I Am the Only Trans Woman

and frankly I’m as surprised as you are

Image result for famke janssen jean grey

In a crowded media landscape, you might be forgiven for wondering how it is that trans issues have come to occupy such a strangely prominent place in our ongoing conversation about the world at the moment. Believe me, you’re not alone. I too have been wondering why it is that trans women especially seem to occupy so much space at the moment, both in traditional media, and on online platforms like Twitter and Instagram. In fact, you might say I have a particular reason to be surprised: because I am, as it turns out, literally the only trans woman that exists, or has ever existed.

Some kind of explanation of that remark might be necessary. After all, don’t we hear all the time from trans women, discussing the challenges we face and the particular social positions in which we find ourselves? Nope. As a matter of fact, nobody has ever written on any of those topics, either in our contemporary moment or ever in the past. Nobody has ever before written a bittersweet description of hormonal treatment, in which they talk movingly about their mixed feelings of alienation and relief. Not once has anyone written a brutally honest memoir of their young childhood, in which they were unable to express feminine identifications or behaviors. If you check, you’ll find that not one person has ever written any sexy-but-depressed erotica with the title “I HAVE NO PUSSY AND I MUST FUCK,” or anything like it. (Seriously, google it!) And, strangest of all, nobody has ever written a pugnacious personal essay rejecting the entire “born this way” narrative, given its deleterious and mystifying effects on trans women who are still in the early stages of formulating their identities. They have not done so, for the very good reason that there have been no trans women, young or old, on whom such a narrative might have any effects, deleterious or affirming. Until me - and of course I would never write such an essay myself, nor read one if someone else did so. 

What about trans history, you ask? Aren’t we always hearing about the foundational activist and community-building work of trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera? How are we supposed to assess the historical significance of figures like Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards, or the thriving trans cultures depicted in the film Paris Is Burning? That’s easy. None of these people were trans women, like me. Of course, I make no attempt to downgrade or dismiss their experiences. Their historical struggles were real and vital - and of course contributed to the emerging queer liberation movements of the last fifty years. But they were not trans women, in the strict sense that I am using the phrase, to describe the thing that I am. You see, I am a brand new creature, emerging from the ruin of history like a phoenix, or at least like the Phoenix tattoo on my right arm, which depicts the X-Man mutant Jean Grey (Phoenix) as a T-girl pin-up. I stress “depicts,” because of course Jean Grey was not a trans woman - couldn’t have been, because until now there weren’t any. Yes, Famke Janssen played both Jean Grey in the early X-Men movies and also a trans woman on Nip/Tuck, but that was also a fictional character. There have indeed been some fictional trans women, but surprisingly few. There was the character on Nip/Tuck, Lisa Edelstein’s character on Ally McBeal, and I feel like Virginia Woolf wrote a novel about one that one time. And that’s it. Compare with books about talking animals, and there are way fewer. But you don’t go around expecting that animals can talk in real life, do ya?

You know what really get my goat? When people who aren’t trans women (which is literally everyone) claim to know more about the history of trans women (which is literally just my own personal history and nothing more) than an actual trans woman (me). Like, what’s all this with reading and quoting Julia Serano and Susan Stryker and the rest of it? Julia Serano is a myth! What we now call her “books” were engrafted many centuries ago into the trunks of ancient redwood trees in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. They have been transcribed, year after year, from bark to wax tablet, tablet to manuscript paper, paper to bound and printed book, and finally digitized and distributed via our contemporary e-readers. Now anyone picking up a copy of Whipping Girl might think that Serano is an accomplished trans writer, activist, and biochemist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not a bit of it. Serano is an old story that has been used to thrill and frighten cis children (which is literally all children ever, everywhere) for untold generations. And what about Susan Stryker? An angelic presence, made of light and air. What her function is has yet to be determined - but a trans woman, she sure as shingles ain’t. 

