T is for Tall Lady: An Epiphany

Exiting the tube station, I noticed how tall the woman in front of me was.

Looking at the Tall Lady, my first thought was how wonderfully tall she was. But then I imagined the problems she might face. Quite often, women don’t enjoy being tall, because men don’t like to be shorter than women, and will avoid them.

I’d like to clarify first that she wasn’t a trans woman. But she did serve settle in my head a problem I’d been having on a related issue.

There has been fury among trans organisations at Stonewall’s nomination of Julie Bindel for their Journalist of the Year award. Their anger comes as the result of an article Bindel wrote in 2004 where she expressed the opinion that trans people cannot change gender, no matter how much surgery or hormones they receive.

Following the Stonewall Awards – where Bindel didn’t win – she wrote a piece for the Guardian entitled “It’s Not Me. It’s You.” In it she bemoans the fact that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans are all lumped together under the LGBT banner. What does a lesbian have in common with a trans person, after all?

It occurred to me that what LGBT people (and the Tall Lady) have in common is that we defy gender stereotypes. These stereotypes say that men sleep with women, women sleep with men, men are tall, women are short, men don’t wear dresses and if you are born with a penis you cannot and never will be a woman.

LGBT people frighten straight people because we challenge their rigidly proscribed notions about gender. A fear of appearing ‘unmanly’ or ‘unfeminine’ informs many of the actions people take on a daily basis. Failure to conform invites ridicule and disgust from their peers.

That’s why I am happy to be counted among those who defy those expectations, be they gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex or Tall Lady. We all face the same discrimination, and should stand together until society gets rid of its tired, boring old stereotypes.

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