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Transmissions: A holiday wish

by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith  

So, once again, we reach the closing of another year.

For many of us, this is a time of trees festooned with tinsel and glass baubles, nights filled with candlelight, or myriad holiday traditions. It's a time of gingerbread and gelt, kinara or a menorah, and all sorts of things we hold dear.

When I was much younger than I am today, as the scent of the Douglas fir my father set up in the front room would waft through the house and the glow of holiday lights would produce a diffused rainbow of color against the window blinds in my bedroom, I would find myself making my holiday wish list.

This would start with a long study of the Sears Wish Book, as I considered if the latest offerings from Mattel, Kenner, or Mego would best fit under the tree. Or maybe I'd want a new bike or some other big item, like that year I asked for a telescope from ol' Saint Nick.

I'd hand my list to my parents, secured in an envelope so they could send it in the mail to Santa on my behalf. Later, after the ruse was revealed, I would just offer my list to them.

Even in those years when I might have snuck in a wish for a more feminine doll or toy, I still avoided asking for my dearest wish on my list.

It was the same thing I prayed for every night, lowering my voice to barely a whisper as I held my hands clasped before going to sleep, and the same thing that would come to mind any time I would wish upon the first star I'd happen to spot at dusk.

A simple wish, nothing more than a trifle to an omnipotent presence no matter if he wore flowing robes in heaven or a fur-lined suit at the North Pole.

I wished that I could be a girl.

My parents, who weren't exactly rich, did provide me with a decent haul for each Christmas, but I never woke up on Christmas morning with a new gender under the tree. Such seemed to be out of the hands of any entity I may have opted to wish to at the time.

When I was 8 years old or so, I decided that it was foolish to keep wishing for such, as no jolly old soul was going to drop that down the chimney.

It would be 16 years later, after a lot of denial, and pain — and even the occasional glimmer of fleeting hope — that I would decide that this was something I could approach. I would simply have to serve as my own jolly elf of sorts, discovering my own path forward.

In the course of this journey, I lost a few things. Some members of my birth family decided not to be part of my life. Financial security became short-lived. Some things have proved to be more difficult than others, and harder than they might have been if I hadn't needed to transition.

Nevertheless, my wish was granted.

Today, this may be easier. There are a lot more resources available, and they are easier to find. When I was wishing as a child, I had only the slightest inklings that this was even possible, fed by what little was said in the media at the time.

Even when I did start my transition, there was no internet to find the steps forward. I assure you that I had to walk uphill both ways to transition, and today you have the great and good opportunity not to go through all that I did.

That said, while the path is easier, it is not without difficulty. While more accept transgender people today, not all support us. We often still have to jump through hoops to get care, and — especially right now — all of our rights remain in question.

The holidays can be hard for those of us who are transgender. We may have to spend time with family who are less than supportive, hiding ourselves from them to remain safe and well. We may have been cast out by family and friends, too, and feeling lost, cold, and alone during this time that is sold to us as "the most wonderful time of the year."

It can be hard to hold onto hope in the middle of all this, and you may feel that there is little recourse. No sleigh is on its way, ready to deliver a box containing your deepest desires.

There is so much mythology around the season, and so many Hallmark-styled expectations of a warm, happy holiday with family and friends. Even under the best of circumstances, most family gatherings this time of year won't measure up to the images fed to us in the sentimental tales that make their way to big and small screens.

When you add in being transgender, these experiences become just a bit further out of reach.

So, this is my gift to you this holiday season. I wish to offer you a moment of hope.

As you read this, should you, too, be under this grand umbrella of transgender identities, no matter how you opt to define it, I want to assure you too that your dreams are achievable.

You hold the power and the magic to form your needs into your reality, should you just wish it.

Gwen Smith wishes you the happiest of holidays no matter what path you follow. You'll find her at www.gwensmith.com.

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