Once upon a time I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be brave, like the knights I read about in storybooks who I was told were brave because they were, well knights.
Because they were supposed to fight for what was good and fair, for what was right and just.
I didn’t understand that they were supposed to be male, or question why in those storybooks there were no female knights back then, because I didn’t understand the gender role I was supposed to play.
But the hardest lesson I had yet to learn was that those knights weren’t good at all, that what they symbolized was a system so oppressive that the potential of millions upon millions of bright, beautiful, brilliant, talented people has been squandered for centuries and centuries and centuries more.
The potential of people of colour, gay people, lesbian people, people who refused to conform to the limiting roles that had been placed on them, and of course the massive potential of the female sex.
All this potential squandered simply because it threatened the knights, the false kings, the gatekeepers of our culture. Because they feared that if they let those people’s talents shine, if they just let them be, then they wouldn’t be heroes or kings themselves anymore at all.
When I was a little older even though I hadn’t realized all this yet, I started to become aware something felt wrong with the world. I forgot somewhat about the knights because I found some new heroes.
I read about revolutionaries like Karl Marx, and Fidel Castro, I watched reruns of Dr Martin Luther King speaking, I watched documentaries about Malcolm X and I was moved by the powerful dignity of his carriage, and even though I am a half Mediterranean white person I could somehow relate to the timeless truth of his words about the injustice of lies that attempt to deny people their dignity.
I was inspired, motivated by these people’s actions, by their courage, daring, or in some cases, sheer bravery, despite everything being in their path. Learning about them made me feel that I too could be a hero, that I too could change the world.
Then the poison set in.
I started to become aware that I had a female body, and what that meant in this society. I learned I was expected to be certain things, behave in a certain way, dress a certain way, want certain things.
I learned I couldn’t be a hero.
I didn’t like it.
I became frustrated, unhappy, conscious of my body, I dressed in baggy clothes, I had greasy hair, I ate bad food.
Only in books, in words, lost among the pages could I dare to dream of another life, a better life, a life where I could be free to be who I wanted to be, to be myself.
So I decided to look further still, dig deeper, find out what was causing the nagging sense of unfairness, the feeling of slanted inequality that was pricking at my conscience.
All around me I started to grow aware of my supposed place in the world, the role I was expected to play, the stereotypes that are mandatory for every person with a female body.
They didn’t look anything like how I had imagined my life to be, those stereotypes didn’t fit the opinionated, bookish, intelligent, undomesticated, selfish, brave, egotistical, untidy, greedy, sometimes over-confident person I was.
I wasn’t passive, meek, subordinate. I didn’t like pop I liked hard rock. I wasn’t interested in gossip I wanted to talk politics. I wasn’t interested in babies, I wanted to have adventures. I wanted my words to have authority, I didn’t want to be sidelined. I didn’t want to learn ballet though I loved watching it, I preferred holing myself up in my room and playing computer games.
I hated being patronized.
I wanted to create culture, not be created by it. I wanted to write, I didn’t want to make dinner for anyone. I didn’t want to be on a permanent diet, I didn’t understand why I was given a smaller dinner than my brother or told to eat salad. I wanted to eat what I liked. I was told I should watch my weight even though I was thin, even though I was already so underweight my hipbones used to stick out through my clothes.
I felt like I was cross dressing whenever I wore a dress, I preferred the casual ease of jeans and a t-shirt, or combat boots. I hated my period because it reminded me I was becoming a “woman”.
Most of all I didn’t know why I was supposed to care what I looked like, why there was only one right way for me to look, when all around me I saw infinite varieties of men, being liked for who they were anyway.
The only thing that fit with my new supposed identity of “female” was the fact I hated sports. And loved neon pink and unicorns.
As I grew more aware of the self I was told to be, I felt a mounting sense of frustration . It felt stifling, smothering, like the real me was drowning but I couldn’t articulate quite how.
If I couldn’t be a hero like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X or Karl Marx because I had a female body then how could I be a hero at all? If I couldn’t be brave, and lazy, and untidy, and selfish, and loud, and opinionated, and bossy, how could I be me?
After some more exploration I found that there were people who had felt like me, exactly like me, who had raged at the injustice and unfairness of it all. I found out about great activists like Angela Davis of the Black Power movement, who didn’t bow their heads, not ever, but walked into court with a raised fist when they were put on trial for false crimes. I found inspiring feminists like Germaine Greer and Andrea Dworkin, who spoke about the experience of living in a female body in this society in such immediate and raw terms that it made me feel every woman’s pain.
I found out about George Elliot, who managed to get published and become a respected author by men and women alike, in a century where women were not even allowed the vote, by taking a male name.
I learned about how she flouted convention, wrote books, discussed politics with men, wore pants, took lovers, lived as she pleased.
I knew people in that time wouldn’t have taken her seriously if they had thought she was a woman, so this made sense to me. I didn’t think then about how much harder it would have been for George Elliot to get published if people had thought she was black because I was indoctrinated by white teachers, by white schooling to learn about white heroes, but I did see that she wouldn’t have been published if people had guessed her sex.
I didn’t really think about white privilege even though I already knew about the racism people of colour had suffered in Western Culture, because I was looking through the warped, surrealist lens of our tilted society, and because I was suffering myself, I hadn’t yet grown the empathy to even try and understand their experience, only mine.
