Dear trans* people & genderqueers,
This is an apology letter and a love letter. I’m so sorry for all the times I’ve lied to you or shut you out, or not shown you who I really am because I’ve worried that you’d think I wasn’t “trans enough”. I’m sorry for the ways I’ve failed to have your back, when I’ve been more focused on getting cisgendered (non-trans) people’s approval than connecting with you and understanding what it would mean to you to have your back. I’m sorry for the assumptions I’ve made about you based on what you do or don’t do with your bodies. And for all the times when my silence and shame about my questions and doubts has reinforced your silence and shame.
I’m sorry for the moments when I’ve pushed you away because I’ve been afraid of your rejection. I’m sorry to both you and also to myself, for the times when I shut myself off from the very place where I/we could find understanding and community. Sometimes I’ve been fixated on the fact that it hurts a million times more when a trans person rejects me or says something invalidating (yes, so many of us struggle with internalised transphobia), that I’ve failed to realise, is it hurts 100 million times more to not have you by my side and to not have the HONOUR of standing by your side. I’m sorry for the times when my solution has been to not talk with you. To not confide in you that sometimes I have so many doubts, worries that I’m just making this whole trans thing up.
Yes, I get up on my soap box about challenging ideas that trans people are confused. I mean, hello!! It’s actually the world that is INCREDIBLY confused to have not noticed that I was a cute lil’ boy and to not have noticed the fabulous gender or genders you embody. I adamantly tell cisgendered people that i’m not confused – and i am NOT confused. And also. In some moments. I am absolutely confused. And this is the shitty thing: to jump through the hoops to get access to health care etc, we need to convince mostly cisgendered people that we’re not confused, yet most of us grew up in systems that had minimal room for us which made so many of us incredibly confused. I met the first person that I knew was trans when I was 24! I’ve spent so much time simplifying my experience for cisgendered people inside of and outside of the health care system, that sometimes I start to believe these simplifications and then in the moments when I know it’s not the whole story, I’m devoured by insecurities and start to wonder if I’m not actually a “real” trans person and maybe just made it all up. Instead of being ashamed of this, I want to talk about it with you all, and celebrate how resilient we are in surviving cisgendered systems. I want to celebrate and continue to cultivate our abilities to question and explore and be open to what is true in any given moment, not what we’re told or coerced into believing is true. And share knowledge about how to navigate cisgendered systems without forgetting who many of us really are. We are GENIUSES at figuring shit out and I want to celebrate that together!
I’m sorry for all the times I’ve let you down by not telling you these things about myself, and letting you drift further into isolation, thinking that you’re the only one that doesn’t exactly fit the always-knew-never-wavered-born-in-the-wrong-body-trans-story. Just to be clear – I love, support and respect trans people who do actually have the seamless “trans story” – i don’t want to make them feel uncool for fitting that story either.
So here’s some things I might not have told you. I like my body (kind of), I especially like my new body after taking hormones AND I’m glad i was born in the body i have AND I think I may have been born in a kind of wrong-ish body AND i love my junk AND i really wish i had different junk AND I wouldn’t change a thing AND I wish everything had been different AND I have such deep internalised transphobia that sometimes I can’t even fantasise about cisgendered men being attracted to me as a man rather than as a sort of hairy weird “woman” AND sometimes I like to fantasise about being a woman anyway (women are ace!) AND in my lifetime i’ve called myself a tom boy, a sporty-butchish-femme-teenage-girl, a lesbian feminist, a dyke, a carnivalesque magician, a genderqueer, a boy, a boi, a man, a dude, a pansy, a sissy, a faggot, a gaybo/homo/homosexual, transexual, femme, effeminate, transgender, transman AND I’m not sure which of these labels I’ve actually “been” verses which I’ve just called myself AND i’m not sure if i care anyway about all these labels AND i desperately care about labels AND I care what you think about me AND i love it when people don’t know that i’m trans AND it’s invalidating/invisibilisng when they don’t know that i’m trans AND once when I was a 23 year old lesbian feminist I walked down a street naked with “i am real woman” painted on my back to counter stereotypes about women’s bodies not being like in the magazines (oh the hundred million ways we could politically unpack this!) AND I’m embarrassed for you to see photos of my “old” face before taking T (even though I keep those photos on Facebook) AND I’m embarrassed that I feel embarrassed about this because it doesn’t fit with my politics AND I feel so silly that I only realised (re-realised?) I was trans when I was 30 AND I’m completely in awe of teenage and children trans people who are out as trans (like seriously, they are so smart and brave to know and insist on that in such a transphobic world!)… AND… AND… AND…
The number of times I’ve heard one of you say “but I’m not like other trans people, my story is more complex, i feel so alone, nobody understands me”. I want to make this sink in way deeper. The more I listen to you, the more I feel compelled to share with you. And the more I realise many of our stories are only complex when we try to shove them through the narrow window of gender ideas that are enforced upon us by cisgendered people and their institutions. I want to work together with you to stop trying to make sense of our stories by applying cisgendered ways of understanding ourselves (which in a North American or Australian context, are also colonial ways of understanding gender). Like maybe it makes total sense that i LIKE my boy tits (kind of) yet i want to cut them off. Who says that’s a contradiction? NOT ME!
I’m writing you this because I LOVE YOU. Because I think you are FUCKING FIERCE & BEAUTIFUL & EXQUISITE! Because you inspire me every day. Because I think you are a genius. Because you’re magical. Because you are a total miracle just to exist as trans- even if you’ve never told anyone (including yourself) that you are trans. And to tell you that i’m so incredibly proud to call myself trans alongside ALL of you trans people, genderqueers, gender non-confirming people, women and men of trans experience and other gender constellations for all the ways our stories are so delightfully different and for the ways they are so comfortingly similar.
ALL MY LOVE, Sunny
(Photo by the amazing Tania Anderson)
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