As I mentioned, last weekend was our local Pride parade, and I marched in it with my family as part of a large church group. Last year, I felt weird about not being out about my crossdressing. This year, that never even crossed my mind. (Perhaps working it out a bit here might explain that fact.)
But I came away with a much different feeling this year. I came away depressed, almost despondent at the thought of transition.
Our group went right before a group representing a local clinic which specializes in gender identity issues. When you first come out trans in our community, you are often referred to this clinic, and they provide a wide variety of essential services to the LGBT community.
I was naturally curious about who might be marching with that group, especially if there were any transwomen. I was hoping to see positive transition experiences in progress, especially given that the Pride Parade is just about the most trans-friendly environment there is.
Well, there were transgendered men and women in the group. And beyond that particular parade unit, there were plenty of transgendered individuals to be seen throughout the parade.
What comes next will sound completely terrible, and I hate myself for feeling it or even thinking it, but I’m trying to be completely honest here, and honest feelings are not always flattering.Basically, none of the transgendered people I saw were in the least passable. That goes for men and women of various ages and stages of transition. In fact, they stuck out from the crowd in a rather painful fashion. They looked, at best, awkward. At worst, they were embarrassingly hideous.
It was all too clear that the poison of testosterone cannot be undone, no matter how much estrogen you take, or how much make-up you put on, or how much you practice a voice or a walk or a mannerism. Shaving your legs does not make them look feminine. Putting on a dress does not make you look like a woman. Feminine mannerisms jump out when they are portrayed by a male body.
But this was only the start of my discomfort. Beyond their presenting gender, they often looked as if life has not been kind to them, as if they are battling additional demons along with their gender issues. They looked ridden hard, downtrodden, melancholic, uncomfortable, unattractive. In some cases, they looked friendless, as if the trans community is the only place they could ever find companionship.
They looked to be sad, very mixed up people, and not the least bit happy inside their bodies — regardless of the extent to which they have transitioned.
I know that this is a horribly judgmental thing to think and write. I know that these people deserve and need my love and support regardless of how they look, or how many problems they have. In fact, the worse off they are, the more they need us not to judge them. And believe it or not, accepting them as who they are and loving them unconditionally wasn’t really the source of my discomfort. I believe I can do that just fine, but…
What pained me the most is that I don’t want to be that. And I don’t want the world to see me that way. And I don’t want the world to think I live that type of life. If that is the face of transsexuality to the world, then I don’t want to be transsexual. I would much rather find a way to make my birth gender work for me.
You see, I am a happy person. I have a great life. Life has been very kind to me. I am not depressed, and the demons that I do have are really quite manageable. Even my gender dysphoria, which is quite real, is generally at a very low and tolerable level most of the time.
I have well-established and successful coping mechanisms. I have never considered suicide, have never felt impossibly at odds with my male body, and have not even seriously considered transition until very recently.
I can’t even say that I need to transition. What I can say is that I’ve taken masculinity as far as it can go, and have started to recognize how it stifles me, how it suppresses my emotions and keeps the world at a distance from me — how it has done these things throughout my life. I have recognized the female seed within me, that it’s been there all along, and that continuing my life as a woman would open up great new horizons for me — one part remedy, but one very big part self-improvement.
So, should I do it?
Everything I read says that you shouldn’t transition unless you cannot live without it. Well, I probably can live without it and be reasonably happy. Transition would introduce some stressors that I don’t currently have, that I may not like, and that I may come to regret. But it also could open up new wings of my emotional life, my creative life, and my interpersonal life. I suspect that all the costs would be worth it — except one.
I am unwilling to be seen as a sad person, a troubled person, a person who is adrift, pathetic, friendless. I am none of these things.
And I also fear moving from the “normal person” category to the “freak” category (not my terminology/perception, the world’s terminology/perception). I’m anxious about giving up the ease with which I can disappear into the world — something I routinely want to do, if only because I’m an introvert.
When I drew up my transition timetable about 18 months ago, I built in a period called “cooling off”. It comes after discernment, deliberation, exploration, and conversation, and before primary care provider, therapist and endocrinologist. This is the period I’m entering today, and I enter it with great trepidation and doubt.
There is no telling how I will emerge from this period, but that’s been true for every other period so far. At any point, I’ve known that the transition could come to an end. In fact, I’ve tried to think not in terms of the long arc of transition, but rather just in terms of whether and how to take the next step.
The next step for me now would be to continue in personal conversation. That, in turn, means committing to exploration with a therapist and other members of the medical community. It means leaving a zone of deep comfort for a zone of deep uncertainty. It means large disruption to my wonderful life, and the lives of those who I hold close to me.
So, I repeat the rhetorical question to myself: Should I take the next step?