Does Anyone Know Where We’re Going?

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Clara Barnhurst

This time last year, I spent a lot of time bigging myself up by saying I was mostly finished with this whole transition lark. That my remaining boxes to tick were very few. That I didnt need the system to do anything but catch up with me. I was correct in many ways and woefully incorrect in others, but hindsight is the only way I could know that. The broader my experience in this state, the more I come to understand that I will probably never finish. I have no destination or understanding of where Im going. But I am belonging elsewhere despite a lack of destination.

It all seemed so simple: 1) get my documents sorted, 2) sort my presentation out, 3) move through the draconian gender clinic system. Yeah OK so high stakes but it all seemed fairly low risk. Easy even. A series of known barriers; things I could plan for. On the whole, I was correct.

So that bit is straightforward for me. Whats become less clear is where this business ends. There is more to this life than those systems. Those systems are easy to digest because they have a beginning, middle and end. Eventually, there are no more documents or accounts to update. At some point, you have what you want from the clinic. Your presentation evolves but once everyone perceives you as you wish (passing or not), the evolution becomes about you rather than public perception. The transitional space has a defined boundary in this regard.


Socially it is less clear. I used to say my social transition is over. Last-year-me was certain of that, but now Im not sure. A new development that Ive touched on in previous blogs is my new habit of not talking about my LGBTQ+ status, and thats evolved to the extent that some friends get one version of a story and others get another, equally detailed, different version that leaves the LGBTQ+ bits out. The divide is becoming more pronounced.

I ran into a pre transition work colleague in the shops. Nothing unusual. I remembered her and wanted to say hi. Of course, anyone pre transition is someone I cant just say hi to, so I preempted that by giving her my name before saying anything else. I havent done that before. Ive seen plenty of folks I knew pre transition that never gave me a second glance. People I might have said hi to under less dramatic circumstances, but I never did. We had that five-minute catch up as you do before going about our business.

The story is entirely unremarkable, but for two things. First, I couldnt remember her name and had no good way to ask. Second, I had undergone a gender transition to the extent that she didnt recognise me at all. One group got to hear the funny story about the woman I approached not knowing her name. The other got to hear about how she didnt recognise me. A third group of closer friends got to hear about how I found myself telling two versions of the story! That illustrates the tiers of outness in my life: out but unspoken (didnt remember her name), out and sharing (lady didnt know who I was), and out with a view of how my mind makes sense of it (I told two separate narratives of the same event).

You have arrived, said one friend after hearing the third-tier version of the story. That piqued my interest. Arrived where? Where am I going; was I going somewhere? She was referring to the end of transition, but I struggled to see an end. Itd be nice if I did. I have no idea where Im going.

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Youre integrating, offered my mum, and I found that thought more comforting. Integration. A thing that doesnt begin or end; a process. I have no destination, but I do have a people Im joining. For me, part of joining that people is to shed some or all of my habit of talking trans to people. At least for now. It might not stay that way. I dont know where Im going, but I have a people to join. Those people dont seem to know where theyre going either. They dont seem to have a defining sense of common identity or objective, but women are everywhere and we identify with each other, whatever we believe we are.


The further I go in this phase of life, the less convinced I am that there is a destination. A year ago, I saw a clear end point: a place to arrive and an estimated time of arrival. Now I dont see it.

From the beginning, Ive said to folks that transitioning was about comfort. Comfort in ones own skin, comfort in ones social associations. Im somewhat mournful that Im not finding comfort with the group that I thought would be my social home. Not enough at any rate. Im integrating elsewhere.

Ive given up on outcomes in this. Every outcome Ive seen so far has ended up being a broader process: an angle forming the curve. At this point, Im pretty sure there is no destination. We just join the people we resonate with as we go.

If I had one message for last-year-me, it would be to relax. Keep doing the things that were planned but know that the goals of the now dont end up sticking. That they are met, moved away from, and that end you think lies after them doesnt exist. We never stop learning to read, why would we stop changing into ourselves, whoever we are? We cant know how this ends, so best to let go.

Comments (8)
No. 1-4

Thank you for your writing...I am new to this process, 1 year in FTM, and starting late in life...searching for my peer group, and discovering it’s not there...I am still perking on your words “we just join the people we resonate with...” and that’s what I am searching for, and longing’s a process I know, and what I am learning is that I have much to learn, and like you said, there is no end...somehow I thought that I would “arrive” and everything would be wonderful. I didn’t fit in with the younger folk before, and I certainly don’t now...but I am seeking out a new community...a community of others living who they are, and who they are becoming... and trying to balance that with feeling physically safe, finding safe places to be, and sharing life’s good, and difficult moments....


I'm still learning from your story. I've completed transition as defined by documents. I think I've completed as defined by surgery. Almost everywhere I go I am with people who know my 'history', so it may be time to go to new places.


Trying to understand why anyone would refer to their transition as a lark.


The goal now is to become a "mere mortal" like everyone else wondering through life. Enjoy, you've graduated.

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