Every time I write about my transition, I wonder why. Why reveal the mess of being human and the struggle of my life? It feels safer to be silent, more dignified and the best response to the weight of this change. I come back to writing in the end. I’m writing poetry about this process now, poetry which I will share and publish, so why not prose? There is always a pull to witness in me. Words make sense of life, speaking protects against erasure, and silence is easy but not brave. I live my life on fire, burning up and burnt out. I don’t know how else to be.
I find the idea of a transition more and more silly as I go on. What am I transitioning to? I’ve always been this way. My body is changing but never fast enough to match the pace of my desire. I realize know how far away any real changes are from me. Years out, if I get there and choice to go farther, and I’m not sure why it matters so much. It will bring me closer to the body I want to have but farther away from the body I am. The disconnect feels artificial.
I realize the people who are willing or able to see me as a woman now are going to be the same people who see me as one in the end (if there is an end to a transition). The people who don’t see me as a woman or who use the wrong pronouns/names now will keep on seeing me the same way regardless of how I appear. I will never become a woman who passes as a “real” female, unless I go through major facial surgeries and body modifications with some very negative implications for my health. Even if I could afford them, would I want to spend months recovering from them? Who would care for me in that time? There is no one around now.
I debate hormones. Some days, I think I have nothing to lose. If I can get a referral to a doctor who will prescribe them, I think I will take them even though I don’t necessarily want them. They will move my body closer to a “female” appearance, which may make my daily interactions with the world easier. Is the pressure of society’s intolerance and casual violence enough to push me in directions which may not be right for me? There is a part of me which wants the completeness of the change as a way to wash away who I used to be and kill the old life in me fully. There are no good answers, just more questions and problems.
There are moments of joy in this body and life now. I worry I am not grateful enough for those gifts. I used to walk past shop windows and feel a deep sadness when I would see dresses on display, knowing I could never wear them. I never have to feel that way again. If I want to wear a dress from a show window, I can. I was out with friends a few weeks ago at one of those horrible straight sports bars. Everyone stared at me like always and it was neverwracking to be trapped in a hostile space. At the same time, I looked around me at my friends, my purse on the table, us sharing the same lipstick while we posed for selfies, and thought “yes, this is right. this is the life I belong to”. I can’t change the world and it’s cruelty, but it doesn’t have to change me.
People are more or less tolerant, if uninformed and prone to assumptions. Almost everyone slips between genders or names. I get the sense they feel it’s a choice I’m living out and they’re humouring me. When people are angry with me, the way they say my new name takes on another layer. A friend was irritated with me a while ago and switched to male pronouns for the rest of evening, despite my repeated corrections. If people feel sympathetic to you, they will respect your gender. If they don’t or you upset them, they move back to calling you male. Power works in funny ways.
I asked a trans friend recently if she ever felt like people just saw/treated her like an ordinary woman. I think my exact words were “do you ever get to just be a girl?”. Her answer broke my heart but confirmed what I’ve come to realize. No, you never get to just be. Maybe when I’m alone, watching Downtown Abbey in a 30 year old floral nightie, I can be, but otherwise, you’re something else to everyone you meet. The myth of a transition is that you can become your gender. You can’t. The world doesn’t let you.
I understand why transwomen move to new cities, change their names, and work so hard on passing. It’s the only way to escape this life in between and to finally be the woman you are. It feels like you are only able to be a woman when they don’t know your past. Maybe that shouldn’t matter. After all, I’m not ashamed of the life I lived before and I always was a woman in that life as well, but I realise the dream I’ve had about becoming is one I won’t live. Why should it matter how other people see you?
It is easy to say self love and claim that your life is realized through your actions alone. We live with people and we need them. Our ability to form social bonds is how we survive in the world. Without friends, without lovers, and without peers, our lives shrink to impossible narrow windows. I feel this happening to me now. My life shrinking, contracting as I avoid places where it’s not safe to be in and step away from social situations where my gender isn’t realized. My life expands in other ways as I form new bonds with other transpeople and as people in my life adjust, but it’s lonely.
