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Re: Discrimination by RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) against transgender woman

http://www.causes.com/campaigns/96412-end-discrimination-at-the-rnli-against-transgender-people

I have been fighting for justice and for the truth to come out since June of this year, but the RNLI has not responded appropriately or effectively addressed the discrimination I have suffered. Instead they have whitewashed the individuals concerned at the local RNLI Station and chosen to believe their lies and misrepresentations. This despite the fact that the RNLI claims to be a ‘Stonewall Diversity Champion’.

Here again is a summary of what happened:

  • In April 2015, Trevor Griffiths, the Chair of the Local Management Committee at the RNLI Burry Port Lifeboat Station (which is near Llanelli, South-West Wales) informed my wife they were ‘desperate for help with their educational work’.  As I am a retired teacher and I had also been a National Trust Tours and Talks Guide for seven years at Hardwick Hall, North Derbyshire, I was well qualified and had relevant experience, so I was encouraged to put in an application to volunteer with the RNLI Burry Port Station as a ‘Lifeboat Visits Team Member’.
  • On 18th May 2015 we were invited to attend a meeting at the Burry Port Lifeboat Station, where we completed application forms and talked about our experience and qualifications and how we hoped to be able to help the RNLI with their educational work locally.  We were introduced as ‘Kate and Jane’, a married couple, and they did not seem to have any problems that we were both women and married to each other, or that one of us was a trans woman.  Trevor Griffiths has confirmed that he knew that I was a transgender person at this stage, though it wasn’t discussed.
  • A few days later, for training purposes, we were asked to attend a talk at the Lifeboat Station given by Mal, a member of the Shore Crew.  The talk was to a group of local nursery children and their parents. During this talk, Mal made a joke at my expense while referring to an RNLI dummy dressed in full RNLI gear.  Although I was not standing very near the dummy and there was no reason to refer to me at all, he pretended he thought it was necessary to distinguish between myself and the dummy, saying that he was referring to the dummy and not to ‘this gentleman’. This apparent ‘mistake’ about my gender was in spite of the fact that he had been previously introduced to me as ‘Kate’, the partner of Jane, and as I have shoulder-length blonde hair and have also had extensive facial feminisation surgery – I do not look much like a man.  You will appreciate that his behaviour was very insensitive and embarrassing for me.  Burry Port is a small place, and we live just round the corner from the nursery from which the visitors had come.  During the later course of his talk, when he had paused for a moment, I waved him over and said quietly to him, ‘not gentleman – lady.’ After the talk Jane and I went straight home, as we did not feel it would be productive or helpful to discuss the incident further with him at that time.
  • We felt that the best way to deal with it was to invite Trevor Griffiths to our home so we could discuss what had happened.  Our intention was to talk about it in a friendly, low-key way so as to help them avoid this sort of mistake in the future. Roger Bowen, the L.O.M. (Local Operations Manager) at RNLI Burry Port, invited himself to this meeting.
  • During this first meeting in our own home, Roger Bowen said that Mal realised he had ‘dropped a bollock’ (to use Mr. Bowen’s words). However, Roger Bowen seemed more concerned to let us know that Mal was ‘hurt’ that we had the temerity to bring this up. He did not seem at all bothered about the embarrassment which had been caused to me.
  • Roger Bowen said that before I started as a volunteer, he wanted to get all 21 crew members and ancillary volunteers together and make an announcement to them that a transgender person would be starting as a volunteer. (Some weeks later, this friendly and positive meeting in our own home was untruthfully misrepresented as being ‘highly reactive’ and given as the reason for my rejection as a volunteer.  The formal rejection was in a letter from Heidi Allen, the so-called ‘People and Transformation Director’ at RNLI headquarters.
  • A couple of days after the meeting, I had second thoughts about the ‘general announcement’ that Roger Bowen wanted to make regarding my transgender status. I suggested that if he wanted to talk privately to anyone who he felt might be prejudiced or unsure about a transgender person starting as a volunteer, that would be okay with me, but that I would prefer otherwise to talk to people myself about being transgender, if I felt the need or I thought it would be helpful.
  • This seemed to be accepted by Trevor Griffiths and Roger Bowen, and so we anticipated that we would be hearing shortly from them about starting as volunteers.
  • A few days later I received an email from Trevor Griffiths, asking for another meeting.
  • Again, Roger Bowen invited himself to this meeting.  They announced that they were rejecting my volunteer application and didn’t even want me to start as a volunteer. The reason given was that, and I quote the exact words used: “the ‘culture’ of the Burry Port Station is too ‘macho’ to have a transgender person working there as a volunteer’.  They said there would be too much gossip.  I said I didn’t mind what people said behind my back, as long as I wasn’t abused to my face.  I mentioned my experience dealing with the public at the National Trust and that I’d had no problems with other volunteers or with staff or visitors at the National Trust property where I had been a Tours & Talks Guide and a Room Guide for seven years.  I pointed out that over three years of my time with the National Trust were after I had transitioned, and I had been fully accepted in my female role and it had not cause any problems. It made no difference.
  • Bowen and Mr. Griffiths were not open to further discussion about my rejection as a volunteer.  They just rudely marched out of our house, after dropping this on us.
  • We were both devastated and couldn’t believe what had happened. The same evening as the meeting, I sent several increasingly desperate SMS texts and then a long email to Trevor Griffiths, copied to Roger Bowen, imploring them to reconsider and pointing out that rejecting me because I was transgender was unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and that if they didn’t reconsider, I would consider reporting them to the police and the EHRC. (I had no intention at this stage of doing so, because I hoped they would be open to reason.)
  • I received a single short text back from Trevor Griffiths, saying that they thought they had ‘handled the issue as delicately as they could’.
  • After that, I was informed that Trevor Griffiths had gone on holiday for three weeks (although it was over seven weeks before we received any further communication from him).
  • I felt absolutely gutted, and Jane was on the edge of tears for a couple of weeks after this.
  • I knew I needed help in dealing with this situation, so I searched online for ‘LGBT support Llanelli’.  A site called ‘Spotted Llanelli’ came up.  I put the following post on it: ‘I am a transgender person who has just – this afternoon – experienced discrimination and prejudice against me in Burry Port, from the RNLI station, because I am transgender. Are there any trans groups locally who can help or at least give me a shoulder to cry on?’
  • No one contacted me from RNLI headquarters or locally until I made this very mild post (above) on the ‘Spotted Llanelli’ website, after which I was telephoned by Sue Kingswood, so-called ‘Inclusion Officer’ of the RNLI.
  • She said she would not have known about the situation if I had not made that post, and thanked me for drawing it to her attention. She was glad that I had done so.  NOTHING would have happened otherwise.
  • Sue Kingswood and Matt Crofts (Regional RNLI Officer) came to visit us the following week.  They promised us they would deal appropriately with the discrimination I had suffered.
  • They DID NOT deal with the discrimination properly and my rejection still stands.
  • I had to wait seven weeks to get any sort of communication from Trevor Griffiths, Chair of the Local Management Group, which still did not address properly the issues I have raised.
  • All I have so far received from Roger Bowen, the Local Operations Manager at RNLI Burry Port, is a contemptuous and dismissive one-line letter referring to the original incident with Mal, but in no way addressing the substantive issue of my discrimination complaint or acknowledging what was said by Mr Bowen in the two meetings in our home.
  • From the above, it will be clear that I DID try to go through the proper channels in the way I dealt with this.  (The RNLI’s Legal Counsel argues that this was not the case, and that because I felt eventually I had no choice but to ‘go public’ by posting on social media about it, this disqualifies me from being treated properly or being offered any sort of resolution acceptable to myself and my wife, because my posts ‘upset’ the local people concerned.
  • It is the RNLI that did not deal with my complaint properly, or in a timely way, and the situation escalated due to the incompetence and intransigence of both the local RNLI personnel in Burry Port and at RNLI Headquarters level.
  • I understand from the most recent correspondence with their Legal Counsel that the RNLI are still not going to deal appropriately and effectively with the prejudice and discrimination I suffered, or withdraw my rejection as a volunteer.
  • They continue to maintain that they believe the lies and misrepresentations of the two individuals concerned at the local RNLI Station, while giving no credence to our account of what happened.
  • The two people have been allowed to remain in post.
  • I have asked the Legal Counsel of the RNLI, Duncan Macpherson, if they could appoint someone from within the RNLI or from an outside agency who is transgender or LGBT, or at least someone who might be more impartial, to liaise with me in order to help achieve a resolution acceptable to both sides. They have refused. I assume from their reply that they have been unable to find anyone who is either trans or LGBT within the RNLI, and can’t be bothered to contact an outside agency.
  • I have therefore requested statistics from the RNLI on the following:
  1. How many RNLI salaried staff and RNLI volunteers are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender;
  2. How many RNLI salaried staff and RNLI volunteers are from ethnic or racial minorities;
  3. How many RNLI salaried staff and RNLI volunteers are from religions other than Christian or of no religion (they must surely have at least this information in relation to lifeboat crews who risk their lives, as they would need to know their religion in the case of death or mortal injury).
  4.  How many RNLI salaried staff and RNLI volunteers are registered disabled.

