I have been trying to work out how to write this for some time. It started when Valerie Benguiat, FLAG Committee Member, used the term ‘gender fluid’ and suggested I write a blog about it. That was a few years ago and I’ve been starting it ever since.
Gender fluid was something I had never used about myself before. It can be best described perhaps as an identity which moves between one gender and the other over time. I’m still not entirely sure I understand it myself despite my personal situation, other than to say somedays the identity I assume is not necessarily the identity I was born into. I am still me, I identify as me, no matter how I look or what I wear.
If I ever try to explain myself, I find it easier to say that I am somewhere on the T part of the LGBT+ spectrum. Whether that is non-binary or gender fluid or something else I can’t honestly say I know. I inhabit a male body and for the most part I’m pretty okay with that. There are times, however, when perhaps I feel better being the other person that lives inside me.
It’s not an easy existence.
Growing up through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it was one of those things that was stigmatised, ridiculed and in some case, met with violence. The perception I had then was that there was something wrong with me, a view that certain parts of our society still hold today. Naturally I kept this side of me well hidden, thinking of it as my ‘dirty little secret’.
Through my various jobs I occasionally opened up to very close friends/colleagues within the environment. I was lucky enough to have chosen the right people as they were quite positive and supportive. One of my colleagues in the prison service suggested that I should go along to a fetish club which essentially he ran. It was one of the first times I ever went out dressed. The club was as accepting and welcoming as you might imagine, there being a very open minded group of people there. I found it a welcome relief once a month to go out and have a drink with some people who frankly didn’t care and just accepted you for who you were.
It was also the first time anyone ever referred to me as ‘her’ or ‘she’.
Coming to FCO Services, as it was then, the vetting process required me to be totally open and honest. It led to a long interview – two sessions of five hours, but I was cleared. Only three years at first, as I had been very covert at my last role in the prison service, but it was clearance and being here has enabled me to be far more open about who I am. I came out to my colleagues on the first day when they expressed surprise over how long my vetting interview took. It did rather kill the meeting in its tracks, but I figured if Vetting were happy then that was fine. My group manager did later say that it had been the best option, get it out in the open right at the start.
Since then I have been more open about who I am. At worst, the response is one of acceptance, but indifference, kind of, “Oh yes, that’s nice,” or one of slight confusion as to what to say next. Not that this is a bad response, far from it. It’s good that this is the worst response. The best responses has been one of positive acceptance and then multiple questions about it because they want to understand more.
Pronouns can be difficult.
It is rare that anyone sees my other self, so it’s rare that I hear female pronouns towards me. To be honest, I’m not sure where I personally stand on it. I present as male so he/him are fine, bit when I’m out, I don’t really know. Whatever suits I guess. Either way it feels slightly unusual.
As you might suspect, I don’t get out much but I did, during the warm bit of 2020 take some late night walks en femme. On the whole, as there were few people around there was no issue although one night as I walked past a man and his wife walking their dog, he looked up from his phone to announce to his wife, “transvestite”.
In a way, it was kind of him to point it out. Up until then I hadn’t noticed.
I wonder if he would have done the same if my skin had been a different colour. Unfortunately comments like that, however innocently made, can be quite concerning and uncomfortable. Fortunately I recognised them having seen them walk past my house regularly, so it was merely uncomfortable rather than threatening. I spent a lot of those walks with my hand in a pocket wrapped round a small but dangerously bright torch, making sure I knew what my response would be in case the situation was less manageable the next time.
We are encouraged to bring our whole self to work, but I wonder sometimes if the world and I are quite ready for that. One day as me, another day as her. Irrespective of how I feel, is it fair on other people to expect them to deal with that? I don’t know.
It is encouraging, however, that recent HR guidelines that allow for a gender fluid person to have two security passes to reflect their different gender presentations. Whether I will make use of that remains to be seen, but it is an excellent step in the right direction.
You may find this link helpful in clarifying some terms and terminology: https://gender.wikia.org/wiki/Gender_Wiki