"It is hard." Really? It's hard?
By far the single most exhausting thing about life as a trans person is managing the constant psychological weight of gender dysphoria. It’s hard waking up every day and fighting for your sanity against an incessant barrage of images, commentary, language, and cultural habits that regularly insist against your gender in a thousand intentional and unintentional ways. That being said, easily the second most exhausting thing about life as a trans person is how even the people who love and care for you the most feel the incessant need to remind you how hard it is to treat you and your gendered identity with respect.
Here, propriety would normally demand of me that clarify how I mean no offense to those who love and care for me who happen to be reading this article, or that trans people as a group mean no offense to well-meaning friends and loved ones. But I will not apologize, because an offensive gesture is offensive whether you mean it to be or not. Without choosing to wallow in unhealthy resentment and anger, I cannot and will not pretend to not be hurt when I am.
Because the bare fact of the matter is merely, as I have said before and as I will say again, that referring to a trans persons with a name or pronouns that do not match their insistence is an act of fundamental disrespect. Corollary to this though, it is important to understand that trans people, like all minorities, should not apologize or need to apologize for demanding respect.
It is discouragingly self-centered of friends, loved ones, and allies to remind the trans people in their lives how difficult it is to respect them. For the most part, this is because being trans brings with itself its own host of social, financial, logistical, and relational difficulties, many of which are invisible to the cis people in our lives. Matters which are simple and routine for cis people like buying shoes and underwear, getting carded at the liquor store, and using public restrooms become incredibly tedious, difficult, expensive, and dangerous for us. We must not only navigate our own dysphoria, we must shop for over or undersized shoes and clothes at inflated prices, and furthermore navigate the more toxic facets of the adult masculinity and/or femininity that we take on without the advantage of an adolescence in which to experiment with those identities in safe and healthy ways. Often too, given the overwhelming unemployment or under-employment our communities face, we must do all of this on budgets which are restrictive while fighting institutional and social bias which literally makes a joke of us time and time and time again. All of this is to say that it is, objectively and without self-aggrandizement, very hard to live life as a trans person. This not even to mention that it is awkward to have to ask for your friends and loved ones to recognize your gender.
So then, when someone I love reminds me how hard it is to respect me, it hurts. Honestly, having to write that sentence feels sad on its own. And for trans people, it’s hard honestly to understand the difficulty. Often, our transitions enable us to feel unbridled happiness for the first time in our lives, which only makes it harder. When I’m working so hard at simply existing as a woman, and seeing so many wonderful internal and external results from all my labor, it’s discouraging and invalidating to be told that it’s hard to recognize the person I know myself to be. The questions become an unsettling background: “am I not trying hard enough,” “does this person just not actually think of me as a woman,” “is it because of the way I look? My voice? My anything or everything?”
I don’t know. I don’t understand the supposed difficulty, but I’ve got enough other things to worry about in my life.
Besides, trying to understand is just so hard.