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During Dr Helen Webberley’s hearing we’re bringing you Transitions, a new mini-series from the GenderGP podcast. GenderGP team member, Cleo Madeleine, will be joined by members of the community to talk about the journeys they have been on, the transitions they have been through and the moments that changed everything.

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The GenderGP Podcast

Transitions: Clark

 

Hi there. My name is Cleo Madeleine from GenderGP, and I’m stepping in for Dr. Helen Webberley for a special new mini-series of the GenderGP Podcast. Over the next few weeks, we’ll hear firsthand accounts from members of the community about the journeys they’ve been on the transitions they’ve been through and the moments that changed everything.

 

Cleo Madeleine:
Hi there, everyone. This is Cleo Madeleine, my pronouns are she/her, and today in the studio with me, I have Clark. Clark, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself and what it is that you do here at GenderGP?

Clark Meeder:
I’m a patient pathway advisor, so I mostly answer patient questions and queries, make sure everybody has the information that they need. If there’s any questions or concerns, then I help handle those. For something about myself, I’m from the United States, I’m from Florida originally, came over to go to art school, got a BA in illustration. So I’m creative, originally.

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s amazing. So what sort of illustration did you use to do, or do you still do?

Clark Meeder:
I still do it, mostly mixed media. So I like doing collages, large-scale stuff. I also did a few short stories illustrated, a couple of which were published, but I’m not sure where that ended up is, as it usually goes.

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s really cool though, because like, there are so many interesting people out there you know, in the company, in the community who can do amazing things like this, but you never find that out if all you ever talk about is, like, the trans issues. And then those are really, really important to talk about, but they’re not everything, you know? So what brought you to this line of work, then?

Clark Meeder:
I also have a history in administration. A lot of what I did was, at my previous role, I worked with education and local government. So I’m very used to working with vulnerable populations and as a trans person, myself, this is kind of my vulnerable population. So I wanted to put my skills towards kind of helping out, especially because there aren’t that many organizations or, or people that are sort of together cohesively and sort of working towards addressing kind of immediate needs, you know, healthcare access, support, that kind of thing.

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s so true. I come from like an administrative background in education, but also I was in academia for a while. And what are the things that really struck me while I was, there was the lack of provision for, you know, marginalized groups in general, but also for trans people specifically. And I came out of that thinking, you know, yeah, where are the services? Where is the support? So how long have you been with GGP?

Clark Meeder:
Not very long. About five months now.

Cleo Madeleine:
Oh, cool. You got here just before I did. No, that’s cool. I sometimes feel like I’m in, I don’t know if it’s a position of privilege or a lack of privilege. I’ve been speaking to some people who’ve been with the service for years and they know so much about how it works and where it came from. And then I’m just here sticking my nose in like, oh, what does this, do? You know, what can we do with this?

Clark Meeder:
Yeah.

Cleo Madeleine:
What’s your experience of it been then, while it’s all relatively new? That, that first five months.

Clark Meeder:
It’s been really good, especially compared to previous kind of admin and patient work jobs that I’ve had. Definitely, it’s kind of interesting because of also working from home, obviously with the background of everything else going on, this is my first job working from home. So I’ve been acclimating to that at the same time as acclimating to, you know, getting used to everything here and making sure that I have a workflow secure and just sort of figuring everything out in tandem at the same time.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah. Now that my partner for instance, has also been working from home and now that things are starting to open back up is going back to the workplace. And I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop for me, but of course actually I’m, you know, still gonna be working from home. How are you finding that?

Clark Meeder:
Working from home is, definitely for me, it’s good. Like when I, I used to work in an open plan office, which was a nightmare you know, it’s, I mean, imagine me sitting there, you know, without hearing aids in an open plan office, trying to, to handle a phone call, I mean, it’s, it’s yeah. It’s not a great situation. So this is definitely ideal for me. It works out, you know, I’m able to focus more on giving people the intention they need. I don’t have, you know, the environmental problems of, you know, trying to deal with that. So I think that it it’s improved my ability to work and actually, you know, has improved the quality of my work as well.

