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How Losing My Sight Helped Me Express My Gender Identity

With no mirrors to face I saw my beautiful inner self as a girl, and a woman slowly pushing away the past.

by Storm Persephone Tara-Meiying Liu
20 May 2015, 6:00am

Illustration by Katie Parrish

Being forced to live in a body that's not yours is not fun. I knew there was a barrier between the way boys and girls are supposed to look and behave. I knew there was a barrier and I wanted to cross it. I've always just wanted to strike out on my own but I didn't know about the whole beautiful gender rainbow until very recently. I'm 57 and I came out two years ago in 2013. I'm a baby as far as the trans community is concerned.

Growing up I was dealing with the stigma of being a disabled school student and also suffering gender dysphoria. Although those words weren't said back then, in my child mind I just knew I wanted to be a girl.

I was born with a condition called retinitis pigmentosa – called RP for short. From the age of seven, my eyesight diminished into night blindness. There is no cure and I lost my sight altogether when I was 25.

I first noticed my deteriorating eyesight with videos, I was seeing less and less. Images started to fade and I'd miss details. It's really strange, like someone taking a movie you watch every day and splicing microscopic little things out of it. You notice it over time and then you get to a threshold and you think, shit.

I got so depressed and I kept the sadness inside. A lot of people do. It's like you're packing your heart with cotton wool. I sold my video player and tapes, and became much more insular. It was hard, I retreated into fantasy.

But strangely enough, it was losing my vision that placed me in my sanctuary and helped me overcome the self-image issues. I didn't need to worry about meeting my own eyes. My loss of eyesight became an unexpected refuge. My dysphoria continued inside, but my true self emerged and I began to let my identity grow and soothe me.

There were no mirrors to face and I was no longer gazing upon my body and finding it lacking. I saw my beautiful inner self as a girl, and a woman slowly pushing away the past. When I tossed out my boy clothing, I vowed to become a woman and would do anything to achieve my goal. I lost weight and got the body I wanted to use as a foundation to rebuild myself.

A wonderful friend helped me with make-up. She got me to the stage where I could do my eyes, lips, and face perfectly. She taught me grooming, dress sense, and much more. I got my ears pierced and wore tops and skinny jeans. I am so grateful to her for supporting me through this process.

It was a long and difficult journey to freedom. I used to loathe myself in my teens. I knew nothing about T blockers and about anything that would prevent me from changing from an androgynous child to a male.

Exploitative employment during my teen years furthered my isolation. I was packing toys, show bags, and making door mats for a few dollars for a 40 hour week. I was suffering in silence until I quit and joined a disability activist group.

There's so much transphobia still. Transphobia is something that can be intentional – there are cruel and vicious people – but then there are also people who just don't know how to speak to you.

The worst thing about living where I do now is that everyone knew me when I was a boy, and a few harass me now I'm presenting as female. I went to the supermarket yesterday and one of these douches in line said, "oh they're so weird, they don't know if they're a woman or a man."

One time, I was poked in the groin by someone from behind. I swung around and started screaming. Someone threw alcohol in my eyes last year. Some idiot could come and kill me – I just don't know.

I've been through enough that now I'm made of titanium. If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be: start to be who you really are now. Be brave and know that the future can be beautiful and made real, simply by making it your intention. Now that I'm out, I can be authentic. I can be me. I'm so much happier.

As told to Emma Do. Follow her on Twitter: @emsydo

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