Tag Archive Transition

DURHAM, NC - MAY 11: A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathrooms at Oval Park Grill on May 11, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 (HB2) that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Stuck in-between

There is nothing worse than being one place when you want to be somewhere else.

Once I realised that I was most definitely transgender, a process that took well over 30 years to come to a head and then exploded in a matter of weeks, perhaps even days, I wanted the world to see me as male. Now.

Every time I went into a shop or a cafe and was greeted with ‘how can I help you, ma’am?’ a large part of me screamed WHY ARE YOU SAYING THAT?!

Of course, it wasn’t that person’s fault. No matter how well I thought I was passing, before I started on hormones I mostly looked like a butch(ish) woman. What were they supposed to do? Oh yeah, not gender me when there was no need.

As I negotiated this place in-between I became painfully aware of how often strangers gender others when there  is no need. ‘Can I help you ladies?’ ‘Table for two, girls?’ ‘Are you ready to order, person with a vagina?’

It serves no point yet is seen by the majority in the service industry as a way of being polite. I understand that but I also see that every time you gender a person incorrectly you may as well just kick them in the stomach and scream in their face ‘I SEE EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH YOU’.

It’s a constant reminder of the way the world sees you, that they are presented with this form you hate and are so desperate to be rid of. And it is completely and utterly unnecessary.

The whole concept of gender is, if we’re honest. Why are we so hung up on a person’s genitals to the point that it is the first thing absolutely everybody wants to know when a baby is born or on the way. What’s that about?

It took me a long time to get my head around the fact that penis doesn’t automatically equal boy and vagina doesn’t necessarily mean girl, that gender is a brain thing not a flesh thing. I’m not going to get into all now, frankly, I’m not even sure that I could if I wanted, such is the minefield of gender. I’ve spent a large part of the past six years trying to undo everything I was raised to believe.

My point, if I was making one and I probably should otherwise why would you carry on reading, is that gender and sex are the most important things when a person comes into this world and they don’t have to be. A penis guarantees you nothing about that child’s life any more than their blue eyes. It doesn’t tell you who they will love (if they love at all), where they will live, what they will have an aptitude for or if they will have a happy life.

Transgender people may be rare enough that it seems a safe bet to assume penis = boy, but thinking gender exists solely in a binary of binaries, man/woman, tran/cis is as bananas as thinking sexuality exists only as heterosexual or homosexual absolutes We all know that’s not true.

But none of that is what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to moan about something else entirely. I guess the two are interlinked because if there was no insistence on the gender binary being the norm then I wouldn’t have felt so out of place in the middle because people around me wouldn’t have felt the need to gender me all the fucking time.

Then there was the matter of dealing with people adjusting their pronouns, something people, myself included, really struggle with. Had I lived my life as a straight woman and then came out as gay I doubt anyone around me would have had much trouble remembering that bit of information, at least long enough to stop setting me up on blind dates with guys. But gender? Jeez, that’s like trying to hammer a piece of cheese through a concrete wall.

On top of that, you have the whole awkward dance when you correct someone if they get it wrong. As a transgender person,  we end up having to reassure the mis-genderer that we know they’re trying, it’s really ok, and they shouldn’t feel bad. Or, if we’re unlucky, we’re just told to stop being so sensitive. Don’t you know how hard it is for people to change a few words in their brain? Why can’t we be more understanding?

Yeah, ok, my transition is all about how hard it is for you.

Truth be told, I’ve been very lucky in that I haven’t been surrounded by assholes. That helps, as you would imagine. Only a few took have taken it personally when I pulled them on calling me ‘she’ long after I’d come out. One guy insisted on greeting me like all the other women he knew, with a kiss on the cheek. So, tiring of this, I asked him if he was going to keep doing that when I had a beard. He laughed and said he would but, oddly enough, the next time I saw him he extended his hand and gave me a hearty handshake.

Sometimes you need to use the sledgehammer on the tough nuts.

My mum was a different story. I let her get there at her own pace and, as my friend explained (correctly) it’s really quite hard to misgender someone when they have a beard. I could probably track my mum’s transition to using the correct pronouns with my ability to grow facial hair. Only one step-aunt insisted on calling me by my old name long after I’d grown what could reasonably be called a beard, but she’s a bitch to everyone. Her issue, not mine.

The further along the path you get in your transition, the more you change.  The more you start to finally feel at home in your new skin, the less these things bother you. At the start, when all you have is words, the ones people choose to describe you mean absolutely everything. That’s why they cut so very deeply.

But, as you grow and change (assuming that you opt for that route) and the face looking back at you in the mirror begins to reflect who you truly are, what other people think or say no longer matters as much. Now, when a friend or family member mistakenly says ‘she’ in front of someone, I don’t cringe at them accidentally outing me because I know I who I am and new people see me as male regardless of what others say.

The place in-between where you are and where you want to be is horrible, but it is temporary.

Transition is not permanent, the name itself tells you that. It’s easy to feel like things will be this way forever, but they do change, and more quickly than you often imagine.

Once you get there, you’ll end up wondering why you let something so insignificant as another’s ignorance or opinion get under your skin so much.
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