Its 5:40 on a lovely bright Saturday after weeks of cold and misery. Like most days when the weather isn't trying to freeze me to death, I decided to take my housemates dog for a walk. For me, walking time is thinking time, and the topic of the day was 'what on earth do I put for the first entry on a blog about being transgendered?'.
I ran through the usual list, boring checklist of my coming out, experiences with the NHS, shamefully confessing that I still haven't told my family despite living as a woman for nearly 6 years (I'll do it next week, honest!), but then I decided to write about just how much being trans is like compared to all those movies people make when they occasionally remember that people like us exist.
After a good hard think, I came to the conclusion that none of them reeeeeeally manage to capture the feeling of being gender fluid, but you know what does? Jaws!
Yes, the Spielberg classic about a giant fish that's basically a chainsaw with fins captures the transgender experience at its most heartfelt. No being Trans does not involve being dragged down to the bottom of a cold dark abyss buy an unseen nightmare (but I'm sure for some people it might). No, Jaws feels like being Transgender for completely different reasons.
Take the plot. For the uninitiated, Jaws starts off with a shark attack, then another, then another. Each time there is one the local authorities desperately try to cover it up, they need the tourists to come toothy nightmare or not. Eventually it's staring them in the face and they resort to hiring a crazed fisherman and sending him out with a shark expert and the local sheriff to collect a bounty on the sharks head. If your wondering where this is going, that is how realizing I was trangender basically felt.
I didn't have the whole 'oh ever since I was 5 I knew I wanted to be a girl etc etc'. Nope, for me it was like the opening of the film. In my early teens I dared to try cross dressing and enjoyed it. Suddenly I was in the middle of the ocean and felt something bite down on my leg. Some unseen thing was rushing up from under me with a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. 'Oh God.....what if I'm like those freaks on tv who are boys who turn into girls?!?!?!?'. Like most things a teenage indulges in, I hid the evidence and tried to bury it. No one need know, especially not me.
Yet like Amnity Island, the shark attacks continued. Like I'm certain many trans people do, I started to question everything about myself, and thinking what would happen if I were female. Why did I have to do this? I'm happier being like that! I wanted no-one to know the truth, but the chewed up body parts we're washing up faster than I could dispose of them.
Later in the film there is a sign of hope. A group of fisherman catch a large predatory shark just off the coast. All is saved! Life can go back to normal! Of course it's the wrong fish. I got my false hope when I went off to university. No parents, no old friends, no little sibling to embarrass. Just me, a fresh start, and leaving all those daft thoughts about being trans behind. And for a year it worked. Indulging in secret cross dressing aside, I was a hetero male. However, the feeling was just waiting for the beaches to get full again.
Over the summer break, I went back home to my parents. There I had a sudden realization, I hadn't put it behind me at all. I was looking out to the horizon and seeing a huge shark fin mocking me. Well like most of my approaches to problems I decided to dive into the deep end. This was it, me and the shark in the ocean. Only one of us would get out alive! I came out to my friends went almost full time, and joined the uni LGBT society. I figured I would either realize it was stupid, or I would get eaten by it and not care much anymore.
It was long, and slow and frankly nightmare-ish. I got abuse, got taunted, mis gendered, all the usual things that society piles on us. I blamed my trans-feelings. They were ripping my boat apart and trying to tip me into the water to gobble me up!
I imagine some people are upset by me describing the life of a trans person as some unseen terror, but this is where the whole monster metaphor stops dead. By the end of the film the sheriff is clinging to the decking of the slinking boat, the sharks reaching up to bite as he fends it off with a spear and a rifle. Up until now the shark has stayed hidden, it's unknowable, some unseen force your imagination cooks up. Now we see it in all its glory. And you know what? It looks ridiculous!
The prop shark for the movie was frankly awful. Its well documented that i barely worked, and moves more like a floating log than a shark. Suddenly the film that had had me hiding behind my hands had me grinning. In my final year of university, that was my liberating moment. Why the hell had I been so scared of this? I'd turned a simple fact of my life into some unknowable nightmare by simply not seeing it. After a year of learning and practicing I passed better, and suddenly being trans was just something I was.
Jaws being concidered a classic is a cheat by my movie standards, because what scares you isn't what is on the screen at all. It's what's in your head. Like that, the fears associated with being trans aren't a terror of the deep, their just a badly made prop that's floating half upside down with no real movement.
Of course now that I think about it, I suppose trying to get on hormone therapy is a little bit like 'Jaws: The Revenge' too......