en English

In this episode of the GenderGP Podcast Marianne and Helen are joined by Heather Corinna (they/them), a non-binary writer, sex educator, and activist. Heather shares their wisdom from over 25 years of working to improve education around gender and sexuality for young people, and together they all discuss how understanding what connects us is more important than what sets us apart.

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.

We are always happy to accept ideas for future shows, so if there is something in particular you would like us to discuss, or a specific guest you would love to hear from, let us know. Your feedback is really important to us. If you could take a minute or two to leave us a review and rating for the podcast on your favourite podcast app, it will help others to discover us. If you’re a non-binary writer, don’t hesitate to get in touch to write for us in our blog. 

 

Links:

Scarleteen | Sex Education for the Real World is written by non-binary writer, Heather’s website, offering “inclusive, comprehensive, supportive sexuality and relationships info for teens and emerging adults”.

 

You can follow Heather on Twitter @heathercorinna. They are also the author of several books, including S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties (now in a second edition), Wait, What? A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up, and the forthcoming What Fresh Hell Is This? Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You, available from most booksellers.

 

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The GenderGP Podcast

Inclusive Sex Education

 

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 therapies.

 

Helen:
Hi everybody, Helen. We, she/her here today with Marianne. I she/her as you know us very, very well, and I’m very pleased to welcome Heather Corrina, they/them with us today. Heather, tell us all about you, tell us, um, what you do, what your interest is excite us with with your passion.

Heather:
<laugh> gosh, you know, I mean, in the context of what we’re doing here today, you know, I’ve been working in sex ed and education for going on almost 25 years now. Uh, I’ve been running Scarleteen for over 23 years now, which was one of the very first sex education websites and clearing houses online. Um, you know, to kind of, it seems a little silly to say it was the first inclusive thing online because it was one of the first sex education things online, period. It’s always funny to me to kind of talk about doing sex ed inclusively as a non-binary person and a queer person. I, I really kind of couldn’t do it another way because I’m right here. <laugh> like I couldn’t do it without, including myself. I started doing this work with younger people because they started asking me questions. And so, you know, for me, inclusivity, wasn’t something where it was like, I wanna do it because I need to make sure to include everybody, It was built in from the beginning. You know, I wanted to answer the questions that everyone had and because a wide net was cast that anyone could ask me questions. It was baked in that, of course the education was inclusive because so many different people were asking questions and I was answering all of those questions. And so this was an accidental thing. I, at the time that I started doing this, I was teaching Montessori full time. And didn’t really mean for this to be what I did with my whole life. And then I was at the time trying to like during the day deal with like 30 three to five year olds, then come home at night and do this. And you know, you have to have a lot of energy to deal with 30 three to five year olds during the day. You can’t do it on three to five hours of sleep.

So I had to, I had to kinda picket and it was at a time where, you know, I remember that the person running the school that I was at was of the age that they thought that the internet was a fad. And I got lectured quite a lot on how foolish I was being, deciding to do this thing of this fadish internet thing that was gonna go away, you know? So it was kind of a big risk that I took, but I didn’t really think that it would kind of go could Kah-bloom, you know, at this point we generally have, by the end of the year, anywhere from 2 to 5 million users a year at Scarleteen to I’ve written two different sex ed books now “SEX” which is a really big, almost 500 page book, it’s kind of, some people use it as a textbook.

Um, some people just kind of use it as their like younger persons, our bodies, ourselves as the, kind of sex reference book that, you know, you have you flip it open when you need it. Um, then there’s “wait, what” which is the book that I think we’re probably gonna talk the most about today, which is a book for preteens that myself and Isabella Rotman did together. Gosh, I mean, there’s so much to say, you know, with Scarleteen, what we do is we, we have a lot of articles, right? So we’re writing a lot of static content. We also keep doing the site the way we always did it. We stay in conversation with young people everyday. So we still have direct services. We have a message board, we have a live chat, we have a text service. Our model for doing sex Ed has always been and remains that we provide what young people ask for. You know? So again, what, even when we’re writing articles, when we figure out what to write or what to ask writers to work on, it’s based on what young people are asking us. Um, so we don’t sit down and say, what would we have wanted? Or what do we find interesting. It’s, it’s really all based on what young people are asking us for.

Helen:
If I was to sum it up, you are the kind of person that is brave enough to write the answers to the questions that people want to know, but they might be a little bit too scared to ask, or it might be a little bit taboo to talk about. And I, I first came across you when I was, um, at the WPATH child and adolescent training course a couple of weeks ago. Um, and your book was being recommended. Uh, it was the “wait, what” book And I had a quick look and I thought, you know, this is, I remember when my teens were younger, you know what it’s like, you don’t really wanna talk to your teens that much about sex and all that kind of stuff that you don’t wanna think about them doing, and they don’t wanna think about you doing. And so I remember leaving those kind of books on under their pillow, uh, under their covers and they’d be like, “Oh mom, what have you left me now..”, And then when I saw that your book was specifically designed about gender and sexuality, um, in just plain talk and I really, really liked it. So tell us a little bit about what inspired that book, why that book, why that age group, um, where were the questions coming from?

