Saturday, July 19, 2014

Setting out on a journey...



When I lived as a man, I was privileged in ways I could neither enjoy nor appreciate.

I could not enjoy it because, apart from my love for my partner and my love for my children,  there was so little I could enjoy as a man.

And I did not appreciate it because it was, and I imagine still is, so much a given in a man’s life, particularly a white middle class European man, that I did not notice it was there.

At least not until it was gone. And even now it has gone and I have lost it I find it hard to put my finger on exactly what it was or what it felt like.

But it had something to do with having an absolute right to be in the world. To be anywhere in the world. 

The minute I stepped out of manhood I seemed to lose it completely. Everyone in the street who perceived I was trans, or maybe that I was just different, appeared to believe they had every right to say the most wounding, derogatory, and unpleasant things in my presence, often as if I simply wasn’t there, and then seemingly feel superior for having done it.

I had to work very hard to get out my front door sometimes. I remember the hazardous journey I used to be forced to take out to the Gender Clinic in the Royal Infirmary. It used to involve two waits at the bus stop, two different bus journeys - always dangerous times - and then a long journey down a frightening corridor to the clinic. Which was situated next to gynecology.

There was an unspoken assumption that it was necessary to make this journey in a skirt, which made it all the more frightening, somehow, and I remember arriving early one afternoon and the sun was shining and there was an empty bench just outside the hospital entrance. I sat and enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the sensation of wearing a skirt in the open air and the sense that I really was on a journey to myself and - most important - that I had the right to be there.

This was a new sensation: having the right to be in the world. Without needing to justify; without needing to conceal.

That moment happened long ago now, but I still treasure it.

I guess it laid the foundations of the confidence i feel now; a confidence which is, however, still tinged by an awareness of being under scrutiny.

Every woman suffers this. A younger, more attractive woman suffers it far more than me, because if she is judged sexually attractive she is vulnerable to harassment.

But me, being old and unattractive means I am consistently ignored.

And that may be galling; but it is also a blessing.

An aspect of the old male privelege was that I also had the right to travel anywhere. Now many regions of the world are unsafe for transgendered women. And so unsafe for me. 

For I also realise that I live as peacefully and as safely as I do because I live in Scotland. 

Thinking of this just now as I pack my bag and my woman’s passport to set off to Eastern Europe. I am performing a half hour programme of readings in 4 cities in the Czech Republic, in Slovakia, and in Poland.

And it occurs to me I don’t think I have performed abroad before.

And I have no idea what will happen: but also, although nervous, I am incredibly eager to find out.

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