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World Press on Nashville, Face Of Globalisation and Risks of the Covid Vaccine: New Age Islam's Selection, 31 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

31 December 2020

• The Bomb That Struck the Heart of Nashville

By Margaret Renkl

• The Other Face Of Globalisation

By Tasneem Siddiqui

• The Risks Of The Covid Vaccine, In Context

By Aaron E. Carroll

• Vaccines Are Safe, No Matter What Bobby Kennedy Says

By Kerry Kennedy Meltzer

• After Years Of Denial, I've Finally Accepted That I'm A Trans Woman

By Anonymous


The Bomb That Struck the Heart of Nashville

By Margaret Renkl

Dec. 30, 2020

NASHVILLE — If years were musical genres, 2020 would be a country song — or maybe a blues album, or possibly gospel. It’s hard to know, in the midst of sorrow, exactly which brand of anguish is lodged in the human soul. I do know this, though: It’s been a miserable year here, a year that tore our hearts to pieces even before a bomb reduced a historic part of this city to rubble on Christmas Day.

Tornadoes ripped through Middle Tennessee last winter, killing 25 and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. Two months later, a freak weather event called a derecho knocked out power across Nashville, in some neighborhoods for more than a week. Quarantines wrecked our tourist industry and thus much of our economy. Our public schools are still closed.

And musicians, the very heart of Music City, have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. The coronavirus has taken artists as diverse as Joe Diffie, Charley Pride and John Prine. Other musicians are wondering how they’ll pay their bills, and the people who work in the clubs, concert halls and restaurants where the musicians used to play are wondering the same thing.

And now, a bomb has gone off in the heart of our downtown.

We don’t know what caused Anthony Warner, 63, a self-employed information technology specialist and lifelong resident of Nashville’s Antioch neighborhood, to give away his car and his house and notify his clients that he was retiring. We may never know why he drove his R.V. downtown early Christmas morning, parked it near an AT&T transmission facility on Second Avenue North and then detonated the bomb it carried. All we know for sure is that Mr. Warner died in the blast.

The investigation is continuing, but the effects of the bombing were immediate: devastation on Second Avenue and significant damage for blocks around, canceled flights, internet and phone outages, including many 911 systems in the region, and yet another hit to Nashville’s economy.

It appears that Mr. Warner acted alone. Because there is no evidence, at least so far, that the bombing was intended to further the aims of an ideology, officials have resisted calling it an act of domestic terrorism.

Progressives are arguing — fairly, I think — that only white bombers get the benefit of this kind of doubt, while conspiracy theorists insist there’s a connection between the Nashville bombing and imagined attempts to steal next week’s runoff elections in Georgia. If there’s anything more 2020 than an explosion at the end of an already shattering year, it’s surely a fight about it on Twitter.

The one saving grace of this particular tragedy is that Mr. Warner seems to have tried to protect human life from the blast. Second Avenue is normally a lively center of business and tourism, but Mr. Warner didn’t blow it up at a time of maximum occupancy. Instead, he chose early Christmas morning, a time when the fewest people would be nearby.

Most crucially, he issued a warning. Before the R.V. blew up, it broadcast a recorded voice stating that the vehicle carried a bomb. “This area must be evacuated now,” it repeated. “If you can hear this message, evacuate now.” According to witnesses, the warnings played for approximately half an hour before switching to a 15-minute countdown. In between warnings, the vehicle played a recording of “Downtown,” Petula Clark’s 1964 hit song.

The evacuation notices gave the police time to wake nearby residents and get them to safety. Later that day, Mayor John Cooper identified the police — Officers Brenna Hosey, Tyler Luellen, Michael Sipos, Amanda Topping and James Wells, and Sgt. Timothy Miller — and expressed his gratitude for the risks they took to save others.

Thanks to their heroic efforts, Mr. Warner himself is the only one who died in the explosion, and I have no doubt that in time the city itself will recover. As my friend Steve Haruch notes in his new book, “Greetings From New Nashville,” that’s just who we are. After any tragedy, he writes, Nashville will always “quickly and quietly set about doing what it does: taking care of its own.”

