Not Brave, Just Trying My Best

Inspired by this Reductress article.

I came out as trans publicly when I was a college student. The first people to know were my classmates and other college friends. A lot of my friends were supportive, but there were a few negative experiences which made me wish I was closeted or navigating my transness differently.

I was the only trans and queer person in a forty-something strong batch of STEM students and possibly the only trans person in my entire department at that time. This was a worrisome position as some of my classmates started to lean far right, and would often use misogynistic and castesit retorts against their fellow students. Thankfully my classmates didnt let them get close to me so that they could be transphobic.

My classmates, most of them at least, weren't outright transphobes. But they had some outdated views, and some remarks they made would leave me dumbfounded. I used to identify as nonbinary when I first realised I was trans; so I explained my classmate how gender is a spectrum, likening it to an infinite three-dimensional space. She laughed at my face and told my other classmates, who proceeded to laugh at me and my 'preposterous' idea. That day I wished I had just shut the fuck up and kept myself in the closet.

During my Master's at the same institute, I tried to ensure no one around me would deadname me. I emailed my professors, who had mixed responses; ranging from “sure, I'll call you by your name in class” to “no, I will call you until you legally change your name”.I jokingly told my classmates that they will have to pay me 10 rupees every time they deadname or misgender me, a trick I learned from trans people online. A classmate threatened to report me to our professors, saying I had no right to “scam” my classmates. It was me trying to fight a cissexist system alone, and I rarely succeeded.

Outside my department, it was me who convinced our Students' Union to do away with gendered titles in different events. I was midly popular in my college as I was active in students' politics. Even after I publicly changed my name and solely used my chosen name and he/him pronouns on all social media platforms; the cishet influential political leaders on campus would call me and use fem terms for me. These people would go on to be flag bearers at Pride walks and post on social media about how much they are willing to be an ally.

I knew some other openly queer/trans people from other departments, but we met rarely. Most of the people within the community I knew didn't study in my university. This changed as I started doing my Master's, as the number of openly queer and trans students increased. I unforunately could not interact with them as I was confined by my own fight to be seen as who I am in my own department and my studies.

After my graduation, which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, I lost contact with almost all of my classmates and professors. After starting her PhD in US, a classmate came out as a trans woman and said that it was my bravery that was the catalyst of her coming out and eventual transition. Another classmate, who is now in the UK; came out as bi on a social media post.

Cis people call me brave for using the mens' restroom, for asking to be called my name, for asking for basic human decency. Some applaud my courage for “standing up for what I believe in” when all I did was exist and ask for respect from my peers and superiors. The people who cheer me on in post were the ones who stayed silent when I was deadnamed, or laughed when I said gender is not a binary. I don't need phony labels of bravery put on me by cis people, I just need to survive and money to transition and exist in a capitalist hell.