Trans and Single

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Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Even before I came out at Transgender, I was incompetent in the dating department. Yes I was married twice to two amazing women but to be honest I had NO dating game at all and surprised I was even married one of those times. I was filled with self doubt, insecurities and other limiting beliefs of myself that when it came to love I was always in my own way.

Funny how thing don’t change very much.

I think we as a transgender person have this belief that if we change our face, our name, and our physical future that it is all going to miraculously change how we are accepted in society and that everything will be better. Now this isn’t a poor me and negative post it is more of a reflection. A reflection on where I have been and how my life has changed it’s direction multiple times but at the end of the day I am still so much the same person at my core. Now mind you I have become stronger mentally. I have developed my communication skills which are growing weekly. Confidence to hold my own when to hundreds of people in a room or to those with a position of power in a workplace. But struggle with intimacy an knowing how to hold back, and what relationships may look like.

Since the split from my second marriage I have observed this overwhelming desire by the wider LGBTIQ+ communities, more so in the transgender community, to be in a relationship. Now everyone needs connection with another human being and that disconnection contributes to many health issues including depression and according to the World Health Organization, one in five people are clinically depressed. Our most basic primal desires are tied to two things: survival and reproduction. When those are both compromised how would you respond. We almost become desperate which means we end up attracting the wrong partner for our needs.

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Photo by Florian Pérennès on Unsplash

Now you have to understand I don’t follow or like the things that I want to surround myself with. I seek out the conflict and push back to know how to help make sense of where the hate and misunderstanding come from. So taking a chance to understand why we don’t receive much attention for potential partners I put myself into situations I wouldn’t normally go into.

I noticed while speaking in these spaces to many in either one on one or publicly in these group sessions that there is a lack of general knowledge among non transgender people (cisgender) still when it comes to transgender people and dating. The majority still have still have a stereotype of what an ideal human body should look like because of what we have seen in porn eg. abs on either men or women, no body fat, asymmetrical facial feature and the list goes on including things like no “baggage” or drama, good luck. There is the fetish of trans people that has been created from porn that isn’t real AND that then spills over into spaces of potential employment and kills any hope of seeking a meaningful relationship because of extreme misunderstandings. At one point ads part of a dating series I was working on I found the boldness of people requesting their needs was almost too much. At one point being told they are in a relationship but prefer “Trans Women” over “Real Women”. When I was able to get a conversation going i did discover there are actually people who are seeking relationships with transgender women and ask me where can they go to meet someone for a relationship… Now you can see why going into these spaces and unearthed a real need to connect trans women with real relationships apart from sexual ones. Now I don’t think sex is being ruined, IF that is all you are after. What is wrong, sadly, is any sort of attachment or relationship with another human being here . Everyone needs someone and that is what the transgender community is desperate for, and really what I am hearing from people who aren’t transgender as well.

So I had a long drawn out debate with one person once on what a relationship would look like if i was dating someone. Now some people like “boxes” or “labels” some people don’t, I do find those easy when writing these pieces and when trying to help explain and educate others.

When speaking to this person they assumed I was going to have lower surgery (get the chop as they said, but it is currently known as sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or Genital Reconstructive Surgery (GCS)) and they assumed that now that I was a woman that I was going to be dating men immediately. Most people seem to think in Black & White and forget about those who identify and either Bisexual or Pansexual.

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Bisexual mean you are sexually attracted to both men and women.  Pansexuality is a much broader form of sexual orientation, in which the pansexual individual experiences sexual attraction towards members of ALL genders, or if you will “hearts not parts“. Trust me there is so much to learn when it comes to identities and feelings which i am sure I will cover  in time.

I explained to them that NO I was not having SRS/GCS and NO I am not strictly interested in dating just women but that I identified as Bi/Pan. Which immediately strikes up old fashioned thoughts that being Bisexual means you’re just gays with one foot in the closet or that we are more likely to cheat, are always looking for sex, and that we carry sexually transmitted diseases. Sorry to disappoint. But the thing that made me so damn confused was he argument about my sexuality. I said that i was interested primarily in women but if the right guy came along I would definitely be interested. lets say 70/30 on the spectrum (this actually confused some of my Gay/Lesbian friends). They told me that I could never be a Lesbian ( lesbian is a homosexual woman who is romantically or sexually attracted to other women) because I still have a penis.  Then I threw the question back out and asked “What if I dated a man then would that be a hetero presenting relationship or a gay relationship?” they immediately said that since I am a woman and not a man it wouldn’t be a gay relationship.