I am not very sanguine that any such statistics from the RNLI will be forthcoming or that they have even collected such information (as local authorities commonly do), but I can but try.

The RNLI Burry Port Station is not unusual.  The RNLI as a whole is a very white, very ‘traditionally gendered’, very heterosexual organisation with very few women (whether trans or not) in active roles as Shore Crew or Lifeboat Crew. In fact I was initially only applying to be an Education Volunteer, for which I was well qualified, but my rejection as Shore Crew was equally emphatic. In the case of the local Burry Port Station – the RNLI is also very Welsh – run and managed by just four local Welsh families, who run it as their personal fiefdom and each occupy 2-3 roles at RNLI Burry Port. This ‘closed-shop’ situation is by no means unusual in RNLI Lifeboat Stations in Wales, or more remote stations in England and Scotland.  (Sue Kingswood, RNLI Inclusion Advisor, has admitted this to us.) The RNLI needs radical reform.  It needs to be pushed to join the 21st century and accept and welcome the diversity of modern society in the U.K.

I can’t do this all on my own.

It is HIGH TIME the RNLI started to implement their own Inclusiveness Programme, and earn the right to be ‘Stonewall Diversity Champions’, which they claim to be.

Please, please, HELP by signing our online petition:

http://www.causes.com/campaigns/96412-end-discrimination-at-the-rnli-against-transgender-people

Unlawful Transphobic Discrimination at the RNLI – they are getting away with it!

Please sign my petition: http://www.causes.com/campaigns/96412-end-discrimination-at-the-rnli-against-transgender-people

The RNLI has recently shown itself to be transphobic: prejudiced against transgender people.  This came to light in the first instance when the management at RNLI Burry Port rejected the volunteer application of trans woman Kate Lesley on the grounds that, to quote what they actually said at a meeting on 16th June 2015:

“The ‘culture’ of the local RNLI Burry Port Lifeboat Station is too ‘macho’ to ‘cope’ with a trans woman as a volunteer.”

Some weeks later, in order to justify their rejection of Kate Lesley, they lied about this and denied what they had said, although this was also witnessed by Kate’s wife, Jane.

RNLI Headquarters then compounded the situation by failing to deal effectively with this discrimination.  Instead, they actually whitewashed the two individuals concerned at RNLI Burry Port and supported them in their misrepresentations about what happened.

The RNLI next fabricated a spurious excuse for Kate’s rejection, claiming that they were rejecting her because of her reaction to a previous incident when a member of the shore crew tactlessly and insensitively referred to her in the wrong gender – as ‘this gentleman’ – although he had previously been introduce to her as ‘Kate’. This was supposed to have been a ‘genuine mistake’ (you can decide for yourselves how likely this is by looking at the photos of Kate on this blog – she doesn’t look much like a man, does she?). It was very embarrassing at the time as it was in front of a group of parents and children from the local nursery, just up the road. Burry Port is a small place.

