About Ray is an upcoming film about a young trans boy who is just beginning their transition, and follows his journey as his family come to terms with it. From the trailer (below) it actually looks like it could be a really good, positive film, which tackles some of the interesting and realistic difficulties faced by trans teens.
However, once again the director has decided to cast a cis actress in the lead role. Now normally this would just make me roll my eyes in disgust and move on, but I found the justification given by director Gaby Dellal downright offensive.
The explanation given was the usual excuse of needing to have a well-known actor in the lead roll in order to get the movie financed, but in addition to this the director explained that:
The part is a girl and she is a girl who is presenting in a very ineffectual way as a boy. She’s not pretending to have a deeper voice. She’s just a girl who is being herself and is chasing the opportunity to start hormone treatment. So to actually use a trans boy was not an option because this isn't what my story is about.
Immediately she has misgendered Ray, calling him a girl, and using female pronouns. However, Ray never was a girl. He is, and always has been, a boy, who happened to be assigned female at birth. He may have once presented as female, but this is not 'a girl being herself', it is a boy being himself finally after many years of not being able to be.
In this statement Dellal is implying that trans men should at least try to pretend to have a lower voice in order to be seen as men and that trans men are not male until they have at least had hormone treatment. It takes a lot of work to constantly try to lower your voice, or to go through speech therapy, something which I have not tried to do as I face enough anxiety when speaking without worrying additionally about whether my voice sounds low enough. For Dellal to say that Ray is a girl because he isn't even trying to lower her voice, is insulting to all trans people who may not have what is deemed an acceptable pitch for their gender.
To say that Ray is presenting as a boy 'in a very ineffectual way' is insulting to all trans people who may not 'pass' or present in a way which is deemed acceptable by society for their gender. Some people may be waiting for medical treatment, not want or be able to get medical treatment, or even with medical treatment may not fit into society's expectations for their appearance. Someone's appearance does not dictate their gender, and that is the fundamental point she is missing here.
Gender is based on self-identification - someone is the gender they say they are, no matter their outward appearance. They don't need to do anything to earn respect and recognition for their gender. This idea that trans people must 'pass' as their gender is archaic and oppressive.
Saying using a trans boy was not an option, makes it seem as though she never really considered it, and never really looked for a trans actor for the role. If she had, then perhaps she would have found that trans men are far more varied than she thought and could have been groundbreaking in destroying this notion that 'post-transition' trans actors cannot play pre-transition trans people.
Then at the end, she is saying her story isn't about a trans boy? Oh right, so a story about a young person assigned female at birth transitioning to male, isn't about a trans boy. That seems like a huge contradiction to me.
Peeing is something we all have to do, but it brings with it it's own dangers and anxiety for me as a trans man. I try to avoid using public toilets whenever possible, especially if I'm in a new or unfamiliar place, where I don't know the lay of the toilets. I will hold it until the last possible moment, and only go if I really have to.
I often get sideways glances when I go into the men's toilets, some of which I'm sure is my paranoia misinterpreting, but some of which are very real. I've had passing comments such as isn't that a girl and been challenged by attendants and men using the facilities. Usually it takes one of two forms, either they inform me that this isn't the ladies, or they question whether they themselves are in the wrong toilets.
Mostly when either of these happen, I'm able to reply No, I'm a guy, they apologise and we all get back to what we were doing. Although it's upsetting and makes me feel uncomfortable and anxious I can usually deal with it and focus on what I've gone in there to do, use the toilet.
Last night I had an incident which made me scared for my safety in a way I've not been before. I was washing my hands when a guy came up to me and asked if I was a boy or a girl. I replied that I was a guy. He then proceeded to insist over and over that I'm a woman and looked me up and down in a way that made me feel quite intimidated.
I was fearful that he was going to try finding out and get physical with me. I dried my hands and left in a hurry after, in my drunken state, having a small argument and swearing at him. I noticed him, once I was back with my friends, hanging around the door to the toilets, almost guarding it for a while.
Reflecting on it now I feel I was incredibly lucky that it didn't escalate and I was able to leave, the outcome could have been a lot worse. However, it's definitely put me off visiting the club where it happened in the future. There are already certain clubs and events I have found I don't feel safe at and will not visit, even if it was just a few individual patrons who made it that way.
I do feel fundamentally more safe in queer spaces, and I thankfully haven't had any issues in the toilets in the gay bars I frequent.
Now, some may say that I should not be using the men's toilets in the first place. If I don't want to be harassed then I should use the women's toilets, or the disabled loos.
