When I first arrived in Norway, I didn’t know what was wrong. I was going to stay for a week with some old friends of my mum’s, along with my mum and my brother. A nice family holiday, somewhere I’d never been before and always wanted to go.
Kjetel met us at the airport. He wanted to take us around a few caves before we got to the flat. While there, he asked me why I’d changed my name.
“Because it was a female name.”
I had thought it would be obvious.
Later, we got to the flat, and it became clearer.
“The girls can sleep in there,” Marianne said.
For a start a) my mother is a grown woman and not a girl and b) I am a grown man and absolutely definitely not a girl.
My mum hadn’t told them. It wasn’t so much a punch to the gut as a hand closing tight about my neck. She was ashamed of me. And now I was stuck, thousands of miles from home, with people who possibly wouldn’t want people like me living under their roof and eating their food.
My mum cannot possibly understand. She can’t see what it is like to be hated. Because there are people out there who were my friends up until the moment I told them, and then turned on me faster than a bottle of milk on a sunny day.
So I lived the next few days how I have made it my life’s mission to never have to life- in silent shame. Being politely dismissive about comments I should grow my hair. Sitting through the showing of old photographs with a tight smile on my face. Swallowing every poisonous “she”, “her”, and “sister”.
Things reached a head once I was, with very little explanation, bundled into a car and taken to a cabin without internet for an entire weekend.
I’m not lamenting the loss of Youtube, or Tumblr, or any of the other “trivial” millennial shit Kjetel had made it his purpose to demean and deride all the time I was there (Pokemon Go being his favourite target). What I missed was someone I could speak to who understood the absolute hell I was going through.
I was alone. Completely alone.
My brother is fifteen, a selfish creature who has too much of his own nonsense going on with puberty and his dickhead father to care about anyone else. My mum spent all her time talking to him or Marianne and Kjetel, and had no time for me.
By the second day, I wasn’t eating. I tried to sleep all day because that was the only way I could stop crying.
My mum found me staring out of the window and shaking. I asked if she was ashamed of me. She said no, that she’d told them the day we arrived. Which meant they’d been willfully misgendering me for days, and she hadn’t corrected them- and I had just sat there and taken it.
This is incredibly painful for me to write about. If it has not already become clear.
That night I made a point of correcting people. I am here and I refuse to lie down and play dead. Which of course gave Kjetel recourse to attack me.
“You’re not gay.”
“Er, yes I am. I would know. I spent a long time thinking I should like women, but I just don’t. I like men. I’m gay.”
“But your boyfriend, is he gay?”
“He doesn’t identify as gay. But he loves me for who I am. When he was at school, his friends always said he would be gay. I think it’s kind of funny.
“I think he is straight,” Kjetel nodded knowledgeably.
That wasn’t the only bit of wonderfulness.
He tried to tell me I was “really” a woman- but I cut him off. I gave him the most impassioned speech on women and the respect I have for them and the ultimate knowledge that only I can have that I am not and have never been one. He laughed. My mother said nothing.
He also condescended to tell me I would be pregnant within the year.
I can feel the bile rising in my throat as I write all this. To me, the last bit was the worst. Because it’s toxic in so many ways. Firstly, that my getting pregnant has anything to do with my gender identity. It doesn’t. Shall I tell you why most men don’t get pregnant? It’s because they physically can’t.
I’m going to be a dad, and no narrow-minded fuckhead is going to stand in my way.
Secondly, the thought that I would be so fucking stupid as to get pregnant deliberately. My mum’s Catholic. It would devastate her to have grandkids out of wedlock. I’m poor. If I can, I want to do better for my children than a basement flat, casual income and an unstable home.
Just because I have ovaries, doesn’t mean I’m a fucking moron.
Thirdly, that my getting pregnant would in some way quash my notions of being trans.
Let me tell you, if pregnancy is so impacting on a person as to make them forget who they actually are, I want no part of it. Being trans is an essential component of the powerful, headstrong person I am today. Nothing short of evil would take that away from me.
I wonder what his childless wife, Marianne, would make of his equating womanhood to pregnancy. At a guess, not an awful lot, but I suppose a lot of what I saw in Norway disappointed me.
If you go, stick to the cities. Stick to the cruise boats. Don’t eat the food and don’t talk to the locals. What I found was a beautiful country inhabited by ugly attitudes- about immigration, the environment, the EU, women. It is a country in decline.
As for Kjetel, I will never see him again for as long as I live. Nobody gets to make me feel as awful as he made me feel. Since returning from Norway, my dysphoria has gotten significantly worse. I bind and pack a lot more than I did before I went out. I shake and cry a lot more too.
I have shivered naked and ashamed in Sunshine’s arms, crying, “I never wanted to be like this.”
How low does a person have to be to do that to someone? I wish I could show this to my mum, to Marianne, to Sunshine and to ignorant, bigoted Kjetel. But I’m not that cruel.
I am trans, and it has made me stronger.