The Glass Submarine

A guest post by Erika Allan

I’ve been asked a few times what it was like to know I was a trans woman from a young age, but not be able to transition. I hope this will clear up some things about it.

 Imagine yourself in a glass submarine. It is close to the surface and there is a key to open the hatch. The door can’t be open from the inside but someone on the surface has the key. You don’t like being trapped in this glass submarine, so you try to convince the person on the surface to open the hatch. (The key is puberty blockers and on the surface is a boat called womanhood, you want nothing more than to get on this boat.)

 The submarine starts to slowly sink (the onset of puberty), but there is still time to get out. If the person on the surface unlocks the hatch for you, you can escape onto the boat. If that doesn’t happen, you sink further and further down, and the key is of no help. You feel the darkness of the murky water closing in. You try to fight it. You do everything you can to stop the submarine from sinking. Pumping out the ballast tanks, emptying the septic tank but it only slows the inevitable. You get on the radio (coming out to parents) and ask for help but nobody answers. Or worse, someone answers but tells you to suck it up because sinking is inevitable, and they try to convince you that sinking is good.

You read something in an old magazine about a dive team (trans-affirming doctors) and a ship with a crane (cross hormones) that can rescue you. You get back on the radio and try to signal them, but you are faced again with radio silence. You try switching channels to see if anybody is listening, but still, you get no response. You try the keyholder again [your parents when you are underage] but they only tell you “you’re in a submarine, you should love sinking.”

You keep trying with the radio, but still, you’re faced with silence. The water around you gets murkier as you sink lower. Some can’t handle this. They hit the bottom and the submarine breaks.  As you get closer to the bottom you get desperate. You try everything again just to be faced with nothing. Nothing but the dark murky depths of an unforgiving sea.

 You hit the bottom and sit there. You hear on the radio people talking about what a good submariner you are (they say things like “look at how tall you’ve gotten” and “wow, you look so masculine now.”) This makes you desperate, so you try to signal the dive team again, but no response. You hear of the dive team rescuing a submarine in your area, so you signal that submarine and get no response either.

 {not everyone is as lucky as this next part, for some, it takes longer than others}

 Eventually, you see one of the other submarines getting rescued by the dive team, so you signal the dive team. And you finally get a response! They come over and help you to bring your submarine to the surface.

However, the keyholders might radio you and tell you all about how “what you’re doing is wrong, we gave you that submarine and that’s what you’re going to stay in.” You switch channels because what they say will only keep you on the bottom.

When you reach the surface, the dive team and crane help you to a dry dock (hormones, and surgery if you chose). Where your submarine can be made into the boat it was meant to be all along. (Transition)