So you have to understand I have lived such a Heterosexual life that was so binary that my head was spinning by the lack of understanding there was in these conversations. Imagine how absolutely confused I was! it was surprising how there was a resistance to identify it as a homosexual relationship either way.

Now I know the first response I hear from others “Michelle how trans-phobic of them!!

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Source PinkNews

They’re TERF’s!! Don’t you have more respect for yourself?!” I am not going to go there because there was much more to the conversation and found that abusive finger blame pointing is not winning the war, it is dragging us backward. But the point is that the conversation highlighted that there really is a lack of education among the dating world about our identities as Transgender people. Ok what? A “TERF”? This  is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

We have even started to see other transgender women who have had SRS/GCS surgery join these groups creating a have’s versus have not’s attitude within these communities as well. Yes it is really this damn confusing and I think you get an idea of why there is that much isolation when there is that much attitude and discrimination.

Now the reason I am writing this is came after watching a few of my fellow trans sisters who are struggling with loneliness and isolation and the mental health issues that have resulted. I heard life experiences of feeling overwhelmed anxiety when it comes to potential or lack of relationships. Coming out as transgender for the majority of us isn’t due to a mental health issue. Trust me I have had YEARS (10+) of mental health support to try and figure this all out. The more I forced it to hide the more I struggled. The more I relaxed and let things take their course I soared.

But really, what are my issues? Why are you single Michelle if you have a better understanding of this? Many people think I have developing a healthy mind through positive attitude. But It is multiple things, I am judged for what i am and not who I am. I am contacted by potential relationship opportunities but really I tend to try to control potential relationships through self-sabotage or avoid them all together. I try to control them because of my life situation. Being a speaker and a radio show host who is trying to build transgender visibility in a different way with a different tone. Being a parent and wanting only specific people around who can handle me having baggage, despite managing it insanely well. So I have this desire to control who and what is around. But then I realize I avoid anything because… well because I am scared like any other person out there, scared that I will face rejection when they get to know me on a deeper level. So it isn’t all about trans issues, it isn’t all about culture and expectations it is also about our own personal walls and barriers we create ourselves.

 

 

 

We Want To Be Better… Allies

29542534_10156152635667557_9081393503690802102_n.jpgThey’re pretty fabulous already, but they could always be better (but really doesn’t that go for all of us?)

Each week the girls identify something they’re not super great at and challenge themselves to be better. So this week, in light of March 31st being Transgender Visibility Day, Annie and Bianka learn about transgender issues and how to be better allies to the trans community. Which I joined them as a special guest speaker.  Let me tell you what amazing fun it was!

Being a good ally is identifying your own privileges and stepping up to allow underprivileged voices speak for themselves instead of speaking over them all the time, no matter what the culture or diverse background is. Also remember it is OK to have a laugh and have some fun once and awhile.

Actual Episode: https://www.acast.com/wewanttobebetter/transgendervisibility

Their Page on Nova: https://www.nova969.com.au/podcast/wewanttobebetter

iTuines link to Subscribe: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/we-want-to-be-better/id1322824072?mt=2#

Trans Activism, Community Involvement And Safe Spaces, With Michelle Sheppard

This week, Ruby and James chats to one of our favourite people, Michelle Sheppard, a fantastic social justice advocate, fighting for trans rights, recognition and diversity. Michelle has a massive amount of experience with activism and advocacy and is one of the prominent figures for trans activism in Australia.
Michelle is also the founder of Bulldog Pride, working to make the AFL a more inclusive space for queer supporters. We also have our intern John in the studio to talk to us about some of their experiences and musing on the Latex/rubber scene.
We talk about some of the amazing work being done to centre trans individuals and communities, as well as some of the trans specific issues within society. We also talk about some of the issues regarding masculinity from a trans perspective, the need to have safe spaces for marginalised communities and how queer spaces can become exclusionary.

