About Ray is an upcoming film about a young trans boy who is just beginning their transition, and follows his journey as his family come to terms with it. From the trailer (below) it actually looks like it could be a really good, positive film, which tackles some of the interesting and realistic difficulties faced by trans teens.
However, once again the director has decided to cast a cis actress in the lead role. Now normally this would just make me roll my eyes in disgust and move on, but I found the justification given by director Gaby Dellal downright offensive.
The explanation given was the usual excuse of needing to have a well-known actor in the lead roll in order to get the movie financed, but in addition to this the director explained that:
The part is a girl and she is a girl who is presenting in a very ineffectual way as a boy. She’s not pretending to have a deeper voice. She’s just a girl who is being herself and is chasing the opportunity to start hormone treatment. So to actually use a trans boy was not an option because this isn't what my story is about.
Immediately she has misgendered Ray, calling him a girl, and using female pronouns. However, Ray never was a girl. He is, and always has been, a boy, who happened to be assigned female at birth. He may have once presented as female, but this is not 'a girl being herself', it is a boy being himself finally after many years of not being able to be.
In this statement Dellal is implying that trans men should at least try to pretend to have a lower voice in order to be seen as men and that trans men are not male until they have at least had hormone treatment. It takes a lot of work to constantly try to lower your voice, or to go through speech therapy, something which I have not tried to do as I face enough anxiety when speaking without worrying additionally about whether my voice sounds low enough. For Dellal to say that Ray is a girl because he isn't even trying to lower her voice, is insulting to all trans people who may not have what is deemed an acceptable pitch for their gender.
To say that Ray is presenting as a boy 'in a very ineffectual way' is insulting to all trans people who may not 'pass' or present in a way which is deemed acceptable by society for their gender. Some people may be waiting for medical treatment, not want or be able to get medical treatment, or even with medical treatment may not fit into society's expectations for their appearance. Someone's appearance does not dictate their gender, and that is the fundamental point she is missing here.
Gender is based on self-identification - someone is the gender they say they are, no matter their outward appearance. They don't need to do anything to earn respect and recognition for their gender. This idea that trans people must 'pass' as their gender is archaic and oppressive.
Saying using a trans boy was not an option, makes it seem as though she never really considered it, and never really looked for a trans actor for the role. If she had, then perhaps she would have found that trans men are far more varied than she thought and could have been groundbreaking in destroying this notion that 'post-transition' trans actors cannot play pre-transition trans people.
Then at the end, she is saying her story isn't about a trans boy? Oh right, so a story about a young person assigned female at birth transitioning to male, isn't about a trans boy. That seems like a huge contradiction to me.
I'm Catholic, trans and bisexual, but becoming comfortable with all of these parts of my identity didn't happen overnight. It's been a long process, with many bumps and difficulties along the way including many times where I've wanted to give up completely on at least one aspect. There have even been times where I have given up, but God means so much to me that I always seem to find my way back to them.
I was brought up Catholic, having been baptised when I was just over a year old. We attended church pretty regularly on sundays. For almost my entire school life, aside from 3 primary school years, I went to Catholic school. It was pretty normal to me, and I don't really remember questioning whether I actually believed it or not until I was around 11 or 12.
I started to dislike church at this age because I found it boring, and I was also forced to be an altar server, which I hated because it meant I had to sit up at the front and remember what to do at the right times. I remember trying to find excuses not to attend, or not to have to serve.
However, I then began to become more engaged with my faith. I started following the mass more closely, reading some of the Bible, and learning more about what the Church taught. I began to read books and articles and listen to podcasts with a Catholic or Christian theme. I started almost exclusively listening to Christian music, and soaked up a lot of the views of American purity culture. I found some kind of comfort in all the rules I think, and to my shame now, became fairly judgemental of others' behaviour. I also held myself to a very high standard.
I still believe that it was only through prayer and my relationship with God that I was able to get through some of the toughest periods of my life. With God's help, I gained the courage to reach out again to find new friendships after being bullied for years. My faith provided solace to me, and I believe it kept me alive at this time, if only because I was too scared of going to hell to kill myself.
I continued to attend church regularly, even when the rest of my family stopped going so regularly. I was confirmed when I was 15; it was a lovely service which I got a lot out, but this was to be one of the last times for a while that I would feel this close to, and at peace with, God.
Everything I knew came crashing down when a few months later I finally admitted to myself that I liked girls and watched porn properly for the first time. I couldn't see how my faith and my sexuality could coexist and I felt so immensely guilty.
