Monday, November 7th, 2016
Two pairs of underwear,
& A thin black dress, resting upon the loose soil of my pointed-toe pumps (medium height, conservative but delicate). Or so I’d like to think. This is my name-change outfit, my woman-in-court robe. Today is the day I take my plunge into the dark river of legal recognition. I am changing my name to “match” my gender, transitioning from Michael to Michelle, Edward to Edith, and always, yet again (and forever), Present-to-Present.
I carry at least 10 emotions on my way to Manhattan, all of which blend together, diffusing into a general sense of “drama” within my bones. I touch my knee, smooth and translucent, more smooth than it’s ever been. I remember the way my legs once were, the way hair latched onto them like an animal hide (worn for heat). Now there are no pricks, no wounds from shaving, in this cab and on the street I am cold but mostly, I am free.
I enter the courtroom, dressed-to-impress (myself) and wait in the security line. Behind me I find my two lawyers, for whom I paid nothing. They are working pro bono because as a trans woman in New York City, I have access to legal help when performing this small task of becoming who I’m meant to be. The guard beckons, “Miss!” My spine shivers, then falls into a smile. After 22 years of being seen as male, I can’t help but feel giddy every time the world calls me myself. I know that soon I’ll grow into my new position, my “profession” as it were (for what is gender if not a job we all do in order to survive). But for now I am euphoric, anxious but high, as I tremble through the Law and Order scene that is my next beginning.
Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
My sister and I make it to the polling place just before the evening rush. My hands tremble as I overfill the small egg next to Hillary Clinton. I have always been a fan of Hillary. Even when passing laws I found morally abhorrent I couldn’t help but admire her quiet tenacity. In my mind, Hillary has always understood her life in the long term. So fierce was her commitment to Keynesian economics and social democracy that she was willing to sublimate her impulse to save herself (from Bill, from misogyny, from double standards) into an impulse to heal the nation. Hillary was never a prophet or a goddess or even a matriarch, rather she was, is, the carrying mechanism for an energetic principle which seeks to save America. For myself and others a Hillary presidency was always a dream not because it was utopian, but because it would demonstrate a new American consensus. An America where the majority of the populace would be able to see beforehand, the radical injustice at play in the confirmation of a future Justice Scalia. An America where the death penalty was deemed barbaric. An America where no one pretended that racists weren’t real or that abortion was not a right. An America. An America. Our America. I left my booth and fed my ballot to the voting box. The screen confirmed that my voice had been heard and I left with Emily, confident that symbolic rebirth was imminent. Hillary, America and I, becoming the women we were always meant to be.
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
Donald J. Trump, our new Führer-in-Chief, walks on-stage, summoned by the applause of his bacchanalian chorus: the white men and women desperate to resurrect an America where they, once more, are gods. Red hats surround the image of phallic power, a sea of red, a river of blood. Mike Pence hovers near his puppet as an Aryan child yawns his way through the patriarch’s ascension. I am shaking, screaming through my eyes as Trump announces that Hillary has just called to congratulate him on his win. Time stops. The Earth lies still. Trump has won the future of America, a future I cannot be in, a future I wasn’t made for. Now I know the angst of Trump’s voters; unable to see themselves in the future of their homeland, they aim to manifest a past where they are fully present. Their motto: Make America Great Again, clings to the notion that they can (and will!) electrify the corpse of “Great America.” Fascism is a Frankenstein religion, dependent on the dream of reversing death, the death that is of the “ideal citizen.” The national zombie par excellence, carcass-as-subject, dead flesh brought back to life through the electric pulse of prejudice and rage.
Donald Trump is America’s first Trans President. Or rather through Trump, America will witness its first Trans presidency. In the coming weeks and months the media circus and Washington machine will attempt to normalize the new president-elect. However as we have already seen (through Trump’s appointment of a white nationalist as Chief of Staff for instance), Trump never intended on “ruling from the center” or even from the right which, in America, is usually synonymous with ruling-as-president. Trump is not a president. Republicans will work hard to construct a presidential self for Donald to be, a Trump through which they can legitimize their hate. However like all false identities, it is only a matter of time before the surface shatters. A transition is also, always, a revelation. My heart runs cold in anticipation of Trump’s coming out.
Sunday, November 20th, 2016
November is Trans Awareness Month. November 14th to 20th was Trans Awareness Week. November 20th is also marked as Transgender Day of Remembrance. It has been reported that, allegedly, 10 trans Americans (mostly teenagers) have committed suicide in the aftermath of Trump’s win. Ironic I guess, and necessary, that our annual celebrations of Transness occur in the midst of symbolic assault (the full effects of which remain unknown).
Trump functions as a kind of bigot pornography. His rhetoric arouses the white working class through a displacement of their pain onto an imagined Other, an Other whose very presence is seen as an existential threat, an assault on their own sense of identity (personal and national). If there is one sentiment that unites almost all Americans it is our shared precarity, our sense of displacement and abandon, of homelessness within our homes. We feel forgotten by our nation, left to fend for ourselves in a Darwinian universe that never hears our pain. Tragic: how one America’s sense of security depends upon the execution of the Other’s.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. She won, in part, because millions of Americans refused the hateful logic of a campaign that glorified our death and applauded our destruction. Living in America as a person of color, a Muslim, an immigrant, a woman, or a trans person is not easy. Every day we struggle to survive as subjects before the Law, before systems of governance that constantly erode our right to be ourselves. The Republican Regime will stop at nothing to deny us access to being alive. But just remember, in the midst of your pain and your effort, that millions of citizens are fighting the same Monster, attempting to do the same.
We are the spectral majority.
The monstrous feminine. The vilified, terrorized bodies whose meanings walk the halls of the national psyche and Oval Office. The future, now more than ever, remains precarious. Our lives and our skin will be under constant attack (physical and political). We will be treated as ghosts, spoken to as though we aren’t there. Fine. Let them not see us! Let us vanish into the collective unconscious! Let us become the imagined Other! The Other they feared. The Other that caused half a nation to reject itself. Let us reclaim our absence-as-presence: in the streets, homes and hearts of those who’d rather see us dead. Yes we have been shunned, but never will we be silent.
Words: Michaelle Present
Illustrations: Adelina Sasnauskaite