transphobia can sometimes lead us to despair – what would happen if it led us to rage instead?
“i don’t think i want ffs [facial feminization surgery].”
i say this aloud to the girl next to me as we’re walking along the shoreline of gibbes beach, barbados. each of us only a couple months into hrt. we’re shirtless and our breasts are unnoticeable to the untrained eye: humble, hairy and discreet. nobody knows we’re girls and that’s okay for now. hell, we weren’t even sure we were girls back then.
at the edge of the shoreline, the sand starts to melt. feet slip beneath the surface, and the water grazes ankles with a slurry of seashell pieces, broken coral horns and illegible rocks and grit. here is where everything fixed disintegrates. form stops being stubborn in places like this. step into the water, let the ripples unravel you and dream a little shapeless dream. committing to form feels silly here. why commit to form when you can commit to endless becoming? endless disintegration? you could be the tiniest grain of sand, the most unnameable rock of long-forgotten something or maybe even the juiciest body of water and you’d still be a cosmos of contradictions either way.
so, understandably, i could casually shelve something like ffs in a place like this, where fixed form holds no power. the sea gives me so much dreamy hope. i’ve dreamt about trans girls breathing underwater. trans girls finding life below the surface. i’ve dreamt those dreams because the land can be so cruel, fickle and stubborn against bodies more presupposed and intimately acquainted with change.
the land is heavy with hostile structures and even more hostile people. structures and people that too often make a girl like me see more possibility in walking straight into the water. never to return.
a low point: you thought about stepping into the maas river and letting the current unravel you. the water isn’t clear here. nobody would see you go. you’d leave as quiet as you came.
how did you get here?
you were pushed here. you were hunted by life-shattering people and systems. the bastards kept grinding you down. you’re in the dark, spiralling, weighing up your options.
a second passes: you think about stepping into the maas.
another second: you think detransition is your only other option.
a third second: detransition just feels like choosing to drown on land instead.
yet another second: when your options are two different kinds of death, can it still be called a choice?
at last: what is the third choice?
credit leyla husain
if despair is something the world tries to bury us with alone, then rage is a tool for digging ourselves out together.
despair is something the world gives you.
it is something given to you by spiritually destitute, morally vacant and painfully insecure people. it is something given to you by cis people and cis structures. it is a gift you will try your hardest to refuse. it is a gift you will internalise one way or another just by living in this world while trans.
some things in this world will be given to you, whether you want them or not.
other things, like your survival, your place in this world, your right to live fearlessly, must be taken by force. must be taken by any means necessary.
“i don’t think i want ffs.”
you were afraid. it sounded drastic to you. that’s the surface of it.
you felt like choosing this meant you only wanted to pass. some young and plucky nonbinary gender-unruly part of yourself rebuked the need to pass. they wanted to set some kind of example. they wanted to endure. in truth, they were afraid of passing. they feared passing meant they would disappear.
you knew women before you who made a way where there was none. black women who lived beautiful trans survivals. no hormones. no surgeries. just what their bodies gave them, shaped and reshaped by an older kind of transsexual obeah glamour. you wanted to inherit their ways and secrets. you felt like choosing otherwise would dishonour them. disappear them. you feared the whitewashing of transfeminine surgical procedures. you feared your face’s disappearance into european standards of beauty. but what you feared most was losing your resemblance to these women who came before you.
speak back to the fear.
whatever choice i make for my own survival—whatever choice i make for futureproofing my chances for joy, freedom and a life lived fearlessly—will always be a choice to honour these women, deeper and so much more everlasting than my disappearance ever could. whatever choice we make for living fearlessly will always be a sure-fire way of dishonouring this world and all the scarcity it seeks to bury us with. i want us all to live so fucking dishonourably.
i’ve had my doubts about making certain decisions. but personal dilemmas and deferred or unmakeable choices won’t keep me alive and well in a world as turbulent and violent as ours. my despair made me think i wasn’t cut out for any of this. for being trans. for living a trans life. so, my rage helped me take back what i needed. and what i needed was to feel like i had a choice. even if it made no difference to the world. i needed to know that i could choose to make a difference for myself. what i needed was to cut a way out where there was none.
my rage—following despair over a consecutive series of transphobic encounters—pushed me to pursue ffs for myself. my rage showed me a world of ugly cruel systems and vicious people that would not change itself to accommodate me. so, my rage helped me choose to change myself to accommodate me.
rage is the clarity of knowing when you’ve had enough. when you can no longer normalise your own suffering. when you can no longer banalize the seemingly random violences that find you on a daily basis. when you accept the sobering knowledge that you deserve better than this. that you deserve more than the crumbs the world is prepared to offer you. rage is a last line of defence, when all your self-effacing self-defence practices and survival tactics can no longer carry you forward into anything that still resembles a life worth living. it makes difficult choices easy. it makes low points into turning points. rage is your body’s way of setting all your nerve endings ablaze, screaming away all the silences that can no longer protect you.
letting my rage guide me, choosing myself over the scarcity and limp unfeeling coldness this world was offering me—this choice not only kept me warm: it kept a thriving future intact. burning the world and choosing myself showed me very clearly all the amazing people who would show up for me in my moment of need. keeping my ffs fundraiser afloat, sharing and donating where they could, sending the sweetest words of support, each of these beautiful loving people are a reason why living in this world is worthwhile. on the other side, rage outed the insincerity of people who wanted my clout and cultural capital but who would never lift a finger to help me when it really mattered. my rage burned away the wheat from the chaff. the lovers from the liars.
rage is the clarity of flames burning bright in moments of stifling darkness. rage is the courage to burn bridges that only lead to exhaustion and despair. rage is love at its most materially supportive, mobilising, incendiary and life-giving.
if the world refuses to change, burn a hole in it and force your way through to somewhere better. let rage take you where you need to be.