I am ‘good enough’ (and so are you): a Short Story by Noosh Manduk-Cheyne
Calling out to Squirrel (my miniature Jack Russel) “wee wee’s for bedtime”, she toddles over to me and I dress the small dog, putting her into her smart warm coat. Off we go around the block, with her annoyingly sniffing every spot that she can on the way. Nearing the end of our walk, I feel relieved knowing that we are nearly home and this monotonous routine for the evening is nearly over.
Turning the corner on to our road I see the silhouette of a figure coming towards us. With the lit street lamp behind them, I cannot see who they are, but my stomach sinks and a fine sweat appears on my palms. I feel my queerness exposed and ‘out’. Danger is walking towards us, but I know stopping will only expose my fear. Our bodies now adjacent to each other, this person leaps towards me, stopping a centimetre or so away from me, hissing aggressively into my ear words I do not recognise. My heart’s racing, I don’t need to understand the words to feel the hate. They walked on, so do I, in and through doors of safety, shaken and ashamed. I hold onto what happened, not speaking out until the following day. I replay the incident round and round in my head.
Sometimes it’s an accurate replay, and other times I add in violence towards me, as has happened many times in my queer life. I feel that at the age of 38 I don’t know how to hit, and if I don’t know how to hit, how can I protect myself, and others around me that I love? I decide to look into some form of self defence, and this is when I find Trans Can Fight.
I discovered my transness towards the end of my training as a Person-Centred Therapist. In my processing I began to peel off layer upon layer of internalised transphobia, denial, distorted realities, fear of loss and self hatred. My gender has always been a battle ground, with transphobia first entering my life during childhood in the 1980's. This coupled with my Neurodiverisy (I am Dyslexic and Dyspraxic), and abuse from persons in power, I was left with a mark on my Self called ‘I’m not good enough’.
Coming out I found myself having to navigate deep losses, and having to rebuild my life. My feelings of loss of control (my body, my pronouns), Trans and/or Non-Binary/GNC people being demonised in the media, Brexit, Islamophobia, Grenfell, Windrush, the rise of the right, all lead me to feelings of high anxiety and panic attacks.
Walking into the Fight space I was terrified.
“I’m not good enough to be here, to learn this. I’m not trans enough to take this space.”
“I should leave”
My body telling me to run, but I held my ground, refusing to allow my fear to chase me back through the doors I had just pushed myself to walk through.
As someone with Dyspraxia, I find it incredibly hard to understand instructions to move my body. My spacial awareness is often wrong, I feel quite shy in groups, and I can feel overwhelmed. Because some of the abuse I suffered as a child involved public humiliation, I am extremely sensitive to feeling I have got something wrong in front of others. So here I found myself with a group of strangers, exposed, about to try to do something that is going to push me to my physical and emotional extremes, and I am going to get it wrong.
Marquita takes her time to explain boxing moves; left jab, right jab, left hook, right hook, etc. I feel ashamed and stupid because I’m not getting them right straight away. Then come the combos. I freeze, overloaded in their complexity as my brain is overwhelmed with new movements and their instructions. I want to cry and run away again. I feel shame. The group continues, Marquita sees me, comes over saying “It's okay Noosh, you’re not supposed to get it right away, it takes time". I choose to believe her, and try not to hate myself. I was met with empathy from Marquita, leaving me feeling emotionally held, enabling me to take this space.
During one introduction circle (an opportunity to say your name and pronouns to the group at the start of the session) I publicly use my he/him/his pronouns for the first time. Very soon over the coming weeks I get to a stage where Fight is the best part of my week, and knowing every dark day is a day closer to being there. It becomes a place of self acceptance and release from the outside world. Every time I leave a session my mental health improves. I am a little more powerful in my body. I have a little more autonomy and control again in my life. I feel hope.
I am now 8 months into my boxing journey, continuing to attend any Trans Can Fight classes and also Marquita’s Fighting Fit sessions. These sessions are sacred to me, and I stand rigid in protecting this space and time for me as mine in my need for self care.
I find myself waking up thinking about boxing. I’m sure I bore my friends and family talking about boxing all the time, and I now find myself as the proud owner of a freestanding punch bag! My body is changing in ways that I love, and I am proud of myself for sticking to something that has been one of the hardest things I have done, during one of the hardest periods in my life. I am humbled to work with Marquita, and thank her and the founders of Trans Can Sport for supporting me to change my life for the better.
To you the reader who is maybe considering walking into a Trans Can Sport space: you are strong, you are important, you are valid.
You can do it.
With love and solidarity,
Noosh’s pronoun are he/him/his