I have always been openly and obviously gender non-conforming, but after nearly four decades of trying to present myself as a feminine man (wearing skirts and dresses, but otherwise presenting as a man) and dealing with constant negativity from society, my mental health was spiralling downhill.  To bring myself back into positive mental health territory I now present half a week as a feminine man, and the other half as a woman (but I clearly do not pass as one) and in my middle ages my mental health is better than it ever has been.

During these many decades I have witnessed increasingly positive changes in the attitude of the general public to me as I have gone about my daily life, whether at work, out shopping, going to places of entertainment and leisure.  In the 1980’s and 1990’s, walking down the high street as a man in a skirt was like being in a war zone (I was a British army officer for 25 years, so I use the analogy with authority), with people constantly bombarding me with micro-aggressions, for example staring or pointing at me, children laughing at me, drunks outside pubs yelling at me, people walking up to me and asking why I was a “bloke in a skirt”, and indeed on one occasion in a busy Saturday shopping street, a particularly inquisitive woman took it upon herself to walk over to me, lift up my skirt and take a peek at what was underneath (she got a big surprise in more ways than one because as a feminine man I used to “go commando”).

However, whilst my personal daily experience and interaction with the general public has gradually been more positive, when I read the papers and contemporary social media, I see a significantly negative attitude towards trans women by people who clearly have not educated themselves about transgender science, culture and history, people who are happy to persecute a minority group for no other reason than that’s what bullies do, and people who have never met a transgender person in their life and therefore have no right to produce any commentary on trans-people, let alone negativity.

In retirement from the army I now volunteer with a transgender charity and run two transgender support groups that provide emotional support to trans-people in distress; I dedicate my every waking hour to helping and supporting trans people (mostly, but not all, trans women), and over the years have met and interacted with many hundreds of trans-people.

So, with this in mind, here are my views, thoughts and opinions on the trans-debate, beginning with the fundamental question, who or what is a transgender person?

  1. Who or what is a trans-person? Stripping away any pseudo-psychological psycho-babble or fuzzy medical logic, a trans person is simply someone who takes responsibility for the management of their mental health by addressing their gender dysphoria issues, moving their mental state from negative to positive territory, but in doing so transgressing arbitrarily defined gender expectations of society, expectations that have absolutely no scientific, medical or legal basis. A trans-person is a person with the courage and conviction to challenge society’s anachronistic gender roles in a socially, morally and ethically correct manner, minimising the financial and emotional burden that their otherwise poor mental health would encumber on society.
  2. The cost of negative mental health¹. Negative mental health is a major and costly burden on any society, both emotionally and monetarily. In the UK the cost has been measured at £35bn a year in lost productivity.  If we focus on men (because all the negativity is directed at men who transition to become women):
    • 75% of suicides are men,
    • the biggest cause of death of men under 45 is suicide,
    • men are nearly 50% more likely than women to be detained and treated compulsorily as psychiatric inpatients
    • men are three times as likely to report frequent drug use than women
    • men commit 86% of violent crime

All of these appalling statistics relate to one common denominator, negative mental health in men.

