/immature person they were and ignore them. It’s my life, I’ll be me, thanks.

The last thing I was ever going to do was listen to anyone who wanted to control me. There were a couple of non-trans friends who wanted me to shut up about the trans thing or accept their own prejudiced interpretation of what I was feeling. That was never going to happen, so they left. I learned the hard way to remove coercive, manipulative people from my life. So that’s why this ‘trans cult’ idea surprised me so much. I’d have run a mile! But that’s just my own personal experience and I’m interested in others’ stories.