But Mr. Haruch also points out that this isn’t only who we are. We are also a community that is growing in ways that often make it unrecognizable to us, a place where too many people who have lived here all their lives feel abandoned. “Nashville and its glittering progress has begun to feel increasingly closed off to an ever larger segment of its less affluent citizenry,” Mr. Haruch writes.

It’s not just the less affluent citizens. I keep coming back to that Petula Clark song and its ironic promises:

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely

You can always go downtown

When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry

Seems to help, I know, downtown

The stretch of Second Avenue where Mr. Warner parked his R.V. is both a part of and apart from Nashville’s tourist scene. Once known as Market Street, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Today its historic buildings house a Hooters and a Wildhorse Saloon.

Every longtime Nashvillian I know looks at what our downtown has become — the packed bars decked out in Nashvegas neon, the “transpotainment” industry’s hot tubs on the backs of tractor-trailers — and wonders how on earth our beautiful city ever became this garish, alien place.

In that sense, the bomb that went off on Christmas morning feels like a visible manifestation of a quiet alienation that has been growing here for more than two decades. An alienation that reached its nadir this year during a pandemic that saw locals dutifully staying home but downtown bar owners fighting quarantine restrictions.

I don’t claim to understand the heart of the Christmas Day bomber, and I am grieving as much as anyone over what he did to our city. But I am also thinking of the weight we’ve all carried this hard year, in Nashville and everywhere. There are times when it feels too heavy, no matter how resilient we are determined to be.

Pressed into service unrelentingly, resilience can develop into a carapace that grows too hard, a scab that closes off a festering desperation. And if any good is to emerge from all this grief, it will only be because we have learned not to ignore the suffering that came first. If we finally address the grief that came before the grief.


Margaret Renkl (@MargaretRenkl) is a contributing opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South. She is the author of the book “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.”


The Other Face of Globalisation

By Tasneem Siddiqui

December 31, 2020

The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has starkly revealed the other face of globalisation, particularly in the context of international migrant workers. Integration of global labour market created a scope for the marginalised people of developing countries to benefit from the globalisation process through accessing employment overseas. At the same time, globalisation has also exposed labour migrants to great vulnerabilities including life-threatening situations. The Covid-19 crisis has had an unprecedented impact on the global trade and commerce, yet it is the migrant workers who have borne the cost more disproportionately than any other group, be it national workforce or citizens of a country.

During the whole period of this crisis, migrants have been serving in essential frontline jobs such as health care, transport, construction, agriculture and food processing industries in different destination countries. Lack of protection of these workers is self-evident from the fact that the spread of Covid-19 has been disproportionally higher among the migrant communities; death rate is also the highest among them. In many of the Gulf and other Arab countries, South East Asian or even some of the European countries during the months of March, April, and even May, migrants were seen on roads, shopping areas and other public places desperately looking for food and shelter. In some cases, employers abandoned them, and in other instances, government authorities were busy apprehending them on the pretext that they were in irregular status. Taking advantage of the pandemic, many of these countries even deported them.

Bangladeshi migrants topped the list when it came to infected persons or people who were in sheer need of assistance. Reports have noted that by July 2020, more than seventy thousand Bangladeshis were infected in 186 countries. By December 27, some 2,330 Bangladeshi migrants had succumbed to Covid-19 in 21 countries (Prothom Alo, 28/12/2020). In Singapore, Bangladeshis constituted almost half of the migrants infected with Covid-19. One-fourth of those who died in Saudi Arabia due to Covid-19 are Bangladeshis. Out of the 328 who died due to Covid-19 in the UAE, 122 were Bangladeshis. Along with Gulf and other Arab countries, Bangladeshi migrants were passing their days in acute hunger in European countries such as Spain, Italy or Portugal as well. The countries of destination shrugged off their responsibility of taking care of its migrant workforce to the extent that Bangladesh government had to organise food and medicine for Bangladeshis in different parts of the world. This has been despite the fact that various international normative frameworks and standards—such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Global Compact for Migration, and Guidelines for Migrants in Countries in Crisis—uphold that during a crisis situation, it is the responsibility of the destination countries to look after the migrants irrespective of their legal status.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE declared Covid-19 testing free for all migrants irrespective of their legal statues. In reality, Abdul, who died in July due to brain stroke, had informed his family before he passed away that he had all the symptoms of Covid-19 but was worried to secure treatment due to his irregular status. Many migrants like Abdul may or may not have been infected by the virus, but passed away without treatment because of their fear of arrest and deportation. Migrants in irregular status or those holding so-called free visas for all practical purposes remained outside the purview of health care that these countries were supposed to provide them.

