(This is effectively a continuation of my recent blog post on "always knowing you were a woman".)
I've had a growing sense of loneliness and isolation that's been hard to shake. I'm not quite sure when it began, but I know I started becoming aware of it some time in the past month.
I've come to the realisation that it's part of a process.
It began accepting being trans.
It continued accepting the concept of "being a woman". At first, that seemed very tough being that my pragmatic brain saw a male body in the mirror every morning.
I knew that psychologically, pronoun and name change was something I needed to do, and doing it all at once (and before I got too uncomfortable 'hiding' the physical changes of HRT) were important. But it did mean I came out a little before I was ready.
People were calling me Elissa and she/her when I still felt like I looked... wrong.
Over time (and thanks to hormone therapy) my body began to change and in the process my body began to become one I was comfortable with. It made me more comfortable with my behaviour and in the process I kept getting comments on "being feminine". I'm not performing a part here; I act the way I am now comfortable, and I'm told that presentation is "feminine". It's a side-effect of being comfortable in my body.
Being gendered correctly by people who didn't know I was trans was a huge step, and it made a big difference.
Then came the (oft-blogged about) social discomfort as I began to experience first-hand the feelings of sexism and homophobia, alongside the transphobia I'd begun to experience some time before.
But women helped. I quickly found tons of support from other trans and cis women. Ones I've known for years, and ones I only just met. The cliche of "sisterhood" became something that felt very real and present, and one of the most important things in my life.
However, some part of me couldn't help but feel a sense of imposter syndrome - a new feeling for me. And that happened despite a surprising level of cognitive dissonance. I could (and did) get catcalled, have homophobic crap spewed at me from a passing car when out with someone I was being affectionate with... and yet come home to the uncomfortable feeling that somehow it was fake.
Thing is that what began to solidify my identity came out of this gross behaviour directed at me. The sense of not feeling safe. Of being objectified.
Being abused began to make me feel my sense of identity was real, and I hated myself for that.
A sense of fear and resentment and hurt began to cement my sense of belonging with other women in a way I'd never fully expected.
I was torn between elation at feeling a sense of rightness I felt with my previous conscious identity... and a gross feeling that this feeling came partly for all the wrong reasons.
To be clear, I got no negative reactions from any cis friends of mine. They were ready to accept me as a sister before even I was ready for that.
And yet over time the uncomfortable feeling of disassociation began as I became more and more aware of feminist (and properly intersectional feminist) activism.
It's something I'd heard other trans friends of mine lament - especially trans men.
The conflation of genitals with gender.
Of course, it made sense why it was a particularly big thing this past year. It's a specific reaction to gross statements by one of the most powerful now-heads-of-state. And yet every time I see it, despite understanding the importance of both this-as-a-symbol and just how fucked the fact that reproductive rights are still being debated, it feels a little disempowering.
I get twinges of jealousy over my trans sisters who've been able to afford lower surgery already.
And yet even then, if everything went well, I'd still get this feeling. Always will.
My lived experience may have a huge overlap with women and almost no overlap with men any more, but the quiet discomfort of seeing ovaries and vaginas as the singular symbol of womanhood remains something that makes me want to hide in my room and never leave.
It'd probably be easier if I thought it was unwarranted. But of course it's not. For the majority of women, one way or another being vagina-havers and uterus-havers is a huge issue in their lives. I suppose, in a way, it is for me too - but inverted.
Just thinking about lower surgery makes me nervous as fuck, and I hate the feeling that a factor in me eventually finding a way to make it happen might be related to that feeling that I can't be a "real woman" until I at least manage that. There are better reasons, of course - sexual discomfort, dysphoria... but the idea that I might be affected in any way by that stings a bit.
So, in the end, that discomfort meant I didn't march yesterday. I stayed at home and tried to focus on something else.
I hate that I feel like I've taken a step backwards, mentally.
I have to keep reminding myself that I am a minority within a minority within an oppressed group. While I may still have a lot of privilege, my experience is going to be different to others and I will still sometimes be forgotten or ignored.
I'm sure a lot of other women get this feeling. Whether it's being a woman of colour, trans, or any number of other things I know it's not uncommon.
I wonder when I'll feel comfortable marching or engaging in more political activism again.
Hopefully not too long.
Because this feeling of isolation and invisibility is awful.