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'I read, watch movies, listen to music... My life, as a trans woman, is very ordinary indeed'

‘People out there will tell you being transgender is as simple as filling in a form. I can assure you that it is not,’ writes Aoife Martin.

Aoife Martin

A debate is currently raging in the UK about transgender rights and laws. In Ireland, the Gender Recognition Act was introduced in 2015. That piece of legislation allows people over the age of 18 to self-declare their own gender identity. Aoife Martin tells her story after author JK Rowling published an essay outlining her concerns about possible changes to British laws

JK ROWLING HASN’T said anything new this week.

Nothing in the self-serving screed that she published on Wednesday is ground-breaking or original.

Her blog post is full of the same arguments I’ve seen used against trans women time and time again.

Instead of writing about her opinions, let me tell you a little about me and my life instead.

I am 50 years old. I have a good job. I have colleagues and friends who love me. My life is as routine and uneventful as any other woman my age. Pre-lockdown, I would get up, go to work, and come home again.

At weekends, I would meet friends for coffee. I would go to the cinema or go for a swim. I like movies. I read books. I listen to music. My life is very ordinary indeed. My life doesn’t, or shouldn’t, impact on anyone whatsoever. And yet my very existence is called into question day in and day out, week in and week out because I happen to be transgender.

I was assigned male at birth but growing up I knew that I was different that I didn’t fit in. It took me a long time to figure out who I was and an even longer time to accept who I was because I was ashamed. I hated being transgender. I hated having these feelings. I hated not fitting in.

I just wanted to be like other boys my age and I lied about who I was.

I lied to my parents. I lied to my siblings. I lied to my friends. I lied to myself. I forced myself to live in a role that I just didn’t fit into.

I grew a beard and I did all the things that men are supposed to do. I fought, and I fought hard, against who I was for a long time until finally I just couldn’t fight any more. I accepted the truth that it was no use fighting anymore. The truth that I needed to be me, that I was, whether I liked it or not, a transgender woman.

It’s a hell of a drug, that acceptance of yourself, that Damascene moment when you realise with such beautiful clarity that this is who you are.

I don’t know what it’s like for other people, trans or otherwise, but for me it was as if a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders, a burden I hadn’t even realised that I’d been carrying up to then. At that moment I promised I would live the rest of my life being true to myself.

It’s a promise I’ve kept but I’d be lying if I said it was easy.

I have lost family and friends.

People I love no longer speak to me.

Being transgender has cost me a lot, more than most people will ever know, and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t ask myself was it worth it? And each time I ask that question the answer always comes back the same…. Yes.

I’m skipping over a lot: the tears, the self-doubt, the recriminations, the counselling, the psychiatric evaluations just to get healthcare, to be approved for surgery, the legal requirements, the countless hoops – big and small – that I had to jump through: changing my name, getting a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), getting my birth certificate updated, the saga of opening a new bank account….and on and on.

What I’m trying to get across here is that it is not easy being transgender.

It is not a simple thing to get a GRC. (You can read more about the official process here.)

It is difficult to transition from one gender to the other. It requires a will power and determination that most people don’t have because most people aren’t transgender.

And yet there are people out there who would tell you it’s a simple as filling in a form. I can assure you that it is not.

I haven’t talked about gender dysphoria* and how it can cripple you and eat you up and make you ashamed by your own body or about how hard it is to look in the mirror every day because sometimes you still see the man you once were looking back at you no matter how hard you try not to.

Most people don’t have to think about any of these things because most people are not transgender.

I don’t know what it’s like to feel at ease in your own body and I don’t know that I ever will.

I will have to take hormones for the rest of my life and, until I have surgery, I will have to inject myself with a hormone blocker every three months.

My body is constantly in flux, ever changing but never reaching its goal, never attaining its true form. I will forever be transitioning, and I don’t ever see a time where my brain will say that I have transitioned.

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None of this makes me any less of a woman. Yes, my experience of womanhood isn’t the same as other women’s – just as a black woman’s experience isn’t the same as a white woman’s.

But we all have different experiences and we are all oppressed by the same patriarchal systems that have held women underfoot for centuries.

Trans women, despite what some people would have you believe, are not your enemy.

We walked with you for bodily autonomy even while we are still fighting for that autonomy ourselves. We are your friends, your colleagues, your comrades in arms. We are your sisters. We just want to live our lives and be who we are, who we’ve always known ourselves to be.

Aoife Martin is a trans woman and activist. In her spare time she likes reading, going to the cinema and practicing card tricks.

*The HSE defines gender dysphoria as “the distress experienced by those whose gender identity feels at odds with aspects of their birth body. This can be experienced as physical discomfort and psychological and emotional distress. Social factors are often key in the experience of gender dysphoria. Biological sex is assigned at birth, depending on the appearance of the genitals. Gender identity is the gender that a person identifies with or feels themselves to be.”

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Aoife Martin

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