by Everett Maroon
I’ve lost track of when I took my first dose of testosterone in an attempt to make my life match my heart and brain a little more closely. I should be able to recall each element about such a trajectory-changing moment, but honestly I mostly remember my hesitation and oppressive amounts of anxiety. Imagine having such little self-confidence while at the same time feeling great certainty that something very basic about yourself is wrong. That was the place where I found myself in, one dreary day in March, staring at a tub of testosterone cream designed to help middle-aged women rediscover their libido, not to turn them into men.
It’s nearly impossible to explain what it’s like to look in the mirror and encounter an abyss between what you think you’re going to find and who is reflected back at you. I was capable of spending copious amounts of time parsing the paradox—all reflections are reversals, after all. Was that a slight broadening of my jawline? A more masculine brow ridge? Even today I see the klutzy teenage woman who was nervous about the seven hundred changes erupting throughout her body.
Her body. Mine.
I haven’t been a teenager in 25 years. I haven’t been a woman in some other amount of time not entirely countable. Part of being trans for me is about getting comfortable with the space between ideal and experienced.
Reflections give us distance from ourselves, whether we seek that space/gap or not. Reflections push us away from the object we view. Reflections mean that we cannot share the matter of ourselves and what we see. Obsessed with my visage, in addition to inspiring significant guilt that I’d become narcissistic, I began to wonder if any of it mattered.
There are, after all, only a few ways in which we culturally read human beings as men or women, the sites of contestation already wrapped up in societal garbage about sex (what’s on our bodies), intimacy (with whom we share our bodies), identity (what we call our bodies), agency (what we’re expected we can do with our bodies), morality (what we’re allowed to do with our bodies), and community (how we’re allowed to organize our bodies with other people’s bodies).
One could argue that the last few years have been incredible for transgender awareness. No individual as well known as Caitlyn Jenner ever came out as trans before, holding stage on primetime television and her own reality show, with a national tour in the works. Certainly there were other gleaming headlines—Chelsea Manning’s imprisonment for treason, and her right to transition as a federal prisoner, Laverne Cox’s acting career and choices, the “fairness” of Fallon Fox fighting in the MMA, Janet Mock’s bestselling memoir—all of these have brought the trans community to mainstream America.
But our challenges have gotten much less attention. In 2015 alone more than 20 trans people—nearly all trans women of color—have been murdered by people they knew and strangers alike. Celebrities openly mock people who date transgender individuals, people call Caitlyn by her old name, and middle school students “protest” a trans youth in their midst. Earlier this month residents of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city, voted to remove antidiscrimination protections on the basis of a patently untrue myth that the law enabled men to put on dresses, lie in wait for women in rest rooms, and assault them. Red Durkin, stand up comedian, elegantly remarked:
If a man wants to get away with sexual assault in America … He just has to join a frat or a band or professional/semi-professional sports team or the police department or get promoted to manager at Wendy’s or own his own business or go to a bar, stand on the street corner, go into a grocery store, star in a movie or sitcom, go to school with a woman, work with a woman, go on a date with a woman, live next door to a woman, deny the charges after the fact or, generally speaking, do anything EXCEPT disguise the fact that he’s a man in America.
Here is what I want from Trans Awareness Month—I want good people everywhere to stand up with us and declare their solidarity, their support, their friendship, and their relationships. I want those good people to vote, to speak up, to protect us like we’ve protected people with whom we’ve been aligned (for example, when we fought alongside gay men at the Stonewall Inn riot).
Trans people need better health care, better employment training, better school boards who won’t shy away from supporting trans students, and for sure we need better access to rest rooms. If you’ve never had to hold your bladder for 16 hours, I genuinely suggest you attempt it.
At its core hatred of and anger toward trans people is a reaction of an insecure society. We haven’t worked hard enough on our notions of sex, identity, agency, morality, and community. It’s one thing to look in the mirror and not see a face you expect; it’s wholly another to look at your society and not see anything you recognize. Even so, we reflect you. You reflect us. How we treat each other reflects on our immediate capacity to survive and thrive collectively, and right now, from my perspective, we aren’t doing all that well.
But we are not our reflections. We are us. We can change our shared trajectory and in fact we make significant choices every day. They’re just not all contained in a tub of testosterone cream.
Everett Maroon is a memoirist, humorist, pop culture commentator, and fiction writer. Everett is the author of a memoir, Bumbling into Body Hair, and a young adult novel, The Unintentional Time Traveler, both published by Booktrope Editions. He has written for Bitch Magazine, GayYA.org, Amwriting.org, RH RealityCheck, and Remedy Quarterly. Everett’s blog is transplantportation.com and he tweets at @EverettMaroon.