It’s difficult being a transwoman in a gender normative heterosexist society. I’ve been living fulltime, as myself, presenting as a woman, my proper gender identity, for a little over 2 years now. And every day, it’s the same bullshit struggle: Either trans is everything, or trans is nothing.
At work, several of the girls had no clue I am a transwoman until I told them. And in a company of 600, every now and then I still get asked by other girl coworkers from building 2 if I want to get pregnant and have kids or not. The topic of trans in those cases are clearly invisible.
But then I go to gay or transgender clubs, where being trans and queer is everything. How queer is too queer, how queer is too much?
I recently went on a business trip in Shanghai. There are millions of dollars invested in these contracts and meetings, and I was the engineer who was in charge of 2 subsystems and important portions of the conference workshop.
To the native Chinese in Shanghai, I was window dressing, sent on my company’s behalf to provide a gender ratio counterpunch: 3 men to that of 1 woman. Most of the attendees in the past were much older and all men, and I clearly provided fresh insight as an early 30’s woman engineer who is fluent in Chinese Mandarin.
The bosses loved my contribution, professionally and socially at the meetings.
But to achieve those contributions? I had to pass as a woman, be seen for who I am.
Except, not all of me could be seen. I knew that the components everyone wanted to see were the stereotypical conformist parts that are traditionally accepted by mainstream society. I fit the mold, I am a good representation of my company.
But what if I was a less passable, less attractive transwoman? Would I still have gotten this chance despite being fluent in Mandarin and graduating from one of the best engineering universities in the nation?
I was invisible on this trip to Shanghai, just long enough for me to crave visibility. Where I could be seen. Being around 3 other coworkers who happened to be men and engineers was a bit overwhelming. I needed some girl intimacy, some close conversation and bonding. I needed someone to talk to and connect with….and being new with this gender identity didn’t help any.
As my good friend noted:
” You have spent a couple of weeks where trans is nothing, where that part of you is invisible.
It makes sense that you need to be able to have somewhere where trans is something, visible and real.
We all need to be seen, even the parts of us that mainstreamers don’t quite get.
But in being yourself, you are starting to deal with the ambiguity and tensions of a woman’s life without the drug of jock play to try and get the world back into nice black and white focus, like you used to.”
I had worked so hard to pass in the last 2 years. Shopping, finding my image, working on myself to be presentable as a woman, to be seen as a woman.
And now I started my first job ever at an aerospace company as a girl, what happened? I blended in so well that I felt invisible. I actually found myself in a taxi at 11pm at night going to a gay club in the foreign city of Shanghai. Because over there, I knew, trans would be everything.
Most mainstream people fail to understand just how complicated gender is…..they just take their assigned roles and gender identities for granted, and why not? Most of those assigned genders are correctly done.
Us trans folks? We face shit, stigma, labels, our whole lives. We fight alongside mainstream society, sometimes against ourselves, contributing to the 401k and trust funds of shame. We fill our vaults full of shame, guilt and denial.
We don’t want to be seen as sick, as freaks, as the smelly homeless tranny with vomit and feces on their clothes asking for acceptance.
So we fight ourselves.
At least until we face death square in the eyes, and can no longer run from ourselves anymore.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to transition and live out successful lives still face enormous struggle. Despite visually and physically fitting in to society, simple triggers can easily peel back the thin crust of stability and unearth the petroleum crude running underneath our feet.
The stench of the cesspool of shame, of accumulated insults and stigma always triggers the ego to remind us of our inadequacies: you’re a fraud. You’re a freak. You’re better off living as a guy. What’s the matter with you?”
I used to fight this swamp, this inner critic. This hell from my past. I used to want the benefits of being a woman while simultaneously desiring the good times of my past. I now realize that is foolish and impossible to achieve. To get something, to gain in life, we have to pay a price, there are inevitable losses to be incurred while we accrue in other areas.
Women want everything. And we can. But just not all at the same time.
I can’t have the advantages and benefits of being a woman without relinquishing those of being a man.
And surrendering that man privilege was hard.
But it was necessary.
For me to be comfortable in my new skin, my true skin, I had to surrender what I knew wasn’t true to my heart and embrace the path God, the universe, or what some call my Mother in the Sky chose for me.
And to overcome my triggers and shame, I had to explore the depths of my hell. I had to search and become familiar with every corner of the cesspool swamp: the swamp filled with doubt, fear, shame, self-loathing, and stigma.
I had to claw my way through miles of shit before I could come out clean and beautiful on the other side.
I’m still crawling and exploring these days. I reckon I’ll never be finished.
But now I have the wisdom to put on a scuba suit, I know where the showers are, and I know I don’t need to panic.
I’m learning to love myself, and who I am, and I’m loving what I’m becoming: a woman who is not only pretty on the outside, but the inside as well.