Heather:
You know, it, it’s kind of funny that you say that because even when I kind of think, and I think how do I wind up in sex ed? And, you know, even when I was working in early childhood ed, I was the person that the, you know, when you’re talking about, you don’t wanna talk to your teenagers, I’ve never really had that feeling. I was always the teacher that the other teachers always assigned the stuff that they didn’t wanna talk about to the kids that they’d be like, oh, Heather will do it. Right? Like all of the awkward conversations that, and I, I don’t know what it its right. I just, I just don’t mind. Right? Like I just awkwardness. It’s not that it’s not awkward for me. It’s still awkward. Awkwardness just doesn’t bother me. I think as much as awkwardness bothers other people, right?

Like, cuz we’ll have teenagers off and say like, oh, it’s not awkward for you. It is awkward for me, but I just don’t care with “Wait, What” Of the things that we were kind of thinking about is that, you know, a lot of the times be because what we do is online, we’ll have people say, well, if there was really great sex ed in schools, we wouldn’t need this online education. And you know, one, we don’t really agree, you know, for one, I think that the kind of education that we give, especially in public schools, I feel like the idea that you could ever have, the kind of thing that we give in public schools is really, uh, optimistic. You know, I think <laugh> even the kind of conversations that we have. You would have to change the social culture of public schools so much to be able to make the kind of conversations that we have with young people, safe, separate from making it okay with parents to talk about the things that we talk about.

I mean, there’s just so much that would have to change, you know, so we disagree, but it’s also too that, you know, usually even good sex ed that gets into public schools. It’s something that is all year round, like English or math. It’s a two week or a three week course if you have that. And a lot of it is about, you know, you’ll have a course on birth control. You’ll have something about anatomy or have something about how pregnancy happens or sexually transmitted infections, maybe about consent, but a lot of what really gets left out. And especially for this age group, you know, the kind of preteens is the much trickier social stuff, right? And this is the stuff that’s really hard. How do you, as everybody’s relationships are changing and your bodies are changing and your sense of yourself and what you want from other people are changing.

How do you interact with each other sensitively? How do you talk to each other in a way that’s supportive and kind, how do you, you know, there’s a, one of my favorite kind of conversations between characters in the book is that there are two characters and one of them is talking about how she really likes words for orientation terms. And the other one is talking about how they really don’t like words for orientation terms, but they have this really wonderful conversation in which they each support each other. And one of them saying why there’s a value in those terms for them. And the other are one saying why it doesn’t really work for them, but they they’re okay about it instead of something that can happen when you don’t model how to have this conversation where you get a really bad clash where somebody’s, you know, somebody’s just hammering each other down and then neither one of them feels supported or somebody has to be right and somebody has to be wrong. Or, you know, one whole group of friends has to be right. And then the other person gets pushed out. And it’s this kind of stuff where you’re not gonna get this in a two week sex ed class and you can’t Google this, you know what I mean? You can Google to look up how effective the birth control pill is. You can, you can look up a video on how to put up a condom. This is the stuff that you, you just can’t kind of look up. And we kind of felt like if you had all of this before you went into a two to three week sex ed class two, you would have a really great foundation for that class. If you didn’t get a sex ed class, what you got this stuff you would still do pretty well. If you only were able to look things up online, right? Because this is kind of the social foundation and the trickier stuff.

Helen:
Marianne How, how, um, how important is this kind of education to young people to have it accessible at kind of like, you know, the learning book before you go into the, into the class, isn’t it really?

Marianne:
Where, where do we start actually after just want to go back a little bit, you know, this side here of it doesn’t need to be online. I think it definitely does because you just said yourself, finding a teacher, that’s not gonna be awkward about it, you know? Okay. Your employers were really lucky that there was somebody that could live with awkwardness. And the thing that came straight to my mind was when we were talking about freud, when I was doing counselor training and mentioned things like penis envy and being anal and all of this stuff going on and a group of adult people all could in the class, just with them words being banded about in a lesson. So what’s it like for a young child and what’s it like for teachers? So I think to be able to go online and read is really, really important.

And God, how I wish there had been something like that for me, you know, I, I I’ve told this story often that, that I found one word in the library book by accident and it’s, it just opened up a whole world to me and made me understand what was being written in the newspapers about people like me. And, and when I found it, I didn’t want anybody to see me reading the book, even though it was probably a dictionary or something. So I think to be able to go online and access this information, uh, is really important. And I grew up not knowing anything about gender diversity, let alone sexuality. Uh, it was a Catholic school. They were teaching us not to use contraception. You know, that was the, the level of sex ed that we had. And, and my parents a bit like you, um, or less forward than you Helen, you know, they weren’t leaving anything under my pillow. It was just kinda fumble about, you know, learn about your body and, you know, let’s all pretend it’s not happening. And I think that was typical of famalies So yeah. How far have we come? It blows my mind.

