Real life experience

  • Posted on December 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I am just emerging into the third year of this blog, and yesterday, wanting to reflect on the past year, accidentally jumped back two years in looking for what I’d written. That was three months before full transition, and yet every bit as clear as now with regard to my gender, so at first I was confused. Then I went back to last year, as intended. Ah yes! I began dancing … and even that seems a lifetime ago.

Running through the grief and grouse that life has often been in the last few years, is a thread of great happiness to have resolved a lifelong threat to being an otherwise nice person. A while ago I left a short photo-trail on Facebook that sort of filled a gap between leaving my last job and starting this one. In three different hairstyles, through to my own hair growing out, I can be seen finding my new appearance, but always looking happy. I’d forgotten the pictures until a new Facebook friend was leafing through and ‘liked’ one. So the picture resurfaced, and attracted some lovely comments. There, I was happy; attractive enough, but different – not as relaxed and natural as I am now. But it was from only a couple of months after I left my last job, and at the time my family did not see me like this at all. I left a comment that I am glad I didn’t know what lay ahead of me at the time.

This time last year I was deeply happy to have discovered dance, after the trauma of my first Christmas unwelcome in my own family. I had a lot more to go through in the following months, but I did emerge with a full diagnosis as transsexual in the summer, and an autumn referral onward for full clinical treatment. Since when I have heard nothing. At this point, I have only three months to go until I have completed what is endearingly referred to as two years ‘real life experience’ for the benefit of Charing Cross Gender Clinic, and three full years since that early happy photo.

Smiles like that wear thin when you are left in limbo three years on. I have learned and gained a lot in this past year, not least to let go of what is not mine in this life to keep or expect. I feel well-grounded, relatively secure, grief is mostly in that ‘drawer of tears / for when the wind blows’ (poem). But following on from recent blogs, and as we enter 2014, allow me to ask you:

‘How is your real life experience going?’

Do you understand the question? Do you have a real life as opposed to an unreal one? Do you have an alternative life at all? Do you have any experience other than life? So how can anyone have a real life experience of anything other than themselves?

Of course I know it is a convenience for: ‘can you live permanently as you say you want to?’, which some people still refer to as ‘living in role’. But I have never regarded my life at any time as role-play either. Have you? So it is a curious construct that for people who identify as trans*, we create a bizarre idea that they can ‘try out’ gender as if it is an act, and see if the act feels real enough to perpetuate, and if they can perpetuate it, after two years it ceases to be a real life experience and becomes … what?

The photo of me, looking happy, on the rather lovely reclining leather sofa I was to leave behind, was, if anything, the end of an act, of living up to other people’s expectations. Life had been real enough, and certainly an experience, but in many ways it had been living in fear of being found out for being bad.

If 2011 was my biggest revelation, then 2012 was the most difficult of my life, and the most hurt. But 2013 has been a healing year in many ways. Friendships have been tested (and held, no thanks to me), and I have moved in new circles doing new things. I’ve read my poetry in several places, including Brighton Pride, survived pneumonia, and improvised dance without second thought in front of my peers. If anything, I have been more free to discover myself, express myself, and find people who understand. Not in a trans* world or community, but simply as myself in the world.

Maybe this is real life experience, and maybe it’s what we all should have, without a horizon, a milestone, a box to tick off. I like it, so why give it a beginning or an end? And what, if anything, has it to do with being trans*?

My other new year thought is for everyone out there who in the last 12 months has finally set out to be authentic after a life, however short or long, of being misgendered. It is a lovely thing to see people find themselves, against their personal odds, and stick with it.

And to everyone who reads this: enjoy your real life experience.


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