I’ve forgotten…

Hello!

Thank you for bearing with me through my sad patch in the last blog. With so much going on in the world, and especially with the US Supreme Court voting on whether LGBTQ+ rights exist or not in just a few short weeks, there may be a few more rough patches to come. That said, we celebrate the highs when we can get them, and this week, let’s stop and give a moment to this beautiful human, who is currently winning the internet with his mother’s story of how he finally got to try and buy the gender non-conforming wardrobe of his dreams.

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Individual cases like this may not have a huge amount of political impact, but every time someone is brave enough to come forward and be who they are, the world gets a little bit safer for everyone else who sees them being supported. As much as we desperately need legal and structural change in transgender rights and lives, its equally important to offer experiences and individual narratives that show all the sides of transgender experience – including trans joy – and that can offer individuals a chance to re-think the ignorance that they may have been brought up with about what gender means, and who transgender people are.

I thought that this week’s post would be about “they” finally being added into the Merriam Webster Dictionary as a non-binary pronoun, but I think that’s next week’s post so keep your eyes out for grammar nerdery. But looking at this human, I wanted to share with you a realisation that may surprise cisgender folks among you:

I’ve forgotten what it was like to try and live as a girl.

Now, I came out as non-binary just under five years ago, and I’m 30 now.

This was me at twenty:

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I’m on tour at Latitude dance festival, and enjoying some really exceptionally delicious artist’s catering. My hair is down to my waist, I’ve got make up on (probably), and I’m… happy. Or at least I think I was at the time. I also realise with embarrassment that I still own the black tank top that I’m wearing, although not the bra that you can just about see poking out from underneath it on my right shoulder. The word “non-binary” wouldn’t even enter my vocabulary for another couple of years, and it would take another few years after that until I started going by it.

 

This is me a year ago:

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I’m a few months prior to top surgery. I’m wearing a binder, and a loose white shirt with Hawaiian print in mostly monochrome. My hair is short all over and buzzed out on one side, and I’ve been caught mid-lecture about the spread of black social dances into white communities during the nineteen tens and twenties. I’m in a community where everyone around me accepts my non-binary identity, and I’m speaking with a confident authority, surrounded by strangers, acquaintances and friends.

When I look at pictures of myself before top surgery where I’m not wearing a binder, I struggle to recognise myself. Aphantasia (a condition where you don’t make any kind of mental images) means that I don’t have a clear visual sense of my own past image, even though I looked at it in the mirror at least once a day; but I also can’t even remember what it was like to relate to the body and the gendered appearance that I used to have. I have 100% failed to recognise myself in photographs; or worse, jumped back with an “Eugh! What are those two blobby THINGS on my chest!” The things about my body that I felt were alien and uncomfortable and wrong feel DOUBLY that way when you get used to not having them anymore, but the memory of living in that body with that dysphoria has – blessedly – faded away.

On the one hand, that tells me why it’s perhaps so hard for cisgender people to understand dysphoria and the transgender experience. If a person who has lived only a small fraction of their life as they gender they really are cannot remember what it’s like to live while presenting as the wrong one… how on earth can anyone imagine it who hasn’t lived it?

On the other had, I have a lot of childhood experiences that have stayed with me quite clearly: I remember watching my teachers mix up powdered milk at kindergarten, struggling with my lunchbox in first grade, being bullied, the smell of the dance studio changing room, lying between my friend’s dogs… I may not make visual memories but my overall sensory and conversational memory is pretty acute. That includes saying from a very young age that I was never going to be a woman – that if felt completely wrong to me and didn’t fit with who I was.

Transition felt right to me – like finally being real, or finally starting to match the sense of self that I’d always carried around in my own head. I find it validating, and comforting, that my brain has found my previously gendered life so easy to let go of: that it is really difficult to imagine, or pretend, that I have ever been anything other than exactly who I am.

 

 

 

 

 

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