the other day, after a long time since last i’d spoken with her, i called up an old friend. we’ve known each other since the early 1980’s when she still wore the external body of a male. but to me, she was and has always been, my sister.
ever since she was able to recall, she had felt as tho she wasn’t male. beaten for wearing her sister’s dresses and derided for being a sissy, her childhood was not a very happy one. only her mother seemed to quietly understand and support her.
like many transgender people who aren’t allowed a choice in the matter, she chose to follow the lifestyle and sexual preference of a gay male, on the inside knowing that she was really something other. like many transgender people before her and since, she knew that being gay was not who she was. but even within the lgbt community, at a time when the ‘t’ part of that acronym was not fully accepted by the community, she was told that she was probably really just a feminine gay man.
she knew better, but just as many others like herself, she began down a long road of self-destructive behaviours and equally as destructive relationships, thinking that the path to her true self would never be within reach.
many long years later she chose to insist upon being true to herself. it wasn’t easy. no one seemed to support her in this, altho as always, her mother extended quiet acceptance and support. so when about a decade ago she started on the path to becoming the woman she had always thought herself to be, there were few who stood beside her and many more who abandoned her completely.
as of today, she has been living outloud as a woman for ten years, and as a post-op transsexual for the past six. we often talk together, by phone since we live in different states. i feel honored to be one of the few with whom she’d always known she could count on.
in the early years after her gender-reassignment surgery our conversations were filled with her expressions of joy in finally being HERself. there were all the emotional differences between male and female to take note of, and she did. there was also a sense of regret at not having been able to ‘grow up female’, as she felt that ‘culturally’ there was much of nuance she had missed. still, she felt empowered as a female in a way she had never experienced as a male. she gloried in her new found sexuality, because altho she had been with men as a man, it was a whole other feeling to experience this as a woman.
often she would tell me that the lovers with whom she had been intimate since becoming a woman seemed disingenuous; as tho they were only ‘hot’ for her because it was such forbidden fruit. few seemed very interested in her as a person, and fewer still wanted to commit themselves in any real way to a relationship, or even being seen with her in public, in that small rural community of america’s mid-section.
she was equally as frustrated by the reaction of women, her peer group really, because there seemed to be little acceptance of her into their hallowed sorority , or even acknowledgement of her womanhood. and among women who knew not of her being transsexual, she often sensed jealousy directed towards her for attention men paid to her.
as i started out saying earlier, i called her again after a long time…months. she was depressed and going through such things as i wont mention here, but most of which had to with the prejudice, and oppression cis-centric society imposes upon those who don’t walk the binary line. it seems the most ignoble irony that her struggle to become whole is seen by most as a pathology, a mental illness or personality disorder. in healing herself, many see her as sick.
as i listened to her, i heard her loneliness, her frustrations. the realisation that she was one of the more oppressed minorities in our society, (a woman…and a transsexual woman at that!) was beginning to take its toll. the men with whom she had had real relationships as a woman, treated her the way society has ever allowed men to treat women: as underlings, to be dominated and controlled by whatever means they chose. the feeling of being empowered as a woman was being met headlong with the reality of a second class citizenry allotted to women.
after long hours of listening to her, she said; “i wouldn’t wish this on anyone” referring to being a trans-woman. i wasn’t shocked.
she wasn’t saying she regretted becoming a woman, it is after all who she really is. rather she was saying that the level of discrimination, ostracisation and oppression to which people like herself were subjected is such a curse as to not want anyone else to have to suffer it. she said this knowing that my eight-year old child is transgender and will one day face similar pain.
of course, these are precisely the realities that made me so fearful at my little boy’s assertions of being a girl inside. these and worse fears were behind my reluctance to really hear what ziona was saying. the hard road ahead to merely becoming who she is will likely be fraught with similar discriminations, ostracising and oppression even despite the progress being made to allow transgender/transsexual people to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as cis people. and even if or when society legislates in favor of transsexual/transgender people, it isn’t possible to legislate people’s attitudes away. there are those who seek to harm gay and transgender folk today despite the ‘hate-crime’ legislations in effect.
it is more than sobering to realise that in supporting my transgender daughter in her need to become who she is, i may prevent her from committing suicide (as many trans folk do that are not allowed to be themselves), i may be able to make sure that she gets the puberty blockers in time to prevent any ‘male’ attribute perpetrating its irreversible assault to her feminine nature, i may be able to scrimp and save for the medications and subsequent surgeries she will insist upon pursuing (and she will), but one thing i cannot do is rest assured that society will treat her with the respect to which she is entitled.
but that’s why i speak out. that’s why i educate others, whomever will listen. and that’s why i am encouraged by the strong trans-women who have gone before to show the way, who blog, write books and go about their lives being unapologetically themselves.
there is no therefore herein. wish i could come up with one. altho if a test existed to identify a transgender person while in utero and i should find that the life growing in my womb bore that gene, i would not consider such thing cause for termination, it is still something i wouldn’t wish on anyone! not at least until society has grown to the measure of compassion necessary to ensure equality and acceptance to all its various members.