https://joy.org.au/triplebipass/

Originally published on:

https://joy.org.au/triplebipass/2018/03/11/trans-activism-community-involvement-and-safe-spaces-with-michelle-sheppard/

IWD2018: how safe spaces create inclusion for all women

To celebrate International Women’s Day, all week bluenotes will be guest edited by respected journalist and author Catherine Fox. We’ll be publishing content on women, their experience in the workplace and the future of equality. We hope you enjoy it.

Creating women-only spaces is important but we need to be mindful of celebrating all women on International Women’s Day.

ANZ employees Rochelle Johnson and Michelle Sheppard recently shared their experiences around issues faced by trans women to help others understand how workplace support can make a huge difference to someone’s life.

“I think I’m welcome here, I’m maybe welcome here, I’m not sure that I’m welcomed here” – Rochelle Johnson

“Women’s Day events are all about ‘let’s break the glass ceiling, ‘let’s get gender balance’,” Johnson says. “But they’re only talking about one kind of balance – they’re not really talking about a more-diverse concept of what that actually means.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUbI66UPDS2YRIvwejUcSp-w&v=1ifn2z_BOF8

 

As a trans-woman, walking into those spaces leaves her feeling fraught, Johnson says.

“It’s like ‘I think I’m welcome here, I’m maybe welcome here, I’m not sure that I’m welcomed here’ and most of us trans-women go through that experience of always being hyper vigilant,” she says.

The power of allies

The women agree if they learned anything good from the marriage equality survey – which they describe as a “horror” – it was the power of allies.

“We want you to stand beside us and help us advocate and help us achieve equality,” Sheppard says.

“So many people within our community are quick to throw terms around like ‘pink washing’ and so on but they don’t actually see what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Sheppard recalls writing down everything she had to deal with as a trans woman to help create policies for the bank.

“The company I was with before, when I first came out, actually looked at me like they wouldn’t touch me and wouldn’t shake my hand or anything,” she says.

Johnson says most people find their transparency inspiring.

“Suddenly you’re living authentically,” she says. “You’re living in a way that you hadn’t in the past and that kind of honesty is infectious.”

You can hear more of the conversation by watching the video above.

Jemma Wight is production editor at bluenotes

Originally posted : https://bluenotes.anz.com/posts/2018/03/IWD2018-how-safe-spaces-create-inclusion-for-all-women

 

 

Proud. Being more Bull Dog.

28056282_10156045084842557_5152656214536674961_n.jpgNot many would know that I felt shame when I first came out as Transgender.

I lost nearly everything and the unconditional love from my daughters and a few close friends kept me going.
I’m standing over a word in this photo that means so much theses days to me.

PROUD
As part of Bulldog Pride I helped a bit with some of the details for the Pride Game with things like suggesting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Liaison Officers (GLLOs)

Standing there tonight looking at it meant so much.
#Shame is a painful emotion responding to a sense of failure to attain some ideal state and it encompasses you entirely. The thought process that I wanted to hide, to disappear or even to die.
For years, I tried to love myself. The more I tried, the harder it became. Why is allowing ourselves to do that so hard?
I was so afraid to go to #football games as a spectator. I just felt I was asking for trouble. I remember being outed on a train ride home while I stood with my daughters trying to distract them from being affected.
But now as I stood there tonight staring at a banner. Many of you see crepe paper and plastic but I see so much more and am filled with pride and honour as I helped a club create something a group for people to feel included and safe that means so much to so many for generations to come.

So I am proud of myself. I am proud for the work that I put in to change from a damaged person into the strong woman I am today.

Proud Mama Mish tonight 💋❤️

Michelle Sheppard – Bronte Price, Registered Civil Marriage Celebrant – Part 2 of 2

Noting that these days we don’t share our stories with each other, Michelle begins by sharing how similar the different paths she and Bronte have taken, and how gendered traditional marriage and old-world things we do – are.

