It means nothing to me
This means nothing to me
('Vienna' by Ultravox)
It's up there with your first full day as an out trans female, with the admin changes, your first job and that conversation with your family. I went to Vienna this weekend to a conference, my first time out of the country with my passport grasped at my tender bosom, stating: Gina. Gender: F. A gentle body search through the airport's metal barrier, then I'm through the gateway to a different language; to an alien city of baroque towers and subway stations of thousands of glances that could mean anything. Up above on the streets, one or two middle-aged women doing double-takes and then glaring at me, as the temperatures plummeted.
Dear Vienna, I feel like I muddied your grandiosity, like a streak of pink dye in your blue Danube waters. 'Oh Vienna,' city of Viennese Whirls, and Adolf Hitler. Forgive me, Vienna, I'm paranoid and projecting my sense of inadequacy on you. Don't take it personally. Without trying, you reminded me of how ugly I can feel.
Transition is not linear. You live as a trans woman in Edinburgh like it's second nature and no one bats an eye lid. You live in Edinburgh like Bilbo in Rivendell and you forget that out there you used to be frightened. And then on a Viennese subway, you remember.
I withdrew socially at the conference, first physically, staying in during evenings as other conference delegates went shopping at Christmas markets, trying out the gluhwein. I sat alone next to a TV with BBC World, crunching quietly on a half-pack of Lidl Ginger Nut biscuits I'd taken with me as an afterthought, like a thankless, but actually much-cherished companion. Networking? Fuck that, survival. I was too afraid of using my voice to go for a slice of pizza at that booth by the subway station.
It snowed. Don't get me wrong, I saw Vienna as it's meant to be enjoyed. Only I couldn't enjoy it. Maybe cause I couldn't enjoy being me (I apologize, Vienna, you gave the world Freud, I'm giving you sub-Jerry Springer clichés).
During the day I spoke at the conference and attended interesting panels. I made important contacts. My talk, like a bank job, went as planned: in and out to the second, job done. In the streets, I didn't get laughed at or lynched or slapped. At the Viennese airport, they didn't make me strip away my identity and leave me standing there naked and pale, a white space without a face.
But I have a happy ending. At the Viennese airport, a conference delegate waiting for his plane came up to me. We went to a café. He bought me a hot chocolate and I relaxed as we talked. I remembered how nice and relaxing it can be to be me.
Oh Vienna. You do mean something to me. Like first time sex, it was bad but I guess it needed to happen and now I can move on with greater confidence, be less reticent and scared as I glide through the ambivalence in my long black trench coat and Doc Marten boots, breath turned to steam, as cool as an icicle. Vienna, I'm sorry for our frosty sex and that I didn't seem to enjoy it. Vienna, I'm glad that we fucked, anyway.