en English

In this episode of the GenderGP podcast Marianne and Dr Helen sit down together ahead of this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHoBiT) on May 17th. Marianne shares how transphobia has affected her and her family, and Dr Helen discusses how we can address our own internalised transphobia and start working towards a more accepting society.

If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed in our podcast, and would like to get in touch, please contact us via the Help Centre. You can also contact us on social media where you will find us at @GenderGP on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Links:

Let’s make this IDAHoBiT a time of revival and restoration | The GenderGP Blog

The Dad Who Gave Birth – Freddy McConnell | The GenderGP Podcast

 

You can find more information about IDAHoBiT and events on the day on the official UK page. GenderGP will be running a live event about LGBT+ self-care with Marianne and friends from 1pm to 2pm BST on our YouTube channel.

You can submit your own advice, insights, and questions for the GenderGP stream here. We’re so excited to have the community come together for what promises to be a joyous, affirming event.

 

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The GenderGP Podcast

The Impact of Transphobia

 

Hello, this is Dr Helen Webberley. Welcome to our GenderGP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.

 

Dr Helen Webberley:
Hi everyone, Marianne and I today have got the pleasure of talking to each other about the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Bi-phobia, and we will be talking about the transphobia element. Hi Marianne, how are you and how has transphobia impacted on you, your family, your life, if at all? Does it have an impact personally to you? And then we can broaden it out to the people, all the people you’ve spoken to in the past.

Marianne Oakes:
The straightforward answer is yes, it’s impacted far beyond me. It does impact straight through to your family, not just your family, but your neighbours and your friends as well. The reality is I think we’ve got to accept that we do live in a, probably a transphobic society, not overtly transphobic society, but the way we’re conditioned and the language that we use, the way we’re raised to, you know, be probably cis heteronormative people, just means that it’s very difficult to change the whole of society to not say anything that’s transphobic. How does it impact my family? How does it impact me? Well it impacts me through my family, really. That’s the hardest thing I think that I have to deal with. I can, I can avoid social media if I want, I can avoid spaces where I’m likely to receive transphobia, but I can’t protect my family from seeing it and reading it and being influenced by it, I suppose. And even though they are very supportive, very caring, just every now and then something will slip out where they say something and then the next thing it’s impacting me, it might impact on how they deal with somebody else. So, yeah, it’s, it’s like a spider’s web. It just spreads out everywhere.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Yeah. And interestingly, I mean, we think that the attitudes towards homosexual and bisexual people is a long way behind us, but my daughter, one of her friends came out recently as gay and, and it was still a real that, you know, you’ve talked to me a lot about the shame and the internalized transphobia that people face themselves. And you know, my daughter’s friend who came out, you know, it was still a very, very big secret and a very big, how am I going to tell school friends, family, and what have you. And it’s, there’s still a big barrier. Isn’t that? Because I guess it’s just, there’s the opposite, which we were talking about the other day as a group. It’s the privilege that people have by not being in a minority group. And therefore, the, if you are a part of a minority group, then there is somehow shame or, or I don’t know, I don’t know what the word is. You help me out, Marianne, what am I trying to say?

Marianne Oakes:
I think, I use the term internalized shame because the truth of the matter is it’s something I think we can all relate to. We’ve all got something that makes us a little bit different, our uniqueness, and, you know, just as children growing up, we kind of learned not to express that part of us. So I liked the idea of if we can all tap into our own internalized shame, what are the things I wouldn’t want somebody to know about? It can understand how it is for people who are gay, lesbian, bi or trans, but, you know, the truth of the matter is in my case, it would be internalized transphobia. What you were saying there, that it is still a big deal, somebody coming out, the truth of the matter is, and I’m going to go back to childhood here. Once something comes into your awareness, and in my case, nobody ever said to me, this is wrong. I think of I’ve documented that nobody, I never got caught wearing any of my mom’s clothes. I didn’t get chastised, but the general attitude to effeminate men, you know, the, the pantomime Dame, you know, the comedians, the drag artists, you know, it was all a bit of fun, you know, and the idea that me doing something like that would be laughed at, the process of repression started. It’s as simple as that, from a very young age, I couldn’t say what age it started, but it hit me very, very early on. And then you’ve got a lifetime of carrying that and then it starts to turn into shame. And it’s very, very hard then to break that cycle. And even today in 2021, a young girl coming out who at the very least is questioning her sexuality, admitting to how she feels is as difficult, I think, as it ever was because she’ll have picked up the same messages as a young child. We can talk about trauma, you know, the trauma of, you know, living in that society where we’re full of microaggressions and people mocking or laughing and, and yeah, it is a trauma. It is a type of trauma, like with any trauma, there’s no rationale to how we behave. So even though now I could like to say, I am proud to be trans there’s a little part of me is still a bit ashamed about it as well. And depending on the company I’m in, I’ll withdraw, I’ll try and just blend into the background, which you know, is difficult for me, Helen.

