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Paradigm Shift

It’s always a good idea to haul out a weighty sounding phrase like ‘paradigm shift’ instead of ‘shit is different now’ when talking to people who like to review projected PowerPoint slides and nod gravely. All things considered, it’s probably better to sound less like a dumbass whenever possible, and especially when dealing with folks who knew you as ‘Mike who wore the same pants everyday’. Since I have no idea who actually reads this anymore, the aforementioned grumpus from the first line was definitely not you. You are always a delight to present things to.

The great uncomfortable thing about paradigm shifts is that they rarely happen to everyone at the same time. Sometimes shifts can take years, and others relatively quickly. I’ve been very fortunate in that my own shift seems to be happening fairly rapidly. While true, I have been thinking of myself in strictly female pronouns, when not speaking in the third person to myself and addressing me as Michelle, for a good year and a half. For others of course, this is all brand new, and just a few weeks ago I was still just ‘Mike’, a dude on the third floor who as mentioned, wore the same pants every day. Honestly, I had multiple pairs, so don’t even start. Shifting away from that takes a little bit of time.

Many in my situation make the shift in their own heads, and then expect the world to suddenly have a sunburst of illuminating understanding erupt above the collective head. “Ah ha! He is truly she, not only now, but forever, back from the beginning of time to the far flung future; inviolate in a correct matching between gender expression and core identity.” I like to imagine these folks speak in long, unwieldy sentences, just like I do, at least on paper.  The reality of course is that to most, good old ‘mom-jeans-Mike’ is suddenly wearing a dress for some reason. There was something from HR or something, but busy and only skimmed it over. The truth for most, and as a friend put it best, “I have no stake in this game”. Our monumental paradigm shift means as much as the going rate for Chia Pets on eBay.

My point, because I chose to never make it before the fourth paragraph to ensure emotional investment in reading to the end, is that we as trans folk can’t expect the world to care that much, or even really notice, our monumental change. For the majority, especially casual acquaintances and people at work, aside from the juicy gossip lead up, it ranks about the same as someone who was pretty big and suddenly lost a ton of weight, or maybe went from a hippy Jesus look to a completely shaved skull. At best a novelty, at worst not even a blip. Wait for it… OK, here it is: it is much to our collective benefit to give people a long time to make the shift in their heads.

You know that you are female, or male in the case of FTMs, but it’s going to be a while before others make this flip. Yes, many think this is some sort of delusion, attempt to fool everyone, or even a bizarre game, but that isn’t true of most. Even so, it takes time. I’m not saying it means grin and bear a super size portion of indignity and disrespect, but it does mean not getting all snippety when the wrong pronoun is used. It takes a while for people to make the switch and get comfortable, especially in personal spaces like bathrooms. Replacing Good Time Charlie with Sensitive Charlene is hard to do, and it’s not going to be a huge priority.

Be patient and wait for people to catch up. If they simply don’t want to, that’s one thing. Even if they really, really do though, it’s not going to happen overnight.


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.

6 responses »

  1. Much like Curiosity rode to Mars the world watches when the lights come on and the dazzle, well, dazzles. But look at it this way, in six months a new view is seen. A view of ‘oh, that old thing again’. I mean if Curiosity found life or alien ruins or even, perhaps the remains of a “one-hit wonder” group’s career. But this fact is people don’t act that way when it’s part of the continuum of life. They are shocked at first, react and ask a million questions. When they are done, they move on and unless you come in dressed with a peacock headdress on and a skirt suit made with light bulbs all over it, people will eventually just accept it and move on. Of course some will not, but that’s because they are too narrow-minded to see the truth.

    The changes are all physical, not mental. We are the same underneath whatever gender presentation is. There are a vast majority of people who don’t know “quite what to say”. Gender is not about who you are attracted to, it’s what defines you as a human being and a unique character in life.

    So the changes come and then they go, they ebb and flow like the tides, sometimes the attention is crashing on your sea wall, other times it’s just silent and passive. People’s perceptions are like the weather, sometimes the best you can hope for is that you brought accessories for pretty much any condition out there and then move ahead.

  2. I have to say this as well, I hate the men’s bathrooms with a passion on many levels, I, thank god I haven’t had to go in one in along time. When I did there was two choices, you could stand in piss, or you could sit in it. Why do they have to piss on everything!

  3. Patient, that’s really a big word and then there is the question to myself,, how to apply is in a way I will remain honest with myself, I hope that makes sense. Being realistic is hard to balance with emotions, personal expectations and needs.
    I found relying on others is a crap shoot at times and in any case, Trans or not. Talking about this to others is not usually not a good idea eater.
    Thanks For your thoughts, Tedie:)

  4. Sis,

    Again you repeat a point that can’t be said often enough. Trans may be the centre of our universe, but it is quite near the outer limits of the worlds of most others.

    We hate it when the person who is on a diet expects us to follow along with them while they count every calorie or when the recently reformed smoker or drinker gives us a blow-by-blow of every minute without a drink or cigarette. It’s important to them, so we smile, nod and act interested, but really we wish they would give us a break and let us get on with our own struggles.

    Transition is no different. We get a few more gossipers, and generate a bit more curiosity, but in the end everyone else really just wants to get on with their own life.

    BTW, I’m not even entirely sure that trans generates the most gossip. I remember when I lost a ton of weight several years back and everyone in the prison had me dead and buried from some dread disease, without even noticing that I was getting healthy, not sick.

    Well spoken as usual, and I love the title. 🙂




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