Variations on a Theme
One of the issues trans people inevitably face, after they come to terms with who they are, in the question of what to do about it – specifically, whether or not to embrace it, whether or not to come out, whether or not to transition (where applicable), whether or not to seek medical options. So much of our experience involves making decisions for which there is no set “how to” custom. Not that human behavior should be reduced to a paint-by numbers pattern, but it can be unnerving to feel like you have no road map either. In my experience interacting with other trans persons, mostly women, I am drawn to the examples of the atypical journey.
As I write this, there are two cases on my mind. To be clear, the vast majority of my acquaintances have variations of what might be considered the “typical” story. From self discovery, to self acceptance (sometimes with decades in between) to resolve to peruse transition, to the inevitable personal drama with loved ones who show varying degrees of support or disapproval, to full time living. The more successful achieve not only surgical transition, but maintain personal career success and connections with loved ones. Others, a larger share, suffer some loss physically, financially, or emotionally. But still ultimately find a place of peace living authentically, even if they are in more difficult circumstances otherwise. But from time to time, a story will catch your eye in it’s divergence from that more cliched pattern, either in it’s remarkably positive or negative outcome.
One of my friends I’ll call Jane. For two years, via Facebook, I watched her suffer the indignity of being at the mercy of a vengeful ex who was using their children against her. My friend was fully transitioned including, as far as I know, surgically, and she was a successful professional who was outwardly beautiful and, while occasionally given to the “Do they take me seriously?” self doubt we all deal with, a person who never expressed doubt about her gender. Still, she passionately wanted to be involved in the lives of her children and her ex was resolute that this wouldn’t happen. Eventually my friend came to believe that she would never be able to watch her kids grow up unless she detransitioned and so, the initial transition was a mistake. She has since reverted to her former male identity. I consider this a tragic story, even though I understand and do not question the motivation.
The other person on my mind, I’ll call Joan. She used the opportunity of National Coming Out Day last fall reveal to her loved ones that she was trans. This friend too, has a wife and children, a professional career, and a wide circle of acquaintances. While I’m not privy to the details of her post-revelation experience in terms of personal interactions, what makes her story unique is that she owned her gender identity publicly while choosing to NOT transition. It’s a rare and no doubt difficult choice to make, to suggest that for the sake of others I will deny myself the thing I most crave. One I myself couldn’t have made.
I don’t really have any great philosophical point to make about these two examples of the road less often taken. I only wish to acknowledge that our own journey is not the measure of that of any other. While I believe that it’s valid to note the distinctions between the way our gender non-conformity manifests itself (i.e. the transsexual and the drag queen are two different things) it is wise to exercise great caution and compassion when considering the journey that is not like your own.
Photo by: Dogtooth77