Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Four Transitions of a Transsexual

By Monica F. Helms

There has been a lot of talk lately about transsexuals and the procedure known as “transitioning.” However, it seems that the only segment of a person’s transition which many want to focus on deals with just one part of this intense process, the physical transition.

The physical transition only encompasses the “technical” aspect of a transsexual’s life, where changes are made to the body to finally become the person they should have been born as. Some call their transsexualism a “birth defect,” while others consider it a blessing. But, no matter how one views it, making the physical changes are very important, but it does not mean they have completed their total transition.

Since much has been written about the physical transition, I’m going to focus on the other three, which in some ways could be more important. They are the “emotional transition,” the “psychological transition” and the “spiritual transition.”

The psychological and emotional transitions are so intertwined that I will talk about them together. These two transitions can be a life-long process, based on all of the factors in a person’s life and their personality, affected by all that preceded their physical transition. Their family history, job history, relationship history, social history, and even their military history can affect the psychological and emotional transitions that a transsexual goes through.

Some transsexuals experience fear, anger, paranoia, jealousy, selfishness, narcissism, depression, violence and even self-destructive tendencies. Drug use, alcohol abuse and unsafe sex happen often in the lives of some transsexuals. Some feel sad, some feel lonely and others think the whole world is out to get them.

One reading this might think that transsexuals can be a truly screwed up bunch of people. That would be far from the truth. Transsexuals can also be happy, content, giving, up beat, helpful, loving, generous, considerate, kind and caring. Our course, like the complexity of the human race, transsexuals usually have a mixture of what I mentioned in the previous paragraph and in this paragraph.

Many trans people came from loving homes, have a spouse and children who love them, even after the physical transition ended. Many become active in the local community, the community at large, political organizations, their places of worship, their schools and their jobs. And yet, too many experienced sexual, physical, emotional, mental and even religious abuse as young children. Like non-trans people who have also had those experiences, the scars follow them through life.

Hey! Transsexuals can have all the same personality traits, psychological issues and emotions problems as found in the rest of the human population. A person’s gender issues can, in some cases, enhance some of the problems mentioned above, or have no affect at all. All of human nature has to go through various degrees of psychological and emotional transition to make it through life. Transsexuals are no different in many respects.

When people try to put highly complex humans in neat little boxes, they fail miserably. Even if a person places themselves in a box, their psychological and emotional transitions may cause them to have to expand that box, or move to a completely new one. “Change” remains the only constant in people’s lives.

A life in stagnation leads to issues that will usually enhance the negative aspect of a person’s psyche and emotions. Moving forward – transitioning – allows growth in many areas. Transsexuals pride themselves in how well they make things happen in their physical transition. Some even brag about it or belittle others for the slowness of their transition, or the lack thereof. Sadly, many fail to put the same effort into their psychological and emotional transitions as they do in their physical one. Have they really transitioned at all? Does their anger really make their transitions more fulfilling? I wonder.

I saved the fourth one for last. One also needs to make a spiritual transition to truly complete the journey they started as a young child. This usually becomes a very complicated transition, one that can be as diverse as human beings themselves. A spiritual transition may involve an established religion, maybe a form of internal spirituality, or something as simple as being one with oneself or a higher power. Spiritually comes from within and does not need to ever be expressed to anyone else. However, some feel more spiritual in comfortable surroundings with others.

I have a good friend who identifies as an atheist, yet through the strife she has experienced in her life, she has become more spiritual without the need to believe in an omnipotent being. She says “Love” is her higher power. I have to say that because of that specific higher power in her life, I have seen her transition in a spiritual way that has made a big difference in her life. Others may not need such an intense spiritual transition, but this change worked for my friend. Her spiritual transition has opened my eyes at all of the possibilities that exist.

Through all of these four transitions, where do I place myself? As far as the physical transition, it’s been not so satisfying at best. I have no difficulty passing, and have been accepted in women’s spaces very easily for the last decade, but I am selective on where I will go and under what circumstances. I haven’t stopped this transition, by no means, but Fate has stopped it for me. It can’t stop me forever. A majority of transsexuals understand my dilemma and frustration, but others don’t. Their opinion is not MY problem, but theirs.

However, when it comes to my psychological, emotional and spiritual transitions, I am in a far better place than I have been in my entire life. Many people helped me transition in those areas, and they continue to help today. Even though I am the happiest I have ever been in my life and have come a long way, I’m willing to admit I will never be totally done with any of those transitions. No one ever finishes those three. Only death stops the process . . . except maybe . . . the spiritual transition.

For any transsexual who says they are done with their (physical) transition, they forget that life has much more in store for them. Like all other human beings, we never stop “transitioning,” because that’s Life.


Véro B said...

Thank you for this, Monica. I think (and write) a lot about the non-physical aspects of transition. You have given me much to think about here.

Kara said...

I never could understand it when people say they are done transitioning (or especially when they give an exact date). To me, transition is a never-ending process. I have had SRS and such, but to me when you stop changing you may as well say you are not living anymore.

Mamalou said...

I just found your web site, my Uncle Paul gave it to me today, my husband Lisa is in transition and I need to read and learn as much as possible to understand what is happening. I found this article very interesting and would like to learn more. I would also like to ask question about the best ways to tell our families and especially the children. We don't want to do it wrong. If anyone would be willing to talk to me I would greatly appreciate it.

helen_boyd said...

Mamalou, email me at & I can direct you toward some good resources.