Note: This is my response to this post.
I am six years old.
I play with Transformers toys, a burgeoning passion for toy robots which will continue until adulthood. I also enjoy playing with my cousin’s Popples and My Little Ponies. I know better than to ask for my own. Not because of my mom, she loves me dearly, but because the kids are already bullying me for being ‘girly’. They add an ‘a’ at the end of my name to signify female-ness, they mock me for crying a lot when I’m bullied. I cry easily and a lot.
I am eighteen years old.
I say goodbye to my friends in Ezeiza airport, We’re all crying. I’m emigrating. I still cry about this sometimes.
I’m nine years old.
I act out in school and get in trouble. I’m confused by a media that tells me women are weak when I’m surrounded by women who work, raise kids and are professionals.
I am twenty-one years old.
I’m sitting in a living room in Edinburgh, Scotland, telling my then best friend that I want to be a girl but I’m sad because I wasn’t born one and thus it is impossible. She’s confused but warm and loving. We commiserate on our woes as we have done countless times.
I am eleven years old.
I occasionally think about being a girl, but quickly stomp on those feelings as they arise. I present a fake nerd boy swagger that gets me punched in the face. I play Super Nintendo a lot. I see travesti women on TV. Everyone makes fun of them. I make fun of them. They are considered the lowest of the low in our society.
I am twenty-three years old.
I’m still trying to find my footing in what ‘boy’ is and I settle for ‘leftie boy with a beard who goes to demonstrations and has tedious opinions about obscure indie rock’. I meet a like-minded girl and we start dating. A friend of mine tells me her ex-girlfriend is now a boy. I hear the word ‘transition’ in reference to this trans boy. Suddenly I realise this is a possibility. I stomp down on it.
I am thirteen years old.
I’m enthralled by anime. In Saint Seiya, Shun is an effeminate boy who represents Andromeda. His armor is pink and has boobs. Everyone looks down on him for being a pacifist. He’s the first boy on TV I’ve felt was anything like me. I watch Sailor Moon. Usagi is bad at school, messy and easily distracted but with a heart of gold. She’s the first girl on TV I’ve felt was anything like me.
I am twenty-four years old.
My girlfriend introduces me to DIY feminism, as I had lacked any feminist perspectives in my very lefty education in Sociology. I join a pro-choice group. I start reading zines about all sorts of things. I quickly learn that as I’m a straight boy (nobody’s using the word cis yet) I should shut up and learn. I do. I learn ‘active listening’, which is about really paying attention to what each other is expressing with an open mind, to dismantle the aggressive, competitive ways in which patriarchy and capitalism teach us to communicate. I learn humility, I learn that I’m often wrong, diametrically opposed values to my entitled middle-class upbringing (that my mother had fought against). I learn of the word ‘genderqueer’ and start using it to describe myself. My girlfriend gets me a pair of leggings.
I am thirty-two years old.
I tell my girlfriend that I’m terrified, on the eve before I have bottom surgery. I don’t feel like this is a massive spiritual moment or that my life has been building up to ‘correct nature’s mistake’. I just know what I need, medically. What if it’s a mistake? But I know it’s what I want. I go in circles like this, she listens.
I am twenty-five years old.
I break up with my girlfriend over a number of things. I attend my first Ladyfest, in Cork, then my second, in Berlin. During the Lesbian Arts Festival in Dublin, and old man calls me ‘young lady’ and makes my day. My encouraging new American friend gets me to visit her in Berlin and try out ‘living as a girl’ away from the pressures of friend and family. Berlin is community, queers, women, art, squat parties and punks walking big dogs. I don’t want to leave and go back to my boring office job.
Then I come out. I come out to friends and to my parents. My mom cries. My anarchist feminist pals invite me to their publishing collective. They don’t care what my body looks like, at a point when I am half a year away from hormones and eight years away from surgery. It doesn’t matter. I live my life as a woman, they see me as one. I will sadly learn that this perspective is not common in feminist movements outside of Ireland.
I am twenty-eight years old.
I have sex with another trans woman for the first time. I keep finding I know less than I think about things I haven’t experienced, like physical disability or sex work or the experiences of my friends who are people of colour. I learn, and re-learn, to shut up and listen. On the way to a gig, someone shouts ‘are you a boy or a girl?’
