The Trials and Tribulations of Transgender Society
The world of transgender is one that has had very little publicity around the UK. Issues like homosexuality are now widely explained and discussed amongst families and friends; however the subject of gender change is one that people seem to know very little about and is rarely spoken of as it is still considered non-conventional in the public eye. However there are people that want this to change and want transgender people to be as accepted as any other person would be in today’s society.
Rachel grew up in Cornwall and is one of the few who realises that for things to change, they have to be known about and addressed. Many people still hold an old fashioned stereotype of what a transvestite or transsexual might look like, yet have never been challenged on their views. “My argument is that if people don’t tell their families that they are transvestites and that they look different to what this image is then their family members are always going to have this stereotypical image in their minds. For society to know that it’s not at all like what can be portrayed in inappropriate skirt length, stockings, suspenders, white stilettos and bad wigs, they need to tell them.”
Rachel had a pretty ordinary childhood but began to realise quite early on that she had different feelings towards the divide between male and female, “I was about 3 or 4, I can recall sort of thinking that I prefer female clothes and growing up in Redruth it all seemed a bit strange because I knew nothing about it. I thought I must be the only person in the whole world who’s doing this. And then in my teenage years I started to see programmes on TV that suddenly made me realise ‘oh, there are other people out there’.” The transgender world is becoming broader as times move on. With the growing acceptance of things such as homosexuality more and more people feel able to come out and express themselves the way they want to, but may have kept hidden previously. “I think there are a lot of transvestites now who are starting to come out in their late forties or fifties, or even later than that, because of how much more relaxed society is about it.”
Rachel has not always been quite so open about her feelings on being transgender however, “When I was hitting puberty, I was going off playing quite male orientated sports like rugby, albeit everything was still there in the background. It wasn’t until I left Cornwall to go to college that I could be more relaxed about it.” Programmes on television such as My Transsexual Summer have really helped to open people’s eyes says Rachel, “It’s had a lot more positive coverage in the media, My Transsexual Summer and Teenage Drag Queen, they were really good, they were so much more positive. There’s been so much before that’s been based on people turning up on the Jeremy Kyle show or Jerry Springer, and it was always seen as extreme and was always done just for the publicity, they were only bad examples and there never seemed to be any good ones.”
But there are many out there that still find it hard to accept that this way of life is becoming more and more prominent in society. With people like Paul O’Grady and Barry Humphries bringing the idea of transgender individuals into the limelight, many are finding the courage to be open about the way they want to live their lives. However Rachel says that because someone is transgender, that does not necessarily mean that their sexual orientation is different at all, “I think there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about it. What I’ve found now that I’m out at work and what I’ve heard from people, blokes really are more concerned about whether or not I’m gay or straight rather than the fact that I dress as a woman, if you see what I mean. It doesn’t seem so much about that as whether or not I’d fancy them. I think women are generally more accepting of it.” Eddie Izzard in particular has been an advocate of the transgender community by trying to show that just because you dress as the opposite sex, you can still be completely heterosexual.
Hopefully in the future transgender people can feel more comfortable out in the public eye, much like homosexual people are now able to without there being too much fuss. But until then Rachel is happily living her life in the safe knowledge that those around her are accepting, and that’s what really counts.