My Tranifestation: New Name, New Skin, New Emotions.

2023 was a good ’un.

Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen
7 min readDec 27, 2023


Christmas is gathering up its skirts once again to barge its way into everyone’s lives, and I find myself in a good place this year.

I’m in the best shape spiritually, physically and financially than I have been since my tail-between-my-legs return from Asia four years ago. I have a peaceful homelife largely unaffected by the derangement the festive season stirs in people. 2023 was a very good year. I got my groove back in unprecedented ways and I also found my signature perfume: White Amber by Next.

I find that I am present in my body more. I’m still haunted by moments of Imposter Syndrome and the sudden aggrandizements and depreciations of self-worth that living the trans life entails. But I’m in a better place to deal with these fluctuations in character. I’m learning how to take the bull by the horns rather than letting it rampage through my innards like goddess-knows-what. What a difference a year makes.

On the 12th of December just gone, I celebrated my first tranniversary.

I finally fixed a date after a few attempts to establish one. The 12th marked the attaining of my Gender Recognition Certificate, and a major turning point in my life. Now if that isn’t a tranniversary darling, I don’t know what is.

I’d forfeited a job back in dear old Beijing to stay put in Cobh because finally, after dealing for years with Ireland like it was a narcissistic parent, I discovered that everything I wanted and needed was here and not over along east the road: the land without You-Tube. I didn’t have to run anymore. Ireland had grown up, moved on. Since the Gender Recognition Act was passed in 2015, as I was clacking in high heels down hutongs, mind blurry with drink, the country had become magnanimous enough to give people such as me a chance.

I thought that sporting such outfits as I had done in Beijing would cause a social convulsion of disgust and violence back home. I’ve grown enough to say that I dressed like a hooker back then, when I was a weekend t-girl. As a city, Beijing was a sprawling benevolent entity that seemed determined to cause me no harm. Cork city is a small town, more malicious and judgmental. I’d have to be careful with it, develop some style and grace. Everything I needed was within me and to unlock the potential of my motherland, I had to put myself in a position to see it.

I began to refurbish my mind with possibilities. I began to take my tranifestation seriously. I took an active role in putting my own head above the parapet and glean those moments of euphoria I crave that light up my insides like fireworks.

Getting the job in Penneys and then going back to Uni were essential.

I began balancing on the wave then, even throwing a shape or two. My authentic self was being socialized in a way the old me hadn’t been able to achieve. New planes of social existence opened for me, retail assistant on the shop floor or working the tills to walking through campus and sitting in class, wide-eyed, as breakers of theory crashed off me. Now, finding a pair of 2XL high-waisted shaping pants for a customer is just as important to me as Judith Butler’s theory of Performativity.

The same pool of dopamine is accessed. My feelings have physical effects and are real, not the cloudy theories of yore. New skin, new emotions. I am learning to follow my instincts, especially academically, where I experience warm glowings in my gut reading about Foucault, symbolic violence and intra-action. You can reshape your world view by chi-chi-ing up your vocabulary. Once you utter it and mean it, it becomes real. Simplistic? Perhaps. But powerful, so it is.

Working at the tills is a fascinating experience.

It is part stage performance, part critical environment study. It is here that a continuum of individual reactions towards my ‘disruptive’ body intersect at till # 22, each new face laden with bargains presents an opportunity for me to interact with the public in microcosm. It’s amazing to experience the spectrum of reactions I get, mine being the body that doesn’t sound the way it looks…. Marlene Dietrich trying her hand at a 1930’s Joan Crawford shop-girl role.

It’s gratifying just how many people ‘see’ me and what I am trying to do, mostly women of all ages and backgrounds. They don’t tend to flinch in shock at being served by a willowy blonde with the Captain Ahab timbre and if they do, they do a good job of concealing it.

“Would you like a bag?” I trill to them. “I will, girl,” they reply. Music to my ears. There’s a tacit understanding that radiates beneath a mundane social transaction that makes it all the more special.

Men, however, are a different story completely. Sometimes I see them in the queue, and I can see in their eyes the dawning puzzlement, the dysregulated calculations that make their stares obvious be they frazzled or wide open and beaming at the novelty of me. I wonder if they dread being served by someone like me, a being that they have never experienced before.

Some don’t know where to put themselves, unwittingly saved by the niceties of decorum, holding on to their copies of the social scripts for dear life. Others don’t give a monkey’s ass and some even like what they see and make me feel giddy.

I finish my till hour with my beauty intact and my existence validated. As good as it is to feel the warmth in my nerves, their endings lit with white light like a public archive decked out for Christmas, I’m trying to give this feeling to myself. Whether transitioning or not, I always looked to people for validation and never felt satisfied that they really saw me. I always felt bogged down with the fact they didn’t, and a few burnings sent me in the direction of the wine bottle. Once I was off my face I didn’t give a shit what they thought.

Or what I thought.

I could forget the restraints of my face when off my face if you will. Liquid transcendence. But, having said that, as human beings we need to interact with others, that I can’t give this high to myself. But maybe I can cultivate my sense of self to the point where being ‘seen’ or not won’t matter so much. It’s what I think matters.

I got a good grade in my first assignment for Uni. I explored Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity and illustrated the concept with an ethnographic study of 39 transgender sex-workers in China for good measure. The second one proved to be more difficult.

‘Discuss how some bodies disrupt or uphold binary notions of gender/sex and how hegemonic understanding of the gender/sex binary, in turn affects these bodies’.

Would you like fries with that? I thought to myself, regarding it.

On one level it was totally my terrain, another immersion into mind-blowing fields of theory. On another I suffered the brain coma. Every morning I’d get up and look at it over coffee and cigarettes, ponder it, dissect it, and the fucker kept morphing, moving and changing meaning worse than myself. I moved heaven and earth to get it done, the submission date like a train-light in the distance, careening like a juggernaut in my direction.

I looked in vain for the ‘eureka’ moment, where everything would just click into place and I would write the thing with unabashed lyricism. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I typed like I had hypomania, my thoughts surging, bursting, gushing down different avenues and unsure whether they were going in the right direction. I submitted it with dark circles under my eyes, ransacked by the experience. I’d never worked so hard on an assignment in my life. It was a far cry from my student days where 48 hours and four bottles of vino were more than enough to get things done.

So Christmas went well.

I had decided this year it was going to be about simplicity and gratitude. And rest. I made a cubbyhole out of my apartment, lots of white lights. The warring couple in #2 were blissfully absent and I could just lounge undisturbed by frenzied screaming and banging doors disturbing my peace. Next thing now is New Years. I’m going to make time in my pagan contentment to put new plans into action, new goals to grow toward. All the while conscious of the fact that I’m lucky to be here, as I am, on my journey.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

To all my readers, I hope you have/had a Wonderful and Peaceful Christmas and that the New Year brings Contentment with it.



Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen

An Irish writer, transgender woman and singer currently living in the Republic. Has just completed a memoir Marabou Barbie.