I have always had a deep fondness for Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I identify with both Quasimodo and Esmerelda. On the one hand, I feel like there’s a beautiful woman inside me, but, on the other, my body seems as twisted to me as Quasimodo’s to him. I feel like I share Quasimodo’s tender heart.
However, I think the biggest reason I like The Hunchback is simply that it’s laden with layers of irony. Irony is an inevitable part of a transperson’s life. For instance, prior to transition, everyone I met thought they knew me; but I did not reveal my real self to them, and I felt isolated and invisible, even in the most intimate of relationships. My body functions well, it would be beautiful in a man, but it seems dreadfully ugly and just wrong to me. When I started coming out, I found that I hurt people in direct proportion to how much I loved them and wanted to protect them from hurt.
That’s probably the most painful irony of being a transwoman.
The exception is my kids. Our relationship seems better since I came out, they’re thriving, and I’ve seen no evidence of hurt. I’m glad I did it while they’re young. I’ve also been lucky in transition – I’ve had very little negative reaction from the public, and my supervisors at work studied, planned, and worked hard to ensure that my transition went flawlessly, and to show that I had the full support of management (although my health plan still specifically excludes most of my health needs). Other transpeople commonly suffer the full weight of society's discrimination, hate, abuse, and prejudice.
The suffering my transition has caused my loved ones, my body has caused me, and society has caused to most of my peers, points to another aspect of The Hunchback that identifies it with transsexuality. The story of Quasimodo and Esmerelda is a tragedy.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
Reading List for Information about Transpeople
- Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
- Conundrum, by Jan Morris
- Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
- My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
- Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
- She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
- The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
- Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
- Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
- Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
- Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
- True Selves, by Mildred Brown
- What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
- Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano