The last few weeks have been tough. I live with a chronic illness, a genetic liver disease called alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency which has led to cirrhosis of the liver. It doesn’t mean too much, I don’t take medication I just have to have check ups. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke and I have to be careful with medications, but none of those have really ever bothered me.
However, the one thing it will now affect is my choices in transitioning. I will most likely not be able to take testosterone to masculinise myself – the risks are high and I have to weigh that up. Risks of liver cancer aren’t small, is it worth it to see a few changes? It was not something I thought about really, taking hormones. It wasn’t on my radar as there are only a few things I every considered wanting to change – my voice and my body shape are what make me most dysphoric. I thought I would be able to work out to make myself look more masculine, I thought my voice wouldn’t be too big a give away.
Yet I feel less and less like myself and less and less able to change that. I have no choice, it has been taken away from me. This is the first time in my life I have grieved for the life I would lead if I were physically well, the things I would do and the person I would be without alpha 1. I didn’t miss drinking, or smoking. I didn’t miss nights out. But now I mourn the person I cannot be. Every man is a taunt of who I could be. Every “ladies” directed to me is a reminder of the body that betrays me. I feel the stab of jealousy for signs of masculinity that I won’t have; well fitting suits and strong shoulders. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it is that I hate being feminised and viewed as a woman so much.
I’ve said previously that I had hoped my surgery would somehow change the way people view me, that it would lessen the misgendering. It hasn’t, and every day is an uphill battle to be taken seriously as a non-woman. As a “not your darling”. As a “mate”, not “pet”. Nothing seems to change that and I wonder constantly whether hormones would make a difference.
I have fought and fought for the ideal that our outward appearance should not reflect our gender – that my gender isn’t reliant on the body that people perceive me to have or how they match that to pronouns. And I truly do believe that. I believe that my non binary gender is not dependent on me having a sexless body. I believe non binary people can be femme and masculine and both and neither. But for me it is becoming more clear what is means to me to be viewed as more male or more female. I feel comfortable moving in male spaces, I feel comfortable being feminine. But the world is not comfortable with that. They cannot cope with a man who is feminine and they cannot cope with a non binary person who is masculine. There are days when it doesn’t seem worth it, when it feels like no ground will ever be taken.
Sometimes standing on the parapet is terrifying, one slip and the ground will swallow you. Sometimes it means standing above everybody, neck out. Sometimes it means getting shot down in flames. But no matter what, it means I have to explain constantly why I am there.
Nearly 30 years of living with a chronic illness has never stopped me, until now when it may just stop me being. Full stop.