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s really cool. Yeah. I never thought about this job from like an accessibility perspective, although I guess that’s what anybody with specific accessibility needs says until they’re prompted to think about it. So we’ve talked a little bit about what brought you to GGP. Now, I want to take a step back and talk a little bit about, I’m never sure what to call this. I feel like when it’s trans people talking to cis people, it’s very easy to talk about, you know, transitions and journeys and so on and so forth when it’s trans people talking to trans people is like.

Clark Meeder:
Yeah, right?

Cleo Madeleine:
Like what do we call this again? When we first spoke about this podcast, and we talked about this idea of the moment that changes everything for you, were there any particular moments or a particular moment that led to mind for you?

Clark Meeder:
Like in terms of like moments as in, cause I have a few that kind of stick out to me, just sort of like the moment of like, kind of thinking about gender for the first time in that kind of framing of like, you know, is this not quite right? You know, what’s going on was, I was pretty young, you know, when I first figured it out and it’s, I figured it out in the silliest way possible, playing Resident Evil where you have to select, where you have to select a player character, and it was Leon or Claire, right? You know, I’m playing it, and you know, with my friends and they all wanted to play Claire because they were little girls and they wanted to play Claire and I was sitting there and I was like, you know what? I think I want to be Leon. Like I think this is good. And then I did like a full play through as Leon. And I was like, actually, this is cool. Like, actually, this is good. And then that was like, that’s the earliest moment that I can recall for me of like, “actually, this is way better.”

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s amazing. And like, I get it, but also I’m conflicted because for me, obviously the ideal gender presentation is Claire, but I do think Leon is cooler.

Clark Meeder:
I like, like I liked Claire’s biker outfit though. Like when, in Resident Evil 2, it just looks super good. I always liked the jacket. And I was like, that’s like, if they made a real jacket like that, that’d be amazing.

Cleo Madeleine:
I feel like there’s a whole other podcast project to be had in the complicated gender dynamics of resident evil. So I’ll have to drop you a line about that one. It is funny though, because like at GenderGP, but also in the wider community, in the discourse surrounding trans issues, there are people not even like, you know, transphobic people, just like people who aren’t certain who aren’t like informed on the issue, who will say, you know, how can kids know that they’re transgender or how can they know that they’re non binary? Like, aren’t they too young? But then like if you leave kids alone with like one video game for five minutes.

Clark Meeder:
Yeah, yeah. Like it was like immediately after character selection and it’s like, it loads in, and you have the perspective of like behind the character player. It’s awesome. I was like, oh, cool. This is great. Like, this is it. This is, this is the real victory in this game for me.

Cleo Madeleine:
Oh, that’s so good. Yeah. I remember when I came out to my family or a little while after I came out to my family, we were reminiscing about like the old games we used to play as kids. I’ve got three brothers and they would always be, you know, Knights or soldiers or something. And I would always be some girl that they had to rescue. And I think at the time my parents, I mean, God knows what my parents thought, but they must’ve thought, you know, oh, this is out of necessity. This is, you know, because my sister wasn’t born by that point, and so there aren’t any of the girls to play with, and so this, this is what they’re doing. And we were talking about it, and I think my mom was just like, “Ohhh”. You said that was one of a few moments. Was there anything else you wanted to mention?