A survey of BCSM and RMMRU on forcibly returned migrants shows that thirty percent of these migrants residing in 17 countries lost their jobs. Another forty percent remained partially employed with a re-negotiated lower wage, and the rest on free visa could not get employment. Without job or access to income, Fazar Ali took money from home to survive. Before returning to Bangladesh from Kuwait, Selim was surviving by spending his savings that he had generated over the last one year to pay for his visa renewal. In this current unregulated globalisation framework, Bangladeshis like Fazar and Selim are the ones who have been subsidising the economies of the destination countries.

The vulnerability of female migrants has brought out a complex dimension of migrants' vulnerabilities during crisis situations. Under normal circumstances, live-in female domestic workers suffer way more hardship compared to those workers who stay outside. Covid-19, however, shows that job loss is almost non-existent among the live-in female domestic workers. Nonetheless, in many instances, they had to agree to delayed payment of wages. With all members staying at home for most of the day, their workload had increased manifold. Close scrutiny of their work by the employers as well as dissatisfaction of the employers did manifest in physical and verbal abuses. Cleaners, manufacturing workers or live-out domestic workers may not have gone through similar physical and verbal abuses, but they lost their jobs either fully or partially. Their sheer survival in destination countries was at stake.

From early April, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Maldives started negotiating with Bangladesh government to take back its citizens who were working in their countries in irregular status. They also pushed the idea of pardoning some of the convicted Bangladeshi migrants if the government brought them back. Arresting and detaining migrants under the pretext of strict implementation of lockdown and drives against irregular migrants were some of the techniques used by the governments of destination countries to deport the workers. Plainclothes members of law enforcing agencies picked up Bangladeshi workers from in front of their residences, shopping centres, roads, food stalls, and put them into detention camps and then deported them to Bangladesh. Shafique, one such worker, remained in one pair of clothes in a detention camp for 28 days. With deep anguish, he said he had taken his shower wearing a plastic packet!

According to the Migrant Forum in Asia, the year 2020 has also witnessed millions of dollars of wage theft. Mohon Ali used to be paid a small portion of his salary and the rest of the salary used to be cleared at the end of the year. Due to his arrest and arbitrary return, he could not get his payment from his employer. He left behind Tk 500,000 of his hard-earned income in UAE.

The experiences of the Bangladeshi migrants in 2020 demonstrate that violation of the rights of workers is integral to the process of the current form of globalisation. Covid-19 has essentially exposed that reality. In that sense, there has been little change since the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s, or from the times of oil crisis in 1973. As during the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the global financial crisis of 2009 and 2010, migrants are still being used as the safety valve to cushion the negative outcomes of the crisis.

It is unfortunate that in this age, labour-receiving countries can still get away with exposing migrants to extreme health risks, keeping them effectively outside the health care and other social safety nets, and deporting them without respecting their job contracts or clearing their due wages and other entitlements. The extent of discussion that took place in the recent past on the challenges of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals or those of Global Compact for Migration in the context of Covid-19 does not match the level of discussion that is required on the inability of existing global standards in ensuring the protection of marginalised migrants in crisis situations. The situation of migrants in destination countries during this crisis does warrant a major scrutiny of the rules of the game by all parties for redefining the norms and standards of globalisation.


Tasneem Siddiqui is Professor of Political Science, University of Dhaka, and founding Chair of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU).


The Risks of the Covid Vaccine, in Context

By Aaron E. Carroll

Dec. 30, 2020

At this point, most of us have heard about allergic reactions to Covid-19 vaccines: the doctor in Boston who had to administer his EpiPen, the hospital worker in Alaska who had trouble breathing. But it’s not at all surprising that allergic reactions happen. What matters most is the severity and the rate at which they occur. And for the Covid vaccines, there’s no doubt that the value of vaccination outweighs the risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on administering the Covid vaccines on Dec. 19. The agency noted that a small number of people had experienced significant allergic reactions. The C.D.C. recommended that everyone who received a vaccine be observed for at least 15 minutes. Those with a history of severe allergic reactions to pretty much anything should be observed for 30 minutes.

