Trigger fucking warning, I am about to publicly say some dark and heavy shit about my experience as a genderqueer person. If you don’t wanna read it, no hard feelings.
I don’t talk about it much anymore, but for a number of years I identified as a transwoman, and presented as femme almost daily. I lived with constant, skin-crawling dysphoria, and a deeply unstable sense of self. Experimenting with my gender presentation and identity were the best means at my disposal to make those feelings abate. I also lived with some level of fear of having transphobic violence perpetrated against my body, but never experienced this, despite walking nearly everywhere in town. I feel painfully aware that I am the anomaly here rather than the norm. I never know whether to chalk it up to luck, or the fact that I wear one mean fucking mug when I’m out in the world.
In the spring of 2013, I attempted to hormonally transition. The weather had just turned warm after a long and brutal winter. I had just finished massage school. I had finally left an emotionally abusive and controlling relationship with my partner of four years who thought of himself as a center of the queer community in Asheville, even going as far as to refer to himself as a “local celebrity” (fucking seriously). During our relationship, he often used his own transition to excuse his physically aggressive and verbally abusive behavior. The fact that we were finally done and I had room to breathe, made it seem even more like the right time.
It is difficult to remember with any clarity how long I stayed on T blockers and hormones, but I think it was roughly three days. I spent most of the time sick and with crippling panic and one full day of near psychosis. I spent that afternoon in bed, having visions my own death, and the death of the people I loved. I saw myself on my knees in the mud in an internment camp, and felt a hulking shape behind me taking aim at the back of my skull with a rifle. I heard the report of a gun, felt my body convulse and my world went black for a moment before my reality reshaped back to my bedroom.
I laid in bed and felt certain of a future filled with transphobic violence and alienation ahead of me, and saw a life of watching my friends die. All the sudden, the shotgun in my closet seemed like a very simple means to bail the fuck out of that future. Luckily, I realized I was in way over my head, and called my friends. My friends took turns staying with me for the next two days while I cried and puked and tried to feel normal again. I went back to the doctor the next week, and informed them that I would not be finishing my first round of feminizing medication.
Really, I spent that whole summer and the year after that trying to come back to normal. I was scared all the time, and just wanted to be in less pain. I ended up changing my gender presentation drastically, primarily because the only way I could feel comfortable in my skin was to hide it. This presentation largely endures to this day. I am mostly comfortable with it, and have come to love myself in ways I never thought possible when I was younger. While I make never make any apologies for survival, I do at times feel like I somehow failed, or was not strong enough to transition. I wonder if I didn’t take the easy way out in exchange for comfort. I came away from the experience with a new awe of what my sisters go through to just live, and live in a dangerous world that marginalizes the living shit out of them at that.
My point in telling you this story is simple. I would bet you money that this latest (and terrifying) anti-trans legislation surprises all of about none of the trans people in your life. While the potential scope of state sanctioned erasure of trans people is absolutely chilling, it is not new. Transphobic violence is not new. This violence is encoded into our histories and brutally written in the names and bodies of the trans people who came before us and didn’t make it. This violence is written in the snuffed out lives of the staggering amount of transwomen of color who are murdered every year. This violence is written in the hard-lived lives of trans people who are denied access to safe housing, employment, medical care, and are routinely criminalized.
Now a whole lot of us are scared and the potential dawning of a new era of state sanctioned violence and eradication perpetrated against trans people. So I want to close with this: You’ve gotta back the trans people in your community, like right now and harder than you’ve ever backed them. They are fucking terrified and our basic humanity and very existence is under attack. Back the transmen in your life. BACK THE FUCKING TRANSWOMEN IN YOUR LIFE. ESPECIALLY BACK THE TRANSWOMEN OF COLOR IN YOUR LIFE. Think about how it threatens power that trans people reject binaries and heteronormativity and how that puts a big ol’ target on our backs. Check in with your people. Ask questions. Offer support. I know I am thinking about what kind of support I can offer my community as a gender variant weirdo who can go stealth easily. I am imploring you to do the same.
If you aren’t thinking about how to ally with your transgender community right now, if you aren’t ready to throw the fuck down with and for them, I don’t want to fuck with you. Period. Point blank. This is not a debate. It’s a war. Pick a side.