Trans Lives Are Often Joyous — A Fact Too Many Overlook

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Happy trans woman
Self

When you see a story about trans people make news headlines, it’s usually not for anything positive.

From headlines suggesting trans women are all potential rapists to new laws criminalizing daily life for the trans community, you can barely go 24 hours without another story suggesting that trans people are the harbingers of an incoming apocalypse.

All of these stories are fear-mongering nonsense, constantly regurgitated, using the trans community as the latest scapegoat for ongoing societal fears.

The only way for cis women and children to be safe, many of our opponents argue, is for trans people to be essentially legislated out of existence.

As a trans person, being constantly forced to engage with all this negativity is honestly exhausting. It takes a toll.

In the few cases where trans people are asked to share our own stories, there’s usually a single acceptable narrative: the escape from dysphoria.

For many trans people, the driving force behind transition is a deep discomfort and pain caused by living as our birth-assigned gender. It’s an easy but miserable and one-sided story to sell.

We’re people who are desperately sad and just want to feel okay — that’s the only narrative of our journeys that’s seen as acceptable because it is pitiable.

When I talk about my transition today, I try to talk about the times it brought a smile back to my life. The times where my transition made me a happier, more joyful person.

Because when you strip it all back, in the midst of all this negativity, the day-to-day lives of trans people like myself are often as much about the joy and euphoria of self-discovery as they are about escaping feelings of dysphoria, and arguing for our right to exist.

Trans people exist as more than misery porn to be pitied, or horror stories to be feared. I want to be part of helping to change that narrative.

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When I came out as a trans woman in my late teens, there were a lot of formative experiences I’d never really had a chance to take part in.

Most people learn what clothes they like, learn the dynamics of gendered friendships, pick up on small social cues, and learn social rules at a pretty young age, and coming out as a young adult basically meant I had a lot to learn, long after my peers.

While this could have been a daunting experience, it wasn't.

Not long after I came out I made a pair of queer female friends. What made these friends unique was the fact that they were the first new friends I had made since coming out, neither of them had known me prior to my transition.

They both clearly knew I was trans. I was very newly out and not necessarily doing the best job of flying under the radar, but they never brought that fact up, simply finding excuses to include me in gendered experiences I might not have had opportunities to before.

They took me on my first clothing shopping trip, encouraging me to try on whatever caught my eye without making fun if it looked ridiculous on me, or was a terrible size fit.

They invited me to stereotypical girly sleepovers, where we would watch silly films and stay up late talking in our pajamas.

We would hold hands and skip childishly down the street, and giggle like kids over gossipy secrets.

I know some of it was for my benefit, deliberate acts of gender affirmation for a friend who probably had not had much opportunity to be included, but it was dearly appreciated all the same.

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A little while into transition, once I had started medication to change my body, a moment of quiet, and deeply personal euphoria was the first day I noticed a physical sign my medication was working.

I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic, so one day in between writing a couple of emails I sprinted down the stairs to grab a quick meal. But, on the way down the stairs, I felt something I had never noticed before, my upper torso bouncing. I hadn’t developed enough breast tissue to visibly see much of a change, but as I went down each step, I could feel my body moving.

Now, I know this is a really silly moment, but what made it so euphoric was how it contrasted with my first puberty.

When I underwent testosterone puberty in my teens, it was a horrid experience. Every change to my body was something to be dreaded, feared, and mourned. My body changing was a nightmare roller coaster with no off-ramp to be seen.

But that moment running down the stairs, I didn’t simply feel an awareness of change — I felt excitement.

I knew right away this puberty was going to be a more enjoyable experience, one where my body changing was something I looked forward to and embraced. It was the first moment of reassurance that I had done the right thing by asking the doctor for medication, and a moment of confirmation that transition was the right choice for me.

A few years later, as I was starting to really build up confidence in myself, I went out clubbing one night with some friends.

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We had a really lovely night out together, but the moment I remember most was my first experience getting the “drunken white girl compliment.”

I was in the line for the bathroom, a very nerve-wracking experience as a trans person on a night out. This woman in line near me turns around, looks me up and down, and I freeze up in panic.

Usually, this is the precursor to someone questioning my legitimacy in a gendered space, but she just smiles, beaming ear to ear, and tells me that she loves my outfit, and my hair makes me look like queen of the mermaids.

A compliment is always nice, but there is something uniquely gender-affirming about a woman who’s clearly had a few drinks deciding you are precious and deserve only the best from the world.

It’s a very pure kind of interaction and one that made me feel incredibly at peace with myself as a woman.

These are a few small examples, but they are all examples of me finding love, community, and joy from simple gendered acts.

And honestly, this is what transition is so often about, little moments of gender-affirming joy. It’s about that first swimming trip after you like your body again, or finding a name and pronoun you feel at home with, or having someone recognize your gender without you needing to point it out to them.

It’s about taking ownership of your identity, and about realizing you’ve started trying to catch glimpses of your reflection because you finally like your own appearance.

It’s about starting to see the possibility of your life having a future, and it’s about realizing that nobody can stop you from being who you are.

Being trans is often joyous, and I wish more people could see that behind fear-mongering headlines, we’re just humans, trying to find connection and happiness the same as everyone else.

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Laura Kate Dale is an autistic trans woman and full-time author. Her first book, "Uncomfortable Labels," explores the experience of living at the intersection of being transgender and autistic. Her newest book, "Gender Euphoria," is an anthology of trans authors sharing poisitive gender-affirming real-life stories due to be released on June 10, 2021.​