I am twenty-six years old.
I’m one of possibly three people in Irish feminist communities educating people around trans issues. I read a fuckton of zines and books and blogs. A lot of them are about body acceptance. I never find ones that quite fit me, as I haven’t yet found sex-positive, feminist trans women community. I consider myself the equal of cis women and expect to be treated as such.
I am thirty-three years old.
I’m denied boarding on a flight to Canada due to a mismatched passport. This is because changing gender in Italian documentation is a long, complex process. When I inquired over the phone, the representative of the Italian consulate laughed at me.
I am twenty-seven years old.
I leave my office job, a mixture of extreme stress due to early transition and numerous other issues. My mom and I attend a joint therapy session, a year after she broke down over the phone and called me ‘monster’, a manner of speaking nobody can ever believe came from my mom, but confusion and despair make us do and say weird shit. At the leftie social centre, a ‘comrade’ asks me if I’ve had ‘the surgery’ yet.
I am twenty-nine years old.
I want to move away from Ireland. I have friends and my parents there, but I need a change. I try for a job with a London company. They’re keen, but they accidentally find my heavily trans, feminist political writings online. They tell me in no uncertain terms discussion of politics in the workplace is not tolerated. I agree completely. I don’t get the job.
I am twenty-seven years old (again)
I travel to the United States and spend over a month surrounded by queers/trans people. I go to punk gigs, political convergences, music festivals in the woods. I give voice to my migrant identity. I keep trying to listen and to learn. Combining strength and confidence in my cultural background with being humble about what I don’t know is hard, but I work at it every day.
I am twenty-nine years old (agaaaaaain)
My mom gives me leggings for christmas. She uses ‘she’ a lot now. We start telling close friends and family. The reaction is positive. My mom shows me a video about Florencia de la V, a trans woman actress who was now a mother. I had made fun of Florencia when I was a kid and saw her on the TV. I am so happy for her now.
I am thirty-three years old (again I guess? Who knows even)
I still try to listen for intent.
I still find being employed difficult due to the discrimination that abounds.
I allow myself and others to fuck up.
I sometimes generalise about men because I keep getting street harassed and it does my nerves rotten.
I form bonds of solidarity with other trans women, to build each other up in similarities and differences. I form bonds of solidarity with cis women in much the same way. I fight every day to love myself and express solidarity to all my sisters.
Coming out and transitioning has been extremely difficult. I’ve lost friends, good ones. I’ve been harassed, I’ve been discriminated against. But I make sense. I make some sort of sense instead of none at all. I try to uplift other people. I get to just *be* instead of living constantly afraid of not measuring up. The sacrifices were steep but the rewards have been plentiful.
I had to come out. Because I could, and that is fortunate. But because of the tangible. The material realities.
I believe firmly in a quote from a Cat and Girl comic:
“Thoughts that don’t lead into action don’t exist.”
I have clinical depression, which has severely hampered my creative projects and much of my life, and I’ve been succesful in slowly fighting it off. My depression tells me to stay in my thoughts. Stay fantasising about being a writer, or other things. For many years it told me existing as a woman in this world was just something to indulge in as a fantasy.
But the same depression wants these things to stay as thoughts. To not exist as an action. Action, living and breathing and existing in the real world are the enemies of the funeral envelopment of depression*.
Of course, depression is in part a defense mechanism. Because when a thought becomes an action in the real world, it has to exist in the world with everyone else. Where other people might reject it. Where they might mercilessly tear it down. In part, depression is trying to protect me from that after way too many instances of being torn to pieces for what I am or what I want.
But I have to live in the world that is material because to attempt to do otherwise is to not exist. I have to live in the world and I am, indeed, a material girl, if you pardon the reference. I’m fortunate that the only thing I’m scared of, more than anything else, is death and the inertia that leads to it. This spurs me into action and it’s been my saving grace. I don’t know what’s yours, whoever you are. But others cannot read our minds. They cannot see who we are unless we express it in some way. And they can only make assumptions based on what they see or hear in the only world we share: that of material reality.
(*: yes I have assigned depression attributes of an infectious disease or semi-sentient virus, it’s how I’ve chosen to engage with it, silly and possibly unscientific as it may be. I invite you to, if you haven’t already, find different avenues through which to engage with your own demons so as to keep them at bay.)