I used to get angsty, but now I get angry

This post is part two of my response to misha the Duck of Doom, who commented on this post.

In the second half of her comment, misha wrote:

“Its easy. Why do so many of you lot {Angst transsexuals}
get in such a tizzy.
Frak, transitioning is dead easy.
So enjoy it

Also stop making it “the world is against me”
coz it isn’t.
TBH, most of the world doesn’t give a stuff & barely notices us.

So get a grip!
And don’t overcomplicate things.
It really is easy.”

I’ve come across various versions of this argument in different trans communities and in different parts of the net. It’s reflected also in the attitude of many cis people who decry identity politics, suggesting that we’d be more accepted if we piped down and stopped trying to claim special rights; after all, this is the 21st century and we’ve moved beyond the need to define people by particular traits they happen to have.

I don’t buy it.

The world is a very, very difficult place for many trans people. When I say “trans” here, I’m not just referring to transsexed people, but also to the wider spectrum and gender/sex diversity…cross-dressers, drag kings and queens, genderqueer individuals, transgender…what brings us together is that we’re all discriminated against for defying societal sex/gender norms in one way or another.

There are those, of course, who don’t have such a hard path. As misha says, transitioning (for those who transition) can be “dead easy” for some. In my case, for instance, I think I’ve been pretty lucky. Despite the fear, shame and guilt about being trans, I managed to come out in my teens, and generally had a good reaction and support from my friends and family. I managed to access most of the medical services I needed for free on the NHS, a process which took a mere six years with minimal incompetence on the part of Charing Cross. I’ve received relatively little direct discrimination: it’s very rare that I’m denied services or harassed on the street, and these occurrences have become increasingly uncommon as my appearance has changed. I’m very grateful for all of this.

I’m also highly privileged to have had such a smooth transition. It helps that I’m a white, abled, middle-class woman, but I’ve got lucky more generally. I had access to online support networks, meaning that I was able to come out to myself and understand my transness at a relatively young age. My supportive friends and parents mean that, unlike some of my trans friends, I didn’t get abused or kicked out of my home as a teenager or beaten up in the street. The fact I’ve always lived in a PCT that has a decent care pathway means I haven’t had to self-medicate, I haven’t had to wait over a decade to get through the medical system, and I haven’t had to threaten legal action to get treatment which is meant to be guaranteed on the NHS. The fact that I “pass” with ease means that my appearance doesn’t constantly mark me out as different.

This doesn’t mean that my path has always been easy. After all, I have been discriminated against, I have been harassed and insulted in the street, I have experienced extreme shame before coming to terms with myself, and I did have to put up with years and years on waiting lists whilst my body became broader and more hairy. I knew that until recently, it was perfectly legal to deny me access to shops and services.

Knowing that these experiences are pretty tame compared to what other trans people have to go through makes me pretty angry. If I shouldn’t have had to go through what I went through, then there’s absolutely no excusing what others experience. Trans people are likely to be discriminated against in every aspect of public life: when accessing services, in the workplace, during leisure activities and in the street. The attempted suicide rate is unusually high, and violence from others is common. Our identities are systematically erased in the media, which (when not portraying us as freaks) ensures that the only trans bodies that are ever seen are those of middle-aged, middle-class white trans women.

I have a good life and am generally happy these days. The positive benefits of transition have pretty much eliminated most of my angst. But I am so, so angry about the injustices committed in the world. I don’t want a complicated life, but I can’t stand by and let others suffer. I want to harness my rage, and use it to bring about positive social change. This is why I’m an activist, and it’s why I’m ready to take on the world.

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