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Is “the trans community” just a myth?

Most of the trans people I know are not primarily trans, by that I mean they are much more, they are truly multi-dimensional people. They are primarily fathers, mothers, musicians, engineers, writers, academics, etc. who just happen to be trans. Many of us will proclaim that it is the least interesting thing about us, it is just something we had to go through in order to be who we are, to reconcile  our identities with our bodies. If you like, it is something we have done rather than something we are.

 

by Paula Goodwin

I have often heard other people, and indeed occasionally myself, referring to the “trans community”, yet I have always doubted that such a thing even exists. Sure there are a lot, and I mean a lot, of trans people, but that is almost the basis of my point. Given that there are simply so many of us, how can we be any sort of unified community?

It is almost a point of faith that we are just like everybody else, in as much as we are all different, some of us are old, some young; some of us are into classical music others are punks or metal heads; some of us are socialist republicans, others are conservative royalists; some are university professors; some have disabilities; some are environmentalists and some are petrol heads. I could go on but I think I have made my point! Just because we happen to have one thing in common – our diverse gender identity – it does not mean that we have anything else in common.

Now, please don’t get me wrong I’m not antisocial, I have trans friends. Indeed some of my best friends are trans (you have no idea how I have longed to use that phrase), but like most people I don’t want to spend all my time with one group of people. I don’t want to find myself in some sort of trans social ghetto. I fear that too many of my trans friends do just that, only socialising with other trans people, their social media drenched with trans issues, and their politics dominated by trans rights. On the face of it there’s not a lot wrong with that, except that of course I didn’t go through all the grief and sacrifices of transition to be part of some restricted trans world. I did it to be able to fully live my life as a woman! And that means all of my life, my work life, my family life, my music life and of course my social life. Sure, some of that will involve my trans friends, but much of it won’t.

Is this just me? Am I the odd one out? I don’t think so. Most of the trans people I know are not primarily trans, by that I mean they are much more, they are truly multi-dimensional people. They are primarily fathers, mothers, musicians, engineers, writers, academics, etc. who just happen to be trans. Many of us will proclaim that it is the least interesting thing about us, it is just something we had to go through in order to be who we are, to reconcile  our identities with our bodies. If you like, it is something we have done rather than something we are.

And yet it is part of who I am, having lived most of my life as one gender, then transitioning after over 50 years it is inevitable that I want to spend some time with people who understand what I’ve been through. To spend time with people who have similar experiences and who can relate to this aspect of my life. I want to be able to help those who are starting out on this strange journey, just as others helped me on my journey. Does that make community?

Over these last few weeks as we have had to socially separate ourselves, away from friends, family and even colleagues, as many are faced with needing help, are feeling isolated, lonely or abandoned we see who are the important people in society. We also see who are the people helping each other out. 

I’m seeing that some of my trans friends are only getting any help from other trans people. When the chips are down it seems that the only people they can really rely on to get their shopping done, to check up to see if they’re OK, to make sure they have all they need are other trans people.  The people I find making multiple video calls together are the trans support groups, groups like TransPALS and Trans London are now so much more than just Trans Support Groups they are now truly Support Groups. At TransPALS we are introducing TransPALS Pen Pals, and encouraging “buddying up” so that there is always somebody checking up on each of us, somebody who when they ask “How are you?” they actually want to know and will care, maybe even be prepared to offer help.  To me this sounds very much like community. Maybe this situation is bringing out the best in some of us, maybe it was always there, but to me this is definitely looking like community.

A community of people who have something in common, who care for each other, who won’t judge each other, won’t question our fundamental identity, but will help. Will make the call to check on each other, will do the shopping, will go the extra mile. So just this once I am going to publicly admit that I was wrong, there is a “trans community” and it has taken this current emergency for me to realise it. To realise how strong it is, how important it is, and that I’m proud to be part of it! 


Paula Goodwin is the World’s Leading Bass Trombone and Tuba Playing Christian Transgender Gardener! She has an irregular Blog at https://paula-paulasplace.blogspot.com/, is the Chair of the trustees of Croydon Pride, a board member of TransPALS and conducts the Croydon Brass Band and the Allegra Concert Band