Being a minority in modern day Britain can be tough. You face transphobia, homophobia, biphobia and heteronormativity/cisnormativity on every level. Because of this, it’s understandable that coming to terms with your identity in a society that still praises those who fit the mould can be quite the challenge – and it can take a serious toll on your mental health.
Getting to grips with being transgender can be quite difficult on its own, without being forced to come to such a realisation in a society that doesn’t quite fully accept it. Inside you feel different to how you were born on the outside. You feel as though you’re trapped in the wrong body. You feel as though your hair is all wrong. Your face is all wrong. Your chest just feels like a disgrace and a let-down to you. This alone is mentally tough, and gender dysphoria can be a serious condition to have.
There’s only one realistic way of alleviating this dysphoria over your body, and that’s to begin to transition. But what happens when your family don’t fully accept it? And what happens when you go out in public, presenting as your true self, and people heckle you in the street – and sometimes even resort to assault to get their bigoted views across?
Let’s start from the beginning: how does one even realise they were born in the wrong body and eventually come to terms with being transgender? Well, you feel as though your body is totally wrong. It makes you feel upset and uncomfortable, and you often (but not always) don’t want people to see it at all. This makes many things quite difficult. You struggle to go swimming because that involves showing off your body. And you struggle to go to the beach without being fully covered because people will see the body you were — incorrectly — born with.
Trying to work out whether you’re transgender isn’t the easiest of tasks. You ask yourself constant questions and every little thing can trigger a question or bout of dysphoria. Am I in the wrong body or do I just need more confidence in myself? Does this part of my body really bother me that much? Am I just being silly? Maybe I should just get on with it and try to keep it in the back of my mind.
It’s easier to conform to society’s expectations than it is to do what makes me happier and more comfortable in myself. Life is easier when you don’t try to be what you know deep inside you truly are
These are all things that I have asked and said to myself in my quest to discover who I truly am. I’ve tried for many years to decipher the thoughts that whirl through my mind; to try and figure out why I feel so uncomfortable and depressed about my body.
Going out in society presenting as your true self is when things get tricky. You have to build up your confidence to do so. After all, you don’t want to be seen as a “man in a wig” or the “tranny” of the neighbourhood. It gets particularly difficult to build up to this when going out wearing the slightest bit of makeup earns you looks and under-the-breath remarks. It’s challenging when carrying a bag that is assumed to be for girls gets you heckled by passers-by. It’s even harder when a customer you’re serving rudely asks “Are you a girl or a tranny?”. It’s difficult when you stop at the bathroom door and struggle to decide which one is safest, and most comfortable, for you to use.
Incidents like this make it more strenuous to buck up the courage to put on your favourite wig, pick out a pretty pair of skinnies and a nice little over-the-shoulder number and head out into town. You wake up each day and say to yourself “This is the day. Today will be the day that I go out there as my true self”. But then you quickly remember those heckles and awkward questions in front of your manager. Then you think of your family – who you still haven’t told because you know their response won’t be favourable – and you decide it’s better to hide away instead.
You know what makes me laugh? How parents-to-be say “I don’t care what the gender is, as long as it’s healthy”. But as soon as you come out as transgender or do something that would suggest you could be, their mind is very well set on what gender they want you to continue being – even when living as that born gender distresses you and impacts on your mental health. You’re locked in a constant battle of dysphoria and questioning your identity.
Society still has many issues with transgender people and it’s something that really needs to be challenged. When you start coming out you quickly realise that, to many people, you’re nothing more than the butt of the joke. People look at you differently because you’re not “normal” – whatever normal is even meant to be. People ask questions they would never ask a cisgender person. “What’s in your pants?” “How do you have sex? Do you even have sex?” and statements like “At least I put mine (penis) to good use!”
The questions are just truly cringeworthy and beg the question: why do people think they have the right to ask such personal questions? People seem to think that, once they’re aware you’re transgender, they have a superior power that enables them to ask such stuff and gives them the right to know such intimate things about you and your sex life!
It’s clear that society needs a real step change in terms of transgender rights. Society needs to be more accepting of our community and they need to further enhance the rights that we have. Every trans person deserves to be covered by the Equality Act 2010 and the non-binary section of the community deserve to have their gender/lack of gender recognised by government and shown on passports and other forms of ID. The process of getting your gender recognised needs to be simplified, made more inclusive, and needs to stop being a costly and often humiliating process.
The awkward and overly personal questions need to stop, and we need much more acceptance in this world. The transgender community isn’t any kind of threat to the identities of others, and embracing and respecting our identities has no impact on other people – so why deny us our rights when you could easily live in blissful harmony with us?
Being transgender certainly isn’t easy, especially when you’ve tried pushing the thoughts and questions to the back of your mind for many years – and you’re only just starting to come to terms with it. It impacts on your mental health hugely and you struggle to understand the situation and to figure it out. Society isn’t accepting of you, and this is always in the back of your mind. It isn’t easy being transgender, meaning it isn’t easy being me!