Trans of thought: Finding myself, meeting you

By : Melody Maia Monet
Comments: 2

MaiaMonet_MugHi, I am Maia Monet. Or at least I am now. You see, there was a time I went by a different name in my other life. I won’t tell you what that name was, but suffice it to say I am transgender and Maia is much more to my liking.

Watermark has asked me to write in from time to time and provide you my perspective as someone who identifies with two letters in LGBTQ+ (hint: not the G, B, Q, or +). It seems they think I’m good with words, which isn’t surprising considering how much attention transgender people pay to words. Of course words, such as pronouns, have a particularly deep impact on how our identity is affirmed, or not, by the public.

As children, we are taught that sticks and stones will break our bones, but words can never hurt us. I loathe that saying. I’ve been driven to the brink of suicide by things that have been told to me during my transition, and I know many other transgender people feel the same. We have a suicide attempt rate that some studies suggest is as high as 43 percent. I recall on the day I completed my legal name change, I was profoundly moved by the enormity of the moment, and how it represented an outward positive expression of a lifelong inner turmoil. However, when I arrived home later that day, my mother greeted me by saying she wanted to adopt a little boy and give him my old name so as to replace me. Her cutting remark was devastating and called to mind my suicide plan with its promise of release from pain. I did not succumb that day, but there would be other days with deep psychic wounds inflicted with nothing more than a sentence or two.

Now, it would be easy to say that my mother is a terrible person, but it isn’t true. She was just shaped by a society that taught her in a million different ways that being transgender was unnatural and she wanted to save me from myself. It is a common notion that persists today despite great strides in the acceptance of the LGB community by American society. Whereas the greater cultural conversation on the LGB has shifted away from the mechanics of gay sex to topics such as marriage equality, the T is still stuck in the physical aspects of our identity. The emphasis is firmly on what we are and not who we are.

For instance, the word transgender itself is often mangled to emphasize the obsession with trans bodies. I have seen it mistakenly written as “transgendered” countless times by major news organizations. This may seem subtle, but it implies that transgender is a verb and something done to us instead of part of our identity. I understand there is a fascination with the physical transition that many of us undergo, but that focus centers and promotes the idea that gender is composed of secondary sex characteristics like breasts and genitals. This is fine for a world that experiences their gender and their biological sex in a unified way, although I would argue mistakenly so. However, it can also place us outside the human condition.

I have been called brave and courageous more times than I can count. Yes, it is complimentary and I can accept it as such, but it has been overused to the point that I chafe a bit when I hear it. I realized that it was being used to do more than honor the fantastic nature of my journey, but to also place me on an extra-human pedestal as if to say, “Oh, I could never imagine feeling that way or doing that to my body.” Well, no, most people couldn’t, because most people don’t have to. Then again, jumping out of the third story window of a building would seem impossible to me, unless that building were on fire. That is what it is like to be transgender. To have your soul set ablaze with the realization that who you are is at odds with your body to the extent that you must jump or perish.

If society could find just enough empathy to realize that transgender people are simply driven by extraordinary circumstances to seek what everyone else has at birth, it would go a long way toward demystifying our community. We have seen this before when “gay marriage” was reframed as “marriage equality.” The public viewpoint changed rapidly to see gay people as wanting to express the common emotion of love through a public institution long granted to straight people. If we could change the conversation about transgender people to similarly humanize us, perhaps it would make it harder to deny us basic services or, better yet, to hurt us.

Melody Maia Monet is a photographer at Southern Nights in Orlando and a singer with the band Mad Transit. She can be reached at maia@monetphoto.com.

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  • Rick Hellgeth

    A great read. So good to see more I torrent trans* representation at Watermark!

  • Lauren Brooks

    I particularly like the last paragraph,,, just a little bit is all we need ,,,, to start 🙂