A conversation with Izzy Kershaw
TRANSGENDER WOMAN, BISEXUAL, ADHD
40 min. Recorded on 26 July 2022.
Izzy’s pronouns are she/her, and she is a transgender woman. She’s also bisexual and has ADHD. Find out what that means to Izzy in this episode.
We also talk about how big a part of identity gender is and how that can change, the importance of making the distinction between sex and gender in healthcare, being trans in the music industry, an enlightening acid trip, how music can take people on a journey, the innateness of gender from the perspective of brain science, and the desire to belong.
“[Being a musician] is one of the many parts of my identity, just as being trans is one of many parts of my identity. A sum of lots of different things.”
TRANSCRIPT [expand to read]
Esther: Hello and welcome. What’s your name?
Izzy: My name is Izzy Kershaw.
Esther: Hello, Izzy. Welcome. Let’s talk about gender as we do here. Yeah. So the labels you gave me were transgender woman, bisexual and ADHD. So let’s start with the first one. What does it mean to you to be a transgender woman?
Izzy: So for me, really, it means to, I mean, to, to live and identify myself as a woman, it it’s, I don’t think it’s anything specifically. Like unique or special, but it it’s just, yeah.
Esther: Fair enough. Yeah, totally. So have you always had a sense of being trans in your life? I mean, how’s it been for you like growing up and stuff?
Izzy: Yeah, I always said, well, I, I had a sense that something was wrong or that something was off. I think I had the realization that I was trans when I was about 12. I had a friend of mine called Flo. I, I go to these sort of hippy camps every year. And she, she was talking about, obviously at the time, I think not really understanding the language. She said she had a trans uncle, but presumably it was a trans aunt, right? Yes. Yeah. That, whole schtick. But after explaining to me what it was, I, it just really, really stuck with me and resonated with me.
And I remember on the way back from that camp, sitting in the back of the car. And I found a Zippo lighter just on the floor of the camp and I was playing with it in the back of the car and I thought to myself, Hmm. I could just not talk to anybody about this. I think that’s a really good idea. I’m just not gonna talk to anybody about this. And I remember making like an active decision to just sort of stuff it down and not think about it. Cause it being sort of too difficult, I guess.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah. So would you say that was when you were about 12.
Izzy: About 12. Yeah.
Esther: Yeah. So when, when did you get to a stage where you’re like, what, I am gonna tell people about this, or when did you, start coming out?
Izzy: I think it was, I, I, I went to uni, so I wasn’t really around my, my parents very much at that time. And I think that gave me a lot more freedom to sort of think about my own identity and who I was as an individual. And my mom was into a lot of Jermaine Greer at the time. Yeah. I, I sort of assumed that coming out to her would be this, this horrendous bad thing that would cause a lot of problems. And she sort of just found out on her own, like she saw some photos of me on, on Facebook or whatever, and just sort of figured it out. When she phoned me and I told her, she was like, yeah, that’s fine. Which is like, not, not the answer I, I expected from, from all the conversations that I’ve had with her over the years.
Esther: Right. Yeah. Oh, well, that’s a pleasant surprise then I guess.
Izzy: Yeah. It was a pleasant surprise.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah. So would you say actually, yeah, or just wondering actually, how big a part of your identity would you say gender is? And has that changed over the years?
Izzy: I think it has actually become less and less over the years. A big part of my identity. I think at the very beginning phases of my transition, it was very sort of all encompassing. I think would be the best way to describe it. And very much at the forefront of my thoughts at the time. But I think as life has gone on, it’s just become one little tiny, extra part of who I am rather than necessarily a huge, huge part of who I am.
Esther: That’s interesting. So I guess maybe it sounds like the more you were accepting of yourself and sharing that with the world, the less of a big deal necessarily it maybe became?
Izzy: Yeah, no, totally. I think that’s, that’s absolutely it. Yeah.
Esther: Interesting. Wow. I love that. So you mentioned in your email that you don’t consider yourself female. So I wanted to talk to you a bit about the sort of difference between male and female and then man, and woman. So how does that fit together for you?
