Every year I try and dedicate a post to International Women’s Day. Of course there are shifts, changes, small and large scale revolutions going on all the time – I’m constantly in awe of all that women are doing, achieving and striving for. But I can’t help but feel that in last year that we’ve all felt those frustrated stirs, that boiling anger and strident determination even more in light of certain revelations (although the scandals weren’t so much of a revelation or surprise to many of us sadly). Despite the heartache we’ve felt hearing of these awful situations people have been part of, and the traumas people have gone through, this year has served as a heady reminder of the strength and power of unity. Our willingness to be vulnerable and brave, whether we share our battles publicly or live with them privately, shouldn’t go unnoticed either. There are many incredible things I could focus on today as I celebrate women, but I feel/hope to some extent every week on this blog I am doing that by speaking of societal issues, gender equality, body confidence, abuse, self esteem, health issues, and anything else I feel is important to communicate and open a debate about. I’ve talked about sexism in the work place, about being a tomboy and not necessarily always fitting into gender stereotypes, my honest feelings about supporting other women, the pressures I feel as I have as a female blogger, and the power struggles I’ve had in romantic relationships. So while I wanted to mention those points, because they are all things we could be thinking about today, I wanted to address International Women’s Day differently on the blog this year.
While I think it’s awesome to have a day like this, to celebrate how far we’ve come, the awesome things we are doing, to push forward and make sure we are part of an gargantuan force that will eventually mean that we can do whatever (and all) we want, and be treated the right way when doing so. I hope this day will also even encourage me to do something which is all too rare for me, and celebrate myself, however alien that still feels. I do find myself concerned that these allocated days can, if handled without care, have the ability to make people feel excluded, forgotten, or hidden, when none of you/us ladies, whatever form, race, size, class, style, age, body you are/have should never ever feel like that.
So today, instead of rambling in usual fashion about my personal views and experiences, I decided to do a quick Q and A with a friend of mine, who during a lengthy heart to heart on WhatsApp not too long ago told me that they felt they were in the wrong body – that they should be in a woman’s body. Not everyone who identifies with being a woman has a vessel that conforms to what people associate with that gender, so it’s incredibly important they’re part of this day too.
It’s early days in terms of this journey for my friend. Things aren’t clear, obvious or simple, and perhaps they won’t be for a while. But we wanted to chat about where she’s at right now, since coming to this realisation – or at least since trying to accept it. As we spoke yesterday it became even more obvious that there is no set plan or route to deal with this, and talking about the future rarely lead to defined or lengthy answers. There’s were often gaps, confusions, conflicts and even silences. This interview doesn’t even scratch the surface, but it was never going to when there are so many inner questions yet to be asked, and so many answers not ready to be uncovered or realised. I hope time will help, and maybe in a couple of years we can come together again to get snapshot of the latest part of her journey. Thank you to my friend for sharing this, not just because it meant she could to be a vocal part of International Women’s Day, but so she could in turn help someone reading this who might find it’s content extremely relevant.
When do you think you started to realise your gender didn’t necessarily match the vessel you were born, in or the gender you are perceived to be by people looking at you? Is it something you think you’ve always been aware of one some level?
When I was younger and we would go out shopping, I would just see the girls sections and just want to try on stuff like that.
Did you find yourself wanting to spend more time with female relatives or school friends, and wanting to join in with what they were doing?
Yes, I realised it more so when I went to university, as I only had female friends and didn’t socialise with guys very often if at all.
When you hung out with the girls did you just feel more comfortable and like you could be yourself?
Do you mean like a girl?
Just being your true self – not worrying about what you were saying, behaving like you naturally wanted to, to freely express what you were interested in…
No, at that point I didn’t really feel that comfortable with anyone.
Is that because you were having an internal struggle about what you were feeling?
I never felt comfortable or right in my body, even when I was sitting still or just sat down. I always felt off, but didn’t know really why until I started therapy, and worked through everything really.
What made you feel ready or prepared to share these feelings with others?
They could see me deflated and lacking in energy and it was hurting them. I stayed over at two friends houses and she accidentally text me instead of our other friend (her roommate) about being worried I hadn’t moved all day – it was just because I had a lot on my mind. I could see their concern about me. So I text them about it when I left.
Before opening up to people in real life what did you turn to first?
I found it easier to talk to people online. I didn’t want to have the face to face conversation.
What were the main fears for you in terms of telling people?
Judgement, anxiety, fear, losing relationships, people laughing, people not believing me. The list could go on haha.
And was has been the reality from the people you’ve shared this with?
Mixed. Some not supporting at all, to some supporting well. Then some people being overwhelmed and not wanting to deal with it, to people laughing and asking if I’m serious.
You mention support, what are you looking for needing? What would you consider helpful or necessary support, for you?
I’m not really sure Just knowing someone is there to talk about the small things, to know they care and are happy for me. It consumes me, and overwhelms every minute of my time at the moment, and I just want someone to listen as I vent away about how I feel.
