December 2020: Trans, Juliet Jacques

Trans, Juliet Jacques

This month we held our meetup a little earlier than usual, to accommodate for the stressful weeks ahead. Due to the new restrictions, however, we will need to lean on each other more than ever. Seeing everyone onscreen, welcoming new faces to the group and catching up with the regulars, the pandemic felt a little further away, if only for an hour and a half.

For those who were unable to join, I took a few notes of the topics we discussed – so that if you read the book, you can have these points as guidance for your own critical thinking, or if you haven’t read it yet, this might inspire you to!

This list is not exhaustive, I’ve simply noted down a few things we mentioned.

  • We all appreciated the historical context Juliet Jacques gave us. Some thought there was a little too much info for the LGBTQ+ people who were likely to read the book, but an excellent guide for people who had no prior knowledge of any transgender history.

  • “Born in the wrong body” is a damaging and unhelpful analogy that Jacques mentions from ‘Conundrum’ by Jan Morris. When attempting to educate a vast range of people who have no experience, we can rely on simplified and reductive analogies, but “born in the wrong body” is particularly bad at setting back arguments against gender roles assigned by anatomy.

  • The discussion around how self-centred transition can be resonated with a lot of people in the group, and started a discussion around our own transitions, be they based on understandings of “binary” gender, or sexuality.

  • Jacques’ continual references to music began to feel like name-dropping to some and exclusive to others. The strongest point, however, was that music has an ability to conjure up emotions far more effectively when we feel we don’t have the words, and her quoting the Smiths felt like she was attempting to transport us through words she couldn’t quite find herself.

  • We spoke about the focus on “before-after” in many trans journeys and what that means for trans people. The pressure to post pictures of post-op chests, the pressure to have any operations at all, and the idea of ‘professional trans’ people all add up to make a formidable wall of expectation when a trans person comes out.

  • We made special note of how much this book stresses the importance of community – something we all latched onto when reading it.

  • The outrageous gender expectations made us laugh, particularly with Juliet’s mother behowling “but who will talk to me about football?” and Juliet having to remind her mother that she is a woman and she talks to Juliet about football already! This cemented some discussions we had about how much store we set on people’s personalities based on their assigned genders, and the ideas people have that people who transition will become “completely different people”.

  • We discussed how, even more so than with names, people seems to find it hardest adjusting to pronouns.

  • Emma mentioned genderless parenting and the effect that that can have on perceived genders. She recommended this video if you want to learn more about that.

  • We shared stories about being misgendered; a little therapy for those of us that needed it, and sharing gender euphoria that we felt. One story mentioned someone being gendered by strangers differently depending on the context they were in: as a “butch” woman when with a woman, and an “effeminate” man when with a man. It was interesting to note that people’s instant reactions were to misgender the person into “homosexual” relationships. Perhaps this has something to do with queer relationships being accepted more into the mainstream now.

  • Patti mentioned a trend of parents naming their daughters gender neutral names such as Ellis, Cameron, or Sydney in attempts to give their child the best foot forward in life; for example, their CVs not getting turned away simply for having a feminine name.

  • We gave a shout-out to LGBT TikTok and what an affirming place it is when one is just looking for a little bit of comfort.

  • The conversation ended on a positive note, as we rejoiced at the speed with which Netflix changed Elliot Page’s name on the credits of his works that they carry and how this has happened elsewhere, like with Kae Tempest on book-handling sites.

Would you like to join the discussion? Check out our Online Library here.

If you have any points you would like to share, post them down below!

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