Izzy: To me, it’s just like, I don’t wanna say like, oh, it’s just a scientific standpoint. Cause I think people use that sort of phrase in a really bad way. For, for me, it’s just from, from what the definition of sex is, it’s sort of a, it’s, I thinks five or six characteristic thinks five characteristics where it’s your chromosomes, your primary sexual characteristics, your sex, secondary sexual characteristics, the gametes you can produce. And there’s one more, oh, your primary hormonal hormonal state, and those five characteristics to find what someone’s sex is.
So technically as a trans woman transitions. They do change some of those core aspects of, like the, the five core aspects of what makes someone sex, their sex. So in a way, they are actually physically transitioning their sex, but it needs to pass a certain threshold for it to actually be considered either one side or the other, cuz they, they take into account the amount of characteristics on each of these five angles. And so for me it just, it feels like, because my characteristics are more so on the male side that I’m male. And I know that’s a very, like, I guess like cold and logical way of seeing it, but…
Esther: Well, if that’s how you feel about yourself, then that’s valid.
Izzy: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I don’t think that… I’m not looking at that and if someone’s like a trans woman, they say, well, I consider myself female. That’s fine by me. I’m not, I’m not, I’m absolutely not saying that everyone should do it the way that I do it, but yeah, and I, I also kind of wish that, a of systems like in the NHS, they have… When you change your like gender markers in the NHS, it’s all your sex markers get changed in the NHS as well. Which for me feels, yeah, strange.
Esther: It is because it’s, I think it emphasizes just how binary a system that is because a friend of mine transitioned and then got called, like for a smear test. And they were like, yeah, don’t, it’s not gonna work. I don’t have those parts.
Izzy: Yeah. I kept getting messages and, and stuff about cervical cancer screening and it’s just like, yeah, like. It doesn’t make, it doesn’t make any sense. Like, I, I don’t have a cervix, like yeah.
Esther: Yeah. So that just indicates like the need for like more nuance in that system. Right. Because it’s too binary. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work like that.
Izzy: Yeah, totally. I, I wish there was like, a little checkbox, for your gender, and then a little checkbox, for your sex. And there were very clearly with a little note underneath to explain which part they’re for, or whatever.
Esther: Exactly. Yeah.
Izzy: They already do that with sort of STD screening and stuff like that, which is good, but they, they just don’t do it with anything else for some reason.
Esther: Oh, that’s odd. Yeah. Well let’s hope they integrate that anytime soon. Gosh. < laughs> oh yeah. Yeah, I just, I just found it really fascinating what you said about considering yourself a male woman and also, I appreciate the controversy around it, cuz, I think that that argument, like the sex argument is used a lot, in gender critical environments, let’s say isn’t it.
Izzy: Yeah. I, I mean the way that they use it is very much like, oh, I have this better understanding of science and therefore, you’re really a man because it’s all just chromosomes. And I think most people who use that argument don’t actually understand science. Yes. but what sex actually is and how it functions. Cause it’s, it’s more, I really don’t like to use this phrase cuz it’s from Dr. Who I’m not the biggest fan of Dr. Who, but it’s, it’s more wibbly wobbly than, than it is necessarily a straight line.
Esther: Yeah. I’ve heard that term before. Actually. I didn’t quite realize it’s Dr. Who I’m not, I’m not super.
Izzy: It is from Dr. Who. I, not the biggest fan of Dr. Who I really don’t like David Tennant. This is, a lot of people are gonna hate me for that.
Esther: But I was gonna say gender is fine. Like Dr. Who, that’s more controversial than gender, I guess. “What? You don’t like David Tennant?” Anyway. Yeah. So in your, in your line of work, being a musician, do you find that, I mean, what is, what is it like being, being a trans woman in, in the music industry?
