A basic human need is to be understood by people around you. It is so basic for us, understanding and being understood, that certain codes just seem to go without saying. We know how to talk to each other depending on where we are, say an office or a club, but we also know how to relate to someone just by looking at them. We instantly make a judgement and there you go! We know who, and what a person is. Until we get it wrong. When a person mis-identifies you, it creates an othering feeling and it can isolate you from your peers. Adam is a trans man, and as we chat about his new experiences and his transition, we come across the overlooked topic of emotions.
Sometimes I am angry I am trans, and then I am also angry that other people are not trans. I hate it when people challenge [my experience] and ask me “Are you sure it is real?” “Are you sure that you are not making it up in your head that it is hard?”
As much as being able to express his identity has been liberating, transitioning is a constant struggle against the tide. There is pressure from peers, friends, and family to adamantly feel pride, to answer the question with a triumphant, YES, I AM A MAN. Coming to terms with his body, and that he was born in the wrong one, is no easy feat. Some days he will be happy in his trans identity, but sometimes it is harder to accept himself.
Sometimes I wish I was a normal cis man
Starting hormonal therapy is the biggest step towards a full physical transition and the first day is highly anticipated. Adam’s experience of the first shot of T came unexpectedly in the form of a follow up with his doctor. “So are you ready to get your T?” Before he knew it, pants were down and butt was out; he had the first shot.
I thought it was gonna be over the moon. I didn’t know I was gonna start that day! I was very excited, but then I took that shot and nothing happened. This is a long ass process. I convinced myself I could feel something in my throat.
Adam recalls people arguing that it may just be in his head, and that life need not be so difficult. I have heard the argument that being trans is a conscious choice, and that trans individuals are choosing a life of hardship. Nothing furthest from the truth. As Adam will show us in this series, good hearted misconceptions about trans individuals and trans bodies can have severe consequences.
Sadness and anger are the emotions that have become all too familiar for Adam. Anger at a world that is not designed for him. Sadness at the loss of a life out of reach. Anger at misunderstandings. Sadness at having to compromise his identity for somebody else’s sake. These feelings are often unpredictable and managing them can be exhausting.
I am not good at dealing with [anger]. I deal with everything in a diplomatic manner. I never raise my voice. I associate anger with irrationality, and worrying with rationality. It means that you are prepared for everything in the world.
Allowing oneself to be angry and to feel vulnerable is crucial for self-acceptance. Thinking of the people who help him the most, he talks about his partner. “She pushes me and challenges me to talk about it, to allow myself to be angry. I wouldn’t be this far in my transition without her.”
When asked what message he would give to trans teenagers worldwide, Adam points to the unpredictability of life:
There is only one way to understand life, and that is in retrospect. No one can predict their life, not even cis-people. If something goes wrong, you have to react.
It is very easy for our cis-centered* society to dehumanise trans people. In a situation where you are not the norm, suddenly all that matters is your body and how it is different, how it is changing, how it suffers and the experience it carries. The conversation stops being about the person. It begs to ask the question, can we learn to understand the world differently?
Just don’t put me in a box.
This is the first post of the series, coming up we will be posting about different aspects of being trans in our society. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.
*Cis- is a prefix used to denote that an individual identifies with the gender given at birth. A cis-centered society refers to a type of society built around and designed for cis-gendered individuals.