There’s so much mysticism about being a woman, so much so that it’s impossible to describe with words. Some still consider it the weak gender, yet there’s so much strength, resilience, and power in it. Really anyone who thinks that has no idea what being a woman is.
Perhaps it’s the resistance, the lack of some privileges, the swimming against the stream that ends up making women that strong, in the same way that using resistance makes you strong at the gym; it’s the only way to grow.
On March 8 of every year, we are reminded of the differences in rights and struggles of women. It’s not so much the celebration some might think because it all started as a protest against oppression and inequality; back in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding equal rights. Today, in 2023, we´ve come a long way but are still not there.
The life of a trans woman is unique; you´re born into privilege, and everyone tells you that you’re a man – that’s your very first fight. Your inner sense of self tells you that you´re a woman, yet everything and everyone tries to prevent you from being who you are. It can be so confusing and you wonder, “how can people have the audacity to think that they know who I am, even better than I do?”
You develop a taste for the feminine in secret and do it intensely because you feel so identified with being a woman, maybe even more so when it feels like forbidden fruit. Then, very early on the journey, you discover those inequalities because you’ve become hyper-aware of everything you don’t want to represent and what should be every woman’s natural right.
Unlike cisgender women, many transwomen feel the need first to earn our right to be a woman only after catching up with men in terms of rights; it feels like running a 100-meter race but starting another 100 meters behind the starting line! And you suck it up and say, “fine, so be it.” What else can you do? You want to get rid of everything that’s not you so badly that you´ll do whatever it takes.
Very soon, you discover that the process is not so much about adding things in the way you build a character but about removing items from the character that you’re representing, which is male. The spiritual process that leads to enlightenment is the same; you remove everything that is not and peel the onion to get to the core. In Indian philosophy, the concept of Neti Neti translates into not this, not that. When you remove what’s not, the truth of who you are is what remains, in all its might, shiny, ready to be seen by the world.
But some women don’t understand this process, don´t recognize transwomen, and even attack us. They make sure to attack us online and in person, making the march dangerous for transwomen. They argue that your parts make you a woman and that you are erasing them. Let me tell you something about my own experience to remove the illusion, the lie, and uncover what was already there, and then I´ll go back to their argument.
I knew it was going to be hard because the process of Neti Neti requires complete honesty and bravery; it’s not for the faint-hearted. I didn’t decide to be trans, but there was a decision that I needed to make: to be authentic or spend my life in the shadows, frustrated. Being authentic would risk everything I’d built in 40 years: my career, the support of my family, being physically pain-free, walking safely through the world, in short, losing all I had.
How important is being authentic that there was no hesitation? My authentic self deserved a quest that would threaten all I had. I lost my career, the support of my family, and some “friends.” When I went to Thailand to have my gender affirmation surgery, it was tough! The 30 hours trip back home, with a scale from hell in between because I was in so much pain and I had to stay at one of those Japanese claustrophobic capsule rooms so I could dilate, which was horrendous.
I came back with 22 pounds less weight, so weak, and with the infernal abstinence syndrome from morphine and other opioids that made me feel as if my skull was about to burst open in half. No company would take me, even in jobs below my level, and I thought I would end up homeless. It was a close call, but I figured it out, and here I am, living as the woman I am.
Now a woman who didn’t have to go through all that tells me I´m not a woman. They think that a piece of meat makes you who you are; when you ask them if a woman who loses parts because of accidents or some terrible disease is not a woman anymore, their argument starts falling apart. I can tell you now that I have “the parts” and they don’t make me who I am! Who you are is more profound, mystical, subtle, and hidden from the eyes. Would they deny the effect of gravity, which nobody has seen? Or that of love? The essence is not physical.
That we align our bodies to have the experience of life that we need to be authentic does not make us our bodies. It’s like getting glasses if you´re short-sighted, nothing more. As for erasing them, only someone who doesn’t love herself can say that. I can just say to them “that’s your issue, Sweety, not mine… go to therapy!” I am for you; my fight is also for you; I´m not against you.
Cisgender, transgender, it doesn´t matter, women are going against everything, breaking stereotypes and gaining access to more spaces as we speak, which deserves all the respect in the world.
I leave you with a quote from Lord of the Rings when Gandalf quiets Grima Wormtongue when he tries to stop him:
Be silent. Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I did not pass through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm.
by Juliette Greenham