Several years ago, being quarantined with my family would have been my nightmare. Back when I was 18 and I had just come out as transgender, my family home was not a comfortable space: my parents and siblings refused to believe I was trans, or to use my chosen name and pronouns. It opened up a rift between us, and I kept as much distance as I could from them by staying out – or staying in my room.
Mine is a painfully common story in the community: from the refusal of family to believe that their child or sibling is transgender to the lack of affirmation in day-to-day life to the rise of tension in what could otherwise be a place of refuge for a young trans person, and the mental health issues that tend to follow. Imagine how hard it must be to face such a situation during lockdown.
The thing is, I have been exceptionally lucky. Since coming out a little over five years ago, my family and I have come a long way. They have watched me come into my own during my transition, and realised that what I say about myself is undeniably true: I am a transgender man. They now know me as their son or their brother, and I am able to exist comfortably and happily in my family home, fully as myself. The value of this cannot be understated – fitting into normal family life with ease is not always guaranteed in the LGBTQ+ community. And, with normal family life being one of the last remaining vestiges of pre-coronavirus times, there has never been a more important time to be and feel accepted.
“I feel as though I am completely free to embrace my masculinity, and still bake and sing One Direction songs and talk about fashion – without anyone questioning my gender”
I’ve found that lockdown has actually been a time of affirmation for me. Don’t get me wrong – the sameness of the day-to-day and my surroundings is definitely starting to get to me, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the world return to rights. But still, I can’t deny I have been able to get a lot of good out of this time of constant closeness with my family.
It’s the little things that act as a pick-me-up, like the fact that when my family want my attention, it’s “Aiden” that they call out to find me. Or the way that I feel comfortable taking off my shirt when I’m sunbathing or working out in the garden, with nobody batting an eye at my bare torso and top surgery scars. I feel as though I am completely free to embrace my masculinity, and still bake and sing One Direction songs and talk about fashion – without anyone questioning my gender. In the past, it felt as though I needed to act a certain way in order to be taken seriously as a trans man. These days, I do exactly what I want to do, without having to worry if the things I enjoy will make people doubt my identity.
There is also an awful lot to be said for being at peace with oneself at a time like this. When, despite the stress and the fear, it is possible to feel grounded, self-assured and generally happy. That, for many people, would be considered a big achievement. For a young trans person with a history of mental health issues, it is nothing short of a miracle.
“Affirmation is such an important part of the trans experience, and the positive implications of even just being known by your correct name and pronouns are huge.”
But I know it’s important to bear in mind that this is not true for everyone. For huge numbers of transgender people, lockdown is far more repressive than it is affirmative. Many face a living situation that is beset with hostility, which is bad enough at the best of times. But with opportunities to escape for the day or see people who can offer some much-needed respite off the table, vulnerable individuals are completely trapped in an environment that seeks to deprive them of their identity.
It can be hard to adequately express just how lonely and wrong you feel when the people around you don’t accept that you are transgender – and how being able to spend time in places where people know you for who you truly are can act as a lifeline. At the moment, these sorts of places are out of reach for so many, as is the trans-related healthcare we rely on to alleviate our gender dysphoria. So while it is no secret that lockdown can be difficult for us all, for countless trans people, it is downright relentless. As someone who can attest to the extraordinary power of an accepting living environment, I know that affirmation can make all the difference.
Affirmation is such an important part of the trans experience, and the positive implications of even just being known by your correct name and pronouns are huge. Such seemingly small things help to alleviate the incongruity that many trans people experience for years before coming out. They allow us to be fully present in our everyday lives and interactions with others.
In such strange and stressful times, being able to live each day comfortably in our own skin is of unimaginable value.
Aiden Wynn is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at @aidenalex_wynn
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