It seems to be a lot easier to transition between genders than it is to transition between generations. I had a question posed to me by a reader the other day that got me thinking on the subject. Her concern was that the younger trans in her tribe generally neglected to invite her out, and she was attributing that to reasons of passability. My thought was that it had way more to do with the fact that they were decades younger and may have not wanted ‘mom’ or ‘grandma’ along as a big buzz kill. It got me thinking about the whole ‘trans-generational’ thing, so let’s talk about that for a minute.
Having crossed the dreadful line of 40, I acknowledge that I am now considered to be closing in on ancient to many of the younger folks. Whether this is true of not is relative, but I will admit that my cultural IQ does not do me any favors. I can’t name one song by the Jonas Brothers, Justin Beaver, or The Kardashian’s. I don’t know how to use my Twitter account. I just found out about ‘Rickrolling’ through CNN but don’t get the joke; I love that song. I still find ‘The Simpson’s’ fresh, edgy, and in your face. I really don’t know why I’m telling all of you this, it’s not like I don’t get made fun of enough. Regardless, there is a significant cultural divide between trans people my age and older, and those damn kids who pierce their ears with poker chips and won’t stay off my lawn.
In strictly trans terms, I think the biggest difference is that kids are now transitioning in their teens and early twenties and comparing themselves to those of us who spent decades cowering in terror that someone would find out our deep dark secret. Just to be clear, I think it is awesome that they have the opportunity to do this in a kinder, gentler atmosphere. Not that it’s necessarily easy, but the chances of being committed to an asylum or being legally charged under some arcane law have gone down considerably.
I have heard some of the younger set pile some derision on we ‘later in life’ transsexuals, salting their language with peppy little terms like ‘denial’ and ‘scaredy pants’. It’s difficult for them to understand trying to achieve self-awareness in the pre-internet days. The closest we often got to understanding people like us actually existed was spotting something in adult shops that not only were we too afraid to purchase, but really painted a grotesque picture of what our lives would be like if this ever got out. So we buried it deep within, and now paying the price of all the efforts we undertook to try to fix ourselves. It’s very much my hope that those days are quickly diminishing the rear view mirror.
At the same time, we who are so fortunate to transition well into the 21st century are having a very different experience than those who had to do so well before the turn of the millennium. Back when we were simply known as ‘she-males’, there were only a handful of medical and mental health professionals in the country who had an inkling we existed, and the only career choices were living petrified half-lives, working in the sex industry, or going destitute. These grand ladies, those of whom are gracious enough to share their stories, paint a very bleak and depressing picture of what enduring life really meant, if one was so brave as to choose to live through it.
The point of course is that it is too our advantage to appreciate while everyone’s transition experience is unique, there is also a generational component that flavors those experiences in yet another way. Rather than disdaining new, young, millennial trans as having it so easy, it’s better to appreciate the progress that has been made and that the cubs of our own tribe are here to receive the benefits of progress. There is equal value in appreciating what I hope is becoming an endangered species; the trans who lived decades in fearful silence. Finally it is most important to value the efforts for everyone who has walked this path before us, knowing it was considerably harder, but that the footfalls of countless unknown trans tramped the way smooth and forced channels through all the debris. In time we will all be a slice of history highlighting the rapid ascent from darkness into the light of society in general, and it’s so much more of a compelling story if we know each other in the here and now.