Dr Helen Webberley:
You always say that, you always say, oh, it’s really obvious to everybody that you’re trans. You might think that, but we don’t. It’s interesting because the charge was levied at me recently for being transphobic. So someone we were talking to on a podcast was, said that everybody is, everybody has an element of transphobia within them, including people like me. And I felt like saying, well, how can I, how can I be? Look at the work I do, look at the, the role that I play. But afterwards I was thinking about it, I’m thinking, well, is it true? Does everybody have [inaudible]? And then the question I asked myself was, well Helen would you like to be trans? And I said, no, thank you. I wouldn’t. And so why not Helen? Why wouldn’t you like to be trans? And it’s like, it is that being different and being scared of how other people might treat me, look at me, relate to me, judge me? And as it stands currently, I don’t think I would want that experience. It was a very, very deep self-reflective moment for me to ask my own self or how I felt about it. Do you know what I mean?

Marianne Oakes:
It’s a challenging question, or, it’s a challenging statement to throw at anybody. If I say to someone, you do realize what you just said there’s transphobic? They actually get angry and aggressive at me. I’m not calling them a transphobe. I’m just trying to educate. And I’m not the best person for this, my attention to detail on trans folk, because I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life, there’s stuff that I say that could be deemed transphobic because the normalization of language will bring out transphobia. When we get these, this outrage that they don’t want to, what was it? That school where they don’t want to call it a girl’s school anymore? They don’t call the girls, girls in an all girls school. They call them people. There’s a little part of me thinks, oh God, you know, I don’t want you to do that in my name, but I can see that moving forward, I’m not saying that that’s transphobic, but it’s reinforcing that everybody that goes there must fit the criteria of being a girl. I don’t think society is ready for that level, but yeah, we’re surrounded by these little things that could be classed as transphobic, and we won’t move away from it until we can say without fear of somebody being aggressive towards us, just saying, you know, that could change, that could be nicer. We had the Freddie McConnell podcast, didn’t we, where we were when he went to the maternity hospital and there’s the nurse come out and just said, what are you doing here? You know, that that’s transphobic, isn’t it?

Dr Helen Webberley:
I think the other thing that we’ve got to be very careful about, and again, I was reflecting on myself as a professional working in this field, and also as a very strong ally is to make sure that we don’t do damage to people that we’re helping, you know, the community that we help, whether it’s through talking, counseling, educating via the website, whether it’s doctoring. And I think what we’ve got to try and move away from is the position that it would be better if you’ve turned out not to be trans. And I think the kind of counseling that we do or the acceptance, we were talking to a GP the other day and they, you know, they were saying, well, just don’t forget that, you know, this might not last, there might be that you change your mind later. And it’s always like, we’ve always still putting that caveat in, it’s okay if you change your mind, it’s okay if it’s, if this doesn’t turn out to be exactly who you are. And I think we’ve got to try and get rid of that, to be honest, if at some point in the future, the journey changes like that, so be it. But I think we’ve got to move it away from the forefront of our brains. Do you know what I mean?

