I remember being clueless about what was involved with transition, and when the media alluded to Chaz Bono making a “lifestyle choice” it made as much sense as anything. There I was, with the thoughts I had locked up inside my bony skull and I somehow could buy the notion that transitioning was some trivial choice.
On this end of transition, nearing the end of the process, I fail to see how any thoughtful person could think that it a trivial choice; a lark; a lighthearted “hey, I feel like being a girl instead of a guy now” or “heck, I always wanted to wear a flowery dress”.
A friend of mine and I have a standing joke. What else can you do with you life that takes years to complete and can likely result in:
- Losing one’s family
- Losing one’s friends
- Losing one’s job
- Spending tens of thousands of dollars to be physically congruent
- Thousands replacing one’s clothing with appropriate replacements
- Needing therapy to figure it all out
Seems like a bargain. Why wouldn’t someone sign up for that? Just add that it isn’t that trivial for a person socialized as male to live as female in her daily life. It doesn’t just require the physical changes, but adopting some different strategies, mannerisms, speech patterns. It impacts on where it is safe to go.
People transition because they have little choice. I found myself unable to move forward as a male. I could foresee only very unhappy things if I didn’t transition. Trans children have a 40% attempted suicide rate, and some of those poor kids succeed. A particularly awful case recently involve a teen who was not accepted by her parents. She left a note and walked to the interstate and was hit by a truck.
Trans children (and gay children too) are regularly turned out by their unspeakable parents, left to become homeless and exploited as prostitutes. If there’s a Hell I’m reasonably sure there’s a special place just for those parents who turn away their own children to such fates.
So the next time someone comments that being trans is a lifestyle, I hope you raise your eyes and say “really?”.
My next favorite is, “why now?”, as in, “You’ve lived more than half your life, just stick with it till you’re dead”. The thing they generally don’t realize is that without handling the issue, being dead could mean next Thursday.
For many of us in my age group, we pushed down and encapsulated those trans feelings, and kept it all hidden behind a mask of masculinity. Even now, I still have pieces of that mask falling away. The glue that holds that mask in place is shame and guilt. Shame because you feel isolated and guilt because you know what this can do to your family.
I lived with this as an active problem for about ten years before I became too depressed and too dysfunctional to keep it in anymore. I would research reassignment surgery results and dream about being able to do it. But I’d always tell myself I couldn’t destroy my family.
So why now? Because my kid doesn’t deserve to lose a parent just yet. Because I deserve a life that isn’t filled with pain and depression. Because I literally couldn’t take a single step forward without dealing with this.