Since I started creating The Masks of Gender podcast, I’ve spent hours in deep conversation with a range of remarkable people, none of them rich and famous, all of them profound and real.

My first object in creating the podcast was to tell another narrative about gender and its zillion variations. I intended to give voice to real people, not just giving them space to tell their story, their past, although this has real value, but in their insights, their wisdom and experience.

This was not just for trans people like myself, though the focus on my community is often there, but on everyone who has, or has had, or might have had a gender, and thereby suffered from its limitations. And we trans people need to be known for the remarkable people we are, so distinct from the ghastly narrative being told about a fiction of horror that has us as fictional demons. How this hurts us, in the same way that the narrative about women, or gay men, or black women, or disabled trans women hurts.

I’m keeping these comment post short and accessible. Please comment, in this way the conversation will grow wider.

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Sam’s story of his inner transformation on undergoing his gender transition to the man he always knew was his truth, was one of the inspirations for starting this podcast. Listen everybody! What we do is not a game, it’s profound and wonderful, considered, intelligent, risky and brings benefits, to ourselves and others around us. Look at Sam with his unfolded compassion, his change in how he works as a doctor and compare it with Tina, Christian priest in a previous episode. Such a transition as we make only makes real sense as a spiritual experience.

My book The Choice is a kind of summation of what I learned over the decades of my spiritual practices, meditation, study and self examination, twenty five compassionately short chapters to fit in between stations on the commuter train, or fill in time in the bathroom during the release after breakfast.

As the tricky and profound matters of gender and identity was also an underlying theme of my life – and still is – my spiritual practice gave insights into my gendered conundrums.

First the Stomach is, I think, the most personal and direct chapter of the book. It’s about truth and loss, revelation, compassion (which comes up time and again) and what we are when all of what we think we are is stripped away. Who are we when our gendered tales are removed? What am I without all what I think is me? When I have no gender, what am I?

Sam Hall is one of the inspirations of the Masks of Gender podcast. Last year I began to take photos of inspiring trans people; I was so tired of the vitriol being poured on our vulnerable and highly self aware, profoundly conscious community that I wanted to show what we really are by showing their eyes, and with it their hearts and souls, to the world.

In time my aim changed from a photo with a little card of words telling us about them to a little photo and their own living words. When I took the picture of Sam which is on this page, we talked, and he told me of the shift that had taken place in his medical career, or vocation. In his previous persona, labouring under the gender mask of the feminine, he was a consultant anaesthetist, with limited relations with patients. After his transition he re-trained as a general practitioner, face to face with patients, as an expression of his expanded compassion.

When I went to his house the other week to record the wonderful words of this man, this human, this good heart, this Catholic, I had the chance to delve deeper into his observations, his insights and wisdom. Listen, everyone, here is yet another great trans heart and intelligence. What wonderful people we are, I thought as I listened to it, what a privilege to belong to this extraordinary sector of humanity.

I have known Tina, the Reverend Dr Christina Beardsley, Church of England priest, since the very early 2000’s. From that beginning I was conscious of her leaning in to comfort trans people, help them with her highly developed spiritual heart, inspiring the creation of the Clare Project, which supports trans people to this day. To me she is the living goodness of heart that comes with the best of Christianity. She is also very smart, light and funny, and actually quoted me in her book; Transfaith: a transgender pastoral resource. I am honoured.

So when I began to create this podcast, The Masks of Gender, Tina was at the top of my list, and, in fact, I made the first recording of the all episodes at her flat in London last year. Always best to begin with a professional, I thought, and I was right. We talked from our own, parallel spiritual paths, which, I feel are, at the heart one and the same, what gender is, what it is to be true to ourselves, and how we can change the world, one step at a time. I hope this podcast is one of those steps.