Continued from Part One
The first day of the rest of my life. I can’t quite believe it, it’s surreal. Not to have to wear the mask anymore, it… leaves me speechless. And also in tears. I cry, a lot. Making up for lost time when I never used to let myself.
I post corny little mini-essays on Facebook every week, and people love them.
I reflect on how things have changed for me:
I spent a lot of time and energy, throughout my life, trying to blend in. I might have been pretty good at it, in fact, but that did not make it any less exhausting.
I hid away in corners, as quietly as I could, trying to avoid attention, as I watched the world pass by. Objectively, perhaps it was quite the skilful feat, but it was one that was unrewarding and draining.
Those days are behind me, and I am glad that they are. Now, I am noisy, vibrant, and authentic. There is no more blending in or going unnoticed.
I know that I am being, and have been, spoken about – that there are some who regard me as a spectacle or a curiosity. It worries me less than I would have anticipated – I think those people are made more uncomfortable by me than I am by them.
I am who I am, and I am proud of it. I’m not backing down, or shutting up, or shrinking back into the darkness. And I am grateful to all of those who have shown me love and support and kindness.
My sincere wish for you is that you should always stand tall, boldly and proudly and bravely. That you should meet with acceptance and celebration. That you should find yourself surrounded with people who care about you and who help you to bring out the best in yourself.
That you should be as fortunate as I have been.
I talk a lot about sex, and body positivity, and reproductive rights, and racism, and sexism, and LGBTQIA stuff. I don’t know if anyone is listening, but I keep on doing it anyway.
For the first time ever, it is socially acceptable for me to buy the socks I have always wanted. I shouldn’t have let it stop me before, you might validly argue.
Speech therapy has helped, immensely. I’m no longer scared to speak, and it makes a world of difference.
I got my ears pierced. At long last! I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to do this. Cute earrings, here I come!
I hope to practise independently soon. My deadname is a concern, but I feel like I could make such a difference if I were able to see patients. I hope to figure out some way around it.
Four trans women murdered in the US. Already, this year’s count exceeds the total for last year.
So, Steven Universe is like the best thing ever. I briefly wonder how different my own life would have panned out if that kind of queer representation had existed when I was younger. I used to spend so much energy keeping the peace at home, that I never had enough to think about who, or what, I was. And even if I’d been able to, I wouldn’t have had the vocabulary or the conceptual understanding to make sense of it all.
I signed a book deal. With a Big Publishing Company. My story is going to be an actual real thing. It will exist, in physical form, sometime in the future. I’ll be able to hold it in my hands and fondle the pages. One day, when people ask me personal questions, I can cut them off and say “Go read my book if you want to know!”. I can’t wait. It could make dating awkward, but that ship has already sailed anyway. If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that this would happen I would have… not believed you. At all.
I’m so much more open with what I’m feeling. Everything hits me harder – the happiness, the melancholy, all of it. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like everything is beshatten, but that’s ok too.
I’ve taken hormones every day now for six months. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and life is harder than it’s ever been. There is so much that I am thankful for.
I tried being straight for a little while, but it didn’t work, and I’m okay with that. LGBTQIA
I’ve been delaying cleaning out my cupboards, because they’re not just filled with clothes, but also with baggage. But I’m ready for it now. And I am ruthless and efficient. It’s liberating to know I will never wear boy clothes again. It is a massacre, but at the end of it all, I have space to put prettier things now.
One girl stabbed to death at Jerusalem Pride.
Three trans women murdered in America, and the body of a trans woman who went missing in 2014 was found.
I accidentally almost smiled once.
I wish I could go to the gym, but I don’t feel like having to explain Trans 101 to everyone there. And just imagine the drama with the changerooms. Ugh, not ready for that. But since I’m starting to like my body, I feel like taking better care of it – so home exercise it is. I have a carefully curated regimen, and I’m sure it’ll help me shed some of the excess weight I’ve put on. But I’m liking what’s happening with my shape. There are hips now, and I’m starting to grow a pair (of boobs!).
There’s a lot of heartwarming support from friends, family, former patients and strangers. There’s some nastiness too. I knew to expect it, but I didn’t realise how much it would sting. I know this is just a taste of what’s to come. I’m so glad not to be in this alone.
Home Affairs tried to push me over the edge when they phoned to tell me that in their expert estimation, a psychiatrist is not a medical doctor. Teehee Home Affairs, that’s a good joke! Wait, you’re serious? I overcome my panic and comply with their bizarre requests, because I am a victim of a power dynamic and I desperately long to have ID that reflects who I am instead of looking like it belongs to some random dude.
