23 August 2018
One of my biggest fears in coming out was rejection. Rejection from family, friends, my employers, my community…, but you know, I think we tend to only hear about the incidents of violence and tragedy against trans-women in the news and never about the good things. Like when I first started living full-time as a woman I was at a restaurant picking up a to-go order and couldn’t seem to locate where to get my food when one of the restaurant staff, seeing my dilemma and I think also recognized me as transgender, said “Oh, Honey! They moved the pick up spot. Come on, I’ll show you where it is.” and grabbing my arm like we were old friends led me to where I needed to go. It was a simple every day moment, but it was acceptance from a stranger. I wanted to hug her tightly but I just collected my food and was on my way.
I had some very real terror stepping out into the world at first knowing that I looked OK but I certainly didn’t look like a cisgender women. I thought that in time I would be pointed and laughed at, possibly menaced, maybe assaulted and worse. I didn’t think that people might be OK with me, that they would maybe even be helpful. I thought that their perception of me would be that of disdain and disgust, but in reality it was my perception that was wrong. I was making a blanket assumption about people. People that may also have gone through the struggle of rejection, or have been through difficult medical situations, or lost loved ones. We all just want to be accepted.
The process of transitioning isn’t just physical and mental for the person transitioning. There is also a great deal in changing the supporting documents that identify us. Our drivers license, social security card, insurance, credit cards, bank accounts, library card, membership cards…… the process of changing each one of those things brings you in contact with yet another person that you feel can scrutinize you. The fear in ones mind is very successful at imagining every possible worst case scenario.
There is also the process that ones family and friends must go through when someone they know transitions to their true and authentic self. My oldest brother, who lives about 500 miles away and hasn’t gotten to witness my gradual change, said something interesting the most recent time we saw each other. He said that he heard a counselor that advises on transgender individuals say “you need to change your expectations of your sibling’s future.” That’s very interesting. I really don’t know the process that those around me are taking in accepting my transition, but I hadn’t thought about how my brothers and sisters have thought about my future in relation to my transition. I mean, sure, it’s up to each of us to live our lives, but I guess in a way I do have expectations for the futures of those that are closest to me as well. I think about where they will be in five or ten years and if I will still be in their lives. But things do change whether we want them to or not. In a way there is a mourning for all things we perceive as negative change, whether it be a death or any loss for that matter. Transitioning is a rebirth for those that have lived lives against their minds and hearts, but it’s also a loss for ones siblings and parents, and sometimes children.
In the blog post “My Transgender Life — Transitioning at Age 64“, Grace Anne Stevens writes “for many transgender people the act of “coming out” and transitioning means to realize the loss of everyone and everything achieved in life,” I think the older we are when we transition maybe we have more to lose but maybe also much more of a reward to gain.
I feel very lucky and blessed in my transition. I haven’t felt the loss that others have had in their journeys to becoming their true selves. I still have my job and my spouse. I still have generally the same group of friends and maybe I’ve even expanded that group and strengthened some of those bonds. But it’s a gamble, transitioning. You have to bet it all, risk everything, go for broke. But when you win, it won’t be a flashing light and ringing bell telling you that you’ve won the jackpot. It might just be a complete stranger taking your arm and accepting you as an old friend.