Opia [o-pia]  The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.

A requiem for the sullen.

During some of my endeavours while venturing out meeting likeminded, it occurred to me that there seems to be a distinct divide between the characters who are going for real and those who just want to play dress up every now and then.

Deliberately putting this with some disdain, perhaps in a faint attempt to retribute.

Hearing the stories of those full on trans girls, they often left me pondering over their strong determination. About them willing to sacrifice so much for seemingly nothing. As for some, their happiness came at such a high price and getting their lives back on track often took decades rather than years. Losing their jobs, dear and loved ones. Going through long, intimidating and painful procedures in search for that authentic feeling of what they refer to as finally being themselves.

I know it’s all too easy to get lost in that maze of physical and psychological discomforts. I therefor deeply admire their commitment and grew to believe that compared to them, I lived a life of Riley.

Allegedly I took a wrong perspective. I had entered a world I didn’t know much about and all the different emotions attached to it made me feel alienated. But I’d recognized the sentiments and feelings and soon enough I could make sense of what they said. Being blessed with a reasonable physique and seemingly above average styling and make-up skills, it made me more than once draw the attention of those who saw no future in their lives without a full transition. Most of the times doing nothing more than giving them a listening ear, attention and recognition, it nearly always made me pass their scrutiny and got me their proverbial nod of approval. They apparently trusted and liked me enough to pour out their hearts. Which I wholeheartedly embraced because I love people and like to hear their lives stories, providing them the acknowledgement they so desparetely need . Especially those in our trans community have something to talk about.

There were occasions however, when those conversations abruptly ended as it came to answering their inevitable question,…..about how far I was in my transition. Somehow the answer wasn’t what they always expected. Admittedly the majority was more or less surprised and continued the conversation in a polite manner. But some acted like they just told their biggest fears and secrets to their worst enemy, soon turned away and ignored me at later meetings. Looks and demeanour were apparently enough to assume I was one of them, simply because I could relate to the things they said, but not worth the attention after it became clear that I only qualified as a crossdresser at best.

Why was I seen as a pretender?

When I made my first steps into this world I initially thought that all trans people, no matter what shape or form, would make a stand for each other. But slowly it dawned on me that the blurry line between crossdressing and transsexuality actually was a gaping divide. It kept me confounded for a while, because since when did one form of transgender identifies as more legitimate and genuine than the other? Wading through the marshes of this transworld idiom, it’s easy to get stuck in the quick sands of the terminology coming with it. People do have a natural tendency to label others and things around them. Primarily just to make sense of our complex world but not the least to define and establish their own place in it. That there’s some kind of hierarchy applied to it was something I had to find out for myself. By putting the other in a lesser category apparently makes their own case more important and legitimate, but completely ignores the other’s feelings and merely regard the fact that there might be loads of different ways to identify oneself. That we’re all rocking the same boat is easily forgotten and when it comes down to their own niche they’re riding high horses.

I made decisions in my life to do the things the way I do. And although I technically “only” identify as a crossdresser in some’s perspective, I know that I could have easily ended up on the other side of that line if circumstances earlier in my life would had been different. So why is it that they see me as lesser kind of transgender? Just because I don’t take hormones, my breasts and hair are fake and I didn’t had surgery of any kind? All those conversations initially took off with them talking about the feelings they have. Starting from an early age and how they had to cope with a childhood riddled with mental difficulties and hardship. Years of feeling out of place, being lonely and misunderstood. All the things I’ve been through as well and can strongly relate to. The physical part had always being of secondary importance to the psychological part. So similarities rather than differences till this point.

Recalling our conversations, I had been desperately trying to get to the essence of their discourse but quickly got trapped in the maddening loop of their moral truth. What it ultimately seemed to boil down to, was that in their opinion I took the easy way out. I simply lacked the courage to make that definitive and last step. But without knowing the whole story, did that entitle them to claim victory over those that for various, equally legitimate reasons, choose not to take it?

Feeling a strong responsibility towards my spouse and children I’m committed to make their lives as happy as circumstances allow me to do. Being the husband and father they deserve. I can’t just take the liberty to grand myself a second change in life by abandoning them in pursuit of a single happier goal. It was me fully aware of my situation, who made the choice to start that relationship, marry and have children. I can’t just simply walk away from them and be happy about myself. That I found another way to rebalance my life doesn’t seem to occur to them. I think that before either choice is ultimately made it takes an equal amount of soul searching, grief and courage to get there. And from my perspective I could simply reason that their choice was an act of selfishness and single-mindedly giving in to an idea. But that thought never crossed my mind. Why? Because I can relate to their struggle too. Because I know all their doubts and fears in a “been there, done that” kind of fashion.

Nowadays I’ll find encouragement in that some do understand I was almost one of them. We became good friends.

x Sophie