Have you ever seen the 1984 film Threads, about a nuclear attack on Britain? That’s what transitioning gender has been like for me. “Holly!”, you say, “you’re being overly dramatic!”. Let me explain.
Firstly, much like in the scenes before the bomb drops on Sheffield, there were hints, dark omens and missed clues of things to come in the background of my life, that linked themselves inextricably together, all leading up to that day when, seemingly out of the blue, the megaton bombs of realisation about my gender exploded violently over the stability of my day to day existence. Nothing was ever as it was, nor could it ever be again as it was before.
As in the immediate aftermath of this nuclear attack, I lost some people from my life. Certain friends vaporised, some family members were both damaged by, yet in denial of the event, insisting that everything is as it ever was, because to them, it’s a horror too big to face. They chose to ignore the warnings, the advice, and they become unable to cope. I lost my home, the safety of almost everything I’d known consumed in the firestorm.
As time went on, the fallout started to affect me. The levels of street harassment, the constant misgendering, the difficulty of finding professional and personal acceptance started to pollute me, just as effectively as any radioactive dust slowly irradiating a body ever could.
I went to see my GP, in the hope of getting the ball rolling for my treatment and I found that often, they’re like the civilians grouped together to try to keep the regions running, they’re hidden away in their bunkers, pointlessly measuring things out, unaware of the true scale of the situation, of the horror raging outside.
Eventually, I started on the “Pathway” for the medical side of my care. In one of the film’s most harrowing scenes, the main character finds herself in a hospital, the stairwells lined with people patiently waiting for the attention of the doctors and nurses who are frantically struggling under the lack of resources available to them, and the injured people they do manage to treat often only receive the most basic, minimal and occasionally, damaging of care. This, in my experience, proved to be very apt.
In time, I found that, as how in the final third of the film moves into the months, and years after the bomb, a different way of life prevailed. After the mutually assured destruction of my comfortable, married, domestic life, I found that I have had to eke out a different existence, harder, more austere, more diminished, always linked to my past by memory, but separated from it by the nuclear bomb.
I know that not every transition is like mine, for which I’m profoundly delighted. Those of you who know me in real life, or on social media know that I’m prone to being gloomy, have some mental health issues and that my transition experience to date has been informed by both bad luck and incompetence. My transition so far has been a story of resilience and tenacity, of loss, of horror, of moments where you think it can’t get worse, and then it does, in ways too horrific to imagine.
Someone recently, half jokingly, said that my transition was a cautionary tale and whilst I laughed it off at the time, I realised she was right. My efforts to confirm my gender, my life from 2012 to today can serve as marker of how things shouldn’t be done.
If future generations of trans people have to experience what I have, then they’ve all been failed, as much as if they were obliterated in a nuclear war.
by Holly Bissell (@HollyPublic)
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