May 31st was the day a group of us from Surrey Swans set for a visit to Guildford Police Station.
In April I’d received an email from Robin, who works there asking if I’d be prepared to visit them and talk about Transgender issues and how they could assist us should we come into contact with the police.
How you discovered that you were Trans. Problems you’ve come across, how you’ve been accepted, or not, whether you’ve been victimised because of it, whether you’ve reported issues to Police and how they responded and how we can do things better ?
We agreed on a date of May 31st and ‘Chelle, Linda, Rose, Amanda and Cynthia said that they’d like to come along as well.
In the event, work commitments meant that Cynthia couldn’t make it.
I’d spent a while thinking about what I’d like say and wrote it down to try and estimate how long it would take to say it, and to try and keep myself from running off at tangents.
I was keen, as well, to provide some tome for everyone else to share some of their own thoughts and experiences.
We met at the Friary shopping centre in Guildford at about 11:00 am for coffee and a chat, and then headed for the police station to arrive there at about 11:50 … it’s a short 10 minute walk. We were met by Robin. Spent a few minutes signing in and headed up to the meeting room on the 7th floor.
Almost 30 people turned up to listen to us. We were a bit surprised. And impressed as well, that so many people would give up their own time to coma along and listen to us.
We spent a little over 30 minutes sharing thoughts and experiences. And had a lovely response from people afterwards.
Hermann, one of the officers at Surrey Police (the tall one in the picture) spent some time sharing about the way that their work is about safeguarding and assisting people.
We spent quite a while eating bread rolls and soup and chatting. It was especially good in that lots of people (including we five visitors) said it had been a useful time and that we’d learned important things.
For me, and I believe also for others, it had been a really valuable time.
Here’s a picture taken after the the talking and before the soup and bread rolls:
If you’re interested in the kind of things that we said, then here is some of it:
Robin (front centre in the picture) introduced us and explained a bit about what we were likely to be talking about.
The script that I worked from was this:
- Good afternoon, I’m Andrea
- And here are: Chelle, Linda, Amanda and Rose
- We are trans or transgender
- But more than that we are just people
- Each of us have been involved in one way or another with Surrey Swans
- A place where trans people, friends and partners meet socially once a month in Ash
- I’d like to begin by saying thank you
- Jo and Michelle came along to Surrey Swans back in 2014 along with Carol (from New Patch) to talk with us about what you do … so it’s nice to return the visit
- When I mentioned this meeting to people at Surrey Swans, I got very positive feedback about the police force … about you.
- We know that what you do makes a difference to people. It makes a difference to us.
- What you do is not just a job
- Isn’t it strange, yesterday I was thinking, there are times when I’m driving and I see a police car, and I feel anxiety. My mind fills with stuff like “I hope my break likes are working. But as Andrea When I see a police officer I feel safe
- So, thank you
A definition of Transgender / Trans is that it is an umbrella term used to cover numerous types of gender identity such as:
- … etc.
- that’s a lot of diversity
- How many people here meet trans people on a regular basis?
You know though, whatever trans is:
- Trans is people
- Individual people with unique stories and life experiences
- Not all trans people agree with each other even on all things trans
- I, and all of us here, are not representing the trans community – mainly we are just sharing personal experiences and thoughts
My story … which is different from everyone else’s
Childhood, which was a long time ago. I remember:
- I confusion
- experimentation with clothing
Growing up, as a student and then later, I remember
- What it was all about?
- Just a fetish?
- Becoming a Christianity
- Was it sinful?
- Should I feel guilty?
- Feeling guilty.
- Buying things
- Throwing things away
- Keeping secrets
- Feeling ashamed
By 2006 or so
- The internet – communication with strangers
- I wasn’t the only person in the world like this
- Telling anonymous people
- Buying clothing that was more than underwear
- Someone asking if my wife knew
- Letting my wife find out
- Her coming to terms with it and accepting me
- Neither of us understanding
- Trying makeup and lipstick - Try it sometime … there’s all kinds of possibilities for total disaster.
- Seeing an advertisement for a makeover, clothes and pictures
- Going along
- Being encouraged to tell my wife all about it
- Meeting myself
- Telling my children, family, friends
- Learning to be myself
- Working out that really, it’s just about who I am
- If I have a label it’s Genderfluid - People say “what’s that” rather than just go along with a likely incorrect stereotype
And some experiences
- A preacher in Manchester
- A piece of banana at the Arndale centre in Manchester
- Being called a “She-man” in Windsor
- A drunken man in Peascod street in Windsor
- A drunken man in Weatherspoon’s in Manchester
- A visit to Surrey Swans by Surrey police LAGLO’s Swans
- Police officers at Sparkle
- Strangers that say nice things
- Acceptance by friends, family, church people
Linda, Rose and Amanda then shared some of their thoughts and experiences.
And a few more points to finish:·
- Trans people are really just people
- Not a label, a problem or an issue to be dealt with (being trans is not really about bathrooms)
In common with other people:
- Each of us is unique, with our own life stories, fears and dreams
- Sometimes we are still in the process of trying to discover ourselves, understand ourselves and accept ourselves
- We don’t always act logically and sensibly
- We sometimes suffer from uncertainty, stress, confusion, fear and vulnerability
We (all people, not just trans people) mostly just want to be free to be ourselves.
So, in dealing with trans people, as with anyone else, it’s great, whenever possible, to:
- Be polite to us
- Treat us with dignity and courtesy
- Use the pronouns (he, she, they ...) that we prefer. If uncertain then ask us
- Consider our physical and emotional condition
- Be aware that there is a possibility that we are feeling afraid and vulnerable. Talk to us to find out about our own situation.
- Explain what’s happening and why it’s happening
- Try to understand us
And we, on our part, will try to do all of these things when we meet you, because we know that you are people just as much as we are
What we want … what we need … each of us in this room
- To be treated with respect, as we in turn, treat others with respect
- To be listened to just as we listen
- To be accepted … or at least not be intimidated or hated … just as we are accepting
And finally from me:
- Thank you again for listening
- And at Surrey Swans we’re keen to maintain good links with the police service, so pay us a visit soon
- And … ask us questions …
Chelle then shared some thoughts and experiences. She also raised a question as to the kind of definition of “trans” that the police use when safeguarding trans people. We were reassured that the definition is the same one that we talked about near the beginning of the session.