Like most people, I dread seeing extended family members at Christmas, although, I would wager that my reasons are somewhat different than the average person.
As a transgender guy, I’m aware that my physical changes will be more pronounced to people I haven’t seen since last Christmas and that my transition will either be the focus of what people are talking to me, or others, about.
Many transgender people are disowned by their family or worse but I still find the whole thing incredibly uncomfortable, perhaps more my issue than theirs.
People don’t know what to say when they meet a transgender person, so they say stupid shit.
They either pry about things they’ve no business asking about (‘so when do you get your penis?’ ‘have you got your penis?’ ‘can I see your penis?’ – it’s not all about the penis, folks!), show a total disregard for what’s involved, or continue to call me ‘she’ when I have what is clearly a beard on my face, even if it is only one that a 17-year-old boy would grow.
Nothing much has changed about the day itself with my close family.
Like many families, for the most part, the women do the cooking while the men do the cleaning up. Over the course of my life I managed to position myself outside both of these groups, hiding in the corner like some sort of confused ninja. Recently I’ve had a nephew to play with that kept me out of the way of anything ‘gender-defined.’ It wasn’t conscious, but it is a habit.
At a recent small family dinner I realised there was a gender hierarchy to how the desserts were dished out. Thinking that it was always done by age, my mum laughed as she told me it was ‘women first’ and I’d just have to wait.
She found this hilarious and it was officially the first time she’d made a joke about the whole thing –a positive sign even though it was a totally rubbish joke.
A sign of things to come on December 25th perhaps?
There has never been a Christmas when I have wanted gifts designed for girls.
Well, apart from that one year when I asked for one of those toy babies that could cry to see what all my friends were going stupid over.
I think I had it two days before I considered dropping it off a bridge to see if it would float in the river.
Perhaps I’d really wanted a boat that year.
Every Christmas I would silently ask Santa for boys toys – guns, cars and the like and while I didn’t want for Star Wars toys and plenty of gender-neutral stuff, there were always a few girlie toys sneaked in with none of the stuff I’d asked my telepathic Santa for.
Sitting in my bedroom with a department store catalogue I gave Santa one last chance to bring me the toys I dreamed off.
He didn’t deliver and was dead to me from that moment on.
In the grand scheme of things, my gripes about Christmas are trivial ones.
I have a family that loves me very much even if they can irritate the hell out of me at times. And me them.
Putting up with an uncomfortable few hours and ridiculously inappropriate gifts doesn’t seem like such a hardship when I consider the hundreds, if not more, trans people simply hoping to make it through the day unharmed and still part of the family.
That will never be something I have to worry about with my lot and that, in itself, is possibly the best Christmas present I could ever ask for.