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Conditions to Transition

I saw a newsfeed come up on Jenny Boylan’s FB updates that seemed to cause a lot of hullabaloo. Rather than get lost among the many dozens of commenter’s, I thought the notion deserved a little more thought than a quick “yeah!” or “here are 17 points of disagreement that will never be read”. Imagine, me with opinions! I’ve become such a cheeky lass in my middle age.

The big issue was that Jenny congratulated a FB trans friend for having the courage to decide not to transition, or at the very least delay it until a later date. Yes, yes, I can hear you gasp from way over here, but stay with me a moment, because it’s the reason behind the gasping outrage I would like to discuss. It does hit a nerve though, doesn’t it?

We all know no one transitions on a whim, waking up one morning, stretching, and thinking, “yeah, I think today I’ll start living as the gender other than the one I had been.” I can only speak for myself, but until I was able to come to terms with my identity, make the leap forward to do something about it, I was seriously starting to lose it. If I could look into a parallel dimension and view the me who decided to tough it out as a male, I’m very sure I would be looking at a wretched wreck of a human being, probably jobless and single but due to a much less amiable path. Ugh. No way! If it looks like I’m going out either way, I’m at least doing it as me. Those of you on the path of transition know what I’m talking about.

Here is why it strikes a discord when we hear of those who decided not to transition, or worse yet, changed their mind mid transition. It can be frightfully invalidating. After all the endless explanation to everyone affected by our transition, defending the absolute necessity in the face of all catastrophe, anyone can point to this person and say, “well, she didn’t have to do it, are you sure you did?” It was a real piece of work convincing yourself to begin with, then everyone else, and right there is an example to the contrary. It’s hard not to get rankled by the concept. It falls in parallel with a gay man saying he acknowledges his homosexuality, but is sticking with women.

Where I understand naary feelings this idea engenders, and I do get them as well, I also have to acknowledge that we don’t really know what it’s like to be in those shoes. In mortal terror of both the devil and the deep blue sea, sometimes going with the known evil is all a person can muster. They certainly aren’t doing it to give you a harder time with it all, but making the best possible decision in alignment with their capabilities. We know what it’s like to be hanging on by a thread, and sometimes that thread is all we have until the right time comes.

Did this person have courage to make this decision? I think so. Think about it and take your own sensibilities out of the picture, because really, aside from a little kick in the cred, it doesn’t mean much to you. They got to the point where they were able to admit being trans. They probably already told a whole lot of people about it. They may have begun the process. Then to go back and decide not to continue. Ugh! No one who knows is going to look at them the same again. Everyone is going to wonder when the shoe is finally going to drop. The specter of transition out of necessity to survive always lingering, just waiting for the right moment of mental weakness. It takes courage and grit to know thyself and chose the other path. I’m reasonably certain it is not any less bloody than our own, but without the benefit of at least being you. I don’t understand it. I just don’t have that. I can admit it sounds much harder than anything I would like to do though.

At the end of the day, no matter what our feelings are about it, this person is going to do what is best for their situation. Whether we agree, disagree, hate them, applaud them, or ignore it completely, it doesn’t matter. On that point I think we can all agree from experience.


About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

12 responses »

  1. Pingback: On feelings of invalidation and changing my mind | I am Deanna

  2. I was starting to reply to you here and about midway through, I decided to take my thoughts on invalidation and changing my mind to my own blog and leave a link back to this post. In short, no one needs my two cents when they back out of a decision that was once thought to be right for them and suddenly turned out to not be so right after all.

  3. I don’t see or feel anything bad about someone who dose this, If they are trans they will be back at it sooner rather than latter. You can’t take back, ” Hay world I feel girly girl inside and I’m going to do something about it” some how that sticks. My wife was, should I say hostile to say the least, She still at times uses a few nick names that she likes and I don’t let it bother me any more because she dosen’t do as much any more. It is what it is and it ain’t easy. I will say this, if I were to say ” No I take it all back” I would be thought of as a nut the rest of my life but if I just transition they will think “Man he’s a nut but he is a nut that means what he says”. So at least I will be thought of as a stable nut. See there is good in everything. Screw those that think that someone who backs down from transitioning makes their case for transitioning as being a choice. I do respect their opinion because it shows that their a stable nut too, so this shows were all not that different from each other we just think we are.

    • That’s really at the heart of this as well. Once it’s out, it’s out, no backsies. I think someone would have to go years and years before the constant threat of being disbelieved int he decision would even be possible to those around her. And what awful, awful years they must be, and thereafter as well.

  4. With the number of tales circulating on the topic of family disapproval when trans folk come out I always wonder if someone who does this is deciding based on the expressed needs of others rather than their own. I agree that it takes much courage to take that step back but I also worry about the potential cost to the individual.

    • Me too. I strongly doubt such decisions are made in a vacuum, but instead have everything to do with consequences threatened once the possibility becomes reality. We have to feel for her in that.

  5. I’m sorry to disappoint you Michelle, but there was no gasp over here… 🙂

    If there’s anything I’ve learnt during my transition, it is that you have to choose YOU, and take everything at your own pace. That also means you sometimes have to take a step back, if you feel that’s the right thing to do. That takes a lot of courage, so I have a lot of respect for Jenny’s friend.

    I don’t know if congratulating her on her choice is the appropraite thing do right now. It seems to me that she’s in a tough place right now, so offering support might be more fitting…

    • Oh, come on! Not even a little gasp? 🙂 And yes, I think you have it – she would probably appreciate a word of support over congrats any day/ We who transition don’t seem to look back much and wonder (actually I don’t know if that is true or not, except I have not run into it yet), but I can only imagine the other road is plagued with doubt.

  6. Brilliantly said! Ckeeky lass? I’m the one in Scotland, has some of that rubbed off on you? 🙂

    The key is that everyone’s situation is different. Not everyone has the means, either financial, emotional, mental or whatever else they may need to make it through. I know what a struggle my life was before I decided to transition, yet in many ways, I miss parts of my old life. It may have been a demon I was living with, but it was my demon and we had come to some sort of agreement.

    Many women who are transitioning take on the same holier-than-thou attitude of former smokers, people who have lost a lot of weight, and new religious converts. It was right for them and they were able to do it, so everyone else should, and love it. They forget that, like you said, the decision to transition is much more complicated than choosing your outfit for the day.

    I say kudos to all who have the courage to be themselves, regardless of who thast may be.



    • I think I do have a wee drop of Highlands in me! Well, culturally anyway – it’s only 5 in the morning here.

      Totally agree on the attitude some take and your examples are perfect. I think it’s all a need to validate themselves after making a difficult decision, even if very happy with it. The more who choose the same, the more validation to ones own decision.I say kudos as well to whatever road a trans person takes!


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