Reflections on the Eve of Trans Remembrance

Melted unicorn candle

Lying in bed
I feel my doom,
palpable and thick—
yet a little rusty
for the familiarity.
I hear it wheeze
and sputter
in the dark,
atop the dresser.
“The moment is
almost at hand.’’
It always is!
Unarrived,
and yet,
inevitable.

I read “The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock,”
dreaming of such control,
before slowly,
falling asleep.

(These are the things I write to feel okay when I can’t sleep. Writing dilutes the fear of the dark. Catharsis through the pen [touchscreen interface].)

The first rule of Queer-Trans Club is you don’t speak about Queer-Trans Club—at least directly. We are a shadow organization of queers, too queer for outside ears: anonymity. For a year now, I’ve been going to a trans support group, “support group” doesn’t do the group justice, it feels too queer for such a formal title. It is, at the very least, supportive. This past monthly addition was the anniversary of the group. And the theme was time. The group facilitator (Head of Setting the Transgenda), asked us to reflect on the last year. We spoke of time as interrupted, medicalized, and life as ruptured. But our HST Facilitator, when speaking of trans-time, said, “It’s not all bad though.” And I conceded no, it is not; It’s worth it, despite the pain and insomnia. Nevertheless, it sometimes feels joyless—but it shouldn’t. Nat Raha’s use of the concept of “slow death” captures my own temporality:

[T]hese social and economic conditions [structural transphobia/transmisogyny] create a situation of slow death for poor trans women and trans femmes… [Berlant’s formulation of] ‘slow death refers to the physical wearing out of a population in a way that points to its deterioration as a defining condition of its experience and historical existence.’ This formulation presents a conceptual bridge across the affects and experience of transfeminine brokenness-the constellation of affective states … as poor feminized bodies within neoliberal capitalist societies, whose situations may never be alleviated through trans rights, hate crime laws, etc.

I feel this slow death. My transition, a multi-decade process of self-realization, was meant to heal my fractured body and mind. It was the ultimate act of self-preservation at my lowest moment—after a debilitating injury. The total lack of agency in realizing that act in a legal/medical sense has robbed much of the joy that my transition has brought me, as it has placed me in a liminal legal/immigration zone—still waiting for health care—where precarity and erosion feel like the norm. Thus, an act of self-affirmation, for reasons beyond my control, has become an act of disenfranchisement and marginalization. And this is the situation for many queers, especially immigrants, poor queers, queer trans femmes of colour, and those who lose the lottery of geography.

Today I went to the Canadian Embassy in Den Haag. Both of the consular officers where the most humane and understanding faces I have encountered in what seems like an endless stream of bureaucratic failures and obstacles. Both of them were very sensitive and helpful with my document “renewal.” Towards the end of a meeting with one of the officers in the private interview room the consular officer—a woman I had corresponded with for over a year and had read the multiple correspondences I had received from both provincial and federal branches of the Canadian government denying me action and recognition—said, “Their [the government] hearts are in the right place, but the policies are not, which makes it hard.” I replied that “hard” was an understatement, that these policy “oversights” meant decreased access to employment, health care, travel/mobility, housing, the list could go on. She smiled, and I thanked her. A cynical structural analysis on the end of my tongue. I didn’t say anything more, she didn’t need to hear it.

I left the embassy in a reflective mood. At this point of course it was worth it, I don’t honestly think I would have been able to continue living as I was. But the freedom that this process should untether, is still bound and constrained by systems of regulation and control. But, maybe, just maybe I thought, I would be reflecting once more on the second anniversary of Queer-Trans Club next November. We will see.

I’m trans, a PhD candidate in Gender Studies, and a researcher.

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