I had been feeling low. I didn’t think many people would understand. Yes my family were ok with my best friend Sophie, who I known since playschool, been a trans woman. But I knew they wouldn’t be ok with me been a trans woman too. It was that weird prejudice thing of ‘everyone’s ok until it’s one of my own’. But at least I had Sophie. I felt I was lucky that way. Some people had no one they could turn to who would understand, who would be supportive, who would still love them.
So I called her and asked her to come over to mine for a coffee. We settled down soon after she arrived and I couldn’t wait to get this all off my chest to someone.
“Soph, I asked you come over here today because I have something important to tell you …”
“Sounds very formal Aaron.”, she smiled.
I had grown used to holding back wincing over the years when someone referred to me as ‘Aaron’. I couldn’t blame anyone though. I had never set them straight on the issue.
I took her hands in mine. It steadied my nerves somewhat. It wasn’t that I feared rejection, simply that saying something out to someone for the first time that means so much to you is always a daunting prospect.
“I’m a trans woman too.”
Because I didn’t fear her response I didn’t feel the need to hesitate. She looked momentarily surprised before wrapping her arms around me in a hug. The tension of holding everything in almost came out in tears. I felt immense relief and also like things would be different in some way for me from here on in and I was apprehensive about that. I hoped I was strong enough for what was to come.
“I’m glad you told me.”, she smiled, warmly.
“Do your family know?”
“Not yet. But I plan to tell them soon. I can’t live this lie anymore. If I don’t do this now I don’t think I ever will … by the way, my name’s Olivia. It’s what my parents were going to call me if I had of been assigned female at birth.”
“It’s nice. It suits you.”
I poured us more coffee. I was on a happy high.
“So when are you planning to start hormones and have your surgeries?”
That wasn’t a question I had expected. Maybe I expected her to ask me if I was going to, not when I was going to.
“I wasn’t going to.”
She places her coffee cup down and raises an eyebrow.
“This isn’t a game you know. This is very real to some of us.”
What was that supposed to mean? It was very real to me.
I’m so shocked by what I’m hearing that I can’t speak so she continues.
“You might see this as a fad but this is my life Aaron.”
“I’m not going to insult real trans women by calling you Olivia. You can’t just throw on a few clothes, a bit of make-up, call yourself Olivia and expect everyone to think you are a woman. It’s an insult to all actual women, trans and cis.”
“I’m a valid woman like all of yous’. And it’s quite a bit more to me than throwing on a few clothes, a bit of make-up and calling myself Olivia. It’s how I feel, it’s how I function with ease in myself, it’s how I’m happy. It’s how I don’t feel offended when I think of been referred to as a woman, as Olivia. It’s how I feel like shit every time someone refers to me as a man, as Aaron.”
“I have went through hell. Do you know much I have had to sacrifice to start hormones? To get all the surgeries I needed? Do you know how many times I caught a glimpse of my naked body in the reflection of my bedroom mirror and felt disgusted? Felt gender dysphoria about my body?”
“Sophie, I am not trying to belittle any of that. I seen how you struggled …”
“And yet you want to make a mockery of every trans woman. Don’t you think we get enough of that from cis people like you already?”
“I’m not cis. Look people feel differently. They have to do what they have to do to make themselves happy and comfortable. And for you, that required hormones and all your surgeries and I’m am so so happy for you that it all worked out because I love you and our friendship to pieces. But what I need to make me happy and comfortable is different Sophie. Can’t you understand that?”
She gets up and walks to the door. She turns around at the door.
“You aren’t a woman. You’ll never be a woman. You aren’t trans enough. Heck you aren’t trans at all.”, she says and walks out.
The silence of my flat was awful. I had lost my best friend. I felt an emptiness in my stomach. And rapid fear of the future in my body. Was this how most people were going to react? Was I destined to be incredibly lonely? This spiral escalated in my brain for some time after she left and then I faced a hard realisation …
Sophie was never really my friend.
She was acting like I was the enemy. Like I was the one who had put her through stuffing. Didn’t she remember that I was the first person she told when she was 11? The one who was there for her at numerous appointments? The one who gave her the spare bedroom of my flat to crash in after her family threw her out after she came out to them? The first one who supported her and helped her to not hide away when she feared the reaction of those she met? I supported her and yet she couldn’t support me. She was doing exactly to me what other people had done to her. And worse still she couldn’t even see that that was what she was doing. But I realised I had been seeking her support, not her approval, not her blessing, certainly not her permission.
I am a woman. I am Olivia. I am trans enough. More than any of that, I am me and I thought I meant something to her. I clearly meant nothing. Things were definitely going to be hard and even harder without any support. But I was strong, I would support myself and I would follow my own long ago advice and not hide away. Out in this world there is good people. I would find them. Until then I could handle this. I told myself over and over to convince myself. I would be me. I would be happy, comfortable and at ease been me. No one could or would take that away. My future of been authentic to who I was and how I felt started here.