Don't let the fear stop youBy Cass Hoskins
PHOTOGRAPH by Sharon Kilgannon, Alonglines.com
You can choose to be embarrassed by stuff and you can choose to be scared of stuff, or you can choose to let the fear stop you.
It’s like, I hate heights, but I will go up the Eiffel Tower if I’m in Paris. Actually when you get to the top it’s fine, it’s really nice and you go “Wow. Isn’t Paris beautiful?” I wasn’t going to let the fear stop me. The more you do it the more you realise there’s not that much to fear.
Once, in London on the bus – and that was like my second time I ever went out in daylight, I think, as a woman – this guy was walking down the bus and he was hitting on everyone on the bus. He looked drunk and he was a bit scary and so I just kind of turned away, looking out the window. It was one of these bendybuses,and you could see him coming all the way down the bus. When he got to me, ‘cos I turned away and was looking out the window, he stepped right in front of my face. He wanted to get my attention. And as soon as he got in front of my face he started shouting and screaming and calling me a freak and a pervert. He stood back in the middle of the bus, declaiming at me. As if like now he’d pointed it out to the rest of the bus that I was trans, the rest of the bus would kind of rise up and lynch me or something. But the rest of the bus just kind of scowled at him and ignored him, as typical Londoners. And I just carried on ignoring him and he got off the bus.
When you tell people who aren’t trans, about those things, they’re often quite shocked. I was talking to a colleague about a bar that everyone was going to and I said, “I don’t feel comfortable in that bar because the people in there are a bit Neanderthal.” And she said, “ Well, fuck them then.” I said, “It doesn’t work like that, because it’s me who’s unhappy, it’s not them. I don’t make them unhappy. So it’s just a miserable night for me, it’s not a miserable night for them. So there’s no point in me going ‘Fuck you,’ and having that attitude. Actually if you’re in an environment that feels hostile, it doesn’t work.”
When I was at the beginning the stress, the social anxiety of just going into a pub, it was exhausting. I remember being exhausted almost all the time just because of that day-to-day interaction with the world. What people would think and whether people saw through you and whether that mattered, the calculations that were going through my head. Talking about that, or having people around me that understand that is a thing I miss.
One of the things that really struck me about the reaction to trans women, particularly, is that I know lots of men who have lesbian friends, because it’s all right: they’re one of the lads. You hear people talk about someone who’s gay and say “You wouldn’t know they were gay.” So, it’s okay, they’re not camp, they’re not effeminate, they’re not feminine, they’re just like anyone else. I remember feeling like being trans is like this really extreme version of being feminine or making such a big deal about being feminine.
The reaction to someone being trans is more about rejection of manhood, it is almost like you’ve rejected masculinity, that you’ve abandoned it. It’s a kind of misogyny, which is really interesting because it’s just not about sexuality, it is about femininity. I think that was a real surprise for some in the gay community. They have as much a problem with very feminine gay men as they do with the trans community, because it’s like ‘don’t scare the straights’.
This is Cass's testimony in Chapter Six (Safety, abuse, fear, violence, mis-gendering, barriers) of the ground-breaking Brighton Trans*formed book.
To read more intimate, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories from transgender people, click here.
This page was amended on 19/12/2014