Every morning I get up and face myself in the mirror. Not as in some clumsy metaphor for reflection and introspection (although some sunrises definitely colour me guilty of that as well). No, I have a little showdown with myself. I hold my face and body to the standard of my past. I judge the eyes, less sparkly hopeful than the memories of youth remember, the wrinkles in the wrong places, the hairline receding faster than pride can advance.
On a good day I catch a glimpse of myself, a reason to grin. My smile feels like a blessing, permission to enjoy my existence and embrace the coming day. On a bad day I trace the scars of indecision on my face with my fingertips. Today will be a day to tolerate, the way a soldier tolerates war.
It wasn’t always like this. Doubt has been there since the start of my gender odyssey, but I used to like my odds. I didn’t dread the coin flip upon waking up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not vain enough to be ashamed of aging. However, there are certain what-ifs that eat away at me each time I return to the battlefield. Then I can’t help but look back at the start of my journey and wonder how much the sea of racial stereotypes I’ve encountered has affected me. Have I internalised the good with the bad? Hiding in my artificial comfort zone for just that little bit too long?
Underneath you will find a list of comments this Southeast Asian trans girl received in just the first month she came out:
• “Trust me, you’re saving a fortune on razors.”
• “I mean, I guess you were halfway there anyway, right?”
• “Don’t worry, not having breasts looks normal on you.”
• ”Well, Malaysia is close to Thailand, right? So, this makes sense.”
• “Silver linings buddy, a small penis will be easier to hide.”
I found myself ignoring the toxicity of these statements, instead feeling weirdly emboldened. The thing about stereotypes is that they fill the insecure gaps where you’ve yet to define yourself. Sadly, it really doesn’t take long before you’re getting your affirmation from caricature instead of from your sense of self.
I found myself hearing only the conclusions necessary to put off difficult decisions, believing only the bits necessary to not make a choice. Without realising, I had started playing a character instead of growing. A conclusion I would reach a long time after spending my first hundred hours of research into estrogen, but before my dumbfounded face would ask the doctor to repeat herself, when she told me that the effects of testosterone are cumulative over the years, before I could see how it had chiselled away at my face.
When I finally did become aware of the balance of bad days shifting for worse, I felt overwhelmed. Yet there was only one path forward. Somewhere in that pool of betrayal and sorrow, I found fury. Fury for having believed that my gender identity was something I could “get away” with, that I had let the world convince me that gender identity was something “getting away with” even applied to. Fury for having let myself slip far enough down the spiral of shame that I had relinquished control of my destiny.
So, in the year of the tiger 2022, I steeled my resolve and with a furious calm I declared the end of perseverance, and the start of opportunity. From the pharmacy I would claim my right to a chemical, and from the mirror I would reclaim my right to smile.
This article was funded by The LGBT+ Futures: Equity Fund in partnership with the The National Lottery Community Fund.