Firstly, I identify as a man, and so therefore I have a legal right here in the UK to use the men's toilets. Secondly, I would feel just as uncomfortable, if not more so, using the women's toilets, and that is not without danger for me either. And finally, despite the option of using disabled toilets not always being there anyway, I feel it is disingenuous to use them when I do not have a disability that requires me to.
It takes a certain amount of boldness to walk into a toilet where you know you could be challenged, and I'd just like to be left alone to pee in peace.
At my catholic school we had this lay chaplain, he wasn't a priest but just a fairly ordinary catholic guy who was there to organise religious services and events and also, to some extent, to provide spiritual support to students.
I ended up coming out to him after he walked in on me crying in the chapel one day. I'd been struggling quite a bit with reconciling my sexuality with my faith, as well as with my mood generally, and by lower 6th (age 17) the chapel had become the place where I would go to hide away when school got too much. It was basically just a tiny room with an altar and a couple of pews in it, but hardly anyone ever used it, so you were usually guaranteed a private space.
I don't remember all that much about the specific day in question, except that I was sitting in there in tears talking to God about what He wanted me to do in terms of relationships. At this point I was exclusively attracted to girls, and I wanted to know whether it would be okay for me to consider pursuing a relationship, or whether I should remain celibate, but I kept going round in circles without getting anywhere and getting quite upset.
When the chaplain walked in to the chapel it was quite awkward; there I was in floods of tears, not exactly expecting to have to talk to anyone. He sat with me for a few moments and then said that if I wanted to talk then I could come find him in his office. This gave me some time to collect myself and decide whether or not I wanted to go to see him.
I had struggled over the past year and a half with finding someone to talk to about my sexuality who also could see where I was coming from with my struggle to reconcile it with my faith. Nonreligious support workers or mental health professionals I had spoken to could not quite understand the specific religious conflicts I was having and religious people often seemed judgemental.
I found it quite hard to actually talk to people about topics that were important to me so I wasn't sure that I would be able to say what I wanted to say to the chaplain if I did meet with him. However, when it came to it I found him one of the easiest people to talk to and I managed to come out to him almost straight away. He was the first person who had really seemed to understand why I was struggling.
Over the next few months we discussed and explored sexuality and faith. It was a really open and honest discussion, and I think it helped that it was one of the first times the chaplain had fully considered homosexuality in a faith context so we were able to explore it together.
We also started speaking about gender and I realised that that was something I wanted to discuss. A year previously I had come to the conclusion that I wasn't a girl, but that realisation terrified me so much that I didn't feel I could do anything about it, so I promptly squashed it. Over the year that followed I continued to learn more about being trans from the internet, but I was still too scared to say anything to anyone.
When my discussion with the chaplain turned to gender, I finally felt able to express how I'd been feeling. After I'd told him that I thought I was a guy, he simply told me that it would be possible for me to transition in school, if that was what I wanted. For the first time I started to consider that I could, that it didn't have to be that scary and that the school wouldn't have a problem with it. I suddenly felt empowered and confident and knew that I at least had to give living as a guy a go. He helped me talk through some of the practical aspects and it became so much less scary. He didn't know very much about being trans but still managed to provide a space for me to talk about it, and was so understanding and receptive.
Within about a week I had gone in to see my headmaster and spoken to him about transitioning at school. He was somewhat surprised, but immediately supportive. He spoke to other members of staff and we agreed that I could come back to school after the half term holiday as Zac.
The only issue I had was over which toilets I was supposed to use, as they originally thought I should use the disabled toilet. I didn't think this was appropriate so they suggested I use the staff toilets, which I reluctantly agreed to. They didn't want me using the boys toilets because they had this idea other students might complain that there was a 'girl' in there. I ignored their directive however and used the boys toilets, and as far as I'm aware there were never any complaints.
I continued to meet with the chaplain weekly for the remainder of my time at the school, and he was one of my biggest supporters. I really don't know how I'd have got through school without him.
Today we had a very fraught catholic university chaplaincy/society meeting. There was a lot of emotion and the whole atmosphere felt quite awkward. People obviously had strong feelings on a few subjects that were being discussed, and a few members were brought to tears, and some got up and left at various points.
I don't pretend to fully understand all the tensions and the connection some of these people have with the chaplaincy, as I've only been there a few months, and these are just some of my thoughts on what I took away from today.
The meeting was called to discuss the chaplaincy retreat that we had voted on in the first society meeting of the year, back in September. It was rather ominously stated that the chaplaincy could not support the retreat, initially with no further explanation given. The committee of the society looked very awkward as they talked about this, and didn't feel they could expand on it without our priest being there.
