This is a guest post written by a trans man who wishes to remain anonymous. For purposes of discussion, he goes by Omega.
I’ll keep the history short. We all have different stories, but at the heart of them, they’re all the same. Our entire lives, we knew something wasn’t right. We knew something was off.
But I’d learned to live with the Off. I’d accepted it as part of me. The bitterness I felt at having the wrong body was the thing I assumed all women felt. Some hate their thighs, some hate their breasts, some hate their hips or their stomach or their calves or their shoulders.
Well, I didn’t really hate it. Not once I became an adult, anyway.
The woman I was outside was the Off, but she had her uses. I’d learned how to work with her, how to use her to get what I needed.
And she’s a tough bitch. She knew how to protect me when I needed it. She covered me up, she built walls around me to keep out those who would hurt me.
She’s stronger than anyone else I’ve ever met. And she’s tireless. A warrior.
Because she’d lived in this world as a woman, and I never really understood what that meant until I set her aside and entered the world as a man.
The things she’s endured, the things she’s dealt with…
There’s honestly no way to comprehend it without living it.
I respect her. I admire her. I resent her for existing. I resent the fact that I needed her for so long. I resent the fact that I still do.
Because it wasn’t until I was able to pass as a man that I realized just how strong she was. How strong she was forced to be.
I took advantage of her; I used her.
Because I never knew what it meant to be her.
The truth, the pure and objective truth, is that sexism is alive, and male privilege is depressingly real.
She noticed it before I did.
Because it was subtle at first. There was so much else going on, I didn’t notice it. I was too worried about things like going to the public restroom. But she noticed it.
It devastated me again to realize it.
People speak to me differently than they did to her. They look at me differently. They react to me differently. Cashiers, waiters, car mechanics, the postman, employers, employees, the entire world sees me differently than they saw her.
The amount of respect strangers unthinkingly show me is different than the respect they showed her. The level of competence people assume I have is different than the level they assume she had. The way they accommodate me is different than the way they accommodated her.
It’s not everyone, and it’s not every situation, but it’s consistent enough to be a pattern, and the pattern holds true.
I realized how hard she is. How hard she needed to be.
I realized just how much of the anxiety and dislike of myself wasn’t due to anxiety or depression, but from the way people saw me, the way they treated me.
It’s so unfair, what she had to go through to protect me, the way the entire world shrugged her off as having less worth. The car mechanics who scoffed at her, the computer and technical repairmen who ignored her, the plumbers and electricians who walked into her home and blatantly disrespected her, the way doctors shrugged her off, the demeaning comments from any man who disagreed with her, the way everyone subconsciously belittled her.
I never even realized it until it suddenly wasn’t there anymore. I look back on my childhood, on my adolescence, on my young adulthood, and realize that I had been a victim of sexism all my life.
Even she didn’t know the full extent of it. Not until she saw the difference in the way I’m treated now.
For a long time, I hated her. I hated her because she wasn’t me, because to me, she represented every lie I had to tell, every secret I had to keep, every part of myself I couldn’t acknowledge. She was everything about myself I hated. She was everything about myself that was off.
Now, I realize that she’s the strongest part of me. Because she had to be. She had to learn to stand tall when people scoffed at her, when people shrugged her off and dismissed her, when they belittled her, when they told her she was worth less than I am.
She learned how to stand up against those who felt entitled to her body, she learned how to let go and not let their touch haunt her the way it haunted me. She learned how to protect us from those who saw us as nothing but an object to fuck. From those who grabbed her on the street, those who sneered at her, who leered at her, who tried to break her. She learned how to protect us from those who wanted to pull her down and destroy her, from those who wanted to make her less than human.
She learned how to be hard, how to be defiant, how to prove them wrong. She was everything that was off about me, but she was my protector in a world that hated me not just because I was trans, but because my voice was high and my body was feminine.
And she’s far from the only one. So many women go through worse than I did. So many women hurt worse than I did. I was lucky. And I’m lucky in that I don’t have to deal with it anymore.
I never truly appreciated the constant battles she had to fight until I didn’t have to fight them anymore. I never appreciated the strength it took to be her until I saw how much easier it is to be me in our society.
