There are so many things about me that aren’t the fact that I’m a transgender woman. I haven’t talked about them so far in this series because, obviously, this series is about my experiences as a person becoming a new person. To talk about things aside from that would not be the point.
I’d wager that success in transition, in being a transgender person, involves a lot of simply being able to forget that you’re transgendered at all. It’s only natural to think so much about my gender identity — something which was burrowed away in my mind for so long and is finally on the surface and deserving of attention. But every second I spend thinking about how much this sucks is time I should spend living the life that was saved by my decision to embark on this change at all. Because that’s what somebody is telling you when they say they have to transition. You change so that you can keep on living. It seems pointless to me to keep living only thinking about that change.
There are people who think that the only thing I am is trans. Medical professionals have been eager to attribute every ailment I suffer from, mental or physical, to my transition. They’re always especially interested in the hormones I take, and are all to eager to blame those wonderful blue pills for everything from depression to stomach pains. I can understand why. When you’re a doctor and you’re presented with a person who is sick, you have to start looking for things that make them different from the Platonic ideal of the non-sick person. I don’t attribute any malice to the physician who thought my eczema would go away if I stopped indulging my desire for a body that fit my brain. He was just doing his job, as exhausting as that can be for me.
Equally exhausting is the conversation I’m required to have with every new acquaintance, friend, or colleague who googles me. I say the conversation because there’s usually very little variation. I feel like I’m doing a little good in the world by acting as an educator on transgender matters, but nobody likes answering the same questions all the time. When did you know? Is that your real name? Have you had the surgery? Do you think you should grow your hair out? Isn’t it bad for you to take these pills? Couldn’t you just be gay?
I mean, there’s a lot of other stuff about me that we can talk about, and most of those other subjects don’t involve picturing my genitals. But again, I understand. We’re curious people, and we want to hear each other’s stories. It’s inconceivable to new friends that the rest of my life could be anything other than backstory.
Even if every doctor in the world and every person I meet could be convinced to ignore my trans-ness, though, it’d still occupy my thoughts every time I have to deal with my body. I haven’t had sexual reassignment surgery yet, so there are daily tasks that serve as nothing but silent conversations with myself, conversations focused on how odd my body looks: how much it doesn’t make sense to me. How much it intrudes on my life. I can’t even buy a pair of jeans without having to consider the mess below my waist. As much as I try and convince myself that there’s more to me than my gender identity, my physical identity refutes that whenever it can.
I can’t control that, right now. But I can control this essay. I can make it about something else.
I’m Avery. I’m 24 years old. I have brown hair and blue eyes. I’m wrestling with the fact that I love one of my cats more than the others. That doesn’t feel fair. I’m trying to get up the courage to ride my unicycle in the city, even though I’m scared of getting hit by a car. I don’t like to wear a helmet because I’m vain about that brown hair I previously mentioned. I know I should work past that and save my life by wearing headgear because somebody has to be alive to take care of the kitties.
I’m transitioning away from a largely wheat-based diet, even though wheat is delicious, because it makes me too sleepy. So I’m trying to eat more fruit, but I’m finding that to be torture. Seriously, the first bite of an apple feels fine, but then it’s like there’s a thousand bites to go. Pizza seems easier, guys.
I haven’t finished a book in a while. I keep my apartment clean enough, although not clean enough for visitors. I like to be called mean names in intimate moments. I look good in hats (except helmets). I am never happy with anything I do, but I’m working on that. I’m not happy with my progress. I like washing dishes, but I forget that fact whenever I’m not washing dishes. I’m helping my girlfriend quit smoking.
Oh, and I used to be a boy. But that’s not important.
Illustration by Elizabeth Simins for The Bygone Bureau