Survival is Insufficient, Trying isn’t Enough

Oliver Moore’s experiences of transition and transphobia.

bathroom trans

I show a draft of a coming out letter to my friend. “Why do you want to fight everyone all the time?” he asks.

Another transwoman is murdered in the United States. Her name is Tamara Dominguez. Her killers will likely never be brought to justice. “This is an epidemic,” the trans community tells the media. I wonder if my gender will be respected at my funeral. I wonder if the epidemic will be over by then.

I start hormone replacement therapy. I have never been happier or more at home in my body. I think of all the time I spent hating it, hating myself, hating the nameless thing that was wrong with me throughout high school and wish I could show teenage me what I look like now. What I feel like now. That it does get better. A sea of strangers take it upon themselves to ferret out my “real gender.” Anxiety starts to swell up in my chest every time I catch a sideways glance or have to wait at a crossing. A group of men corner me in a public bathroom I make the mistake of trying to use. I stop leaving the house.

Eventually, I go see a counsellor. She tells me the name on my birth certificate is beautiful, and asks why I would ever want to change it. Partway through our session she asks “do you wish you weren’t transgender?”

Caitlyn Jenner comes out. A friend’s girlfriend asks if I want to write an article about it for her paper. I am the only trans person she knows.

I think about what it would be like to be stealth. (This is an improvement: I used to think about heading back into the closet.) To live out my life free of curious glances and unwanted questions. To be accepted for who I am without hesitation. I wonder what I’m going to look like when this winding journey of chemical modification has reached its peak. I look at real estate in cities on the other side of the world. I think about visibility. I think about hiding.

A friend tells me about a small child reading her as male in the supermarket. I research surgeons and bind my chest tighter.

At a restaurant, I ask where the bathroom is and am directed to the men’s. A small seed of warmth swells in my chest, until I remember. I wait until I get home to pee.

I have an incredibly supportive group of friends, but am lonelier than I have ever been. There is something in my experiences that they never fully grasp, something I can’t explain or name. Something that makes me quick to duck my head and avoid speaking, even now my voice is deeper. Someone suggests I spend more time with the queer community at large. I don’t tell them I’ve been avoiding doing so because even with my slowly-changing body and many-gendered dating history, I don’t feel “queer enough” to count. I wonder if I’d been more involved, would I have had the courage to start transitioning earlier. I wonder if I had known about this when I was younger, if I might have been able to find this happiness sooner. I wonder this a lot. I scour PDH syllabuses in search of the word “transgender.” In most states, I’m lucky if I find “lesbian” or “gay.” I worry about the confused kids out there. I hope they’re doing better than I was.

I complain about an email from my unsupportive grandfather. “He’s trying his best. He’ll come around.”

My friend is in a lecture on gender in education. A slide reads “Student A who previously identified as a boy, has confided in you that he is transgender and views himself as female.” “Everyone is trying so hard,” she says.

Why do I want to fight everyone all the time? I don’t. But this is a fight that needs to be fought, so I will until things get better. It isn’t enough to just try your best and make excuses for transphobia. It isn’t enough to say “Caitlyn” and pat yourself on the back for being inclusive. It isn’t enough to give your Facebook profile a rainbow filter and call that activism. It isn’t enough to share an article supporting gay marriage as though that is the biggest issue facing the queer community. Survival is insufficient. Trying isn’t enough.

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence.

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