My gift; my story

  • Posted on March 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm

It’s all I have to give. Time and again I have told my story. The little things wrong for so long. For a lifetime. The narrow escapes, the self-hatred, the anger. The not-belonging, the being drawn to the wrong gender group. The denial and punishment, often self-punishment. And until little more than two years ago I thought I was alone – or that everyone had these feelings. I repeated the story online, I repeated it to people I was close to, then to family, and to a psychiatrist who was in a position to refer me to further psychiatrists, who were in a position to make an adjudication. She is not mad.

It still hits me every time I listen to someone telling exactly the same story. Every close brush with suicide, every desperate coming-to-terms with the possibility that you cannot be loved ever again. Why? Why so many stories, like independent eye witnesses to something strange and unbelievable? Why are we not more readily believed? And if we are believed, why suddenly either welcomed or rejected? Why do we evoke such polarised reactions? Why are we either permitted into personal space or thrown out of it?

I went to see Cloud Atlas, directed by Lana Waschowski, who also co-directed The Matrix series with her brother. Quite by chance, I turned up her You Tube acceptance speech at Human Rights Campaign. It’s half an hour, but it held me. It’s worth watching, because it is another story, very like mine. I shall never be famous, though I do hope that like her, I shall one day find a partner who loves me for all I am. But one thing she said rang true for me, and it is spoken in the film towards the end: ‘If I had remained invisible, the truth would have remained hidden, and I couldn’t allow that’ – and that there are some things we do for ourselves and some things we do for others. My loss of my private life may have value if in giving it up someone else understands.

I also met an old (work and family) friend this week for the first time in years, and for the first time since I stopped pretending the wrong gender was viable. I had been her manager for 17 years at work, and she recognised that I had always been different. It was interesting, because I was able to explain to her as best I could (knowing that she has heard and responded to the ‘other side of the [marital] story’ completely already) what it felt like to be only loved for pretending to be something you are not. If it had been her, she said would have thrown me out straight away! I hope now that there are doubts about that at least. And once again, I had told my story, and once again, the best part of it was that one more person has knowingly met a transsexual person, and will relate that to several more, and I hope, favourably. In Cloud Atlas Sonmi, a fabricant in futuristic New Seoul is facing execution for telling the truth. ‘What if no-one believes you?’ she is asked. ‘Someone already does’, she replies. You can repeat a prejudice, but you can’t untell the truth.

In my poem Shocking I related an event that changed everything. But it’s the words that I want to draw attention to, as a stocking, left belatedly on a radiator to dry, is presented in accusation:

No relief wrapped in a reply
can change this gift
this poison present.

The present (moment/thing given) is something needing to be unwrapped. It is poison (Gift is German for poison, and it alone was fatally toxic to my marriage), it is a gift that cannot be swapped for something more preferable. It is given. It is what it is. What can you do with that? This wasn’t a moment for saying: ‘yes darling; I’m a woman really. Isn’t that wonderful?’

Have I been also handed something toxic to others? Is being trans* a poisoned chalice? Or is it a gift indeed: an opportunity to bring others into this moment and to see things as they are, not as presumed; an awakening to reality being not what it seems? That in gender being an example, much more should be seen, not just believed as taught? Cloud Atlas was a healthy dose of sometimes being given an impossible task that can only influence at great distance and at great cost.

I had this awful and awesome sense this last week that I have been given something of great value. Why not, if the cost has been so high? That by being fully, confidently and assertively trans*, with a blog like this, frank poetry, and an imperviousness to opinion (well, mostly!) I have something very meaningful to present. It isn’t about being ‘worthy’ – I am not; it is about the need for trans* people to be seen, validated and present, not repressed, denied, disbelieved, othered or driven beyond despair.

People in general need to begin to understand that trans* people are equal, equally deserving, lovable and loving, as anyone. (OK, some, as any minority, as a result of treatment and reaction have huge chips on their shoulders – but understand why.) No, we shall never really be understood in the way we know ourselves, but by analogy, description and our stories, we can eventually become completely accepted. One day.

I am tired, really tired, of having always to be the one who understands why others find it so hard to live with people like me, not the other way round.

‘If I had found out you were “one of those”, I would have kicked you out straight away!’

I have a gift. I have a story. I hope you can now ask yourself: Why would you do that?

In the answer, wrapped in the reply, is not a poison (yuk! you make me one of those!) but a realisation about love and about personhood more widely. It is the beginning of unconditionality. And that, I believe, is worth finding.


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