This Closet’s Getting A Bit Uncomfortable
On the day you should be the most visible…you could never feel less so.
For this Transgender Day of Visibility, I’m going to do something different.
I could gawk about how being seven months on estrogen has massively improved my confidence, my mood and, let’s be honest, my appearance – and believe you me, I do, quite often…but not this year.
I’m going to try and explain what it’s like to transition…while somehow still in the closet. If it sounds paradoxical, allow me to explain.
Transitioning, While Also Not Transitioning
I’ve known I was trans since primary school. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of how I discovered it, but in short I know who I am, and that’s that. And yet, somehow in spite of this patently obvious fact of life, and my working on coming out since the age of fourteen…I’ve never actually done it.
Not fully, anyway. There’s never really been a ‘right time’. My family back down south never accepted me, so that was clearly a no-go. The people I live with now, they’d vilify me (and my landlord would evict me…yeah, it’s illegal, but it wouldn’t stop him).
And here I stand, all of 22, barely a quarter-way through my life (if current lifespan projections are to be believed)…resigned to never living as my true self.
At twenty-flipping-two years old, there’s never been a right time for me to come out, and I genuinely feel like I’ve wasted my whole life as a ‘boy’ (and since 2015 a ‘man’).
Navigating the Mind of a Defeatist
And don’t get me wrong, it’s hard, for so many reasons. For one, it makes it all the more difficult to watch all your trans friends thriving and living their lives as themselves. Pretty much every friend I have who is trans, has gotten somewhere in their life. Getting their surgeries. For the more popular ones, using their platform to speak out about issues that affect LGBT people. All things you hoped to have achieved by now. And yet, despite the fact you’re really, truly, unequivocally happy for them, that happiness is tainted with a deep sense of jealousy, and why wouldn’t it? People are living their lives the way you want to, but you’re not able to, for some reason or another.
Second, it makes the eventuality of coming out even harder, however distant it may be, because the longer you leave it, the less of your life you’ll be able to live, as yourself. In my case, I’m still in my early 20s, and I still feel I’ve left it too late to be fully out, because for all I know, it’s going to make no difference either way and I’d still be ‘him’ to everyone around me. With that said, it’s difficult, or perhaps odd, to hear people calling me by my own name, or using “she” around me, because I’m so used to being deadnamed.
And if I’m honest, it’s the main reason I genuinely consider detransitioning, on the regular. Wouldn’t it be so much easier just to keep this mask on? You’ve kept it on for 22 years, no need to stop now. After all, you won’t have to deal with bureaucratic name-change and gender-recognition processes, having to constantly prove who you are and, of course, transphobia rearing its ugly head every minute of every day. (Who cares that this would force you to pretend to be someone else, massively impacting your mental health and dragging you closer to rock bottom than you could imagine possible?)
I’ve Now Become My Own Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Another reason it’s so hard to be in the closet for so long, and yet somehow a direct consequence of being in there: you end up feeling like you’re just “not trans enough”, like you’re siphoning resources away from people who actually deserve them. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, I honestly can’t help but feel like a “fake trans”. Like…you know how everyone talks about ‘transtrenders’, cis people that pretend to be trans because it’s “in fashion”? (It’s not, but…) Yeah, that’s how I feel about myself. Despite knowing ‘transtrenders’ don’t exist (last I checked, being trans was a source of ridicule from others rather than a fashion trend), and knowing good and well that I’m about as trans as it’s possible to be…this is how I see myself.
And my mind, in all its self-deprecating and defeatist glory, complies: why, pray tell, did Charing Cross GIC refuse to help me? For the exact reason above: I hadn’t been ‘out’ socially for at least a year, my name was still unchanged from birth, I still “wasn’t presenting in a female role”, whatever that means. No regard to any mitigating or extenuating circumstances that caused me to still be in the closet, just that I was still in there.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: because you’re not out, they think you’re never going to come out and so don’t deserve their help, and you end up never coming out because you don’t think you deserve their help, so they don’t give you any help. A catch-22 if ever I heard one. Screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t.
Of course, when you’re in the closet, regardless of how long you spend in there, you’re able to brood on things that shouldn’t even matter. From a personal standpoint, even the smallest of things these days can give me the worst of dysphoria – including how big my teeth are, the size of my hands, my skin tone and the way I walk. Just yesterday I had a two-hour crying fit over how my voice makes me sound like a rage-quitting twelve-year-old boy. (No joke.)
These things, trivial by all accounts, aren’t even worth worrying about and yet I don’t get the chance to actually address these issues by living my life the way it should be, and coming to terms with them in that way – research shows dysphoria, in all its forms, can be mitigated just by living as your identified gender – and as this option has never been available to me, of course these things would hurt more than they otherwise would.
Surely There’s a Way Out of This Mess…Right?
I always tell myself “it’ll happen soon”. I always have. And right now, “soon” is this coming September, when I move out and start uni. As me. Not him. Will I stick to it? I damn well hope so, hence I’m hoping to live with only LGBT people, who would be more understanding (obviously), and give me that “kick up the arse” (as we say in the south of England) whenever I should need it.
And I know, I know, you’re just as valid in the closet as you would be if you were out. I know this. But it would help a bunch if there had actually been an opportunity to come out at an earlier stage, rather than live life as this guy…effectively avoiding the issues above (and rendering this entire article moot).
Above all, though, on the day I, a trans person, should feel the most visible, I have never felt more hidden.
I guess the feeling is, how can you celebrate “visibility” when you’re not even visible?