Before I began to embrace Sonja, my alter-ego, my experiences of the trans-community were limited. I had once very briefly been introduced to a transgender waitress at ?Funny Girls? in Blackpool when I was 18. I am ashamed to say that I felt embarrassed to be seen chatting to her, even though ?Funny Girls? is a drag cabaret venue. The problem is that most of the people who visited Funny Girls were there to laugh, to look at the funny men in dresses, to see them as objects of amusement. That was the selling point of the venue. The reason for visiting. Nobody commented on the fantastic entertainment, professional standards of dancing and wonderful entertainment they were providing.
I distinctly remember being fascinated by this waitress, and in fact I would go on to think about her occasionally, right up until this day. At this time, I was only vaguely aware of transgender people and I was totally unaware of the differences between the wide spectrums of people covered under the trans-umbrella. It was not something I had thought about in anything other than a purely transient way.
Now that I have accepted that I am myself transgendered, I have to keep reminding myself that other people may well perceive me in the same way that I perceived that waitress, back when I was 18 years old. I have to remind myself that this same lack of knowledge, misunderstanding, or even downright ignorance often still applies to those who encounter people like us. This is not necessarily because people are inherently prudish, unaccepting or disapproving. It is often because of fear of the unknown, because of a lack of familiarity, and a pervasive ignorance pushing against the social defences of those with little exposure to the trans-community.
I sometimes think it is hard for those of us who are transgender to remember what it was like before we were surrounded by friends who are like us, friends that understand and support us.
Especially in the age before the internet reached the mainstream, and certainly before we were encircled by social media. At some point we were ALL ignorant, and it was only life experience and the desire for personal discovery that led to our own understanding of the issues facing our community.
It is absolutely true, that just like the Gay community, transgendered people are an entirely natural part of humanity and a normal part of human existence. However, for some reason Western society finds the concept difficult to accept. For many years it promoted the view of a heterosexual, two sex existence as being the only socially acceptable way to live. Generations of people have now grown up amongst misinformation and a lack of tolerance for diversity, and we have to accept that changing the perceptions and attitudes of people is going to take a long time. In the meantime, I think that we need to take some heart in the fact that although we are sometimes a spectacle, sometimes ridiculed, this is slowly becoming a thing of the past, in the United Kingdom at least.
The modern world is difficult enough to navigate without having to battle with one?s own identity. Transgender people deserve to be themselves, to exist as they want, and to live out their lives with hopes and dreams. Just like everyone else.