Ogres are like Onions (Kyle Leong)
The stars saved my life, it’s true. I had the whole thing planned out. There is a table by the lake. Sort of. It’s either an uncomfortable piece of picnic furniture or an art sculpture, it’s hard to tell. But it’s a dark, deserted spot and that’s what matters.
At times like these, I lament the safe streets of Canberra, the absence of gun crime. The closest thing you’d encounter is probably a good glassing. But broken bottles make such inefficient and messy weapons. And the last thing you want to happen in a suicide is for it to fail.
As they say, when life gives you lemons, you search for other alternatives to guns.
Gay men aren’t allowed to donate blood if they’re sexually active. Thankfully, I have no life to speak of, sexual or otherwise. And as I squeezed the rubber ball like the nurse instructed, I wondered if there was a limit to the number of bags that could be filled this way. And what if there was no bag. Just the needle.
Surely needles are easier to obtain than guns.
I come from a country of anti-LGBT parades, where queers are accorded the imaginary superpower of being a threat to national security. You’ll excuse me while I fly off to save the world from the breeders.
Did you know that about 2500 left-handed people die every year from using products designed for right-handed people? The interface was designed to be user friendly – if you are right-handed.
Likewise, the world is designed around straight, cis individuals. Is it surprising at all that non-straight, non-cis people suffer in it? The medical system grudgingly accommodates trans individuals, the legal system is designed for equality only within specific demographic groups.
As for social norms. Well.
Never feeling at home with the gender norms and hetero-centrism of Malaysian culture, I was always the outsider when dealing with that community. Regardless of whether said community was in Malaysia or Australia. Faced with the choice of learning to play by Aussie rules with the (predominantly) white crowd, or subsisting once again at the fringes of the Malaysian community, I admit to being a cowardly creature of habit and chose the latter.
Picking out the Christians to avoid, the gender normatives to shun, avoiding homophobia and transphobia should be simple enough. But what do I do with the gender-normative person who’s really nice to me? Or the devout Christian who I get along with really well? It worked out in the end.
After sensing my annoyance at a hetero-centric comment, the gender normative one cleverly deduced that I was gay. Fount of wisdom that she is, very matter of factly told me that I should be out to everyone so that my life would be easier. I told her that that wasn’t her choice to make and she went away.
She didn’t display any knowledge or sensitivity towards the queer experience and I wasn’t about to start a course on How to Treat Gay People like Human Beings 101. I was, however, going to rant about her straight privilege, her straight worldview and absolute ignorance of queer issues on my personal blog…… which she read. Oops.
She was hurt that I raged about her ‘behind her back’ without trying to talk to her, and she thought I was a two-faced, scheming, untrustworthy street slime. And the world didn’t move for me. The people around me were still ignorant and apathetic about the queer experience and call me lazy but between pondering suicide and considering acceptable options for my future, I just couldn’t be bothered trying to change people’s worldview.
The religious one, on the other hand, thought I was getting too close to her boyfriend. A bunch of us guys train karate together but I’m the only one catching shit for it because everyone sees me as the only girl in the group. And I’ll have you know that just because the medical system doesn’t allow me to get on hormones easily, and everyone in the world makes assumptions about my gender doesn’t make me any less of a man. It just creates a lot of social awkwardness.
And soon, an alliance was forged between the two straight allies, rumors were perpetuated and shunted down the grapevine, there was a social fallout and a nuclear winter. Which was fine. Who needs breeder friends who think it’s their birthright that I explain my gender and sexuality to them anyway? And the closet ceased to be an issue because I didn’t have any friends who I needed to be closeted around.
Pondering my quarter-life crisis like any good university student with first-world problems, it became apparent that transgender medical care would be illegal and risky at best if I returned to Malaysia. But I had no way of staying in the country unless I continued inflicting university upon myself.
A further $50,000 in tuition fees and two years of my life to gain nursing qualifications and subsequent migration? Or eternal exile to a society designed for cis, straight people? I chose door number three.
I like to think of Lake Burley Griffin as my front yard and Black Mountain as my back yard. It was even true if you squint. My preferred path up the mountain brings you away from the orange glow of the streetlights onto the pitch dark asphalt. The occasional car trundling past. The new world starts in pitch darkness and the only way you’d see a lamp post is if you walked into it. And as your eyes adjust, you start to wonder at how much you can see just by starlight and moonlight.
It was much the same along the lake. You’d run into the occasional jogger with a miner’s torch on their foreheads but mostly it’s fuzzy, grey, and dark. People from my intersex and trans support group tell me that the lake is too shallow to efficiently drown in, but really, you only need a strong resolve and few feet of water, right? They say after the first breath, everything becomes really easy.
Unsure of whether my parents were willing to spend more money on my education; not confident in meeting the criteria to apply for a temporary visa. A permanent solution was elusive. There was no way out.
If only I had me some needles.
It was winter, I reckon, when I took one of my many walks around the lake to romanticise death. It was winter to match my mood. Stumbling through the fog-filled maze, wondering which path to take, I made the mistake of looking up. And damn if the tiny stars in the night sky weren’t the prettiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. The fog lifted.
The stars saved my life. It’s true.
After a harrowing first semester in nursing (the human body is a fascinating yet freaky, freaky thing), and a prolonged tussle with the healthcare system (even the healthcare professionals who want to help inadvertently make things harder for me), I finally will be on hormones within the month (maybe, fingers crossed). And if I don’t fail any of my courses I might even be on my way to getting me some human rights.
The Queer Department at my current university pays a lot of attention to the T in LGBT, or, a catchier acronym I recently learned, QUILTBAG, or, if you like it with a cynical spin, lGbt. Everyone I’ve met in the queer space are all so supportive, accepting and… full of life. It reminded me of the queer bubble I (had unintentionally) created around myself, only for them it wasn’t just a bubble, it was the entire world. It was as if I had dropped into a parallel universe where discrimination never existed.
Like everyone else who is alive I still have my problems. Once I start hormones and have to come out to my housemates eviction might be in my future. Despite my best efforts to stay under the radar (they can’t hurt you if they don’t know you’re there), I unfortunately made a few friends with the people in my course, and hence, social exclusion, whether real or imagined, is another possibility once people notice physical changes. Or, if internet anecdotes and my own personal experience is to be believed, people will dismiss all facts that contradict their initial impression of my gender. For example, when I wear my binder, it’s because I’ve Lost A Lot of Weight. And eventually when my voice drops, it’s because I have a Really Bad Cold That Never Goes Away.
In the end, it’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: if you’re homeless, cold and starving, you’re not going to worry about finding a fulfilling job and discovering the meaning in life. Likewise, until I somehow secure the right to safe and reliable medical care, and the right to change my name and gender on legal documents, I’m really not that excited about feeling safe enough to be out and proud to the world.