Kaey and Brighton Power are trans*. Here, they share what phrases hurt them and how to deal with insecurity.
"Male and female are just categories that humans have made up": Kaey from Berlin Photo: Cristian Merean
Kaey, 38, lives in Berlin. She finds it ignorant and assaultive when someone calls her a man
Basically, what I find most hurtful is the phrase "was born a man" or "born in a man’s body." I was born in my body. And if I am a woman, then that is obviously a woman’s penis. Period. After all, male and female are just categories that man has come up with. Actually, the easiest thing would be to just invent something else.
Also, it totally triggers me when someone reads me as so masculine that they ignore everything that is not masculine about me. I have a deep voice and I’m not a trans* person who has 100% passing, so people always immediately read me as a woman, and yet I think it’s relatively clear in my appearance that I feel at least female. Then when someone says "he" or refers to me as a "man," I sometimes sit there and think, are you actually blind? That’s really highly ignorant and assaultive.
If you’re unsure, you should just ask. For example, "I don’t mean to offend you, but how should I address you?" Actually, it would be much better if we did that with everyone anyway. I think a lot of people fear that by doing that, they’re questioning the person they’re talking to. When in fact, it’s much more hurtful to just assume something. That is only your projection. You take the smallest male part of me and put that over everything. That is an insult.
I didn’t have my name changed. For 15 years, Kaey has been my stage name on my ID, and all the people in my close circle call me that. My mother also slips out my birth name from time to time, but it’s pretty neutral anyway, so it’s not like she calls me Thomas or Horst all the time. I also think it’s hard to ask your parents to always click it around in your head like that. But if she’s on the phone with someone and she’s talking about me as her son, I’m already like, I don’t expect you to say I’m your daughter, but just say, "My kid’s visiting."
"The asterisk is important to me"
I call myself a trans* woman. The asterisk is important for me to make clear that I don’t necessarily fit into your definition of gender. But everyone handles that differently. I’m an editor at Siegessaule in Berlin, the biggest queer magazine in Europe. There we write, for example, "trans woman" without an asterisk, because that already indicates a gender direction, but "trans* person" with an asterisk, because that’s more open.
Also, I don’t say transsexual, but transidentical, because for me that has something to do with identity, not sexuality. Most of the time, though, I just use the term trans*. I find it problematic that you necessarily need a fixed definition. I am also a drag queen, for example, which is often a contradiction for many people.
This text is from the taz am wochenende. Always available from Saturday on the newsstand, in the eKiosk or in the practical weekend subscription. And on Facebook and Twitter.
But I’m also a woman, I’m also an Easterner – many identities fit into me. In the end, it’s all about pigeonholes that we have to squeeze ourselves into. Sure, we all need that in order to understand things and classify them, but I think it’s important to be open to changing a pigeonhole sometimes. Terms that I used for myself 20 years ago, for example, I no longer use today.
I did drag before I saw myself as trans*, and I was socialized in that scene. When I came out at 17 and fell in love with a boy, I first defined myself as a feminine man. At some point I realized: Oh, the woman I am on stage, that’s me! Some people criticize when a trans* woman does drag. But the question is: Is drag just about changing gender on stage, or is it about satirizing gender roles? After all, I can also do the latter if I feel I belong to this gender role.
The performance scene has its own language. I sometimes call my colleagues "stupid fucking tranny," but that only works among each other. If I’m walking down the street and someone yells "tranny" at me and takes it as an insult, then it’s also an insult. But I can appropriate the word if I accept that I am trans* and therefore a tranny. Then I turn around and say, "Yeah, what? I’m a tranny. Now what? What do you want next?" It’s nothing to be ashamed of. So my way of dealing with it is to say, why don’t you take that word, use it for yourself, and wear it proudly.
Minutes: Franziska Seyboldt
Brighton Power, 24, lives in Ehingen, Swabian Alb. It’s important to him that people make an effort
Do you go to the ladies’ or the men’s room?" was one of the worst questions for me for a long time. Bad because, before my breasts were removed, this decision was also difficult for me myself. Every time. Do I take the door or this one? I’m a man, but my breasts were clearly visible. No matter which restroom, I was looked at funny. Every time, I was afraid I was going to get kicked out. It took me a long time before I dared to go to the men’s room. It was terrible to have that rubbed in my face by others.
Brighton Power from Ehingen, Swabian Alb Photo: private
"Are you into women or men now?" is another question, totally inappropriate. I don’t ask every person who he or she is into. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with transsexuality. But the most hurtful thing anyone has ever said to me came last year from a classmate in training to be a youth and home educator: "You’re not a real man yet." I don’t even remember in which situation he said that, but I can remember the sentence very well.
I’m very lucky with my friends though, they reacted great when I first talked to them about it. I’m not really into the trans community. I know two other trans men that I have regular contact with. The fact that I know those two is good. But that’s all it takes for me. I just live my life.
I also don’t have time to chat for five hours every day and network with other trans women or trans men. Such meetings exist in big cities, but not in our village. Linguistically, I’m not so into it either, that’s not so important to me. For example, I don’t even know what this "trans starlet" means. I prefer to be called a man, I am a man. Otherwise, trans man is okay for me too. The least I can do is have everyone talk about me with the male pronoun. I just always want to be referred to as "he."
"I am not the female name, I am the man".
That sometimes mistakes happen is also clear, I can understand that. If you’ve been calling your best friend a certain female name for 18 years, it’s hard to turn that off. But the name I was given at birth, I just don’t want to hear. It’s not like I’m the female name, I’m the male. I worked so hard for it to be that way.
I grew up in a home and didn’t tell anyone there for a long time. The first time I said something was when I was 18 years old. But I wasn’t taken seriously then. The caretakers in the home thought it was a phase. When I was 21, I reached the point where I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I went to my best friend with a case of beer and told him everything. We then looked for a psychologist who knew about it.
The psychologist addressed me directly as "Mr. Power," which did so much good! I have now had my new first name for two and a half years, and my environment has recognized that. So I’m standing there and I’ve done it all … and then when someone says the old name, that ruins everything. It is therefore important to me that everyone makes an effort and takes it seriously. If that’s the case and something wrong slips out anyway, then I can also laugh about it together with him.
What was always annoying was that many people I met were somehow insecure and didn’t dare to approach me about it. But I always noticed that very clearly. Then I addressed it myself and briefly explained everything for ten minutes or so. My point was to clear up any ambiguities and then just have a normal conversation.
"No intimate conversations after two minutes"
On the other hand, asking very direct questions of people I’ve known for just two minutes isn’t okay either. With people close to me, I’m very happy to talk about gender reassignment, for example. But if it’s a friend’s buddy I just met at a barbecue, I don’t want to talk about such intimate things.
The bureaucratic procedure in Germany is terrible. The change of personal status is really a huge act, also with all the psychological reports you need for it. I found myself in the situation that I had started with testosterone, but the female name was still in the passport. That’s when I felt like a tween. I didn’t even know how to introduce myself anymore. You’re at a loss for words yourself.