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The illusion of gender

By Reuben

The illusion of gender

PHOTOGRAPH by Sharon Kilgannon, Alonglines.com

It’s only four years ago a trans woman was murdered in Brighton, but compared to other places it is very safe.

Maybe if I was in Russia or Greece or even parts of America, up north in England, not so progressive cities you’d have to decide, is this worth me being unsafe? That’s the question, it might be different if I was somewhere else.

One of our tutors used to talk to me about the illusion of gender quite a lot and about how basically he saw that if I passed, I hate that term, but if I was assumed as male by others, then that was because I was tricking them into thinking that I was a man when I’m not. He was basically one of those people that believed that you’re born a sex and you can change your body, mutilate your body, you can have operations, you can take hormones, but that doesn’t ever change what you are. And that really, really bothered me and I carried that around with me for ages. That was probably the first time I ever really felt that whole idea of being trapped in your body and the idea of like your body as a cage, or I was born in the wrong body, or whatever the media like to use. I don’t think I’ve ever let go of that, honestly, and it’s been more than a year now, and I still haven’t.

At uni we talk about the idea that the ultimate privilege is to not know you have privilege. I think that’s exactly what cis-privilege is. They have absolutely no idea that they’re privileged because they identify as the sex they’re assigned at birth, therefore we are so othered it’s unbelievable. It’s so easy to other anybody you want over anything, hair colour, ginger people, they’re othered, for absolutely no reason. It’s ridiculous. And race, and ethnicity and nationality, anything you can other anyone for anything. But I think there’s greater othering than that from cis-people because they don’t even realise they have privilege and I think that’s a massive issue.


This is Reuben'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.

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This page was amended on 18/12/2014
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