Louise chats to Laylah Beattie for the second episode of her new podcast where she interviews inspirational women.
When I was in sixth class, we had a woman come in to build our class relationship. Thinking back, we must have had a lot of confrontation to need that particular talk but none of us noticed this at the time. Everyone had to make a paper fan and it was passed around. Everyone wrote their opinion of that person on each line of the fan. This was what was written on mine:
I wake up early and get dressed. The clothes that I wear aren’t especially flamboyant. I wrap myself in a scarf, grab my keys and leave. I do not bring my earphones, a book or my notebook. I don’t even have a bag with me. Just my keys, my bus card, a bit of money and my phone.
I sit on the bus and stare out of the window. I don’t look at the people around me. I don’t even notice them. My head is full. Full of opinions, negativity and other crap. Stepping off the bus, I don’t even stop to get a coffee or a hot chocolate. Instead I hop straight onto another one.
At a dinner with some girlfriends that I hadn’t seen in a while, we sat in front of glasses of wine after stuffing ourselves with Italian food. They announced that they had a gift for me, before one of them added that they weren’t sure whether I’d like it.
They presented a pink book with white writing. It was called “Go Get Him” by Avril Mulcahy; a dating book. At first I felt offended. And I told them as much. But they quickly explained why they had bought it.
I know that I wrote about this in “Who Cares?” but I need to talk about the effect that falling in love had on me.
Do you know when adults treat teenagers as though they know nothing? Yeah don’t do this. Don’t be that asshole who patronises a teenager. It’s true that they may be naïve. Of course they may not know as much as you. It’s very possible that they cannot really understand stuff that you often talk about. But reminding them of this fact helps with absolutely nothing.
We’re not supposed to say this, but I’m going to. I generally do not care for the opinion of others that differ from mine. Before you go calling me a bigot or something like that, please read on. I hope that I can explain this without sounding like an asshole.
I hear opinions constantly. As a writer, an avid user of social media, a transgender citizen, a feminist, a person who’s pro-choice and an all-round social person, there doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by where I don’t hear of someone’s dislike or criticism for something or other.
I think I was about ten or eleven when I got the triangle scarf. I was part of a theatre group that were performing a Christmas pantomime. I was in the younger group and the younger group really looked up to the older one.
I didn’t have many friends in that theatre group. The girls were snobby and cliquey and weren’t interested in hanging out with a boy. The boys were usual boys and thought I was weird. It didn’t really phase me. I would sit with some other stragglers and listen to people’s conversations without weighing in. I blended into the background, just wanting to rehearse and perform and be a part of something that I loved.
Read part one here.
I am listening to the people around me speaking the language that I am studying all of the time. What is it about French that’s so beautiful and mesmerising? The atmosphere is one thing that I crave. We are sitting on a cramped train surrounded by busy French people when a band steps on. It is just what you’d expect. The accordion heavy song straight out of a movie that features Paris. And then they get off. They left a hat down but I am shocked to see that they don’t beg. They don’t even seem to monitor what money is going in. It makes me feel sorry that I didn’t throw a bit of change their way but I was way too distracted by the ambiance.
It’s my birthday and I sit in a room with all of my family receiving presents. I’m simultaneously enjoying being the centre of attention but also trying to gauge whether my response to each present is appropriate.
My older sister Emma hands me a beautiful box. It says “Take me to Paris” on the top and has lots of French designs around the side. I smile at the writing and wonder whether Emma knows that those words are the lyrics to a Lana song. It is beautiful. I’ve had an obsession with pretty boxes since I was younger and I’ve always had an appreciation for Paris.
Sometimes we find ourselves thanking the stars because we’ve narrowly missed a dangerous situation. This happened to me a few months ago but I’ve avoided writing about it until now. I’ve avoided it because I didn’t want my parents and my family to see. I’ve avoided it because I was ashamed. I’ve avoided it because I thought that I was to blame. I’m now beginning to see that that was not the case.
A while ago I went to visit some friends in the country. It was a bank holiday and we decided to go out. I’d never been out in this area before but I was looking forward to experiencing it.
It might surprise you to discover that I don’t always believe in myself as much as I should. I can hear the gasps echo around Ireland as you read this. Why have you been listening to me if I’m not the perfect human being? Am I a hypocrite who does not practice what he preaches?
It’s hard not to doubt yourself. I don’t doubt myself from behind closed doors. I believe in myself an awful lot when I’m creating something or working alone. But when I’m out there in the big bad world facing people and answering their questions, I tend to be a little less self-believing. Below are some of the ways that I doubt myself.
When your child sees me on the street and turns to ask you “is that a boy or a girl?” this is what you do.