Izzy: I think it’s. It it’s, it’s interesting, cuz I think there’s always this like slight worry that if I’m messaging someone from radio or something that like, what if they’re a little bit transphobic and I have to have an interview with someone who is sort of a little bit transphobic and I have to deal with that or what if I’m gonna get asked weird questions, like, about my sex life that I don’t really want to reveal to people or whatever.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think. That aspect, there’s always this like slight background, I guess, noise of worry in my head about that. But I mean, all in all, I dunno how much of that is just my internalized transphobia, because a lot of the, the interactions that I’ve had so far have been absolutely fine. Yeah, so yeah, it, it really hasn’t had as much of an effect as I thought it would.
There is another thing I think. I look at other trans musicians. And I think which maybe I shouldn’t do this, but I always think, well, I don’t wanna be doing something like them because it’s like, I’ll get pigeonholed into like, I don’t wanna write music like a 100 Gecs or whatever, because I’ll then get pigeonholed into that.
Or like it’s already been done when, when the reality is like Hyper Poppers. Has been done like a million times by a million different artists, but like, because it’s so well known for like a few trans artists. If I get involved in that, it’s like, oh, it’s another trans artist doing hyper pop. So it’s, it actually affects like the choices I make when I write music, which it, maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.
Esther: Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. So have you always been into music and making music? Has that been part of your. How do, would, would you say it’s part of your identity, I guess having grown up in, in a family or with your dad being a musician?
Izzy: Yeah. Like it’s one of the many parts of my identity just as being trans is one of the many parts of my identity and, some of, lots of different things. But yeah, no, I, interestingly, had gone to music quite shortly after realizing I was trans. Yeah. That happened around the age of 13. I, I learned the bass line to Feel Good Inc. And I was just instantly hooked on music. And then I just started picking up loads of different other instruments. Like I picked up a saxophone for a bit guitar, ocarina, bass drums… Just became like a Jack of all trades rather than necessarily being good at one specific thing. Although I, I did spend more time playing the electric guitar than anything.
Esther: Yeah. So you are a woman of many talents.
Izzy: Some of which are better than others, but <laughs>
Esther: That’s amazing. Yeah. Gosh. Yeah, I wanna come back to the music, but before we do, I was thinking, maybe talk about the other labels you gave me. There’s bisexual and there’s ADHD. So would you say they’re just other facets of your identity and they’re like, I don’t know. Do you feel they maybe flow in your life as to not how important they are to you, but maybe how much to the forefront they are? Cuz as you said about gender, the more you accepted who you were and shared it with the world, the less of like an “issue” it became. So it, it, I guess it becomes more, I don’t know, maybe more integrated or more normal in your own life. So it’s then not something you maybe talk about all that much.
Izzy: I mean, it’s one of those things where it’s like, I don’t wanna necessarily say, oh, this is just a little part of me. And in a way it just is, but it does also impact my life significantly, especially like ADHD, like that actually has quite a big impact on my life sometimes.
Esther: So how does that show up for you? Yeah, I mean, it was sort of one of these things where without the diagnosis for, for a long time, I didn’t have a diagnosis. It felt like, oh, I wonder if I have this thing. and then all the symptoms of that thing would show up and affect my life. But it’s like, I didn’t really have coping strategies for it. But the moment you have that revelation of “yes, I do have this thing and yes, there are ways I can cope with it.”
Izzy: Just knowing what the beast is, is a way of sort of, I don’t wanna call it ADHD a beast necessarily, but that is the phrase, like knowing the beast, but yeah. Yeah. Like knowing what it is really helps coping with it. And even with, with, things like coming to terms with being bisexual and coming times with being trans is like, there are huge life changes that happen with that. And those huge life changes. Are always positive at the end of it, although can be hard at the beginning.
Esther: Mm. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. I, I liked what you said about in your bio about, I dunno if it was the first EP or song you released “Vessel” and it’s about appreciating the one life and one vessel you’ve been given. So did that coincide with your transition journey as it was?
