The Other Side of the Coin

When I was younger, maybe 13 or so, I first heard of the idea of karma, and started to be introduced to the idea that Good and Evil should be balanced, instead of Evil being beaten down and eradicated.

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In case you’re wondering, yes, I was thinking of Star Wars when I wrote about balance between Good/Light and Evil/Dark

In the time since, I haven’t come to agree with that idea completely, but I have grown to appreciate understanding things complexly. My last post skimmed over 2015 with a generally positive note: I’m happier than I was a year ago.
It’s true, of course. Getting to be yourself will naturally lead to joy and satisfaction and deeper love. However, I feel it’s important to show the other side of the coin. My life hasn’t been all rosy.

Some of the hate Caitlyn Jenner gets is from people angry that ignorant people will think transition is as easy as she makes it look. I don’t really agree with much of the hate she gets (she can’t help she’s rich) but I do agree that it’s important for more people to understand that being transgender can be difficult. I’m incredibly privileged, and even I have had to deal with a bunch of crap cis people don’t.

Before I talk about myself though, I do really want to highlight how privileged I am. Try googling “Transgender PoC Death” if you feel like getting sad and angry. The “PoC” (Person of Color) in the search is relevant since the horrifying murder and rape rate for trans people in the US is skewed horribly by racial ‘minorities’. Read about it for more than 10 minutes and if you’re anything like me you’ll feel like crying your eyes out, or burning the houses of transphobic people. It’s heartbreaking.

So, now that I’ve established that I have it easy compared to others, let me detail a few of the difficulties and pain I have experienced.


Distance

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So far and yet… so far

I don’t know whether this comes across in some of my other posts, but I’m the sort of person who cares about her friends. A lot. Making the people I love (most of whom tend to be friends) happier is an integral part in the purpose I have decided on for my life.

I am a very shy(ish), introverted individual, and it can be super difficult for me to make friends. So, I care very much for all the ones I’ve made in my life. Even the ones who are more distant mean a lot to me. Maybe it’s a little sad, the way people tend to pity how much a loaf of bread can mean to someone hard on their luck. I don’t know. I just know the toughness of making new friends makes me value the ones I do have all the more, and take as much care as I can in keeping the relationship healthy.

Imagine then when my list of friends is suddenly slashed in half. A lot of people I care for and have known for years and years suddenly stop speaking to me. My childhood best friend, who I’ve known since we were snotty 10-year olds hasn’t said a word to me since.

Some people ghost me. They pretend to look through me, literally. There’s someone I’ve known for… I don’t know, 5 or 6 years now, who was at a social event I was in, and who spoke to people sitting right next to me without ever meeting my eyes or responding to absolutely anything I said. I’ll be honest, that one was a little bit funny, but it still breaks my heart a little when I drop the bitter amusement.

What’s more, I have had other friends just… distance themselves. Now I’m going to mix time, pronouns, identities and actions because I really, really, really don’t want this to turn into some sort of gossip column. I’m going to be as vague as possible.

So. Not only did my list of extended friends get incredibly, maddeningly, depressingly reduced, but some of the people I care about most, the ones who are closest to me and have much more room in my heart have… changed. An ironic thing for Miss Gender-Switcher to say, I know.

It’s true, though. There are friends I used to see a few times a month who I haven’t seen in… I can’t remember actually. Maybe 3 months. People who never answer when I invite them to lunch. They’re still friendly when we meet, and they’ve never showed anything but love to me, but it’s clear how less time we spend around each other.

I don’t know exactly why that is, but I suspect it has to do with something else I’ve noticed. I have a friend who’s tried to show me love, but who’s been a lot more distant. Before I could text her to meet up and we would, we could grab lunch, watch a movie, just do stuff together. The last time I asked her to do something I got a half-hearted “yeah, sure…” and when we are around each other, I find a lot of the easy camaraderie we used to have has fallen under the sofa cushions, and after months of sticking my hand into the sofa I’ve given up the hope of finding it again.

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Nice to meet, you, I’m only the person you’ve been friends with the last 6 years

People are awkward around me now. A guy I’ve always enjoyed being around suddenly doesn’t know how to look at me, what to say, how to be around me. He’s not unique. With so many people it feels like we’ve gone back in time and I’m getting to know them for the first time. I suppose many of them feel like Lily is a stranger they’re only just meeting. I understand their point of view, in fact I mean to write a post about that soon, but it’s still frustrating.

The point is, half the people I cared for are still part of my life, and I can count on one hand the number of close friends who still treat me like a normal person and seem comfortable around me. For someone whose friends list very near the top of the things she appreciates in life,  that’s devastating.