To find out more about the ceremonies offered by Bronte Price, visit: http://www.gaycelebrant.melbourne/ or http://www.bronteprice.com.au/ To find out the different ways to listen to JOY 94.9, and more from Michelle Sheppard, visit: http://www.JOY.org.au/

Originally posted:

 

 

Michelle Sheppard – Bronte Price, Registered Civil Marriage Celebrant – Part1

 

We each have burning questions that often do not see the light of day, and Michelle is no exception. With her special guest Bronte Price, in this first of two sittings, Michelle seeks answers as she tries to make sense of ceremony differences should you be LGBTI. To find out more about the ceremonies offered by Bronte Price,

visit: http://www.gaycelebrant.melbourne/ or http://www.bronteprice.com.au/

To find out the different ways to listen to JOY 94.9, and more from Michelle Sheppard, visit: http://www.JOY.org.au/

 

Original post:

Today is brought to you by the sounds “boo” and “bee”

So today is the first medical follow up since having my breasts augmented. I struggled with the idea of sharing my surgery with anyone outside my immediate circle offline. Since the start of my transition I knew my dress style I was going for, I knew my hair, what my makeup was going to look like, and the only physical body change was my breasts (which I hoped oestrogen would do its job for me).

Now here I am stuck. I am a radio personality who preaches no talking about surgeries and that I am non op (non operational) transgender woman and still am. I spoke before in another post about how I have approached my breast augmentation as any woman would who had any drastic changes in breast tissue to malformation. I purposely let my body go through the 4 years of Hormone replacement therapy to let my body do what it needed to do. But what I witnessed during this time has been a real eye opener.

I have seen a couple camps of Transgender women.

  1. The women who lived their lives as young gay men, possibly doing drag, and then transitioned. Now the majority of these women haven’t had harsh secondary sex characteristics and haven’t hit that later 30+ stage where we sort of do this third level of sex characteristic changes. These are the women you would look at and go ‘bitch’ because they just look stereotypically cis-normative (meaning they look like any woman you would see walking down the street and often what we call ‘stealth’ or ‘passing’.
  2. There is the camp I fall into which is where we have lived a heterosexual or privately bisexual existence with a wife and 2.5 kids while building a white picket fence. We haven’t looked after ourselves very well and develop ‘Dad bods’ usually being 30+. The idea of living our lives as we see ourselves on the inside is usually a pipe dream unless something really shakes us up like a failing marriage, death in the family, etc that we start to internalise more than we ever did before.
  3. There are probably other sub groups but these are the ones you primarily see when we hear coming out stories.

SO when I came out I saw all kinds of patterns that formed when seeking support for what I was dealing with internally. The most obvious was that there wasn’t any support. No support groups. No Special General Practitioners (GP) on google search, my local regional medical centre had no idea what I was going on about, and what in the world am I doing entertaining these thoughts?

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I finally found some support through a fetish meetup group of all places because it was ALL I could find, and I wasn’t feeling very good about myself at this stage and felt disgusting. Everything I saw was about clothes, makeup, lingerie, sexualised images that made me want to cry. This was the same thing I had seen my entire life when trying to understand what I was going through. Luckily I was able to meet a proper GP and get onto a mental health plan to help me make sense of ALL of this. But every time I started to get onto a roll with conversation all anyone wanted to talk about was dosages of medications and what surgeries I had planned and who I was wanting to see based on their surgical techniques.`I was mentally putting my foot down like a passenger in the car trying to apply the invisible break pedal.

“SURGERY?!” I was almost offended because here I was at the end of my marriage, I am trying to find stability for my daughters, what is going to happen to our house, how am I going to navigate now with a single income, etc. The last thing i was worried about was was custom Neo vagina I was going to start a purchase plan on and if I wanted red leather interior or a low hood. I hadn’t even started and this was all being thrown at me.