  1. Socially responsible management of mental health. A small number of men (about 1%) alleviate poor mental health by transitioning to live as women, some only socially, some physically and legally as well, and some on a part time basis rather than full time.  But regardless of how they pursue this goal, the cost to society is minimal compared to the cost of poor mental health, for example in absorbing NHS resources, the cost of drugs, loss of productivity at work, cost of prisons, violence towards women.
  2. The truth of “gender ideology”. Some people are relentless in condemning socially responsible trans-people by inventing false arguments and narratives.  They invent the concept of “gender ideology” and claim that trans-people use this “cult” to willfully disrupt the natural and accepted socio-cultural balance. In 40 years of being openly transgender or gender non-conforming and having met many hundreds if not thousands of trans-people, I can categorically confirm that not one single one of them has ever talked to me about pursuing a “gender ideology” or belonging to a “trans-cult”.  None of my clients in my support groups has ever heard of “gender Ideology”; they come to us because of secondary negative mental health issues (stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, fear, anger, suicidal ideation) resulting from an unforgiving and transphobic society.  Gender ideology is just the fabrication of certain people in society to use as a weapon against trans-people.  Likewise, there is no such thing as a “trans agenda”, the only agenda a trans-person has is to adopt a lifestyle and gender presentation that best matches his or her mental health needs, relieving dysphoria to replace it with more positive and healthier feelings.
  3. Societies definition of “woman”. Some people claim that the only definition of a woman is an “Adult Human Female”, but in doing so conveniently ignore that for at least the last 50 years, our western liberal democratic society has ethically, morally, medically and legally accepted that a trans-woman who lives and absorbs the cultural role of womanhood and therefore has undergone female gender socialisation, is equally accepted as a woman. “Adult Human Female” is a simplistic phrase that belittles womanhood and does not convey the complexity, richness and quality of the amazing and wonderful  attributes of women. How can these beautiful people be defined by a three-letter abbreviation?
  4. The truth of “gender identity”. Some people claim that there is no such thing as “gender identity” based on the naïve assumption that just because they don’t feel it, it therefore cannot exist. There are many aspects of a person’s body they don’t feel, but do exist.  Everyone has a skeleton, over 200 individual bones, but in a healthy body, how many people feel their bones moving and interacting each and every second of the day, as they go about their daily chores? The answer is none. They only become aware of a specific bone if they damage or break it, becoming painfully and constantly aware of it. Likewise, a person does not feel gender identity until it is broken, and the pain is called gender dysphoria, which can be as excruciating as a broken bone.  Millions of trans-people around the world experience this, they are not wrong, excruciating pain is very difficult to ignore.
  5. Society’s understanding of femaleness. Some people claim that trans-women cannot possibly be women, and indeed science dictates the inescapable truth that in each of us there are 30 trillion little memory sticks called sex chromosome pairs downloading DNA into our cells and programming us to be male of female.  But in a complex, developed socio-cultural society, biological femaleness is only important to us in our relationships with the medical profession and our intimate partner.  What is relevant to the trans-person in trying to live and survive on a day-to-day basis is the presentation and performance of being female, and therefore the perception and presumption by society of femaleness, irrespective of their chromosomes or other easily hidden biological attributes (most if not all trans-women still have a prostate, unless removed due to cancer).
  6. Being “Born in the Wrong Body” is Valid. Some people dismiss the concept of “being born in the wrong body”; how could anyone possibly by born in the “wrong” body they say? They conveniently ignore that this is a metaphor. Here are some more examples of metaphors in action:
    • If a person says they have a “splitting headache” it does not mean that their head has divided into two halves down the middle, each of which is now lying on the kitchen floor.
    • If a person has “heartburn”, it does not mean their heart is on fire; if it persists a 999 call should be for an ambulance, not a fire engine
    • If a person has “pins and needles” in their arm, they haven’t really got any sewing or knitting needles piercing their skin; a doctor, rather than seamstress, should be consulted
    • If a person has a “dead leg”, this does not mean their leg has died and gone to heaven, a quick glance down will confirm it is still firmly attached to the body

For people uneducated in the concept of the “metaphor”, when a trans-person says they are “born in the wrong body”, they are using dramatic communication to indicate the level of discomfort experienced in relation to the medically diagnosable condition known as gender dysphoria; no ambulance, fire engine or consultation with a dressmaker or St Peter is required, but a little empathy and understanding would not go amiss.

9.  A few unintended consequences (with apologies in advance to the good transmen of this world):

    • For every man who transitions to live as a woman, that is one less man to be potentially misogynistic, patriarchal and violent towards women.
    • The more the population of women increases by men transitioning to become women, the greater will be the number of people upholding and representing the best values and attributes of womanhood.
    • If all men, every single last one of them, transitioned to live as women, we would see the end of male misogyny, the end of male violence towards women, and the end of all the other myriad of inequalities towards women.
    • ………and you never know, if all men become women, we might solve the climate change crisis and bring peace to mankind as well………..sorry, I meant womankind……obviously!

¹ www.menshealthforum.org.uk/key-data-mental-health

Julie Miller
Julie MillerTransgender Consultant
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