Heather:
One of the things with this realizing what we needed was what we were seeing, you know, at Scarleteen, where we have older youth coming in, right. We’re more seeing 15, 16, 17 year olds coming in. So some of it to us was seeing what don’t they seem to have when they’re coming in. And that was the other thing is like, what can we give them a little bit earlier again, I’m a little less concerned with a 12 year old knowing how birth control works. Right. You can look it up and it, most of them aren’t going to need that right now anyway, but certainly knowing how to, to be empathetic and kind to each other, knowing that their bodies are okay, knowing that whatever their identity is, they’re all right. You know, I mean, knowing that consent matters, right? Like these are much more important things to us, right? Like, I mean, it was people that came in that already at 12 and had a history of consent violations. That’s something that we wanted to stop seeing. Ideally,

Helen:
It’s interesting. Um, you know, we talk about, um, what’s available online to learn. And Marianne was then was talking about what was available when she was young to learn about what, what her, what the words might mean, what the feelings might be. And when I was as a doctor coming into this field to doing all the learning that I could possibly do, I obviously came across the DSM five, um, category for categorizing someone with gender dysphoria. And I, I came across it again the other day because obviously I just, I read it and put it aside and it’s really shocking, isn’t it? That, that’s what we might learn about. And, you know, a strong preference for playmates of the other gender, a strong rejection of typically masculine toys, games, activities, a strong dislike of your own sexual anatomy. And it’s kind of like, if this is what we are trying to teach professionals in assessing, or, or talking to young people who might have gender dysphoria, it’s a really bad starting point. Isn’t it? And that’s, <laugh>, that’s why, again, when I like your book so much, because the pictures are just like, what, what do you mean pink? Who cares? What’s pink. What’s a tractor doesn’t matter, you know?

Heather:
Right. I think the good news is, is that you catch some of this stuff early, too. Like, you know, and this is, you know, like, I mean, I saw this working in early childhood and now generationally, I see it with people this age anyway, if we don’t teach them otherwise, right? Like younger kids they’re already here it’s that they unlearn this stuff, right? Like a five year old already thinks this way, a five year old doesn’t think that there are things for boys and things for girls and that boys are this way and girls are this way, unless you teach them those things. Right. The, they learn those things from other people. They don’t, they don’t innately think those things, right? Like it is the people that you have to have big arguments with about gender aren’t six year olds, they’re 60 year olds, you know, like it’s very easy to have these conversations with young people, young people get it.

It’s older people that it’s so tricky and they, and when young people get really rigid about this stuff, it’s learned that rigidity, right? Like it’s not, they’re very flexible about it’s, you know, I’m not our cause I don’t think I have it, but you know, culturally our gender and flexibility that, that we put on them that then they pick up and carry forward. But that’s another thing, you know, when we did this book, we had, you know, a small like group of in-person focus group for this and you know, this whole thing, they were like, yeah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. For like nothing in here, nothing in here was news to them. Um, I think the only thing somebody asked for it was my kind of step-kid was like, I need a warning on the genitals page. That’s what, you know, we have the page, that’s like they’re coming up because she was kind of like, ah, like it was, she needed to know it was happening. But besides that, you know, there was nothing.

Marianne:
It’s interesting. And that, that you mentioned, you know, just teaching 12 year olds about consent. And I had a conversation with somebody earlier and about what’s inappropriate to a young girl, you know, and what’s inappropriate for young young men. And how do they recognize what is genuinely danger? And, and we, it, it is kind of omitted, isn’t it? I’d like to think that things like the me too movement movement will be just consigned to the history pages because people will grow better, more aware

Heather:
All of that behavior was so learned all misbehavior. Right? All of the misbehavior was absolutely all taught and passed down. I mean, how many of us in our families have been working so hard to be ending generational abuse, to be the person that it ends with?

Marianne:
Would it be fair to say as well that the next generation of teachers coming through with good education, that these subjects aren’t gonna be awkward? You know, when we talk about the awkwardness, it’s kind of awkward, breeds awkward.

Heather:
Uh, I think so. I mean, younger sex ed teachers absolutely seem to be more comfortable. I mean, look, it’s one of those things where I have to kind of check my ego a little bit because I’ll hear them kind of talk about how it’s like pleasure’s included and they take it for granted. Right. That I wanna be like, well, of course I’ve been working for this for 25 years. Right. That they’re like, well, of course it’s in here them thinking, well, yeah, because we’ve been working so hard, but it’s good. Right. They should feel that way. You want them to feel that way. I mean, you want a little attribution because <laugh>, <laugh>, there’s been some sweat equity involved, but the notion that some of them don’t even realize there was a time that it was like controversial to consider that pleasure should be part of sex Ed is fantastic. Right. Like, that’s great. And I do think that we’re getting to that, like, we’re absolutely getting to that. We’re getting to educators that won’t realize that there was the time that it was considered really iffy. I mean, I got raked over the coals when I was first working in this for talking about sex from the vantage point of pleasure, rather than love marriage commitment. I mean, those things could have been, you know, part of it, but that wasn’t my corner. So, or reproduction. Right. I got raked over the coals for being queer. You know, like it, it, you, didn’t used to get to be a queer sex educator and not be suspect merely by virtue of being a queer sex educator. Right. Like that’s been changing. Yeah. I think that probably even in just 10 years, we’re gonna see things be really different around all of this, which is fantastic.

