Today's featured post is a guest post by Roman Rimer of romanrimer.com. Roman is a nomadic storyteller, an activist, and a spoken word performer who has performed across the country and at many colleges and universities. We hope you'll check out Roman's website and this post!
As my friend Tom astutely pointed out after a mutual friend had his wallet stolen, "who would steal the identity of a transsexual?"
The irony is not wasted on how incredibly tragic it is to steal someone’s identity after they have fought their entire lives to claim it as their own.
Tom’s comment has stayed with me as I had been pickpocketed myself just a few days prior at a bar in the east village, the boiler room. I was in the process of initiating a five way kiss between me, two friends of mine, some nice fellows we’d met. What could have lead to an unforgettably freeing night of strangers becoming close friends and close friends becoming lovers was derailed when I noticed my back right jeans pocket feeling empty.
Moments later, after accepting the loss, punching a nearby brick wall outside the entrance to the bar, I was enveloped by my momentary lack of faith in humanity, which I have been continuously fighting to overcome. Earlier at the bar I had stood up for one of the friends after someone questioned his gender identity; I was feeling that night we could now all feel safe and have a good time. I was braver than I thought. Then selfishness sunk in and I was struck by was how difficult it had been to get my New York ID (and other cards including an EBT card) in the first place, as though everything I’d gone through was for nothing.
I imagined the person who took the wallet, holding my “proof of existence,” having no idea... I’d been petsitting for friends, living from one place to the next, having difficulty staying afloat. The security I had hoped to find at a bar that evening with friends quickly evaporated and I felt more invisible than before.
Just three years earlier it was a chore everyday reminding people that I was “male,” which seemed to fit far more than “female” had felt in the prior 27 years. Trying everything under the sun so I could fit in and feel normal. It was beyond sexuality, it was my body itself. And in a different way than the usual peer pressure, everyone feels left out kind of way. This was when I looked in the mirror and quite simply, did not see myself.
I was doing everything right, or so I thought, so why did I feel so bad? Transitioning - which can be a continual, everlasting process for some - was pushed so far down that I only grew strong enough to face it out of pure desperation because I had run out of other ways of staying alive. It was easier lying to myself and not having to investigate what I feared could be real.
As there are more of us than we will ever know, our experiences are completely unique. While being interviewed by CBS News reporter Josh Landis, I clearly stated “gender affects everybody.” A colleague and I were interviewed about being “transmen” as Chaz Bono had just come out. The quote was not included in the segment (the mainstream media has ads to sell, not people to educate), yet if I had heard that when I was younger I wonder how much more secure I would be now.
There is good news - folks who have questioned their gender and actively follow what they know is right about themselves are 2000% more badass than those who haven’t. It’s true - I did a study. This is where those depressing stats about transpeople come in handy. I read somewhere that the combination of suicidal ideation and transphobia is so common that the average lifespan for trans-identified people is 23. 23!! Instead of feeling sad about this - think of how awesome it is for those who have made it past 23 (and there is a lot of us!!) Time spent thinking we don’t have a place in the world is time not spent making a place for ourselves and our sisters, brothers, and non-gender specific comrades. So let’s start celebrating that we are alive.
We had to put up with violence, denials, anger from others, ourselves, people who identified as friends and family, though showed no sign of either because somehow the idea of someone “changing their gender” is unusual, yet marriage and procreation are not only considered “normal” but encouraged. If people are battling to stay alive, there will definitely be no marriage and no children.
There are different priorities. As an activist and friend, Kim once said a a Trans Rally, “Marriage would be nice, but can I get some life first?”
This is how it is. Now that I find I am more comfortable with my body (though I could use a haircut and could stand to be in better shape), my goal is more to pull those up from where I have been, because I know how difficult it can be. I was fortunate enough to have many supportive friends and family members. Yet even words with kind intentions can still come across as hurtful.
The idea of being born in the “wrong body” is an insult to everyone. No one’s body is “wrong” It’s just what my friend Sean calls his “skin bag.” we travel through the world in this costume of sorts. My body is the same body I was born in. I didn’t go anywhere.
For a culture that continually warns us against identity theft, there is little that is said about the identity that’s been stripped from us since birth by the world we’ve had to conform to in order to survive.
Growing up people are still assumed to be heterosexual, cisgender, able to see and hear and move around perfectly, and if not, it is assumed that everyone is able to access ways to “fix” what’s not considered “normal.” People who are read as “different” in whatever way that is, are forced to spend time defending themselves and caring for others undergoing the same harsh treatment.
Transitioning for most people is not just one step. It’s not that easy, if anything, I discovered more of how we’re tied into our identities according to the state. Emotions don’t go well with bureaucracy. Changing my name and gender (though I think in one state the ID says male and in another I’m female. Ha! Gotcha!) like that of anything else, is a pain more than anything, using time and money under the illusion of security. While many aspects of the name change (made much easier thanks to the kind folks at tldef), helped in myriad ways, it was mostly in reassuring myself and others I am who I say I am, IDs are one more thing to have to buy, to lose, to carry around, to worry about someone stealing. This piece of plastic holding more power over us than our own will. As though people are trained to trust documents more than other people, “Well it says here you’re ____”
The idea of being told who we are what we are comes as soon as we enter the world. Lives are spent either trying to conform to this image or overcoming what we've been told about ourselves. The gender binary serves to divide us further, based on what our bodies have become and how we should behave, who we should be attracted to.
People don’t question their own gender or sexuality and then assume those of us who have done the work are wrong. There is some security in it, I suppose. But only if you’re asleep.