The issue of space has started coming to the front of my mind recently, and throughout my transition. In 2009 when I decided to start transition I did so yet, treading really carefully. Partly for my own sanity if I am honest. I wasn't sure if I wanted to have hormones or change my name legally. I knew that being male identified was something that was becoming more and more important and integral to who I felt I actually was.
This is why I started gently introducing a change of pronoun to my identification. I also couldn't think of what name I wanted for a while, but being called 'Leng' seemed to be what I wanted and what felt right. I also wanted to retain as many of my friendships and links to some aspects of the women's community.
I came out as a lesbian when I was 15, and have found lesbian culture to be something that has been an important and central part of my life. I have marched on pride marches as a very proud lesbian, I liked being a lesbian, I definitely had a very lesbian-centric life. I used to photograph for a lesbian magazine, which love it or hate it has been looked at throughout the scene in the UK for a number of years.
I like being in an environment that have a lot of lesbians frequenting the space.
I use the word environment as the question of space has started becoming an issue.
I try my best to be respectful of other people's spaces. For the most part I feel I am. I say this because I don't deliberately set out to antagonize people whom feel a space is for them specifically. The last thing I ever want to do by appearing in a place is to upset someone or make them feel uncomfortable. Just by my presence.
If a place has particular policies regarding male identified people being there then I follow them and respect what a place sets out.
I don't think that I have a divine right to be able to be everywhere nor feel that it is me using any 'privileges' that relate to my gender that means that I am going out of my way to encroach on someone's space.
If lesbian friends of mine invite me to an event or a bar, I always ask if I would be welcome or if me being there would be a problem for people.
A few months ago at a bar that didn't have a clear policy as to whether or not it was women only did cause some problems. I wrote a post about that on my blog whilst feeling pissed off so perhaps I didn't word things as well as I could have done but at that time I felt confused and quite upset.
I was upset because I had people barging in front of me and a had been physically elbowed by some people, as well as being made to feel like I had done a bad thing by coming to a bar that I had been invited to.
I felt bullied.
I respect that some women can feel unsafe, I understand that for some people seeing someone who is masculine in appearance can be seen as threatening. Yet at the same time if I had elbowed someone or shouted, or been verbally rude I would have risked being accused of being aggressive or even accused of assault.
The thing that I have come to accept since transitioning is that some people don't like male-identified people. Nor do they want to associate with them. I feel I am understanding that more.
I am in no way defending men and male-identified types that have entered women's spaces and been disrespectful in them. That is something I do not in any way endorse or support. Just as if a place say's women-only or 'men as guests' then I do respect the rules of an establishment.
Where this does get tricky sometimes is where I can go to with my gf. She identifies as a dyke and by no means wants to associate with creepy cis-men as much as the next person would. Nor do I.
I don't like being in the company of anyone creepy for that matter. I say this because I have met some women who have made me feel very uncomfortable by asking very personal questions relating to gender. I have had questions asked about what is between my legs and challenged when some people seem to like calling me 'incomplete' because I choose not to have phalloplasty. I also don't pack and don't see that everything comes down to what is between your legs.
Unhelpful comments such as 'What is the point in being a man if you don;t have a cock' or 'without a cock you're not a real man' perhaps biologically yes, but I know and am comfortable with the fact I wasn't born a man.
Love him or hate him, Buck Angel does dispel some of this binary thinking.
He is a man with a vagina, he makes porn...yes there are lots of things to shoot at him negatively yet there are so many things to say about him on a positive level too.
Given that I know him personally I do have a positive bias towards him.
I have heard people telling me what aspects of transition makes them feel uncomfortable. I sometimes feel compelled to try and aide understanding on both sides and am happy to discuss constructively things people might not understand.
What I don't like feeling is a springboard for people's projections or assumptions. I have had many people say to me on a number of times that now I am legally male that "I must be straight" or that it means that my gf is now straight by default of having a relationship with me.
I have been asked if my gf misses being with women? Or have I taken away her lesbianism.
I have a simple response for that. NO.
