One of the best things about Mr Gay Europe, is that I get to meet a lot of interesting people. Sure, there are some people who think I do this only to meet young, handsome guys; of course that is not the worst part of the job. But believe me, that is not why I do this as there are a lot of handy apps to cover that area.
Today I want to tell you about a very special group of young men that I have met through Mr Gay Europe, and that has changed the way I think about and understand things in life; I want to tell you about our trans men of MGE.
The first one I met was Shaun Meehan; a sweet, kind and vibrant Irish lad. He was the first trans person to take part in Mr Gay Ireland in 2012, and his honest, sincere and down-to-earth way of being made it easy to get to know him. Even if I had the pleasure to talk with Shaun only for a brief MGI weekend, there was something about him that stayed with me, and forced me to really examine my views and feelings regarding trans people.
It is not easy to really understand what it is all about when you are not a trans person yourself. I myself was born as a boy, and even if I had my turns with my body through puberty, and even today I look into the mirror after a shower and admit that I should have taken a trip to the gym, I am happy being born in a man’s body and I can’t even imagine how it would be to be a woman trapped in a man’s body or the other way around.
Talking to Shaun, knowing he was born in a girl’s body, I still was never ever in doubt that I was talking with a young man. Again, this is something I don’t fully understand and really can’t explain, but it was something about the energy and chemistry. Being a gay man I just registered that the person in front of me was a very cute twink.
Sadly Shaun decided to walk out of time, he made his choice and left the rest of us, the ones he met and touched the heart and souls of, and his friends in Ireland behind. Shaun experienced that the people that were supposed to love him the most, did not accept him for what he was, and were actually working against him being able to realize himself, and in many ways that was the reason why he was pushed over the edge and chose not to go on.
One of Shaun’s friends was Ben Power. I remember especially one thing Ben told me; he felt happy when someone called him a ‘fat old man’. Ben was on the chubby side, and the shape of his body made people fall into the cliché trap; a chubby, jolly person with short hair and saggy trousers is of course a man – I don’t know about the ‘fat’ part of the description, but Ben was super happy to be classified as a man.
Ben did not come from the easiest of backgrounds either, and for a while it seemed to me that most trans people had a difficult background and past, mostly due to the fact that friends, family and society in general were not able to deal with the fact that the person in front of them felt they were born in the wrong body.
Ben gave me the courtesy of his patience. He allowed me to ask all the questions that I had, and when my imagination was not rich enough to ask the right questions he enlightened me with facts and everyday anecdotes from his and other trans’ lives and development.
Then I met Niels, this year’s Mr Gay Denmark. Again, not for one second did I doubt that the person in front of me was a man. I did not know much about his past – and I still do not know – but for me Niels was just Niels, the delegate from Denmark.
Niels does indeed have his challenges, and he is very open about his mental struggles. That makes his position at second place in Mr Gay Europe even more impressive. Niels was really one of my heroes this year.
We are all just humans and our views on other people are coloured by the people we meet and the experiences we make. Therefore, it has been natural for me to think at the back of my mind that trans people have a lot of issues in their life, not only by coming out, but by the sheer challenges of everyday life.
Then I met Thomas Westervoll Hansen and Noah Lind. Each year the Norwegian organization ‘Sex and Society’ hands out the ‘Shamless’-prize to people who have been on the barricades for a sex positive society ridden by shame. The prize is even under the protection of Her Majesty Crown Princess Mette Marit of Norway.
This year the prize went to ‘body positive activist’ Carina Elisabeth Carlsen, and at the award ceremony I met members of the jury, two of them were Thomas and Noah; two straight young trans men, both 21 years old, grounded, outspoken, positive and self-confident guys.
Their journey had not been without challenges, being a trans person and making all the decisions is as we all may understand, not a walk in the park, but apart from this both these guys get emotional and financial support from their families to go through the trans process.
As I was talking to them I notices that they were quite different in the way they behaved. They both were young, nice and polite, but one of them was gentler in his expression whilst the other was in a way more butch.
Why do I mention their difference in behaviour? Because I have to be honest enough to say that this too was part of my process of learning and understanding. There are a lot of things that are ‘the right way’ of thinking, that are logical from a humanistic point of view, and that are ‘politically correct’. Still, this framework of good and correct intentions can very well work as a good guideline, but at the same time we have to take into account that we are just humans, and sometimes it takes time to learn and understand.
Trans people are of course just as diverse and faceted as any other group of people in the society. Still I think a lot of people out there have this fixed idea of what a trans person is – and even worse; what type of person they are, how they feel, act and behave.
It is time we start to look at trans people as individuals, not just a group. I mean, gay men get quite annoyed when straight people think we are all acting, thinking and behaving the same way.
I also think communication is great and important, and even if it can be tiring and straight out annoying, when people ask ‘stupid’ questions, but hey, at least they are curious and want to know more. And curiosity is a wonderful way to transfer knowledge and understanding, as long as the person asking is actually positive and open – because where should we otherwise get info and facts from?
We could go online and search the Internet, but there are so many ‘truths’ out there, and nothing beats human to human contact. I have been lucky and met several trans men and women in my life, I still don’t fully understand what they must go through, but I have learned to respect their choices and their fate.
And if there are things I don’t understand I will just keep on asking ‘stupid’ questions. Or what we say over and over at Mr Gay Europe every year; “the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask”.