Izzy: It really did. Yeah. Just after I came out of university, I had this bizarre acid trip where I had a lot of, sort of revelations about myself. And one of which it, it really felt like I was just piloting like this sort of like fleshy, almost like robot, that I was just sort of inhabiting. And you, you, when you’re having an acid trip, it’s like, you can sort of feel everything in this really sort of like bizarre way. And you’re very aware of it. And it made me really realize that, like, this is. This is the thing I’m inhabiting. And this is like the one, one, like body that I have been given. And I’m not gonna get another one. yeah. So like, even if I’m not happy with it in certain ways, like, with, with sort of gender stuff I, I have to have some sort of gratitude and appreciation for it being there. And yeah, so that, that was, that was the main thing with it.
And also there was this interesting thing that happened when I was in the bathroom. And I was looking at a box of hair dye that my friend had, and I looked at this box of hair dye, and I thought, oh, that’s, that’s, that’s a, a man on the, the box of hair dye, cuz my, when you’re on acid, like things look a bit like sort of different. And as I was changing my perception of what I thought this person was, the gender of this person would change as well.
And I sort of realized that I was sort of doing that to myself in the mirror. That every time I was feeling bad about myself and I was looking at myself in the mirror. So I think, oh, I, I look like a man, I’m never gonna look like a woman and all the like stupid thoughts that go around your head or whatever, when you’re having those, those, those issues and genders dysphoria.
Yeah. I, it was something I was doing to myself, like, like with my own brain. And I think that that realization that I don’t. When, when that’s happening that I have actual, I can come up with coping strategies to actually like, be like, okay, well, this is how you’re feeling like today. Maybe let’s stop looking in the mirror, let’s go do something else. And yeah, like I, I think that, that, that one little acid trip was really, really, really beneficial for me.
Esther: Wow. Yeah. Sounds it. I mean, I’ve got one of my cousins went on an Ayahuasca trip last year, I think. And that was in, I dunno, it was in south America anyway, like the country itself escapes me and yeah, he was, he talks about, he actually started a podcast with three other people that he met there and they just talk about how they described their trip is just incredible. Like absolutely life changing stuff. Like for all of them their podcast is called “Mamas Boys” without the apostrophe in “Mama’s.” For those who wanna look it up, I thoroughly recommend it. It’s very wholesome. And yeah, it sounds a bit sounds a bit like what you’re saying. Yeah.
Izzy: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think I’d wanna do it again. It was very intense yeah. Like a once in a lifetime thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe a once in a lifetime thing. Yeah, but like, I feel like there’s only so many revelations, you can have experiences like that. And I think, yeah, it could get very easy and getting caught up with, “oh, I, I found out something new about myself. Let’s do it again. I can find out something new about myself.” And yeah, I think that that route can be quite dangerous, I think.
Esther: Mm. Yeah. Maybe if you’re getting into maybe an addictive space with that, like being like chasing this new, I don’t know, level of existence or whatever. I don’t know what you might wanna call it.
Izzy: Yeah. Because I mean, when you, when you’re having that experience, it does feel like you’re constantly reaching for like some kind of understanding that you are almost grasping something and not quite. And I think that feeling could be quite addictive. So, which is why I think I’ve, I’ve stayed away from it ever since.
Esther: Yeah. That’s fair enough. Well, it sounds like it unlocked a lot for you.
Izzy: I think the one experience was good. Yeah.
Esther: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So how has that sort of gone forward in like your, your musical journey and your gender journey and how has that sort of been. How’s that sort of been evolving?
Izzy: Well, I think, I think all of those, those life experiences with my, my music journey, like heavily, heavily, heavily influence my music.
Like I often like to write about the times that have been really difficult for me, but I can only really write those in a space where I’m feeling good, good about myself or I’m feeling good about how life is going in general.
Esther: Oh, interesting. So you kind of have to come out the other side.
