I want to write a positive piece for this blog. Not bemoaning some transphobia I heard about, read about or witnessed, not debunking a cruel and ridiculous myth or challenging an institutional bigotry. There will be other days and other blog posts for that,
Instead I want to tell you something nice. I want to tell you what it’s like to find out someone you know is transgender. I don’t mean when they have transitioned and you didn’t know and they tell you, enormous compliment though it is to be trusted like that,
I mean when a kid, often, or a teenager, chooses to tell you that they’ve always felt that their assigned gender was the wrong one and they want to start living as themselves.
Because I meet these teenagers, often I’ve been asked to talk to them because a teacher is worried, or they’ve come, by choice, through the door to the lgbt youth group I help facilitate. I meet my friends’ kids who, knowing what I do are that bit more comfortable taking about sexuality and gender around me.
And so many of them are trying their hardest not to exist.
It’s like some kind of psychic camouflage. They sit, head tucked, speaking exactly enough that their silence won’t draw comment, letting everyone in just enough that nobody will think to delve deeper. Never quite meeting anyones’ eyes, hiding in plain sight.
And I’m not saying I’m some kind of Youth Whisperer who notices what nobody else does. I’m not. Most of the time I miss it too.
Unless they trust me enough to tell me.
And let me tell you, there is nothing more beautiful.
There is nothing more beautiful than the determined, confident gait, the cocked head, the fear acknowledged, still present but conquered for the moment, of a young person revealing who they truly are.
I’m not talking “I think I might be…” although that’s valid and brave and important too.
I’m talking “Screw it. Look: THIS is who I am.”
It’s like the bit at the end of Return To Oz where Ozma goes from being a flicker in a mirror to being a glorious and confident smiling queen of all she surveys.
It’s like watching a personality coalesce and solidify in front of you, seeing something leap out that was always there, suddenly being brought in on the optical illusion you thought was the real thing for so long.
I can’t possibly know what it’s like to be transgender. I recognize that. But I can know what it’s like from this end, when a trans* person allows me to see.
And if your child, your student, your patient, your social work case, your therapy client, your friend… tells you they’re transgender, it’s not pity you should feel, or anger, or concern. It is gratitude.