Thank you all of you who commented on my hair in my last post. Some very useful thoughts there, largely contradicting other views on it elsewhere. Contradiction is actually helpful in this case. Overall, I'll go with blogger views and keep this shorter style for certain occasions.
Today I want to talk about courage.
Obviously, we're living in somewhat frightening times with a worldwide pandemic that's like nothing else that's happened in our lifetimes and it takes courage to confront it, and to confront irresponsible attitudes towards it. Be brave enough to protect yourself and your relatives, friends and neighbours despite pressure from aggressive, exploitative or irresponsible people out there.
More than this, though, I really wanted to talk about the courage to be ourselves. Today (May 17th) is, after all, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The fact that there is need for such a day suggests there is a way to go before we can live tranquilly.
This week I was reminiscing on the decade that's passed since I first hit the streets as Sue and realising how long it took me to get in touch with other trans people and services, and wishing I'd had the courage earlier in life. It's a wish that most trans people express. Although, to be fair to us here, it takes practical know-how, too, so the advent of the internet has made a giant improvement in being able to connect with others and get help and advice.
In my last post I talked about coming out to family. That takes a great deal of courage.
There are those trans people who have the courage to transition fully, with difficult surgery. And those who have the courage to start transition but then realise that it's not right for them after all and stop or turn around. All that takes guts. But how many trans friends and contacts over the years have said to me how much they'd love to go out with me and my friends? Yet lacked the courage.
Just to illustrate, one girl came to my home five times overall to dress and learn about makeup. She'd been to dressing services, too. And looked good. No matter how much she said she wanted to go out into the bright lights of the big city, I knew after a point that she never would. She had reached the limits of her courage. The same goes for another trans woman I know who is out to her partner and is very pretty (she has her own hair, too!) but, despite being a stage performer by trade, doesn't have the courage to go out dressed.
One step on are those who go out, but only to certain clubs or the gay district, often in a faraway city to avoid discovery in their home town. Their courage is tremendous but has plateaued there so, although I suspect they'd like to go further, they've reached their limits.
I don't know how to encourage courage - I'd probably make a useless military officer - so I guess it's something we each have to choose to adopt. We can be as confident as we like with familiar things, but still lack courage when faced with something we have never done before.
Going out in public or coming out as the opposite gender is a big deal, I will not downplay that. The hostility or ridicule we encounter is rare so is largely imagined. As is the fear of discovery. A girlfriend of mine who unexpectedly happened to be at the station when I took a train as Sue just looked right through me - she didn't even spot the TGirl let alone the 'guy' she knew! People are distracted with their own thoughts and just see what they think they see. So the fears are often in our own mind and don't reflect reality.
This irrational fear can make us do strange and unsuitable things. As I mentioned in my last post, how many trans people lie to their partners about where they are? They're not working late or at the match as they said but are out at a trans club. Yet this fear of what their partner might think makes them tell no end of lies, which in the end is what really strains the relationship. Not just the lying, but the fact that you thought your partner was dumb enough to fall for it. That's got to hurt them. And all this through unfounded fear, or at least fear based on unknowns.
I do confess I am actually tired of the courage it takes to confront life sometimes. It wears you out. As well as the usual troubles we all face in life, we trans people have the extra fear of rejection, abuse and bigotry, and the uncertainty of how to incorporate our transness into our daily lives. We face more violence, criticism and opposition than other sections of society, certainly. Whilst ideally we should neither be intimidated by the thought of that nor give in to unfounded fears, let's face it, it takes a lot of guts to be ourselves in a world that only partially accepts our existence and where some sections of society or some countries refuse to let us live peacefully. The injustice of our position grates with me a lot.
I feel responsible for doing something about the fact that the family I come from are aggressively hostile to all LGBT+ people. I am not looking forward to tackling them but I feel I owe it to my community of fellow trans people to do so myself because no one is so closely connected with my bigoted family than I am. I will be honest and state that I am scared of the fights ahead as I have grown tired of conflict and confrontation, but my courage is now called on in that field. As if there wasn't enough difficulty to tackle elsewhere. One problem at a time, though.
I can't teach you to be courageous. I don't know how to teach you. Maybe there are motivators or psychologists or leaders who can. But acknowledging that you are transgender, choosing to live as transgender in some way, coming out as transgender and fighting for transgender life in whatever way are all courageous acts. Let's celebrate, support, encourage and salute each others' courage. And thanks to governments and allies that do have the courage to offer support, especially on days like today.