I was busy teaching a session about British Values the other day and I felt like a fraud. ‘It is British to allow everyone to be exactly who they want to be!’ No. If you are a teacher as old as me (cough cough) you will remember teaching under the discriminatory legislation, Section 28. I was a confident, young, gay teacher in 2003. I’m still all of those things but just not that young now. If I had told my students that it was okay to be gay I could have been dismissed, arrested and potentially thrown in prison.
I recently befriended a quirky transgender high school student named Bee. He’s a 17-year-old high schooler from a rural town up north, and just as insane as I am. Bee came across my Facebook profile through mutual friends. After I accepted his friend request, we soon got the ball rolling when we found out we had many mutual interests. For example, like me, he too enjoys binge watching political dramas and documentaries like The Crown and Madam Secretary. He also likes reading One Direction fanfiction. And in his spare time, he dabbles in fanfiction writing.
When I was 10 my mother asked me why I thought Unclear Billy always brought guys and never a girlfriend with him for birthday celebrations and holidays. Of course I had no answer, I was a kid and it never entered my mind to ask why. All I knew was he was my favorite uncle, he was crazy and fun and would tell our mother every time he came to visit that he had to go pick up a gallon of milk and then he would let us drive the car to the market to pick it up. At the time I had a crush on a boy named Bobby.
I was 16 when I realized I’m not entirely straight. Being Indian & getting raised in a religious house environment, you rarely question anything regarding your identity. Thankfully I was raised in a neutral way though. Never forced to dress a certain way, behave like a specific gender etc. Until one day I was watching One Tree Hills & I accepted the fact that I’m in love with Peyton Sawyer. For the next year, I decided to explore my sexuality & eventually come out to some of my close friends. (I’m still not out to my family except my sister.)
So went my proclamation. The time was late 2003. I was 19. I had been living in my first apartment for less than half a year. I had dark hair to the middle of my back and spikes on my leather biker jacket. I wanted to play bass in a black metal band. A friend of mine knew the only local band to play in that style at the time, and wouldn’t you know it, they needed a bassist.
I guess my story starts the same way as many others. I grew up in a Christian home, believing that homosexuality is a disease and anyone who partakes is willingly “choosing to be sick”. Some of my very earliest memories are of kissing other little girls. And not just pecks on the lips, but full-on French kissing, at maybe 5 or 6 years of age. Hiding under the bed covers, pretending to be reading by torchlight, and getting in trouble from my religious mother for not being in plain view.
As Trans* people, we’ve come a long way, and although 2017 has been rife with devastating setbacks and the ire of hatred stoked against us has been demonstrably crippling, we can’t dispute or progress. Indeed, the past year has sent our spirits spiraling with frustration as we witnessed, with incomparable agony, the attempt to ban Transgender people from joining the military, or the excision of the very word “Transgender” from vital conversations in federal government agencies- and let’s not forget the ongoing bathroom debacle that plagues us, quite unnecessarily, as opponents argue that their wives and children must be protected from Transwomen as though we represent a violent threat by simply existing is Cisgender spaces.