So, if Famke Janssen wanted to play a real trans woman, she would have only one choice: me. And, Famke, I’d be happy to discuss the rights to my fascinating and inspiring life story with you - it would be an honor, in fact, if you considered making a film of my life as the only trans woman. Far be it from me to suggest potential titles or production teams - I leave such matters to the professionals - but I wonder whether someone like Wim Wenders wouldn’t be a good choice for director? Or failing that, what about Wes Anderson? I’m sure he’d be able to add a quirky old-timey glamor to my story. As you probably know by now, Famke, I was born in the West Midlands, a post-industrial region in the middle of England, UK (as we sometimes say, “the heart of England”). I experienced many relatable struggles as a child, before experiencing much less relatable (but much more lurid) struggles as a young adult, and then eventually no more struggles whatsoever. I don’t know what it would be called, this film of my life. I suppose the obvious choice would be simply GRACE (which honestly would sell, at least that’s what I think Famke), but if Wenders were involved I’m sure he’d add his unique perspective. My story could be called PINK FUR TRIM, or CERULEAN CAPTAINESS OF THE ESTROGENIA GALAXY, or even something simple like FINALLY, A TRANS WOMAN. I trust his judgment - and yours. If Wes Anderson were at the helm, on the other hand, I’m sure he’d want a quirkier title than I can think of off the top of my head - maybe something like THE ENGLISHWOMAN’S GENITALS or FRENCH ME, YOU TRANSSEXUAL BASTARD, or something like that. In any case, Famke, I’m yours if you want me, and then you could say that you have played the only trans woman. Take that, Eddie Redmaybe and Scarlett Jorgensen! 

Notice I don’t call myself “the first trans woman.” Well, I don’t presume to. I know that you all have waited a long time for a trans woman to come along, and I have no reason to assume that anyone like me is just waiting to pop up again. It would be quite a coincidence, wouldn’t it! Of course, I find the idea flattering. Frankly, it is an honor to think that so many of you imagine that I have the power to remake your bodies and souls just by smiling down with the full force of my charming and irresistible trans woman beam, decked out in my by-now-familiar pink, fur-lined gown. Oh, how I wish I could fix you all! But, now I reflect further, I realize that it stirs some kind of revulsion in me too. To contend with another version of myself in the world could be exciting for a moment or two, but it’s easy to see how it would become too much to handle, even for an old narcissist like me! I don’t even know what it would mean to be a trans woman without my particular set of character quirks and poignant personal details. 

Is such a person conceivable? I suppose it could be a fun thought experiment if you wanted to try it with me, Famke. Of course, I could introduce you to my mother, and leave you for fourteen years in the unremarkable mid-sized Midlands town of Redditch, Worcestershire, where I grew up. Redditch, so called for its historically iron-rich and therefore red ditch, was once the center of the Midlands’ thriving fishing-tackle industry, and I’m sure you’d enjoy spending fourteen years reflecting on its transformation into the town we all know and love today. But part of me almost wonders whether it would be worth the bother. It would certainly take a lot of work to try to recreate the exact conditions of my childhood, and force you to live through them exactly as I did. For one thing, I would need to acquire enough familiarity with the necromantic arts to reanimate my grandmother, whom you would not especially like, I fear. I didn’t. And it’s not clear what the effects of our scheme might be. You might turn out to be the second trans woman, but, prima facie, it seems just as likely that something entirely different would happen. If not more likely, to be perfectly frank. 

Although there are certainly no other trans women, I sometimes wonder,  there any other trans people at all out there? Perhaps. I don’t know. It’s not for me to speculate on the existence of trans men, or non-binary people, or anyone otherwise genderqueer. I dare say there might very well be one of each, somewhere out there, or that, if there is not now, there may be one in the future. Frankly I think that’s much likelier than that there would be another trans woman like me, especially one who would have nothing to do with me. And, as I’ve said, I have so far refused to license or train any other trans women — though I would certainly give you first refusal, Famke. In fact I find the idea of training anyone else rather distasteful. Perhaps we could all just learn to be ourselves, okay? Especially if we can agree that my self is the only one that is a real trans woman, which strikes me as the least that we can all do. 

Famke, I’m not going to tell you that my story is the most exciting, that my feminist analysis is the most bracing, that my sexual self-positioning is the edgiest, that my sadness is the most tragic, or that my raucous tales of trans badassery in the night spots and mean streets of the Bay Area are the most irreverent, Bukowskian, and iconoclastic. They’re not. I’m just one dumb blonde bitch, who happens to be the only trans woman in history. But I’m here to tell you that I’m the only trans woman that exists, or has ever existed, and that whatever else there is in this world, it isn’t me, and it isn’t a trans woman. So come on, Famke. Let’s get real here. Are you going to make a film about a phantom, like one of those robots who pretends to be a trans girl online? I’m not a robot, Famke, and nor am I a Russian spy - although ironically I note that you played a Russian spy in the 1990s film James Bond: Goldeneye, yourself! Are you going to make a movie about one of those frauds? Get real. According to a quick search on the old Google, you’re going to make a crime thriller with John Travolta and Brendan Fraser (NEITHER of whom is trans in the least, whatever the Scientologists say!) and other pictures of that order. Listen, I get it. I GET it. You and me, we GET it. Call me. Buy British. You know what is happening here. 📲📲📲