Marianne Oakes:
It’s that unconscious bias? Isn’t it? The biggest challenge I have, I think I’ve said before, sometimes I sit in front of a family. So you usually got the parents and child, and sometimes a sibling or two. And it’s like, oh, the family are wanting that child to reassure them that they are not going to change their mind. And the pressure that child is under, your right, in, in a strange kind of way, it’s that unconscious bias that it’s bad to be trans. You know, I will openly say that there’s no reason why a trans person can not have a full and fruitful life. There is no good reason why they can not go out and function in the world as their cis counterparts. The only thing that’s holding them back is this belief that they can’t. And this happens to boys and girls. I don’t care what anybody says. When we raise a girl, we raise them differently than we raise a boy. And we, we tend to make boys, you know, not speak about their emotions or, you know, they’ve got to man up and that kind of thing. And with the girls, we taught her come here, you know, who’s pretty, let’s put a bow in your hair, and we’re already starting to massage their aspirations of what they can do. And one of our counselors, Diane told me a story once, I’m hoping she won’t mind me sharing this, but you know, when she left school, she wanted to go into the arts. She wanted to be, arts and craft. And it wasn’t what girls did of her generation. No, you’re going to go to secretarial school. And she said, “yeah, you know, I’ve always been able to earn money, have a mortgage, raise my kids. That was great. But isn’t what I wanted to do. But I wasn’t allowed to have aspirations beyond being a secretary”. You know, I do think this filters down through everybody, but I think when it comes to trans people, it’s like, oh my God, they’re going to have a terrible life. And the truth of the matter is we should be saying, no, you can have all the same aspirations as anybody else. Why can’t you? And we’re going to work hard to make you have them, help you to have them, shall we say.

Dr Helen Webberley:
It’s an interesting, because we haven’t touched on severe transphobia in terms of hate crimes and people that are hurt physically, mentally, emotionally hurt by people. And I don’t want to, because I want to keep this lighthearted. We understand that that happens. And we understand that there are places and people who are there to help if you are the victim of any transphobic event like that. But I think what we’ve talking about is actually that transphobia can happen at all levels and it can happen in the home. It can happen in your family. It can happen in the street and it can happen with your counselor, your doctor, the person who’s advocating for you and even worse. It happens in your own self because you yourself kind of wish this hadn’t happened to you. So how do we get out of that? That’s what we need. What we need to work towards is a society where there is no privilege attached to being white, able, cis-gender heterosexual, because that’s what we’ve got to move away from. Isn’t it. If there’s no privilege associated with those things, then it doesn’t matter if you, if you’re in that group or not, isn’t it. And that’s the place that we have to move towards.

Marianne Oakes:
There’s a saying that I use quite a lot for different scenarios. When’s the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago. When’s the second best time to plant a tree? Today. Yes, we knew back in the nineties, that society was shifting where diversity was concerned. After the aids crisis, there was a shift politically and socially to bring it about more inclusion. Sadly, the trans community still stayed very, I think it’s the word clandestine. You know, it was very underground. The first time I went to a support group, you had to go in the back door with a little carrier bag and going into this three-way could get, go and get changed. And so the, the trans side didn’t move along. But the reality is we knew back then that the change was happening. This is why I do get angry, at ignorance, Helen, if I’m honest with you, you know, when people say, oh, well, we didn’t see it coming. You know, it’s been here since the nineties. From my perspective, education should have started back in the nineties, but it didn’t. It only got to 2010 before, that we could talk about diversity in schools, but it’s education that’s going to change society. And sadly, for the older generations, and I’m saying that probably even the 15 and 16 year olds, they’re not going to get the full benefit of education that starts today, but we’ve got to start somewhere and it’s got to start in the schools. And if we start teaching people about diversity within sexuality or within relationships and diversity within gender, you know, that it’ll just become normal speak. It will just be, you know, we will remove that. This isn’t about saying what people most and do. I’m not a big fan of saying, we’ve got to change everything just to please the trans community. What I’d like to see is a shift organically where it’s filtered out through education over time, because we’re just going to be in an eternal battleground. And we see today it’s stopping it filtering into education. You know, this idea, we don’t want to be teaching our children about that. You know, and I think if we could just quiet the noise down and just let it start happening, then that would be, that would be the way forward.

Dr Helen Webberley:
I totally agree as usual. And it’s also which schools, isn’t it? You need to have that education within the school that we will think of, which is the school that children go to. And then of course you need that education in medical school and counselling school. And then of course you need that education in the school of life, the school that people learn, how to, how to be part of society and a contributor to society to make us all work together. And education is absolutely key. I mean, the education comes in many ways, doesn’t it? So we can read, or we can have books. You can have leaflets, you can have articles, you can have videos, but by far the best education for those who are willing to learn is from those who are brave enough to say, look at me, I am trans. This is my life, this is my experience of growing up. These are the good things that happened to me that made me feel welcomed. And these are the bad things that happened to me that really hurt me. People who are brave enough to share those experiences are how we learn. I’ve said it so many times. That is how I learned the best. I want to just kind of put my hands together and applaud any trans, non binary, gender diverse person who has been brave enough to come forward and say, I’m going to share my life with you to help educate others.