Helen:
And I think that that difference is hopefully gonna come from our younger generations, isn’t it, as they come through with the tools that people like, like us here are hopefully equipping them with. And it’s interesting, you, you talk about being a sex educator and the suspicion that comes around that, you know, what’s your motive? Why, why sex education, why are those two together? And it reminded me of a bit of your badge, actually the badge that comes at the end of your book as it’s okay to be weird. And it’s another word that kind of is like, you know, queer/weird, you know, is that, is that okay? Is that not okay? Is it a negative word or a positive word? And again, it reminds me of those teenagers who are accused of trying to be cool because they’re joining LGBT type groups. And again, there’s that suspicion, isn’t it? Why are you doing that? Are you just trying to be cool? Why is that?

Heather:
Well, and if so, who cares? I mean, like , what’s the difference between that and joining, being a cheerleader to be cool. So, I mean, if so, okay. <laugh> I was just telling, I was telling a colleague of mine the other day about a story way, way back when I first, first started an education and I had this radio interview and I misunderstood the time that the interview was, I misunderstood the time zone and it was a phone call not a zoom call and it was already an early morning thing that I’d agreed to. It was like six in the morning, my time, which was early. But in fact it wasn’t, it was like five in the morning, my time. So the phone rings at five in the morning, I’d pick it up and it’s like, oh, it’s radio, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, oh my God.

Right. So I kind of get it together after grumbling. And first of all, it was from the south. I’m not from the south. And then I neglected to mention that the program was me talking and then a preacher, like this kind of debate situation. And it’s five in the morning and I’m like not awake and I’m green anyway. Right. I don’t know how to do this. I’m not the kind of person have debates with preachers. That’s not a thing. And somewhere in there, the preacher said, had something of that. It seems to him that I’m just trying to turn all young girls into lesbians and because I’m me and because it’s five in the morning and I’m not awake, I said, you know, if I could, I would, because if I could, like, there’d be no teen pregnancy, STI rates. It’d just be like herpes and BV. I like everybody would have orgasms for a while. Like, it would be great, but I don’t have that power. So I can’t. And then it was like silence. And they were like, wow, thanks for talking <laugh>.

And that was it. That was the end of that interview. But it is kind of one of these things that, again, like, even if I could, and I would so what, like the whole world has been trying to make people straight forever and cis for forever. Right? Like the biggest machines on earth have been trying to enforce those things for a million years. And we don’t hear anybody yelling about that with the same ferver so even if, even if who cares, you know, I mean, it’s kind of, even one of those things where I’m thinking, you know, let’s say right, that a straight cis kid is fine because it’s cool going and is gonna go hang out with all the queer trans theater kids for a while. That’s great because that’s gonna give them a whole bunch of things. That’s gonna give them a whole bunch of empathy. That’s gonna give them a whole bunch of exposure to a whole bunch of cultures. They wouldn’t have, otherwise there’s no loss there, no one loses from this,

Marianne:
The best education anybody kind of have. If they do come over or two, our side <laugh> for a short time is that they’ll start and value their privilege, you know? And, and, and they’ll value the color of society better. And I mean, the rainbow colors of society that how, you know, diversity is what makes the world a better place to live in. If you’re forever shielded from it, you’re gonna be a lesser person. Because like you say, you’re not gonna learn empathy. You’re not gonna understand how it, what privileges are I got and I’ll value them and I’ll want to share them with other people able to make sure it’s better. So, yeah,

Heather:
I think the, the hidden thread in that kind of, they’re just doing it because it’s cool is really what’s hidden in that is we don’t want them to do that because we still believe it’s contagious. You know, it’s contagious, right. That if they get near us, then, then they’ll be queer and then they’ll be trans and then they’ll be, you know, all the other things. Right. But nobody wants to say that they’re couching it in all of those other things. Yeah.

Helen:
And then as well, you have the other side of it, where if you have someone who is transgender or lesbian, gay, whatever, and they want to try the other way again, or for the first time they’re criticized. It’s like, well then you’re definitely not trans enough. You’re definitely coming back to the, the right way you’re coming. Oh, thank goodness for that. You, you’re definitely not trans, if you, if you wanna try out your birth gender, once again, you can’t win. Can you, it’s really, it’s really unfair.