Do not shush them and usher them away from me. Do not pretend it didn’t happen. Do not simply smile at me sympathetically. And definitely do not say “I don’t know.”
I will never be offended by the words of your child. They have an excuse. The only thing that can offend me is your reaction. You do not.
I’m up at 5 in the morning. I sit with my curtains open, looking at the street below. I take out my journal and write the following entry:
One thing that I’ve come to understand is that we can never understand anything. Is this a good thing? Perhaps not. But can I find beauty in this fact? I must, for if it’s not beautiful, it’s not worth knowing.
It happened to me quite recently. I was sitting with a group of people who I highly respect and enjoy being around. We were chatting about a number of things and enjoying our evening. Until one of them cracked a highly offensive joke about a certain oppressed group of people.
I will spare the details of this joke but I will confide that I regularly hear jokes of this nature being expressed. Irish people seem to have a collective prejudice against this community and like any prejudice, it makes me uncomfortable. Before this day I had always sat back when I heard these particular jokes. Sometimes I do not take these things on. I just sit with a blank expression.
I’m not sure what age I was when I realised that I was destined to turn heads. Not in a full of myself way or anything. But you can’t deny that I’m quite a noticeable person. I’ve turned heads for as long as I can remember. And here’s why I enjoy doing so.
I’m walking through town with my friend Catherine. We are chatting and walking towards our bus stop. We are taking up a small path and we separate when we see a man approaching. Instead of quickly moving past us, this man slows down to stare at me. I meet eyes with him, smirk and keep walking.
When Catherine catches up she laughs. “What?” I ask. “It’s just funny,” she responds, “I don’t know how you deal with that.”
Recently I had the pleasure of waking up to a message from a troll. I awoke early and lay in bed for a while checking my emails before I stumbled upon a message relating to my chapter “The Reluctant Feminists.” A male had sent me the link to a video by Lauren Southern entitled “Why I am not a Feminist” which I had actually been shown before.
There are many reasons I don’t agree with this video. Firstly, she does not understand what the word feminism means. People like her are constantly trying (and failing) to define feminism when they have no idea. To me, and to other (real) feminists, it means equality for the sexes. Nothing more and nothing less. She ignores this fact and continues to attempt to disregard feminism. She also points out a number of ways that males are disadvantaged and states that feminists do not care about these. They do. I’ve seen numerous posts by feminists discussing exactly what she discusses.
I am somewhat reluctant to write about this particular time of my life because it was quite a complicated situation. All of this occurred quite recently but I feel as though I’m over it all now and that it was an important chapter. This is another story of a boy who didn’t want to be with me. Please don’t feel sorry for me. I’m okay. I’m not telling you these stories so you can be sad for me. I’m trying to share the lessons that I’ve learned.
In an attempt to keep this particular person’s identity a secret I cannot go into very much detail but let me just say that this situation was complicated beyond belief.
Writing this chapter, I feel somewhat weary, I’m writing about something that’s very personal to me but I think that it needs to be said.
A lot of people wonder why I bother my ass dating while my situation is so complicated and I can kind of understand why. But I’m not making a huge effort when I date online, I’m just having fun with it.
A lot of people also don’t understand what I could possibly be trying to achieve. Am I looking for straight boys who don’t mind the fact that I am currently identifying as male? Am I looking for gay guys who will no longer be attracted to me after my transition? Honestly I don’t believe that sexuality is that simple. There are bisexual boys and many other forms of sexuality that society refuses to acknowledge and understand.
I’m sorry that I haven’t acknowledged this fact sooner, because I’ve been aware of it for a long time. I have certain privileges that most don’t have. And it’s because of this fact that I have such a strong voice. I resent and adore this at the same time. And I’m about to be brutally honest in the following chapter because this is something that people should be aware of.
I’m privileged in the fact that I’m white. Especially living in Ireland. I avoid the prejudice that black people face every day over here (and in other places of course). I avoid the prejudice that trans black women have to attempt to overcome. According to a study of 594 LGBT murders in the Americas (North and South and the Caribbean) from a 15-month period starting in January 2013, the average life expectancy of a trans woman of colour is 35 years old. 35 years!
Every time I’ve done an interview about my transition I’ve been asked the same question. Do I want kids?
Why am I asked this? Why does it matter? Is that really a relevant thing for me to discuss at eighteen years of age? It’s as if people are thinking “okay, you’re embarking on this significant journey in which you become a woman, but what happens then? Will you do what a woman is supposed to do and have kids?” The first time I was asked this I didn’t think much of it. But when it happened more than once I felt confused.
Are they forgetting that I’m a teenager? Are they forgetting that I have my whole life ahead of me? Would they ask an eighteen-year-old who wasn’t in my position this question?