Izzy: Yes. I think if I, if I wrote things in the moment, it… there would be too much going on in my head for it to really come out coherently. And I think I have to have time and space away from the event or whatever that event was to, to really have cuz what, cuz when you’re, when you’re writing music, you are, you’re writing about an experience and you’re trying to convey that experience to others in a way that can maybe even be healing for them as well. So I want to be at a place where I feel like I’ve healed from it in order to actually write about that piece, cuz otherwise it can just be sort of this downward spiral of sort of negativity. Yeah. And some of my music does have that negativity, but there’s always that twist of here’s maybe how it can be better. That sort of sense of overcoming the adversity rather than just necessarily being all about the adversity.
Esther: Hmm. That’s really interesting. Yeah. It sounds like it’s all about the, like the energy you put into it. That then goes out toward. I don’t know the listeners, I suppose. Yeah. And it is, it is like a really tangible thing, especially, I think, not just if you are sensitive to that, but I think generally people don’t realize that, and they might just feel a certain way when listening to music. And that’s what that’s about. What’s all about the energy that goes into it.
Izzy: Yeah, totally. And I, I don’t really want to write music that’s gonna put anyone in this really negative head space constantly. And I, I also wanna write music that resonates with people in an often negative things do resonate with people. Yeah. So it’s a hard balance. And when writing as well, like I. I, I wanna put something out there that I’m proud of that people can listen to and feel like they’ve, they’ve been on a journey rather than just a sort of a box that they can jam out to. Which, I mean, sometimes that’s nice, but…
Esther: Yeah, totally. Yeah. Yeah. That makes total sense. Yeah. So you take them, you take them on a journey. I like that. So you take them on a journey and you give them like a glimpse of where you’ve been, but also you take them back to how you came out of it and where you are now. So it’s like an empowering positive experience.
Izzy: Yes. Yeah. That’s, that’s the aim and objective anyway.
Esther: Yeah. Mm, yeah. Love it. So excitingly, you have a new track coming out that you’re doing with your dad. Yes. And yeah. Can you give me some, some background on that, cuz that’s also linked to your, your gender journey, isn’t it?
Izzy: It is. Yeah. Which I, I don’t even know if my dad knows this but yeah, like I, I. Basically try and cuz as I was saying, like writing about the, at the hard time and stuff, I think just after I transitioned, which was at uni, I had this sort of time where I, I, I made this friend group basically and this, this friend group was really lovely and nice and we weren’t out drinking a lot. And then after I sort of let out that I was trans, I started to transition. I don’t think I quite realized what their views on trans people were before I started really hanging out with them. Oh. Because of this, it sort of left me in this position where I was very sort of alone and isolated at university. And with that came a lot of pain, I guess. And a lot of like Well, let’s just say it was a very difficult time. And a lot of that was to do with transitioning at a space where I was very alone and isolated. And a lot of my friends were also coming to terms with this. And some of them were coming to terms with in a way that was better than others, like, like a lot of old friends that I’ve known since I was very young. . And doing that at a place where alone is, isn’t the greatest feeling in the world. Hmm. But Paranoid is basically. Like the, the song is basically about that and about like some of the, the feelings that, that came along with it and some of the mental health issues that came along with it.
And when I, when I was writing this song, because I, I think when people listen to the song, they might assume it’s sort of a 50/50 split of writing between me and my dad. But when I came to my dad about this, this idea, Because we were, it was, it was lockdown at the time and my dad was super bored and like tired and I was super bored and tired and it was, it was during the time where we could sort of visit, but there were like restrictions to the rules of how you could visit. So I, I was visiting, my dad and making sure we adhered to all the restrictions or whatever. And yeah, I saw the look on his face of like, it was almost like this absolute defeat and his, his wife, Sarah was with him, this look of absolute defeat as well. Like the lockdown really got, got to us, I think.
