It was my friend’s “trans birthday” the other day, and I have no doubt it was a very happy occasion for her. A year has passed since she honoured her true self.
Birthdays generally are exciting occasions, they mark ageing, in some cases maturing, and sometimes celebration. But I am a tiny bit biased in thinking that trans birthdays are a tiny bit special.
For the decision to honour one’s self truthfully and congruently is huge, massive and gigantic. I can still remember my first day of putting on female clothes and of living as Hannah, after the irritation of living as H for a substantial period of time. It was great to have an identity again, as the H experience felt limiting, psychologically and in terms of lived experience.
Then, fast forward to a year and you think PHEW! I made it. But over the course of that year, you change, evolve, and blossom.
I happen to think being trans is akin to the Eastern beliefs around reincarnation, and rebirth. My own lived experience has definitely felt like that in recent times.
I ended counselling when I was ready to, and not before. I concluded it when all the necessary work was done. The end result of doing that work is a trajectory of dominant happiness, and I no longer experience long periods of depression.
So anyway, what has provoked this extrapolation on Trans Evolution? Well, soon I have a potentially exciting opportunity coming up, a chance for my voice to be heard, a chance for me to engage in dialogue with others, help them, and hopefully make a difference.
I am choosing not to say too much more about what the opportunity is at this stage, just that it could be really positive, exciting and a chance for real personal development.
But let me say a little more about what putting myself forward for this potential opportunity involved. It involved telephone conversations with a stranger, a meeting at a strange venue, plus when I got there, the stranger firing off lots of equally challenging questions at me. There were also periods when it was a monologue, with me talking freeform in response to a pre-prepared list of questions which I had already seen.
Now those who know me will know beyond doubt that talking is not an issue. However, they will know that I used to suffer from an extreme lack of confidence earlier on in transition, and would come up with endless excuses and prevarications to avoid leaving the house. Now the excuse is less endless, but heavy rain is a sensible one since rain and electricity do not really mix. However, other excuses were a mere smokescreen. They just covered up the fact that I had not really grown into the identity I had always craved to the point of obsession. As others craved chocolate, I craved womanhood.
But now you know, I am grown. All I am making clear to you is this. The kind of opportunity I went to the meeting about would have been unthinkable. Now, I see it as a must do.
To be doubly clear, I cannot be more emphatic about the word unthinkable than I have been. Indeed, when asked to participate in a project during early transition, the more I turned it over in my mind the more I became terrified. I am glad not to be in that state of mind any more.
One of the overarching things for me that came out of my meeting, was that notions of community are real, and tangible, in the LGBTIGQ world, and not “imagined” as the commentator Benedict Anderson once claimed.
Bearing this in mind, I have come to realise that I have a responsibility, not only to myself, but to others in my situation too. If dialogue is to happen, and greater understanding is to be a product of it, the best start we can make on achieving such dialogue is surely to talk to each other. Sometimes the obvious points are the best, and it is good to try not to overlook them.
I see the LGBTIGQ community as a continuum, with each section of the continuum facing its own issues and challenges, but I would far rather see us come together for the greater good more often, rather than us hiving ourselves off into mutually exclusive compartments.
As Barry Manilow said, it is all about that one voice!
I also have a great emotional connection to the trans journey, having been so depressed at the start. I think in the long term though, that rock bottom state does give us the impetus we need to better our lives.
The questions were a challenge even for me.It is like digging for gold in the most elusive, private crevices of the human mind. Particularly, questions around my disability and family relationships were a challenge.
I think at the end of the day, whatever the views of others, you should not stop yourself from following your heart, soul and dreams.
In many ways, there is a lack of complimentarity and tension between disability and the trans predicament. I sometime feel extreme anger towards my disability periodically, but I confront it, deal with it and move on.
The interview itself was a very surreal experience. Even at times, I could not believe the confidence with which was speaking. Yes I have always been articulate, as many suggest, but you can still be articulate and full to the brim with negativity and simmering self hatred.
I still struggle, particularly around the limitations of my disability,and a brain that is far more active than my body will ever be.
But whilst those two variables may forever lock horns, I am now brimming with self love, as opposed to self hate. I do get pissed off sometimes, but there is a huge difference between full blown major depression and an off day.
That is why I wanted to partake in this project, as I am compassionate and understanding, and to have the opportunity to hear other voices.
The misery narrative tropes are a sad part of our history, but they came about because the world was less accepting. The tragedy of a less accepting world is that it also gives rise to less acceptance of the self.
I can ignore my mother’s views, as I know they are hogwash, but if they represented a world view, as was the case historically, the battle would be harder to win.
I also think My Transsexual Summer was a gamechanger. The intricate weaving together of their lives at the retreat and their personal lives normalised being trans as never before. De-medicalising, de-pathologising, and deconstructing.
It showed people living normal lives, and that skilful interpolation of normality and diversity is to be celebrated.
Here is the key to it all though. Trans means change. During that interview, I had to metaphorically pinch myself at times to check it was still me talking. There were so many points where I thought, an unchanged old me would never have said that.
But here is the point, I thought, you have changed and improved. You are not a different person, but you have changed for the better. You are happier, brighter and more fulfilled than ever before, Hannah Buchanan.
Transition is sometimes reduced to looks, which is understandable in a sense as one needs to pass. However, the biggest change takes place inside. You can look a million dollars, and have no confidence inside, or vice versa.
But I think I have made the biggest inner transition. For it is that transition which spurred me on into wanting to take part in this project. I barely recognise myself sometimes, in a good way.
I am not a different person, but I have a different outlook. Now I evolve, not revolve. Now I step forward, and do not stand still. Now I apologise to and not for. I evolve, and always will.
But the bits of me that were having a negative impact have gone, and a new day has come.
The day has come for me to do, rather than be done for, to set the agenda rather than react to it, and that step fills me with Pride. I took that step of getting involved, because there are those who need my help, and it fills me with pride and happiness, both in and for myself, that I am ready and able to give it.
Years ago it would have felt impossible, but impossible, also means I’m possible, as Sark once said.
I just think back to my mindset years ago, and my mindset now, and I feel like a changed woman.
The key to transition is to love you. If you love you, you will have confidence, and think you owe it to yourself to top it up now and again, cos you’re worth it! I love me and I hope you love you too.