After inviting the RNLI Burry Port management to discuss this incident in a friendly way in order to help the Station avoid a mistake of this type in future, nothing happened for a couple of weeks, and it was assumed that Kate’s and Jane’s written volunteer applications were being processed and they would soon be starting their volunteer roles with the RNLI. It now appears the local management had already decided to reject Kate – because she had the courage to bring this initial incident to their attention. The opportunity to show a more inclusive, enlightened and progressive approach to LGBT people was to be squandered, because of their embarrassment, awkwardness and uncertainty about the best way to handle things.

Kate’s approach at this helpful, low-key meeting was untruthfully misrepresented some weeks later by the RNLI as ‘highly reactive’ and used as the spurious excuse for Kate’s rejection. It certainly was nothing of the sort.  It was an amicable meeting on all sides, from which much good might have come, if only the local management had known how to proceed in a mature and sensible way.

Kate’s rejection as a volunteer was despite the fact that, as a retired full-time classroom teacher for 15 years and a Tours and Talks Guide with the National Trust for 7 years, she was very well qualified and had plenty of experience of talking to the public, regularly giving talks to groups of up to 40-50 people.

Although she was giving up her spare time for free, rather than giving her a chance to prove what she could do as a volunteer to help them with their educational work, they said they didn’t even want her to start.

Kate and her wife Jane were flabbergasted – very shocked and upset. Jane had also volunteered to help them, but they say in their final response to us that they have not rejected her – could this be because she is not transgendered herself, just married to a transgendered person?  Apparently that’s okay, they just don’t want any LGBT people in person as volunteers.

To protest against this unlawful discrimination against Kate, please contact the RNLI as below and add your voice, so these bigoted and unenlighted people don’t get away with it.

And in case anyone thinks that the RNLI should be a ‘protected’ charity which one should never criticise, and how dare I bring this to the attention of the public through social media, let me state clearly now that I do appreciate the wonderful work done by the RNLI in rescuing folk from the sea, and the last thing I want to do is distract the RNLI from their valuable work in this regard. However, under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone for reasons of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity etc., and they need to be made accountable and brought to book for this.

If you wish to read the full transcript of all correspondence with the RNLI relating to the above, please now click on the link below:

pdf-all-rnli-corresp-to-09-09-15

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The RNLI Lifeboat Station in Burry Port, near Llanelli, Wales, is a very nepotistic institution. It is largely run by a closed-shop of the same local families, who treat it as their personal fiefdom, to do with as they wish. To judge by the attitude of their Operations Manager, they are small-minded and intolerant of diversity, keeping out anyone who may not fit into their restrictive ‘macho’ image of themselves. There is only one woman member of the crew out of 21, and she belongs to one of the local families which dominate the station.

Nepotism is rife at RNLI Burry Port. See their website and note the number of times the same surnames appear: Bowen, Griffiths, Morgan, Williams: http://www.burryportrnli.com/

Make no mistake – this is not because many people in Wales have common surnames – these people are all closely related; they are members of the same local families.  (The following list of names are publicly available on RNLI Burry Port’s own website, so I am not revealing anything confidential here: http://www.burryportrnli.com/ )

Roger Bowen – Lifeboat Operations Manager (L.O.M.)
Alan Bowen – Treasurer (L.M.G)
Beryl Bowen – Fundraisin Chairperson

Trevor Griffiths – Chairperson (L.M.G)
Alyson Griffiths – Fundraising Committee Treasurer

Haydn Morgan – Deputy Launch Authority (D.L.A.) & Lifeboat Sea Safety Officer(L.S.S.O.)
Susanna  Morgan – Crew & Education Officer
Gary Morgan – Crew & Education Officer
Rachel Morgan – Fundraising Committee

Steve Williams – Boathouse Manager
Byron Williams – Media Admin
Beverley Williams – Fundraising Committee

Unfortunately I have three ‘strikes’ against me – I am English, I am transgendered, and I am not a Bowen, a Griffiths, a Morgan or a Williams.

Please read below, and then please do support me in my campaign against these bigoted troglodytes, who are still living in a previous century.

If you wish, you can read the full transcript (see link above) of ALL correspondence with the RNLI – which makes interesting reading, showing how hard we tried to make the RNLI see sense.

Please support me by expressing your disgust with how the RNLI have treated me both at the local and national, headquarters level. Write to, email or phone the RNLI people concerned.  If enough folk contact them, maybe we will finally get the RNLI to respond as they should have done to the unlawful transphobic discrimination to which I have been subjected.  The RNLI claims to be a ‘Stonewall Diversity Champion’ – what a joke!

Contact Details:

Burry Port RNLI Website

BurryPort RNLI on Facebook

BurryPort RNLI on Twitter

Email: Burry-Port@rnli.org.uk

Station Telephone: 01554 832060

Burry Port Lifeboat Station
The Harbour
Burry Port
Carmarthenshire
SA16 0ER

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Lifeboat Operations Manager (L.O.M.), RNLI Station Burry Port: Roger Bowen
Mr Bowen lied about what was said at our meeting with him and Trevor Griffiths on 16th June; misrepresented the facts and failed to acknowledge or admit to any of the discriminative comments he made, subsequently inventing a spurious and untruthful excuse for my rejection as an RNLI volunteer while denying the true grounds, which were based on transphobic prejudice.

Email. Roger_bowen@rnli.org.uk

(These contact details are publicly available on RNLI Burry Port’s own website.)

————————————–

Trevor Griffiths – Chairperson Local Management Group (L.M.G), Burry Port Lifeboat Station (Took seven weeks to write a letter in response to our complaint, but denied what had been said at our meeting with them on 16th June).

————————————-

(The following contact details are publicly available on the RNLI Headquarters main website and linked webpages).

RNLI Chief Executive: Paul Boissier
‘Whitewashed’ the local RNLI station, claimed to believe their lies, failed to address the discrimination issue properly despite signing up the RNLI as a ‘Stonewall Diversity Champion’

Postal address:

Paul Bossier
Chief Executive RNLI
West Quay Road
Poole
BH15 1HZ

Email: paul_boissier@rnli.org.uk
Tel: 01202 663149
Fax: 01202 663306

——————————-

Inclusion & Diversity Officer: Susan Kingswood (Did very little in spite of her title and went off on holiday).

