Spare a thought dears for Stephanie Smyth, a Scottish transgender woman who has been forced out of her home town of Johnstone, thirteen miles west of central Glasgow due to bigotry.
Now 32, Stephanie started to openly identify as a woman in her 20s by wearing female attire and finally went gender reassignment treatment last year. Since then she has suffered a constant tirade of abuse in streets and in shops. She has been mocked by security guards, followed by shop staff, and had verbal abuse continually shouted at her, bizarrely including calling her a “witch”. What I find bizarre about that is that were Stephanie a practising Wiccan, perhaps nobody would bat an eyelid and she would actually receive more respect.
Finally Stephanie’s nerve cracked and in an trans community echo of Jimmy Somerville’s song about him running away from his Scottish home, Small Town Boy, she fled the Renfrewshire town, leaving her jobs, her friends and all familiar she grew up with behind her.
When I found this story on Facebook, I was also pained by the ignorant comments of two persons who appear to be blaming the victim.
Ignoramus No.1: “I’m curious about why she felt unable to move to Glasgow, which is implied by her stating that she’s had to leave her friends behind; Johnstone’s not that far out from Central.”
Johnstone is 13 miles from central Glasgow, so it is not as close as our bigoted friend claims. Scots communities tend to be extremely tight-knit, so perhaps there were people Stephanie felt close to and she feels that for her own safety, she can now never return there. I have lived in my community most of my life and some of my neighbours truly are like family to me. Were I to be forced out, I would be heartbroken. Therefore, I can identify with exactly what Stephanie is saying. Contrary to the above claim, there is absolutely nothing in the report which implies she felt she could not move to Glasgow and this sounds more to me like a particular type of bigot we get here who thinks Glasgow is the be-all and end-all of Scotland, and anyone who disagrees with that must be anti-Glasgow (the same applies to some sad Neanderthals in Edinburgh).
Ignoramus No.2: “I am curious why said person did not contact the police? Surely just abandoning town is a terrible way to deal with hate crime.”
Only someone not in the LGBT community could ever have come out with a statement like that. Why didn’t she contact the police dears? Perhaps because the police, just like the rest of mainstream Scottish society, do not recognise the trans community and can be every bit as bigoted. Stephanie stated, “I found that a lot of people who worked in security would be standing around laughing and staff workers would also follow me around, jumping to conclusions.” Called to an incident with security or shop staff and a trans woman, just whom do you think the police are going to take the side of dears? And before I get any responses claiming the police are not bigoted, I will relate that I once worked above a gay bookshop, whom the local police, whenever they were bored, would raid for “offensive materials”, during which the staff were roughly treated and verbally abused. On every occasion the materials they seized were all returned and all charges against the operators of the shop were dropped.
Not being transgender myself, I don’t pretend to even start to understand the feelings of Stephanie or anyone else in the trans community. This I do know however, when someone born of biological male gender identifies with femininity in any way, shape, or form, it can be a frightening thing for that person. You can go through years, decades of denial, which can lead to severe depression. I should know lovies. I never came to terms with Xandra until I was 40-something (and more than that I’m not saying, so don’t ask – it’s rude to ask a lady her age) and since exploring my femme I have never been happier. There are however many, family included, who do not know about Xandra, and probably never shall. I am frankly too much of a coward to ever come out. And should any cisgender person deride me for that dears, then I openly invite you to even just think for a few minutes of donning clothes of and making yourself appear like someone of the opposite gender, and openly telling friends, family, co-workers and your local community that is how you are and what you identify with. Go on, think about it.
Yes, not so big and brave now, are you dears?
I also know all too well about the small town mentality which is a cancer in too many Scottish towns and villages, where if one verges as much as one tiny iota from the norm, then they will have a lynch mob out for you. The fact that poor Stephanie was called a witch highlights this silly fear of the unknown. Frankly dears one thought we had left that mentality behind 400 years ago when innocent women and girls were burned at the stake for as little as having a birthmark. Even for someone who is cisgender and heterosexual male or female, there are sadly places where the local reaction will be, as my late father used to remark on such places, “Wha’s he? Whaur’s he frae? Whit’s he daeing here? When’s he gaun hame?” (Who is he? Where is he from? What is he doing here? When is he going home?”). Scotland is not always the warm welcoming place that many with rose-tinted (or is that tartan-tinted) would have you imagine it is.
As tragic as it is, therefore, I admire people like Stephanie. The very fact that she openly tries to live as a woman speaks volumes of her courage. If you’re reading this Stephanie, I likes your style girl and I’m sending you ((HUGS)).
For the transphobic bigots of Johnstone, I have nothing but contempt for you. If you think Stephanie Smyth fleeing is a victory, it is surely a Catharic one. You have brought shame down upon your own town. And more so upon your country, Scotland, which is also every bit as much Stephanie’s country, and mine, and every member of the Scottish LGBT community as it is yours.
The link to the report in Gay Star News is below dears: