Here's the thing: no one wants to be trans*. Seriously. I would not wish being trans* on anyone. It sucks. There is no upside. Really, nothing. I'm not just saying that - I don't see one.
When I write this blog, I try to explain how things are but I try to keep things upbeat. Sure, I touch on realities and that can be quite jarring. But I have always tried to point out the positives. This isn’t a whinge. I just want to let you in on my life. I don’t need encouragement, niceness, etc. I don’t need pity. I’m fine and I will get on with it. No amount of nice words will take away the constant drain that life has for you if you are trans*. You learn to get on with it. I do get on with it.
But right now I am weary and in some way, maybe sharing my negative thoughts will provide the most insight.
Now, don't get me wrong. If you are trans*, then I fully recommend transition if it is possible. Coming out and going for it relieved so much mental pressure from my mind. It freed me in ways most folk will never understand. It allowed people to know who I am. Not the shell, but the ghost inside. It freed my soul and allowed me to live.
But, in many ways, that what being trans* is - the ghost in the shell. I am stuck in a body that is always going to feel alien to me. No matter what I do, it will always fall short. I can change things, and yes things have changed, but I can't ever imagine feeling that my skin is my own. What I see in the mirror every day hurts.
I'm gonna skip trans* folk that live in such gross realities that they cannot transition - I'll focus on those of us that are lucky enough to. Transition does improve your situation but you're still just making the most of a bum deal.
Every day I appear in public and I get stared at. Every day. Today I was outside a building for about 5 mins and every single person looked over at me as they passed. I stand out as a freak show attraction. You hope when you begin that you will get to the stage where you get clocked less and less. Right now, I do get clocked, always. When I don't, it is only because those folks are so busy with their own world that I don't even show up on their radar. I love it when that happens.
My best state of being is totally unnoticed.
Most people that see me see a man in a dress - I can tell. Be it the stares, the points, the accepting smiles. Yes, even the positive reinforcement singles me out and reminds me of what I am. Folks cannot see a woman when they see me. The numerous 'sir' and 'him' aimed in my direction prove that. I'm sure some trans* folk get it worse. Some get it less, and I feel so happy for them. Truth is: I stand out.
And I notice every single look that comes my way.
Will this improve? I dunno. Right now, I doubt it. Every day I wake up and hope that I look different. Every single day. I see the changes from time to time, and I feel great about them. But the world soon reminds me of what I am and my place in that world.
Facial feminisation surgery, FFS. Oh that I had the money to get surgery. The results can be great, although I assume that normally the results are more of a nudge in the right direction than a miracle cure.
This isn't about feeling ugly. This is about my features specifically marking me out on a day to day basis. You can say “oh, but you look great the way you are”, “no need for surgery”, “your features are you and they are great”. No, they are a reminder that I am born wrong. Don’t try to make me feel better about them because I never will. I will put that to one side. It will not rule my life. But whatever I do, everyone knows I am trans*. And so do I.
There is a lyric by Against Me!:
"In her dysphoria's reflection, she still saw her mother's son." (From Paralytic States on Transgender Dysphoria Blues.)
People misgender me because my features misgender me.
Even by folks that know I 'identify' (what a ridiculous term) as she, her, hers. Something about what they see just triggers a 'Clara = male' response. Happens. Some folk do it on purpose (NB. no longer talking about friends here). I had a street preacher specifically say "hello SIR" to me a little while back. I thought I looked pretty good that day. Foolish me. The moment is still embedded in my mind, weeks later.
So yes, I would jump at surgery if only to blend in just a little. To get some respite from being noticed.
Trans* women get flack for saying that we 'have to' wear makeup / have long hair / wear very clearly feminine styles / shave legs etc. Sure, we are all free to do what we want. But guess what, all the crap we get on a daily basis is just magnified should I not make sure I have a face full of makeup when I leave the house. As poor as it is, it is my best chance of being accepted for who I am. It doesn't mean that people look over and say "oh, woman" but at least it makes them thing "ah, that thing thinks it's a woman". Funny, if I didn't wear makeup, cut my hair, wore androgynous clothes I would no doubt get stared at less - but I would NEVER get correctly gendered. Bloke in a dress is at least closer to what I am than bloke. It is an improvement even if the result still falls way below acceptable. It is the best I can get. Woohoo.
