Abigail is an up-and-coming scholar working at her university, who despite her young age has already spearheaded numerous research projects and co-authored papers in the most prominent journals of the world. She is a star player at her community’s amateur football team, frequently volunteers at the women and children’s shelter, and is currently committed to her longest romantic relationship to date. Life seems to be picturesque and fulfilling for our scholar / athlete / community supporter, if only those are the labels others would see in her, when there is only one other person who could see: a trans woman.

Abigail made the decision on her final year of postgraduate research. It was an eureka moment when all the stars aligned with her spirit and those longing, those discomforts that she has lived with all her life, are finally confronted. She chose to bury it deep, away from the lights, in part due to the hectic schedule and workload of a burned out individual soon to begin thesis defence, in part due to the overwhelming fear of assuming someone new to this earth, becoming a stranger to everyone she knows, even herself. Abigail last saw her parents on the day of the doctoral ceremony, where their visible pride for their only son brings searing pain to their new daughter.

“Albert,” mother said, with restrained worry in her voice. “Is everything okay?” To Abigail, that name is associated with the shell she wore to fit into the world’s judgment. She knows the revelation is in order and that senseless delay would only bring suffering. It did not end well for her conservative parents, with a wish for their son Albert to have children and to pass on their family line. It was the day when she was no longer their loving child, but a trans woman.

Her quality of work remains unaffected by the turmoil of her life, there is frequent praise for her papers from everyone in the department, just as much as there are murmurs that her rise is mandated by the University to complete its diversity quota, and that she is undeserving of her success, and that she has been favoured over “normal” researchers who produce the same level of products. The gaze of her colleagues, as innocent and friendly as they were, were perceived by her as a dagger, prancing around her body and might strike at any given time. She was not a promising academic excelling in her field, but a trans woman.

It is apparent that Abigail has a larger, taller physique that, while it does not affect her ability of passing as a woman, does attract lingering gaze from passers-by. She has been fond of sports since she can walk and has developed a lean, strong male physique from an active lifestyle by the end of puberty. The passion for physical engagement has not wavered despite her new identity, and she has quickly proven her ability in the community women’s football team. On the field, it is as if nobody can catch up to her speed or to block her strike, she scored goal after goal for her team. In all the losing teams there is always a tiny breath of resentment, barely noticeable until Abigail went to offer the player’s handshake. After one particularly devastating match, a player politely, yet bluntly asked, “So, Abigail, when did you begin your transition again?” She was taken aback and was at a loss for words, the player’s teammate pulled her back and made their excuses. When Abigail headed back to her team’s locker room, she realised a few teammates of hers are conspicuously facing away, distancing from her while changing. She was not the victorious player who brought glory for her friends, but a trans woman.

Abigail volunteers at her local shelter, which acted as a halfway home for victims of domestic violence. She would play with small children and tutor the older ones. Some of the more observant children asked her if she was a boy or a girl, and she was more than happy to explain and educate her situation to an intrigued crowd. One timid young boy in the midst asked Abigail if he can grow up to be her one day, and Abigail tearily promised that everyone can become whoever they want. The next day, one of the mothers of the children came charging at her, accusing her of being a predator and infecting her child with moral depravity. Abigail tried to retort but was pleaded by the staff to not further upset the mother, a victim traumatised of long-term sexual abuse by her husband. Abigail left without a word. She was not a role model, someone to be trusted around children, not someone women can feel safe with and confide in, but a perverted man, a deviant, a trans woman.

Abigail came to know her boyfriend, Leonard through a dating app. He is among the few that had not ghosted from further meetups upon learning her gender identity. During the first few months Leonard was kind and accommodating, almost to an excessive degree, but Abigail did not mind it, she had never experienced such tender love from someone else before. Leonard began moving in with her and repeatedly asked her for sexual favours. Abigail had made explicit that she was not ready every time he asked, until he had finally snapped, ranting about how nobody else would want her, only he had stayed by her side, and he deserved to be rewarded. He then confesses the only reason he had approached her is to satisfy his curiosity about a trans woman’s anatomy, and since she would not let him, he would satisfy those urges elsewhere. Abigail, crouching and trembling on the corner of their room, wanted to scream out loud yet the only thing that was coming out was a stifled sobbing whimper. She is not a woman deserving of love, she is not a human deserving of dignity, but a beggar, a sexual novelty, a trans woman.

She is not her, never been, never more. Abigail’s grief took over a large part of her psyche, such that when it transpired, only emptiness remained. 

One morning, Abigail received a call from the women and children’s shelter, it was the timid child she saw last time. The child, along with a few others, had gotten something out of her sharing her life story. They have decided to talk to a counsellor about the possibilities of beginning Hormone Replacement Therapy. The child thanked Abigail for being there and for them. Abigail hung up the phone, tears rolling down her cheeks. 

Her identity has been a burden and pain to herself, but it is something she is proud of. She would persevere through the objection of strangers and loved ones, through cultural stigma and ignorance, through malice and insensitivity, if it meant that she would become truly herself in deed, in thought, in form. This is the most arduous and the most righteous journey, and she would brave the challenges ahead if she could in turn inspire others to discover their truth. She is a woman, and she is a trans woman.

LGBGTQ+/ Minority Mental Health

Andy

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