My transgender life: I’ve experienced a thousand times more love and acceptance than hate

transgender getty creative 300x225 My transgender life: I’ve experienced a thousand times more love and acceptance than hate

(Getty Creative)

How on earth do I start this? I wanted to write a blog about being a twenty-something, well-traveled graduate trying to start a life in London. I’m getting by on minimum wage shifts until I’ve squeezed in enough internships to beat the classic ‘you haven’t got the experience/how can I gain experience without an opportunity to gain experience?’ paradox. I also happen to be transgender. There, that got your attention.

However, I fear this is all going to be somewhat disappointing. The tricky thing is that this second fact feels like a sidenote, a detail. Not because I’m under the illusion that it’s a common way of being. It is simply the reality. I’ve always known and in this way it’s very different from coping with a disease or undertaking an epic ocean voyage. I’m not on a journey, I’m just being me. How am I supposed to describe that?

Even the word ‘transgender’ feels like an awkward euphemism, designed for third-parties. I’ll grant you (grudgingly) that language is a useful tool. However, if someone was awarding honours prizes for words, wherein vast chasms exist between their strings of letters and the ‘thing’ they are intended to ‘mean’, I’d fit ‘transgender’ for a Tom Ford special because it deserves a knighthood.

People ask, what does it feel like to have the world see you as a girl when you feel like a boy? Well, I reply, how does it feel to be seen as and feel like a girl (or boy) at the same time? The latter is reality for most people but I have no idea what it feels like. Cue the confused looks all round. As a preternaturally awkward English person at this point I usually feel the proper thing to do would be to apologise for making a fuss and start talking about the weather.

I guess the burden of proof does lie with the exception but that doesn’t mean I have answers. It must sound like I’m being deliberately obtuse, or wanting my life to seem less tragic and more like a quasi-Matrix adventure starring me as a gender-ninja. Really though, I’m trying to point out how redundant this broad line of questioning is without causing upset. We transfolk often get accused of being hypersensitive but more often than not I find myself apologising for traumatising others, having cheerfully bulldozed their cosy gender stereotypes.

Broadly, I suppose, my experience of gender is physically troublesome but show me a person completely happy with their body and I’ll eat one of my fetching snap-back caps. Rest assured that my reality does not come complete with extra tragedy and turmoil. Those things could have arisen, and do for many, transgender or otherwise, but I have been lucky enough to live a happy and successful life so far.

In fact, as things stand, I’m more likely to see being transgender as a slightly bizarre privilege. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted or the easily-offended. In fact, it’s made me completely reevaluate the way I deal with offence. Growing a thick skin is an invaluable life lesson for anyone, plus it really annoys the haters.

Granted, my optimistic outlook may take the odd arrow to the knee, depending on how often I hear ‘miss’ at the pub or how the bike mechanic reads me as we’re weighing up various slick tire options for my rear wheel. But, on balance, it has been an amazing ride.

Several months after transitioning socially, I’ve experienced a thousand times more explicit love and acceptance than hate and rejection. If I could go back in time to be born biologically male, I would politely refuse. Then, I would carry on whatever lively conversation I was having about gender being a spectrum followed by a little day-dream about how bushy a moustache I might eventually grow. My life is basically an extended epic Guinness advert.

There was a difficult time in my early twenties. I discovered the term ‘transgender’ and realised that if society had a word for this way I had felt my entire life, then the time had come to deal. A terrifying gauntlet had been thrown but I trusted that incredible rewards lay ahead if I was brave enough to pursue them. Learning to trust my instinct to this extent has perhaps been the most rewarding aspect of transition so far, at least while I’m yet to experience the physical affirmation of my way over-due male puberty.

After that initial revelation, I experienced two weeks of utter elation (shared with precisely no one), followed by months of psychological paralysis every time I tried to figure out how to move forward. I would not want to go through that again, but a few years on I’ve experienced a process of inner strengthening and understanding that the world’s finest therapists – and I’d wager, the purest recreational drugs – could never facilitate.

I’ve had to fight to know myself and feel present in the world, rather than living trapped behind a pane of frosted glass otherwise known as my assigned-at-birth gender. The fruits of that labour are indeed sweet. My days and encounters feel full of potential, chats are absolutely worth having, gestures are more authentic and thoughts unshackled by a self-policing inner voice. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to all and sundry if this makes me an incredible bore, but luckily I’m not usually this gushy. Lately I’ve been smiling a lot, and hopefully that will suffice as an answer to most of those mind-bending ‘what does gender feel like’ questions.

I’m not sure what tone I’ve set with this introduction, but from here on in, this blog is intended as the diary of a transgender life that, like most others, is nothing like what you’ve seen on TV or read about in the tabloids. I hope you’ll check in again.

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  • David Thompson

    Transgender marketing nonsense, i am a boy but feel like a girl or tomorrow ,i am a girl dressed in pink & feel like a boy with true blue!Who is Out to lunch or feels the crunch before i punch!

  • bobbellinhell

    There is more acceptance for us than media reports would lead one to believe. I hope things continue that way for you.

  • Jennie Rigg

    Suspect it might be slightly different for those transitioning the other way, or actually, for every single individual, but I am glad you are finding things easier than scare stories would have us believe.

    And it’s nice to see you got one nice comment before the idiotic troll weighed in.

  • Ellis Ball

    Sometimes it’s great just to see a well written blog post. You probably know this, but you are a really good writer!

  • Alex Pilcher

    Thanks for sharing your story Ben. I look forward to future posts. I’m astonished by the parallels with my own experience. I’m transitioning in the other direction and, sadly, I waited until a much older age before ‘trusting my instincts’. But, even with those differences, so many of your words could just as fittingly describe my feelings over the last five months. I hope things continue going well … for both of us!

  • Dave Prince

    “Lately I’ve been smiling a lot” – That’s what really matters in the end; glad to hear it.

  • LeonardSkinnard

    Dear god…

  • Alice

    Nicely written :) I’ve had many of the same experiences, though in the opposite direction. I hope things continue to go well for you :)

  • Susane Timothy

    Hi David Thompson. As the Sex Pistols said ‘you’ll always find me out to lunch.’ I’m not sure I see your point. It’s a well written article about a persons experience and it’s one that I empathise with, being transgender myself. And old enough to remember when people were open to new ideas.

  • Pingback: My transgender life: ‘Social transition is scarier than jabbing a needle in your thigh every fortnight’ | Ben Smith | Independent Editor's choice Blogs

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