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10 Lessons Learned in Transition

A great deal of you are going to read this and say, “well duh Michelle, we know that already”. Try not to though because saying ‘duh’ makes you sound like a teenage goon from an 80’s movie just waiting to have his ass handed to him by some smart-alecky punk named Corey. This is for people who may be coming to the realization they are trans, or may know someone who might be. I think it would have been nice if someone gave me a list at 17 along with a smart whap on the back of the head. Like the last list, this is kind of tongue in cheek, except in this case not really.

Also, a lot of people thought my last list was all labeled #1 as some kind of clever statement when in reality, WordPress and PE changed all my numbering and I wasn’t savvy enough to fix it. Consider my 11th and 12th lessons to be “learn non- MS Word text editing”, coming right after “learn how to edit text in MS Word”.

1. If You Ignore It, It Still Won’t Die – Trying to fix yourself through denial is about the same as slapping some black electrical tape over the engine light after it comes on. Having done both things, I have come to find that this simply reschedules the problem for a much worse time, and probably quadruples the cost. I dimly remember the Bible admonishing “thee” to not hide a candle under a bushel as an allegory to something, and have confirmed this was sound advice when the fire started. If you can mentally deal with it now, it’s probably going to be easier, and even if not, at least in the near future it will have been in the past; my favorite place for things I would much rather deny.
 2. The Military Will Not Make a Man Out of You – Now, I don’t regret for a second that I joined the Air Force and served my country, but from the outlook of a trans person, boy did it suck. After attempting to ‘man up’ by joining various teams and the Boy Scouts when I really wanted to hide and read in my cage, my thought was that nothing fixes you up better than the Air Force (except for the Army and Marines, but definitely not the Navy). True, it kept me focused with the high intensity learning of my career, and the higher intensity learning of the tens of thousands of rules and regs, many of which seemed aimed specifically at me, but it didn’t change my trans-ness. Not even when dodging camel spiders or attempting to solder a microchip while wearing a gas mask and huge rubber gloves. By all means sign up if so inclined, but don’t expect it will change anything.

3. Exercise Full Disclosure if Getting Married – This is probably a good idea post-transition, but I’m talking about the first time around. Most people get hitched with a basic understanding that their partner is going to remain in the gender they met them in. When this changes all of a sudden, not only does it seem like a big ‘fuck you’, the first thing they do is look back to see how they were duped. Chances are, you aren’t going to fess up about being trans at this point because you don’t really understand that yet, but we all know there were clues. Knowing how to put on pantyhose by the age of 8 without getting a run would be a big one and probably shouldn’t be left out. When the walls of the façade you have been propping up all these years finally come tumbling down, it sure doesn’t hurt to have an “told you so” or two in the bag.

4. If You Ignored #3 and Get Caught Later, Don’t Half Ass It – She found some pictures; he accidentally opened your breast binder. Yeah, now is a good time to catch up your partner to the past you have been dodging. True, you might not be ready to admit anything to yourself yet, but filling in some of the blanks is a lot better than slapping a deceptive looking band aid on the problem and hoping it won’t start gushing later. Just like the engine light, waiting till later is really, really bad. Downplaying things is like telling your trigger happy alcoholic uncle the noise was “probably” not a burglar, knowing full well the fuse to a cherry bomb is fizzing down behind him.

5. Your Therapist Might Be a Dick – I’ve talked to a few people now, still on the cusp of transition, who tell me, “Yeah, I went to see Dr Z, but man, was he a dick! I never went back.” Not everyone has this experience, but some do, and I kind of did. Don’t let this dissuade you at all. The therapist is a major gatekeeper, even though they get upset if you call them that. They take the Standards of Care very seriously and are genuinely interested in making sure you should be starting on this journey. After all, you may just be gay, not that there is anything wrong with that. If you think you might be trans, it is totally worth it to put up with some irascible badgering to make sure.

6. Foundation is Not Your Friend – Before we begin much needed beard removal, we still like to go out and about. I personally found that schmearing on a whole bottle of Covergirl did a wonderful job in masking that shadow and making look like a child’s nightmare at the same time. On a hot day you can prepare to look like you just opened the Ark of the Covenant, and on a cold one, keep a watch for a Madame Tussaud patrol vehicle looking to recover you back. Yes, we all hate to have anything mannish about our appearances, and with light make up, someone up close may notice something. Too much though, and they will notice you from across the street and peg you as a recently fired drag queen. Less is more.

