“My guilt isn’t something I usually admit.

“I am – at least, I aspire to be – a radical, uncompromising, down-with-your-cis-bullshit trans activist. I don’t mind being a little scary. I enjoy making people uncomfortable, making them question their internalised norms and concepts of gender. I like conceiving of my unapologetic existence as radical in and of itself.

“What I don’t like to admit that my existence is not, is never, unapologetic. I refuse to show the guilt – you don’t deserve to see it. It feels like a self-invalidation. But it’s there. You engender it, and I suffer the consequences.

“Scene one: I’m in a group of people I’ve just met and someone refers to me as a girl. I correct them; no, I’m not a girl, I’m non-binary, my pronouns are they/them/their… these words do not come any more easily with each new time I have to say them. The awkwardness is tangible. The conversation stutters to a halt. I wish I could swallow my words back down.

“It’s not my problem that I make you uncomfortable – except when it is.

“Scene two: a friend calls me “she”. I clear my throat a little and meet his eyes and he realises, jumps, stutters, corrects himself, apologises over and over. I tell him it’s fine, but it’s not; the “she” hurts, his guilt hurts more.

“I feel like a burden.

“I feel like a problem.

“I’m not a person; I’m an issue, a sticking point, a Thing, a “phenomenon”, an awkwardness.

“Being made to feel this way by an oppressive, binary society makes me angry, and I take this anger and run with it, build from it, weaponise it.

“The assumptions you make are not my fault. The struggle with which you wrap your words around me is not mine to deal with; it’s yours. I know I do not have to change to fit society’s expectations. I know I should not have to shrink back. I know I deserve agency over how I am gendered.

But that doesn’t stop me feeling guilty.”

Photo credit: Rowland Goodbody
Editing: Rowland Goodbody and Harriet Evans

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