I’m equally repulsed and obsessed with social media. But why is that? This is a question I have been asking myself and many others for a long time now. “Aren’t we all!” or “Oh honey! You are not alone…” are some of the most common answers I have received. And I too have also come to the conclusion that we are all going through a vicious cycle, a love hate relationship when it comes to social media. But when I dig deeper, I can’t help but notice there is so much more that is unique to me, or rather unique to my identity.
Growing up I have always felt that there is something terribly wrong with me. I can’t describe the amount of labour it took me to be in social settings, be it around my class mates in school or in park or in front of my relatives or even my parents. I had to be at every moment conscious of how I speak, walk, move, breathe.
Sometimes it felt that I can’t do this anymore. As an adolescent I was extremely depressed and even thought of not being around anymore. At every point I wanted to give up. Every time my hand moved too much, or my pitch was too high, or my hips too shaky, my stomach clenched waiting for the remark to be made, the comment to be passed, the slur to be thrown at me. I was mocked, ridiculed, teased, bullied, ragged, molested. I longed for that one comment, one word of kindness to be thrown at me. And if anyone were kind to me, I’d equate them with God. I thought they are being too generous, giving me something I do not deserve, offering me something that is out of my bounds.
To be loved is a privilege for many many queer/trans* folx till today. Many of us often do not believe the praises we receive and we suffer from self-doubt and uncertainty. After all the struggles there came a time when I finally learned to accept myself. I wanted the world to know who I am. I became vocal on social media with my posts and pictures and was ready for the negative comments but wasn’t really for the positive ones. I was bewildered to see the amount of encouragement and praises that I received when I first came out with my queerness, my identity, and my femininity on social media. My pictures got many likes, comments and shares. I was happy!
For the first time in my life I was receiving so much validation, my identity was finally being affirmed for which I have longed throughout my life. I was celebrated instead of being made to feel ashamed. Soon this excitement turned into a thrill and this thrill turned into passion, passion of wearing different kinds of clothes, trying out different kind of make-up, looking hot, sexy, cool, etc.
My daily routine started changing, I found time every day to dress up, to look good, to be liked and praised. My isolation with the real world further widened. The virtual world was the only place of solace for me. I felt that I finally belong until I started getting too comfortable. I posted a picture of me in a feminine attire with body hair. An hour passed with no likes and no comments. But then the first comment appeared, “faggot….” A chill ran down my spine, I was perplexed. Why this? Why now?
Suddenly my safe space crumbled as hate after hate was thrown at me. My queerness was suddenly not acceptable, my femininity suddenly turned fake, my womanhood questioned. I was once again disgusting, shameful, unwomanly. All the insecurities that I have tried to push back attacked me with so much rage, anger and disappointment that I have almost forgotten. My queerness was judged once again on cis-het parameters. I was reminded that I would only be considered beautiful if I am able to satisfy the male gaze.
All those comments of praise suddenly started making sense to me, “Your waist is so thin…” “How do you manage to look so pretty…” “You will even make a real woman insecure…” I realised that the reason for all the hate is because for once I looked real, showed the world who I really was and that made me an ‘unreal woman’.
Trans*/non-binary/gender non-conforming people almost always are made to feel unwanted. Many of us go through dysphoria in this heavily cis-gendered, binary world. We are taught to not love our body, we are told that there is only one way of being a man or a woman, we are raised in a world where nothing is supposed to exist beyond a man and a woman. It is true that the world is changing, it has become more accepting, more accommodating, but the question still is, on whose terms?
For a while I stopped using all forms of social media. I needed to introspect. A lot of people in my virtual world kept asking me ‘how is my transition going?’, ‘when would I go for surgery?’. These questions terrified me. I spent hours looking at my body in the mirror, I started feeling that I must hate my body and my genitals. I am blessed to have extremely compassionate transgender friends who have been transitioning. If not for them I would have kept on believing that the whole idea of going through a gender affirmation surgery is because other people hate your body.
Yes, the world is changing, it is learning to accept trans* people. But is it also learning to accept them for who they are? Are they stopping to put gender non-conforming people through the test? Is it yet a kind place for trans* folx who do not pass? Who is judging who passes and who doesn’t and what is passing as a particular gender even means?
I have heard many times in my life in various spaces whenever I have tried to speak up on how being queer has affected my self-esteem, has made me less confident, I have been immediately shunned, told that I am playing the victim card, using my marginalisation to grab an opportunity or I have been told that they provide equal opportunity to all people. How is providing equal opportunity helping an identity who has never been treated as an equal.
How am I suddenly supposed to function at a space where I have to compete with everyone else who doesn’t know the deprivation I have faced in my life? Why am I suddenly asked to fit, behave according to the norms in a society which has learned to accept me only the other night? Why can’t everyone else be ready to feel uncomfortable and learn to navigate with exactly who I am for I had to do that throughout my life?
Featured Image Source: Illustration by Paige Mehrer via Trans Cafe