There is a lot of darkness in the transgender world. We live under threat. People all around us deny us our rights of identity and person; refuse to allow us to be. We’re denied basic things others take for granted: jobs, families, health care. We’re attacked on the street and suffer abuse on a regular basis. The negativity from all sides often leaves the sense that we are suffered by society. So what is it? Why do we put ourselves through hell?
The simple answer, for me, is for the sheer joy of it. The first few steps are the scariest, but one swiftly discovers that the freedom of being oneself is worth the risk. The trouble is it’s easy to forget that. As a person takes living authentically more and more as everyday life, that joy also becomes commonplace. It’s easy to give in to the constant negativity that is served as a form of punctuation - that’s the stuff that stands out.
This isn’t restricted to transitioning. This happens any time a person finds a love and settles into it, be it a job or a relationship or a hobby. One has to work to keep it from becoming a chore. One has to remind themselves to focus on the good as much if not more than the bad. One has to create a space where they are free of the negativity that floods in from all sides. It’s not an easy thing.
"THE TRUTH IS, THERE IS A LOT OF HUMOUR IN WHAT WE DO."
The truth is, there is a lot of humour in what we do. My youngest brother will explain to mutual friends that I’ve gone from behaving like a thirty-seven year old man to a teenage girl - and he’s right! And it’s funny. I have my awkward phases: I showed up to meet my girlfriend’s family in crazy makeup- way overdressed for the event. I remember her saying to me that I looked, ‘A bit dramatic.’ Queen of understatement.
I tell people that I avoided many pitfalls where I worked at a school and had to constantly ask myself, ‘Can I bend over a desk in that?’ I remember being put with a male teacher, and occasionally both of us would answer to ‘sir.’ The children would give me odd looks when it happened.
Oh - and the first time the children I worked with went ahead and dressed me up in loo roll (part of a competition) and my awkward reaction to them giving me a moustache. They found the whole idea hilarious. My brain took some time digesting that even as I laughed with them.
This stuff is funny. These are the transitional moments where we not only realise that we’re succeeding, but it also illustrates how ridiculous retaining our old image really is. The joy is there, but to be honest I had to sit here and think through the last year to find a segment of fun. I’m having fun - a lot of fun - but when asked what the fun is, I struggle. Why?
It’s established that people focus on the negative. That we can be surrounded by positives but we will ignore them in favour of the one wrinkle. The mind seeks out incongruity; it’s a basic principle in design: establish a pattern and break it. People will ignore the pattern and focus on the disruption. Perhaps we should work to create positive moments that disrupt?
“TRANSITIONING IS A DISRUPTIVE PROCESS WITH CHANGES FOR BOTH BETTER AND WORSE.”
Transitioning is a disruptive process with changes for both better and worse. We face joy even as we face horror. Problem is there is a lot of horror. Most of us wade through a mire of heavy stuff for a long time and pulling our heads above water is a joy, but we still get weighed down.
One trait I’ve discovered is my innocence. I’m a naïve little thing. I make exchanges, particularly close ones, way more intimate than they are. Stuff goes over my head, but in an irregular way. I’m still near middle aged, even if I’m behaving as a teenager. I do get things, but there’s a lot of bits that I just miss or simply need explaining - much to the amusement of my friends. I won’t be clueless forever but for now, I’m that one in the group that has to gingerly raise her hand and ask what that is. And have everyone look at me, then exchange glances, wondering if they really have to explain. And then, they finally do, and I wish I hadn’t asked.
It’s important to let the little moments entertain us. The big moments are so important - the first day, the first outfit, the first selfie. Medical milestones. They matter. We cling to them and there are so many joyful stories about seeing oneself or going out into the world. Stories about getting noticed. But it’s not just that. A little while ago, I asked a bunch of friends what their favourite part about being transgender and I had one reader respond to the subsequent article by saying that their unique appreciation for their gender was their favourite thing. Stuff cisgender people take for granted; we find joy in the things they simply expect. They also find joy in those things, but we notice it more.
We need to keep noticing. We need to pick these little things out and keep noting the moments of joy and hold them to us. We need to learn to laugh - what we’re doing is funny. How people unexpectedly treat us is funny. Our double takes, our moments of awkward as we realise they’re talking about us. Those moments when we are treated one way and then the other as an exchange progresses. There is joy and humour in the transformation and with all the negativity we have to cling to it or we’ll all go mad from despair. We’ll harden. Let’s not.