I went to church to ask God for forgiveness and I remember walking home feeling lighter. However, it soon happened again, and the guilt was back. It led to me self harming and sinking down into a dark place. According to everything I had believed up to this point, I was disordered, and could never have a healthy relationship with a girl.
For a short while I nearly lost my faith entirely, and questioned whether I was even a Christian anymore. However, I only briefly stopped believing in God I think, because I felt that they were a large part of my life and I couldn't imagine doing life without them there, supporting me. I was self harming regularly by this point, and continually struggling with questions of how God could make me like this, and what they wanted me to do with it.
I began to really pray in earnest, seeking an honest answer from God, rather than parroting the book knowledge I had gained. I realised I had a lot of the head knowledge about religion and God, but I was lacking a deeper connection with them. I spent a lot of time in tears, begging God to reveal to me what they wanted me to do, and a lot of time shouting angrily at God.
Then things slowly started to change, I began to get messages of love, in my private prayer times, and through other people. It took quite a while for them to begin to get through to me and make a difference to me. I found it hard to comprehend, but I felt God really wanted me to know that they would always love me, and that there was nothing I could do to make them love me more or less.
Knowing I was loved was incredibly powerful, it gave me a foundation to stand on to ask the more complicated questions, about what to do next. It had never crossed my mind to ask for my identity to be changed, I think I always knew that this was a part of me that I somehow had to live with. The question was always how.
The sticking point was I didn't know whether it would be okay for me to have a relationship. Eventually I found I could break this issue down into three possibilities. Either:
- God is a dick and had created me attracted to girls and also didn't want me to have a relationship with them, thus putting me through a lot of pain and suffering deliberately.
- God didn't create me attracted to girls, and I was wrong and/or something had happened to make me this way and thus I should try to resist it because it was a sinful part of me.
- God created me attracted to girls and there was nothing wrong with this. My desire for relationships was the same as any heterosexual person, and the Church was wrong in its teaching.
I dismissed the first, because I continued to believe in God's love. They had supported and got me through some of the hardest times in my life up to this point, and I couldn't believe that They could be so cruel. So I was left with trying to figure out whether I was wrong about my sexuality, or whether the Church was wrong.
I knew what I wanted my answer to be - that it was okay, and that I could have relationships. However, I didn't know whether this was what God was telling me or whether I was just projecting my own thoughts onto them. I spent a long time exploring this with the school chaplain, and it was so helpful having someone to talk about it with.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that God had created me this way and so I decided to pursue relationships for a while, ignoring the remaining uncertainty I still felt about my sexuality and gender.
Several months later, I came back to discussing sexuality, and I spoke for the first time about how I'd been feeling that I wasn't female, and how I wanted to transition to present as male at school. I spent a lot of time with the school chaplain exploring gender, talking about things like whether the soul has a gender, and whether transitioning is against God's creation or plan for me.
I couldn't find a great deal of teaching on this, but through prayer I began to form my own view on how this fit into my faith. Now, I believe that the soul, the very essence of our being, may have a gender. For most people this aligns with their physical appearance, but for some people like me who are trans, it does not. To begin with my view on this was very binary, because Christian teaching tends to be, but I can't see why it has to be.
I came to realise as well, that even if God created us male and female, that does not mean that we are all completely one or the other. We all have a mixture of typically masculine and feminine characteristics, and gender is far more complicated than a some of the simple definitions provided by parts of mainstream Christianity.
I became very angry with God again over this, however. I couldn't see how if they 'knit me together in my mother’s womb' (Psalm 139:13) they had managed to make such a fundamental mistake. Again, it took a lot of prayer and talking to people to reach a conclusion. I realised that there are many things in this world, that people can be born with that I do not believe are God causing them, or the result of God being neglectful, and so this is similar. It's the result of the fallen, imperfect world that we live in.
The conclusion to this is that I can pursue the medical intervention I need with a clear conscience. I feel safe in the knowledge that God does not want me to suffer, and they helped us to create medicine so that we could alleviate suffering.
My identity is in God, and I know that they see me for who I truly am.
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird on a roof. (Psalm 102)
This part of Psalm 102 really hit me as seeming to quite accurately describe how having depression can sometimes feel like. I especially feel the imagery captures some of my experience.
Days can often seem to disappear. I go through the motions, but I look back and I can't think of what those days contained. It's like going through life in a haze, everything is obscured. Before you know it, days are flying by and you can't seem to grasp them.
