Here we go.

I've wanted to write about identity for a long time.

I have so much I want to say...

My brain always finds new ways to be scared.

I'm about to turn twenty-five, and I've realised that I'm a woman. I am transgender. I am deeply uncomfortable in my body and do not fit its prescribed social roles. This is a realisation that has occurred slowly, over the course of about a decade, long before I had the language to understand or communicate what I was feeling.

Surely, this is just teenage hormones, the ever-increasing infatuation with women that every man has as they mature; I'm not the only one like this! Mix in an evangelical upbringing that demonises those very teenage hormones, and you've got a whole lot of repressed emotions just waiting to burst.

It's tempting to get defensive, to argue about my own existence, but I won't. I will use this time to say what I want to say, to let out what I've been holding in, because I don't have any other choice.

There's a deep longing that can come with being transgender; we often have nostalgia for a life we never lived. I can't say I always knew I was a woman. I didn't want to be a girl growing up... but now I wish I could've been one.

Even once we embrace our true selves, the longing hangs around: it manifests as an obsession with passing, or being seen as cisgender; it becomes the many-headed beast that is gender dysphoria, or feeling that our internal self is at odds with our external self. (I personally feel very distraught when I consider the fact that I will never be able to give birth to a child.) Any attack levelled at us is almost certainly something we have said to ourselves: that we will never be 'real women', that we are fetishising womanhood, that we only want to deceive others for our own gain.

I only want to live. I only want to live just like you, just like anyone else.

I want to look pretty in fancy dresses and manicured nails. I want the closeness I see women have with one another. I want to wear a swimsuit to the beach. I want sleepovers and makeouts and romantic gestures. I want monthly reminders of my ability to create life. I want to wake up with no makeup next to someone who loves me even more without it. I want to be excited to wake up in the morning. I want to look in the mirror and smile for real. I want to say that I'm doing good and mean it. I want to be afraid of my death and not try to cause it.

"But what about—?" Yes, all of it. If there was a button I could press that could turn me into a woman, I would press it without hesitation. I am painfully aware of the aspects of womanhood I will never get to have, so when it comes to the things that I can have, I want them all. All of the struggles, all of the joys, all of the pains... Please give them to me, and I will happily bear them.

I spent so long putting myself into a box for other people. My relationships suffered because I was too afraid to admit how uncomfortable I was. There is, of course, an aspect of safety involved, since being trans places you in a besieged minority whose struggles are compounded by any other systemic inequalities you may face. I, for example, was almost as obstacle-free as one can be: I was—for a time—a straight white man; a disabled one, but you couldn't tell in pictures.

People already stare at me on the street, coming up to tell me that my mere existence with a disability is inspiring, or that my strength makes them feel better about their own problems. Why would I willingly put more obstacles in my way? Why would I want to put myself in more danger and invite more unwanted attention?

Because there's really no other way.

I was born three months premature and given a 30% chance of survival. On bad days—which has been most days recently—I wish I hadn't beat those odds. That's frustrating to admit, because I know I can be happy... I just don't always believe it.

If I'd been asked floating through the before times ether whether
or not I'd like to be alive, I'm not sure I would have said yes. And that doesn't mean I would have said no. I just haven't decided yet. Which, by the way, is not a question of if I'd like to keep living; I would clearly very much like to keep living. Please, sir, can I have some more living? The question is if I'd like to have existed in the first place, which is a vastly different question, and I'm just not sure.
Basically, I hate being alive, but I love living; or do I love being alive, but hate living? Eh, we'll go with the first one. I don't like the conditions of life. I don't like that I know I'm gonna die, and I have an obligation to work until then, and hurt until then, and also I have this weird body that hangs from me and too many emails.

— Savannah Brown, "life cheated us all and i'm full of angst"

Coming out is scary, and I worry that I will be reduced to my trans identity in the eyes of both friends and strangers. I, like you, contain multitudes.

I'm struggling to fully express how being transgender feels, so I suspect that I'll write more on the topic, especially since I plan to begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) very soon; I am about to learn about and become so much more of myself, and I'm very excited for this next chapter of my life, which isn't something I could've said a few months ago.

Thank you to all of the women have welcomed me with open arms and shown me the ropes of my brand-new life. I am blessed to know each and every one of you; you have my eternal gratitude.

With love,
Ainsley Mae Ellis