And I just thought to myself, well, we’re both bored out our mind. What can we do? Maybe we could, I dunno, write a song where that’s what we both do. So I asked if we should write a song together and he was just like, yeah, sounds great. But one, one of the things he said was that from, from it was that he’d like me to put in basically the majority of the sort of work on my end, and then he can just sort of maybe sing over it or whatever. I didn’t want it to just be like that. So I asked him to write a little bit of the middle eighth. So the first beginning of the middle eighth, which is just after the second chorus. He wrote that little section that was about a difficult time in his life and how he overcame some adversity. Because again, that’s kind of my general theme throughout music. And then I riffed off that in the second part of the middle eighth, and also sort of used some of his lyrics and sort of adapted them a little bit and shaped them in my own way. But yeah, the, the song wouldn’t exist in the way that it is without dad. And I, I think I wanted to make sure it was like if he was gonna be involved, I wanted to make sure. It was like that rather than just necessarily me handing him lyrics and him just singing the lyric.
Esther: Very much a co-creation then.
Izzy: Yes. I, I, it, it was more on my end, but it is, I, I wanted it to be a co-creation so I, I, I asked yes for dad to do some stuff. Yeah.
Esther: So would you both be singing on it as well? Or is it just one of you singing?
Izzy: Yes, we, we both singing on it. Yeah. So nice. I originally wanted it to just be me on the, the verses and then maybe we’d sing together on the chorus or something, but I just kept adding in more, cause I think it, it just, yeah, but yeah, so it’s like sort of back and forth on the verses. Like I’ll sing one line, dad will sing another line and then I’ll sing one line. And then, then we sing together on the pre chorus and then the chorus was singing in unison rather than in harmony with a bunch of backing vocals and stuff.
I, I really thought about the, the structure of it, I guess and how it was gonna involve him.
Esther: Yeah, it sounds very different than. It’s not like a duet necessarily as is like a, a different kind of vibe, I suppose.
Izzy: Yeah. I, I didn’t, I, I definitely didn’t wanna make it sound like we were singing to each other.
I wanted to sound like we were singing about a similar sort of experience. And I wanted to make it more general than necessarily specific to my experience. Cause if, I think if I made it very specific to my experience, I don’t think many people would resonate with it. But yeah, I, I wanted the.
I wanted the lyrics to sound like if someone listened to it, they can apply their own life experiences to it rather than necessarily just my life experiences. Amazing.
Esther: Yeah. So that song is out very soon.
Izzy: Isn’t. It is out on. Yeah, it is. It’s out on August the 10th. All major streaming platforms. It’s called Paranoid and that’s with me. Izzy, Kershaw, and my dad, Nick Kershaw.
Esther: Nice. Yeah. That’s so cool. Well, I look forward to hearing it. It was, it was so interesting. Right? When you, obviously, I I’ve known you from around in, in Norwich for a little while. Yeah. And I just never even made the Kershaw connection.
And then when you talked about doing song with your dad, I was like, oh, THAT Kershaw! <laughs>
Izzy: Yeah. Yeah. It’s quite common name. So it, I think, yeah, when people. When I, when I was younger, it was very different, cuz I think a lot of people knew the association a lot more cuz it, it was closer to the eighties, but, but nowadays when, when people hear the name Kershaw, they’re just like, oh, okay.
It’s just a name. Yeah. Yeah. It means to live on a house on a hill.
Esther: Does it?
Izzy: So, yes. Which not that interesting. I dunno why I mentioned that. <laughs>
Esther: No, that’s interesting. I like, I find it all very interesting. So where does it originate from then? The name?
Izzy: I think it’s British. I’m, I’m pretty sure it’s British, but I’m, don’t quote me on that.
Esther: Cool. I mean, what was it like growing up with, with like a pop musician, like, and a popular one, in the eighties, for sure. As a, as a, as a parent, like how was, how was that?
Izzy: It was not as glamorous as I think people would imagine. Yeah. I think I, I remember the time I actually found out my dad wrote music cuz at the beginning it was, oh, I think almost like five by the time I actually figured out what I’d asked him, what he did and, and when he told me and I was like, oh, I was very excited at the time. Cause I was like, oh, that’s really cool. Yeah. Yeah. Like, I, I didn’t like the fact that when, whenever someone tried to make friends with me, there would always be at the end of it, almost like this question of like, oh, can my dad get an autograph from, from your dad or something? And it felt like when people were trying to make friends with me, I didn’t know if they were doing that because of the association with my dad or if they actually genuinely liked me, which was,
Esther: yeah. That’s a bit shit. Isn’t it?