Anaphylaxis — a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction — is nothing to be ignored. It’s most commonly associated with allergies to foods, like peanuts, or bee stings, and it’s the reason many people carry EpiPens. Often, immediate administration of epinephrine is the only thing that can prevent death.

Even so, an average of around 60 people die each year from hornet, wasp and bee stings and three times as many die from food allergies. When the C.D.C. updated its guidance, at least six out of hundreds of thousands of recipients had experienced a severe allergic reaction, but all of them recovered with treatment.

The news media has covered these reactions, and it’s understandable that the public would be concerned about the dangers of new medications, especially ones that were developed so quickly and under such enormous pressure.

But put those numbers in context: More than 2.1 million people in the United States have received a dose of a vaccine at this point. So far, according to reports, about 11 severe allergic reactions — representing about one in 190,000 doses administered — have been noted. This is still higher than the overall rate of anaphylaxis in vaccinations, at 1.3 per one million given, but that may be only because we are being much more careful about monitoring reactions at the moment.

Context also matters. About one in 10 Americans have reported an allergic reaction to penicillins. About one in 100, perhaps, have a true allergy to that class of drugs (I’m one of them). Between one in 2,500 and one in 5,000 experience anaphylaxis. But pediatricians like me dispense penicillin all the time, with minimal concerns. We do so because most allergic reactions are minor and serious ones can be managed, and because we believe that the benefits outweigh the harms.

Every potential bad outcome of a Covid vaccine should be weighed against the chance of getting sick or dying from the disease.

Using data from Indiana, which has conducted multiple statewide studies on the prevalence of Covid-19, colleagues from the I.U.P.U.I. Fairbanks School of Public Health and I calculated the disease’s infection fatality rate. We found that, for people 60 years and older who were not living in jails or nursing homes, Covid-19 killed about one in 58 of those infected. For people between the ages of 40 and 59, it was about one in 833, and for people younger than 40 it was about one in 10,000. For those who were not white, the fatality rate was more than three times that for whites.

While a vast majority of people who develop Covid-19 survive, more than 670,000 Americans have been hospitalized with the disease this year; scientists are still struggling to treat so-called long-haulers, who endure long-term effects of the disease. A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine also showed that when the coronavirus is more prevalent in an area, outcomes worsen. Surges are occurring all over now.

Getting a vaccine appears to be orders of magnitude safer than getting infected with the virus.

In order for the crisis to end, we need herd immunity. The only way to reach that is to get most people immunized or infected. Based on the numbers above, the latter would be a tragedy. Scaring people unnecessarily away from the former would result in more infections, more deaths and more economic and societal hardship. We should definitely be transparent and plain about the risks and benefits of the vaccines, but we need to put numbers in context of the risks of Covid-19.

Vaccines aren’t perfect. In the coming weeks and months, we can expect to read about people who were immunized and got sick anyway. This won’t mean that the vaccine is a failure; it will simply show, as we already know, that the shots are not 100 percent effective.

Those of us who communicate about public health have too often failed to be clear during this pandemic. Many Americans wound up being confused about masks, tests and certainly in how we should think about risk. This has not only led to confusion. It likely also led to sickness and death. Let’s do better with vaccines. There’s a real chance we can stop this pandemic in 2021 if we get this right.


Aaron E. Carroll is a contributing opinion writer. He is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and the Regenstrief Institute who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist.


Vaccines Are Safe, No Matter What Bobby Kennedy Says

By Kerry Kennedy Meltzer

Dec. 30, 2020

My hospital, along with hundreds of others across the country, recently began to administer the first Covid-19 vaccines. My social media feed is filled with pictures of friends and colleagues, sleeves rolled up, writing about how much this vaccination means to them. In an otherwise dark year, it’s a moment of hope.

And yet, not everyone is celebrating the historic vaccine rollout. I stopped following my uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a noted anti-vaccination activist — on social media in 2019, when he was posting misinformation about the dangers of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in the midst of an outbreak.

When I take a look at his Facebook page now, I find a post about the Covid-19 vaccine that says, “We clearly have a systematic problem when government health regulators have utterly abdicated their responsibility to safeguard public health and refer safety concerns about shoddily tested, zero-liability vaccines to pharmaceutical companies.”

