[This post is the last of four speeches by SEEN members from our launch event in October. The author wishes to remain anonymous.]
Most people have a favourite Harry Potter character. For some it’s Hermione, others perhaps Dumbledore. I’ve always been a Luna Lovegood fan. I liked the fact she floats slightly off synch and doesn’t care for others’ approval. I liked the fact that she speaks the truth. I like the fact that she doesn’t mind that she doesn’t fit.
I used to mind that I didn’t fit. In fact, there used to be a lot of things that I minded; a lot of things I wanted to change, thinking that if these changed everything else would fit.
It was at school that I first used to think about cutting off my breasts: one after the other, until my chest was flat again, back to the pre-fall perfection of childhood.
It was at school that I discovered that the horror of menstruation could be curtailed if I restricted my food intake enough to trick my body into thinking I was starting to starve.
In the end I kept the cutting to my wrists, and my thoughts to myself. But they were there, these secret desires to strip myself of this unwanted unfolding into a womanhood I never wanted, but which still came: uninvited with its horrors. I thought without this everything would be better.
And so, these changes were a matter of intense misery. So much so that by the time I left school it was a long time since I’d considered myself capable of happiness. I accepted this was my lot. I was just unlucky that my body and brain didn’t fit. Most unluckily of all, I had to navigate this in silence and in solitude.
I did not realise then what I know now: how lucky I was.
I didn’t appreciate how lucky I was not to be promised the one thing that I really wanted.
I didn’t understand how lucky I was that no one told me that there was a way out. For no one told me there might be a way to return first to childhood; or at very least to stop the fall and from there have time to think and (if I wanted) to start again. No one told me I could then become one of the real people: one of the men.
No one answered my prayers, gave me a reason to stop hurting myself.
And I was lucky because no one let me think that because I didn’t wear little dresses to go out and disco, but preferred standing with the other DJ boys at the drum and bass night in hoodies and combats, meant anything more than the fact that I really appreciated my breakbeats.
I knew I didn’t fit in, that I was awkward and perpetually out of tune. But I was lucky because no one pointed a way to how I could be made to fit: confirmed and curtailed me through drugs and surgery that promised to make me feel ‘right’.
I had a horrible time at school. It was miserable. I hated my adolescence and puberty so much I still don’t talk about them. But I know now I was lucky because never once was I told anything but the truth.
I am older. Many things have changed. I’ve found my own way to navigate the complex dance between being female and expectations of femininity. I have forgiven my body and found gratitude in what it can do. I better understand my mind and can present as normal for almost two hours at a time.
I also have a nephew and I recognise something in him that I once knew in myself. He’s lovely, he’s a rare jewel of a human being, not quite of this earth, half angel. But he’s autistic odd, like me. He does a lovely turn to Lady Gaga, makes machines and sits inside them looking into the silver-plated looking glass that belonged to an old aunt. For a while he begged to have his limbs replaced with metal ones so he could become a cyborg. Recently he’s started sometimes telling me he wants to become a girl, apparently he wants to go to Rainbows with his sister.
These days people prick up their ears at such a combination. And there are many ways his parents could frame this behaviour. But if they were to follow the educational resources recommended at his school, they’d quickly interpret these signs to mean that he was trapped in the wrong body and we should affirm his identity as an imperative.
Luckily they, like me, are not so sure that there are wrong bodies, any more than there is wrong skin colour or wrong brains. There are people and they are diverse, and this diversity is complex and glorious. But being different doesn’t mean wrong.
I am glad they don’t share these teaching resources with him. I am glad no one has told him that his personality means that his body needs changing to fit. I am glad no one has told him he cannot ‘be himself’ without lifelong medication and permanent surgical damage to his body.
Some boys are sensitive and want to hang out with girls and wear dresses. That doesn’t mean they need ‘fixing’. They need to be made welcome and feel celebrated as they are. I am glad he is being made to feel welcome as who he is.
Like many of you, I’ve been through the wars and having been through the wars I want to protect. I am determined to protect those I love; those I don’t know but who I recognise as like me; and those who are not like me but I recognise are vulnerable. I want to protect others so that they have the opportunity to grow up to be the rare, non-conforming, unconventional humans they deserve to become.
I am not here out of hate, or out of anger, or out of fear. I’m here because the truth matters.
No one should lie, even if those lies are designed to be kind.
No one – especially children – should ever be encouraged to believe the lie that they can change sex, and that damaging their bodies will take away their unhappiness. Lies are complex structures that require constant complex shoring up. And however hard we try, everyone eventually comes to understand that they have been lied to, and that is a terrible thing.
Of all the kindness that I have received in life, gentleness and honesty are among those I most cherish. And we owe the most vulnerable the respect of honesty, of speaking the truth. Everyone deserves that gift.
Cover image: “Thinking woman” by pacogaitero is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/?ref=openverse.