Opinion | Is Being Trans Like Being an Immigrant?

On the whole, my life has been lucky and blessed. But womanhood has also come with new threats. One night, outside a bar in Waterville, Me., a would-be suitor grabbed me roughly by the wrist and said, “I tell you what, Jenny, we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.” (I escaped from him, but I think about that night sometimes, and what might have happened if I had not.)

I can assure you that no one transitions from male to female to get a better deal. And yet, even at its harshest, the world I live in now feels like the one for which God made me.

Has my experience of womanhood been identical to that of other women my age? Of course not. I speak, sometimes, with a hint of a foreign accent, a vestigial trace of the country where I was born.

As Zadie Smith writes in her novel “White Teeth,” “This is the other thing about immigrants (’fugees, émigrés, travelers): They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow.”

I’m all too aware of the way my past informs my present, and there are plenty of times when I long to have lived a life unburdened by the past.

And yet, just because I began my life somewhere else, I am no less a citizen of the country I have made my own. My womanhood is not a matter for debate. What it is, above all, is a fact. It is, however, a fact that cannot possibly be understood without imagination.

When members of the present administration claim that people like me should be “erased,” are they not saying, in so many words, “Build that wall?” Are they not echoing the cries of every xenophobic bigot throughout history in furiously demanding that I Go Back Where I Came From?


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