Address:

Susan Kingswood
RNLI O.D. Advisor
Inclusion & Diversity
West Quay Road
Poole
Dorset
BH151HZ

Email: susan_kingswood@rnli.org.uk

Tel: 01202 663338

———————————————

People and Transformation Director: Heid Allen
(Note her job description – this is not ironic, it is her actual title!  And she was one of the LEAST helpful people at the RNLI, totally lacking in empathy, and rather spiteful in her letter to me in which she confirmed my rejection.)

Postal Address:

Heidi Allen
RNLI People and Transformation Director
West Quay Road
Poole
BH15 1HZ

Heidi_Allen@rnli.org.uk

Tel: 01202 663137

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As many of your know, I am a transgendered author who has been writing and publishing trangender fiction since 1994, which has been read and loved by readers all round the world.

I have never had a single complaint or adverse comment about any of my transgender stories in the past, but recently I spoke out for tolerance and inclusiveness in the transgender community on a on a TV dating site, after which I was attacked by a number of ‘trolls’.  The substance of what I’d written was positive and suggested that people within the trans community should be supportive to each other and not persistently  hostile and negative.  Unfortunately I was then vilified myself by the same small minority of ‘trolls’, who referred to my transgender fiction in order to attack me.

These attacks degenerated and became more and more personal, so I left the site in question.

I thought that would be the end of this persecution, but it still continued in the form of a threatening and intimidating email sent to my web hosting company. I chose to ignore it and treat it with the contempt it deserved, which proved to be the right thing to do – as the persecution stopped. In case you haven’t guessed, this despicable persecution and bullying happened on TVChix – my advice is don’t whatever you do post to any of the discussion forums on it, because your posts, however innocent, positive and innocuous will be attacked by sick people masquerading as members of the trans community who obviously don’t have a life and have nothing better to do.

I have posted a rebuttal on my websites, which includes the following words:

IMPORTANT NOTE: The stories in our magazines and books are works of transgender fantasy FICTION.

The stories are not true – anymore than J.K. Rowling’s stories about evil wizards are true. Because J.K. Rowling wrote about young people not having a very nice time at the hands of evil wizards in some of her books, it does not make her an evil wizard herself, anymore than authors of crime fiction or murder mysteries are criminals or murderers.

Some of our stories feature mothers, aunts, grannies, wives etc. who feminise boys or young men and turn them into girls. This is a common theme in transgender fiction and is about wish-fulfilment on the part of transgendered folk, who really wish that this could happen to them! None of it ever happened!

We have had to spell this out, due to attacks and slanderous allegations.

We believe in freedom of creative expression for transgender authors and artists. We are proud members of the LGBT community, and just as lesbians and gay men would be horrified about the idea of gay fiction being censored and vilified by a small minority of puritanical fundamentalists, we hope you will support us in maintaining that members of the trans community should be equally free from this type of politically correct oppression from these puritans who seek to put back the clock to the 1950s and attack the advances in artistic and creative freedom that were achieved in the 1960s and 1970s in liberal democracies.’

Please show your agreement by posting your support on this site and supporting me on my other social networking sites.

Amber Goth

Hi girls,

This is about a website called TVChix. I am updating this post in the light of the bullying and harassment I suffered on this website, which is also the subject of a later post on this blog. My advice is avoid TVChix. I joined TVChix because so many girls at last year’s Sparkle (2012) asked me if I was on it – so I joined it – briefly – a decision which I now regret.

As I was not new to theories of gender identity and how we acquire our sense of gender – or in the case of transgendered folk like us, how things did not work out quite as society and our parents expected, I made the mistake of posting to a discussion forum on TVChix, naively thinking that the people in these forums wouold be intelligent and well-meaning individuals.

As I wrote a Masters degree dissertation at Nottingham University in 1990 under the title ‘The Aqquisition of Gender’, I thought I could offer some new perspectives, which would be welcomed. How wrong I was.

In my original research at that time I concluded that traditional feminine and masculine gender role stereotypes were mainly social constructs – ‘nurture’ rather than ‘nature’.  This was very much in line with theoretical thinking at the time, which had possibly been influenced by feminist writers of the 1960s and 1970s.

I have since revised my views in the light of some more recent biological and medical research which has suggested that gender (rather than biological sex) is partly programmed i[i]n utero[/i], and that things can go wrong with this, so that the baby is born with a sense of gender which does not conform to biological or genetic sex.  (That’s us, girls!)

I discussed some of this a while back on this weblog.

These posts are probably the most relevant:

How can we help people understand transgender individuals?

Why did I want to be a girl? Gender Identity and Transgenderism

How did it start? When did I first realise I wanted to be a girl?

Gender Identity as a continuum, terms ‘Transvesite’, Crossdresser’, ‘Transgender’, ‘Transsexual’

I am not keen on the divisions into sub-groups within the transgender community, (for example TV/CD, TG, T-Girl, TS) and I am disappointed that members of one or two of these sub-groups appear to think they are ‘superior’ in some way or more ‘the real thing’ than others. (Bella Jay wrote about this recently in her preface in the 2012 Sparkle Guide.)

These labels are artificial constructs, and at best are useful only in providing a vague indication of where an individual may think she is on the gender continuum at a certain point in her life. They also flag up to others who you are, but they mean very little. I found it disappointing that I had to pick one of these labels when joining TVChix, but my point is that what you pick is not written in stone for ever more. More than one might apply to you, and you may change your mind about which one is most appropriate. For example at present, I could have picked T-Girl, Transgender or Pre-operative Transsexual, but I am most comfortable with transgendered, as it is the most inclusive. Some people remain as self-identifying with one label all their lives, while others may move through several phases of transgenderism – get on at one point and get off at another.

That is why I am uncomfortable when, in chat rooms, members seek to ‘help’ other members by labeling them on the basis of what they themselves think, or claim to be certain of – often out of ignorance.

This has already happened to me in a TVChix chat room, when I light-heartedly asked what was the difference between a ‘T-Girl’ and ‘Trangendered’, because surely a T-Girl is by definition transgendered, as are ALL people who self-identify as TV, CD, TG or TS, – we are ALL transgendered, as is anyone who is uncomfortable to any degree about the gender role in which they find themselves, and wishes to dress or adopt the cultural and sociological characteristics and stereotypical behaviour of the so-called ‘other’ gender. This discomfort with one’s gender is sometimes called gender dysphoria, another term I don’t like.

