“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”
This is a difficult post for me to write as it involves me having to look back and think about unhappy times that I have been able to forget about for the last couple of years. I have not dwelt too much but it was important to put myself back into the mindset of some pivotal moments that led to my eventual transition.
Before I had even got to thinking where this transition would take me I found myself deep in paperwork and doctors appointments right from the off. It was a whirlwind with little time to stop and think. Keeping up with a full time job and at the early stages of transition left me rushing around and checking lists off constantly. The fruits of my labours are now very visible and life for the most part has become rewarding on many levels that I could not have imagine before. Feeling like a person that is ever growing now and not rotting from the inside.
Now that everything has calmed down a little and there is not much paperwork, meetings or doctors appointments I can take stock as to what my new life actually means. Building something is one thing giving it some purpose and direction is another matter altogether. Recently my thoughts turn to my identity. What am I? What do I want to be? Who do I want to be?
I have never been one for labels but seeing many discussions, and sometimes arguments, about the trans communities identity and place in the world has got me looking inward for the first time in ages. I have been blown away by how much joy and relief was oozing from my new found freedom that I had not really bothered to think what it all actually meant. It is a complex maze of definitions, language, privilege, acceptance and entitlement. To many of my readers who are not so informed on trans-speak there is an ever spiralling argument of what are we? Where do trans individuals fit into society and, more importantly, do we actually switch genders. What about all the trans people who do not identify as male or female? Can we claim to be a woman or a man?
It is complicated further by those who do not identify as transgender sticking their two pence in. This is not a bad thing because, quite rightly, some women are concerned about transwomen occupying their spaces and these thoughts and feelings are just as valid as how the trans people feel about it. Men as well have shown concern about their spaces being occupied by transmen and whether or not their wives and daughters are safe. The list goes on but with these examples you can begin to build a picture of the complexity of living as a transgender person day to day. I do not write this for sympathy but to lay out my thoughts on where I sit in this soup of gender and what my reality going forward really might be.
Many feel that transwoman and transmen will never really be women or men no matter how they see themselves. The arguments are sound but harsh and somewhat unfair. There are other arguments that because gender is a construct of society rather than physical sex, it is fine to fit in where you want to and you should not be told otherwise. What is important is that everyone’s view, whatever that may be, is respected and not dismissed. Then there is the arguments around acceptance. Some ‘accept’ trans people but do not recognise their chosen gender status, while others accept it whole hog. Then there are those they claim us as fantasists and fetishists among other things. Again everyone has a valid opinion but for me not being thought of as a person who made a choice is down right unfair. I do not care if someone accepts me as female but to not recognise me as a complete person and instead as a deviant is where I do draw a line.
It is important to recognise what transition means to the surroundings in which it takes place. I do not know if any of the women at work are bothered by me taking a wee or using the mirror in the ladies. I do not also see it as my place to ask but would be more than happy to discuss it with any of them if they had concerns. I am prepared for the discussions and feel I can articulate what my life is very well. Should I just be taking this privilege, was it mine to claim? Thinking to much about these things leads to madness in my experience. What I do know is I have had overwhelming support from the women at work and feel I have a place amongst the hens albeit a misshaped and naive one. They accept my views on fashion and makeup, ask me about where I buy things and how I do things. Curiosity and questions are better than being ignored and shunned. I think I am doing a good job? In the wider world I have only experienced a back lash once, in the very early stages, when I was still basically a cross-dresser. Again though, I am mainly met with curiosity when in pubs, bars and similar places.
I get involved with many online discussions about what trans people can and cant be. I normally sit on the fence and only sway one way or the other when another person goes to some extreme. I try not to be inflammatory because I am slowly becoming a little voice for the trans community through my committee and charity work that I am very fond of. It would not make much difference but I do not want to be seen as having any extreme views as I do want to be a voice of reason and one of understanding, although I have much still to learn. I really have made differences to some other trans peoples lives of late and carrying this torch comes with responsibility. It does not mean I do not have an opinion or that my thoughts are not extreme. Like all humans my view on the world is shaped by my experiences and surroundings.
The popular view of how trans people identify is that if someone says they feel like a different gender inside then that should be respected without question. It makes sense, we live in a tolerant society, certain characteristics are protected by law, race, religion, gender, disability etc. You will find many people in the western world say let everyone be what they want, we are free to express ourselves how we see fit, it is up to the person to identify how they see themselves and other similar sentiments. I like to believe this as well. I would hate for someone to tell me what I was if I did not feel or see myself like that. Personal expression and self-identifying are important parts of the make up of a person. Imagining a world where you can’t be the person you want to is terrifying. But it is not as simple as thinking this is who I am because self validation is one thing, having the validation of your own self awareness accepted by others is more complex.
I can proclaim I am a woman but if others do not want to accept this then it leaves questions about what can I be or hope to be in society. This is not to say we should look to others to define our identity but it is hard to be what you see inside if the outside rejects this. It simply stays as a fantasy of sorts that is never realised because there is no validation of its existence in your surroundings. When I was younger and confused, or certainly unsure, about where I sit within society, my mind would wander between fantasy and reality at an alarming rate. Coping mechanisms got me through the rough years until it became so unbearable that I exploding outward with expression and thoughts that had been bottled for far too long. The voice in my head suddenly was amplified beyond control and I felt like the person I was meant to be. This was simply a blank canvas splattered with new found colour and dimensions that grew to a pretty picture with a story and feelings. Yet it did not have a name. What was this new entity, where does it sit now, and who accepts it?
Never have I claimed womanhood, others have claimed it for me though. I have never said to anyone, professional or otherwise that ‘I am a woman’. I have expressed many times and continue to that I see my place in the world as living as a woman and wishing to be seen as this. But whether it is actually possible and whether I am capable of it is still to be known. There are theories about it being fantasy that society has helped to make reality to enable the individual to exist in some sense of normality. Is it political correctness and science gone a step too far? I know for my own story I would not be writing this now if I had not been able to transition. The idea of being trapped in the wrong body is extreme for sure, maybe it is just that the body was moulded incorrectly and it takes an artist to sculpt it how it should be. Am I just something altogether different to societies norms and took a punt on finding happiness. I have no regrets about my decision and although I am treading on unknown ground my inner self is alive for the very first time in my existence.
I am still working all this out. I do not know what a woman is, I do not know what a man is. My self discovery keeps rolling and gathering pace at tremendous rates. What I do know is that my feelings are feminine, from a societal point, and my happiness is found in expressing this. Clothes, makeup and mannerism. I know there are people within my own community who would say I am not a woman and I know there are others who would say I can identify as such if that is how I feel and envisage me. I do not really think it matters if I am a woman or a trans person or a man in a dress. For me transition was about two things, survival and becoming a person that could experience happiness. I prefer female pronouns, her and she, but I do not need anyone to validate me as a woman right now. I continue to grow and do not know if this will ever stop because although I am happy now, I do not know what the future holds. Do I ever get to a point where I define myself? Will that be to claim womanhood? Is it better to just concentrate on being happy and a real person than worry about labels and what others think? Ten months into transition all is well in Faith Land. MWAH! xxx