His concern — that the Covid vaccine is potentially unsafe, and hasn’t been properly tested — is widespread, and dangerously wrong. According to a report published by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Dec. 15, roughly a quarter of Americans say they “probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.”

If this number holds, then Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimate that at least 75 percent of Americans must be vaccinated for the country to achieve herd immunity, and effectively end person-to-person spread of the disease, could be unachievable.

I’m seeing the trend with my own patients. Two weeks ago, I convinced a 66-year-old woman to get her influenza vaccine for the first time in her life. But she said there is still no way she will take the Covid vaccine.

In May 2019, my sister Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean; my mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; and my uncle Joseph P. Kennedy II, wrote in Politico about their concerns regarding my uncle Bobby’s spread of distrust in vaccines.

At that time, there was a resurgence of measles, a highly infectious disease which the United States had declared eliminated in 2000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak was largely “driven by misinformation about measles and the MMR vaccine, which has led to undervaccination in vulnerable communities.”

What’s more, a 2019 study found that the over half of Facebook advertisements spreading misinformation about vaccines were funded by two anti-vaccine groups, including the World Mercury Project, which was founded by my uncle Bobby. The organization has since changed its name to Children’s Health Defense, and Bobby is chairman. For its part, Facebook is no longer allowing anti-vaccination ads on its platform.

I recognize, with some trepidation, that people may wonder why I feel I need to speak out publicly about vaccines and against my uncle. The truth is, his name and platform mean that his views carry weight. After three hours, his Facebook post accusing government regulators of abdicating their responsibility to protect the public had 4,700 reactions, 2,300 shares and 641 comments.

As a doctor, and as a member of the Kennedy family, I feel I must use whatever small platform I have to state a few things unequivocally. I love my uncle Bobby. I admire him for many reasons, chief among them his decades-long fight for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong.

Though his Facebook post linked to a dubious source — a website aligned with the Children’s Health Defense organization that publishes conspiratorially tinged stories on “Big Pharma” and “Big Food” — the basic premise was correct: two U.S. health care workers did suffer allergic reactions, one anaphylactic, the other more mild, to the Covid vaccine.

The story’s headline ended with the question: “How many more are at risk?” An anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine is a serious matter, no question. But it does not necessarily signal that the wider public is at risk. The Pfizer vaccine was administered to more than 20,000 participants in clinical trials; 15,000 participants received the Moderna vaccine. Both trials concluded that the vaccines were safe.

As Dr. Fauci said in a CNBC interview on Dec. 16, responding to concerns about adverse vaccine reactions: “Once you decide to dispense the vaccine widely you’re talking about millions and tens of millions and ultimately hundreds of millions of doses. So, you may see reactions that you didn’t see in the clinical trials.”

As of today, more than 2.1 million people in the United States have been vaccinated and only 11 have reported a serious allergic reaction. In comparison, a recent study showed 11 percent of all Americans have a food allergy and one quarter of them have been given an epinephrine prescription.

This is normal, and no cause for alarm. Serious side effects of the Covid vaccine have been extraordinarily rare, but health care providers are aware of them, and are responding appropriately by monitoring vaccine recipients, especially those who have a history of allergies.

It’s hard to express how momentous it felt to receive the Covid vaccine. I think back to the patients whom I cared for during the height of the pandemic in New York City last spring, when my hospital system had among the highest number of intubated patients of any health care center in the country.

There were times when I called my patients’ family members, and told them that their loved ones couldn’t talk because they needed an emergent breathing tube. I reached out over FaceTime to some of the same families when it was time to say goodbye to their loved ones.

We are now bracing ourselves as in New York our Covid-19 case numbers tick up once again. The pandemic is far from over. And yet, this vaccine is our best opportunity to save lives. There is no time to waste. Being a doctor does not make me a vaccine expert, but I know whom to trust: immunologists like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who have spent their whole lives studying vaccine development.

When the vaccine is offered to you, I urge you to take it. Do it for yourself, for your family and for your friends. Do it for your country.


Kerry Kennedy Meltzer is an internal medicine resident physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Centre.