Firstly what we do in bed is our business, how we conduct our relationship is our business.
To reiterate something I have said on a number of occasions, she met me and we got together when I was already in my transition
Yet what I am tired of is having to defend what we have so that other people can feel comfortable.
Marginalised groups will feel elements and waves of oppression from many sources, but sometimes I feel that some groups that have been marginalised are now looking for other groups to start jibing at.
Within the LGBT context Trans people are left at the bottom of the pile. Because we all operate as different groups in a lot of ways I don't know why we get lumped together or people assume that we are one big united front because we are not.
I find that I am more and more queer in my thoughts and actions but perhaps not a stereotypical queer. But like any movement that is predominantly self-expressive then there are shades for multiple expressions of a person's queerness.
Labels and identity that people choose for themselves is a crucial part of who someone is. What is hard to swallow is being told that my identity causes offence to others. Or more specifically that my gender causes people offence.
When I am referring to people who used to be more than comfortable to spend time with me or hang around with me, but then with a name change and a few shots of T and to some groups of people I am now considered slightly untouchable.
I also get fed up with being made to feel like I have 'stolen' a lesbian in terms of the person I have a relationship with.
The amount of times people tell me that "it must be hard for her" She is very "Strong" or "Brave" for being with me.
Am I not meant to have relationships? Or should I stop messing with people's heads and not be with an attractive, intelligent. wonderful, fit and amazing human being?
It makes me feel a bit odd sometimes. It also brings me back to a point and that is what space can I have which doesn't offend anyone but allows links back to the world that I am otherwise comfortable with?
With the exception of T-Club that is starting this week, there aren't many other places where there is mixed visibility. Or just places where there is a feeling that trans people are welcome and have a space that is mostly theirs.
I don't hang around in straight places that much. I don't necessarily want to feel banished to The Pitcher and Piano, and do want to retain some links with the women's community. Especially as most of my friends are lesbians.
Luckily I do mix with some people who are very open and mixed in the company they keep and I feel some elements of acceptance within that confine. But I do think of other people who are in my situation. There are many transmen that are with lesbians, and we are a bit different in some ways. I can understand why there might be a bit of confusion and a lack of binary values that makes things simple and straightforward on a visual and political level.
I don't see it as a 'trend' to be in transition. Well perhaps for some, there is more experimentation with gender but actual transition is a different thing.
Just like there is a difference between not experimenting a bit with sexuality when you leave home to having a relationship with someone of the same sex.
I have a lot of respect for others around me, I try and look at things from other perspectives, but sometimes in transitioning I feel at times like it's not wise to be proud or celebratory of being male. I feel it's frowned upon, I also feel at times that my expressions have become censored.
If I get pissed off and rant I am at risk of being accused of being aggressive. Where as someone else around me is entitled to shout, stomp and bang things around, yet that isn't seen as aggressive.
There are subtle differences, I am also not forgetting that there are some men that are aggressive and horrible to be around. I have also met quite a few nasty women in my time as well.
I have had sexual, physical and emotional abuse from both men and women. So in my opinion I can't say that one gender is all bad. I am aware of triggers more so than people would think of me.
Men have been perpetraitors of all kinds of hideous things, that is a fact. Society is still imbalanced in many ways as to how women are treated. I never dispute this. Nor do I agree with it.
I don't think that now I am male it means I will have a simple and privileged life because most people living in the Western world will at points in their life experience elements akin to privilege somewhere in their life.
Be it skin colour, family roots, religion, job, social strata, lifestyle...the list goes on.
The main rules I live by are trying to live peacefully and respectfully amongst people. It's not always going to work 100% but a bit of love, tolerance and understanding doesn't always go a miss.
I like knowing people from all walks of life, but I am open to accept that not everyone wants to do what I do. People have their own lives, journeys and reasons why mixing in certain circles isn't something that they would choose.
I suppose I wish there could be a bit more of a unified way in which people could coexist or at least within the LGBTQI groups that are lumped together in descriptive letters yet in reality each group faced its own issues of visibility and awareness for the issues they may face.