Authenticity tells lies

**Edited for TDOV – 31.03.2017**

Today, 31st March, it is Transgender Day of Visibility. Here I am, trying to be visible. I am trying so hard to live my authentic life right now, to live fully and honestly as myself. Yet every step I find myself telling lies. Not malicious, not “big” lies. But lies nonetheless.

I find myself coming out as a transgender man, asking for male pronouns and male privilege. But I know that I am not really male. Some days I feel more male, and most of the time I am happy to pass as male, but I am not and I don’t think I ever will be.

However, I find myself answering the questions of “did you always know you were a man?”, “do you feel like a man now?”, “when will you have a beard/low voice?”, with the untruths that I always knew in some way, yes I do, and I won’t ever have a beard or low voice due to not taking hormones. I utter lies when I say that I’m devastated by this, when in fact I’m upset some days, horrified others, but mostly fine with it. I didn’t ever imagine I would be able to take hormones, so it is no real loss. What I lament is that I won’t ever fit society’s vision of a man without hormones, so I won’t be recognised as “not a woman”.

I come out again and again, I remind people that it’s “he”, not “she”. It fits better, but it’s not my authentic self. It’s not really me. I come out, and by doing so I hide myself again because I am not declaring my true identity.

There are few places I can truly be myself, and those are queer places, not gay spaces, not straight spaces, but those spaces that welcome those of us who fall between the cracks. The “real” world, the world of work and bills and taxes, it has no place for me as a non binary person. There is no “NB” box. There is no Mx option on most forms.

I am doing my best every day to live authentically and yet I feel like I fail at each hurdle, though not for lack of trying. I wonder how to continue, when every day is so exhausting yet I am still telling lies, to a degree. I wonder how authentic I can really be, without full honesty. And I wonder how to change the world so my true identity has a space.

It is transgender day of visibility, yet so many of us cannot be visible because the world will not see us.

Sometimes coming out doesn’t mean being true to yourself, but true to the idea of what people expect you to be. Sometimes coming out means agreeing you feel trapped in the wrong body, because that is easier than trying to explain you are happy with the body you have and it is not “wrong”. Sometimes coming out means still having to tell lies, to appease the fears of others, to sweep past their fear of the unknown. Sometimes, Authenticity tells lies.



All Men (and Women) Are Equal

This week Jenni Murray of radio 4 was given a huge platform, in The Sunday Times, with which she was allowed to publicly proclaim that transgender woman are not “real women”. She wrote “Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood? It takes more than a sex change and makeup”.

And yes, a man cannot lay claim to womanhood, however a trans woman IS NOT AND NEVER WAS A MAN. That is the very crux of this matter, the false belief of the cisgender world that trans people somehow “become” their gender, that they come to a point where they suddenly change, from man to woman, from woman to man. Yet that is just not the case.

A transgender person’s sense of their gender identity is just as innate and real as anybody else’s. Yes, a trans woman’s experience of womanhood will be different to yours, Jenni Murray. But so will every other woman’s. The experience of a woman in the UK is different to that of a woman in India, or China. The experience of a white woman is different to that of a black woman. You would never say that they are not real women, so why say that about a trans women simply because her experience differs from yours?

Of course, we are socialised according to our designated gender. I have been socialised as a girl and a woman. I have experienced misogyny, sexism, I’ve suffered verbal and sexual assault because of my perceived womanhood. And that is exactly what it is, perceived.

Just because you view someone as a woman or a man, it doesn’t mean that is who they are, it is simply how you perceive them. The fact that I was raise as a woman is not an indicator of my gender, my parents didn’t know my gender because I wasn’t able to articulate it to myself, let alone to other people. But my ability to communicate my gender does mean that it is not real.

So, Jenni Murray, and anyone else who says that trans people aren’t not “real” men or women. Just because I wasn’t born with a body that you deem acceptable for my gender, it does not mean my gender is less important, that my experience is less real. In fact, how about this….Trans people are MORE of a woman, or a man, than their cisgender counterparts. Because trans people spend their entire lives fighting to be recognised as their gender. They undergo humiliating tests and invasive questioning to be allowed to transition. They spend hours correcting your misgendering, fighting for gender confirmation treatment, for the right name of their paperwork.

Trans people’s experiences are valid. And just because they are not the same as yours (Jenni Murray), it does not mean they are not “real” or authentic, it doesn’t mean that they are less worthy of the position of woman or man or human. After all, we are joined in our experiences as humans, and separated in our experiences as individuals. That is all there is to it.