The Timing Paradox
Disclaimer: I noticed a reference to this subject in a forum at which I lurk but am not a member (because I’m a participating member of too damn many forums plus i spend more time on Twitter and Facebook – each individually – than I do on all of them collectively) and I thought it was interesting enough to introduce the subject here.
One of the classic cliches of transition advice is “don’t transition unless you absolutely have no other choice” – virtually everyone who’s ever transition has either heard or given that advice. While the premise behind it is sound – that this process is not something to be entered into lightly (like marriage, only more so!) because so much of what comes along with it is irreversible, it hides within it a contrary situation which makes the casual dispensing of the counsel problematic.
Lest I be mistaken, let’s be clear: every thoughtful consideration should be given to the consequences and benefits of transition before committing, and with the benefit of trained counseling if at all possible. Not only are many physical effects irreversible (which should be self evident) but even the simple act of disclosure lets a genie out of her lamp who can never be returned to it.
Legion are the stories told of neophyte transitioners being blindsided by wholly unexpected hostility. To take my own experience for an example: I had expected from my father exactly what i got, but what I got from my brother was completely out of character from what I’d expected. If hadn’t prepared myself for the impact of such potentially hostile reactions, I’d have been devastated. A common corollary to this bit of advice is “don’t transition unless you are prepared to lose everything” and there’ no denying that this is based on the observation that just such a result is very common. you might not lose EVERY THING but EVERY thing is a potential loss. You just can’t know which things will be lost and which not.
I do not wish to dispute those axioms in what I am about to write, but it is something that is likewise true and serves as a direct counter-balance to the foregoing.
After a person gets dispensing the above sage advice, if you ask them if they have any regrets, almost inevitably they will respond “Only that I waited so long!” – yet the counsel to be very careful and only transition as a last resort inherently fuels the tendency to delay!
If I could go back in time and urge myself to do anything say, 30 years ago, it would be to go ahead and transition. I sooth my regret by realizing that pretty much no one knew in 1985 what we know now and the real opportunity for a trans person in small-town MS back then to effectively transition was near zero. I knew what I was but I knew almost nothing about the nature of it, and even less what to do about it. Still, knowing what I know now I can’t express how much I’d rather have transitioned in my early 20’s.
I think that the vast majority of late transitionars would say the same (notwithstanding those of us with kids would add the caveat that we’d not wipe our children from existence in order to “hit the reset button”) so how do we reconcile the conflict?
Speaking for myself, I graduated pretty quickly from the “only if you have to” school of thought. I recall a period in which I spent a lot of time in chat rooms related to the subject and on occasion I’d chat with someone in their early 30’s who was floundering about in their early 30’s or so trying to decide whether or not they were brave enough to risk the loss associated with transition. Wisely or unwisely my advice was always prefaced by this – “if you wait, and you are really transsexual, you will kick yourself a thousand times for every year you let pass without transitioning” and THEN I would add that they needed therapy and very serious thought on whether they were very sure they were transsexual. For me, the Paradox is resolved in not adding unnecessary years of delay over constantly second guessing whether you can “tough it out.”
But it is a Paradox, or as the theologians call it, an antimony – two things which can’t both be true logically, but nevertheless are.In any case, when we dole out our unprofessional advice, best we be sure and mention both considerations – they both need to receive consideration.
Photo by Anders Sandberg