Heather:
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s another thing too, where when you’re talking about generational change, the good news there is that younger people definitely are far more accepting of the notion of fluidity and the acceptance of fluidity period, whether it’s about gender, whether it’s about orientation. Um, and you know, again, some of that is also how we’ve been raised, you know, in queer and trans communities. There’s some empathy in understanding that there is some rigidity around binaries because for a long time, everybody had to hold a really hard line around binaries because you had to hold them to prove that you were in order to get the things that you needed to get to be validated. Right? Like, so, so I certainly have a lot of sympathy around that because it was a longstanding thing that everyone was forced to do by external forces. And it’s hard to change after that and let go, but I don’t have that sympathy for people that aren’t trans and queer, because that’s not their issue.

Helen:
I’ve Always been interested in Marianne. You might help me as well in, in, you know, we, we talk a lot when we’re talking about the advocacy work that we do, that there are some people who just understand it and it’s just not a problem. They just get it, no problem at all. And they’ll help help us fly the flag or they’ll just get on with their lives doesn’t matter. And then you’ve got the other side who really don’t get it. And they will either just not get it in private or they will be really vocal and anti and against. And then you’ve got the middle group who could be educated and willing to learn, uh, and understand. And it makes me also think about those people who are in the middle of being, um, trans or non-binary, or in the middle of the sexuality spectrum, who didn’t feel it strong enough and were just happy to be kind of forced into the heterosexual cisgender group.

But if life had been a bit more free, they might have been able to explore that middle ground a bit more. And certainly, you know, I’m, I’m 52, I think this year. And there was never any opportunity to explore that when I was growing up and I didn’t feel a massive need to explore that middle ground, but I just hope that today’s generations have a chance to explore that middle area and come back or explore it further along. Um, I’m hoping for that Marianne, I dunno whether that, that resonates with, with youth that you see

Marianne:
There definitely wasn’t any space for me to explore except the privacy of my own bedroom when nobody else was in the house. But I just wanna go back to what you said about the side, you know, on one side, these people are accepting and on the other side, these people definitely aren’t then there’s this middle ground. And I, I genuinely don’t believe it’s quite that binary. I think humans and especially younger people are very egoistical. How does it affect me? Doesn’t affect me. So let’s get on with it. Do you know? I think these tends to be that what’s in it for me. Do I get ice cream? If I’m, if I’ve got a new friend. Yeah. Well, let’s go and get an ice cream then. And they won’t question beyond that kind of thing. I think the people, you know, I don’t like using the word, but the haters for what a better description are, the, the gender critics that, that, I think it softens the truth that, but those people, the question I have is what’s in it for them.

Why, where, where are they picking their information up from what’s going on? What’s wrong with their ego? Why do they feel so all threatened that they got to attack? Cuz you only attack when you feel threatened and I feel sad, but I think that middle ground you are talking about, I think, you know, if we are on a ship, it’s tilting our way and everybody’s kind of coming our way. And I think one of the reasons they’re coming our way is because of a, where we are with visibility. But I also believe that, uh, the younger generations are better. I mean, you’ve gotta put this into context in the UK. I don’t know how it was in America. You couldn’t teach about diversity before 2010. I mean, that just blows my mind. 2010. I thought that was modern times. It feels like medieval to me now.

So we’ve only had 10 years of been able to teach diversity and it’s still not fully blown in the schools. He’s still a lot resistance, but I do believe the more visibility we have and the more that young children are seeing us. And I think that podcast we did with somebody recently, which the name alludes me was, um, saying that 60% of people in society either know of, or are related to somebody who, who is trans, but you could also argue if you put that to diverse these probably 90% of the population. And I just think that connection, people seeing us and realize that we haven’t got horns and breathing fire, and actually that we can go and add value to their lives just by being good people and being good friends. Then I think it’s spreads. So I think that middle ground is tilting towards us. Now, I don’t know don’t if that helped the, and what you set me off on.

Heather:
I think what you just said, Marianne too, something that we hear really frequently at Scarleteen and have to kind of counter, you know, we still hear a lot of, and it breaks my heart every single time people come in and say, you know that I think I’m gay. I think I’m. Or I think I’m, but I want a quote, unquote, I want a normal family. And of course, then we have a conversation to be like, what does this even mean? What does this look like? Do you get a nuclear family? You know, we engage them in conversation. But then of course, one of the first things that will say is, we’ll say, you know, not only do families look a whole lot of ways, you know, lots of us have families, but so often when we do that, one of the first questions we’ll ask is we’ll say, do you know anyone like did in your family, is anyone in your family, that’s, that’s gay or that’s trans, do you know anyone who has kid like the kind of family that you’re envisioning? Is there anyone in your family that, and then almost always someone like that, the answer is no. Right. And the, and there it’s exactly what you’re saying. If the answer were, yes, I know, you know, you know that they would not feel the same way like that. That is so very much the tipping point for so many people. Because even for us to say, oh, well let, why don’t you talk to our volunteer, this person, let me introduce you to them and their family that then it’s like PFHOOO, you know, but imagine then too, if that they saw that person, if that person was coming to dinner at their family, with their kids and was a member of their family, it just wouldn’t even be an issue.