I’ve only been reliably passing as male for a year or so. I’m still learning who I am outside of her. And she’s still there to jump to my defense when I need it, because she grew up in a harder world than I live in.
I will always admire the strength it takes to be her, to be every woman. Even they don’t realize how hard it is to be them, and that makes me angry.
These women have fought these battles every day.
Not against everyone, but against enough.
At least once a day, they are somehow, someway told that they are worth less than men. But they keep going. They keep fighting. They learn how to get past it.
They don’t realize their own strength. Just as she didn’t realize her own strength. She didn’t realize what it took to live through a normal life as a woman until she saw how much easier it is to live a normal life as a man.
She resents that. And so do I. All the insecurity, all the doubt, all the pain of feeling not good enough, she thought there was something wrong with her.
But no, she was perfect. She wasn’t me, but she was perfect. It was society that let her down. Not any fault or shortcoming of her own.
No man will ever understand the strength it takes to be a woman in a world where women are worth less. No man will understand the strength it takes to be a woman in a world where no one wants to acknowledge the battles they still fight.
Where people pretend it doesn’t exist. Where they shrug off a woman, where they brush off her battles.
Women can vote and have bank accounts. What else could they possibly want? Why can’t they stop whining?
It repulses me. It makes me want to turn from the world.
But she’s not heartless. Because, while I wanted to hate every man for what she went through, while I wanted to sneer at the little trials they thought were just so hard, she was the one who stopped me.
She reminded me that pain is not exclusive to women. She reminded me of the good men who do fight for women.
She reminded me of the women in my life that I admire. Women like Domina Jen, who are unbelievably strong, who will never understand the true extent of their own strength, who don’t need anyone to hold them up, but who graciously love and respect the good men in their lives.
But even that a battle in and of itself.
Domina Jen made a mistake once. She let me see the contents of her email inbox. And that brought on a whole new wave of bitterness.
Because I will never again have to deal with what she deals with. The things she considers normal, the threats and the insults that she and everyone around her dismiss, the nonchalance people who love her feel at the way she’s treated, even her own simple, graceful shrug, saying, “That’s just the way it is.”
It infuriated me. Because it’s not fair. And who is going to stand up for her? Who is going to fight for her? Who is going to let her lean on them the way I could lean on her?
Who could she lean on when the weight of holding me up got to be too much?
And the internet is only one small facet, one small glimpse of what it’s like to walk through life like this.
A constant and cruel punishment for the unforgivable crime of having a high voice and feminine body.
No man fully understands what paying for that crime feels like, and how deeply it hurts to be met with the dismissive, apathetic attitude so many men exhibit.
Because they don’t want to see it. They are uncomfortable with being confronted by it. They are uncomfortable realizing how much harder things like going to the bank or getting your oil changed or running a business are for women.
There’s no rest for these women. I escaped it, and seeing it from the outside made me realize how bad it really is. But for the rest, there’s no escape.
I wanted to be angry forever. I wanted to lose myself in my anger. And even Domina Jen couldn’t snap me out of it.
But she could.
She was the one who reminded me what it feels like to love a good man. She was the one to remind me what it feels like to have a good man love me.
She kept me from getting cold. She kept me from letting the bitterness consume me.
The same way she kept me from letting the bitterness consume me when she had to be my mask.
I know that one day, I won’t need her anymore. I’ll be able to put her in a little box, close it, and lock it forever. I’ll be able to leave her behind and move ahead as me.
But that box will always be close to my heart. Because she saved me, every moment of every day, and she will continue to save me right up until the moment I don’t need her anymore.
It’s isolating, seeing the world from both sides, and it’s why I have gravitated to other trans people. Because I’m not the only one who sees it. All trans men see this.
Trans women see the reverse, and my heart hurts for them. Because they have no way of understanding this world they’re coming in to until they walk into it.
Because transitioning is awful enough, it is anxiety-inducing and depressing enough, without having to come to terms with this new reality. Having to understand that being true to who they are means that the world will forever see them as less than their mask.
It makes me cynical, but she won’t let me lose all hope. She stubbornly hangs on, reminding me that giving up never made anything better.
One day, it will be better. I have faith in good people. I have faith that good people won’t give up.
I have faith because I know that she isn’t the only fighter around.