TW: Mention of transphobic slurs and feelings of dysphoria
The lockdown in 2020 derailed the carefully constructed support system that I was using to cope thus far. A system that included a remote relationship with my birth family, finding and loving the family I made after leaving Dubai, intense romantic relationships, spiritual exploration, faith, the Fatsmeagol family, living in a lovely urban, woke, start-up bubble, and a whole lot of grass and sweet-ass food.
During 2020’s PRIDE month, while watching the film Disclosure, a memory I had successfully repressed for 15 years came back in full color. This wasn’t a memory that was traumatic in itself. But maybe what was weird was consciously deciding and telling myself: “This isn’t something I can think about or explore. It’s not for me, it shall never be my reality. So don’t worry about it at all, we shall just forget about it and surely by the time we are thirty we shall have absolutely no recollection of this one.”
The memory was regarding a magazine article that I had read. It was about six Iranian women who had transitioned and undergone gender-affirming surgeries. Pre-puberty me felt a whirlwind of emotions as I became obsessed with the article for a while and a whirlwind of emotions followed by crippling self-pity ensued.
I don’t know if the article had much information about gender dysphoria that I retained as such, but I do remember knowing even then who ‘she-males’ were from porn. I knew that that isn’t who I was. But I also knew a part of me, simply wanted to think more about it. Like explore it. But another part of me steadfastly said no!
Complex and heavily layered thoughts were arising in context to my reality from the time; being around my conservative Muslim family, friends, school, living in Dubai etc.
Pre-puberty Rayyan handled it as best as they could. I straight up got on with my life, (pun intended) and successfully repressed the memory for the next 15 years.
When I was about 14 years old I started using substances to cope. Cigarettes after a breakup, alcohol post another. By the time I was 19, I had to identify as an alcoholic and within 5 more years I became cognizant of my addiction patterns. I was aware, even then, that dealing with complex emotions is what drove me to use. I felt it would be easier to forget/unpack the pain if I smoked or drank.
It’s now been a while that I have been exploring myself and figuring my identity. For those who know me, I have been presenting as androgynous or gender neutral for over 5 years now. I began to present as femme on & off since my birthday in Jan ‘21.
Today we are at the point where I am not only presenting as a woman all the time but that I increasingly see and acknowledge myself as a beautiful and powerful woman.
It’s been two months since I began therapy. It is just one piece of a new and evolving coping system. But boy, has it helped. It has helped me immensely.
I am trying to deal with 3 things specifically;
- 1 -Understanding where my depression comes from so that…
- 2 – I can understand why I have been self-medicating with substances and
- 3 – Working towards figuring and accepting my gender identity
I have travelled to Goa ‘femme’ via flight. I have over 30 people from my support system that I have come out to and they accept me and love me all the same.
I had been in a loving and nurturing relationship through the past year. A relationship that supported me and allowed me to explore this part of me, and come to terms with it in an affirmative manner. Without the privilege of having this relationship, I doubt that I would have been able to love myself. Here was someone who was in love with me, even though I was unsure of who I was.
I have consulted with a Clinical Psychiatrist, done a Psychometric evaluation. Received a Gender Dysphoria/ incongruence ‘certificate’. My journey is far from over. I still don’t know what all steps, procedures, and tools I shall use on this journey to reach a place where I feel physically and emotionally in alignment with myself and my identity. But F@#$ yea, I am on this journey today and I am proud of it.
Let’s be honest; #DeadpoolSelfAwareness
Why am I coming out this way? So publicly? Well for those who know me, you know that social media is an extension of my world and also my memory. I have worked my entire career in social media marketing and digital content creation. So not coming out on social media, was literally like not coming out entirely to myself. That might sound sad to you, but it really is just my reality.
But let’s be even more real. I am doing it for some form of extra protection. I am going to use my privileges, all of them, to tell my story here. I intend to tell it in a hyper-aware and honest manner.
I believe that if I do so, I shall afford myself some protection. The reality is that whether or not I have a significant social media following, I am prey to hate crime. If I have a social media following, then maybe if I am attacked in a hate crime it shall also be followed by a significant investigation. I acknowledge how effed up a reality this is, and that I am using my privileges…but this is my journey, and these are my choices.
Digital ties cut:
I have unfollowed my family. Choosing to share my journey in this public space, unfortunately, comes with some ugly cyberbullying and harassment. I have already been a victim of cyberbullying and death threats for other reasons. So I have preemptively unfollowed all of my family.
If they so wish, they can follow me and choose to engage with me of their own accord. But as of this writing, I am unsure if any of them would want to. When I came out to them, almost everyone behaved in manners that I expected of them: as in, they would need time. I wish these weren’t the expectations; but they were for me.
Today I am going to have to ask you to share my story. I have never directly asked this. Given my career and background, it just became this unspoken thing you didn’t do. But I honestly need it now, I need you to share. I need to find some support and recognition, and through that, maybe protection. So please, LIKE this story now, leave an honest COMMENT, and SHARE it.
Transfeminine | Co-Chieftess at The Fatsmeagol Collective an Employee-owned, Democratically run creative agency | Digital Marketing | Destination Marketing | Filmmaker | Writer