My therapist asked a question this week that I am not sure I know how to answer. When will I be able to stop being “trans” and just be a woman. The only answer that I have is that I will always be trans. It describes my experience and allows others like me to know what I am going/went through to get where I am.
I already feel like a woman, and do not really think that is going to change. To me trans is a descriptor similar to any other adjective you’d put before woman to describe them. White woman, black woman, trans woman, cis woman, tall woman, short woman. None of those are any “more woman” than the rest. So in that aspect I am a trans woman, I am proud to be a trans woman, and in a perfect society I would be fine with the whole world knowing such. But…we do not live in a perfect society. For my safety I still very much have to be aware of where and how that information spreads about. Which adds to the anxiety of being a trans woman, on top of the anxiety of just being a woman. Being aware, and anticipating where I will be, and whether that will be safe.
For example I went to a local university this week to participate in a support group setting (apparently people think I’ll be a good role model for college kids ?) but I worried about things. Will I have to walk far on my own to get to the building. I’ve never been here before, is the area around where I am going secluded. How safe will I be. All of this I can assume every woman thinks about from time to time, but it does cause significant stress. I never worried about those things before. I mean I went to a Metallica concert by myself, two states away, in the early 2000s. With nothing but a road map and not a care in the world. I’m not sure I could even think about doing that today.
But in short I do not think I’ll ever stop being trans. Even when transition is finished. However that does not take away from my woman-ness. I am no less a woman being trans than any other type of woman. It isn’t easy though, there are not a lot of other types of women who have to defend their existence day in and day out like I, or any other trans person has to.
I often ponder the privilege I have had in my transition. I have been able to achieve comfort in my identity without significant negative feed back, which is extensively privileged. I guess if anything I am a walking example of what happens when someone who transitions and gets the support/help they need. I’ve not had to deal with rejection, at least not in a close friend and family sense. I have had some reject my evaluation of my identity, because they could not see past their own self observed biases. We cannot read minds, I can only vouch for what I have experienced and how I have processed things. That does not mean that if someone perceived things differently that I did not experience these things. Just because you believe the world is flat, doesn’t make it so.
I have had the support of my wife. That is also a significant privilege. I was allowed to grow and discover myself at my pace without any worry or anxiety about rejection at home. Some do not, or will not ever have that. For a long time before coming out, home was my only safe space, for those who do not have supportive spouses they do not even have that. Plus I also was able to easily find my style in fashion because I had someone teach me how to find clothes for me. She helped me determine what styles showed off my assets while downplaying my liabilities. And I think that can be a big difference for some trans people who are not able to get on that learning curve as much. If I didn’t have that help, I am sure I would stand out like a sore thumb, but instead I am able to be extremely happy and comfortable in the clothes I wear.
Because of those two things I have the privilege of a building confidence. I think having confidence in myself has let me pass in places where timidness might have given me away. I act like I belong no matter where I go. Whether that is the ladies room, or the changing room in the mall, or even just walking down the street. I can be strong because I have been able to build that confidence. I think when we are timid sometimes people will sense weakness and try to take advantage of that. They see timidness as confusion and therefore others will try to bend you in their will. And since we still live in a transphobic (ignorant or both) society, people will try to convince you that you don’t belong. But that is not to say I am aggressive or strongly outspoken in this area. I am mostly quiet, polite, and friendly. For me I just act like I did before I transitioned in male spaces. I’m not overly talkative, unless talked to. I keep to myself, but when talked to I am nice friendly, smile, and courteous.
A few months after I went full time our local YMCA opened up. And they have a nice swimming pool to swim laps in. I really wanted to try it out, but I was a bit nervous changing in the women’s locker room into my swim suit. So instead of changing out in the open I went into one of the bathroom stalls connected to the locker area. When I came out and was putting my stuff away in my locker, a woman standing next to me asked me how the water was. I smiled, and responded I hadn’t been in it yet but I can’t wait to try it out. She smiled back and we went our separate ways. I do not know if she ever thought I was trans, but I also didn’t give her much opportunity to confront me. I was polite, friendly and confident. I belong, there is nothing bad about being asked a question, and nothing wrong in answering one. Just act normal. That might have really thrown me off if I didn’t already have that confidence, cause I was really nervous being one of the first times fully changing in the locker room.
Another way I consider myself privileged is that I am well past the dating/socializing point in my life. I have my wife and we are very happy. We have our friends and such. I don’t have to put myself out there to find people to connect with socially. And therefore do not have to deal with the uncomfortableness around sex. I would think that would be very hard, and while I have my opinions on whether one should come out prior to sexual relations, I hardly have had to deal with that on a personal basis. But I can sense why it is such a conflict for some.
With these privileges, I have rose-colored glasses with which I see the world, but I am also ultra-aware that others have it way worse than I do. It should not be that way. Sometimes I feel a bit of shame when I think of how well off I have been. I am trying to be out there advocating, and bringing awareness of all that we trans folks go through in life. I try to be the positive role model for those out there that need that in their life. It can be hard sometimes, but if life were easy would it be worth it?
So does transition end? I do not think so. I may come to a place where I am absolutely happy with myself, insides and out, but I will always be a trans woman. The journey to get here has been too tough, and the result too great to deny that I went through it. We do not have to share that with the whole world, especially if it is not safe to do so. We can appreciate it in our hearts and minds.