Izzy: No, yeah, yeah it is. It’s it was quite difficult having to deal with that. And I also had this sort of bully who bullied me for years and years and years when I, when I got into secondary school, I mean years. And it felt like years and years, of course, there’s, there’s not that many years in secondary school,
Esther: Enough though, if you’re being bullied. Holy shit.
Izzy: Yeah. Yeah. One day I just asked him, I was like, “why, why specifically me? Like you pick on me almost more than anyone else in the class. Like, I, I don’t get it.” And he just kept talking about how my life must be perfect. And it’s like, it was almost like he was, he had these excuses in his head as to why he should bully me because, because who my, who my dad was. And then I found out from this guy, the. He, he basically didn’t know his dad and he didn’t really like see his dad very often and because of his pain and his trauma, he was sort of taking that out on me. I felt really, really sorry for him after hearing that. But then I told him, I only see my dad every other weekend and I think that kind of blew his mind a little bit. Cuz he, I don’t think he had any idea. He just sort of assumed all these sort of grandiose ideas of what my life was like and how I was living. And then when he found out that my parents split up, I only saw my dad every other weekend. It was just like. The rug had been pulled up from under him.
Esther: So yeah, did it change then? Did he stop bullying you? Or…
Izzy: The bullying did slow down, but I never figured out if it was that conversation or if it was, there are a few things that could have potentially slowed it down, but yeah.
Esther: Gosh, how interesting. So have your, have your parents always been supportive of your gender and journey and transition and all that stuff?
Izzy: I think there’ve been some, a few misunderstandings but overall very supportive. Yeah. I know. They’ve, I mean, they’ve been great. Yeah. They’ve been like great with it. Like I think, yeah, no that I, couldn’t hope for more really, but yeah.
Esther: Nice. That’s good. Yeah. Is there anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about yet?
Izzy: There is like one sort of. I guess I always wanna have conversation with these people, people about this, cuz I feel like it’s, it’s something that doesn’t pop up a lot in conversations with. When I, when I have conversation with trans people about gender, Do you know about the stria terminalis study?
Esther: I’m not sure. Say more.
Izzy: Interesting. So like, I feel like this, this hardly ever gets mentioned in whenever I, this, this conversation is about like, like, like sex or gender and It always, almost always gets sort of tackled from a sort of sociological standpoint. And there’s this, there was this study that has been done years ago and it’s been replicated like near hundreds of times. And where basically they study the, the brains of trans women, homosexual men, cisgender men who are not, who are heterosexual and cisgender women who are heterosexual as well. And It’s it’s a bit of a, like, I think a lot of people have a hard time navigating this study because people don’t like to think about the idea of brains being sexually dimorphic, but this, this one aspect of the brain is a very, very, your stria terminalis is basically a very, very tiny minuscule part of the amygdala which is sort of your reptilian brain and inside that tiny minuscule part of the amygdala is the bed nucleus and the bed nucleus inside that is sexually dimorphic in, in men and women. So it’s not really like a. It’s not like one would make you better at multitasking or one would make you better at math or anything silly like that yeah. So it’s not delving into that kind of brain science, but it does delve into the sort of idea that I think a lot of people have that actually gender is an, innate aspect of who people are. And I often find myself wanting to talk about this, this study more, and I guess this, this This, this podcast would be like a, a really good avenue for that, because it raises so many questions. And the study basically is, is that they found that homosexual men and straight men have exactly the same bed nucleus of their stria terminalis. Cuz they initially thought that this, this sexually dimorphic part of the brain must have something to do with sexuality. And it doesn’t right. But when they tested against trans women, trans women, bed nucleus of their stria terminalis was the same shape and size as it would be in that of a woman, which kind of leads this idea that maybe this, this bed nucleus actually has something to do with how people present their gender.
