October 19 / 2023

Transgender Pride and the UK

This blog was originally posted internally at nDreams during Pride Month, but is now being shared publicly with the blessing of the author. nDreams is a strong supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and fully supports the rights of our team to self-identify and live with respect and empathy. No one should be made to feel less than because of who they are. 

  • By Moroi Kho, Junior Character Artist at nDreams

Hi! My name is Moroi Kho, I'm a Junior Character Artist at nDreams Studio in Farnborough. I’m also a Transgender woman, and activist. I'm really grateful to be given a platform to share some of my experiences as a Trans woman in the UK, and some of the issues that Trans people in general are facing.

A Bit About Me:

To provide some context and background for my experiences, here's a relatively compressed version of my transition history…

I fully came out as Transgender in May 2020, although I'd been using She/Her pronouns for two-and a-bit years before that. I still allowed people to use He/Him to refer to me while I figured out what the heck I was doing about my general presentation.

I spent a long time weighing up my transition options, and after a long wait I started medically transitioning in 2021. I'm coming up on two years of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). The small silver lining of lockdown was that it provided an opportunity for me to radically change my appearance and general mannerisms (feminising my walk, posture, makeup routine etc) without anyone really noticing. I got to cover most of my face in public with a mask, so with the right clothes and a little eyeliner, I could start to "pass" as a woman to anyone further than six feet away.

But I want to focus less on how much I just love transitioning – I really do, it's amazing and I feel great about it – and more on bringing awareness to some of the issues that Trans people face globally, with more of a focus on how prevalent those issues still are in the UK.

Life as a Trans Woman in England:

I think there's this unrealistic idea that things are really on the up for Trans people, and while that may be true in some regards, generally speaking things have been going backwards and getting worse over the last few years. Rights are being stripped away and violence against Trans people has seen a really unsettling rise.

This idea, that Trans people are something to be feared and rallied against, is pushed largely by anti-trans outlets and subsequently seeps into a lot of the mainstream media that we consume. This has dangerous real-world effects.

In the week after an article went live claiming Trans people were dangerous sexual deviants, I left my house twice for lectures at my university. They’d reinstated mandatory in-person attendance off the back of the pandemic, so I had little choice. In the 15-minute walk from my apartment, I was spat on twice, shoved into a wall, called a "dirty pervert", laughed and pointed at openly, and shot disgusted looks. Oh, and two men told me that if they saw me again, they'd kill me. Hell of a week.

It's really bleak for transgender people. There’s a kind of resignation where we accept the threat to life that comes with being who we are, accepting that most of us won’t have the confidence to go into a gym, or a swimming pool, or dress comfortably at the beach again.

At this point, I've made a lot of progress on the physical changes that come with HRT. I have breasts and visibly softer skin. Some of the fat around my body has redistributed to give me curves, but I can't do anything about my brow or my very prominent Adam’s apple. Facial feminisation surgery (FFS) is upwards of £40,000, and is almost never covered by any insurance scheme or healthcare. I’m stuck in a sort of limbo where I'd be out of place in either bathroom, and since people are super protective over "biological" gender in gendered bathrooms, I felt like I was totally excluded from being anywhere long enough that I might need to use a restroom.

Gender neutral bathrooms exist, and they’re a step in the right direction for a lot of people, however in the past few weeks, another bill has been written up and presented that prohibits gender-neutral bathrooms in any public setting and it really is a big deal. Making it so that Trans people are specifically unwelcome and unlawful in toilets means that we can’t be out in public for long periods of time, and that’s scary. I like being outside, it’s cool.

A common phrase I hear is “Well, at least you’re in the UK. At least you don’t live in X or Y where being gay carries the death penalty…” Although true, I really think this kind of language lessens the harsh reality of how bad it is here. Here’s a chart that showcases the engagement rate of transphobic hashtags and hate speech across social media across the globe... see that blindingly bright spot on the map? Yup, that’s the UK.

