Take a flat, square piece of paper. Fold it in half. Fold it in half again. Keep doing that seven times – if you can. Pretty soon you’ll end up with a shapeless blob which is quite un-foldable no matter how much force you use.
Take another flat, square piece of paper. Find yourself a book on origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding. Pick a simple pattern in the book – perhaps a lily, or maybe a crane. The pattern will probably begin by having you fold the paper in half. Carefully follow the pattern and the changes and you get a lovely little flower from a simple, flat piece of paper.
The simple steps of folding in and folding out, unfolding and refolding all combine in different ways to make thousands of unique and beautiful creations. The more complex designs require practice, skill and experience, of course, but even a child can master the simple yet beautiful lily.
Life mirrors art, they say, and the step from origami to gender transition, while perhaps not obvious, is easy. While we may not all start out as flat, featureless squares, we do discover early on that we have two rather different sides. Life, relationships, family and culture shape and fold us. Sometimes we go through rigid seven-step rules that leave us feeling like distorted, stressed blobs. Sometimes we make simple, functional patterns like paper airplanes or paper fortune-tellers.
Becoming a lily or a crane, however, means unfolding and refolding, reshaping and rebuilding. Even getting the paper coloured side out is tricky. It requires experience, practice and guidance. For some of us, getting the paper coloured side out demands a complete unfolding. For others, achieving the form is challenge enough.
Transition is full of folds and refolds. The GRS surgeon folds and refolds with astonishing skill. Our bodies reform and refold. Our souls and minds refold, one aspect folding in, another folding out, neither side inherently more desirable than the other but both equal parts of the same sheet. Perhaps we must end up pink side out, perhaps blue. And perhaps becoming a lily at all is sufficient.
Classical origami requires that you never cut, rip or tear the paper, nor do you use aids like tape or glue. Transforming paper into a lily is easy, with practice. Transforming a mis-folded soul into a thing of beauty is much harder, and as with everything in life, some tearing, ripping and taping is inevitable. But we can hope to minimise the rips and heal as many as we can.
Classical origami also uses only a single sheet of paper, folded on its own. We aren’t like that in real life, of course; everyone gets in on the folding. That means everyone gets torn and taped to some degree.
Perhaps the best we can hope for is to become lilies or cranes or whatever amazing, beautiful, marvellous creatures we are meant to be, minimise everyone’s tears and heal as many as we can.