We have a story in my family. My brother is young, nursing his favorite doll. I’m going to be a mommy when I grow up. Mom is proud, but corrects him: Boys grow up to be daddies. She’s only trying to be accurate, but he sets down the doll, and never picks it up again. Cis doesn’t mean simple, he tells me now, a father of two.
If I had a story like that, maybe everything would make sense. Maybe I could string this together into a narrative: beginning, middle, and end.
Two months ago, I woke up in a hospital bed with my vagina wrapped in bandages. There’s a man at the foot of my bed, a stranger.
— Congratulations! How does it feel? You’re finally Miriam!
— I What? That’s… what? I’ve been Miriam.
I’ve had a recognizable vulva for 8 weeks, but that’s none of your business, and not why I’m here. I’ve used the name Miriam since 2015, and started hormone replacement a few months later. But I’ve been a woman since I grew too old to be a girl. I remember her, young Miriam, boy Miriam, not quite a boy, but sure – she’s fuzzy, third-person, with a name she never liked. A boy who never existed, and yet she’ll always be a part of me. A boy who believed what she was told about genitals and genders.
I didn’t know. How could I know? Dysphoria doesn’t come with a technical manual: transition 101. I never presented the clinical criteria. I wasn’t consistent, insistent, or persistent until I was 33. I have no hate for the dangly bits – only detached disinterest.
You go your way, and I’ll go mine.
I grew a beard. I used my beard as a beard, the way lesbians and gay boys team up to throw you off our scent. In that story, I’m the lesbian; but I’m also the beard.
Even then, I was me: a younger Miriam. Even then, I was part of this story: what it means to have a vagina. What it means for my vagina to be inside-out.
Genitals and genders. What you see is not always what I see. What you get is not what I get. There is no one way to have a genital, and no one way to be a gender.
I was originally going to read an Eve Ensler monologue titled They Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy… Or So They Tried. And I can talk about that violence – the rapes and abuse we’ve all suffered at the hands of normal men, who will go on to do great things in government.
Last week they announced that I don’t exist, and have no rights. That I don’t deserve housing, and I shouldn’t have health care. I shouldn’t have a job, or use the bathroom, or go outside, or be alive in public. Think of the women and children.
The other women, and the other children.
But this isn’t their monologue, it’s mine. I would rather tell you stories about the joy we have hidden in our trans bodies, the euphoria in our unexpected genitals. Not as empty inspiration, it doesn’t always get better, but to reclaim my story.
I’ve spent years discovering new ways to be in the world – to cry openly, to feel without reservation, to say I’m sorry, and I love you, and I mean it. To take back what was taken away.
I find others, discovering their gender for the first time – mothers and fathers, parents of all genders, siblings, and mentors – elders who went through hell, to make the world safer for me. We build our own families. Families of choice, filled with love and support and fear and trauma and acceptance. All of us drowning alone, but dreaming of a better world, and building it together.
It’s taken work to get here, and slowly – eventually – to love even myself. I find Mira Bellwether’s guide to Fucking Trans Women and study the anatomy of reproductive homologues – the way bodies make different shapes from the same material. I discover the vagina I already have, elongated and exposed – shuffled but not missing. And sure, tucking it back inside has been lovely, but it’s not why I’m here.
Because that girl-dick was also my vulva, my body, my female biology. I find lovers who understand that a vagina doesn’t have to look one way. I learn to be intimate again, to trust, to be touched without flinching.
Is this what they mean by gender euphoria? The joy of having a gender, of being a gender, of understanding yourself for the first time? I never thought it was possible to feel happy in a body, happy to have a gender.
My body. My gender.