SquircleSpace/Ada

Pride

Every transgender person needs to come to terms with the fact that they are trans. Since being trans isn't the default, its something that they necessarily must recognize in themselves. They need to say "my gender and my natal sex are different". They need to take that revelation, and figure out what it means to them. This is an essential part of the trans experience. That's not the end to it, though. We, unfortunately, still live in a society that looks down on trans people. We've come a VERY long way, but trans people still need to rid themselves of internalized transphobia and learn to love themselves as they are. They need to stand against the oppression that still permeates our society. They need to convince themselves that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They need to learn to ignore the nay-sayers that call them freaks and perverts. That is, they need to fight to achieve a level of internal peace that so many other people take for granted.

I have had to go through this journey myself. I'm still going through it! Looking back on my writing from a year ago, I see someone who wasn't yet at peace with themselves. I was still putting my own needs second by trying to hide my gender identity until I thought other people would be ready to accept it.1 In Boy Mode, I showed that I wasn't comfortable showing gender variance. I talked about how I wanted to pass as a cis woman. I talked about being hyper aware of every way in which I failed to do so. I would listen to Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me! and feel the full weight of the lyrics.

Your tells are so obvious
Shoulders too broad for a girl
Keeps you reminded
Helps you to remember where you come from

You want them to notice
The ragged ends of your summer dress
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl
They just see a faggot
They hold their breath not to catch the sick

[…]

You've got no cunt in your strut
You've got no hips to shake
And you know it's obvious
But we can't choose how we're made

I hated my body and all the parts of it I couldn't possibly change. I hated the way it made me different. I heard Laura Jane Grace singing about struggling with dysphoria, and I felt oppressed by my body. She knew what it was like to feel that way, but I couldn't shrug it off like she did and just say "we can't choose how we're made". I was embarrassed by my "tells". I didn't want people to know I was trans. My dream was to be able to go "stealth" (i.e.┬áreach a point where I blend in and am indistinguishable from other women). For me, a large part of my dysphoria was due to social pressures. I felt I had to conform to societal expectations for my gender – a struggle that I'm sure many cis women can empathize with!2

As I became more comfortable with people knowing I was trans, I started to worry less about my "tells". The people in my life were supportive and accepting. It was okay that I didn't look like a woman! I stopped fearing coming out. I started adopting a brazen "accept me or get lost" attitude. I didn't feel the need to meet their standards of beauty. Instead, I felt that they had to meet my standards for friendship. I stopped shaving because it was a tell that I had to hide. I shaved only when my facial hair bothered me. Admittedly, that meant I still shaved pretty regularly, but the way I approached the act had changed completely. It was something I did for myself rather than for others.

In addition, my tells became more subtle, and I started to care less. I'm lucky enough to have a fairly feminine body to start with, and hormones have done good things for me. Despite that, I only "pass" about 40% of the time. Most people still use masculine pronouns and honorifics when they address me. I'm constantly reminded that I don't look like a woman – both by my own brain and people around me! Masculine body traits still give me away, but it doesn't bother me like it used to. I'm okay with being seen as a trans person, because I accept myself as a trans person. I don't desire to go stealth like I used to. For me, accepting my body and learning to embrace my trans identity were two sides of the same coin.3 I'm not ashamed of being trans any more. I love it. I'm proud of it! I've lived a life that is foreign to the overwhelming majority of the population. My internal struggle to accept myself made me stronger and more complete. I wouldn't be the same person without it.

Trans people face a great deal of adversity – trans people of color doubly so! I'm proud to be in the company of such brave people. I'm honored to share their struggle. I look up to the pioneers who fought for trans rights before me and paved the way for the relative safety I enjoy and I'm eternally grateful. They are my heroes. They're the trail-blazers who held strong in the face of intense challenges. I'm only able to enjoy this privileged life of being proud of myself and safely express myself because of the work they did.

I feel an obligation to pay it forward. I feel an obligation to help other trans people learn to love themselves. I can't in good conscience hide. I can do better. I must do better. I'm privileged enough to not need to worry about how being trans might affect my career. I won't lose my home, my family, or my friends. I can be visible. I can be an advocate. I can help others by simply not hiding, and it won't really cost me much of anything. At the same time, I am proud of my identity. Why would I want to hide it?4

In the book To My Trans Sisters, a collection of letters from trans women to other trans women, Laura Jane Grace wrote the following letter. It feels so appropriate and powerful in this context that I feel I need to quote it in full.

