Especially since legally changing my name (the rest of that story to follow soon), I have been thinking increasingly about the irreversible nature (and not) of my coming out as transgender last October.
As frequently as every couple days, I find myself feebly attempting to convince myself that I was wrong, that there must remain some way in which I can comfortably live without that troublesome "s" spearheading my pronouns, that I cannot actually expect to spend the next entirety of my life living outside intelligible gender.
* * *
In the Great War, the Allies and the Central Powers employed the tactic of trench warfare, in which their respective armies dug vast networks of tunnels in the dirt, shooting firearms and launching explosives from the relative safety of the subterranean. Soldiers would spend many weeks, even months, in the squalor of these conditions, at an everlasting standoff with the enemy across the way, trapped underground, unable to advance.
The space between the opposing forces came to be known as No Man's Land, for the entry into such in-between meant a sure and sudden suicide.
This is what it feels like to be transgender.
Sure, the trenches were filthy and filled with men, I tell myself; sure, if you didn't die by gunshot you probably died by disease; sure, the cold was terrible; but there was an admirable structure to life in the trenches. It wasn't perfect but it worked, and people understood what it meant to be there.
But as a non-man myself, as someone who did not want to spend the rest of her life pretending to be content sleeping in the shit of her comrades, who longed to inhale fresh air even at the risk of mustard gas, I went out into the fated space and legalized my right to live there.
Before last Friday, when my name was still incorrect, I could have retreated to the trenches at any time I wanted: taking the train into the city, going in to apply for a job at yet another café, etc.
And since I will not be doing any hormone therapies or silicone injections or reconstructive surgeries or the like, I will always have the uncomfortable option to adorn myself in the old clothes of my boyhood to buy myself safe passage when necessary. And since not every person that I will pass on the street will read my driver's license and understand just what I am doing with my hair how it is and the earrings I am wearing and the makeup I apply and the dress that swirls sunshine around my thighs—all of this with a five o'clock shadow fading in and a flat flat chest—even a legalized name and gender change will not grant me asylum from the No Man's Land.
I look at the earth around me.
I remember what it was like in that infernal pit of feigned belonging.
A bullet hasn't hit me yet.
Everything is so much more beautiful up here.