A couple of the girls replied to the effect that these labels are all bollocks and we’re all mad anyway, which more or less sums up my own view; but one pre-operative transsexual took if upon herself to private message me to offer her ‘help’ about my ‘confusion’ regarding the terms ‘T-Girl’ and ‘Trangender’.

She seemed to think that whether or not one wanted SRS had some relevance to whether one was a ‘T-Girl’ or ‘Trangender’. In my view, it has nothing to do with it. And it is quite possible that at different times in one’s life, the answer might be ‘no’, ‘yes’, or ‘I haven’t decided’.

The presence or absence of a particular set of genitals between one’s legs has everything to do with your biological and genetic sex, but very little to do with your gender, and in seeking to live in the gender role of the ‘other’ gender, should probably be the last on the list of things you should think about changing.

Fortunately this view is starting to gain ground even in the NHS. If you are going to live in the ‘other’ gender, female hormones, FFS (Facial Feminisation Surgery), electrolysis, laser hair removal and voice coaching lessons are likely to have a much bigger impact on you success than what you’ve got ‘down below’.

It is in unwise to rush into SRS, thinking this is going to solve all your problems. If you are a huge, Neandethal-looking, hatchet-faced, lantern jawed, heavily-browed, grim looking person who never smiles (women smile more – so start by learning to smile!) – with a five o’clock shadow that comes back every three hours and you walk like a bricklayer and have a voice like Paul Robson – no one is going to think you are a woman, however much surgery you have between your legs. Sorry to say this, but let’s have a reality check!

There is absolutely no reason why you can’t dress as a woman and live as a woman if you are a very ‘big’ girl with very many obvious maculine physical characteristics – do enjoy life and go for it, be glad you’re transgendered – but don’t think that by labelling yourself ‘pre-operative transsexual’ and then getting your SRS without attending to other more obvious aspects which act as denoters of gender, you are suddenly going to convince ‘straight’ society out there that you are a woman.

Most people make up their minds about what gender you are in the first five seconds of meeting you – and it is probably the ‘Big Four’ indicators which are most important – pitch and tone of voice, facial characteristics, hair length/style, and the way you are dressed – in that order. The latter two are less important, as is clear if you’ve ever been into Vanilla, a lesbian bar in Manchester’s Gay Village, where you will see really dykey lesbians with very short cropped hair, or shaved at the sides, and wearing baggy jeans and a sweat shirt – but they are still recognisably women, because of their voice pitch and smaller facial features. (You will also see very pretty ‘femmy’ lesbians at Vanilla, so I don’t mean to generalise about lesbians in general).

At the end of the day, who cares anyway? If you feel your are a woman inside, then you are! The worse that can happen is that someone is going to recognise that you are transgendered – so what? Just be honest and smile! If you are upfront and friendly, people will accept you for who you are; they will either like you or not like you based on your personality, not on your biological gender or adopted gender.

My point is that perhaps it is better to start with some of the other practical things you can do, such as those listed above; I appreciate that these all cost money – although at present you can at least get the hormones and voice coaching on the NHS if you get accepted by a Gender clinic. (Yes, it is also still possible to get SRS on the NHS – but I wonder for how long, given the cuts?)

Anyway, as you can see, I love to write about these issues, but I’ll stop for now as I’ve probably already said more than my six penny’orth.

I love you all, whatever you label yourselves.

Take care in those six inch heels,

Love, hugs and kisses,

ambergoth (Kate Lesley)

(The above was the sort of thing I said on TVChix, for which I was attacked and harassed by trolls.)

aka Amber Goth

It is now six months since I began living living full-time as a woman.

My transition to the female gender full-time came about in early July, following this year’s Sparkle Transgender Weekend in Manchester.  It came about as a direct result of attending a presentation given by Dr. Luis Capitan, one of the facial feminisation specialist surgeons from Facial Team, based in Marbella, Spain and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I had a private consultation with Dr. Capitan (for which there was no charge, unlike some FFS specialists, who charge even for initial consultations).  Dr. Capitan was very kind and listened carefully to what I said.  I explained what I thought I needed to have done, and he did not try to sell me unnecessary procedures which I did not want, but understood that for me, the most important thing was facial feminisation itself.  It sounds obvious, but what I mean by this is that my wish was to look like a ‘normal’ woman for my age as far as possible (or maybe a bit younger!), but that I wasn’t aiming to look like a Holywood starlet or Barbie Doll.

Apparently this is what some trans women want. Whilst it may be possible if you are prepared to go to a lot of extra expense for facelifts, eyelid surgery, and God knows what else (in addition to facial feminisation surgery), I felt it was important to have realistic expectations and was delighted with my new brow and nose, as soon as I saw them!  I was actually just pleased to wake up after the surgery and not be in pain, thanks to the care I was given by Dr. Capitan, Dr. Simon and the other members of the surgical team.  And the two Patient Care Coordinators, Ana and Lilia, also looked after me very well.

As will be seen from the photos on my previous post, I had very little bruising or swelling and after only seven days I didn’t look too bad at all, and was able to go for walks along the sea front in Marbella.  In fact, the bars and restaurants on that part of the promenade, near the Princesa Playa Apartment Hotel, are used to seeing Facial Team patients swathed in bandages – so I did go out even while I still had a nose plaster and pressure bandage on!  But I have always been quite upfront and honest with folk, so when we got chatting in the nearby Italian restaurant with the proprietors, I just told them about myself and why I was in Marbella.  I went back to show them the results a few days after the surgery, and they were so lovely in saying I looked fantastic now, although I still had the stitches in my nose!

There were two other Facial Team patients at the same hotel, Paula from Holland and Josephine from France, who were very pleasant people, and we wondered about all going out together in our bandages and sitting outside one of the bars – but we thought it might be a bit unfair on the owners – as what a frightening sight we would have made for other promenaders on the front!  (So we never did it – but it was nice to have other girls who were going through the same thing to talk to.)