Marianne:
The, you reminded me of a, well, it’s not, it’s a true story. Uh, and I think it’s quite heartwarming, but my friend had a 10 year old daughter and the whole family went away to center parks and they’re all sharing acommodation. And my friend’s brother was gay. But all the conversation with the family was “his best friends coming”, you know, “his best friends coming”. And one night everybody said, right, well, you know, we’re going to bed. And my friend, my friend’s daughter just turned down and said, why is uncle Tom and uncle mark going to a separate, you know, why can’t they sleep together? That kind of completely opened the whole conversation. And the next time they went away, it was the boyfriend. And you know, and they shared a room. It just needed a 10 year old to state. What I would say, the bleeding obvious, who was anybody protecting? I’ve got my brother-in-law is gay. Suddenlys, he’s kind of left the family behind now, but the truth of the matter is he could never show affection to his partner in front of the family. And I feel slightly guilty that I never had that conversation say that it was okay.

Helen:
I remember Marianne when you came to my house a few years ago. I dunno when it was three or four years ago. And, um, we’d been working together a while and my, my children all knew that I was working with transgender people and that members of my team were transgender. And that Marianne, who was a transgender woman was coming to my house to stay. And so I think for my daughter Ella, she must have been about 14. Then, like when we were sitting down for dinner, they, they didn’t bother us. We just, we are the boring adults. Uh, they don’t wanna come and join us. They wanna go and do their games and what have you. And then she came in and she sat at the table just for like 10 minutes. Do you remember Marianne? And I’m just looking at Ella thinking, what are you doing in here now? I just suddenly guess like, okay, she wants to meet the transgender women. She wants to sit next to, to see what a transgender woman looks like, you know, in real, real life. So she came, she sat with us for 10 minutes, chatted and then left again. And I’ll never Rem- never forget. It’s such a, such a good experience for her. I guess

Marianne:
We do the talks in, in that local school. And I said, you know, what’s the reason, what do you want us to talk about? I said, don’t care. What you talk about. These kids will never get the opportunity to meet a trans person. So you’ve just been there. You could talk about, you know, car mechanics, if you want. And, and you know, when we do go and do the talk, they are so uninterested.

Helen:
Yeah. So boring.

Marianne:
<laugh>, you know what I mean? It’s like, there’s no kinda morbid curiosity. They just lean on the, on the desk and I need to come in like a dance girl or something to try and get the attention

Heather:
I was just recently recording the audio book for the Perry menopause book. And, uh, I had this really wonderful director for it. And she had not really had non-binary people in her life before. And she has two younger kids. And, uh, we got along really, really well. And at the first night after we were recording, she was giving her kids a bath and she was listening to some mix. I gave her and they were like, why are we listening to this weird music? And she was like, oh, I made a new friend. And she said, you know, I, I needed to tell you something, there’s something and unusual about this new friend. We don’t have another friend like this. And she was saying, you know, Heather’s non-binary and Heather uses these pronouns. And she was telling me that when she was telling me this story, the next day that her son until very recently had really always kind of preferred wearing dresses.

And she had said that, you know, when asked about it, he, it was mostly like, it was a comfort thing. It was textures. It was a lot of different things. You know, maybe it was gender. Maybe it wasn’t who knew nobody really ever. They just kind of let him wear what he wanted to wear. They hadn’t had big discussions about it. And when she explained all of this, her daughter was kind of like whatever. And her son, she said, moved forward and said, I can relate to this mm-hmm <affirmative>. And then the whole, he like got very serious. And then the whole rest of the week that I was there, the next day, he wanted to meet me very badly. But then the whole rest of the week we’d be talking, cuz she was on zoom screen, you know, we were doing remotely and he would just come behind her and stand with his hand up to me.

So like I kept trying not to notice that he was there. Right. Cause I wanted to just be here for him. But then you could tell that she would notice and just move him behind, but he would just be like, hello, my friend. Right. Like, just the most amazing thing, but you know, that is how it, and again, that’s even kind of like going back to “wait, what”, even with things like there’s the scene where we have the older trans sibling that’s in there. Just kind of putting people in, even when you’re talking about family members being like maybe people that are reading this don’t have an older trans sister, but we’re gonna put an older trans sister in here. So there’s an older trans sister, right? Like maybe you don’t actually have one, but maybe you can see someone else’s. So that, so that you understand that this is real.

And look, I mean, one of the cool things that’s happened is that we’ve, we’ve all also had people write to us with this book to be so grateful because that’s what their family looks like also too, you know, for families, this is a book that finally it looks like their family. I mean, that’s kind of the other thing with inclusive books is it’s not just the one kid it’s that when you may make these kinds of books and they’re not inclusive, you’re not just, they’re not just people that you’re leaving out. There’s whole families and whole communities and whole family systems that they can’t find themselves in. It’s a whole world that doesn’t look like the world of the people that are reading it. And that’s, thats just weird. It’s a weird experience to be reading what’s supposed to be nonfiction and feels like fantasy.