I know I made the right choice. I don’t regret it but I can’t imagine how I will be able to live with this for the rest of my life. I suspect it gets easier as my body morphs closer to gender norms and I “pass” more. I’m sure I will stop caring about misgendering. I already care less and less as all of my emotional energy leaves my body. I’m getting numb to the world, deadening off the parts of me which react when men spit at me or coworkers call me “sir”. A layer of stone creeps up. I can’t care about the small pains. I need to plan out facial hair removal, find a doctor, decide on hormones-the list of problems in endless and my capacity to respond is not.
I remind myself the world I love is still there. The sky is still beautiful to me. I love the dark nights, the rush of wind on my apartment balcony. Fall is coming and soon, winter. I wait for the return of the snow. I have books and 80s music and vintage dresses. There are people I still love. Miracles can happen. I don’t see all ends. It’s hard not to scroll through facebook and see everyone’s life go on. Friends get married, engaged, and go on vacation. People go on dates, they instagram cute coffee pictures, and get pregnant. My life sits, spooling around an impossible body in an angry world.
I try not to think of the life I would have lived if I born a biological woman. It’s a useless thought but I mourn the unspoken life. She would be almost be 30. Would she be married? Would she have children? What would her life had been? Easier, harder, or just different? I will never know and in some ways, that grief is the hardest to embrace. I will never know what it feels like to walk in the world as a woman. I know what is to be one inside myself, but I will always be read as something else, treated like something else. Separate, a land of my own.
I wish someone had warned me of the grief which comes with a transition. The grief of leaving an old life behind and the grief of realizing the dreams you’ve held your whole life are impossible. It may be a necessary and vital grief, but it’s still pain. I used to think I would one day transition and held onto to it as a promise that my life would make sense in some distant future. The future is now. Now there is nothing left in front of me but the pain of this change, the struggle of becoming.
There is still worth in it. As I said, I feel it was the right decision in every part of me. I feel joy at bringing my life closer to who I am. I love not having to lie anymore. I do not have to hide my femininity with men. If I had a lover, I would not have to fake masculinity. Whatever my life is now, it is fully my life. I won’t lie about the torment of it through.
I’ve been reading Adrienne Rich. She has a lovely series of poems from the middle of her career just before her husband committed suicide. They are about the challenge of being stuck in the middle, between love for her husband and their emotional disconnection. I love the poems because I relate to their bittersweet quality. She seems to be saying “Here is joy, here is suffering-how I can I separate them?” and “everything I love is still here but why do I feel so different about them now?”. I have the same inner experience.
She wrote a collection which won her major poetic accolades after her husband’s death called “diving into the wreck”. In the titular piece, she describes diving down to a shipwreck and circling the ruins. I feel like this a good metaphor for this transition. I’m disappearing, falling so fast and far into the cold water. I’m alone in this ocean. Beneath me is the bones of my life. I can’t breathe but I’m still alive. I’m circling, looking for a way forward. All I have is words and witness.
If it’s dark here, it’s the darkness I’ve brought with me. I’m caught up. I’m doing well. Processing, making sense, moving on, mourning and rebuilding. I’m having a hard time. I’m gaining weight, not coping well, avoiding public space. I’m spiraling the wreck. This will one day be a story I tell others. This a story I’m telling myself. I’m transitioning to my transition. I’m waiting for tomorrow. I have no hope but I keep watch. I’ve always been this way. This is my life. I’m alone in deep water. Something worthwhile is here.
When I figure it out, I’ll tell you. Being trans is hard. The right thing for me to be. Not a choice, but a destiny. I came with into the world with this girl self. Now I make her real. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks. I just wish I had something to give her beyond this useless grief. I wish the world was capable of more than barely tolerance. I wish she was taking cute coffee instagram pictures and no one called her “he”. These wishes are silly. Some dreams need to die. The wreck is beautiful in it’s disintegration. I love diving. And this transition goes on. It’s endless even if I am not.
The world I love is still here. The self I love is still here. There are so many things to fear, but my gender isn’t one of them.