You mentioned people have been overwhelmed with it. Is that because you need reassurance while you get to grips with all this, and maybe your asking questions they don’t know how to answer?
Yes and it was me asking them things a few times a week that they couldn’t deal with.
So did seeing a therapist help elevate the frustrations of these interactions?
Yeah a little bit but I would still prefer to talk to someone who knows me properly not just in the confines of therapy.
Why is that do you think?
Just to feel comfortable I guess.
To feel accepted by the people around you?
Yes I think so.
What do you think will be the things that make you feel accepted, especially as a woman?
I feel like I have to look like one to be taken seriously. That’s the most important thing.
Do you feel thats the only way people will be able to match the soul with the gender you were born?
Yes, like if its not believable I wont be taken seriously.
We’ve talked a lot about wigs, make up looks and clothes since you told me. Tell me about that first time that wig arrived in the post and you got to try it out, use the make up and create a look. How did that feel?
It feels like everything clicked because I’d only ever tried lipstick as something just to feel prettier but then I had some make up and the wig on – I didn’t even cut the lace front but I tried it and I felt complete. Finally like me.
That sounds like an incredibly emotional and life-changing moment. How did you react to that realisation?
Was there a sense of relief?
Yeah, like a damn thats built up too much pressure and finally broke.
I’m still learning about make up and what clothing suits me. How do you feel about learning and experimenting with your look as things move forward? Do you have a clear idea of how you want to look visually?
It’s still quite alien to me, and I really do want help, but its finding people who want to help or even have the time. I personally like the glam look , but I don’t think I can pull it off.
You can! But it’s nice to enjoy the process of experimenting with your look.
I’m not good with anything yet and everyone says watch YouTube, or do this…. But without anything to do it with, or to practice with, it’s difficult. I don’t have any real make up and feel scared to go get some alone so it’s really hard.
I know everyone looking in seems fascinated by or focused with the appearance stuff and the transformation process, but have you thought about the life you want as a woman?
I haven’t got that far yet, I just want to be me and more comfortable.
Just because I know some people will wonder this. How did you know you weren’t transvestite? (we broke away from the interview at this point as she wasn’t sure what that meant)
Oh I dunno, things just clicked for me like that and with therapy it all started to make sense.
Is there anything about your chosen career/industry that makes it more daunting a reality to share?
Yes I sometimes feel females in my industry I’m in are generally treated as second tier, and it’s just putting me off coming out and or staying the same field.
Maybe you can be part of forcing a change though? With frequent talk in the media regarding the gender pay gap and inequality is there anything you’re worried about in terms of being considered a female. Equally, what are you excited about?
I’m just excited to get out there and be comfortable. I’m worried about a lot of things mainly about peoples perception of me, or how they will look at me until I’ve fully transitioned…and even after that.
At the moment you are viewing things from the outside. Seeing how other people react to trans, not gender conforming people. At this point what do you fin yourself wanting to say to them to help them understand better ?In terms of gender stereotypes, and talk related to it – what upsets you when you hear it . What do you think people should avoid saying that is insensitive or hurtful?
Not many people know so it doesn’t bother me – because people are talking about it without knowing it’s about me.
– at first there wasn’t a full or clear answer to my previous question, so I broke away from the interview for a moment just to ask whether she’s contacted any of the charities or watched any of the documentaries I’d been recommending to her over the last few months – mainly because I was surprised by what she had said.
I’m just focusing on me. I’m not reading much online about issues effecting the community. I don’t want to sound selfish, but it’s overwhelming enough right now. So for now, I just want to focus on me, and getting me right mentally and just getting through this in one piece.
Who are inspiring women to you?
Is it cringe to say you ( me – well it is when you have to decided whether to keep this in the interview). My friend Issy and a girl Ally I know, who is also trans. For me, it’s being strong willed, and knowing what she wants to do in life.
How much have you researched transitioning so far?
I haven’t looked at anyone else’s journeys if I’m honest- I stay focused on my own, although I do follow some trans people on Instagram. But I’m currently waiting for my gender identity clinic meeting!
How are you feeling about that?
Nervous. It’s a really long wait for the appointment, then its’ really long wait for the hormones . It’s just going to be a long journey to feel right, and be comfortable as me. I would just rather be in the right body already!
How do you deal with that frustration?
I try to just do a little even if it’s a small bit of make up daily, so just wearing blusher on the lips – so its not too noticeable to anyone but me, so I get to feel better about myself and feel more feminine, and just good about myself. I do sometimes think why me?? But in the end it will be worth it.
What does being feminine mean to you personally? Or what does being a woman mean to you?
I don’t think I know yet to be honest.
What advice would you give to anyone else that feels like you?
I’m not coping well enough to give advice I don’t think, but I’d just say to TELL someone.
Although short in length, this interview took a very long time to conduct, which tells you how difficult and draining this all is for her, and just hard is it so collate answers right now. I wrapped it up as I didn’t want to push her somewhere she was ready to go yet. Please send a lot of love and appreciation out to my friend in the comments for sharing as much as she has.