02 May 2015
Still Learning What It Means
Early in my transition, people would sometimes say, “Oh, it must be so difficult.” By “it”, they meant my transition and the things it entailed. While I admit that some parts of it were strange, awkward or simply a pain in the ass (Try going through a second puberty in your forties!), I would point out that, for me, the real difficulty was having to live up to society’s, and some individual peoples’, expectations while pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
From the time I first started my counseling, therapy and hormones until the day I had my operation, a bit more than six years had passed. Now it’s been almost six years since my operation. Along the way, some of my expectations have changed. I have found friends and allies in people I didn’t expect to be on my side, or whom I simply never could have anticipated meeting. On the other hand, I have lost relationships with people whom I thought would walk with me, or at least lend some sort of emotional support and spiritual sustenance, on my journey.
Probably every trans person can say such things. Also, nearly every one of us (or, at least, the trans people I know) would agree that the sorts of people we become, and envision ourselves becoming, are at least somewhat different from what we’d anticipated when we were still living our former lives or when we started our transitions. A few might be disappointed, but I think more—I include myself—feel the pressure of, and are ostracized for not, living up to a new set of expectations. Some expected that I would be more sexual and attractive, at least by the standards of this culture. Physical attractiveness and sexuality (at least in a hetero way) are seen as the hallmarks of femininity and femaleness. (I think it’s the other way around, frankly.) Others thought they’d find cute boyfriends or girlfriends, or husbands or wives who could “treat them right”. Still others are trying to live up to other sorts of expectations, whether self-imposed or transmitted by the culture.
Me, I’m not looking for a romantic or sexual relationship right now. I don’t feel I need it; I can live just fine with myself, thank you. Living alone, with a couple of cats, is certainly better than abuse or the demands some put on people in relationships. And while I’m going to try (again) to lose some weight, I rather like what I see in the mirror. Sure, I’m aging a bit quicker than I would have liked, but I think I also see an emotional honesty and vulnerability I never before saw. Perhaps others have seen it, too: These days, people I meet talk to me because, nearly all of them say, “You look like someone I can talk to.”
Those same people tell me they knew, looking at me, that I’d survived a thing or two. If I do say so myself, I have. And, while I may not be the deepest person in the world, I don’t think people—whatever else they might say about me—accuse me of being shallow. Plus, they all know that I mean whatever I’m telling them but I’m not saying any of it to be mean.
In short, I am starting to understand, not only what’s changed, but what I’ve gained in my transition. Although some things are still very difficult, I still have hope that things will get better—or, more precisely, I will be better able to navigate them. I’m also realizing now that the things and people I’ve lost probably would have been lost whether or not I’d transitioned or had my operation. We change, sometimes incrementally, sometimes dramatically. But change we do, as long as we’re living. I have to remember that a dozen years have passed since I started my counseling and, as I mentioned, almost six since my operation. In such time frames—and in shorter ones—things changed, whether in my expectations or perception of myself and others. I didn’t want to be the same person at 24 as I did at 18, or the same person at 36 as at 30. So why shouldn’t the kind of woman I want to be change as well. After all, let’s face it: I couldn’t be, at my age, the kind of woman I envisioned when I was younger, even if I wanted to.
Here’s some advice I’d give to someone—especially a young person—starting a transition: You’ll change, but not necessarily as a result of your transition or surgery (if you decide to undergo it). And sometimes your change is of a kind you hadn’t expected. Understanding those things, from what I’ve experienced, a way to prevent regrets and disappointments, neither of which I have about my transition or surgery.