On November 21st, Caspar Baldwin releases his debut memoir ‘Not Just a Tomboy’.
Set against the shifting cultural attitudes of the 90s to the present day, Caspar shares the painful realities of growing up with a suppressed gender identity; from the horror of first-time bra-fitting, through a dysphoric female puberty, via school, university and finally to testosterone and transition in his twenties.
Caspar’s story debunks the worrying theories that trans men are ‘just tomboys’ who have been coerced into transitioning against their will, or ‘lost lesbians’ confused about their gender and sexuality. It’s vital that we hear voices like his if we are to fully understand and respect the experiences of trans masculine people. You can pre-order the inspirational book here.
We see so few openly trans men in our media, and transmasculine people are almost always forgotten from LGBT+ conversations. But why? To coincide with the book’s release, and Trans Awareness Week, Caspar has shared his thoughts with us and asks: where are all the trans men?
If someone were to ask me to name some trans people in the media spotlight it is a certainty that I would end up naming at least twice as many trans women as trans men.
Given that I am myself a trans man and have gravitated towards examples of other trans men out in the world, that is a particularly interesting admission.
I don’t think it takes a genius to work out why this might be. The mainstream media is obsessed with trans women and always has been, to the point that as a child I was under the impression the term ‘transsexuals,’ as we were known then, referred exclusively to people who were formerly considered to be men. It was this almost complete skewing of community representation that contributed to my failure to register the fact that trans men even existed at all and that I was one of them.
Sadly, it also doesn’t require a genius to work out why the media are obsessed with trans women. It is a direct result of patriarchal attitudes to women and femininity. That is the idea that men are superior, which has for centuries and throughout most of the world’s cultures led to women being oppressed. Therefore, the idea that someone who was overtly born with the privileges that come with being ‘superior’ would actively seek to divest themselves of these privileges and ‘lower’ themselves into oppression is a concept that breaks people’s brains. Clearly then it has to be some sort of dangerous fetish, some kind of mental delusion of a sinister nature. From here it is but a tiny hop into the fear generated by the immortal spectre of dangerous deluded men preying on young girls.
Then of course, with fear comes hatred and hatred sells.
This in itself gives rise to attempts to fight against the hatred, and the media, some for genuine purposes and some simply seeking to fan the flames of ‘debate’, offer platforms for trans women to be made visible, whether in print or on a chat show or by way of creating roles for them in film and television. Some of this has been monumental and ground-breaking for trans women in terms of the perception of the wider world and some of this has been disturbingly insulting and simply provided a further mechanism for the generation of hatred.
On the other hand, trans men have historically and, in fact, continue to be viewed as ‘confused’ or ‘extreme’ lesbians, or else lesbians who couldn’t handle homophobia and so were coerced into transitioning to men as a form of escape from this discrimination.
Being viewed still as women we are dismissed, as women so often are, as unworthy of attention.
This is now being coupled with the fact that as the Gender Recognition Act reform issue rages on and is intentionally confused with the Equality Act, trans men are seen as a direct threat to the narrative of ‘legitimate concerns’.
Wanting to prevent trans people using the facilities with which they identify, ostensibly so that they may boot trans women out of women’s spaces for concern over cis women, doesn’t appear to extend to wanting to welcome trans men into those spaces instead.
The minute any attention is paid to us in view of that, the idea quickly unravels as ridiculous.
They fear this because, of course, they know it can’t be one rule for trans women and another for trans men: trans rights are trans rights. But the media are desperate to maintain the controversy over trans people’s fight for full equality and so invitations to platforms are far less forthcoming for trans men.
It is one of the reasons I was interested in taking up the call by Jessica Kinsley to publish my story – the story of a trans man. They and I recognised a clear need to improve the representation of trans masculine people in the media. It is also why I have written this article and a number of others.
If there are debates to be had over trans rights and how these may be achieved with proportionality to other rights, then they must be conducted with a full understanding of what the trans community actually looks like.