So, my decision to stay as Kate and not to go back to being ‘him’ last July, after Sparkle, happened because I decided definitely to go ahead with facial feminization surgery, and it seemed stupid having made that major decision not to go full-time as a woman.  I was surprised myself, and I still am a little in shock that I finally made the decision so easily, but I guess it had been coming on for years, as I had been Kate more and more, and had been taking female hormones for over five years.  I think it was something that I always knew, at some deep, sub-conscious level, was bound to happen eventually.

And it is also strange that perhaps I knew that I would have FFS at some point – see my very first post on this blog, back in 2008: https://ambergoth.wordpress.com/2008/08/15/facial-feminizing-surgery-%E2%80%93-my-first-blog-entry/

At that time I didn’t know I would be able to have FFS in Spain, and thought I would have to go to California.  I am so glad that I had it done is Spain with Facial Team, as it it was such an easy low-cost flight to Malaga airport with EasyJet, and everyone at Facial Team looked after me so well.  I did get a quote from the clinic in San Fransisco, and also from the Boston clinic, but the U.S. clinics quote ridiculous prices, and there are so many extras they charge for – and of course it is much further to go back there if anything goes wrong.  The Facial Team quote was reasonable and included free accommodation at the Princesa Playa Apartment Hotel, an offer which they do at certain times of the year.  They arranged everything for me, and took the worry out of it, as much as it is possible to do, bearing in mind it is major surgery and it is fairly natural to feel a bit afraid. But in the end, by the second week, I just felt I was on holiday, as did Rosie, my partner, who had a great time and did some good Christmas shopping in Marbella.

So – how do I feel two months after my FFS and six months after transitioning?  Well, pretty fantastic, actually.  No regrets at all, and I have found myself wondering why I thought it was such a big deal and was so worried about transitioning and having FFS.  If you are considering either, go for it girl – you won’t be sorry!   Finally becoming the woman I always knew I was inside – is great!

Here are some photos taken before and immediately after my Facial Feminisation Surgery, during the first 9 days after surgery:

Kate and Rosie

On day of surgery

On day of surgery

Three days after facial feminisation surgery

Kate three days after facial feminisation surgery

Six days after surgery

Six days after surgery

seven days after surgery

Seven days after FFS surgery

Kate 1 month after surgery

Kate one month after surgery

Today is Tuesday 8th November, so it’s six days since I had my facial feminisation surgery (FFS) last Wednesday.

We are in Marbella, Spain.

I am sitting in bed writing this; Rosie has gone out shopping for Christmas pressies round the old part of Marbella town.

Marbella is a really lovely place, now a classy resort on the southern coast of Spain, formerly an old fishing village of Andalucia, up to the 1960s. It is certainly the classiest and best resort we have ever had a holiday in; not at all what I imagine Benidorm or Ibiza are like.

We are in a lovely apartment hotel (four star), The Princesa Playa, right on the sea front, the best place we have ever stayed in, as we usually rough it. We are on the 7th floor, and have a view of both the sea and the mountains from our balcony.

The apartment is very well appointed, with electric hob, microwave, fridge, and plenty of pans and crockery and cutlery, so Rose-Marie has been able to prepare us some really nice meals with fresh produce from the local shops. We have a small supermarket just round the corner, and there are many lovely bars and restaurants within easy walking distance along the front, which is swathed with palm trees and fig trees. The weather is cool and comfortable, but still with blue skies and sea. We like it so much maybe we will come and live here! I am remembering my Spanish more every day.

There are plenty of really fresh seafood restaurants and everywhere serves tapas for a Euro or two. It is not too dear to eat out compared with Switzerland – about the same as the UK or a bit cheaper, if anything. You could certainly stay and eat here cheaply. We like Marbella so much we certainly intend to come back next Spring – I have to anyway, to complete my treatment, as they couldn’t do the lip lift at the same time as the rhinoplasty (nose job). I may also have a hair transplant so I have an even thicker head of hair at the front!

I haven’t seen my new nose yet, but it looks promising – smaller and neater, with smaller nostrils rather than the Mersey tunnel entrances I used to have. I haven’t got a big, splodgy, ugly nose any longer! I will see it properly on Friday, when the nose plaster comes off.

We are going back to see the plastic surgeon (a German guy, Dr. Kai) who did the nose job and to the hospital to see the maxillo-facial surgeons (Brazilian Dr. Daniel Simon and Spanish Dr. Luis Capitan, both of the Facial Team clinic, here in Marebella, Spain) tomorrow. I may be able to have the scalp stitches out. My forehead is a lot flatter and more feminine, and the top of my new nose just continues straight up to my forehead, without the indentation that used to be there.

My eyes are no longer so deep set, and do not now peer out from beneath a Neandethal (or at least masculine) jutting brow! My eye-brows are also higher and in a more feminine arc. It will take a few weeks, and in the case of my nose, a few months or even up to a year, for everything to settle down, but I certainly shouldn’t look too bad by Christmas.

My neck is still looking a bit bruised after the liposuction, in fact this is where the worst bruising was, after the first two or three days.

For the first 2-3 days my eye-lids swelled up and my left eye nearly closed, so I looked as if I had gone several rounds with Mohammad Ali. By Sunday the swelling started to come down, and I looked a bit more human. To begin with, because my cheeks were also puffed up, I looked a bit like the lion from the Wizard of Oz! I made a joke of this to the ladies who work for the surgeons – Lilia and Ana – who have kept in touch with us throughout by a Spanish mobile phone which they gave us when we arrived. I have been really well looked after by them, and of course Rose-Marie, my wife and life partner for 40 years, has been wonderful. She is having a nice restful holiday herself now, which she needed after the months of worry leading up to the surgery and her over-working at the shop, etc. She is also being a good girl and relaxing.

Well, that’s about it from me. I am staring to look more Dorothy, less like the Lion (another Wizard of Oz reference). I have loads of books to read on my Kindle, and I can get three English-speaking radio stations on my HTC mobile and there is BBC 1 and BBC 3 and Sky News on our two TVs, one in the bedroom, so we can watch TV in bed, and one in the living room.