I think I would have stayed inside the house for years, but I was fortunate enough to find another Trans girl from the UK while I was playing games online (online games are really good for practicing changing your voice, by the way). We played games together for a few weeks, and she invited me to see the city of Leeds, which is one of the best and safest cities in England for Trans people in my experience (others including Manchester and London).

I agreed, and even though the nerves had me throwing up minutes before the train, I ended up going. I’m so glad I did. I fell madly in love over the course of an afternoon, and my now girlfriend, Aerith, reminded me just how good it feels to just walk around and exist as a woman.

A month later she took me to my first Pride event. We walked in the parade chanting "Trans lives are human lives" all the way through the city. I’ve been to a few pride events now, but they sometimes feel a little hollow to me, depending on where you go. There’s a lot of people that turn out to cheer on the parade, which is a great thing to see, and I definitely feel safe while in those parades, for the most part.

The problem for me is that a lot of the people who stand at the side of the parade and cheer don’t do the actual work to be supportive, people blowing whistles and playing loud music drowning out our battle-chants, and standing idly by the other 364 days of the year where Queer people of all denominations still face discrimination on a daily basis.

Even on the last night of Pride, we had a terrifying run-in. On the walk home, a group of very drunk men approached us in the high street and started calling us a series of colourful slurs. Aerith is a lot braver than I am and told them to get lost. It did not end well. One of the men threw a punch and we ended up taking a real thrashing from these transphobes.

Some people that had been stood at the sidelines for that incident, helpfully filming us on their phones to show their friends, came up to us after and said, “I wish there was something we could’ve done to help.” It took everything in me to bite my lip and not yell something less than constructive. Unfortunately, that incident has somewhat embedded itself as a core memory of Pride for me, having people celebrate us on social media, but stand idly by when we face prejudice in public.

I had the displeasure of watching two Community Support Officers, who were stationed on that road at the time, turn to investigate the noise, see what was happening, and then walk away briskly with their backs turned. We called the police afterwards, of course. After a series of invasive personal questions about our "real" names and genders, they left and that was the last we ever heard of the incident. Despite full descriptions of the attackers and with so many cameras lining the high street, we were told there wasn’t anything to go on.

A lot of violence against Trans people gets buried or goes under the radar. Every now and again we do get noticed. Most recently with the murder of 16-year-old Trans activist Brianna Ghey who was targeted and killed earlier this year. I went to several of the vigils for her. Even after such a horrible and terrible thing, a group of us stood in Preston silently holding candles, we still had a chair and some vague threats about "you're all next" thrown at us. How lovely.

Closing notes:

Accepting the existence of Trans people isn’t enough anymore. We need allies. People who will actively fight the transphobia and violence we face every day. There are always going to be people that oppose us, as there will be with anything, and having the worst of society running around calling us slurs and hurling death threats isn’t actually the scariest part of being Trans.

The scary part is that they feel the confidence to do that in public, in broad daylight. The kind of people emboldened to say and do these incredibly hurtful things don’t think anyone will step in or oppose them. They largely go unchallenged. The sad fact is that they’re right. It terrifies me that while we were being beaten, actively fighting for our lives, no one on that street did a single thing to help. As a society, the work we need to do to prevent all this starts at the smallest level.

Instead of cracking a smile at that edgy joke in the canteen, you need to call it out. If someone really needs to voice their “I identify as an Apache helicopter” routine, you need to let them know it’s not okay.

Stop actively funding and platforming bigots. Appreciate that you can’t separate the art from the artist if consuming the art funds and legitimises them and their backwards views.

The first Pride parade was a protest, on the anniversary of a riot. That fighting spirit still needs to be put to good use and is needed now more than ever! There's plenty of fighting left to do for all LGBTQ+ identities who deserve to feel safe, welcomed, and loved wherever they are!

There's so much more I'd love to talk about. So many rich experiences entirely unique to the Trans perspective and endless injustices in the world people should know about. I’ve written enough already!

But I’d like to leave you with two photos, taken two years apart. There is hope for people like me, and it feels damn good to finally start to see myself the way I’ve always seen myself, and not just the reflection of some random guy.

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