I’m not a big believer in the school of thought that LGBTQ people will gain a better place in society if we can just show the straight world that we’re all the same, because, quite frankly, we’re not all the same.
If you have to start your article by saying, ‘I’m just a regular guy’, you’re probably not just a regular guy.
I guess most guys aren’t born female and dressed up in lacy pink dresses and bonnets until they were old enough to rip them off and try and flush them down the loo (true story).
I guess most guys didn’t get told off for climbing on the monkey bars or not sitting with their knees together or for demanding culottes instead of skirts. Most guys wouldn’t have been bought skirts in the first place.
Most guys wouldn’t have have a series of ongoing medical procedures to radically alter their bodies either, they wouldn’t have needed to because they wouldn’t have been systematically crushed by the relentless onset of puberty and hips and breasts and all those other delightful things…
Luckily I had the chance to do puberty again, this time as a boy. And although the idea that getting to do something as gross and confusing as puberty again can be described as lucky is as strange to me as it is to you, it’s actually true… Apart from the acne, and the sweatiness, and the oily hair, and the constant hunger, oh and not being able to get out of bed in the morning and… Let’s move on, shall we?
Three years ago, I was living as a girl, I was a double university graduate with a good job, good friends, a nice apartment and pretty well off but I wasn’t happy, in fact I was miserable.
I expended all my energy on the trappings and symbols of happiness without figuring out how to actually be happy. Something had to change, I lived everyday in isolation, I couldn’t imagine a future for myself everything after tomorrow was blank.
I remember looking at these images of trans men and just thinking, ‘That’s me, oh my gosh that’s me,’ and then getting up looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘Who is that!? How can the inside and the outside be so different!?’ I knew if I wanted to be happy – the true measure of success – then I needed to change.
I went to my GP and told her I was transgender. Within a year I had undergone legal name and status changes, hormone therapy, and was on my way to Thailand for as many surgeries as my body (and, more importantly, my credit card) could handle.
These days I live my life as an out and proud transgender man, as an educator and as an activist. So out and so proud in fact that a Channel Four documentary called ‘My Transsexual Summer’ has followed me and six other trans people over the last four months in attempt to give the great British public a little glimpse of the way we live our lives.
A great deal of what you will see during the four hour-long episodes will be shocking and will feel very alien, I know a lot of people have struggled with Karen and her vaginoplasty (the inversion of the penis to create a vagina, and removal of the testicles). People have been very shocked about how difficult it is for us to find work, to find people to love us, and to be safe from violence and abuse. All things ‘regular’ folk most probably take for granted.
On a superficial level whilst watching the show you will probably think ‘well that’s different’ or ‘I’ve never seen that before’. However, rather than driving a wedge even further between the trans community and the rest of the world I think this show will bring us all closer together.
True diversity is not about making everyone the same, it’s about recognising the ways that we are different and loving the ways that we are different and then finding the common ground.
When Drew’s mother cries and holds Sarah in her arms because her family won’t speak to her, we see two completely normal people united in grief. When Karen comes out of that operating theatre and says, ‘I just feel clean now,’ we see a regular middle aged lady who just wanted the same dignity as everyone else.
Its our differences that make us special and unique enough to love and be loved. That is why I decided to participate in the TV show, I wanted to make a stand for myself and for people like me and say, ‘It’s our turn to be included’.
Its been two days since the show aired to 1.8million people, which is about 10% of the viewing population. I have had 26 friend requests in the last 6 hours, and my twitter followers have increased from 12 to 227. I’m not entirely sure what to think about it all!
When I started this project my goal was for at least one person to change the way they thought about trans gender people, with that number of viewers I might need to revise my goals, now I think I would like a house, a car, a boyfriend, a holiday somewhere warm, a puppy…
Maxwell Zachs is a 25year old Reform Jew who works full time for QuakersUK as a Peace Worker where he is working on a project countering the recruitment of youth into the Military as well as supporting Conscientious Objectors. In his spare time he is the Secretary for KeshetUK, the LGBTQ Jewish Forum, as well as regularly performing his own music.