Monday, March 9, 2009

You Will Not Die; It's Not Poison

A re-tweet (sic) from MHB and Helen B.'s Transgroup Blog. Worth repeating. This was in response to adiscussion of "What have you lost during gender transition?" The folks over there have a variety of experiences-- some of them appear to have lost nothing and improved their lives; others have lost family, jobs, homes, the Full Monty. My thoughts follow:

• Most people I know have lost something in transition.

• in my case, among other things, I lost a sister and a good friend.

• Although I do not know if that loss is forever.

• And the nature of my relationship with the woman I love has been altered. In some ways for better, in other ways, not.

• Trans people are often told they should EXPECT to lose many precious things.
Sometimes this happens.

• But it doesn't always happen. Often, the things that are lost--like the things you keep-- are not what you expect.

• But I get tired of the focus so often being on the bucket of blood which is loss of family, loss of jobs, loss of house, water on the knee, lockjaw and arthritis. It's not always that.

• To some degree, what you lose--or keep-- is a direct result of HOW you transition, and WHAT your expectations are. This is a fact that many trans people refuse to own up to. Here are some things that have been done by people I know who tend to have suffered the most losses: 1) starting a transition without consulting loved ones; 2) secretly sucking down hormones off the web; 3) expecting loved ones to be happy for you; 4) issuing ultimatums; 5) refusing to accept how hard a transition can be on those that love us; 6) being blind in so many ways.

• To some degree this is true at work as well. People that I know who have lost their jobs have done some of these things: 1) started surreptiously x-dressing at work on some level-- wearin' scanty underthings; wearing makeup or piercing the unexpected== all of this without a clear transition plan; 2) expecting people at work to be thrilled about it all for you. 3) Using the "new" restroom and being blind to how this might even give open minded people the creeps. In some circumstances. And so on.

• I think people frequently lose control of their transitions, and thus their stories, through their own indiscretions-- like "telling just one person" who winds up being a person who does not keep that secret for you. Next thing you know, the story is out all over town, and you're toast. Ask Susan Stanton about this. Better yet, don't.

• Having said that, the OPPOSITE is true as well: I know people who have lost their families and jobs no matter how carefully they planned; no matter how kindly, patiently, and competently they tried to share the news, spill the beans, bring people along. I know wise, sweet people who have bent over backwards in every way only to wind up flat on their faces, abandoned by exactly the people they reached way out for; fired by their so-called open minded bosses for reason oh-so-supposedly unrelated to trans stuff.

• And the opposite of the opposite is also true: People who have behaved like complete, thoughtless imbeciles at times have Done Very Well Anyhow. (And I would describe myself, and almost every trans person I know as at least occasionally falling into this category.) Sometimes this is dumb luck; sometimes this is because it's all actually less of a big deal sometimes, and in some situations, that we think; sometimes it's because people are given the opportunity, over time, to be forgiving. Sometimes it's because people's love turns out to be unconditional; or nearly so. Sometimes it's because It's Never Really Over; and life itself provides plenty of mulligans. Or, if you like, do-overs. And being Trans is not the most shocking mulligan that there is.

• the people who may have been most supportive of my transition are my nonagenarian conservative Christian mother and my then-tiny children; some of the people who have been least supportive have been politically liberal; some of the people grasping the issues least succintly are gay and lesbian.

• It is fair to want to wonder "are the losses worth it all?" And this is a Very Good Question to Ask. Too often, Trans People don't think about the consequences of their actions; they hurtle along like asteroids on fire, and as they fall they scream out, "Hey, I'm becomin' my true self! Be happy for me!"

• And yet at the same time, it's like asking, "if you'd known how much dialysis was going to suck, would you have CHOSEN kidney disease?"

• I can't make sense of all this but if there is any one thing I believe in,--and not only in trans matters-- it's "Be The Change You Wish To See."

• some of the people most annoying or draining or least insightful about the issues are other trans people.

Like me.

Respectfully submitted,

Jenny B.


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  2. Reading all you've wrote about what you lose/gain in transition I'm struck by the idea that you could easily remove the phrase "in transition" from this list and it would stand. All of these things happen in life for all the same reasons or lack of reasons...even for people who are cisgendered or people who are trans and don't transition (well...maybe not the bathroom bit). We all lose and gain things as we move through life. Sometimes it is clear why...sometimes not. Sometimes we keep things that should have rightly been taken from us.

    Life is change, whether or not it seems that your gender is the thing changing.