♫ Hercules Mulligan
I need no introduction
When you knock me down
I get the fuck back up again ♫
-- Hercules Mulligan, Hamilton
This past Sunday I went to my first official Rat City practice and got my ass kicked.
When I say I got my ass kicked, I don't mean a bunch of big scary girls beat me up - though I'm sure that's gonna happen at some point. No, I did it to myself. We ran pyramid sprints between two sets of cones with a toe-stop at each end - there, there-and-back, there-and-back-and-there, all the way up to eight segments and back down to one.
Note: I suck at toe stops.
The whistle blew. I ran out, turned, and wiped out. Then I got up, sprinted, turned, and wiped out. Then I got up and did it again, and again, and again. I think I ate shit about ten times over the course of the drill, landing hard at least three, but I got up every time, dusted myself off, and finished. Some of my stops even looked half-decent by the end.
I could have quit after the first hard fall, or the second, or the third. I was slower than everyone else. I looked like a complete tool in front of everyone.
But I wasn't about to let a bruised body - or ego - stop me from finishing the practice. We went on to other stuff that I sucked less at, but I think I made my point. I was the new girl; I wasn't very good yet, but I was persistent.
Transition is pain. Trans girls don't tell you this very often, mostly because we don't want to draw attention to the fact that we're trans, but transition is pain. Emotional pain, yes - dysphoria, isolation, humiliation, the full brunt of our emotions after having testosterone to dull them our entire lives. But also very real physical pain.
I dilate twice a day for 20+ minutes a pop. I jam a series of hard plastic wands into my vagina to stretch the skin and keep the scar tissue from contracting. The sensation varies from merely uncomfortable to excruciating.
I do electro every week. If you've ever gotten a tattoo, imagine that, but on your face, for as much as four hours every week for literally years (I think my record was ten hours in one week). And you have to do genitals for about a year too if you're gonna have bottom surgery.
I've been under the knife for a total of 12 hours, with months and months of recovery after each go. I've had my face literally taken off and put back on again. I've had my genitals sliced, diced, inverted, and stuck back in me.
I did all of that because my choice is to give up and die, or grit my teeth and endure. I endure.
Nothing that happens to me in derby can be as bad as having my first wife turn on me after ten years together. Nothing can be as bad as losing my home. Nothing can be as bad as four hours of electrified needles in the face every week for a year. Nothing can be as bad as being constantly misgendered. Nothing can be as bad as the recovery from bottom surgery; as three days of lying flat on my back with nothing to eat or drink. Heck, nothing can be as bad as shoving the big dilator in and twisting when I'm already raw from that morning and exhausted and would rather just fucking pass out.
None of that shit ever made me give up. Nothing in derby can, either.
Transition is pain, but it's also time. We give up lives and relationships we've built over the course of years. We spend time away from work on medical stuff; we spend time away from our lives recovering from surgery. Even mundane stuff like dilation is a huge time sink - at one point I was spending three hours a day just on that, and it's still close to an hour.
I've had to start my life again in my mid thirties, with fewer hours in my day because just being trans takes up so much damn time.
I don't have the luxury to stop and take a breather every time I fall down. I don't have the luxury to be able to sit and nurse my bruises, or to skip a practice. I don't have the luxury to do anything other than go at full speed, all of the time, even if that means that sometimes I fall down hard.
Don't be surprised to see me fall. Just remember: when you knock me down, I get the fuck back up again.