One trans woman killed in Argentina.
More media stuff. I spend the better part of an hour talking about my life story. The show likes me so much that they want me to keep coming back, so now I help host it every Friday, where I serve as the token angry feminist. But mostly, I just share my perspectives and insight when they are relevant.
There’s a synagogue nearby me that’s hosting a Pride Shabbat, as a gesture of unity with the LGBTQIA community. I’m touched and moved, especially since it’s been hard for me to reconcile my identity with my Jewishness. I go, and I feel more at home than I had expected.
Trying to date while trans is really, really hard. But you can read more about that later.
It’s (Inter)National Coming Out Day, but by now, I am so out that the closet is in another postal code. I speak about it anyway.
Up to now, I’ve never called myself “queer”. Trans – sure. Lesbian – you bet. Ace/demisexual/gray-a – yup. Queer – not quite… until now.
It’s taken me some time to “own” my queer identity. For the longest time, I used to say “I don’t know *how* to queer”.
But I am queer. I’m trans, I’m ace, I’m super-super-gay (to quote people). Queer comes in many shapes and sizes, and it doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. One thing I most certainly am not is straight (not that that’s a bad thing! 😝 Some of my best friends are straight!)
Has it made life more difficult? No doubt. There are challenges I face that a lot of people never have to even think about, and I can’t even ignore them for a moment.
But also, being queer has made me stronger, more sensitive, more compassionate to what others are going through. It’s part of who I am, and I am, at long last, in a place where I like who I am, queerness and all.
Sincerely now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being straight. Just as there isn’t anything wrong with not being straight. Both are normal and both are beautiful. Sexuality and gender identity do not automatically make you a good person, or a bad person, whatever they might be. They just make you a person. It’s through how we live and the respect with which we treat others that we determine the kind of people we are.
If I could be straight… I wouldn’t. It just isn’t who I am, and though I tried for so long to be that, it never worked out. I can’t even imagine a world in which it could.
LGBTQIA. Gotta catch ’em all.
I meet a group of Fucking Amazing Activists and they accept me as one of their own. I’m inspired, motivated, and I feel like I’m not alone. Maybe there’s hope after all.
I turn 30. I’d been yammering on for months about how I was going to have a huge celebration (because my birthday has historically been a time of immense sucktitude, and this was the first time I actually wanted to celebrate), but life got in the way. I spent my evening with the Fucking Amazing Activists. I have a lot to be proud of. I’ll find another reason to throw a big party somewhere down the line, it’s not a big deal.
Doctors are still butchering intersex people, and it makes me upset. I hate doctors already, but now I hate them just a little bit more. I’ve had so many bad experiences myself – and I’m relatively privileged – that I refuse to see them anymore as a patient. I’m tired of the abuse. And so many people have it worse than I do.
It’s Halloween. I can’t help but to be subversive, and so I dress as a sexy-but-bloody tampon. That’ll show the patriarchy. But seriously, Halloween has the potential to be really complicated.
Two trans women murdered in America, and another two in Argentina.
Houston votes down an equal rights bill, solely because it includes protections for trans people. That’s how much everyone hates us, that they’re prepared to prejudice old people, disabled people, minorities of all shapes and sizes, just to put us down.
I wrote about my story for Longevity Magazine, and they feature me in a six-page spread. Subsequently, the article has been posted online if you’d like to read it.
I still can’t get a date, even though science has proven that all women are gay.
I work with an amazing team of people, training healthcare workers from across Africa on LGBTQIA sensitivity, and it’s a big experience for me. I even get a name tag.
I’m starting to get broody. Just in a vague sense. I never ever ever thought I’d be a good parent. Probably because of how scarred I was from my own childhood. But it’s funny how things change when you start to like yourself. I start thinking that maybe I’d make a really good mom someday.
People still emerge out of the woodwork. Every so often there’s a friend request on Facebook from someone who used to be a patient, or someone I went to school with. Some from people who haven’t thought of me or spoken to me in more than a decade. Funny how life works, isn’t it? They can stare, if they want. I’m not ashamed. I realise that some of them must probably find me hot, and I bet that freaks them out. I have a little giggle at the thought, and then I get on with my life.
It is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I stifle my tears and manage to put together a heartfelt video address for the occasion. Two-hundred-and-seventy-one trans people lost their lives to hate crime. And that figure is an underestimate. So many questions, some more selfish than others. When will it end? Will I be next? Why does the world still hate us? I struggle to find answers.