Abandonment

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As much as losing my childhood friend hurt, the truth is he wasn’t really much of a part of my life anymore. His presence was comfortable and easy, we could talk five minutes and feel as close as we did over a decade ago, and I still feel a ton of love for him… even so, we only really got the chance to meet and chat once every year or two. His rejection caused me pain, but it was a dull, manageable pain that has stretched out numbly over the last 6-7 months. It didn’t change my day-to-day life at all, so it has been easier to ignore, and deal when I feel ready for it.

He hasn’t been the only person that close who’s walked out on me. The loss of the others has, unfortunately, not been so easy to handle.
(Again, I want to be as indistinct as possible in my description to respect their privacy, so please excuse the vague terms I’ll refer to the others in.)

One person is without a doubt in the Top 5 list of people I’ve cared for the most in my life. I would help them hide a body if they asked me to, I might even murder to protect them.

This is not hyperbole.

I also haven’t seen them in 7 months, save for an accidental glance I caught of them a couple of months ago. We still talk. I know they love me. Still, they are distant. Very, very distant. The pain feels almost too large to comprehend. On some days I’ll catch a glimpse of it and feel overwhelmed. Have you ever sat out in a dark field late at night and looked at the stars and the moon and the terrifyingly empty void of space and thought about how absolutely tiny you are? That overwhelmed feeling is the closest I can come to describing the pain I feel when I really think about the loss.

There’s someone else who I also cared very much about. I wasn’t as good a friend as they deserved, but they cared for me nonetheless and did all they could to support me. They were the first person I ever came out to, and without their love and friendship I suspect I probably would not have started my transition last year. Maybe not for years and years. They were the first person I have ever grown to love unconditionally, and they also walked out of my life 7 months ago.

I don’t blame them. I really don’t. (If you’re reading this, against all odds, please know I have never for a second resented you, silly.) What I have felt is occasional pangs in my heart. Like with the other person, the pain is so huge it doesn’t affect me all the time, but when it does it just overwhelms me. I’ve had days when I’ve started crying uncontrollably in the middle of a phone call at work, and had to take my lunch hour early, to literally spend an hour sobbing into a scarf. I started crying just now thinking about it. The pain isn’t constant. Sometimes I’ll go days without feeling it, sometimes I’ll go months. It always comes around though. It always steals so much of my positivity and happiness.

I don’t think this is something unique to transgender people, or even LGBT  peeps. Losing people you love is part of life, but I don’t think many people have to lose so many people and so much in such a short span of time. Sigh.


“Other”

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Coming out as transgender and being dehumanised unfortunately tend to come in hand. I wrote a whole blog post about it, in fact. It is painful to walk into a pizza shop because you’re hungry and their food looks good, only to be met with an angry stare and a lukewarm dish. It makes you feel… subhuman. Like a dog that has been kicked by everyone. It is difficult to stay positive and not slip into resentfulness, anger, hatred.

Like I mentioned though, I’ve already written about how people have started treating and looking at me as a political statement or a repellent thing, but there’s another way to be humanised: when you become an ‘other’.

If you’ve ever visited a country with a different culture from yours or are a TCK, you know how it feels to know you’re different from everyone else around you, to be aware of how much you stick out no matter what you do and where you go. This is everyday life for me, only intensified.

In Colombia, it’s customary to greet people with a cheek ‘kiss’. You put your cheek against theirs and make some sort of kissing noise. Though the etiquette varies from country to country, down here it tends to only be done when it’s two girls, or a guy and a girl. I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this. I might look a bit like a girl, sound like one, have the name of one, but the truth is most people don’t see me as one. Sure, they’ll pay it lip service. They’ll call me Lily, and smile at me. Truth is, of the hundreds of people I’ve interacted with in the last 7 months, only 4 guys (all but one people I already knew) have done the cheek kiss thing.

Look, I don’t care about some stupid kiss. I’m not going to ask random men to make kissing sounds at me. That’s really weird, and not at all what this is about. The reason I sound bitter and angry right now is that even greeting people makes me feel different. Like I’m not really a girl. Sure, people will play along, but they don’t really think so. It’s all a game of dress-up. The cheek kiss is just a random example of how the way they view me is exemplified. There are dozens of other ways people will treat me as an ‘other’. They won’t treat me as a guy, but they won’t treat me as they do any other woman. I wish I could fit in, just be another girl, but I literally stand out. I’m a good 10cm taller than most other women (Colombian ones anyways), and feel about as different from them.

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It’s not completely true. I’ve mentioned how differently most girls in particular treat me nowadays, and in fact I got to experience it recently. I was upset because I was having a terrible day, and I got to work crying my eyes out. I sat down at my desk and as soon as the girl sitting next to me, a co-worker I’ve talked to maybe 5 times and who I’m SO not close to, immediately gave me a long hug, comforted me, and then earnestly asked what was wrong. That would not have happened to me as [redacted] in a million years, but to Lily… well, of course, why wouldn’t my coworker support another girl?

