…there’s also the simple possibility of giving up, of deciding there’s another kind of life to be lived. [She] did that for a while. It was both horrible and a great relief. ‘I felt split in two,” she writes. “The person I had hoped to become was torn away, leaving only the person I had always been.’
This is not a quote from or about a trans-person, but it might as well be. It might as well be about me.
It’s actually from a New York Times book review. The author wanted to have a child, and found herself dropped into a subculture that she did not even know existed. Given how little the larger world knows about trans culture, the language immediately reminded me of what it’s like to be part of the trans community and working toward the goals of transition:
For about five years, Ms. Boggs…struggled… The experience made her a citizen of a shadow nation we hear little about — a place with its own rites, institutions, even language…(…online message boards…) For the first three years, Ms. Boggs attends a support group, in part to hear horror stories. “I’m hoping to detach from the process,” she writes, “to see what I could spare myself if I gave up.”
But giving up is difficult, as she soon discovers. There is always one more treatment to try or redo, provided she’s willing to spring for it or disappear into a canyon of debt. …there’s also the simple possibility of giving up, of deciding there’s another kind of life to be lived.
Ms. Boggs did that for a while. It was both horrible and a great relief. “I felt split in two,” she writes. “The person I had hoped to become was torn away, leaving only the person I had always been.” She eventually resumes trying.
My therapist has not returned my calls. She may have retired. She may have a full schedule. Or she may have been scared off by my questions about insurance.
The thought of starting over with a different therapist is discouraging, but it doesn’t really matter because the cost is completely untenable regardless of who it is. Our family policy has a high deductible (meaning we must pay out of pocket for the first several thousand dollars worth of treatment each year) and explicitly excludes treatments for gender identity issues without “prior approval” from the insurance company. This clause appears structured to get potential transitioners to come out officially so that their intentions can become part of their permanent medical records, thus following them (medically) wherever they may go.
I’m not exactly scared of coming out — in fact, I’m actually ready and somewhat eager — but the potential ramifications to my family’s ability to get coverage later are scary. (Healthcare in the USA is f-ing crazy. There is the very real potential that some future potential insurer could turn down my family because of my being trans — just because they don’t want to incur the expenses.)
My spouse has hinted at slightly more openness to some transitional steps (which I will write about in a separate post). But I find myself hindered less by her reaction to my issues (which she at one point described as “making me sick to my stomach whenever I think about it”), and more by my own need to avoid disappointing her. In that way, it isn’t really her discouraging me that makes me want to give up, but me discouraging myself because of what it might do to her. (I wonder about my kids, but think they would do much better than she would.)
I wonder if I have the courage to actually come out and transition anyway, especially knowing that I would probably disgust (or at least confuse and put off) a large portion of the people I would come into contact with throughout the rest of my life. Sometimes I relish being invisible. (Actually, that’s most of the time.)
The only thing left pushing me forward is the nagging sense that I have always been merely a blank slate onto which a more whole person might someday be drawn. I’ve never been my whole self to the world, and I think that would be, well, better by far. That potential is what has always fueled my gender questioning.
And that’s why the quote at the top of this post hit me so hard. I have always thought that there was a better me out there waiting to be realized. My current attempts to give up on transition thoughts leaves me grieving the loss of that potential.
My birthday was this week. I’m now 53 years old. I’m grieving a lot of intangible losses these days, including those related to my art and my vocation. It appears as if I will never reach the many potentials that I once had, and the rest of my life will be a continuation of the grayness I have become accustomed to.
The lone exception is my family. What joy I have in life comes exclusively through my spouse and kids. It is this fact which continues to push me away from a transition which might have devastatingly negative consequences for them, and damage or destroy the one aspect of my life which has, in fact, reached the greatest of its potentials.
And so I am trying to give up. It is not easy. And the hardest part may very well be, as with the quote from the book review, that the person I had hoped to become is being torn away, leaving only the person I have always been.