I found out about Virginia Wolf, and Emmeline Pankhurst, about Shirley Chisholm, about Maya Angelou, and I was inspired. They had female bodies and to me they were heroes.
I felt like I had purpose now, once again, that these people had done so much to change the world, that if we could just make it right, liberation would be just over the horizon.
I started to espouse feminist ideas and found they were quickly met with scorn from all but a few people. I wondered why these great ideas, which felt so honest, so fair, and so right, and which I knew would deliver to me my complete liberation were constantly being suppressed, ridiculed, stymied.
I didn’t know then that if you speak a simple truth that denies white men the privilege to be kings in our Western culture they have to kill you. I didn’t know yet that in any patriarchy, anywhere, men of all colours will have to kill you if you are female because that is what patriarchy is.
I just felt frustrated.
Then I found sex. I liked sex but I didn’t understand why I was supposed to pretend I didn’t. I liked girls, I liked boys too but I was only supposed to like boys.
And I was told boys wouldn’t like me if I didn’t do this, think this, be this, act like this, look like this.
Luckily there was a guidebook for how to look, how to dress to win the prize of being liked by boys. Being competitive I decided to follow it. It involved daily rituals of plucking, shaving, waxing , tweezing, and counting calories, followed by layers of make-up, and uncomfortable clothes that made me feel self-conscious.
I thought the prize I had been promised would be a compensation of sorts because I liked sex and so did boys.
At that point I wasn’t looking for love.
So I compromised. I played the stupid games, pretended I was a porn star in bed, didn’t ask for my own pleasure, and I was liked by boys. After a while I discovered the prize wasn’t all that good, and that I was still bored.
I wanted to experiment. I had a strange sort of romantic yet not romantic sexual relationship with my best friend, a girl, and found it was better than any relationship I ever had with a guy because I felt like she knew my soul. I felt like she could see me, like with her, I could be me.
But culture being what it is, she too found boys again, and so we parted, drifting back, lost to the prize that was supposed to be the big compensation.
Sex and fun. Or for others, love.
It was a distraction for a while, I even fell in love. It felt good but it also felt painful. It felt like it should be different but something was getting in the way. I didn’t feel fully seen.
Nothing could quiet the clamour inside to be myself, to be free of all this, this drag, this role I was supposed to play. My full potential I felt, was stifled by my biology and the cultural restrictions it brought with it.
I was not allowed to be a hero, only a bit part. Having a big ego, I wasn’t happy with this.
The only white man I ever admired was Kurt Cobain, whose raw screechy voice articulated the anger I felt. He seemed, to me, different somehow yet even he succumbed to the neurosis of addiction, tortured by the plague of our broken, sick society. I loved too, his wife Courtney Love, how her lyrics reflected the ironic, sardonic, stifled bitterness of a class of people oppressed by a society that tried to mandate who they should be because of the biology of their own bodies.
When I found out why I was feeling this way, it felt like a relief. I wasn’t unnatural, after all, I was transsexual. That’s what the new information I discovered told me, that I had been born in the wrong body.
This made sense to me since nearly everything I was fit so completely what society was telling me was a male sense of self. I “came out” and gave myself permission to do and be all I had wanted to do and be that society had told me I couldn’t if I was female. I even told myself that I was born in the wrong body.
I felt something like freedom.
After a while though, I started to notice that since I wasn’t passing yet, I was still being treated as though I was female. And that’s when I realized that even though, one day I might pass, what it took to be transsexual in this culture, for those of the female sex, was a denial of one’s biology, of part of one’s self.
No matter how free I felt, no matter how much permission society might give me if I was seen as male, I knew I would not be free until I could claim all of myself.
I was a biological female. I did not want to be ashamed of that anymore. Society told me I had a male identity and certainly in this culture, much of whom I am would be considered male.
But is it really? In a culture where I could be anything I wanted, would I really be so unnatural?
There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with any of us. There are no square pegs in round holes because the holes have been created by false gods. False gods that wielded a chisel in my name, who carved out the identity I should have, just because of my biology, when I was not even asked what I wanted to be.
In this culture I have a male identity. But I have a female body. In another culture, I would just be me.
I do not wish to harm anyone. I am and I should be, as we all should be, providing we don’t harm others. In a normal world, we would all be able to sit at a great round table, to respect each other as human beings.
But in patriarchal cultures, in Western Culture, these false gods, these pseudo Kings , in an effort to hobble others that might take their privilege away from them, others that might even outshine them, make them unable to self-actualize themselves through denigrating others, well in that culture, then they have to work hard to silence the truth.
They have to continually work hard to suppress the truth, they know is threatening to burst into voice, they have to work double time to limit, and to restrict, to torture and to humiliate.
Even then, they cannot ignore the truth. They know they are not Kings at all. They know the chains they attempt to bind us too are bound to them also. They must drag the weight around, bear the burden of their own prison.
And they know, too, that they can do all this to us, the oppression, the slander, the centuries and centuries of lies, but they cannot kill the truth. It simply, is.
Whether a whisper or a mighty roar, somehow, the truth, survives, in the consciousness of those who have humanity, still.
And eventually, when the roar grows to a level they cannot ignore, and the kingdom crumbles into dust, they will have to admit what they have always known, that you can torture, rape, sell, enslave, brutalize, beat, lie, and denigrate human beings, men, women, girls, and children but you cannot break and you can never own a human soul.
To the mighty Kings who sit upon a stolen throne. The roar is coming. It may not be in my lifetime. But it will come.