Thursday 17 November 2011


From CNLester's twitter feed:

Always makes me smile, reading people arguing about being #stealth - some of us don't have the choice. #antistealth by default.


The arguments CN is referring to mostly revolve around whether or not transpeople, whose "trans" isn't obvious, or is no longer obvious, should live by "stealth" (that is without being "open" about who they are or were). It's primarily a political argument and I understand both sides – the stealth and anti-stealth positions. But I don't intend to write about them here, because I'm not trans in the same way, and it's not my place.

Or is it?

Thinking about stealth as it concerns TVs, as it concerns me: We don't seem to talk about this very much. We're just assumed to be stealth; we assume ourselves to be stealth. Our support groups assume that. All our discussions seem to be on that basis: safe spaces, safe times for cross-dressing, passing, secrecy, stealth. For this, as it were, default stealth, we're sometimes regarded (and disparaged) by other transpeople as part-timers, scuttling timidly in and out of the heteronormative woodwork, because we can. And it's true: anti-stealth transvestites aren't so plentiful. A lot of us are "out" at home, to a certain extent, within certain limits, but not so often in the wider world. And I understand all the reasons for that too.

So what about me?

I'm stealth. Pretty much; yes, I'd say that; I'm ashamed to say that. I'm not exactly part time – one coat, one cloth cap is the sum total of my "male" wardrobe – but I'm not anti-stealth either. Or even particularly "out".

Day to day, my presentation is hardly ever so femme as to cause alarm. In fact it's not very femmey at all. Although all my clothes are off the women's racks, they're not really that different from what I've always worn – jeans, jumpers, t-shirts, trainers. Maybe they don't look quite the same as those off the men's racks, but any apparent femme-iness is largely negated by being an otherwise un-femmey middle-aged man with a number-one shaved head. (And I don't actually mind that. I don't want to pass as a woman anyway, even supposing I still could; I just want to wear women's clothes – femme clothes.) Okay, I do get occasional comments such as: "nice jeans, mate" (sarcastically, having clocked that they're women's jeans); "that's a woman's coat!" (well, yes, so what?); or "do you pluck your eyebrows?" (no one has yet followed that up with "why?"). But there's nothing blatantly femme about my appearance. I don't go round the shops in a skirt and heels.

Similarly, while I think most people who know me know I'm a transvestite, that's not because we've ever had a serious conversation about it. I've not started one; they've not started one. They just know – without us having had to talk about it. I guess they all regard it, tolerantly, as my business (which of course it is) and choose (and probably prefer) to leave things as they are, without it intruding. And that's okay – up to a point.

So that's my life, mostly. Stealth. Stealth drag. Stealth living. Silence. Fear. Silence. Stealth. I said "up to a point", didn't I.

Excuse me while I go and chew the carpet.

Going back to the beginning: I don't think stealth is really getting us TVs anywhere. It certainly isn't getting me anywhere. Perhaps it's time we did talk about stealth.

Sunday 13 November 2011


There's been a lot of talk again recently – on the forums and elsewhere – about the word "tranny", prompted by its use both by Kelly Osbourne (in an embittered outburst – about which Matt Kailey writes persuasively here) and by the participants in the real-life documentary ‘My Transsexual Summer’ (when talking about themselves). People are more than a little annoyed.

Since I use the word "tranny" as well, perhaps I should make my own position clear: While I don't mind other trans* people claiming and using it if they so wish, to me "tranny" means "transvestite". Certainly, that's what I mean when I use the term in this blog (as in my Inspirations post). And I think that's what most people – especially cis (non-trans) people – mean by it.

And I think most people understand that – and that's why they're angry. Because to use the term "tranny" to or about someone who isn't TV is to deny (or at least appear to deny) their own (non-TV) identity. Indeed, that's often the deliberate intent. For instance, calling a trans woman a "tranny" implicitly and offensively denies her identity as a woman and says she's just a man in a frock – and, of course, trans women take great umbrage at that.

But for transvestites, "tranny" mostly isn't an insult. We use the term about and amongst ourselves quite readily. Vicky Lee's transvestite almanacs even used it in the title (‘The Tranny Guide’). The only occasion I might personally regard "tranny" as insulting is when a person's intonation or accompanying words (such as "you f***ing...") render it so. But even then it's the pejorative intent that offends, not the word itself.

Anyway, that's it. When I use the word "tranny" here it's strictly and solely in reference to me as a TV and/or to other TVs (as long as they, too, accept it without taking offence) and never to any other trans* identities. And if anyone says that I can't define for myself what a particular word means, I'll refer them to Humpty Dumpty:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more or less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that's all."

Tuesday 1 November 2011


In an article about the Independent on SundayPink List’ (which recognizes people within the LGBTQ community), Nat Titman writes:

I would love to read other people’s Inspiration Lists, especially international lists and lists covering queer and trans* communities of which I’m not a member. I encourage you all to thank everyone who’s inspired you, made it easier to be queer, trans* or gender nonconforming or helped you or your communities in practical ways.

Right, so...

To a large extent I've already mentioned many of my own inspirations here, so I'll make this list a bit more specific, noting a few personal reasons – while not discounting other things they may have done – these people have my gratitude.

In no particular order, they are:

Eddie Izzard – for doing so much to destigmatize transvestism.

Vicky Lee – for opening the pre-internet door to the tranny subculture.

Richard O'Brien – for the song Sweet Transvestite (especially as performed by Tim Curry – such attitude!)

Julia Grant – for the BBC documentary ‘A Change of Sex’.

Ian McKellen (famous relative) – for coming out on Wogan in 1988.

Leslie Feinberg – for hir prideful book Transgender Warriors.

Kate Bornstein and Riki Wilchins – for their playful gender theory.

Dorothy Allison and Patrick Califia – for the courage of their writing.

Stephen Whittle – for his activism and intelligence.

Okay, I could add many more names to this list – many more femmes, for instance – and perhaps at a later date I will. But for now, those eleven will do. Thank you to every one of them.