Monthly Archives: December 2014

Are You A Boy Or A Girl? (The Myth Of Binary Gender)

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For years I’ve been asked “Are you a boy or a girl” by strangers, but really, it’s a question I should have been asking myself.

A 9 year old asked me:

“Because you’ve got short hair, does that mean you’re a boy?”

I thought for a moment… what’s the easiest way to say this?

“Well”, I replied, “the truth is that I AM a girl but often I’d rather be a boy”.

“What, like George out of Famous Five?”

“Yes”

“Oh ok.”

It was an easy conversation, but the child’s mother felt the need to apologise for her son’s question. Apparently it’s offensive to mistake people’s gender. This is probably why the trans community are often so sensitive – it’s difficult when people can’t see which gender you plainly are.

This is the first public statement I’ve made of the following: I identify as transgender.

Although I don't choose to "pass" as male, sometimes I like to see how I might look if I had a male body. Photos like this help me to imagine it.

Although I don’t choose to “pass” as male, sometimes I like to see how I might look if I had a male body. Photos like this help me to imagine it.

I’m comfortable with this, but have been reluctant to be public about it so far. But now it seems important to talk about it in order to raise awareness.

In this day and age, most people have got to grips with the fact that some people have a sex change (gender re-assignment). People can just about cope with this because fits within the mainstream ideas of binary gender. Yet, being transgender simply means this: my gender identity does not match my assigned sex. Those like myself, who neither identify as male or female and whose gender identity isn’t constant, open up a whole new can of androgen worms.

In the late 40s and early 50s, The Kinsey Reports made waves by showing that rather than people being simply gay or straight, a spectrum of sexuality existed. It turned out that people were straight, bi-sexual or gay, to varying degrees, with blurred lines and overlap. Why should the same not be true for gender?

A debate on gender-spectrums is tempting, but I will discipline myself into putting it aside to give my own personal account. Here I’ll explain why and how I identify as mid-gendered.

To start at the beginning, I was born into a female body and understood from a young age that I had a girl’s body. Therefore I set about learning what girls did and did it. By the age of 6 it seemed abundantly clear to me that there had been a mistake, because of course I was a boy.

I knew what boys did and switched instantly to doing those things, insisting on wearing trousers. Spelling “Kim” backwards I found “Mik” and for a while signed all letters as “Micky”.

Completely aware that I had a girl’s body, I realised that if I were to be seen as a boy I would have to act exactly like one. I tried football (badly), wore a baseball cap and bomber jacket. By the age of 11 I had abolished crying or showing emotions that I saw as feminine, especially excitement. I was totally aware that a boy could cry and still be a boy, but since I was a girl trying to pass as a boy, I could never be caught doing anything “girlie”. (I wouldn’t recommend giving up crying to any child, as I am still trying to undo its effects)

Unfortunately by the age of 12, my breasts had fully developed. I realised that I wasn’t going to pass as male anymore. Reluctantly I set about finding out how to be a woman…

…I was rubbish!

After struggling for over 10 years, I met someone who was putting himself through a rite of passage. He decided that to become a true man he would have to set himself challenges that he associated with being strongly masculine. In his case: physical ordeal, walking new ground, hunting and farming. I realised I could do the same thing, by challenging myself to double my physical strength. I managed this within 3 months of weight training. Finally I was strong, like a man and had the androgynous body to match my insides! Then I was set on a course to discover how I could express my gender identity, within the confines of my physical body.

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Beard experimentation. Again, I don’t think this felt tip would convince anyone, but I was touched when after I’d explained that I’m transgender to someone, they asked if they could draw this goatee onto me to help them better understand my gender. A request like that could have seemed offensive, but this person’s intention was good so it wasn’t.

Strangely enough, I never felt the desire to have a sex change or to live as a man. I also don’t feel comfortable simply being labelled as a “strong woman”. I have cried with disappointment to look in the mirror and see a woman’s body, but not frequently enough to want to change my physicality. I see myself as mostly-male, but inside a woman’s body. This means I experience myself as mid-gendered. It’s important to me that those who I’m close to see me this way.

Wait a minute; doesn’t this mean I’m expecting people to accept me as transgender, without even trying “pass” as male? Is this too much to expect from the general public? I don’t think so. People are getting the hang of gender fluidity. I’ve had “the talk” with all my close friends most of whom have seen it coming anyway. I’m not willing to go back to “pretending to be male” by mimicking what other men do/wear/say, just like I did as a kid. I’d certainly be seen as transgender if I did that, but I wouldn’t be myself so it defeats the object. I wouldn’t recommend, “pretending to be male” in this way or “pretending to be female” to anyone male, female or trans.