Over the next year I focused on just keeping my head above water and not pissing off the rest of my family around me so I could create a normalised experience for my daughters and not traumatise them with the fact that their father was now going to be presenting as a female and again, apply breaks and slow down to make sure they could keep up. Still when seeking out others in my particular situation all I heard was ‘Well I am getting a ‘so and so’ vagina because their technique is such’ or ‘I will not start my new career until I have X surgery’. Now where i come from there isn’t any government assistance for anything and if you DO go on to these programs it is just embarrassing and I wanted to show my daughters what it meant to apply hard work and see the results from it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do understand that some people personally need to go through some of these procedures for their own selves. I am merely pointing out that it is immediately thought and perceived that it is unquestionably going to have to happen no matter what if you intend to live your life as the gender you identify with. I just understood my immediate limitations as a 6’3″ (192cm) man and that I could in no way squeeze into a size 10 dress and meet the unattainable standards that even cisgendered women are faced with in society.

But this one occasion stood out to me. It was a lightbulb moment during one of our shows we did on facial feminisation surgery. This is a surgery that peels your face down from your forehead and involves drilling the prominent features of your skull to soften the appearance of your masculine features. During the show and after there was a split in conversations and I noticed something that followed further online in the days that followed even till now.

We have further groups which I refer to the haves and have nots. All feminisation surgeries require an obscene about of financial backing that most people will never be able to afford. Depending on how far you want to go,  Transgender surgical costs can cost more than $100,000. Medical procedures like facial electrolysis could cost up to $20,000. No wonder so many transgender people fall into the have nots basket because we are economically vulnerable, 15% of the community report making less than $10,000 a year. Many in fact, end up homeless or attempting suicide.

  • Hormone Therapy: $1,500/Year
  • Gender Reassignment Surgery: $30,000-Plus
  • Facial Feminisation Surgery: $25,000-$60,000
  • Breast Augmentation: $5,000-$10,000

We face this pressure to immediately book in these appointments and sit on the waiting lists for years until that magical day comes where we will be “complete”.

It don’t work that way.

I saw in social media those who could afford all of these things flaunt it. I saw comments posted underneath about how ‘they will never be able to’ and watching this first hand is heart breaking while beating the streets going door to door just to help others just find employment so they could live their lives and rejoin the rest of society and feel accomplished. Those displays of “look at me”, along with the encouragement of every woman in my life who shared their individual stories and struggles with me, made me come to the conclusion that I didn’t need any of these things to complete my gender transition in society. Often I was affirmed through my actions that I had finally become the woman I always seen myself as.

So why did I have Breast Augmentation? Sometimes people don’t realise the background work and struggles to get to this point, which is why i shared a brief nutshell above. The spiritual and mental decision alone was a lot of back and forth thoughts in my mind and when I couldn’t even put on a piece of clothing to fit me properly I knew I had to revisit this. Trust me I have had SOOoooo much running through my head even now after going did I do the right thing, but I blame lack of sleep. I know I did. But I didn’t want to flaunt what i decided to do. If anything up to this point I kept it to myself, researched clinics, weighed my options of which Dr’s people preferred or which country had the best technique, and you know what? No one gave me any advice that was helpful and usually ended up being about ‘I don’t care about the cost I just want the best’. WTF?!

One of the things I love about womens bodies are the imperfections. The scars, the stretch marks, moles, freckles, curves, our minds and the way we see the world, and the list keeps on going. Its why I am still so attracted to women even to this day. I wasn’t worried about perfect symmetry, I just wanted my body to be balanced and fill my malformed breasts to an appropriate size for my massive frame, and you know what? The Dr did just that. I went to an appointment with a Dr who listened to me and what i wanted. He could tell by our conversation that I was doing the right thing and up until they put me to sleep to the moment I stood in the surgery today for a follow up I was treated like the woman I am with care and concern for my needs.

Afterwards this morning I stood there topless in my bathroom looking in the mirror. Yes I have a tummy, and yes I have stretch marks, I have scars that have left me feeling unattractive for years, I saw every flaw and every unique feature across my body that told many stories. But I looked at my body and Ithought how feminine I looked. I saw how beautiful my imperfect body is now that I look balanced and don’t care about the flaws saying fuck the stereotypical standards because I love myself and I am such a beautiful woman with her own stories to tell.

~Mish xo

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