This is a realization about life that I have found through trans-ness, and that I would recommend to anyone: That we are all just making ourselves up, every single day, for ourselves and for others. That it is possible to write and rewrite yourself, to play and fuss and tweak, to sand and strip and stain and varnish.
I’m a person who likes to do things with his hands. I like to play with dirt and plants and power tools. I like the chaotic iteration of things growing and changing. In that sense, I like to look at my transition as just one of the many things I’m fiddling with, as I try and tune the radio of my existence into just the right frequency. Every time I write my own pronouns (do things with his hands, his hands), I smooth plaster into a small crack.
As I build myself, I get better at it, and trust myself and my hands more. At the start of lockdown, I planted tomato seeds. Now, their gangly, under-pruned bodies slump drunkenly into each other around the house and garden. Soon, they’ll be in the bin. Spring will come again sometime. I’ll do this again, and again, with no real purpose other than the doing, and enjoying it. There is joy in deciding that there is allowed to be joy.
I think one of the most important things a person can learn is that we, people, are clever animals, and we can fix unimaginable things for ourselves with our clever brains and clever hands. When I was a teenager, being told my voice was mezzo-soprano, rather than the lower alto, slapped me with a wrongness too intense to process. I stood two feet away from my body, hand resting on the school piano, being asked to move and being unable to speak.
Every single day, at some point, I wake up – I boot up the creaking old laptop of reality and log in. In those first few seconds, the most basic systems load. In retrospect, I’ve spent most of my life up until recently trying to identify problems that started, every day, right there — before I could even really call myself awake.
Before I’ve had a chance to open my eyes, I am a thing that is in my body. This is a completely non-negotiable part of being alive, and for a long time I was only compromising with it. Now, I slot much more comfortably into place – there’s no toddler inside me, sobbing and attempting to jam a cube into the space a ball should go. My body isn’t perfect to me, but it’s a familiar and comfortable tool in my hands.
On the outside of my body, next to and around and over and underneath me, is the sleeping tangle of my partner. There, too, between us, is a sense of gaps fitting shapes. I’m their boyfriend – their first boyfriend. Together, we are boyfriends. What I am to them feels correct to me, and how I feel about that is not really an emotion, more of a profound sensory experience. It feels like taking a split second of utter relief – frantic hands catching the edge of a lost object – and stretching it out into a long bath, a bath in which you realize, you could spend the rest of your life.
Close to 10 years late, one of my best mates is laughing at my voice breaking – uncontrollable squeaking, like a teenager – drinking lukewarm beers in the blistering summer sun. Now, I sing to myself at my desk while I work, badly. I sing along to the male parts in musicals and twangy southern rock, putting on a silly American accent, feeling out the lower end of my remarkably broad range and feeling unspeakably lucky, to be more comfortable awake than I ever had any reason to believe possible.
Every day I wake up, in a world I didn’t know existed until I was 22 years old. I wake up a pretty close approximate of the person I want to be, and a pretty close approximate of happy. I wake up next to someone who knows me as the sum of the things I try my best to be, and loves me for that. I wake up in a world where other people know a version of me that I recognise.
This Trans Day of Remembrance, I remember that I am incredibly lucky, and unspeakably privileged. So many people like me don’t get to wake up at all. They are dead, and they are dead because they tried to live like I do – with the potential for every day to contain happiness.