Helen:
If I might change the subject, you mentioned the Perimenopause and I’ve always been secretly kind of envious might be the word that older, slightly older. I’m not gonna put you in the older generation, Marianne, slightly older generations of trans men and women may not have to face the Menopause.

Heather:
I add, I asked an elder trans woman to write an appendix here because of access to hormones. And that’s really what it is. Right. And one of the things that she definitely included was saying that, yeah, the old thing where people were taking women off of hormones was cruel and unusual and there are still some people, unfortunately that still suggest that probably just out of sheer sadism and malice, but one of the things is that, of course, if you lose access, I mean, like, you know, there’s been HRT shortages in the UK and then , you know, if people get yanked off, I mean, here in America where we still don’t have national health, somebody loses their insurance or they lose access. Joanne that wrote this chapter wrote that, you know, she’s effectively been through menopause was like four times just by virtue of losing access to her estrogen. So, but yeah, hopefully not got, you know, <laugh> fingers crossed for you Marianne

Marianne:
<laugh> just to, um, add to I, well it started hormones. He said, you’re gonna go through a mini menopause and there was a little, yeah. But I was really pleased inside. I was pleased cuz I, you know, the, the sad part of that is that how do I relate to my friends if I don’t relate to their experiences on any level at all. And part of transitioning for me was to be able to connect with other women and, and be able to understand what they go through. So even that little mini menopause was, was really nice. And then it’s only happened once. But one day I forgot to change my patches and it was two days. And on the, it was a Wednesday when I changed my patch, if anybody’s interested, um, and I’d forgotten. And on the Friday it was, it was Friday, dinner time and I just went into the house and said to Vicky, what on earth is up with me? I can I’m dropping stuff. I can’t focus. And I was all agitated. And she just said, did you change your patch on

Heather:
<laugh>

Marianne:
Better go and change your patch. So I don’t wanna claim to know what it’s like, and I’ve got a measure of control. And if I’m a bit more organized, that’s not gonna happen. But my God do, I know what it’s like when your hormones aren’t there. So I hope nobody ever does think to take them off me.

Heather:
You know, when Joanne and I were doing the research for her appendix though, and I, I agree with this, we kind of sat and we looked at all the paperwork and we looked all the levels. And you know, I think in the end, she, we didn’t write, we didn’t wind up committing this to paper cuz we couldn’t of course, you know, studies per usual, studies on trans health are like, especially things that connect us all, cuz God forbid, we all be connected rather than disconnected everything that we were seeing led us to believe that, you know, if you were talking about assigned female at birth people and people who weren’t intersex that had a pretty prototypical utero ovarian system that worked in all the really typical ways and then trans women on very typical estrogen regimens, that it would be a very similar hormonal makeup to how AFAB women are post menopause. It really kind of, to us, it looked really similar. So maybe you don’t know exactly in menopause, but it like, it really kind of seems like older trans women and post-menopausal people born with the uterus probably are in a very similar hormonal space. It’s really interesting.

Helen:
We’re scared to say it aren’t we, if this, if we haven’t got all the research to back it up, we’re scared to say it, but I totally a hundred percent agree with you.

Heather:
This is really one of these things. I’m so glad that Joanne wrote this for me. It’s one of the things, you know, this book, it’s very upsetting. How not inclusive menopause material is and already in trying to fight for it. I have to argue with people and then people will come back to me and be like, oh right, sorry, sorry. It needs to include trans men and non-binary people. And I’m like, no, you’re, you’re forgetting someone already. And especially one of these things because it’s, especially for me, it’s I feel like, you know, again, I don’t identify as a cisgender woman, but I feel like, gosh, you know, cisgender women have so many of them have such a hard time connecting to trans women. And I’m thinking what a beautiful opportunity this is for you finally to be like, look, trans women have been through this shit with estrogen and adjusting to this. They know, right? Like they know they know better than you even know with this. Like you, you need somebody to understand where you’re at right now. They got you. They get you, here you go. What you doing?

Marianne:
I just can’t believe that it’s not promoted more for menopausal women HRT. I know Vicky went private originally because her doctor didn’t particularly want to talk about it. So she established a regime and now they’ve taken over, but they, you make it easier for in, in some, some respects. But I do think they’ll we talking into about stopping it eventually and you know why? I don’t know, but if it’s a cost thing and

Helen:
She’ll pinch yours then Marianne instead of the other way around.

Heather:
I can’t use it, unfortunately. So I gotta, I don’t why not call it, but yeah.