To my trans sisters…

This is what I wish someone would have said to me at the very start of my transition…

Whatever vision of self you have in your head, of who the end result is that you're transitioning to, abandon it. That won't be who you become. You have no idea where you're heading, and that's okay.

You're under no obligation to transition any certain way, no obligation to stick to your own plan, even. There's no hormone or surgical procedure or clothes that you can put on your body that make you more or less trans.

At the same time, fuck what anyone else thinks, and if you do want hormones or surgical procedures, or fancy, fabulous, awesome clothes, never feel wrong for it. Live as fully as you can, always without apology.

Trans is power. If people spew hate and discrimination it is because they fear you and they fear you because you are stronger than them, more badass and awesome. The world is full of weak, small minded people, and that will never change. Don't let them diminish your shine.

There will be days ahead far more dark than you could have ever imagined possible, days full of self doubt and self hate, when it feels like you've ruined your life your friendships and family. This may be true. You may lose all your friends and your family may never talk to you again. Its their loss, not yours.

Slow down, be present in the moment. Now is here. Here is now. Focus on all that you do have for certain and appreciate it. Release your grip and accept that you are not in control, that everything and everyone may be gone from your life at any moment, always. In order to change, accept change, and once you have learned to flow with it, never stop flowing.

There will be days when you want to die. Don't die. Find the edge and walk it, learn to balance on it, you will eventually be able to run along it, do backflips and handstands and laugh wildly in the face of it. Death will always be there waiting; in the meantime you've got nothing to lose, so live.

Through destruction comes rebirth and in rebirth there is the chance to begin anew. Now is your chance, the chance you've spent all of these years dreaming of. Love yourself. I know that's been hard to do for so long, but its okay, you can do it.

Most importantly, if you ever need a friend, I'm here for you.

Laura Jane Grace

When I started this site, I wasn't sure whether I would attach it to my real name or not. I knew it would focus on my transition, but I thought I would keep it separate from the rest of my life. I was careful to avoid putting my name anywhere on the site so that I could always disavow it. "Nope, that's not my site. I'm not trans. You've got me confused with someone else!". That idea seems so distant to me now. I finally feel like I've started to love myself. I finally feel like I'm accepting and celebrating the power that my experience brings me. I accept that I'm not done with my transition and that my concept of who I am and what I believe about myself and gender is a work in progress, and that's okay. I'm ready to sign my name and say that, yes, I am trans, and I'm fucking proud of it.

– Ada Diana Avery

Footnotes:

1

See also Depression

2

This is not to imply that the experience cis women have with societal expectations and the experience trans women have are in the same league. It would drive me crazy when cis women in my life would make comments like this because they were taking for granted so many things that I had to fight for. Around this time, I had a particularly memorable conversation with a cis woman about this topic. She said "we all have to learn how to accept our bodies and that we won't achieve the beauty standards given by society". I replied "most cis women need to accept that they'll never achieve that beauty standard and that they need to be content with normal. I need to accept that I might not even achieve normal.". I still feel that way! Cis women come in all shapes and sizes, but they usually don't need to learn to accept that, no matter what they do, they'll probably still be seen as a man. In that way, the average cis woman's struggle with this topic is FAR simpler than the average trans woman's.

3

I don't mean to imply I'm at peace – after all, I've still got dysphoria! I only meant that I needed to embrace myself as trans in order to get to where I am.

4

I need to emphasize that this reveals just how much privelege I enjoy. To this day, many trans folks live in places where stealth is an essential survival technique. Being visibly trans puts them at serious risk of bodily harm. The statistics for violence against trans people are appalling and deeply saddening. I feel extremely lucky to live in a place where I can safely embrace this side of myself. I have nothing but admiration for trans people who are brave enough to pursue their true selves without the safety I enjoy. In addition, trans people fight very hard to be seen as and treated as equal members of their identified gender. For many trans people, being stealth is an important part of receiving the treatment they deserve. My decision to be open is mine alone. I fully respect trans people who choose to go stealth.