Growing up in a conservative country is like a two-way mirror for me as a trans woman.
On the one side, I am blessed to be surrounded by people who contribute a lot of good things to my life, providing me with the fundamental values of honesty, conscience, persistence and compassion.
I am grateful that I was taught these gender-neutral values as a kid that helped me later deal with everyday situation as an adult. On the other side, however, is the hell of being constantly judged for being trans by the so-called “good” people.
I grew up in the strict but double-standard shame culture of my society. For example, when a government official gets caught with his pants down with a celebrity, the media do not disclose his name. But the same media go to town in their reports on the woman celebrity involved – which I find appalling.
In this culture, you are obliged to be a good kid, which means you must never bring your family name’s down. Being successful in school and career is important, because it helps to elevate your family’s name. Everything we do is associated with our family’s name. So being transgender is problematic, because I can bring shame to my family.
While putting your family first is a good value, I believe that the high expectations that come with it prevent people from actualizing themselves fully.
I have been haunted by the anxieties that I would hurt my family’s feeling. I also have anxieties about my future. Do you really think that every trans woman is a self-centered bitch who doesn’t care about her family?
People love to preach. When I hear people say, it’s okay for you to be a trans, as long you are successful, I feel the urge to ask them to define “being successful”. Success can be interpreted subjectively, but why is it only okay when I am successful by people’s standard? And why is being trans only acceptable with conditions attached, when all we are doing is being ourselves?
Transgender also tends to be the butt of jokes. I always wonder what is so funny about being effeminate or what makes it so commercially appealing that comedians or other public figures would mock being effeminate as part of entertainment. Is femininity so laughable? Some people say it’s funny because men shouldn’t behave like that, but real gentlemen know how to respect other people regardless of their gender expressions.
The media and society often portray trans women as mere sexual beings, neglecting the fact that trans people have multiple dimensions and complexities like other human beings. I wonder if people ever think that we have (and love) our family, that we are motivated to be good and do good things, and that we have emotions and feelings as well. Sex is not the only thing in our mind.
Perhaps these assumptions reflect the people who make them. That their obsession with sex is reflected on transgender people. Yes, I like sex, but that’s not the only thing in my mind. I feel happy when I see a smiling baby, I get scared when I watch horror movies, I am sad when I see all the horrible news about war. I have feelings like other people. Perhaps this means I’m human just like them?
On top of that, we feel inferior to cis women, eternally insecure about the validation of our gender. Some of us feel constantly guilty because we are taught that we live in sins. Some of us feel hopeless, and yet, we keep trying to find happiness with our own coping strategy.
I have to admit I naively thought I could build a family just like cis women. But then I realized that that kind of life was fairy tale for me (though not all trans woman have this feelings, so please don’t generalize my experience). As we increasingly lose hope, we must face the day-today anxiety of encountering people everytime we step outside our home.
In my journey, however, I’ve met a lot of good people who helped me cope with my daily troubles. It makes me believe that there’s still hope for us, the-so-called marginalized, immoral sinners. But I often wonder why kindness does not seem to touch policy makers at high level.
All the efforts that have been made through advocacy movements, lobbying and consultation, are always responded with “we are not ready to do this because our people is not ready for this.”
This attitude is an insult to themselves as human beings. Since when has doing good things require you to be be ready? I know that many of my countrymen are actually good-hearted people. By saying that our people are not ready, we underestimate their inherent goodness and kindness.
What I am trying to say is that being trans is the most courageous thing in this world. In addition to the constant battle we face, it has helped me appreciate things beyond their material value or physical appearance. And being transgender helps me see the world clearer, allowing me to differentiate the real good ones from the rest.
To those kind people who help woman like me go through their days, I thank all of you. I’m not sure whether the divine power will appreciate your kindness as there are too many cultural and political interpretation on its teaching about people like us. But I know that when you do good, good things come back to you. For those who oppose, hate, or are disgusted by us, feel free to do so and feel free to change your mind.
But if you don’t, I can only say, “Mind your own biscuits!” After all, it’s the judgment from the above that is final, if there’s “above” anyway.
*Illustration by Adhitya Pattisahusiwa