I had thought that by the time I reached my 50s the bullying would stop

I still remember all the feelings of being bullied at school – the constant attacks while the teacher wasn’t looking; the general low-level nature of the abuse, so that any reaction was viewed as extreme, but with some peaks where fights break out. All the time you feel powerless. No-one seems to do anything to sort it out. There is nothing you can do either. The bullies reign supreme.

I knew I wanted to be a girl from the age of 7. I also knew I couldn’t tell anyone by that time – which implies that I already had. It meant that I had to learn to fit in, to act the part. It meant that there was always a filter – check my natural reaction to see if that was what seemed to be expected. And sometimes I got it wrong – which led to more abuse.

It took over 30 years to gain the strength to remove that filter. For the first time since early childhood I was able to be me. I knew I would still inevitably be judged, but whatever the bullies could throw at me would not be as bad as how I had felt about myself. Realising that you would be a better parent alive and female than dead and male brings home how close to death you got. After all, if I was wrong, then death was still an option.

The relentless pieces in the British press over the past couple of months about trans people and what rights we should or should not have fits the description of bullying. It’s like being in the centre of a group of older and bigger children who are throwing up a constant stream of questions or abusive comments, with no way out.  Trying to answer them is pointless – they’re not remotely interested. However much they say they want debate, they just want to silence you, make you understand your place. If you try to get out, they catch you and throw you back into the middle again.

The press “debate” is endless, a constantly moving target. One week it’s children – how can children know they are trans? Well, believe me, some do. Should we allow our children to be “converted” to be trans? Any trans person knows this is a ridiculous question. We know that pushing someone to be trans when they are not, even if it was possible, will cause the horrors of gender dysphoria in reverse – something we wouldn’t wish on anyone, even those newspaper editors peddling this seemingly endless hate. The people who want to do the converting are those wanting to suppress trans identities, trying to push us back into some pre-conceived boxes of normality they know we can’t fit.

This week it’s back to “men in women’s spaces”. Some arbitrary method of policing access is proposed – one’s build or the depth of one’s voice. Watch out Cleo Laine. Women – don’t bother training for the Olympics, it might get you barred from women’s facilities. And here we see the true agenda – trans women forever regarded as not women, always othered, always in danger. This shows that these arguments are not really based in feminism – as they are policing women’s appearance. Women should be liberated but apparently only in a particular way.

It also overlooks the somewhat inconvenient fact that being female already doesn’t give you automatic access to women’s spaces. If a lesbian flees to a domestic crisis centre escaping their abusive partner, the centre will already have policies about refusing access to her female partner. Prisons work on a mixture of affirmative evidence (such as a gender recognition certificate) but also negative evidence (what level of risk do you pose). For years and years the most violent female prisoners were securely held in men’s prisons.

But the bullies aren’t interested in facts or answers. They’re only interested in making themselves look good and putting the victimised person in their place.

Yesterday was the annual Trans Day of Remembrance, where we pay our respects to those trans people who died because of violence. That’s where the victim’s place often is – the grave, either at the hands of others or, when the pain gets too much, your own.

The press did come to its senses about 4 years ago after they had hounded a trans teacher to her grave. At the time there was still a reasonable chance of effective press regulation being put in place. That seems to have now receded. Its time will come again, after yet another tragedy that could have been prevented. I only hope that it won’t be another trans person.



  1. […] 5. I had thought that by the time I reached my 50s the bullying would stop by Helen Belcher on Challenging Journeys, Phase 2. A heartbreaking post and essential reading to understand the harmful impact of the anti-transgender nonsense that has such free rein in the national press. […]

  2. Rachel Sommer · · Reply

    I am so angry that this is the fear and reality that nearly every transgender or other-gender person has experienced or is experiencing. I have a friend who had to deal with repressing her gender at a UK boys school (what you Brits call public school IIRC) and I’m guessing you had a similar experience.
    I have some hope when I see people in their teens and twenties able to be themselves without such horrible life experiences first.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Rachel. Actually, when I wrote this I was thinking about my time at primary schools, both of which were state schools. But, yes, I did go to an all boys secondary school, which I have very mixed feelings about indeed – especially as I boarded there. It wasn’t what we would call a “public school”, as it was also state funded, but it tried to act as if it was one!

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