I remember my heart pounding as if prompted by an electrical surge. Sweating all the way from forehead to toe, feet cold as ice, biting my lips, ruining my lipstick. There were a whole lot emotions—nervousness, fear, anxiety, and vulnerability—flowing inside of me. I had already chugged three glasses of glucose water in one go to calm my nerves.
The guy was 26, educated, handsome, and chivalrous. A pro at wooing a girl with his witty humour, engaging conversation, and cute compliments. After we kept exchanging texts on Tinder, back and forth for a week, he finally earned my digits and approval to meet up for a strawberry milkshake. I was undisputedly attracted to him and the feelings were mutual.
But even with everything going perfectly well, the whole world seemed to be telling me that I was a liar. The fact that I still hadn’t mentioned my trans identity to him pinched me initially, accusing me of playing perfidiously. By being so active and vocal about it on my social media accounts, engaged with interviews and articles that revolve around trans issues, and having an appearance that pretty much ‘looks trans’, or, at the very least, gender ambiguous, I preferred to think he must know, and hadn’t brought this up as topic; an act of courtesy. But on the other hand, if he did not know, he probably would’ve never bothered to give me as much attention.
There’s no way I can just pass as a ‘cis-born’ girl, without anyone noticing that I’m trans. And even if I could, the thought of playing ‘trickster’ would never leave my mind snug. I’m more at ease when someone somehow knows about it. But when they don’t, it comes down to a very difficult situation as I just cannot find any other way of revealing my identity that doesn’t sound like a political statement, psychological research, a request for acceptance, compassion and sympathy, a way that doesn’t feel like an invasion of my privacy, or an apology
Only very occasionally, everything leads up to an ordinary conversation, during which I don’t receive any response such as “What’s that?”, “Can I ask you a question?” or “You’re so brave!”. I usually just either end up feeling like I’m giving a TED talk or like a contestant in an edeb8 competition. And when, at times, condemning opinions and derogatory slurs are also thrown in my yard, I tend to ‘unmatch’, so as to not let it affect my mental health. Though it’s not true that I never experience the urge to strike back, but as a representative of a minority group, I always have to watch my words and manners, so I do no such thing that can devalue the whole trans community or can be used as a violation against the terms and conditions, and community guidelines of Tinder service providers.
I’m absolutely proud of the girl I am today because I have gone, and, in fact, still go through a hell of a time to become her. Regardless, I prefer to be known for my characteristics, individuality, accomplishments, choices, and beliefs. But going only by ‘trans recognition’ obliterates all these factors and limits my personality with the stigma, adversity and taboos that are attached to the people of my community. Being trans, does not fully describe me as a person, rather it just talks about a certain aspect of my life that deals with challenges, struggle and dysphoria. It is very personal information that reveals plenty of details about my life and vulnerability. I should have the choice of ‘whether or not’, ‘when’ and ‘to whom’ I reveal this information. Without being left feeling like a ‘liar’ ‘perfidious’ or ‘trickster’.
As trans activist Jen Richards puts it: “Until men have to disclose to me that they’re assholes, I don’t have to disclose anything at all.”
Anyway, back to the date and what happened post the ‘swipe’. I had lost my appetite the day my date and I were supposed to meet. After checking my watch four times, I sat on a couch, contemplating my life. My heels weren’t being cooperative, and it felt like my dress was suffocating me to the point of unconsciousness.
I was just too afraid to know his reaction, too sensitive to be judged, too insecure to be rejected, and too innocent to be made to feel like a deceiver. My overthinking led me to remind myself about those hundreds of cases of trans women getting beaten up, Intimidated, abominated, and stranded in the worst of scenarios; turning out to be the targets of hate like Gwen Araujo, Islan Nettles, Jennifer Laude, Mocia Loera and many more trans women who were murdered by men upon their finding out that, despite their having a ‘womanly appearance’, they weren’t biologically female.
Drowned in the sea of guilt, I often blamed myself for being the way I am, for having the past that I could never change and for being in the present that is still associated with some segments of my past. With each rising sun, I put on a brave face and pretend to be unbothered—about being watched, discussed, singled out at and everything that is directly pointed towards my embodiment of womanhood and expression of femininity. I act like a badass, ceiling-breaking, revolutionary going against social norms and dealing with every hardship that comes with my identity.
I burst into tears. I undressed, pulling down the back-zip of my dress. I couldn’t summon up sufficient courage to go out and put myself in that position of criticism. It is already an act of valour for trans women to go out and be themselves, if for no other reason than we are the ones who are aware of the possibilities we encounter with ‘dating without disclosure’.
However, even after several major disappointments, I refuse to give up. I still believe I have a chance, coming across ‘the gold among the dross’. Everyone doesn’t have the same perspective about everything. Sometimes, it’s just our insecurities and diffidence that drives us, and doesn’t allow us to think positively, experience this world, make friends generously, enjoy passionate company, or even run into The Prince of our lives.
Just like every cloud has a silver lining, persistently digging through the rough can lead you to discover that one diamond hidden among the rubble.