Transgender Mean Time

Every month we will be inviting our readers to pitch us articles on a theme revealed in our regular newsletter. This month’s theme was ‘age’ and a LOT of you responded! We picked comedian Rhea Folkers’ pitch which addresses the ‘wacky concept’ of age when you’re a trans person.

At the Trans Pride march in London this past September, I saw them fluttering down Whitehall in sequin dresses by their dozens: young trans women, fearless and colourful as the starlings at Camden Market, with hapless boyfriend-cum-handbags trailing awkwardly; each of them with an air suggesting they had come straight from the club to the march and planned on returning there again as soon as practicable. The spectacle did my bitter, leathery heart good (ah, thriving youth!), though still, I caught myself groaning, ‘My God, where do they get the energy?’ 

Few take my complaints of feeling weathered and decrepit at the ripe age of 33 seriously, but I am confident this is not entirely down to the debilitating existential dread that has weighed on me since I was a two-pack-a-day baby, hoovering down darts in the parking lot behind the pre-school, hoping to just feel something. Instead, I think it’s safe to say being trans has warped my sense of time’s passage.

It’s unclear when exactly life truly begins when your flesh prison doesn’t seem to function the way your mind thinks it should. As a relatively late bloomer, I lived many years as an (allegedly) fully operational adult who nonetheless felt as though the clock had yet to start. When it finally did, I experienced childlike wonder and helplessness at 30 and an impulse to live my teenage fantasies at 32. As a result, I have a complicated relationship with my younger siblings. 

Some of the girls I saw at the march, who have been out since they were teenagers and are now in their early twenties are, confusingly, both younger than me in people years and older in trans time. That day, as they levitated from view on a cloud of careless youth to do whatever it is young people do these days (TokTik? Emoji?), I looked on with envy at their sense of self and purpose that I could only wish I had at their age, and wondered whether I was more mature stateswoman, or overly eager little sister hoping to be included.

How best to measure the trans life cycle? Are you as old as the birth certificate still probably registered under a name you don’t use anymore says, or as old as you were when you first came out? What about time served in the closet? Some measure age relative to the point at which they shrieked, ‘I wanna do it again!’ and, as mum looked on in bewilderment, re-boarded the Puberty Cyclone—the amusement park’s least popular attraction. Of course, many trans folks don’t pursue HRT, so that cannot be a universal metric. 

Lately, I feel my perspective regularly shifting between moody teenager and rickety hag. I feel such profound regret at not having the sense to live as I do now sooner, but am comforted by the perspective my having taken the scenic route affords me. The only certainty seems to be the genuine exhaustion I feel when I mutter, ‘Kids these days,’ and shake my fist pointlessly.

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