Transphobia Hyper-vigilance - Tasha's Story
When I met my darling Transgender wife, she was 6 months out of Gender Realignment surgery. She was still in the post-surgery elation period, ecstatic to be living as her authentic self, loving the body she was meant to be born with. She did fear the discrimination we would face by living as an openly Queer couple, neither of us had any idea how dangerous it would eventually become. It was sad to hold such opposite feelings at once: the joy of being in love with a partner we could both be our true genders with (I am gender Queer), whilst at the same time fearing the abuse this could cause
Sadly, for us the discrimination ramped up quickly. It started with my clients stopping booking in for sessions. Or we would regularly get yelled at in public, pointed at, told we were in the wrong toilets etc. Some of my LGBT+ friends stopped talking to me, I was told that I was a traitor (I am pansexual), or they tried to persuade me to leave my now wife saying that it was too difficult to have a transgender spouse (actually no, what was difficult was OTHER people’s reactions). Next our new neighbours became violent. I would have food thrown at me in the shopping centre, I was driven at by a car and pinned against a wall. We were both threatened with assault many times. They would climb on my roof, trash my garden, play music in their garden every day 6 am through to 2 am the next day as they were raging alcoholics. My wife was also driven off the road when out on her bicycle. We involved the Police many times and were given minimal IF any support. Actually I was told by the local Sergeant, “There is no law against arXXholes!”
I am not saying that the Police are transphobic nor homophobic. I am stating that for us we didn’t receive the support that other transgender people have. In 2019 after being diagnosed with PTSD due to their behaviour we made the heartbreaking decision to sell my home of 20 years and move to safety. Due to the housing market, we had to move 2 hours inland. This meant that I left my LGBT+ community behind, as we moved to a small rural community and we are the only transgender people here. I never wanted to leave my home, and I still harbour anger towards our abusers. I still have PTSD triggers, which despite my many Therapy strategies, will at times get activated. We moved away from physical danger, yet we still moved to an area with a large degree of ignorance about the gender spectrum and a very religious community.
By this point, 5 years into our relationship, and after surviving a lot if transphobic discrimination, we had a lot more strategies to deal with such abuse. Despite being a short femme presenting person, I am rather a dragon when threatened. People think they should be fearing my 6ft 4” wife with big biceps (she is a wood carver), they are greatly mistaken! As someone with three decades of communication training, I am in my element in a debate and confrontation. Actually, it takes a lot of energy to hold myself back! So, in our new home I am more skilled at explaining the gender spectrum, I proudly wear my Queerness as a badge of honour.
Like many other transgender people though, especially now having PTSD, I am always assessing the level of safety when we go out in public. I read the micro changes in people’s behaviour and wording. I am often looking behind us. I research if I can before we go to new places, to get an idea if they will be LGBT+ accepting. I am also adept at getting out of an area very quickly when needed, or alternatively making a lot of noise when in danger. Sometimes I will tell new people before we meet them about our Queerness, so that if they have an issue with this, we can just cancel the catch up. I have 6 rainbow flags representing different identities (e.g., trans, Queer, pansexual.) down my driveway to the counselling clinic, AND they are 2 metres long! I like to “warn” (don’t like this term really as I am not an illness to be avoided) people, so that the LGBT+ phobic people don’t even cross my front door!
The majority of transgender people will at some point in our lives experience a certain level of discrimination from those who see us as sinners, freaks, paedophiles, perverts. The discrimination can range from laughing at us in public to the worst possible result, death. As a gender Queer Counsellor, part of my role is to help my transgender client to prepare how to predict such abuse and to stay safe, how to set firm boundaries, how to manage the almost constant state of dread.
I also help my clients to focus on those people who DO make us safe and comfortable. We can be aware of risk, and we don’t have to expect it everywhere we go (yes, I did this for many years after the transphobic attacks). If we are always anxious if we leave the house, dreading abuse that never comes, then we allow the haters to destroy our peace even when they aren’t there! A very dear friend of mine reminded me that I can focus on the religious fanatics who have literally campaigned to have me removed from town, or I can concentrate on the isolated trans people in hiding who are delighted to have a Queer Counsellor in their area and is championing our rights
Be wary, stay safe, yet don’t allow them to steal our joy and our freedom