* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.If we didn't have to spend so much time surviving and fighting, we would thrive
Tash Oakes-Monger (they/them) is a writer and works in England’s National Health Service (NHS) improving healthcare for LGBT+ people
Six weeks ago, I was holding hands with my partner on a road near our house.
As we walked, some men in a white van drove by and one leaned out of the window and screamed "QUEER" at us. It was the third time we have received abuse there, a road we have now named “transphobia road”.
Today, as I write this, my partner asks me what I am thinking. I realise then that in the six weeks since, whenever a car has driven past, I have taken down the number plate in my head. For hours at a time my head has been preoccupied cataloguing car plates and makes and colours, just in case.
So much of being trans is like this: pre-empting, defending, explaining.
When I worked in a London hospital, I had to walk five minutes to use the toilet because I kept being kicked out of the closest ones for looking wrong. When I played football, I waited until the changing rooms were empty so that I wouldn’t be chased away by people who thought I was in the wrong place. When I went on holiday with my family everyone had to wait for me while security took 15 minutes trying to put me in a box based on my anatomy.
We spend so much time surviving, pushing back the things that threaten to overwhelm us, holding on, that sometimes there is no space for anything else.
Trans people taught me how to be in community. We have been living in a system of mutual aid since long before this pandemic. We redistribute our incomes and pay off debts over filter coffee, we advocate for one another in medical appointments, we pass on knowledge and resources, and when I am overworked and exhausted, I come home to armfuls of letters and parcels telling me to keep going.
A bunch of us donate our old dresses to be redistributed in the community. The clothes that made me so unhappy will now restock the wardrobes of those who have waited so long to wear such things. One day my friend Freddy listens to me cry on the phone for two hours about the world and how heavy it is; another day, he sends me enough vibrant art to completely fill my bedroom walls.
Trans people taught me about courage, how to truly know myself, and eventually, how to love myself. Trans people taught me about speaking my truth and how to hold my head high when that truth is spat back at me in the street. Trans people taught me about forgiveness, the sort of forgiveness that is required daily, a forgiveness that is frankly holy.
Trans people have so much to teach you.
Imagine what we could be if the world didn’t stifle us.
Imagine if we could breathe fully, and always.
Imagine if we didn’t have to spend our time on endless consultations about our rights; fight for our healthcare; organise against anti-trans legislation.
Imagine if we didn’t have to walk five minutes just to pee; wait to be able to change our clothes alone; fill our heads with number plates; explain ourselves to airport security, to our families, to our bosses, to our doctors, to everyone.
Imagine if the newspapers stopped printing articles that say we are a plague, a stain, something wrong and contagious, and instead you read our poems, admired our art, listened to us sing.
Imagine our potential if you just let us live.
And then imagine our potential if you helped us thrive.
'Transitions' (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) is a visionary anthology of writing on what it means to be trans today, from the eight winning writers of the first JKP Writing Prize