We have been able to keep up with East Enders, but have no idea what has been happening in Corrie – we’ll have to wait until we get back to find out. We fly back to the UK next Saturday, 12th November, but I will be posting again, tweeting and updating my status on FB regularly from now on, so keep watching out for my updates!

We can get onto the Internet in the foyer of the hotel on the ground floor, so I will post this now here and on FB. Please let me know, all you lovely girls who follow this WordPress blog, or are are my friends on FB or Twitter, if it is of any interest! Please reply! I will messge some more about the Facial Team, but so far I have been very impressed with the high standard of care and the kindness of Lilian and Ana and the surgeons, so I would say if you are considering FFS – the Facial Team clinic in Spain should be at the top of your list of clinics to look at. I looked at three others and chose them for a number of reasons, which I will discuss more on my WordPress Transgender blog.

I’ll post again soon, hugs to you all, I love you all, especially Sarah Hardman and Alessandra Bernaroli,  who have been good friends on FB in recent weeks – thank you, Sarah nd Alessandra.

x x x Hugs, Kate Lesley (Amber Goth)

Hi Girls,

I am writing this and future posts about Facial Feminisation Surgery to reassure those of you who are considering it but are understandably worried and a bit scared about what is involved.  I also felt apprehensive about it, as it is major surgery, but I would like to reassure those that are thinking about it that really, you have nothing to worry about.

I can only speak about my own experience of FFS, which was performed by the Facial Teamwww.facialteam.eu.

The Facial Team are based in Marbella, on the south coast of Spain; or you can go to their clinic in Sao Paulo in Brazil, if you prefer.

I had a brow and orbital reduction performed by Dr. Daniel Simon and Dr. Luis Capitan, who are both experienced and very skilful maxillo-facial surgeons.  I also had rhinoplasty on my nose and liposuction under my chin and on my neck performed by the plastic surgeon Dr. Kai, ably assisted by Louise, Dr. Kai’s lovely theatre nurse (who hails originally from South Yorkshire). Dr. Simon is Brazilian; Dr. Capitan is Spanish; and Dr. Kai is German.  They are all professionally qualified to the highest standands.  So my experience is about these procedures; I can’t comment on other procedures which I didn’t have, such as eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) or facelifts, full or partial.  I think Dr. Kai does perform these surgeries as well, if you are interested.

The main focus of surgery with the Facial Team is facial feminisation – and this is what I wanted, because I want my face to reflect my true gender (female), so that I just look like a normal woman.  I did not want to end up looking like a Barbie Doll or Holywood starlet.  There are clinics that will assume that this is what you want, and will try to convince you that additional surgeries are necessary.  They are not, if facial feminisation is your principle objective.  The Facial Team will do enough to give you a convincingly feminine face, and no more – unless you want it.  This honest approach was one of the things that attracted me to the Facial Team.  I did not find this honesty with a couple of the FFS clinics based in the U.S. and one other FFS clinic in Europe, who I also approached for quotations, and all tried to convince me that I needed procedures such as facelifts and eyelid surgery, which I didn’t want and hadn’t budgeted for.  I can’t name these surgeons and clinics, as I don’t want to get into trouble with them legally, but you will be able to work out who they are, and if you can’t and want to know, then contact me privately.

I think that is enough for my first post about this – more in my next post about my recent stay in Spain for the surgery.

Kate Lesley (Amber Goth), Sunday 13th November 2011.

Girl, 10, trapped in a boy’s body

By James Connell, from the Worcester News

http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/9245624.Girl__10__trapped_in_a_boy_s_body/

10:02am Monday 12th September 2011

A GIRL trapped in a boy’s body has made the brave decision to return to school for the new term as a girl.

The 10-year-old, a year six pupil at primary school in Worcester, was born a boy but took the decision with her family over the summer holidays to return as a girl.

The Worcester News has agreed to protect the identity of the girl who has had gender dysphoria diagnosed by experts in London.

This is a rare condition where a person feels that they are trapped within a body of the wrong sex.

Her 36-year-old mum, who lives in Worcester, said: “She is within her mind a girl but she has a boy’s body.

“She is the same as everybody else apart from the fact she doesn’t feel right in her own body.”

Her mum said that she had known that her daughter was was different since the age of two-and-a-half.

She said: “She would rather play with a doll than a car.

“She is a girlie girl. She wants all the latest fashions. There is nothing about her which is male.

“It wasn’t a problem until she got to primary school at the age of seven-and-a-half.

“Then she would have to lie about what she got for Christmas and say a football or an Action Man when in fact she got a pair of sparkly shoes and a Barbie.

“Everything she was having to do was a lie.”

She also said her daughter, who would dress as a girl in school holidays, received abuse during the summer break when she went to buy orange juice and milk from the shop and returned crying when an adult called her a freak.

Her mum said: “She returned and said, ‘Mum, I can’t even go to the shop’. We went to a performance at the school and my daughter went as herself.

“Some of the parents were unhappy she was allowed to go into the school. They were walking past, coughing, and saying, ‘That’s that freak family. That’s that freak child’.”

Her mum said there had been some bullying from the children, verbal and physical, but that many children had accepted her and it was adults who had given her abuse.

Her parents have not yet decided how they will approach her medical condition in future but say she will not be given hormone blockers until she is 12.

Her mum said: “It’s not a phase. It’s not a choice.

“What child would choose to be completely miserable?

“I don’t expect people to understand. I just don’t want people abusing my child.

“I don’t want her to be called a freak. I want her to be left alone.”

Her mum said the headteacher of the school had been “fantastic” and said her daughter had been “brave” to come back to school as a girl.

——————-

As a former teacher of this age-group, I think this is a courageous decision both by the girl and by her parents.  It is to applauded that gender dysphoria is now being picked up and acknowledged in childhood, as this girl has a good chance to live a normal life in the gender to which she knows she belongs.  She won’t have to face the nightmare of hitting puberty with a male body, which is flooded with testosterone and turns into something which she doesn’t want and barely recognises!

