What is your goal? This is an important question and I will claim that your happiness depends on your goal. I’ve heard it said that you cannot depend on others for your happiness and I have found that to be more than a little bit true. Yet this missive is not about happiness per se, I talked about that in another post.
In our lives there is a struggle as we grow. I’m convinced this struggle is there regardless of what our circumstances are. We struggle for self acceptance, to be confident and happy with who and what we are. We struggle with feeling genuine, to be worthy of the praise when we receive it, and to bear up under criticism when that comes too – that we are not just the person who made a mistake, but so much more than her.
In doing this we often look to others. We’re trained to do this from our earliest moments of life. We look to our parents, who are our first models for behavior. Our exemplars of how to be a man or a woman, to be educated or not, how to treat others, how to parent when someday we grow up to become a parent, and our views of so many things.
Our world expands and we look to teachers, who give us approval or disapproval, carrots and sticks. Then on to peer groups and other relationships, first with friends and then with intimates.
Yet some day, some day we hopefully come to realize that we are at some level alone. Sometimes this never comes to us and we seek validation through others. Sometimes we’re exploited, manipulated through that need, forced to do the bidding of others for our need to be loved, cared for, respected. It fills the need that self respect, and a sense of introspection that sees oneself as worthy would otherwise fill. A yawning emptiness that might never be completely satisfied.
The Trans Journey
The journey of transition, MtF, FtM and maybe even more for those who need to find expression toward the center of the gender axis where we lack adequate words to express their reality, is a difficult journey. This is true in no small part because we need to find that sense of self worth and not rely on others for validation. If we don’t find this we are constantly buffeted by the messages we receive.
We will feel elated when we “pass”, and passing might become our major goal. Is passing the goal we should have? It might be an important thing to achieve in order to not be hassled, but is that where our self-worth ought to be placed?
This often means we will start off glued to a stereotype of a male or female in order to disguise ourselves. Not an issue in and of itself, but perhaps not who we really are. Real men and real women, and all those between exist on a spectrum. They aren’t stereotypes. There are effeminate men and butch women and there’s nothing wrong with that. Transitioning and being comfortable as one of these doesn’t mean you aren’t still a woman or man.
I will claim that our goal should be a simple one. To accept ourselves. End of story. Whatever your image is of yourself, you should feel genuine in expressing that image. Perhaps to get by in society you need to costume a little, OK, but always feel that you are fundamentally able to be you.
The second part of the goal is that you should not allow others to take this goal away. It may matter to you that someone close doesn’t accept you, but it shouldn’t change whether you accept yourself. Feel the loss if you are rejected, but don’t let it stop you from being you.
This is not an easy goal to achieve. Nor is this goal a trans goal. It is a life goal for anyone. If we decide what we want to be then we should do that. Only stray if new information genuinely makes you question your judgment. All that means is that you should be thoughtful about things that matter. I daresay transition is something we are all thoughtful about.
I was warned, I heard stories, I did not want to believe. My friends were better, my coworkers more accepting, my family more open minded, my community more liberal. I would be embraced, I would be accepted, loved, nurtured.
I thought I would have some losses but not many. That some changes would be necessary but not many.
It is perhaps a good thing to go into this with such optimism. A positive attitude is a good thing. In deference to all I won’t be at all specific, but let me just say that I was so wrong.
Being transgender is becoming more socially acceptable, but in terms of stages is roughly where being gay was in the 70s or early 80s. Many people are very uncomfortable with it. Some, especially those who are progressive are accepting in the abstract. Some, especially those in the conservative camp are not.
The first thing I found is that political leanings are no predictor of acceptance. I saw very uncomfortable progressives and accepting conservatives. You just can’t tell. Every person is an individual. People’s responses are very idiosyncratic.
My first warning is that even though it will be very tempting, you should not take rejection personally. This really isn’t about you. You’ve heard this? It really is true. Sure, it’s about “you” but only in the sense that you are the person. This is often about a visceral reaction.
The closer somebody is to you, the better they know you, the harder acceptance is going to be for them. Immediate family > family > friends > coworkers > community.
Don’t make the mistake that this is necessarily something you should label as “transphobia”, it is more complex than that. They knew you and they are shocked that they didn’t know you. They lost you and they are upset. They don’t know how to relate to Sally even though they were comfortable with Steve. Try not to be angry.
Some will leave, some of those will return and some won’t. You need to have a thick skin. I had a long time friend tell me that they still perceive me as D with Rachel’s clothing. I was shocked, but I didn’t take it as something about me. I just thought it astonishing that it was possible after this much time.
You will need to find a new circle of friends. Especially if you were married or in a long term relationship with a partner. Lots of people are going to support your partner. If you’re lucky, some will also support you. It is very common for you to be perceived to be in the wrong, to be selfish, to be “hurting” your partner and for your actions and motives to be misconstrued. It doesn’t matter what you do or what your partner says. This is a common experience. Be prepared for it.
You need patience and lots of it. There is no substitute for patience. Transition takes time. It takes time to learn to inhabit your new existence. It takes time to achieve self acceptance. If you’re like me, a extroverted blabber mouth (just saying) it takes time to shut the hell up about your transition and all the rest so new people don’t know.
Incidentally, if you have more willpower than I, or can take advice, try not to talk about your transition or any of the other stuff surrounding it. Answer questions if politely asked. Politely refuse to answer questions that are too personal.
Change is inevitable
There’s good advice out there to transition in place. It does provide you the best support. I think there is a codicil though. You may well find that you need one or many fresh beginnings for a variety of reasons. Opportunities may close off for you that had previously been available. You may find it more comfortable in a new community, a difference venue at work, a new location to live, new friends or at least some new friends.
My advice is to embrace change and to try and relish the newness. There are many attitudes one can take. It isn’t unreasonable to view it as a pain in the bottom. I had never wanted to be in my late fifties doing this, I had wanted to be looking forward to retirement with my spouse in our paid off home. That was not to be.
So instead I now get to relish meeting new potential partners and trying to enjoy that. Learning to experience and enjoy a new kind of sexuality. Getting to love my body and accept that at my age I probably don’t ever get to be svelte any more than any other woman.
Enjoy the ride. Love yourself. Find friends who love you too and love them. Life is too damn short for anything else.