The columnist “Ask a Trans Woman” piece and some personal Q’s from an Indian reader
By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
One of the more interesting parts about writing this column, and my life generally, is that sometimes I’ll check my e-mail, or one of my social media feeds, and find a message from a random person in some very elsewhere part of the world. Sometimes they are quite complimentary, admiration from afar. Other times, they are terribly heart-wrenching; trans people in bad situations. Occasionally, they are just curious, reaching out for a better understanding.
As I was sitting in my favorite local bar with a friend one evening, I received one of the last sort. A very polite message from a girl in New Delhi, India with a list of questions for a class writing project.
She had apparently come across a fairly recent column of mine where I discussed questions I like to be asked and others that I prefer not to be. I thought it might be useful to answer her questions here, to share with you lovely folks.
“What’s great about being trans?”
I discussed some aspects of this in my recent column, but it is what I most like to be asked, so I definitely have more to say. One major thing I think is absolutely great about being trans is that it has afforded me the opportunity to know, and really experience, what it’s like to be treated as both male and female, and indeed also as “other” in my own society. I did not truly identify as male before I transitioned, but I presented myself that way, and that was how I was treated.
Honestly, I could probably write an entire book about the differences. But suffice it to say, I feel quite lucky, as a trans person, and as a woman who is always curious about the world and the people in it, to have these perspectives.
“What are some of the struggles you have faced being a transgender female in this society?”
Ah, well, to begin with, though where I live is probably somewhat safer and less discriminatory than many other places in the world, it’s still not a picnic. Indeed, I have often said that most of the difficulties I face being a trans woman have less to do with actually being trans and more to do with how the world around me treats trans people.
I am not depressed or dysphoric because I am trans, necessarily. I am sometimes depressed because people treat me poorly. I can still even be legally discriminated against in vast parts of my own country. Many people still feel perfectly okay yelling slurs at me in public and I am often treated as,“less than.” That is often quite difficult.
Being a little depressed, in that context, is not at all a surprising side-effect. Relatedly, if I am dysphoric, it is not because I do not “feel” I am a woman. I know I am. I know at the very core of my identity and I am quite secure in that. No, I am occasionally dysphoric because I might have been called “sir” too many times in a day. I am dysphoric because I have to struggle simply to be treated and accepted, as any other woman, as the woman I am.
“How did you decide to make this decision?”
This is actually a really great way to ask this. I tell a story at some greater length in another column of the “moment” in my life that made me realize I needed to transition, not just to be myself, but also to be a better artist.
More broadly, though, I reached a point where my life was simply untenable. I could no longer keep up the facade of pretending to be a man. I was drinking quite heavily and making a lot of rather dangerous decisions. “Committing suicide by lifestyle choices,” is how I like to sometimes describe it. In a very real sense, the man I had pretended to be was falling apart at the seams.
It was either die or transition. The “choice” was that I felt I had very little choice left in the matter.
“What is something you feel people should know and always keep in mind?”
That we are people, just like the people you know already. Trans people are brothers, sisters, friends, parents, coworkers, and neighbors. We love, we hate, we eat too much chocolate, we binge on Netflix, we go to work, we go to school, we do good things in the world and our communities, and sometimes we make poor choices about our diets and our lovers.
We do all the things you do. We are more like you than you think.
“When and what made you realize you were trans?”
The short answer is that I have always known I am a woman. As far back as I have memory, I have known.
The slightly longer answer is that I knew the way I was being gendered wasn’t right. But adults seemed to think I was a boy and they knew how to do important things like pay bills and drive cars and make hamburgers. So, I figured maybe they were also right about me being a boy.
And so it took me a long time to understand they were wrong and I really was a girl. It took even longer to find out what “trans” was and connect that to my innate sense of my “true” gender not matching how I was being gendered. And, then even longer to accept all this myself and come to terms with it.
So, I have always known I was trans. It has taken my entire life to realize it.
“What is the biggest misconception people have?”
Ooh, lordy, there’s a lot of them. Probably the biggest misconception, though, relates to what I was talking about a couple of questions ago. It’s the idea that we are very different from anyone else.
I am personally kind of a weird person. I was really geeky growing up and a big punk rocker for a long time. In my twenties, when I was still pretending to be a man, I had bright blue hair for quite a while. But that’s just me, the individual person I am.
But in many other ways, I am just like anyone else.
I like to make the joke when I’m speaking to crowds that being trans is probably the most normal thing about me! Everything else is very weird.
“What have been the easiest and hardest parts for you?”
The easiest part is waking up every day, knowing exactly who I am. Knowing I am a woman, specifically this woman, Lorelei.
The hardest part was getting here.
*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer, and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Originally published in the August 2, 2018 issue of The Rainbow Times.]