Saturday, October 06, 2007

Both Sides Now.

Cross posted from the MHB site. There is a current discussion 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.


kellyvision said...

Interesting post Jenny as you touched base on many of the things that I've alwasy felt to be true. I planned my transition as well as I could, was as cautious as possible, tried to look at all of the possible outcomes, and tried to learn from those who went before me.

The results?

Well, I've kept my job as an elementary school teacher, my Mom, Dad and Brother have been simply amazing and so supportive, my friends have stuck by me like you wouldn't believe, I still have my house, my car and all of my belongings, though not being married or in a relationship helped on that front.

My Mom helped pay for my FFS, I'm protected by a local fairness ordinance that is among the best in the country and I've met many people from around the world as a result of this journey I've been on. So, it would seem that things have turned out great.

But you know what? I lsomehow lost my sanity in all of this and today I am more miserable than I ever was as Greg. I'd give nearly anything to go back and do this over. Were I given the chance, I would have kept my mouth shut that fateful June day of five years ago when I first told another living soul my little secret.

Sometimes, like me, we seemingly lose nothing in our transition, and yet we really lose something much more meaningful, ourselves. I guess my point is that transition didn't solve the fact that I wasn't a very happy person. I'm still as sad and lonely today as I was as Greg. The only difference being that I am a whole lot poorer, get stared at a whole lot more and now live with more regrets than I did when I used to wonder why I hadn't transitioned earlier.

It didn't turn out like I expected and as a result, I am nothing more than a shell of a person. I lost the joy of life and I don't know how to get it back.

helen_boyd said...

I don't know what to say, Kelly, except that I'm sorry. Sometimes a lot of change is more than a person can take, but sometimes it just takes time to re-charge. Sometimes years, even.

Keep taking care of yourself. You may be surprised one day to find the joy you've been missing.

ChloeElise said...

Excellent blog, Jenny. Loved 'She's Not There' by the way!

First off, I'm MtF. I've been going through my transitional journey for a little over a year now. Like you mentioned, I'm one of the transwomen that fall under the category of planning everything out carefully, making sure all the pieces fit, and then attempting to take one step at a time.

Not that it's helping me out financially, but I kept my job. I kept at least 90% of my friends, and the ones that scampered away weren't that good of friends in the first place. I started HRT about 3 1/2 months ago, and my body has really taken to the estrogen quite well.

The only thing I feel that I have lost (at least indefinitely) is my conservative Christian family. I was given a message from my parents, via my brother, that they "wanted nothing to do with me if I continued along this path". They see it as "acting on a whim", and I can see exactly how they come to that conclusion. I understand their side of things, and I think that's what hurts me the most. It feels as if they think I intentionally did this to hurt them, which of course just isn't true. To me, transitioning is as important as breathing.

So, I definitely miss my family, and I do hope they'll come around however, I understand that they need a period of mourning. It's for this reason, I have respected their ultimatum, and I have not tried to contact them. It seems as if it makes things harder, when in reality, it may be better in the long term. I hope...

For now, I just wait here praying; hoping. That's all I can do.

Again, excellent post!