Once we'd located him, he explained his reasons for not feeling like he could support the retreat that had been planned. One reason, which I think should have been the main reason, was that the retreat centre we were planning to go to was not wheelchair accessible, and especially now we have someone who uses a wheelchair attending chaplaincy it would not be appropriate for the chaplaincy to support a non-accessible event. His other reason was specifically to do with the community who were going to be running part of the retreat, and I think this was based more on personal reasoning.
Understandably there were people with a close connection to the community in question who were offended by his comments on the nature of the community. I think they had wished to be able to compromise and discuss the issues, coming up with solutions rather than taking the decision to cancel the retreat altogether.
There were also some other issues which came up in the discussion and I think too much of the dialogue seemed quite accusatory. Some things probably weren't appropriate to be discussed with the entire society present, and there seemed to be a lot of underlying emotion, a lot of which I didn't quite follow, probably because I haven't been a part of the chaplaincy that long.
The end result of the meeting was that the retreat is to be cancelled and another retreat will be run in its place. We voted on some options for an alternative retreat, and although it was a close call between the number of people abstaining and the number who voted for one of the alternatives, we have chosen an alternative retreat. I think this is a positive outcome, but I can see that not everyone will think that, and may not be happy with it. I don't think the situation was dealt with very well on the whole, and there could have been better communication.
Personally, I think that cancelling the retreat on the accessibility issue alone, would have been valid. The chaplaincy has links with the university and as such has to follow their policy on accessibility, and from what I gathered they had sought advice from the university and had been told that if possible an alternative retreat should be run. However, regardless of university policy, and whether or not we perceive that we currently have disabled members, I believe that we can hardly consider ourselves Christian, or indeed good human beings, if we are not inclusive and accessible to all.
The chaplaincy has suddenly had to consider members with disabilities as we had a wheelchair user unexpectedly arrive, and have been scrambling to make adjustments ever since. In my opinion this isn't really good enough, we should try to be proactive and have suitable adjustments or resources already in place to accommodate those with different needs, rather than reacting when someone comes through the door.
Of course it's good that there has been a reaction, and movements have been made towards change, but I think it's indicative of a huge problem that needs to be addressed at the root, rather than trying to plug the gaps. We need to consider inclusivity as a whole, in advance, and then be prepared to continue to make adjustments.
I have my own personal concerns about the retreat, as being trans I don't really know how they will deal with me. I spoke to someone after the meeting today who assured me that it had been considered. I wasn't entirely sure whether everyone at the chaplaincy were that aware of me being trans so I was actually somewhat relieved to find out the people who I wanted to know were aware. I would like to be treated just like any other guy, but I can never be certain how exactly it will play out, especially as the accommodation will probably be arranged by gender.
I was diagnosed with depression about 4 years ago. It made sense, I was feeling very low, self harming and had been having suicidal thoughts. If anything, I was happy to have the diagnosis, as I felt it legitimised the difficulties I was having, when my parents were telling me it wasn't a big deal.
I recently found out that I may have a borderline personality disorder. I haven't been officially diagnosed as far as I know, but my mental health nurse listed some of the symptoms and asked me if I thought they applied to me, and gave me some information on it. He thinks that the bpd support group and therapy they run would be helpful for me.
Now, I have to admit when I first heard him say bpd I was terrified. It made me feel broken in a completely different way to simply having depression. It felt like I was reaching a whole new level of mental illness, and it scared me. I think the name itself is very intimidating, and also the connotations a 'personality disorder' seems to come with. It feels like an attack on your very personhood.
I spent the rest of the day reading about bpd, and crying. Crying because of how some of the symptoms have been affecting my life without me even realising it. I never knew that my relationship difficulties could be part of a disorder. It made me feel so broken, and yet now I can see that actually this can give me hope. Hope that it is possible for me to change my life, learn how to live with who I am, and my flaws, and learn the skills to be able to do life more successfully.
A revolutionary thing I learnt around this time last year, was that recovery isn't about becoming like everyone else, or reaching a point where you're 'cured'. It's about embracing your differences and learning to live with your illness. Recovery means you learn more skills to cope, and are able to live life fully.
It's just over two weeks until my next appointment with my mental health nurse, but I have decided that I think DBT, the type of therapy I'm being offered, could be helpful for me and I would like to try it. I also think that bpd fits, with many of the symptoms applying to me.
One aspect I think is slightly tricky though, and has made me have a good think, is the identity aspect. A bpd can cause a person's identity to be unstable, with them not knowing who they are, or it changing frequently. Being trans, this initially worried me, making me question whether it is as a result of having a bpd. I have come to the conclusion that I don't think it is, because some aspects of my identity do change from time to time, but my gender identity has remained steady for a couple of years now. It has been constant when so many other things in my life have changed. Also I have been seen by many mental health professionals, including one gender specialist and none of them have ever linked the two.