Most of you already know by now that I was born in Spain in the mid Seventies. What a lot of you probably don’t know is that the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975 marked the end of an almost-40-year long dictatorship that had kept us isolated from the rest of Europe since the late 30s and had institutionalised racism, homophobia and misoginy to such an extent that its consequences can still be felt today. Think of Federico García Lorca being shot in the back by the Guardia Civil for no other reason than being gay and how he was just one notorious case among hundreds of homosexual men (lesbianism simply wasn’t even considered to exist) who had to flee the country or risk incarceration or death, think about women like Pilar Primo de Rivera giving a new meaning to the words “internalized misogyny” in her book “The ideal woman” in which you can read things like:
“Let your husband speak first; remember that his problems are always more important than yours. Never complain if he gets home late or if he goes out for dinner without you […] Don’t bore him talking about your hobbies, since women’s interests are trivial compared to those of men. […] If he wants to lay with you, oblige humbly, always remembering that his satisfaction is more important than that of any woman. […] If your husband demands any unusual practices of you, obey without complaint.” (I’M NOT FUCKING KIDDING YOU: http://eltrendelamemoriauniradio.blogspot.com/2008/11/la-mujer-ideal-segn-primo-de-rivera.html)
Our first democratic elections since 1936 were held in 1977, and our first Constitution since Franco took the power was approved at the very end of 1978. Nineteeen-seventy-fucking-eight.
It’s also significant that the first most notorious “cultural” expression of our newfound freedom was what was known as “el destape”, which consisted of Spanish filmmakers churning out cheap slapstick comedies which were no more than a thinly veiled excuse to show as many topless blondes on screen as possible. It’s significant that one type of misoginy was simply replaced by another, just as fitting to the Spanish machismo, and it’s not at all surprising to know that despite all that “freedom” and “tolerance”, when I moved to Madrid in 1992, the notorious neighbourhood of Chueca, which today is celebrated as one of the main staples of gay visibility in Europe, was still pretty much a ghetto with creepy hustlers “psst”ing at you from darkened arcades, seedy clubs and blowjobs in back alleyways.
Soo yeah, it’s fair to say we had (and still have) some catching up to do, to the point that even today I wouldn’t feel safe transitioning there.
Anyway, I think you can start to guess what it was like growing up in this historical context, hearing my father say that “faggots” were sick perverts, that the only trans woman to reach some public notoriety in Spain, Bibí Andersen (today Bibiana Fernández), would always be “Manolo”, and that she was a freak of nature. Try to imagine the shame I felt when at the age of 6 I found myself wishing I could be Princess from Battle of the Planets. Try to imagine a world where the only trans people you ever saw were either sex workers or drag queens, a world with no Internet and no information whatsoever, a world where the word “transition” didn’t even exist and the only thing you knew about yourself was that you were sick, that what you felt was so wrong and so incomprehensible that you felt that if anybody should find out about it, you would become a pariah, a monster.
Take all that and bottle it up for twenty years until you start gathering up the courage to ask questions, to explore, yet still without a clue of what’s going on with you. You start looking stuff up on that newfangled “Internet” thing but you only find crossdressing sites, and you think “well, this must be who I am”, because you’re certainly not one of those freakish, creepy “transsexuals” you always saw walking the streets during your childhood, nooo sireee; but those sites say nothing about hormones, about what transitioning is, what it means, how it works; they’re just about wearing makeup and lingerie and feeding the very same male fantasies they claim to reject, something that simply doesn’t click with you; it’s closer to what you feel like than anything you had known until then but it still doesn’t feel right, it’s still not what you are. So you keep cradling that Molotov cocktail of guilt, shame, misinformation and aimless wandering and shaking it for another 15 years or so, trying to find out who you are, what you are, where you fit in and how to keep it from tearing your life apart.
Until, suddenly, one day it slips from your hands and it fucking blows you to pieces.
So, although I don’t really want to end on a “get off my lawn” note, that’s exactly what I need to do. Because “you kids” today don’t know how lucky you are (grumble grumble *waves cane* :P) to have such wealth of information at your fingertips, to have people you can talk and relate to all around the world no matter your age. English speakers, particularly, have words and concepts that even today don’t even exist in other countries and languages (“transgender” does NOT have a Spanish translation, neither does “outing”, for example; in German there is NO distincion between “sex” and “gender”; etc, etc), and you’re killing yourself over whether “ze” is less oppresive than “xir”. It’s fucking exasperating sometimes, I tell you, seeing so many people waving the “check your privilege” flag around without realizing that they’re actually the MOST privileged people on the planet when it comes to this kind of issues, taking for granted all that which most people, even in other “first world” countries, can’t even dream of because they don’t even know it exists, that it can be that way and not the way they’ve been taught their whole life.
So yeah, frankly I sneer (or roll my eyes, or facepalm, depending on my mood) when I see white middle-class American college kids raging and foaming at the mouth because somebody on the internet equated “women” with “vaginas”, and claiming that it’s TEH MOST OPPRESSIVE AND TRANSPHOBIC thing they’ve ever seen, because they haven’t lived through real, institutionalized and socially-internalized-to-the-core transphobia and erasure, the kind that doesn’t even let you THINK people like you EXIST because the denial is woven so deeply into the social fabric of your culture itself. I see people complaining about how Julia Serano’s “Whipping Girl” erases non-binary people, but I can’t think of a single book written in, or even translated to Spanish that tackles plain ol’ binary trans topics with ideas that are not inherited directly from the ’50s. Hell, I couldn’t even find a decent website in Spanish I could show to my parents when I came out to them so that they could have some proper, up-to-date information on the subject. When I see “Social Justice Warriors” going at each other’s throats over some crap like OMG LACI GREEN DIDN’T APOLOGIZE THE EXACT WAY I WANTED HER TO, I feel like grabbing them by the neck and shaking them while I scream GET SOME PERSPECTIVE YOU SELF-CENTERED DOUCHEBAGS.
And it WILL keep getting better! Same way you have it so, so much better than my generation did, future generations will be able to look back, breathe a sigh of relief and say “phew, they certainly had it bad back then, huh?”, but that will certainly not come through nitpicking, death threats, empty buzzwords or endless Internet whining.
I guess many of us “late transitioners” share similar-though-not-quite-the-same stories, but since most of the discussions on Tumblr are US-centered, I simply wanted to shed some light on how it’s like to grow up in a different culture, one that’s so close to yours, one that is still Western, yes, and which shares many core values with yours, yes, but which at the same time is so radically different from yours because of its specific history and because of how certain events have shaped a certain way of thinking that’s very, very hard to shake off and which you need to consider when you forget to stop to think that you’re not talking for everybody else in the world when you speak out about these issues. Hope at least somebody found it interesting!