NOBODY should have to live with the fear, anxiety and consequences of hate crime.
That’s the view of a Huddersfield man living a cross-dressing lifestyle.
Peter Dawes, known as Piper, is lead singer with a Huddersfield band and dresses in women’s clothing.
He argues that while racist abuse and homophobia have long been defined as hate crimes, many other sections of society can find themselves subjected to prejudice which can go unpunished.
People who don’t conform to gender norms and enjoy cross-dressing are one such group.
Piper, lead singer of Huddersfield ska band Wobbly Bob, outlined his views and why he hates being labelled as a ‘transvestite’.
“As part of our mission in Wobbly Bob, we are striving to help young people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community feel much more accepted in a world with only two widely accepted genders,” he said.
“That’s a mostly western model, by the way!
“There are tribes in South Africa with up to five genders and many for whom homosexuals are idolised.
“The western world has a long way to go before all humans can feel accepted within their own species, no matter how proud we feel of our progressive and accepting society.
“I didn’t realise quite how closed minded people were until I started on my own journey.
“Sex and gender are quite difficult to describe as, contrary to what many think, the whole thing is a massive set of sliding scales rather than black and white pigeon holes that humans can be put into.
“If pushed I say I am ‘gender neutral’ because psychologically, I feel no sway towards the ‘normal’ male or female genders.
“Outwardly, I tend to dress as a girl, even though I have a man’s body.
“If you ask me why, I couldn’t actually tell you.
“There appears to be a contradiction when I describe myself as gender neutral and wanting to look female.
“However, there is a big difference between your inward gender and your outward appearance.
“Just like cross-dressers define themselves as male or female and dress the opposite, I define as gender neutral and feel comfortable dressing as a woman. I’ve just never been interested in men’s clothing or style.
“When I was little, at parties I would look at all the men in their black suits, all looking the same, then I would look at the women.
“Beautiful dresses, make-up and hairstyles that seem to show how they see themselves on the inside.
“Women’s style is so much more appealing to me; therefore I strive, outwardly, to be as feminine as possible – chicken fillets and all!
“Six years ago, when I started Wobbly Bob, I hadn’t come out yet and even when I did, it was strictly off-stage.
“I soon realised that one can pretty much get away with anything on stage.
“As long as the audience enjoys the music, they’ll make you feel like a rock star whatever the hell you wear.
“I don’t like the term ‘transvestite’ as it conjures up images of bad drag queens and seedy situations, but as much as I hate the word, I’m actually OK with people describing us as ‘that band with the tranny’ because it means people remember us and it sets us apart from other performers.
“Outside the alternative scene though, the world is not so accepting and I can honestly say the amount of material online for young trans people still trying to come out, is shockingly poor.
“Hardly anyone outside the trans community will realise this as they have no reason to look into it.
“Many are of the opinion that the true nature of sex, gender and orientation don’t apply to them, but there are so many homosexual and transgendered people in Huddersfield alone, so the chances of you meeting one of us at least once is extremely high.
“Worst of all, there are many who believe that the LGBT community is like a small, misguided cult.
“In some cases, I have known people in Huddersfield to be physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
“Thankfully, I personally have never been physically abused but I often get pointed at and sniggered about in the street.
“Some act like I can’t hear them and shout it out loud and some say it quietly.
“But I always hear it and it always hurts.
“Sometimes they even shout homophobic slurs.
“The workplace is probably the worst though to be honest. I tone down my look a lot for work as most people there don’t understand the transgender thing. But even my long hair and eyeliner sometimes gets comments from my workmates.
“Often the first thing I’ll get asked is: ‘So are you actually gay or do you just like wearing dresses?’
“I’ve never been able to understand that one but unfortunately it is one of the most common misnomers about trans people that because they dress like a girl they must therefore be homosexual.
“First of all, I see no reason to defend myself against being accused of being gay as there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but it confuses me as there is no link whatsoever between the way you look, dress or act and your sexual orientation.
“To those who think that way, I ask you, do you not think it might be the tiniest bit counterproductive, when trying to attract a gay man, to dress like a woman?
“If there is anyone out there who would like to talk to someone who has already come out as trans, do not hesitate to contact me, Piper, via the band e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Resources about gender identity can be found online, including at www.gendertrust.org.uk and www.queeryouth.org.uk