Some days you wake up and you are so tired you can feel it deep in your bones. The inexplicable aches and pains, are just some of the physical symptoms of depression.
It can feel like I have stopped caring, my heart has shriveled up and I'm no longer able to feel. I go numb and I start to disconnect.
I have already talked in a previous post about how my depression can affect my eating habits.
"Like an owl among ruins". This feels symbolic of me looking out over my life and thinking that it hasn't gone too well. That I've messed things up. In the depths of my depression I have felt that there is no hope, and everything is forever ruined. I know now that that is not the case, but I can still sometimes feel that lonly feeling of being alone in a wilderness.
I can disconnect from reality sometimes, it's like I'm not really in the world. I'm not affecting the world, and I'm just passing through passively. Things are happening to me, and I'm vaguely aware of them but everything is muffled slightly.
I've been struggling a bit with everyday life recently. It's been especially difficult to find the motivation to go shopping and cook myself proper food.
I've had several times recently when I've gone into a shop with the intention of buying things, wandered round the shop, and then left empty handed. My brain tells me I don't deserve food, that I can't afford it (even though I can) and that they don't stock anything I want. They usually do stock most things I need, I just can't motivate myself to find them, or to try different shops.
I'm quite ambitious with my cooking, I like to cook meals from scratch with fresh ingredients where possible. I still occasionally have pizza and fast food, but the majority of my meals are home cooked. This usually works brilliantly, when I'm feeling up to it, I cook a few huge meals and freeze them into portions to be reheated. The problem comes when I run out of meals in my freezer, and when this coincides with a low period. I end up surviving on what little I have left, biscuits and toast.
I've recently stocked up again with soup and also cooked a few tasty meals which will last me for a while long so I feel I am coming out of this rough patch somewhat. I try to be prepared for this happening by always keeping the freezer stocked, but it can take me by surprise and by the time I've realised things aren't going to well it can be too late.
At times like this it's very hard to do anything. Getting up, and washed and dressed feels like a gigantic effort. To leave my room, cook, and do chores is another huge task. Then we add making it to class, and doing homework. This is where I start to fail, skipping class and not handing in work. I don't have the energy to spare on study when it's taking everything I have to keep myself alive and ticking.
My anxiety grows, my brain is clamouring, you need to do the things. You need to study, to work on the group project, to hand in your work, to attend lectures. You need to socialise, why are you getting so tired.
But the fact is, I can't. I'm barely managing to keep myself going, and it's absolutely okay to be focussing on that right now. It's understandable that after an hour in the kitchen surrounded by flatmates that you would be tired. After going into uni, you are allowed to take some time to relax and treat yourself. You do deserve praise for achieving even the most basic self care.
I found something out about a couple of months ago that really set me back. It led to the most serious episode of self harm I've had in over a year.
It involved a massive invasion of my online privacy and violation of my trust. It's made me incredibly worried that I've had many conversations and emails which were intended to be private, but in fact may have not been. It's also been a huge violation of my friends' privacy, as there are things which were intended for my eyes only, which have been read unauthorised.
I only found out that this had been going on through some information coming to light that shouldn't have. This had the potential to cause serious problems for me, although thankfully nothing seems to have come of it. It worries me to think that it would have carried on indefinitely had I not found out.
I'm being intentionally vague here as my intention isn't to name and shame exactly what's happened, but rather to talk about my feelings recently.
This has left me questioning whether anyone can be trusted. By nature I'm very trusting, probably too trusting. I take people's words at face value and expect them to tell me the truth, especially when it's people I'm close to. I've learnt through this recent event and the break up that preceded it that you really cannot trust even those closest to you. The people who tell you they love you are often the ones to watch because they think they can get away with lies and deceit "for your own good".
Despite all this I'm not sure I will learn not to trust people. I certainly trust my current boyfriend, and although I question whether I should, in practice I find it hard not to.
I automatically expect authenticity in return for my own honesty. I enjoy being fully myself, and not hiding parts of me. There are several things which people have told me I shouldn't talk about, but I continue to do so because it's a freeing process.
The paranoia and fear of rejection that comes with bpd is ever present. I rarely fully believe that anyone truly cares about me, and my brain constantly tells me that they don't. It's always a struggle to believe and trust someone when they say they do, especially when I've been so hurt in the past.
Trust is a complicated thing, and can often work on a gut instinct. It takes time to build it up, especially after a break down of trust. It isn't easy to quantify at all. I will keep on hoping, and trying to select the right people to put my faith in. I'm sure I'll be hurt again, but that's part of life.