By the same token I’m not going to start billing myself as a transgender singer-songwriter; it would be false advertising because my voice is female and defines the recordings.

I’m lucky because Kimwei turns out to be an androgynous name. It’s possible to change my title to “Mr.” by deed poll, so that’s my next step. It seems like just the right balance for me to have a female body and a male name. I’d rather be a husband than a wife or a dad than a mum.

If someone you know identifies as transgender, ask them about it – since how they identify their own gender and prefer to be treated will be different for each trans person.

Amnesty International currently have 2 transgender cases in their Write For Rights campaign. I’d encourage everyone to send at least one Write For Rights letter/card this Christmas as it’s a truly effective at helping those who receive them. All their causes are extremely good ones, not just those concerning gender. The letters do more than lift morale – people really do get treated better/pardoned/released from imprisonment as a result this kind of support being sent.

Thankyou for reading

Kimwei

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei

watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom ,

interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom & @kimwedotcom

everything at kimwei.com

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Find Out How Your Christmas Shopping Is Made

Shock horror – factory production isn’t always as bad as I thought. I spend so much time disapproving of mass-production that I decided to watch a “how it’s made” video. This one showed the factory production of jeans. I expected to be appalled. But as it turns out, factories are incredibly efficient, both in speed and use of resources. Only 7% of each sheet of denim is wasted. It’s we, the consumers, who are wasteful – chucking out the final product whenever we tire of it.

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Using a computer to create a pattern for jeans so that only 7% of the denim is wasted.

The only part of the video that sickened me was watching “designer stressing”. The methods take an hour, and add 5 years of “wear and tear” to new jeans. After seeing the cotton grown, dyed, weaved into denim, cut and precision sewed, it’s horrible to think that people won’t buy the finished article until 5 years have been taken off it’s life.

For the past 10 years I’ve only worn one type of trousers – Road corduroys. I’ve been wearing and repairing my current 3 pairs for 5 years now. They are literally wearing through. One of them ripped and died this morning. I can have peace of mind buying a replacement because Road boasts sweatshop-free production – but this means they charge £70 per pair. Wow! If I bought 3 pairs every 5 years that’s £42 per year on trousers. It sounds like a lot, even though we’ve been brainwashed into thinking it’s normal to pay that same amount for a phone contract every month.

One rip of many - now unsavable

One rip of many – now unsavable

Yet, if Road’s workers are paid a living wage, why should I be surprised that they charge £70 for an item of clothing? In Primark, jeans are £10, giving most people that smug “bargain feeling”. But would you feel smug if someone made you a pair of jeans, and you only paid them a tenner for it?

One reason we feel ok about paying £10 for trousers is that mass production divorces us from how stuff is made, so it’s harder for us to value it. We waste things that are easy to come by and hold no emotional ties. But we don’t chuck away the mug our child made in pottery class or the scarf our gran knitted. Mark Boyle puts it neatly by saying “if we had to purify our own water, I doubt we’d shit in it”.

So that brings to the conclusion that even if factories are efficient, it can still be better to make stuff or buy from small local traders because this discourages waste. In some cases making things at home wastes more raw materials, but this is offset by the reality that you’re less likely to throw out what you’ve made. On the other hand, finding our how things are made in factories can also discourage wasting them.

Therefore this Christmas, I’d urge you to take a closer look into where products come from. Can you buy more ethically by using a company with a strong mission statement, like Road? Can you buy more locally, or from the actual human who made the damn thing? If you can’t afford it and will be shopping at Primark instead, then so be it. But why not watch a few “how it’s made” videos, so at least you’ll be better informed. Exeter University Human Geography lecturer Ian Cooke runs www.followthethings.com is a great tool.

Road-JeansThis year I am buying all my Christmas presents from local artists/writers/musicians. This way I can be sure to give people gifts they won’t find on the high-street, whilst also supporting grassroots creativity. This isn’t a plug for my album being the perfect Christmas gift (although it IS rather lovely, and available here: kimwei.bandcamp.com ): I believe in this cause strongly and will be performing at local arts & crafts fair this weekend (Exeter Community Center, all day, my slot is 1.45pm).

In the meantime, since I’m experimenting with a low-money lifestyle, I can’t afford that new pair of cords even if I do approve of the company that make them. Do you think I should write a letter to Road Jeans asking for a sponsorship? Look at all the pictures of me wearing their cords on-stage!

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