For a lot of the last two months, the one question I’ve been asked repeatedly is “why?”.
Why nominate for the draft, why put yourself out there, why engage with the media?
All valid questions, many of which I will answer in due course, but the question that really grates, the question I still don’t understand is: “If people have already gone out of their way to accept transgender people, why do you feel like you have a right to push even further and play sport?”
It has been asked more often than you’d think.
There is simply no point trying to hide the confusion I have had whenever it’s been asked. It always happens online, mind you, never face to face.
Quite simply, the only answer I can give is that I’m not pushing anything – I want to do what anyone else can and being transgender shouldn’t be a barrier to that.
Of course, for those transitioning from male to female, there needs to be a time period for hormone treatment to have an effect, but once the person has met the medical guidelines set out then there shouldn’t be an issue.
The problem is people are scared of what they don’t know. The difficulty at the moment is too many people are happy for the status quo to continue because they don’t want their views challenged.
In spite of the medical evidence that was put forward by many doctors in the media just after the draft, so many comments on social media started with: “I don’t care what the experts say…” That illustrates the point well enough.
That people are willing to discount the views of experts in a field because they don’t like it shows how much work still needs to be done.
Many experts thought the earth was flat once as well, and but for people being open to new ideas and information which challenge their own, we may still, or would have until the astronauts went up and saw what they left behind was round.
The truth is with no testosterone – and I have less in my system than those born female – the physical attributes people fear I possess simply aren’t there. And they won’t come back. No matter how much I train, no matter how much time I might spend in the gym, without testosterone there is simply no way of regaining the strength I once had.
It’s the same for every other physical attribute, but let’s address the elephant in the room – what people fear about me is the strength they think I have.
The truth is I’m still the size I am because the body doesn’t want to lose muscle, so once it twigged to the fact that’s what was happening, the process slowed significantly. Every year eight PE class learns that. Having said that, I was a good 25 kilos heavier than I am now before I started treatment.
The flipside of that is the effect a lack of testosterone has on a person’s central nervous system, haemoglobin levels and other things that people can’t see.
The central nervous system (CNS) plays an enormous role in strength and force production, and the effect the lack of testosterone has on the CNS means that I simply can’t do what people assume I can when they look at me.
A pretty good example of that is when two girls I was training with at a recent camp with the women’s national handball team turned around at the end of the first day and said: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you really aren’t that strong are you?”
Quite simply, the external doesn’t match the internal. Am I still strong? Absolutely – I will never deny I am strong. My biggest asset has always been my strength and power and it always will be, but I don’t have strength at what people would call ‘male’ levels.
The simplest way to explain it is that it works on an equivalency basis – say, for example, I was roughly 20 per cent stronger than most males I played against, I will roughly be 20 per cent stronger than most females I play against.
But I was always slow, and as a result, most women are a lot faster than me. My endurance was never great, so as a result, most of my opponents have better endurance than I do.
Some will argue that I will be much more than 20 per cent stronger than some girls, those who are smaller, but the same applied to the smaller men I played against. Sport throws up all different shapes and sizes.
How the public judges transgender people is in itself an interesting thing. From my experience, the world is still by and large at the stage where people will accept you until they believe your gender might somehow impact on them.
I could go on for hours with examples, but sport is the obvious one and anyone reading this will have seen enough in recent weeks to know an explanation probably isn’t necessary.
Instead, the better examples are simply things people have said to me that would never be said to anyone else.
I’ve been told I shouldn’t be allowed to work with children – which I was for a time – because I’m transgender. Imagine someone saying that to someone based on their religion or sexual orientation – it’s ridiculous.
But for some, being transgender means that should be off limits. As many believe should sport. But being transgender does not equal being a paedophile or a danger to children, and in sport it certainly doesn’t equal a man playing with women.
The best – and I use that term rather uncomfortably – example of how people view my and other trans people’s place in society at the moment was a comment I saw on Facebook that said “I’m ok with people living however they want, but transgender people have to realise that once they choose to transition then they give up certain rights.”
To be quite frank, I’m here to say no we don’t. There is a lot wrong with that comment, not least of which the idea that being trans is a choice, but it’s just where things are at the moment.
This is where a lot of society’s ideas about trans people lie, and that’s okay, so long as people are open to learning what being trans is like, the effect hormones have on your body and people are willing to be open to ideas that challenge their own.