Kindle Notes & Highlights
by Mia Violet
Read between November 10 - November 18, 2020
if you’re browsing this introduction because you’ve been wondering if you yourself are trans enough to be transgender, then I’m going to give you a big spoiler right now: yes, you are. Despite what you’ve heard, there are no rigid criteria of clichés that you have to exhibit or a measured level of misery that you need to profess to feel first. Likewise, you don’t have to detest your body or weep at the sight of your genitals. To be transgender all you need is to have an inkling that the gender on your birth certificate is not quite right. That’s it.
When most of us begin our own transition, making the change from one gendered presentation to another, we have no idea if it’s going to work out. We just know that we have to try.
I called them friends, but they didn’t know who I truly was – I never felt comfortable enough to show them. Instead, I would sit with them and force myself to chuckle along to repulsive jokes, while pretending that I was at ease. It was survival, not friendship.
I wanted to be back in the closet, safe in my fantasies of transition, the ones propped up on hope and optimism where anything was possible. Coming out had brought with it a crushing sense of guilt for saddling somebody else with my truth, as well as establishing the grim reality of how far away transition really was.
Coming out at any age can be a horror show, and all it takes is a lapse in confidence or a cruel response from a family member to send you running right back inside the closet. A friend once grimly joked with me that we trans people often have multiple coming out stories, because it’s so hard to make the first attempt stick.
When I had given up my identity of being a trans girl, I likewise lost my motivation for everything else in my life.
Being the funny person is an easy part to play when you hate yourself, because it feels like your whole life is a joke written by somebody else.
Not only will HRT work at any age, but looking like you’re cis is certainly not the root of happiness and not the reason to transition. The reason to transition is to be yourself, to find happiness in the freedom to be open and honest. That can happen at any age, and it’s never too late.
When I hear adults say they wish they’d known they were trans as a child or young teen, I can’t help but feel conflicted. If you’re a trans teen who is tragically unlucky enough to be surrounded by an unsupportive family, it can be impossible to transition. Coming out in that situation could even destroy the safety net they have, which is how trans youth end up homeless and living in poverty. There’s stability in transitioning later, which I think is often overlooked in favour of assuming the best-case scenario has already flown by unutilised.
Dysphoria can also lurk in the background of your life, draining all colour out of your world and dulling your emotions. It comes from having to live a life of suppression and compromise.
Dysphoria can become your status quo so effortlessly, it’s difficult to discern when you’re having a normal reaction to something or if your entire outlook has become warped.
A common effect of dysphoria is that it places a cap on your emotions and tricks you into confusing contentedness for happiness. It tells you that being numb and dissatisfied with everything is the normal way to be.
By suddenly defining your life around something easily sold as a traditionally masculine pursuit, there’s the futile expectation that perhaps it will purge away these unwanted thoughts.
While still laid in bed, I stretched my arms into the air and danced my dainty fingers across the morning sunbeams. My nails were still highlighted, shiny and black. I felt peaceful. The familiar pressure that had been stalking me for years wasn’t as distracting as usual. Although I didn’t realise it, this was my taste of what it was like to beat back dysphoria. In trans circles this feeling is sometimes called gender euphoria.
Often the reactions of those around us carry immense importance, especially if we’re already riddled with guilt for shaking up our presentation or pronouns. It’s very easy to think that we don’t deserve this happiness, that maintaining current relationships is more important. As trans people it’s common to feel like a burden on those around us early on. We shouldn’t. I maintain that transition is not selfish but is in fact a beautiful process of self-love and exploration. But that’s a message which is presented virtually nowhere.
I believed I was the very definition of ‘not trans enough’, someone just outside of eligibility. However, I reserved that label for myself alone. I knew I would never doubt or question anybody else who announced themselves as transgender but I was measuring myself against severely firm standards and criteria.
Once I’d unlocked that realisation, it illuminated what I’d been doing this whole time: protecting other people. I had stayed closeted and quiet, not because I was afraid of what they’d say to me but because of how it would make them feel. I detested the idea of making people uncomfortable.
I’d never been longing to become a girl, I’d been struggling with pretending to be a boy.
I walked past more and more people and it really started to sink in that all the hyperbole I had internalised about my appearance being scandalous was an anxious exaggeration. In reality, the average person just didn’t care. Nobody was treating me any differently and nobody was gawking at me. Everyone was busy just hanging out or doing their own thing. It made me feel free and relaxed in a way I couldn’t remember feeling before.
That’s when it clicked: I shouldn’t care if strangers saw me as trans, a woman, or a man, either now or in the future. Trying to ‘pass’ had pointlessly complicated my life with little pay-off. By just being myself at the convention and knowing that my female gender was mine alone to define, I was truly and utterly happy.
With Holly’s help I realised that I had been picturing my coming out as an imbalanced exchange, a game rigged against me and doomed to fail. I’d been playing scenarios where I was practically asking their permission and wincing in preparation for the backlash. But I was an adult, engaging in a sensitive conversation with two other adults. I wasn’t responsible for their reaction and I wouldn’t be asking for permission either, I’d be informing them of the truth.
It’s incredibly rude to ask a trans person about what they used to be called, or to tell anybody else about it if you already know. Our old names are more than simply what we used to go by. They can often become representative of our years of pain and denial, or all the time spent trying to fit somebody else’s idea of us. Otherwise, they can be a reminder of the people in our lives who may disrespectfully insist on still using that name.
only trans people genuinely consider transition, because we’re the only ones who still think it sounds exciting and enticing despite all the side-effects.
I don’t think I have to point it out, but it’s a fairly horrible thing to do to tell any person that they have to hide themselves to preserve the ignorant bliss of their family. Even if we trans people were mind-shatteringly scandalous, it would hardly be fair to tell us to maintain a forced facade just in case we accidentally hurt someone by existing.
In the latest incarnation of my blog I wrote a new entry specifically declaring that my goal for the year was to be happy. That was it. It was a deliberately vague aspiration but was also simple and encompassing – the only thing I wanted to achieve.
It was liberating to realise that despite all the hate in the media, so many people didn’t engage with that toxicity because they didn’t believe it. I looked blatantly trans, but nobody I encountered thought any less of me for it.
I specifically wanted to move away from lofty ambitions and just accept who I already was, with a few tweaks here and there. I soon learnt there was a word for this type of outlook: self-love. Unlike a lot of self-help books, those centred on self-love encouraged the belief that you didn’t need a radical personality shift or a new, strict, disciplined routine to be fulfilled; you were already pretty damn perfect to begin with and just needed to learn to acknowledge that.
My transition itself already felt like the ultimate form of self-love – by definition, I was embracing what felt natural to me and shedding the uncomfortable parts of myself I had acquired through survival and fear.
But my transition had never really been about hormones, clothes, or my body; it had been about that feeling deep in my gut, the one that had reminded me that so much of my life didn’t feel right; the same part of me that had told me I wasn’t trans enough, wasn’t woman enough, wasn’t loud enough, and just wasn’t good enough.