Patience is a oft discussed topic in the transitional world. On one hand, you have newly out folk scrambling for what they can get lamenting their lot. On the other, you have reasonably established folk advising caution to the newly out folk: no need to scramble. It happens when it happens. Just let go and be patient! Yeah, well. It’s easy to be patient when you have it all.
Of course, I don’t have it all. Nobody does. But from the perspective of newly-out me, I do. I’ve got the fashion sense, the makeup skills, the tits, the slight curves (wouldn’t mind more of those), the hair. I’m living the life, mostly free of my old context and it’s brilliant. I’m even telling the few newly-out folks I come across (fewer and fewer these days) to be patient.
But I wasn’t patient, and I wouldn’t be now. I preface what I say to newcomers with that insight, but it was hammered home by my adopted sister over a bottle of Prosecco last night. Near as we could tell, it was the Prosecco I gave her back when I first came out as a thank you for her support.
“You were overloaded and very impatient,” she remarked. I mean, I haven’t met a freshly out trans human that wasn’t but she was right. I wanted it all, I wanted it right away, and I had a rough idea what to do. All the answers! Ahhh, teenagers.
Even with remarkable luck, it still took years. Some things are still going on; hormonal changes, particularly neurological ones, just take that time. But I’m patient now that I know it’s happening. It’s easy when you’re established, in the system and understand that it’s all going to happen. Stuck on a waiting list trying to get some assurances, or any word at all about, well, anything I couldn’t be so stoic.
"GROWTH IS THIS WEIRD PROCESS WE UNDERGO THAT HAS AN OUTCOME WE UNDERSTAND BUT CAN’T DEFINE."
The anticipation is the hardest part. Growth is this weird process we undergo that has an outcome we understand but can’t define. Life means change, always. Nobody sits still and time touches us all in subtle ways even when we aren’t trying to reconfigure ourselves. We cannot know what comes. We only know what we have and how we feel about that. We also can come to learn that we change, like it or not.
And it’s easy for me to say all this from my place in life where I have most of what I want in the world and now the task is to consolidate what I have. It’s hard to pull your focus away when you’re waiting for things to come to you. It’s especially difficult when you have other mental health problems and transitioning is the one thing keeping you going. Unhealthy, but almost unavoidable. I know because I was the same: homeless, mad with grief over my dad’s passing, transitioning. The problems were so overwhelming I needed the distraction.
Teenagers often accuse those past it of being unable to understand, and actually, I don’t know if I can understand anymore. I can’t recall the weight of it. I can’t bring those feelings back into my head. They hurt too much. It’s the same with when I broke my back. Yes, I remember being in pain, but the pain isn’t something I can remember. The wound can’t be fully recalled; my context is incomplete because full recall would be too painful.
Perhaps that is the reason we keep telling injured, impatient people to be patient: we can’t go back to that place ourselves, so we don’t really understand how hard it is. We intellectually understand how hard it is: we went through it. But emotionally we can’t bring it back. The depth of understanding is gone. Maybe that’s it.
What the reminder from my sister did was make me stop and check my privilege; something I seem to be doing a lot lately. I’m on an overhang looking down at the climbers below. I imagine it must be quite insulting to have someone above you tell you to calm down, but I don’t remember being upset with the people saying as much to me. I do remember politely ignoring them. I guess the politeness is the difference between first and second puberty.
"DESPITE IT BEING THE MOST FRUSTRATING, DISCONNECTED AND POTENTIALLY CONDESCENDING THING TO SAY TO SOMEONE FRESH INTO THE TRANSITIONAL WORLD, PATIENCE IS ACTUALLY THE BEST ADVICE."
Despite it being the most frustrating, disconnected and potentially condescending thing to say to someone fresh into the transitional world, patience is actually the best advice. It only figures that we only find patience after so much is dealt with that we don’t have to be impatient anymore. Or at least, the matters aren’t so pressing and we have the mental wherewithal to relax.
I should be grateful. I’ve passed through enough to find that place of relative peace. I found a spot where I can be patient. A spot I couldn’t conceive when I was freshly out and planning for a life change I couldn’t comprehend. Which raises another point: me back then had no way of understanding me now, or anyone else in the spot I’m in now. They probably couldn’t understand me any more than I could understand them.
This is an exaggeration, of course. We all can step outside ourselves and understand enough to show empathy, which is exactly what happens. Just because we can’t understand in fullness what’s going on for someone in a different phase doesn’t mean we can’t feel alongside them. The perception that nobody understands is irrelevant: we don’t have to. We can understand enough to lend support, and that’s all anyone really needs. True understanding would be invasive.
I take a certain satisfaction along with my frustration at my participation in the cycle. It means I’m past it and I can look back safely. Distance gives strength; we can be that person we needed when we are far enough away from the problems. It also means I’m becoming my proverbial mother.