What We Are When the Fight Is (Mostly) Won

Clara Barnhurst

I can’t really say enough how fortunate I am in my allies. I’m doubly fortunate to have both a birth family and a prospective family-in-law that don’t question my gender. From the word go in this transition lark, I’ve been able to explore myself and just be with my family and, later, my fiancée’s family. Opposition was met elsewhere, but as things move forward and I settle down a little, that has fallen away. And I find that, without the fight or need to assert my gender somehow, I’m not so sure of what I am as I was a year ago.

Getting dressed this morning, I considered how I felt about it all. It’s been a bit of a crazy 21 months - far faster moving than many, though not as quick as some - and for some reason my clothing was the object that symbolised my identity on the moment. Clearly a person is not their clothing, but when we’re busy dissecting ourselves it’s as good a place to start as any. And well, it’s a pretty girly situation over here. Leggings and skirts are sort of my default setting. Jumpers in the winter, but where it’s quite springy out I went with a thin top and cardigan. I think the weather change is what sparked my brain off and made me think what I was.

Funny the stuff that sends us from practical decision making to existential musings. One minute, I’m considering the weather. The next, I’m wondering what I am. I didn’t do this last year. Last year, I was busy measuring my chest and deciding that I should probably ditch the chest prosthetics - also a practical decision as they are miserable in the heat. I was arguing with my doctor about whether I should have a letter saying I received appropriate clinical treatment for my passport change. I was well in the thick of it all, asserting my womanhood, fighting the various bodies and people for my right to be seen as such.

I had similar opposition at work, though most of it was small and relatively benign. I worked with small children and you can’t really take it to heart when a six-year-old asks you if you’re a boy or a girl. You just tell them. They also don’t take much fighting: they accept what you say. Some of the older children created some nastier incidents; I was on my guard and found myself dressing and being such that I sent people signals. Oh yeah - I was still worrying about my voice at that point, too.


The need to send out the right signals is a tremendously tiring task I’m glad I don’t feel I need to engage with anymore. One person told me I was a natural as I was sharing my musings. I immediately thought, “A natural what?” I am what I can be, and I’m tired of trying to be ‘just girly enough’ to get through whatever identity test passers-by put me through before they decide how to deal with me passing them on the street (as an aside, walking past a stranger is a complex social behaviour, but we don't’ have the word space for that here).

So I’m comfortable in my girly outfits and I’m content to not bother making an effort while going about my life being called ‘she’. Does that make me a woman? I love my games, I work several jobs and I’m big on physical contact as a way of showing affection. Does that make me a woman? I’m used to a certain amount of inappropriate attention from strangers as I go about my life. What does that make me? I wish I knew.


What is apparent, for me, is that I don’t have to know what I am to be whatever it is. As for how the rest of the world sees me… I can’t know that. It’s a pointless exercise, but now that the habit of fighting for recognition is formed, I find myself a bit lost without a target. I was sat at Easter dinner with my future inlaws and I caught myself wondering how they really saw me. It’s a pointless question, but it came unbidden. Nobody there ever gave me any cause to assert my identity in any special way, but I still found myself sat there wondering if I should be.

What compounds the confusion is that I no longer really have anything to assert. I feel like I should be asserting my identity, but I don’t know what that identity is and I’m content as I am. I mean, woman, sure, but I don’t know what a woman is or how one can be a woman. People just are. This is the issue I have with people talking about feelings: how they feel like a woman or feel like a man. I don’t know how to feel like a man or how not to feel like a woman. I don’t know where to begin when asked to describe it. I’m just me. I guess that makes me a woman, and being binary in a binary society means I don’t really have to assert anything. I can just be.

Some folks never get clear of the fight. Some either identify in a way that doesn’t mesh with our society’s rigid, binary default settings or they don’t conform to that rigid enforcement of gender norms. Some choose to remain in the fight and continue to assert themselves on a matter of principle. My personal fight is dying down to a professional and academic interest; my personal life doesn’t really include a fight for my gender anymore, apart from a few loose ends in my transition that are just taking how long they take.

So now that I have nothing left to fight and I’m just what I am, what am I? No idea. Writer, gamer, support worker, barmaid and student. All around geek chick. Or none of these - something more or less unknown to myself. And actually, I should stop looking for targets ‘cause I’m quite content in those things.

Comments (4)
No. 1-4

A few times in these type of conversations with trans women I have told women to just stop trying. There is no effort in just being yourself. I think it should be more of a setting the girl free to soar, the effort is always because of not being yourself. The natural woman in you will glow all by itself. Every woman is unique and you will be too.


I find it fascinating that you always seem to be in the exact same place as me...


I just love the way you write-with pure, unadulterated, naked honesty. You say the things most people are too afraid to say even to themselves. Which makes it easier to come out in a deeper way to myself.


I remember back to Popeye's saying "I'm all that I am and that's all that I am." It always come back to that.

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