I’m writing this, agog, agag, and awash, on the way home from a two-week holiday, so please forgive any inconsistencies in style or coherence. I have been to two events this summer: the Agen TPRS Workshop in the south of France and the 75th International Youth Congress of Esperanto in Liptovský Hrádok, Slovakia. The TL;DR version is: despite my last blog post being hopelessly desperate and desolate, I had an AMAZING time, and I feel healed and empowered, ready to keep moving forward. Unfortunately, many of the problems mentioned in the previous post are still very much present in my life, but there have been many blessings to balance them out.
First, the Agen conference. It was my first conference about Comprehensible Input/TPRS teaching, and my first professional conference ever, so I was understandably a little nervous. However, it turned out to be a blast, and most importantly, I spent the week laughing, making friends, learning, and experiencing joy of the purest kind. I did a proper write-up of it on my Professional Blog (yes, I started another blog, drag me), so I won’t go into too much detail here.
Coming off the back of such an amazing experience, I felt initially very nervous about going to the IJK in Slovakia. I’ve been to shedloads of Esperanto events, and while it is a fundamental part of my life and has enriched me in so many ways, they haven’t always been positive experiences. In particular, I remember the JES (Youth Esperanto Week) in Hungary where I kept getting drunk and telling people I wanted to die. Oops.
I won’t lie and say that the event subverted all my expectations. It was a rollercoaster. There was the initial high that there always is with Esperanto events – meeting old friends, making new ones, soaking up Esperantujo after being away from it. But a few days in, I felt the dread creeping in. And the dread all comes down to one thing: gazelles.
OK, so I’m going to have to do some explaining. This is some Deep Level Esperanto slang, so don’t go spreading it around everywhere. It’s a kind of secret code. Your ‘gazelo’ is the person (or people) at an Esperanto event who you want to hug/kiss/fuck/marry. It’s a pretty standard tradition for me and my close Esperantist friends to scope out the gazelles at the beginning of the week, and then spend a lot of time later on doing ‘gazelumado’ – tracking them down and flirting with them.
I promise it’s not as creepy as it sounds! Really, it’s just a slightly more codified form of the courting that many women do already. Often, it’s more about the chase than the prize. Or it’s supposed to be, but that’s the part I struggle with. I had at least five gazelles at this event, and for each and every one of them I either: got to a cuddling/kissing stage, only to realise that this was never going to have any romantic potential, or realised they had no interest in me.
I mean, it shouldn’t be that bad, right? But being an autistic trans woman who’s isolated at home, walking around this event where everyone else is happily flirting and fucking, it’s hard not to feel left out. That, combined with the Messiness that HRT induces, led to several sobbing-and-corridor-therapy sessions.
What this helped me realise, though, was that I can rely on my friends. I mean, duh, right? But in the past, before I started transitioning, I wouldn’t have cried. I would’ve shut the feelings up, and might not have even told anyone about it. Sure, crying in public and talking to people about your feelings is painful, but it was also cathartic, and it’s something I’ve never really been able to do before. Fuck, one time I even had an autistic shutdown and went non-verbal in the cafeteria, and the people around me were understanding and supportive.
Not only this, in the process of gazelumado, I made some pretty deep connections with people. I had semi-regular cuddle buddies during the event, including a straight man with a bifurcated tongue who I got on shockingly well with. I’ve always felt like I get polyamory/relationship anarchy in theory, but over this week I felt like I actually got to experience what it could be like to be surrounded by a community of loving people, connected in various and complicated ways.
There was nothing stopping me from having this in Esperantujo before, except for myself. I heard someone say recently that transitioning is basically starting living your real life for the first time, and this week that rang true with me. It’s been almost a year since I started hormones, and as one of my trans friends at the event pointed out, it’s done a lot for me. I’ve done a lot for myself. I’m stronger, more beautiful, and overflowing with love.
My deserts have blossomed. Earlier in the week I tweeted that this was all just “an oasis of joy in the sea of misery that is my life right now”. I see it differently now, though. I am determined to bring this joy, this fervour, into my everyday life. The oasis is growing. I just have to water it.