the letter t

Opinion, Lifestyle

24th February 2022

LGBT+ in Conversation: The Letter T

This opinion piece is the view of the interviewer / interviewee and in no way reflects the views of Liverpool Guild Student Media or Liverpool Guild of Students.

Throughout LGBT+ History Month, I’ve held conversations with my friends to discuss their feelings about the area of LGBT+ that represents them. Yesterday, I published my third conversation, the letter B. Now I am continuing with the letter T.

My fourth conversation of the week is with two students at University of Liverpool. Matt is a history student, who is the Gay Men’s rep for LGBT+ Soc and the History Soc President. David* is a first year medical student and future doctor. We had a lengthy conversation about transitioning, the effect that lack of representation on young trans people and emphasis on gender in sports.

*Name changed for privacy.

When did you first transition?

David*: I came out to my friends when I was twelve, then to my mum when I was fourteen. I started testosterone when I was eighteen but before that I was on blockers. With the gender clinic, my mum wouldn’t consent so I had to go through a social worker to get a referral because if you are under sixteen you can’t consent for yourself. Then I was on the waiting list for two and a half years, then I was seen by them for a year and a half. I got my diagnosis done and then they were like, “oh, you’re too old”. So now I’m on the waiting list for an adult clinic. It’s been a year.

Has it been impacted by the pandemic?

David*: Definitely. I’m on a priority list because I was in the child clinic. It would usually be six months. Now they said it could be years. That’s just for your first appointment. They said it’s because their doctors and psychiatrists got redeployed in Covid. They didn’t compensate for that, so all the waiting lists are way behind. I managed to get testosterone through my GP though because I’d already had my diagnosis.

Coming out for me was horrifying though. It just went so badly. My friends, a lot of them were terrible. My family were terrible. I think then you find your own family. Sorry, I was just going back to your question before.

Do you think people don’t understand just how much it takes to actually transition. They think it’s a simple thing like you cut your hair and you’re done?

David*: I think they think it’s a choice and they just don’t understand it. My nan locked me in a car once with all these articles she’d printed off and was like, “you are ruining your life”. People think it’s horrible and this horrifying thing because it’s just so alien and they’ve only seen trans people in a negative way. Coming out is a lot but it’s something you have to go through. I hope in the future more people have better experiences. If you keep looking you find the people who accept you.

What do you think about representation of trans people in the media?

David*: I had a quick look at an article before and it was saying that in the 1960’s to the 1990’s, basically every trans person that was represented was as a psychopath. Not ideal. For example, in Psycho, he’s a cross-dressing woman, or Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs skins women so he can wear them. More recently, representation is Orange is the New Black and Pose but there’s no trans men there.

Matt: In Screw, there’s an episode with a trans man and I think the actor is trans too. It’s about a men’s prison and the guy is being bullied and they’re trying to figure out why and one of the officers looks at his health record and says, “oh my god he’s trans he must be being bullied because of that!” But he isn’t, and it’s about cis people jumping to a conclusion that it’s transphobia when it’s not, that was quite nice. I didn’t manage to watch the whole episode because one of the scenes, when they tell the other officers, one of them is very transphobic and I didn’t want to hear that first thing on a Monday.

David*: I think that’s a problem with LGBT representation as a whole. They can’t just portray nice happy stories about trans people. It needs to include abuse or toxic reactions.

Matt: Yeah, we have to be inspiring and powerful and brave! It’s like no… we’re really not.

David*: There needs to be representation where they’re trans and that’s it. It’s problematic that there’s a lack of representation and what there is, it’s just depressing. As a young trans kid, you want to see people just living their life and see people like you because it feels quite isolating if you don’t because it’s like, “well, that’s not normal then”.

One of my favourite shows is The Fosters, which is on Disney Plus now but it’s from about 2009. It’s a teen show and it has representation of literally everything you can imagine. I’ve just binge watched it again. That’s got two trans male characters in and they were both trans males, but they were teenagers. That was the youngest representation I’ve seen on TV, they were meant to be maybe 16 and 20.

David*: That’s quite good that they are young and also that it was quite early on if it was around 2009. I think there was a show called Butterfly, it had a trans kid in school. That was a bit horrifying though because that included them self-harming and not being able to get blockers and showing the issues with trans healthcare.

In the seminars you have about equality, do they talk about it there?

David*: We haven’t yet, no. I don’t know if they do or not, but they should. I’ve noticed in Med School that it’s not very accepting which is quite problematic because these are the people who are meant to be treating you. We have a society called Queer Medics and there’s a few people in that. The culture of medical school isn’t very friendly, you have people going around saying, “that’s so gay”, especially with prostate exams and they are literally the doctors of the future. You can’t be having doctors with those beliefs so the education needs to be there.

I just did an article with Loukas from LGBT+ Soc and they mentioned there was going be a talk in the Med School.

Matt: The past few years in LGBT Soc they’ve done talks, like “here’s what you need to do”.

David*: We did do practice exams with an LGBT patient to try and get people more exposed but that’s completely optional, so probably people don’t care. I feel like the Medical School need to have more diversity and pressure on having an LBGT friendly culture because it’s quite dangerous and a bit too much power for someone with those views.

Matt: Someone I know is a med student. They had an essay and didn’t know what to base it on and said, “one of them was about trans patients and now you’ve come out to me, maybe I’ll do that.” I thought, “what, so it took knowing me for you to be interested?”

David*: I know with my experiences with GPs, they’ve been terrible because they’ve had no training at all. They’ll just admit to you, “I’ve got no idea”. If I went with a broke arm they wouldn’t be like, “not my area of specialty, sorry”. 

Matt: If I have to go to a GP for something to do with my transition, I tend to go to my trans friends and ask them which GP is good for it so I don’t get a random person. One of them butchered my referral to the gender clinic.