Clark Meeder:
Yeah. So in school I was always the tallest kid in my year, always and I always had short hair, our school uniforms were, you know, unisex. They were all trousers and polo t-shirts, so everybody, it was kind of gender ambiguous. Like the school uniform set up, we didn’t have the gendered uniforms thing. That’s more common in the UK. So everybody kind of had the same look, everybody, you know, had the same shoes and everything. And I was constantly referred to as he by teachers who just did not register, cause I didn’t have earrings. I never, you know, did anything with my hair. I never styled anything. I just kind of showed up. I didn’t want to be at school. So I just put the uniform on and left in the morning. And that worked out hugely in my favor because every single teacher would always address me as he, and it got to the point where during sex ed, we had to go to the sex ed class and they divided us into the boys and the girls, right? And I, of course, I knew that I was going to be forced to go to the girl one. And I was like, “here we go, it’s going to be, this is going to be a nightmare for the next, you know, two hours”. And I’m bracing myself for it. And the teacher at the door stopped me and said, and this wasn’t a teacher that I had regularly, it’s, you know, I didn’t know this teacher and the teacher stopped me and said, what are you doing? And I was like, I’m going to the mandatory thing that you’re making everyone go to. And they were like, no, you’re going to the wrong one. You need to go down to room like 103 or whatever. And I was like, oh, this is my opportunity. Because this teacher, clearly, this has not registered with them. Like they, the, the correct mistake has been made. So, so I was like, great, I’ll do that. Cool. That’s fantastic. And then I went to the, the boys sex ed doc, and it was hilarious. Nothing was accomplished. There was a fire alarm, because somebody set off a firecracker in their backpack, as expected. So not only did I get out of a full day of school, but I had just let that teacher think that I was a dude. And that was correct. And it was good because all of the teachers that, that teacher talked to every time they would, you know, single out kids or, or bring in new substitute teachers, no substitute teacher ever checked the list of anything. I just skirted through that entire middle school experience of like three years academically, and no one questioned it. And I was like, okay, transition is possible.

Transition is a thing. At the end of middle school is when I found out about what the word transition even was like, what, that it even existed. And I was like, oh, I kind of have already done that. Or like, I have already started that process just naturally without knowing about anything trans culture. I had no exposure to it. I had no awareness of it. You know, my school was in rural south Florida. So there’s nothing in my environment that gave me any information. I just found out, I think on live journal at the end of middle school. And I was like, oh, cool, great. So there are words for this and I’m right also, and a total vindication. So middle school for me, it was great.

Cleo Madeleine:
That’s amazing. Honestly, I’m super impressed that like in middle school you managed to get teachers to start correctly misgendering you? If that’s a thing?

Clark Meeder:
Yeah. That was the strategy.

Cleo Madeleine:
And again, it demonstrates that, like, kids are aware of this sort of thing on a level that we don’t give them credit for. Or, I mean, I guess, you or I might give them credit for it because we were the kids,

Clark Meeder:
But others, yeah. Like other people don’t, outside of, you know, the trans community or, or trans ally awareness, people outside of that sphere, you know, don’t see that they don’t, you know, follow this from the very beginning. They don’t see, you know, our past, they just see now. So they, you know, there’s a lot of questioning from outside about, you know, are kids aware of this? Can kids do this or do kids know this? Everyone knows themselves, regardless of age. And everyone has their own perspective. Everyone has their own kind of way of figuring things out. Everyone grows. Everyone that I know in the trans community, my own friends, and then other people everyone has kind of known. And some people have figured out later, some people figured out earlier, everyone who I personally know who was, you know, in grade school, you know, 12 years old borrowing their siblings, clothing or whatever. Everyone was, right. You know, I personally do not know anyone who has detransitioned. [Inaudible] is fine. You know, if that’s where somebody’s life leads, that’s all good. You know, again, everybody knows themselves. So I think that that applies to children just as much as it does to adults. It’s just a different level of, you know, kind of social engagement, you know, kids, like I said, at school, I didn’t have the vocabulary for transitioning, although transitioning was what was doing. So it’s also a lack of information for kids because I didn’t have the words for trans, I couldn’t say I’m trans as a kid, even though I was. So there’s also that discrepancy in the, the difference in vocabulary, you know, the kids generally do not have, a lot of the time, the access to that, or there’s not awareness of it. So when someone doesn’t know a word exists, they can’t use it.

