Last year at this time I was mulling over the idea of investing in the long series of “Understanding” columns which got me into some very serious territory for a few months. Towards the end of that, one of my best friends among my fellow trans women suggested to be that perhaps I was leaning a bit too far towards the negative, in terms of my description of the cost of transitioning.
It is certainly true that many of us are blessed to have a relatively smooth process of coming out – just tonight I noticed a thread on a forum in which the person told their wife and the wife reacted enthusiastically. But it is also true that that is sadly the minority of cases. A news article today described the study being given to the incredibly high rate of suicide attempts among trans people, and tied it, at least in major part, to the negative reaction – or anticipated negative reaction – that we must face in coming to terms with ourselves.
As is occasionally the case, this is on my mind tonight because of what’s going on in my own life. Without going into gory details, I’m one of those who paid a pretty big cost in term s of the affect on my interpersonal relationships when friends and family found out I was transitioning. Very few relationships which existed before endured, and most of those were long-distance connections like former high-school classmates. I was disowned, ignored, or openly ridiculed by my father, brother, niece and nephew, and many others. I had a “best friend” basically ret-con our 20 year friendship with “he was always an asshole.” I have an unaccepting wife who’s a constant source of conflict.
There’s a significant part of me that would very much like to set her sites on the Pacific Coast and just go away from all the people who hate me. But for other compelling reasons, that’s a choice that would also have significant downside. It literally is a rock-and-hard-place dilemma. But when I look beyond my own circumstances, I’m reminded that t’s probably very very common among transgender people of all sorts that there’s a basic enduring conflict between the freedom to live your life as you see fit, and the various “attached strings” that exist because of your various relationships and circumstances accumulated over the whole of your life previous to coming out.
Sure, some of us like the poster I mentioned above find a warm reception, but far more often the trans issue becomes the constant “elephant in the room” which negatively impacts any relationship not blessed by that positive reception. One friend of mine described a situation (I won’t give her details in respect of her privacy) in which her family contrived to make her a criminal defendant on false charges. There seems to be no limit to what some disapproving spouses or families may resort to in order to force the trans woman back into the closet.
Certainly some of us can just walk away. They have the finances and the flexibility to pull up stakes and move on. But the reality is that a lot of us simply do not have that opportunity. To leave has just as much downside as to stay. If you are looking for a clever resolution to this situation, I’m afraid you are in the wrong place, because I don’t have one. Its our Kobayashi Maru. Have you had to face the no-win scenario?
Photo by: Alex