So yes, I really do have to make the effort - course the payoff is making myself a beacon for stares and hate. I really don't have a choice.
Oh, and don’t tell me to do what I want, or accept how I am; that gender doesn’t matter. Guess what, I can’t get over it and gender does matter to me. That’s like telling someone with depression to cheer up. Someone with cancer to get better. Ridiculous. Do you not think I try to ‘get over it’? I’ve spent my life trying to push it aside, accept it. It doesn’t work. The high suicide rates for the transgender population prove that.
Yes, some folks have worse lives, get worse deals. But that doesn’t mean that my life is great. I still hate what I am – even if I look at others and know they have it worse. Getting run over by a car and dying instantly may be better than a slow death by drowning, but neither are really options you want.
Every time I get a stare, a point between friends, a sympathetic smile I am reminded of myself. I am never allowed to just be. Every time I get misgendered, it stabs me hard. But, more than that, it makes me a target. Trans* people are the most at risk minority for being on the receiving end of hate crimes percentage/ population wise. I read stories about beatings, threats, abuse and murders nearly every day just because someone is trans*. More so in some countries, more so if a trans-woman of colour.
Our choice is to live a lie and not get abuse or be open and take it. I see why so many ‘leaders’ say that being trans* is a life choice…
I live in a world where advanced, first world countries have laws saying that I can be leagally discriminated against, that I can be arrested if I use the bathroom, kicked out of my home or job. Even where there are laws in place to prevent workplace discrimination I am far less employable than a cis-female for the jobs I should have (and they themselves are less employable than cis-males). When last looking for a job I got zero responses for the applications where I stated that I am trans*. Any replies I got were from jobs where I skipped that bit.
We live in a world where my very existence offends people on the grounds of religion because of what they read into some texts. I expect a trip to the US towards the end of the year and we are trying to figure out how to ask manufacturers to invite us to facilities in states where I can pee in peace. What the hell? I just want to look at machines and spend a huge quantity of someone else's money. Every time I head to the bathroom I try to be as unnoticeable as possible. Busy bathrooms freak me out. I try to pee as quietly as I can because I know I make the wrong sounds. And if I am out, I will do everything I can to wait until I am home just avoid any snide looks. And this is in a country where I do not face being arrested because I am breaking the damn law.
I don’t even wanna start discussing dating. Just, ugh. But when I have some creepy guy come up to me and ask me what genitals I have (and they do), then tell me I am lucky that they are even interested in me and I will not get any better offers – he may be right. Not that I’ll drop my standards to accepting that. But he may be right.
Not that I can let anyone near me, creep or not, because of how I feel about myself.
When I hear of a new group/ meetup/ event, or folks wanna go to a bar or somewhere new I freeze – fearful of what to expect. Even going to the cinema may provide a chance for someone to make me feel like hell. I stick to LGBT venues and clubs because I know that they ‘safe’ and I will be accepted. This is why attacks on gay venues scare so many of us – these are our safe places, our refuges. They may be viewed as party places, but their meaning is far deeper than that.
I see the hate directed online to those that make themselves known. As much as I want to live in the shadows and just get on with life, I can't. Partially I stand out. Partially, I am stronger than that. I can take it when others can't, so I need to stand up and be a shield. Not in a ‘wearing a mask and cape’ kinda way, or even in a shouty way. But just by not blending in. Making my voice heard.
I see transgender people stand up and make themselves visible and I see them get knocked about and upset. Tonight I watched a bunch of brave kids on youtube get upset just because they let people know they exist. No one should have to put up with that. I’d rather that hate was aimed at me than some 20 something girl. Heck, one of these girls was 12. Who the hell aims hate at a 12 year old? Try that with me.
In some ways, my clear trans* status makes me a good person to do so. I don't hide. I draw attention to myself with clothing or hair (not that the purple lasted long this time...). I guess I am already a target so I make myself a larger one. In that way people have to accept the fact that trans-folk walk amongst them. I am here, and I make sure folks don't forget that. And I try to do so without being militant or pushy. I try to let folks know I am there and I am just one of them - a human. I try to see both sides of an argument, even when I am under attack for existing. I will listen. I will address questions. And I will try to make my answers as clear and understandable as possible. We don’t want special treatment – we want normal treatment.
I will stand up and say "I am trans*, I am proud and I am allowed to be. This is who I am".
I just leave out the bit where I wish I wasn't.