Marianne Oakes:
Just go and meet some people. If you get a chance to be in the presence of some trans people, especially if they’re giving a talk, I think it can be a great environment to at least get to meet somebody and understand the world from their perspective. This isn’t about brainwashing people. Whenever I give a talk, I always say, I’m a transgender woman, if you want to know what I mean by that, you’re just going to have to spend the next few years getting to know me because the reality is, it just tells you one facet of me as a person. It doesn’t tell you much beyond that. And the truth of the matter is, is I’m hoping you’ve experienced, Helen, and the team at GenderGP. You know, when you get to know me, my trans identity just pales into insignificance because there’s so much more, I feel vain now, but there’s so much more about me, which, you know, there is, you all take an active interest in my family. You know, you know about the birth of my grandchildren, you know, what’s going on, cause we share it, because that’s what friends do, you just share about yourselves. I think while trans people are still an enigma, privacy is our enemy. Not sharing ourselves with our communities is our biggest enemy, because what they don’t know, they’ll make up. So when I walk down to our local village, I walk down without apology. I’m not kidding myself that there aren’t some people that you know, are a little bit nervous, curious or whatever, that’s their problem, that’s not mine. And I’m fortunate. I’m privileged that I’m able to do that. But the truth of matter is the more trans people who are brave enough to do that, the more people will be being educated. But yeah, definitely go to an organized talk or, that’s a good place to start.

Dr Helen Webberley:
Well, you talked about yourself then Marianne. I mean, I’ve been here a long time and I’ve known, I’ve known you when your hormone profile was a testosterone profile rather than an oestrogen profile. And actually I think that the counselling world is very blessed to have you with your oestrogen profile as a female counsellor. I don’t know what your kind of male counseling skills would have been like, but I think sometimes when people talk about switching their hormone profile, we focus very much on breast development or facial hair or, or the voice and what have you. But actually there’s so much, there’s so much more, isn’t there, to a hormone profile and just what it does to the outside of your body. And we’ve seen, haven’t we, people tell us how their emotions changed, how their whole outlook on life changed. And I’m just interested, you know, do you think that you would have been a different counsellor in the terms of empathy and what you see with a male profile than a female profile?

Marianne Oakes:
That’s a really interesting question because it’s difficult sometimes to differentiate my experience. So one of the things, when I first came out at my first placement, I was living and presenting as male, but I came out to them and just said, look, if anybody wants to know more about this, you know, I am trans. And I spoke to the person that ran the organization, you know, and they said, well, what you want to do? Do you want to be a female counsellor? I said, I don’t want to experiment on the, infront of all the people. He said, counsellings just one big experiment. Every person you see is a unique experience to you. And I’m pretty sure it’s the same as a doctor. You know, two people with a cold will have different needs. You know, it’s not, everybody is the same. It’s just one big experience, you shouldn’t worry about that. And it didn’t take them up on the offer. No, no, I’ll, you know, keep my head down. But the truth of the matter is that the longer I’ve gone, some experiences changed and the way that I talk and the trans community and profiles change. Was it, was I different? I definitely think it was, I’m more comfortable to sit with certain things now. And whether that’s because I’m more comfortable in the room, I don’t know. But I used to sit with people that assumed I was on hormones and I sometimes felt a little bit like an imposter. I wouldn’t, it’s not about the counsellor, but I did feel, you know, here, here they are coming to GenderGP wanting to change their hormones and I’m talking as some kind of expert, and you know, the reality, I’d never changed my hormones at that time.

