That which you miss
Some things in life which we know are real to us as anything can be yet are such ineffable concepts that the language simply fails to offer any satisfactory options to put it into words. There’s so much about the trans experience that is difficult to describe adequately to those who have no experience with it, but we have the language to try. We can at least communicate the concept so that an open-minded non-trans person can follow the logic, even if they can’t relate to how it feels, while when we discuss it amongst ourselves we all nod sagely with understanding. But, for me at least, there’s an aspect that I have trouble even describing how I can’t describe it.
Analogies fail in moments like this. One that I’ve considered is that feeling an infertile woman must feel as she longs for the experience of bearing a child, and trying to get a man, or even a mother to understand the sense of something vital being missing from her life experience. But I’m not sure that really works since it’s not hard to state what it is, even if one who has not lived it can relate to how it feels. It’s a better analogy for being trans in general.
The thing that I sense as missing, that I think most transitioning have some sense of, doesn’t really have a single name but it is a whole collective of tiny little facets which any, by themselves, might not be missed but all of them together when not there leave a noticeable void. It’s easier to describe the individual facets than it is to have a name for the whole. What I’m referring to in these many words is that collective experience of having been born a recognized female in the culture in which you live. All the little subtle and overt, conscious and unconscious, intentional and unintentional, positive and negative, lived experience of a female.
As much as I am blessed to be able to have come as far as I have in transition, and as much as I long for those uncompleted goals (some of which I despair of ever accomplishing) – I sometimes mourn for that which is lost and can never be recovered. I do understand, intellectually, the wisdom in looking forward rather than back – but the thing is, everything that happens from here on out is unavoidably altered by the lack of that socialization and experience that can never be replicated. I have been challenged by skeptics at times that trans women only covet the positive aspects of being female and not the negative but that’s not true. Take, for example, menstruation. No woman would call it pleasant, and each of them would wish it possible to be a fertile female and not have that experience, but the fact remains that even that experience shapes and forms your mind and your life as what it is to live as a woman.
But that’s only one tiny facet. Relationships are another. There’s something about the way a woman innately reacts to, interacts with, and thinks of men that is incubated through life experience (and the same the other way around). I can never completely wipe out of my experience the collective socialization of having lived as an (apparent) male for decades, and every experience I have as a transitioned woman is hamstrung by the lack of a lifetime of female context. Everything from the amazing things like modeling your prom dress or being proposed to, to the mundane and even negative experiences like having a male co-worker ignore your opinions or being frustrated by the lack of physical strength to accomplish a necessary task – or having a man assume that you lacked it when experienced gives context to the experiences that follow.
I admit that while I have found much happiness in having accepted myself and transitioned, there’s a longing that seldom goes away for the thing I missed and can never get back. But it is not enough to bring me down, like that woman who longs to conceive in her barren womb or any of a hundred similar examples, many, if not most, people have something they long for in life, and that too is an experience that shapes us. For me, it will have to be enough to help build a world in which trans kids can be identified and freely transition (without fear of opposition) while still young enough to have that socialization and experience that us older girls wish we’d had.
Photo by: tamckile