Helen:
And the other group that really upsets me actually that um, a forced into menopause are the youngsters on puberty blockers. And you know, Marianne knew you were describing, them there’d be a patch run out. And it blocked really quickly. People with ovaries who are losing their estrogen, it comes and goes. And you’re not really sure you don’t notice it, but people who forget to change their patch, forget to take their pill or who get given a puberty blocker. It’s like a falling off a cliff. And I feel so sorry for these teens, because at the same time, they’re struggling with their identity struggling to get noticed, um, and find their place in the world, struggling at school to do their exams while they’ve got all this gender noise going on in their heads, struggling in the house with the people who might not be so good. And, and then they’ve gotta struggle with no hormones and it must be absolutely awful. And we have to have to appreciate how difficult it must be for these teens.

Marianne:
So just to interject to, cause it’s interesting, you talking about that, cuz I sit with these teens and I don’t know, I can’t even to imagine what they’re going through. And I think you’ll agree with me here, Helen, we work so hard to maintain the status quo so that, you know, somebody who’s 15 starting on puberty blockers. It’s what they’re asking for society can probably accept that a little bit. And I know that’s not what we would demand at GenderGP, but it’s what the parents are expect. And they’re sort of forced onto a puberty blocker that probably isn’t appropriate without additional hormones. And that isn’t a conversation I ever hear being talked about anywhere. And I, I really wish it was because is it appropriate when the, the start issuing puberty blockers making you wait until you’re 16, you know, the psychological distress that that can put on somebody and how are they supposed to come back from it? You know, that the, the crying shame that the damage could be caused, if the I always gone about, I said they can’t concentrate at school. They can’t form relationships with the friends if they can’t connect. So they end up in the bloody bedroom on a computer, not wanting to engage with the world. And, and how much of that is caused by bad medical advice.

Heather:
You know, it used to be when the internet was less of a busy place, right? They were fewer sites. It would be easier for them to find support sites like scarleteen and now it’s much, much, much harder. So the likelihood of them winding up in something where it’s just gaming or winding up in something where the people that they’re talking to aren’t necessarily safe is much higher than them actually finding supportive places, if they’re gonna go.

Marianne:
Um, and, um, going back to education as well, if we could educate people from a younger age, then there’d probably be less internalized shame. I still believe that there’s a lot of value in mixing with your own. And if we could encourage cuz a lot of the children, I speak to say you member of a support, oh, I don’t wanna be mixing with trans kids. <laugh>, you know, because they don’t wanna be seen as trans and it’s all striving for this, this, uh, cis normality, you know, so they do end up isolated. They end up in this No man’s land where they don’t know where they belong. So yeah, education,

Heather:
You know, it’s funny, we, for a long time, Scarleteen was just Scarleteen. Right? Like we just kind of, everybody went there, you know? And so we so often have had people there that don’t straight kids, CIS kids that don’t necessarily realize how diverse it is was it’s not like super, super coded with rainbows, you know? Right. Like it just was always what it is. Um, and so it, it always has been interesting sometimes to see when people kind of notice and even, you know, with me, you know, I, I can think of many times over the years that I’ve been talking to someone and they’ve been really well connected with me. And then they’ll say something that bothers me and I’ll, you know, gently usually say, Hey, you know, I, I actually find that offensive. Cause you know, I’ll say whatever it is, I’m or, and then, you know, we’ll have a minute.

Well, they’ll be like, oh I didn’t. Oh like, and sometimes they’ll say that makes me uncomfortable. And I’ll say, okay, well we have some options. Do you wanna talk about that? It makes you uncomfortable. Do you wanna talk to somebody else? Do you? Right. Like, and even that is like, oh right. That I’m not just not like, you know, screw you kid. Right. Cause I’m not gonna say that. Right. Like I’m there to support them and how, right. Like if I make them uncomfortable, I make them uncomfortable. I don’t, you know, <laugh>, it is what it is. But it is, it has always been interesting because a lot of the time we will have people using stuff that just don’t, they don’t really realize until they’re all the way in it. And then they’re like, huh. But I think once they’re in it, they’re like, well, shit I like it. <laugh> like, so, or all these queer people have been helping me. I didn’t realize these queer people were helping me. I guess they’re not so bad. Um, or, you know, I’m sure that some of them are like, well, I don’t have anybody else. So I guess I’m stuck with these weirdos , you know, <laugh>.

Marianne:
I’m gonna just have to dip out now. It’s been fantastic meeting you

Heather:
Wonderful to meet you.

Helen:
Heather I mean, the people who’ve been listening have been able to see how, uh, animated and colorful you’ve made this conversation. I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you, your website. Uh, we will definitely put it on ours to link to it because it, it reflects you in its weirdness in its queerness, in its color and the, the very accessibility of it. And the fact that it’s not scared to say those questions that everyone wants to ask. And that might be a little bit too scared to, well, they might just wanna pop the website under their kids bedroom pillow, like I did with mine. Thank you so much. And your books, we’ll put the link to the books that you’ve written and at the bottom of the podcast, for these, for those who would find them useful and good luck with your menopause book, I, it was, it was something that we were talking about this week saying that there’s just not enough out there on that subject. So thank you for writing that as well. We look forward to it, hearing it all, reading it. Um, and thank you for joining us.

Heather:
Thank you for having me.

 

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