And I, I just find that inherently interesting. Cuz a lot of people look at that and they think it doesn’t… Oh, well, what about nonbinary people? Or what about this? And what about that? And I don’t think that excludes them at all. Like by any means, like maybe they’re stria terminalis is somewhere in between. Maybe their stria terminalis looks something totally different. I think it, there should be just more conversation about finding out scientifically what’s going on. Cause I know a lot of people are very scared of that. Cuz people might try and look for like a trans cure or something,
Esther: But yeah, there’s always stuff like that. Yeah. You always get that don’t you?
Izzy: Yeah. Which I don’t think there should be where just a different type of human and that’s fine. Totally.
Esther: Yeah. Diversity innit?
Izzy: Yeah, exactly. Like I think if we, if we were all the same, it’d be very boring.
Esther: It would be very boring. Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
Izzy: So I, I just like. Just just understanding it, I think can help a lot with a lot of the stuff that’s happening. I think on TERF island as it were. <laughs> Yeah. Cause I think if people understood more that it, it really is like a, like an innate thing that is happening within, within people and that it, it’s not just something that just sort of manifests later in life. I think people would be a lot more understanding, accepting of it. Yeah. As much as like, I wish we didn’t need to do that. I wish people would be understanding and accepting, but I don’t think we’re gonna get there just through the way that we’re doing it now. Yeah. It’s gonna take a while, isn’t it?
Esther: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it makes total sense though. Cuz when, when I’ve spoken to people like trans people in particular, there does seem to be like this innate thing. Like of not, not necessarily for everyone, like everyone experiences it in a, in a different way, but like this mismatch. What the, well, what the, what the body is and what the body should be like in the head. It’s like, no, should be like this. This is not right.
Izzy: Yeah. As well as like, I, I, I found when I was younger, that I wanted to really make friends with women a lot more than I did with men. And I really associated with women a lot more in a way that was almost like a social thing as well.
But obviously if the girls of my age or whatever were, were looking at me and thinking that this is a boy or whatever, they’re not gonna have that same desire and association that I’m gonna have. So it’s sort of one sided. And I think I, I noticed that when I was very young and that feeling of like, wanting to belong to that group. And I think maybe that has something to do with that, maybe has something to do with stria terminalis, like who knows, like, it’s, it’s hard to say cuz cuz this study’s been replicated a lot, but I think the brain is a very difficult thing to understand. Oh definitely. I’m certainly not a neuroscientist, so <laughs>
Esther: I’m not a scientist, but yeah and it obviously goes beyond the body as well. Like how, how you feel like this innate sense of self that we all have. And how aware we are of it perhaps, and also like what conditioning and socializing has done to it, because I think it might take us a while to really rediscover who we are under all that, all that baggage that we’ve all got accumulated, but yeah, I think it’s, we are there, we’re all there somewhere underneath all that.
Izzy: Yeah. Okay.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Well, thank you so much for sharing Izzy.
Izzy: No worries. Thank you so much for having me on the show. It’s been really lovely.
Izzy Kershaw is a UK based singer/song-writer and music producer, who writes pop songs about mental health, love, loss and loneliness. Her experience as a trans-woman has had an effect on how she chooses to express those ideas. In Izzy’s first debut EP ‘Vessel’, the namesake song on that album is about learning to appreciate the one life and one vessel you have been given. A sentiment that may resonate with those who experience gender dysphoria. Izzy Kershaw is releasing a track with her father Nik Kershaw, who happened to write a few chart toppers in the 80s, on August the 10th called Paranoid, a song in which Izzy explores the subject of a dark time in her life during the early years of her transition.
What we discussed & useful links
- Hyperpop and 100 gecs
- Feel Good Inc by Gorillaz
- Mamas Boys podcast – four men talk about their experience with Ayahuasca and more. Find them on Apple Podcasts or Spotify
- Nik Kershaw – find him on YouTube, Spotify, Facebook @OfficialNikKershaw and Instagram @nikkershaw_official
- The Stria Terminalis study
Izzy’s new single ‘Paranoid’ with her father, Nik Kershaw, is out now: