There have been a lot of conversations lately where friends or family tell me I’m overbearing, argumentative or explosive. In those moments, I breathe deeply and tell myself: transgender existence is transgender resistance. I understand I can be difficult some days as a transgender woman who daily struggles with gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is the name for the incongruence between my identity as a transgender woman and the secondary sex characteristics my body perceives to be incorrect. This isgood for clinical talk, but while we’re yelling about bathroom rights and equality, what doesgender dysphoria mean? How does it feel?
It feels like an itchy sweater that I can’t take off from the minute I wake up until I fall asleep— if the dysphoria doesn’t keep me up all night. It nags at my consciousness with suggestions that someone might “out” me as a trans woman.
This preoccupation over my dysphoria is entirely about how I feel in my own body. That’s a part of the discussion about the legislation of and public reaction to transgender bodies in our current politics. Intellectually, I can deal with all of this on my good days, but then there are the bad days. I wake up feeling depressed, like I want to stay in bed — I’m nauseated by the sight and feel of my own skin.
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I agonize about my lips, chin and sideburns every day. It hurts to shave my face because hormone replacement therapy has made my skin much softer and more sensitive.
I can finally see my collar bones after years of dieting and exercise. On the bad days, my hopeful feelings that I, too, will be able to afford hair removal services to make my life more psychologically comfortable and sustainable feel like impossibilities.
On these bad days, I wonder why insurance companies will pay for a cast to fix a broken arm, but transgender people are left to fend for themselves against the manipulative world of exorbitant health care costs. The current conversation about transgender people requires some degree of empathy to understand the reality of struggling every day to somehow greet depression, anxiety and the judgmental preoccupation with our genitals with a smile.
I founded Trans.report and work with agencies and independent LGBT advocates in Kansas City to improve the daily experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming folks. We’re hosting a leadership development summit for transgender and gender nonconforming youth and people of color, specifically women of color, July 29-31 at Brush Creek Community Center.
I’m proud of the woman I have grown up to be, even if I didn’t feel the support or resources available to pursue my gender transition earlier in life.
We aren’t generally afraid to be ourselves as transgender people; we’re afraid of how the non-transgender people will control the conversation despite the things that actually matter to us. We’re afraid that our voices won’t be heard for fear that your concerns about our lives, hearts and bodies will take precedence.
So I breathe quietly to myself and say it again: transgender existence is transgender resistance. Some days it’s all we have.
Jordan Hanson is a transgender writer, poet and artist in Kansas City. She founded Trans.report and works with transgender advocates and agencies to improve experiences for transgender residents.