Lingchi or What Its Like to be Transgender

Lingchi, also known as the death of a thousand cuts, was a method of execution used in China for a thousand years. The process involved slowly and methodically cutting away of flesh until the person was dead or the throat slit.

I am writing this because I have heard many many times from other people that the cannot understand being transgender. They understand its real. The emotions and turmoil is beyond their understanding because this is something that only a small percentage of the population experience. I cannot and will not speak of someone else’s experiences, though. This is how it feels to me.

Like a prisoner awaiting execution, when I fully accepted that I am transgender I knew the persona I was presenting to everyone had to die. In essence, I had to die. Never having transitioned I had no idea what the process was like or how I would feel. I only knew there would be pain.

To kill this person, I had to cut away the pieces that were not real. First to be vivisected was the barrier I had placed on my emotions. I did not know what to expect to find behind that wall but I knew I could no longer support the weight. I can remember the exact moment when it came down, though, and the feelings that were waiting in hiding. I was arguing with my closest friend. I had recently come out to her and that relationship was changing. She walked off because she did not want to talk anymore. At that moment, every guilt and regret I had locked away came to the surface. I will not using clichés such as tidal wave or flood gate being opened. They are simply too inadequate. The shift I felt in myself was likened to the gravitational pull between the Earth and the Moon magnifying. In effect, forcing the Moon and the Earth to collide all on my chest. Leaving me sobbing and hysterical.

Without my wall I was left vulnerable and raw. I now saw how isolated I had become. I now had to reach out to some that I had not spoken to in months or even years. Most of my relationships had a basis that I was fundamentally a man. When I let people know that basic fact was a lie, some reacted the way that can be expected – confusion, resentment, disgust. On the other hand, there were others who astounded me. If I was ever in need of anything I had only to ask. The anger and resentment I was feeling for humanity for years shattered by the epiphany I knew nothing about people. My ego stripped and cut away. I was left with humility.

Humbled. I no longer had my shield or anger to deflect the barrage of self loathing I rained down by looking in the mirror. I would go about my day then see my reflection. It felt as if that doppleganger was taking it’s fist and ramming under my ribcage to my heart. This has gotten easier. I wish I did not need to include the physical aspects of being trans but that is impossible. I will not get into details about surgeries but I feel invisible because people still perceive me as a man. It is the body that gives people this illusion. Hormones help emotionally and physically. Simply having breasts can make a world of difference to help others question that illusion. I still fear dating and relationships to the point that I would be mortified if someone saw me naked, even though being touched is the greatest thing in the world right now.

And at last it is time for the killing blow. Everything about that persona is gone except for the name. By the end of March, that will be gone, as well. That is wonderful but the pain still exists. There is a sting like a cat scratch every time someone says sir or Mr. I dread going to the restroom for fear of someone confronting me. Attracted to me or not, people are still embarrassed to date me. So to describe what being transgender is like, it is perpetual. There will always be some small reminder of who and what I am like tiny nicks from razor blades until the day I die. It is also the most liberating experience. I have been forced to find myself where so many go through the motions of daily life but never live. And when I find love, that person will be the most open and fearless man or woman that has ever lived. My life is horrible and wonderful and I am grateful for it.

On a side note, my experience has been exponentially easier than some in the transgender community. I have a job and insurance. I have access to healthcare. I live in an area where I feel moderately safe. I also have the support from a great deal of people. That is not the norm around the world. That is the reason why I will never speak of another’s experience because they could have gone through circumstances I have not. Some will not survive and I can only imagine it feels like lingchi or the death of a thousand cuts.


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