David*: I went the other day for the repeat prescription of my hormone blockers and they set me up an appointment with the sexual health nurse because they thought I wanted contraception! There’s a lot of problems that are just administration and bad systems. I feel like if people did see trans people more in the media they might think a bit more because they just don’t see it in their daily lives.

I think equality should be something people just don’t need to think about.

David*: I agree, you shouldn’t need to watch trans-specific shows, they should just be there. At the minute, it’s just kind of ignored. You need to listen to the people’s views within a group but as a person in a marginalised community, not everyone’s views are the same. It’s hard to please everybody but trying to do the right thing and not make people feel shit is probably the best approach!

One of the storylines in the shows I think did that really well was Schitt’s Creek. There’s gay characters but there’s never really any mention of it. They are just going through being in a relationship and there isn’t emphasis on them being gay at all.

David*: Give us some representation without crisis. There needs to be more of that positive representation. It doesn’t really give you any confidence to come out.

Matt: Cis people have happy and sad storylines. Why can’t we have both? People jump on it being sad and pitying us and making us inspirational figures. I like that because yeah, sometimes it can be hard. Somedays though I’m really happy and proud of who I am and I want to watch something happy, where there is just a trans man going on, living his life. Cis people get that. A nice balance of both would be good, don’t take away the struggle but don’t make it all that we have.

David*: We are in 2022, get a move on! The government don’t promote rights very well.

It’s kind of a disappointing time to be alive when you see so many places just going backwards. Look at everything in America, like the abortions and conversions and racism… We are meant to be progressive Western countries. We shouldn’t need to applaud people having rights, it’s the whole point of human rights. They have a right to it.

David*: Let’s just take away some rights, that will help! It’s just a massive worldwide problem. People just need to treat people nicely. Think back to when you’re five and your mum says that if you can’t say anything nice, you just shouldn’t say anything at all. That’s why I think, if we are in an educational setting, we should have staff promoting that and teaching equality. Even just look it up, you know.

I think a lot of people struggle with just not being able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. I think maybe that’s why people are more accepting of gay people. That’s more like, “okay, I can see that. I can see that’s a relationship like I have”. Gender, not so much.

David*: True, true. Is there anything else to discuss for the article?

Yeah, you said the other day about sports and the uni sports culture.

David*: Sport is great. I did cross country running for like seven years. Loved it. Good for your fitness, good for your mental health. The uni culture of sport is like a breeding ground for sexual harassment and homophobia. The idea of me signing up to rugby as a trans gay man is terrifying. I feel like there is such a culture of toxic masculinity, it’s horrifying. The uni at the moment aren’t seeming to be promoting any mixed activities or LGBT-friendly sport.

From a young age, sport is very gendered. I remember being in secondary school and them wanting us to do football and just refusing, like football is for guys, I don’t think so.

Matt: I used to play competitive netball. When I came out I was like, I missed my chance to get back into it because now they won’t let me. People suggested basketball as an alternative and it’s like yeah but that isn’t netball. It’s a women’s sport, but why is it? I thought about joining gymnastics and I went to their stall and I asked if there’s many men on the team and they said there’s enough for a male changing room and I thought, well the whole uniform and stuff, there’s an assumption that everyone on the team will be cis. I don’t really want to wear something tight fitting.

It’s like the volleyball players finally saying that they refuse to play in the ridiculous little bikini pants because there’s no need at all it’s just hyper-sexualised.

David*: The Guild have done pretty well with like unisex toilets but that could roll over to changing rooms too. Sports teams could be like, “LGBT people, come on down!” Even if they are inclusive, they don’t promote that at all.

Matt: They put sanitary products in the mens and that’s great but they didn’t add any sanitary bins, so if you were going to change a pad or something you’d have to go all past the urinals.

I guess they tried but didn’t get all the way there! Honestly, I think the whole sports culture is scary. I’m not sporty, but if I was I wouldn’t want to join.

David*: It’s the culture they promote. AU nights look like a weird vibe.

They post each others’ fails and that kind of thing, doesn’t seem super supportive.

David*: My friend had that. They pushed her over and she scraped all her face. The culture is so weird.

I feel like there isn’t much promotion of chill sports. It’s very competitive. Not so open to people who just want a little kickabout and to have fun.

David*: It should just be more accessible. Stuff should be fun, not scary, maybe more mixed teams.

It is a difficult one. I mean if locker rooms were mixed, I’d feel pretty intimidated by that.

David*: I feel like there should be a cubicle option. Even just curtains, it probably wouldn’t cost that much.

Matt: There’s such a culture where even as a cis man, you should just be comfortable in the changing rooms. I don’t know how to describe it, but you should be very comfortable in your own skin and it’s a scary thing. Even before I came out, it’s like why are we expected just to be okay even with the same gender, with people looking at us?

I agree. It’s crazy that they assume people will be comfortable just hanging around each other naked or just in their underwear. Where else would you do that? It was an issue for me all through school just based on how I look, so I can’t imagine that being so amplified if you are trans. Even guys being allowed to wear tracksuits and girls having to wear skirts, bare their legs and be freezing! There’s just so many reasons that people will be uncomfortable: getting stretch marks, going through puberty, and your boobs suddenly getting really big. It’s a free-for-all for kids to bully each other.

Matt: It’s so weird because we are taught about boundaries and that if an adult commented on anything, you can say no and they shouldn’t be doing it. It’s not the same with kids. Then you’re just told to accept it.

Very contradictory. Things like that, people should be able to see how other people can be uncomfortable. I think if you’re a person who can see, it’s frustrating that other people can’t. I don’t understand why so many people are obsessed with other people’s lives or their bodies.

David*: Exactly, let people live their lives and don’t judge them.

Cover Image by Crystal Sings via Canva