So, yeah, but I just wanted to follow up on what you were saying there, because I would describe hormones, it’s like an iceberg, the physical sides, the bit that you see on the top, two thirds of it is out of sight. That’s in here. And I think we don’t talk about that enough. I don’t think the people sat on the panel, you know, as experts in transgender healthcare, talk about what’s in here. They talk about the physical changes. Nobody sees beyond the physical changes and I’m willing to bet, if you start a group of trans people down and actually opened up a conversation, you will be gobsmacked about what we’d all learn from each other, and what a group of professionals could learn. Just sit a group of trans people in a room, record it, maybe this is something we should do as an experiment. Record it, and you will probably learn more than any piece of research paper. You would learn more than any other single experiment. Just let them talk about how they felt all around the world. You know, sit 20 people in a room. How did they experience the hormones? Because what you see on the surface is just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr Helen Webberley:
It brings to mind a piece of work that we’re doing at the moment on hormone levels. And again, it brings ties in that kind of, the transphobia that people face from their healthcare provider. You know, what we’re reading is you must be very careful not to let that woman’s oestrogen levels get too high. Let’s make it less than a cis-gender woman’s oestrogen level was just to make sure we’re safe. And it’s like, safe for who? Because we know that people need hormones. We kind of know what the normal range for a cisgender woman’s oestrogen should be. So why are we not trying to maximize transgender women to get into exactly the same bands? Because we need hormones for our brains, our health, our emotions, and to restrict trans women in any way and stop them reaching the same levels as a cis-gender woman is transphobic. It’s wrong. It’s, it’s treating you differently because of your trans identity.

Marianne Oakes:
When I got my recent increase in my oestrogen, do you know, I’ve never been asked how I feel. I’ve not been asked about breast development. I’ve not been asked about the changes. I never get asked by my doctor, they’re too embarrassed to talk to me. So I’d had an increase in my oestrogen and I went in for my injection. The doctor was giving me an injection and I just said, oh, by the way, that increased so it definitely worked, feel a lot better. And I said, I feel like I’ve completed my breast development. They’re not hurting the same now. And he couldn’t have a lot more flustered. “Oh, well, we’re going to have to have a word with the gender clinic and make sure that we’re doing it okay”. And I just thought, what about me? Why don’t you have a word with me to see if we’re doing it okay? Why, why am I being excluded from that? So so I went to a very, very, very, very good doctor and asked about progesterone. And then she, she allowed me to have progesterone and take me on to a different level. Just feelings wise, I don’t know whether it’s placebo or not, but the NHS won’t let me have it. Why? And I’m going to go back to what I said earlier. There’s no excuse for ignorance. We’ve not appeared here. You know, we’re not being zapped down from Planet Org, you know, we’ve been here all the time. You’ve just chose to not, not recognize as I suppose. One last final point on that as well, you know, you said about how I’ve changed in the therapy room. This isn’t so much the therapy room, but you know, when people come in and they just want advice on what to say to the doctors, and I’ve learned this, in part through yourself Helen, but in part through my own experience of hormones is don’t forget are a woman or don’t forget you are a man talking to that doctor. You are not trans. You are not anything else. Do not compromise. You can use trans as a prefix if you want, but you’re going in there talking as a man or you’re going in there talking as a woman, and I would never have said that before hormones, because ultimately, I don’t think that can be denied, but it shouldn’t be denied pre hormones either.

Dr Helen Webberley:
They’re pretty important things, those tiny little chemicals that my daughter’s learning about, for her biology A-Level at the moment, they’re pretty important things. I wonder whether her textbook said anything about swapping hormones, I don’t think it did. With IDAHOBIT coming up, 17th May, I think it’s going to be a lovely event with people coming from all over the world, getting together, bringing their stories, bringing their events, sharing their, their community, whether that’s the homosexual communities, transgender community, bisexual community. I’m really looking forward to it. GenderGP have got a panel of diverse gender identity on the panel. You’re part of that, Marianne. All of you listening out there, I hope that GenderGP bring you a good discussion. And for anybody who just wants to learn, I think Marianne, I’m going to take away from this, the image of a group of trans people, sharing their experiences, sharing the things that they wouldn’t necessarily want someone to know about them. It’s a bit like that circle, isn’t it? So everyone says something and, and share it. And by sharing our internal thoughts and things that we’re a little bit ashamed of, we can help educate other people not to perceive it as something that is less acceptable because you have that, think that, do that, want that. Yeah. So I’m looking forward to the 17th of May. I’m looking forward to your part in it, Marianne, and well done for all the work that you’ve done and all the education that you’ve given me. We’ve all got a little bit of transphobia in us, and it’s time to expose it and get rid of it.

Marianne Oakes:
Yes.

 

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