After Years Of Denial, I've Finally Accepted That I'm A Trans Woman

By Anonymous

31 Dec 2020

This year, I accepted that I am a trans woman. As early as at the age of five years old, I knew that something wasn’t right and I never felt completely whole. In my 20s, I resolved to figure out what these feelings meant, and so began a journey of self-exploration and self-denial, obsessively visiting online transgender support groups to find an answer. In my heart, I was hoping for a way out, any explanation that didn’t involve actually being trans. None came.

This year finally brought clarity: I am not, and have never been, a man. My name is Sophie. While lockdown gave me the space to address these feelings, it also put obstacles in my way. I am transitioning in secret while I live with my socially conservative parents who I know will not approve: last year my mother boycotted a reality TV show for including a trans woman.

At the beginning of 2020, I believed I wouldn’t see the end of it. I’d finished a long stint in higher education, and career plans a decade in the making refused to come to fruition. I suffered the ignominy of moving back in with my parents, while all of my peers settled into careers and homes of their own. The combined effect of depression and gender dysphoria – a fundamental incongruence between the gender I was assigned at birth and the gender I actually was – meant that I stopped being able to imagine a future at all.

I visited my GP as a promise to a friend. The same day, I started taking antidepressants and was referred to a counsellor. It didn’t exactly fix me, but it did give me just enough clarity of mind to know that there was only one way I could continue living.

And so I sought out a gender therapist. I contacted him as Sophie, the name that I’d been using in online support groups for two years. It surprised me how unremarkable he found it to use this name for someone who presented as completely male. He picked up immediately on my reluctance to call myself a trans person. So he conducted a thought experiment. “If you could push a button,” he asked, “and wake up in a world where everyone knew you as female, would you push it?”

There’s a reason gender therapists often ask this. It invites you to imagine a reality where you can be yourself consequence-free. Where you can transition without being rejected by friends, evicted by family or subjected to harassment. It helps to isolate doubts about your own identity from the fear of the repercussions of coming out. “Yes,” I said.

Within two sessions, I could no longer avoid the conclusion that I was trans. But realising it and accepting it are two very different things. When the time came to tell my partner of seven years, I broke down trembling in her arms as I detailed all of the ways that I wasn’t the person she’d spent her 20s planning a life with. As the dust settled, I broke the silence between us with a question: “Do you think I’m odd?” She said no, immediately and unequivocally. She received me for who I am, like all the friends who accepted me more easily than I had accepted myself.

I was unaware of how much I had internalised society’s transphobia. Being trans is a struggle of self-realisation against a tidal wave of invalidation and disapproval from public figures and parts of the media. I am coming out into a world that sees my existence as a matter of legitimate debate. For years it was easier to live in denial, but in 2020 I realised I had to live as myself or not at all. Being trans is not an ideology or a choice. It is an inextricable part of who I am.

My partner left me in September. She accepted me unquestioningly, but I was not what she’d signed up for. Suddenly I had no attachments and no reason not to transition. And so I became intimately acquainted with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy running the UK’s transgender healthcare. The waiting list for the NHS’s backlogged gender identity clinics frequently exceeds three years, leaving trans people with no choice but to funnel money into private medical services, so that we can finally start living as ourselves.

This summer I did exactly that. The scheduled hour-long consultation with a psychologist was over in 15 minutes. “I have what I need,” she said. “You know who you are.” Within 24 hours I received written confirmation that I met the criteria for gender dysphoria. A prescription for oestrogen and progesterone arrived at my door two days later.

Transitioning while being at home and unable to interact with the wider world means that my journey feels incomplete. I can’t dress as I identify and have to carefully choose clothes that keep my physical changes hidden. I face the contradiction of hoping these changes happen quickly, but not so quickly that my parents will notice before I am able to move out. I have joined local support groups for trans people, but I can’t access them. All face-to-face meetings have been cancelled due to coronavirus, and anything I say over online video calls could out me to other people in the house. Right now I am Sophie in private and someone else in public. The way I present and the person I am have nothing to do with each other.

Still, I’m grateful every day for the unwavering support of the many friends who now know who I am. The first time they called me by my new, real name, it dawned on me how numb I had been. I had been living in black and white, and suddenly the world appeared to me in full colour, alive with possibility.

So I enter 2021 as a different person. Next year, when life begins to unfurl itself again, I will have the chance to live authentically as me.



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