When I was at school, a lovely boy with a mop of dark hair called me a pansy when we were playing kiss chase; I was running away from the boys in an apparent game of one. I heard him definitely call me Pansy though and, ecstatic that at the age of 8 someone had finally seen me as me, I adopted the name with huge pride and wore it like an enormous, enamelled brooch. My name was Pansy. I convinced most of my classmates to call me Pansy – I didn't notice or care about their sniggers or sneers, and after some persuasion my teacher, Miss Honey (not a word of a lie), agreed to call me Pansy during story-carpet time. One foot off dead name, one foot on Pansy. Home. I grew to love carpet time and stories because that was the longest time in my young life when I could be myself and be Pansy. It was the time in which I smiled and felt happy. I was eager to be involved and at every opportunity my hand shot up to answer or ask a question and if Miss Honey forgot my name, I was quick to remind her: "Pansy, Miss, Pansy". I wasn't immune, I wasn't stupid; I knew the children laughed and thought I was a little strange but over time, Pansy, I, became part of the furniture, like the gym mats, the dressing-up box or Miss Honey herself. I was incredibly happy and engaged with learning and with my peers. I felt alive on that carpet because I was allowed to be myself. Looking back, much of my childhood was spent in utter depression; I hated trying to be a boy for everyone. I felt so happy that I made the silly error of assuming that my birth name and gender would be as easily swapped by my parents – so I asked my dad if he would call me Pansy like they did at school. My dad likes football, boxing and being tough. In his eyes he had a weak son who just needed pushing into shape and toughening up. "Get out there and fight" he said, frequently. That day, Pansy was utterly knocked out of me. I was made to feel silly, small and scared, and I became gripped by a domestic, insidious darkness that didn't let go until many years later, when I found a way to be me. It was the '70s and binary structures and expectations ruled society, school and household. I vividly remember going to bed that evening and keeping my thighs apart. I didn't want to feel a penis between my legs, I couldn't believe that I had been born like this, that life could get it so wrong and that now I didn't even have my true name to use. It was made clear at home and school that no one was ever to call me Pansy again and that, if they did, there would be consequences.
I couldn't believe that I had been born like this, that life could get it so wrong
Without Pansy or the chance to grow into the girl and woman I could be, I became lost in society’s dysphoria and the self-loathing of trying to placate the people around me. Crippled by social anxiety, I hid in a world of drugs and abusive relationships. Without the comfort of Pansy I lost 20 years, in the most fucked-up way ever. Recently there has been a media furore, with the Daily Mail et al claiming the sky will fall in if we allow children to explore and define their gender, pronouns and name preferences, if we allow them to self-identify – there's even a book to help them now, a ruddy book! I know it's shocking, children wanting to explore, define and understand themselves and their boundaries. I know it's terrifyingly close to some kind of primary school rebellion that can only end in happy children running amok, tripping over themselves and destroying all that we hold dear in the process. Destroying the gender rigidity that makes the whole world tick, tick and fucking tock. Gender, bloody gender; these trans children looking for happiness and reasons to live might destroy the existing gender stereotypes, expectations, limitations; they may become aggressors in public spaces and toilets, and threaten the calm, peaceful status quo that we have created (Trump, Farage, Syria... and on, and on...). They might then go on, these transgender children, to create a world in which fluidity and safe resting places are defined, honestly and openly, at a young age before the rot sets in. Imagine that, those bloody kids showing us a new way of being. How dare they! Dear people objecting: When did this thing called gender ever work for anyone? When did it work for you, when you tried to measure up to the impossibility of gender perfection, to 'femininity' or 'masculinity'? When did 'genitals = gender' ever, ever, make anyone feel more free or more present? Did it work for you, then, when you felt too weak, too tall, too small? When your dick didn't swing low enough or when your pussy-pertness began to unravel and your placement at the peak of gender perfection began to dwindle. Evaporate. Did it work, then, this thing that you are determined not to rock, to alter, not to allow to evolve? While we, supposed adults, play around at accepting 'gender change' and 'gender evolution' – batting back and forth, arguing the toss – children, brave and wondrous children are trying to express themselves openly and honestly in a world we have labelled as accepting, diverse and inclusive. Those children are being ignored, demonised and worse, disbelieved.
Supporting children to occupy a gender that feels right and safe is the right thing to do; it is abusive to do otherwise
If we just stop and listen to this generation of children telling us that they don't really feel like a boy or they don't really feel like a girl or that they feel like, for them, the edges are blurred, indistinct; if we just listen to them, we have to see sense. We have to. Gender stereotypes and expectations continue to damage the hope out of all of us. Men struggling to find a kinder space in which to exist, and some men still forcing some women to 'know their place'. Women fighting to be just as they are. Young men, cis and gay, pumping muscle in gyms alongside women running, jumping, boxercising and stretching into ludicrous 'downward dogs' to be supple yet lean, smooth and tight. We are born and live constantly struggling to fit a gender, to be perfect in the face of gender, to blend in the harsh light of gender. These brave, brilliant trans kids are the future; they will, if we allow them, slowly unpick and unravel this toxic gender rigidity and create a much broader, kinder landscape. Let's… just let go and see what happens if we refuse to buy into the notions and beliefs that have driven our society to the edge of sanity. Let's see what happens if we just accept that gender isn't meant to be rigid, it should and can be playful, fleeting, wistful and light. Gender shouldn't be pushing us into binary battles over self-identification or self-expression, gender should be defined by the self and – be it female, male or anywhere in between – it should be believed and honoured. When the world told me that being Pansy made me wrong, I had to make the only torturous journey of transition of my life. The journey to try and please others, to try and be something that made them not be angry at me. The journey that seemed at first to offer some protection from being different, from being me. It didn't, of course, forcing me instead to be what society needed me to be and into harm's way. Supporting children to self-identify and to occupy a gender that feels right and safe to them is the right thing to do and it is abusive to do otherwise. To those who seek this position of abuse I ask you, politely, to stop. Just stop. History has already placed you firmly on the wrong side of integrity and decency but you know that, don't you? That's why you shout ever louder in your echo chamber, joining forces with those whom you would at all other times find toxic and objectionable. Feminists I once admired now in bed with red-tops, and salacious production companies determined to inhabit our knickers again and again and film our 'process'. I have an idea for all those limiting and limited production companies: Why not make a shit-hot hourlong special entitled 'What happens to a child when you deny it truth and freedom?' Can you think of any other form of healthy self-expression that children display through natural emergent behaviour and exploration (Pansy was good, Pansy was strong, Pansy was engaged with her education, Pansy smiled) that we would seek to curtail by labelling the children as mad, bad or dangerous? This has to stop. For fuck's sake, this has to stop. @justjuno1