And so, you know, a lot of younger people, I remember when I was a kid, I didn’t have the words to explain it. So I usually wouldn’t, and it was hard to try to explain to my friends, you know, that my friends would ask me, why do you let the teacher, you know, refer to you as this? And I was like, well, because it’s right. And trying to explain that to anybody without the right vocabulary was very hard. But then as soon as I got the right vocabulary, when I was, you know, just out of middle school, going into high school, I was like, oh, I’m trans. And when I had that vocabulary, it suddenly became very easy for me to just sort of go, this is what I am. This is what I’m doing. Cool. And it was validating a lot of, a lot of support from yourself, you know? Like, like you, you are able to go, oh, okay. There is a thing, this is a thing that exists. This is not isolated to me. And that is a huge relief for a lot of people, especially young people. That sort of realization of, oh, actually, this is cool. This is okay. I’m not alone. And that’s a huge moment.

Cleo Madeleine:
Yeah, absolutely. And thank you by the way for saying that so articulately, that’s really, really well phrased. I think it highlights this issue where some people, and again, this isn’t necessarily the anti-trans people, but some people are concerned that more and more children are, you know, identifying as transgender or presenting with gender incongruence. I’m sure there are lots of different ways of saying it, like there are articles out there that are like, “the PC left is turning our kids trans” or whatever. But there’s a grain of truth behind it in the sense that there is an increase in referrals of young people to gender identity services that we know this, but what you’ve outlined there so well is that this isn’t like some kind of social contagion or something like nobody is making these kids trans it’s the kids who already have this intuitive understanding, in the same way that cis people have an intuitive understanding. You know, everybody has an intuitive understanding of who they are. This, it’s not like a trans specific thing. These kids are now getting the right vocabulary to express that understanding. And it’s with the rise of the internet and increased visibility of, and access to these communities that this vocabulary is becoming more widespread. So it’s not trans identity that’s becoming more widespread, but that young people who are able to describe those trans identities are more common. And I think it’s a really, really important distinction to understand. And I’m so glad that you’ve brought it up. So I’m conscious that we are running out of time, but I wanted to ask, do you think that having had these experiences as a young person affects the way that you do your job now?

Clark Meeder:
I think it does because I have the lived experience of, you know, being a young person who was trying to figure things out, and being in a family where nobody else was trans, or gay, or lesbian, or anything else. I was the only one. Very few people at my school were thinking about these things. I, it was, you know, being isolated in a very rural, somewhat rural area. You know, we lived close to Miami, which famously, you know, is a, is a huge destination that’s full, but when you’re a kid, you know, you can’t go to a club, you can’t go to these, these, these events. So that’s also a big part of that. You know, when I get questions from, you know, younger patients who were saying, well, how does this work? Like not just the service, but like what even is, you know, this? And that’s very similar to the questions and, and line of thought that I had when I was young, because I just didn’t have anybody to ask. So I like being the person that can now, you know, if I can’t answer that question, I can refer them to somebody who can answer that question and I can sort of make sure that everybody is informed and that, you know, there’s good, reliable, factual information, there’s support available. I like being that person who can kind of coordinate that and share that information and get those resources out to the people who are asking and may not have anybody else that they can ask. So that’s really motivating for me.

Cleo Madeleine:
That is wonderful. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much. We are going to need to wrap up now. So is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?

Clark Meeder:
No, that’s all good. Thanks for having me on.

Cleo Madeleine:
No, thank you for coming on. I actually think this has been really good. I make quite a few podcasts outside of gender GP, as well as the ones that I’m so fortunate to be able to make through work. And one of the things that you always think when you have someone new on a podcast is like, oh my God, like, you know, what’s the chemistry going to be like, are we going to have enough to talk about? And one of the real privileges of being here at this company and more broadly, you know, being part of the community, is that you can sort of always trust that it will be good, and there will always be something to talk about. I’m not going to pretend to understand how that works, but you do. And I think that’s really been born out here, I think you’ve said some really fantastic, important things. So thank you so much for that.

 

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