When the nurse at the ultrasound scan asked my mum if she'd like to know if her unborn baby was a boy or a girl, she declined. Almost three decades later, I share this same sentiment. Because for many trans women, the midwife’s words, “it’s a boy!” are, in fact, a kind of spell setting her on a course she didn’t ask for. A course that will shape her life forever.
I lived as a boy for twenty seven years but was never much good at the long and tiring performance. This is my first International Women’s Day since I came out as trans and now I feel much of the burden has lifted. I say I am 'transfeminine' – it’s a catch-all term for gender identities that are closer to womanhood on the spectrum. And it’s on International Women’s Day that I’m left thinking about what being a 'woman' means.
My existence angers people. It confounds their ideas of gender identitiy. I have trans friends who are men yet menstruate every month and may one day bear children. I, of course, never will. Men will spit when they see me in the street and respected figures including people like Germaine Greer think that I can never be a woman. Those who react in this way are certainly on the wrong side of history, and I hope in thirty years time to stand in a world where their prejudice has melted away.
This year, I’m getting my facial hair lasered off and have asked my doctor for a referral so that I can consider the option of hormone treatment. In many ways, this is complying with patriarchal beauty standards. But in a patriarchal world, I still want to feel beautiful. I’m luckier than others in having the means to access these treatments.
Together, as ‘women,’ we must negotiate a world in which femininity is still in flight from male definition, ridicule and violence. We must fight for our principles while creating enough space to move through the world with happiness and mental wellbeing.
Trans women and femmes have a unique perspective – raised as boys, we do, after all, have insider knowledge of the toxic ways sexism shapes our male peers. We were offered all the privileges of maleness and still rejected them. As women, all of our experiences are different, but we stand together in the hope of liberating the world from misogyny.
I am inspired by movements that protect and support all vulnerable women across the world. Right now, my priority is to fight for wider acceptance and tolerance for trans and gender non-conforming people. The other day, I read a moving account of transvestite soldiers in the First World War, who risked punishment by carrying ball gowns in their kitbags in the trenches and organising dances at which they would dance as women.
I’m proud to be trans. I'm proud to be feminine. But I'm still working things out. I - like feminism - am a work in progress.