Like all things, nothing happens before its time and there exists a reason for everything under the sun. I started this blog post almost a month ago, but never quite got around to completing it no matter how many times I tried. However a recent experience (re)inspired me to do just that. Enjoy, and as always, feedback is more than welcome.
I live, yet I am dead. Well, not entirely, but each day I spend existing under my current set of circumstances, another bit of my soul commits suicide. I have always been a pensive person. I spend a lot of time inside my head performing laborious rounds of mental gymnastics, aka introspection. Of late, my thoughts have had a central theme: my future.
I am currently in the process of applying to do my second degree in a country which is appropriately located far, far away. Amidst the frenzy of compiling applications, endeavouring to state my life’s purpose in 600 characters or less (multiple times) and completing one scholarship application after another, my thoughts drift towards another numeric marker on my list of goals which reads “Transition by age 30”.
You see, like many other naive youngsters, I had created quite the road map for my life; one complete with timelines and mental snapshots of how things should be manifested during various periods of my life. And every year, the current version of my life lags behind my snapshots by several frames.
But I have already addressed the issue of me not setting realistic goals in the first place, so it is not the delay in the manifestation of other goals that bothers me. I sought to ascertain the source of my existential angst and concluded that something I had once regarded as quite simple, was actually affecting my life quite profoundly. That simple thing? Self-Expression. FULL self-expression.
You see, that’s what my goal of transitioning really was; a target I had set for achieving full self-expression. But what was occurring between the time I made that goal, to the time I achieved it? I melodramatically opine that the answer is misery; because truly, if you’re not being fully self-expressed, aren’t you going to be miserable?
I realized that I had been living in a denial; day in, day out. A state of denial which had its foundation in an illusion so intricately weaved, rendered precarious by the society in which I live and of course, my anatomy. Such is the coping mechanism for my dysphoria: I quite purposefully ignore the presence of body parts I neither want nor identify with. Hey, I never said it was the best option and I am not always successful, but it’s the best coping mechanism available to me right now.
“Easy” is the simplest antonym one could use to describe the experience of a transgender person living in Jamaica; it is immeasurably difficult from both a socio-cultural and psychological perspective. The effects gender dysphoria has on the mental health of the individual is exceedingly profound and over the course of the past two years, I have discovered the magnitude of the impact my dysphoria has on my psyche.
In the past, I constantly shrugged off the notion of my mental health being at risk because I always thought that I could go it alone, that I could handle whatever life threw my way and that I would invariably, at the very least, be “fine”. This is but one of many delusions I have held during the course of my existence to date. I am not always okay. In fact, some days, I am quite far from it and on the most horrible of days, not even my support system can ease my anguish. There are days when getting out of bed is a sincere struggle; when despite the brightness of the sunshine and our wonderfully warm weather, all that surrounds me is doom and gloom.
On those days, I sink into despair and removing the clouds is an arduous process. Being functional is a herculean feat, but I manage to make it to work regardless and achieve some level of productivity before I return home to somewhat successfully lose myself in the sufficiently distracting world of Destiny. Managing my responses to my triggers is still a learning process but I have found that constructing and adhering to routines helps – except of course when the motivation just isn’t there.
I wrestle with my dysphoria daily; I grapple with it every time I look in the mirror, get dressed, go out in public, use the restroom, get misgendered or fill out a form. There is not one area of my life that is not affected by my gender identity/gender expression and few in which I am not discriminated against because of it. In the absence of medical treatment for my dysphoria, I feel as though I am but a shell of myself, a shadow, suppressed.
This state of partial existence is simply maddening and not knowing when I will finally be able to access treatment is rather depressing. Having my dysphoria triggered endlessly with no means to address it undoubtedly endangers my well-being; and I fight tooth and nail every day to cling to both my sanity and the hope that one day, I will no longer be subject to such a torturous existence.
Hoping for something your overall health depends on, which isn’t available in your country and having no idea when you will be able to access it, is doing quite a number on me. It sounds rather melodramatic, but it is my reality. Currently, the Jamaican transgender community has no official framework which facilitates our access to psychological therapy, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and gender-affirming surgeries.
Migrating to a more progressive country which has implemented such a treatment cascade is the only choice one has and something I desperately hope, is not (too) far off in my future. In fact, my desire to pursue graduate studies abroad directly relates to me accessing the health care services I need. It is to me as Marlon James’ job arguably was to him: an opportunity for liberation (and career advancement).
The inability to access services which aim to alleviate gender dysphoria is one of the obstacles I personally faced as a trans man living in Jamaica while on my journey to self-acceptance; because why acknowledge that you want something, if the chances of you obtaining it are dismally slim given your locale? In my experience it resulted in two things: a rather distressing situation and a desire to see the services the trans community needs implemented. Perhaps not while I still reside here, or even in my lifetime, but eventually; so that someone else’s transition does not depend solely on a wish and a prayer.
Happy new year.