I can well remember when this happened to me, almost overnight.  I got up one morning and found that my small, slender face and dear little nose had begun to transmogrify into something which no longer looked like me – the person I felt I was inside.  My nose was broadening and getting bigger, I was starting to grow facial hair, and my brow was becoming more pronounced, as if I was turning in some sort of prehensile ape!  I was mortified and horrified – but could do nothing to stop the process, over the following months.  And then my voice started to squeak and break.  I remember sitting at the mirror in the privacy in my bedroom, and on various occasions looking with despair at my masculining face, trying desperately to back-comb my hair and make it look a more feminine style.  All to no avail!  This is what we feel like, we who are gender dysphoric, when we hit puberty.

I am so glad and happy for this young girl in Worcester, that we live in more enlightened times these days, and she won’t have to face the appalling prospect of watching herself turn into someone of the wrong gender, not matching the person she feels herself to be inside.  Well done, you are a brave girl, and your parents are also brave.  And the school is to be commended for its acceptance and support.

x Kate (Amber)

Olivia Foster, a lesbian who wrote a paper on transgender and homosexual individuals for her English class,  recently commented how transgender and homosexual individuals are socially isolated from society. She asked: ‘How do you think we could help people understand transgender individuals? I really want an inside opinion! Thank you so much!’

This was my reply, which I am repeating here as a separate posting:

I think the first thing is that we all need to support and be tolerant of each other in the LGBT community. If we can’t be tolerant of each other, when we are ‘differently gendered’ or ‘differently sexually orientated’ from the so-called ‘norm’, how can we expect so-called ‘normal’ or ‘straight’ people to be tolerant and understanding of us?

As I said in my last blog post, I love lesbians and gay men, and I love socialising with my sisters and brothers in the ‘Gay Village’ in Manchester.

Unfortunately I have come across people, mainly in the trans community, who, in spite of their own transgenderism, appear to have a bi-polar approach to gender, and want to self identify as either a ‘transvestite/crossdresser’, just ‘a bloke in a frock but there’s nowt queer about me’ at one end of the TG spectrum – and what I might call ‘fundamentalist’ transsexuals at the other end, who regard themselves as in some way superior, or ‘more the real thing’ than other transgendered folk.

I think it is crazy to divide ourselves off from each other in this way. To me, if we have ‘gender discomfort’ or ‘dysphoria’ to any extend at all, whether we are occasional crossdressers, regular or full-time transgendered girls or boys, she-males, drag queens or drag kings, or pre- or post-operative transsexuals – we are ALL members of the transgender community, sisters and brothers under the skin, although some but not all of us usually identify ourselves as one gender or the other (not necessarily our birth gender) by our outer clothing, hairstyle, makeup, mannerisms, voice pitch, speech patterns and gender identity.

This is why I prefer the term ‘transgendered’, because it is inclusive and can be taken to cover us all, wherever we are on the gender spectrum or continuum, and I believe most people, including those who are not transgendered – so-called ‘normal’ people, are also somewhere in the middle.

We all, regardless of our biological and chromosomal sex, have feminine and masculine characteristics – but unfortunately many people are frightened or reluctant to fully express all parts of their personalities. So if most people are somewhere in the middle regarding the gender spectrum, transgendered people are just folk who find themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of the mid-point of the spectrum, so they self-identify as the ‘other’ or ‘opposite’ sex – that is, they have, in terms of traditional gender attributes and gender stereotyping, more of the characteristics of the gender on the other side of the gender ‘mid-point’.

This of course is very confusing for them, in a world which persists in the traditional bi-polar attribution of so-called ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ traits. But that is not to say that if this gender bipolarism was reduced to the point where everyone was free to wear what they like, and express their gender identity in any way they like, there wouldn’t still be transgendered people, because obviously there would be those, like me, who feel the need to have surgery to change their bodies as well as their clothing so that they can feel ‘whole’, be fully the person that they feel they are inside, and be perceived as such by others.

I don’t think I have exactly answered your question, Olivia, about how transgender and homosexual individuals can feel less socially isolated, as regards ‘straight society’. I’ll try to address that now:

Within the LGBT community, we can feel less socially isolated by all supporting and learning to understand each other, whether we are transgendered, lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, or any combination of the aforementioned.

But how do we achieve social and cultural acceptance, and therefore feel less socially isolated, regarding ‘straight’ society? The answer is simple, and it is what the Gay Liberation Movement did in the 1960s and 70s – ‘coming out’ – by NOT staying in the closet, by holding events such as Gay Pride and Sparkle, and by mixing as much as possible in and with ‘straight’ society, so that we seem as ‘normal’ to them as we seem to ourselves – just ‘people’, human beings – like them.

I guess the implication of this is that we shouldn’t just hang out in LGBT bars and clubs, and areas like the Gay Village in Manchester, where we know we are safe – we should also go into and be seen in ‘straight’ places – out shopping, and in ‘straight’ pubs and clubs, or anywhere that any other citizen of the world can go! We should be proud to be who we are, and the more we are ‘out’, the more it will be accepted as ‘normal’ to be LGBT.

Easier said than done, I know! I recently did go into a ‘straight’ fairly working-class ‘blokish pub’ in my home town, as my femme self, naturally, together with my (genetic female) wife/partner and a genetic female friend. The three of us girls were the only females in the bar, and we did get stared at, and I felt decidedly uncomfortable. At least one man, a little, wiry, Yorkshire terrier of a chap who was very ‘blokish’ indeed, looked over in our direction with a scowl on his face, as if there was a bad smell emanating from our corner of the room!

It would be easy to conclude that he had ‘read’ me as transgendered and was prejudiced against me, or that he resented our feminine intrusion into an otherwise male sanctum, or that he was just appalled that two of us ladies were drinking pints! But it could just have been that it was a Friday, the end of the week, he had perhaps had a bad week, and was tired and not in a good mood anyway – and that that was just his characteristic expression – and nothing to do with our presence in the bar!

This brings me to a final point – which is that it is too easy and in fact we can be completely wrong when we try to ‘second-guess’ people’s reactions to us. What did that look mean? Why is that person staring at me or smiling at me? We may think we are attracting unwanted and possibly hostile attention – but it could just be that if someone is looking at us – they might just be thinking how nice we look, or how interesting we are, or how they would like to come up and talk to us!