Not everyone sees me as an ‘other’ rather than a woman, but the few people that do just make everyday a constant battle against cynicism and a fit of tears.


Self-Image

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I don’t know how much of this is a trans thing, how much it’s a girl thing, and how much it’s a human thing, but I’ve had to fight so much for a sense of self-love and acceptance of my appearance.

I look at a mirror and often see a woman, which lifts my heart, but I often spot a dozen ways I look guyish or androgynous and I crash back down to earth. I can pick my face apart into all the little things I don’t like and wish would be different. I look at my body and sometimes feel like crying. Sure, my hips feel different, my waist has some shape, I’ve started to grow boobs, but the changes everywhere are so slight and my body feels so wrong. I hate that I can’t wear many dresses, that I have no curves, that my hair is so short…

I shouldn’t go into detail. When I lived as [redacted] it was easy to feel confident or indifferent about my appearance. I was just playing a part, my presentation as a guy was nothing but a costume. Now I feel naked. I am trying to be myself in earnest, and every tiny little flaw feels immense. On some days I feel pretty, and it’s a wonderful feeling. On others I feel awful, and feel like hiding under a blanket.

It’s not just the fear of looking unattractive, of falling into the trap of attaching any part of my self-worth into my appearance, it’s the fact that I feel that if I somehow fail, if I don’t fit the frankly ridiculous standards I set for myself sometimes, that I’ll be ousted as a fraud and have to go back to living as a guy. I don’t connect my self-esteem to how pretty I feel, I make my identity and life somehow be attached to it.

It’s ridiculous and stupid and unhealthy. I often succeed in suppressing it, but the insidious insecurity slips back and suddenly I start crying because I’m afraid I’ll never have decently-sized boobs, whatever the fuck that means.


Forever Alone

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I’m asexual. I don’t know if you know that about me. Well, I might be asexual. I might also be demisexual. I really don’t know. If you don’t know already, asexual means I feel romantic attraction but really don’t “get” physical attraction, while demi means I can feel some level of sexual attraction, but only once a sense of romantic attraction has been established.

The point is, sex isn’t a huge deal for me. I could take it or leave it, honestly. Which has largely contributed to my lack of genital dysphoria (that is, my lack of uncomfortableness re: my genitals) and my general apathy towards bottom surgery. The problem with this is that most people do care about sex, and when they get with a girl, interacting with her female sex organs isn’t an insignificant priority.

Leaving aside the danger that comes with telling a guy the chick he likes has a penis, the idea of trying to find a guy who’ll be okay with it is just disencouraging. Finding love is difficult as things stand, but when the pool is limited to asexual and bisexual men, or guys who care more about you than “what you’re packing” it’s just difficult to escape a sense of futility.

I’ll probably live alone, and die alone without a life partner. It’s okay, it’s not like I have hopes of marrying a nice guy and maybe starting a family…


Legality, Medicine, etc

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This isn’t as complicated as the others, but it just adds to it. I don’t get a chance to sleep well too often because what feels like every other day, I have to get a blood sample, echo-cardiogram, or some other test. If I don’t, I have to meet my geneticist, psychologist psychiatrist, endocrinologist. Maybe I have to go to the bank again to make sure they put the right name in my credit card, then drop by the pension office to correct their records…

There are so many trips and appointments and paperwork that need to be taken care of to get hormones and have your name and gender be accurately represented everywhere that it takes so, so much time and energy out of your life. I’m privileged in how relatively easy it is to change your name and gender down here in Colombia, and how HRT is covered by my very affordable medical insurance, but most weeks I still feel like I only have one or two days that aren’t full of necessary vueltas to keep everything legal and medical in order.


This post isn’t comprehensive and is a little disorganised. Please forgive me. I only slept 5 hours this morning and have to get up in about 3 hours for work tomorrow. Ironically, I didn’t mean to spend much time writing this, and yet it is so, so long; every word feels like another bit of sleep I’m missing, and another bit of exhaustion I’m going to feel at work tomorrow.

I’m going to wrap this up now. I hope this wasn’t too negative. I needed somewhere to rant and let all of this out. I think I centred it too much on myself and not nearly enough on the general experience of trans people. Still, I hope it was interesting.

If you have any questions or opinions about today’s post or the things I wrote, please leave a comment below. It always gives me a little lift to see a notification for a new message.

And of course, Happy New Year, and thank you for following my blog 🙂

 

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3 thoughts on “The Other Side of the Coin

  1. Helen Smith says:

    My heart goes out to you when I read this! You do seem like you’re good at finding positives though – I hope there will be many more of those. 🙂 Also I’m much more aware of trans issues now than I was before and wanted to thank you for that. Happy New Year!

    Like

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