I am a grown up now, and I have the business cards to prove it. Also, I founded an activisty organisationy thing that will one day change the world. For realsies.
I have to go to Durban. And I’m stressed-the-fuck-out about air travel, even though it’s just a domestic flight. IDs need to be shown, and that always needs an explanation to go with it. I survive the ordeal, land in Durban, rent a car, and find my hotel. Somewhere amongst all the chaos, I present a workshop on trans fundamentals for healthcare workers, and the response is fantastic. I have no time for the beach, and I take fewer photos than I should.
May Peleg, an Israeli trans woman and activist, takes her own life.
One transgender person killed in Japan.
And a trans woman held in a men’s prison in the UK found dead.
I find a website that makes me feel things because it reminds me of life in the closet, when stuff was really confusing. Coming to understand all those mixed up emotions and sensations, starting to make sense of what I had been used to thinking of as my own idiosyncrasies, actually putting the pieces together and recognising that I was trans… that was huge. And there was a time when it was a really lonely space. In fact, sometimes it still is. We all have our paths to walk, but that which many trans people have to take isn’t an easy one.
Africa Trans Visibility Day happens. It’s the first one that has ever been held. I’m honoured to speak on the subject of transgender healthcare.
I get a new ID number, 7 months after applying. Still no name change, and no idea how long that will take.
I’ve spent a good few months aspiring to be an activist. At first, I thought the best way for me to institute change was hands-on, on the ground, seeing patients in an office with a stethoscope wrapped around my neck. When I realised that wasn’t going to happen any time soon, I started looking for other ways to make a difference. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to make my voice heard, trying to build connections, trying to find an outlet for my skills and my abilities. For a while already, others have called me activist. And I realise that they are right, and it’s a realisation that humbles me. Because to be able to be an activist, although it’s difficult, is a privilege and an honour. There is so much work for me to do still… but at least I have started.
I’m interviewed by a representative from the South African Medical Students Association. He’s a Fucking Amazing Activist, and students like that are just what we need.
I start a blog, something I’ve been threatening to do for ages. I hope I can keep it up.
Holiday season. And it’s difficult. Depression and anxiety kick my ass harder than they ever have before. I manage to get some work done in between it all, but there are days that I can barely even move. I get up every morning to exercise, but sometimes that’s all I can do and it’s back to bed. I’m scared to go see a doctor about it because doctors suck, and I’m afraid to self-medicate because the depression makes me not trust myself, and because I have internalised stigma. I tell a few people that I’m struggling, but I don’t ever really discuss it publicly until I write my 2015 year in review.
One trans woman murdered in South Africa. I don’t know how many more there were this year inside our borders, and I’m sure she is not the first.
Year in review
2015 was the year that everything fell apart, and got put back together. And nearly all fell apart again.
There were changes that I never saw coming, and that I would never have believed could happen. I found bravery and strength that I never knew I had. I learned how to start to love myself, and I tried to learn how to forgive myself. I faced prejudice and rejection and all kinds of adversity, because of who I am. I struggled to find my place in a world that isn’t friendly to people like me. I cried more than I have ever cried before in my life. I received love and warmth and support that overwhelmed me, and I got better at baring my soul. I found my voice, and I started to care more about what I thought and less about what anyone else thought.
I have so much to be thankful for. Life isn’t perfect – it goes without saying. And transition does not right all wrongs – no-one should ever expect it to. But I’m grateful that I’ve been able to live authentically, to be me instead of trying to be someone else, even if there is a price to pay for that freedom.
At the end of the day, I am one of the lucky ones. Because I am still here to tell my story, when so many of my siblings are not.
So many of them. Gone. And for what? What was their crime? Why were they less entitled to live their lives than anyone else?
There are so many battles still to fight. More of us will still lose our families, our friends, our jobs and even our lives. We will fight for our basic human rights, we will fight for healthcare, we will fight for equality, we will fight for freedom.
And I will fight my own personal battles. My battle to be recognised for who I am, my battle to try to make a difference in this world, my battle to stand up to all the hate and the prejudice, and my battle to retain my composure, my strength, and my will to carry on in the face of despair and hopelessness.
I don’t know exactly where I’m going, and that’s a difficult position for me to be in. So much is left up in the air, and I find myself wondering if, when all is said and done, my story will be one of hope and inspiration, or just another tragedy.
But for now, it’s one day at a time.
And today is not the day I give up.