Here, I Am

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I’m not going to lie, the last few months have felt the loneliest ever. Confusing as fuck too. The more I try and dig for answers, the more frustrated I get with the world. Well actually, not the world…frustrated with me. Ultimately, it’s not the world’s fault I’m like this. If I did have any issue with the world, I suppose it’d be because it doesn’t seem very tolerant of stuff like this. Whether I ignore this or try to figure it out, there is something which shouts up from the back of my mind, trying to make itself heard. I think it’s the answer to all of this. Turns out I kind of knew all along.

Anyone reading this from the start might have guessed straight away, so why not me? Maybe I’ve been avoiding it all this time? Living in denial, hoping there’d be another explanation for it all or that it’s just a phase. Throughout my life, there have been many phases. It comes and goes. Sometimes I’ve been able to ignore it for a while, other times I’ve had to deal with it – at least temporarily, anyway. But it never really goes away, does it? It’s always there. One of the reasons I’ve been so hesitant is probably due to the phases. Is this just another phase I’m going through, but in a more intense kind of way? If so, then I’ll snap out of it soon as it passes. It’s just a case of learning to manage the phases as they get more regular or have more impact? Ummm, wait. I think I’m slipping back into denial. Need to stay focused. Need to be realistic. Fuck me, this is difficult.

I’m starting to realise I’m running out of excuses and places to hide. Denial has helped me in the past but I don’t think it’s my friend any more – especially as there is a part of me that sees through its plan. Nope, there’s nowhere else I can hide and also time is running out for me. I mean, my entire life has been pretty turbulent and it’s been a real struggle to get to where I am today. Can I really go the same distance again? The truth catches up with us all eventually. I think shame, embarrassment and fear all played a part in keeping me one step ahead – so did not wanting to disappoint those around me. I think fear created by others hasn’t help either. Whether it’s coming from a very traditional family or living in a society where gender issues are still a relatively “new” thing. By that I don’t mean it’s only just started happening, I was referring to the increased awareness in recent times. Awareness is good but there’s still a long way to go. Last year, the UK voted to leave the EU, with the majority of campaigning (aka scaremongering) focusing on immigration and differences. There were no real facts, just the Stay and Leave parties trying to outdo each other by preying on generalisation and fear. There’s also the ongoing issue of equality between men and women. You’d think being in the 21st century, that was all sorted ages ago, but no. If, after all these years, the population is still hung up on basic stuff like race or gender (that shouldn’t even matter) then what chance have I got with this? Not just me, but anybody else who is in my kind of situation. Whilst society struggles to catch up on the fundamentals, we’re waging war on ourselves, trying to just find peace.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who have acknowledged their gender identity issues and gone on to transition and to turn their lives into what they should have been. I’ve always been inspired by those stories but never fully understood why. I used to think it was the bravery of facing up to something so life changing and permanent. Now I start to see that it’s also admiration. There are even stories of young kids telling their parents that they should have been born a girl or boy. Actually, one of our customers came in for a semi colon tattoo on her little finger. It was for her son, who (at the time) had recently come out as transgender. She explained about the struggles her son had faced and had chosen to have it on her little finger because as a young child he would always hold her little finger instead of her hand. As much as this job pays the bills, it’s more than that. Each one-off design (no matter how big or small) is a chance to play a part in a customer’s journey – which is why when she came to pay, I insisted that we did her tattoo for free. It was the least we could do. She was so overwhelmed by the gesture that she was in tears. At the time, I was just glad I could make a difference. Now I also realise that I could identify with her son’s journey. I knew it’s not an easy one to make, so I wanted to do something which let her know it wasn’t all bad…that they can still experience niceness along the way.

I can’t remember how but a while ago, I stumbled across this article in The Guardian about Paris Lees, who is Radio One’s first trans presenter. For me personally, she’s been one of the most inspiring people I’ve read about. She overcame a really difficult past to become a role model for those with gender identity disorders. She’s also become an activist for transgender rights. In an article for Stylist, she acknowledges there’s still a long way to go as nobody actually knows how many transgender people there are in the UK. With so many people afraid to come forward, it’s always going a bit of an unknown. Studies do suggest that 1% of the UK population are transgender or have a gender identity disorder. With increased awareness and thanks to more people in the media like Paris stepping forward, that figure could rise. I hope so. Nobody deserves to live in fear or in the shadows. We are all people and we all deserve the same right to exist.

Paris Lees
Paris Lees, image via The Stylist

Reading about Paris was incredibly inspiring. Knowing somebody can rise up and become the person they were meant to be is awesome – especially given the challenges life throws at us every day. As mentioned above, everybody’s story has been inspirational. I have nothing but respect for everyone who has had to deal with something as big as this. These people have made a choice to address the mismatch by making the ultimate commitment: to be themselves. Each story also offers hope and helps to raise awareness. It’s not a trend or a phase that people go through. Though my life is so different to Paris’ or to anybody else’s, I can identify with everything that’s been said. Regardless of whether they’re trans women or trans men, the feelings are the same. It helps me to understand that gender dysphoria is part of everybody’s lives – it’s part of society and isn’t going back into hiding. The same goes for me too: no more running or hiding, no more denial…and no more feeling incomplete. I’m pretty sure I have gender dysphoria and I’m pretty sure it’s not going anywhere.

You can find out more about Paris here.

Featured image: created by me

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