7. Prepare a Damn Speech – When you are ready to come out to people, it’s pretty exciting and scary. Chances are, if you cold call it, you are going to ramble all over the place and sound kind of loony as they look on quizzically. Conversely, after you told the 67th person, it all gets just a little bit onerous. If you have a speech prepared, you can recite it rote, right from memory, as you mentally categorize your fingerbowl collection. I know that sounds cold, but even after 67 times, without something prepared, you are still going to fuck it up.

8. Don’t Assume People Know Anything – We, or at least I, have been there a few times. “What I wanted to tell you is… I’m transgender [dramatic pause]”. It’s good to remember that all of our trans jargon sounds really familiar to us, but to the majority, you might as well tell them you are chtmoiderated. They will look at you quizzically as they attempt to recall if this is some disease or ethnic group they should know about, but don’t. Chances are, you are kind of hoping for a good response to your news, and making them feel stupid and uninformed right off the bat sure doesn’t help. Saying transgendered is cool, as long as you follow it with a short definition. This gives them the option of pretending they already knew. People with saved faces are much less likely to spit in yours.

9. Don’t Be a Big Prickly Pants – Yes, you will have people insisting on calling you ‘Roy’ instead of ‘Renee’ just to be a jerk, or out of some weird passive aggressive way of teaching you that you are “wrong”. Most people though are simply going to screw it up, and probably a lot. This sure is going be weird and awkward for you, but get used to it. Unless they do it three times in a row slowly, it’s probably an accident they are going to feel bad about. Same thing with the pronouns. When I was outed at work, the first thing I did was assure people that I wasn’t going to get upset and the anxiety level all around seemed to drop immediately. Just like people who constantly correct others spelling and grammar, you will be technically correct, but much hated for it.

10. Don’t Write a Blog That Is Clearly Attributable To You, Includes Your Pre-Transition Name, With a Picture, and Easily Searchable by Google and Other Fine Products When Still Closeted at Work –  Um, I don’t think I need to spell this out any more clearly.

In the interest of making everyone clear on this, yes, I am the grade A ditz who did exactly all of these things except for #9 (or Don’t Be a Big Prickly Pants in case I screwed up the numbers once again). If I can prevent one person from doing one of these, it’s all worth it, so long as they don’t avoid two of them and make me look even worse. Don’t worry, I’m sure I”ll have more as I go along.

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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.

5 responses »

  1. robynjanesheppard

    Yes, your therapist may indeed be a dick. Personally, I think the who idea of Standards of Care is a dick idea to begin with. Do gays need permission to be gay, or lesbians to be lesbian? Do I need to go to a therapist to get approval. No, no, and no. So why are we the ONLY people who have to get an Official Seal of Approval to be who we are?

    If I have appendicitis, or a broken leg, or (God forbid) cancer, do I need to see a psychiatrist for a year before I can get his or her approval for treatment? It’s the same thing: I have a MEDICAL problem, not a psychological problem. I don’t NEED or WANT a shrink to decide if I come up to his or her standards of femininity or femaleness.

    Reply
  2. Michelle,
    Well written and just subdued enough that I could read it in the library this time.

    I could be the model for #3 and #4. I would modify #2 and #10 slightly. For #2, some of us were medically ineligible (asthma) for the military so we chose ‘manly’ careers with similar results. And for #10, even if you carefully hide your identity and then tell you relatives about your blog, it will blow up in your face. Been there, done that.

    Once again, extremely well written and very funny.

    Love,

    Becky

    Reply
  3. I love it that you lay it out so perfectly, the way I can relate with my last 3 years of transitioning. I’ve made every mistake in the book, I’m happy to say I haven’t repeated them but I did make mistakes.
    I think there’s two main things to remember, three really.
    1.You have little to no control over things around you,
    2.Don’t take things to hart, (Don’t Read Into Things) and remember the people around you are transitioning too.
    3.You will find in most cases that there were problems before you transitioned that you simply ignored or just over looked.
    I have found if I remember these three things it makes things a lot less complicated.
    No reading into mysterious meaning in numbers this time:)
    Michelle your good at writing your thoughts thank you for helping some of us who can’t speak so well through our own written words.
    Your Friend, Tedie:)

    Reply
    • Thanks so much Tedie! Excellent way to boil down the main points and thank you. I have no doubt though that I have at least 20 coming on the horizon. 🙂

      Love, Michelle

      Reply

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