The Part They Hedge Around

People love to talk transition, but what happens when our lives move beyond that?

When I came out and started transitioning, I had to be out. I passed well enough to not be out automatically, but most of my life revolved around transitioning. People would ask me how I was and the responses were all dysphoria, treatments, lasers, new experiences. I’m bad at small talk. I was, as I think of it now, talking trans.

Talking trans is basically when you end up speaking solely about transgender issues or twisting any given topic solely around a transgender perspective. It’s important to do this: there’s a lot to process. It’s a big topic. There’s a lot there worthy of scrutiny and reflection. It’s also our lives, just as some folks just talk queer or catholic. People dwell on looming things in their lives. Transgender brings a lot of looming things into a person’s life, so we talk trans.

A while ago, I mentioned how there seemed to be a basic exchange that transgender folks had as a greeting: name, rank and serial number. That included simple things like name and pronouns (something we should probably all do anyway), but also things like medical records and social transitional state. Some of this rises from the support culture we’ve developed to help each other, and when you’re seeing how much support a person needs it’s helpful to know where they’re at.

"IT’S SAFE TO ASSUME THAT WE ALL EVENTUALLY REACH A SPACE WHERE WE DON’T NEED OR WANT SUPPORT IN THAT WAY ANYMORE."

It’s safe to assume that we all eventually reach a space where we don’t need or want support in that way anymore. I’ve written a few times that I’m noticing myself moving away from that context and into a more settled space with regards to gender. I want support, but not for my gender or transition.

With this in mind, I contacted a local domestic abuse charity to help me process some of the abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex wife. I didn’t mention gender; I don’t have to, for a start. My documents are all changed over and I’m confident in my presentation. There are certain aspects of the abuse that might be more easily shared if I do bring gender up, but it’s not really necessary until it is.I don’t have a problem bringing it up, I just don’t want to until it becomes relevant.

This was the first time I’ve considered disclosure when contacting a new organisation. It’s also the first time I’ve made an active decision to not disclose. It’s the first time I haven’t really had to. My life is female, my identity documents are female, my world is female. I don’t have to communicate a transitional state if I don’t want to.

Transgender rights include the right of disclosure. I’ve never thought to exercise that right, but it was empowering to just be me without caveats. That I could just ring them and be the recovering abuse victim without having to get into my transgender past was liberating. I’m free of this thing. In a few months, I’ll have tied up all the loose ends and I won’t be tied down by the inconvenience of transition. I won’t have to talk trans.

Naturally, I probably will keep talking trans, but it’s nice to think that it will be on my terms. One friend in early transition is having the frustration of having to disclose everything to everyone because the various agencies and companies she works with aren’t registering her new name properly. All I could tell her is that will go away eventually, but she’s right to feel violated for having to constantly disclose. It’s nobody’s business.

That’s the crucial point: it’s nobody’s business. I’ll talk trans because it’s partially my job to do so. I make my transness public. That’s my choice. That I make it private in other contexts is also my choice. Transgender rights include the right of disclosure.

"AS I MOVE AWAY FROM THE TRANSITIONAL SPACE, I’M STARTING TO ASK FRIENDS TO STOP OUTING ME."

As I move away from the transitional space, I’m starting to ask friends to stop outing me. That actually, this isn’t a public fact in the context of friendship anymore. I understand sometimes it’s unavoidable, but my family grew up with a gay dad and we’re all good about explaining only what’s strictly necessary. My youngest brother told me at one point that he was showing them a before/after shot I posted some while ago to show folks. I had to ask why. He said that he would talk about his sister and people who knew him a while would stop and say, “I thought you had two brothers?” At that point, he’s got to say something. At that point, making my information public is necessary to respect my identity. I don’t expect him to conjure up an alternate history for me.

I expect these transitional conversations will happen less and less as time goes on. Everyone my life touches will eventually either know I’ve changed or they won’t know me any other way. I’m finding it quite refreshing, and nobody really talks about this part of the transition. We’re all so focused on the steps and aspects of change, nobody really bothers to talk about what happens once we’ve done those changes.

We don’t stop transitioning once we’re done with the visible parts of transition. We continue to change. We continue to have new experiences. We continue to be unprepared for those changes. It’s entirely possible we’ll continue to need support, even if the space is slightly more certain and a whole lot more stable. As the expectation that we just skip town and start over dies, the transition process will only lengthen. I’ll be interested to see how transition stories shift as the largest visibly transitioning population encounter this new phase.

Comments
No. 1-3
Clara Barnhurst
Clara Barnhurst

Editor

I suppose, having entered a highly gendered space like the armed forces creates that situation. Other friends of mine went to same sex schools and that becomes a thing they stop sharing.

For me, I spent my life pretty much rejecting gender expectation and my faimly praised me for being a non conformist. I’m proud of many of the things I got up to and none of them were really about gendered spaces. I didn’t do sport, I didn’t enter into same sex activities. OK, so PE is a thing but I can just talk about how much I hated it and refused to participate. It’s not really an uncommon story, trans or no.

Clara Barnhurst
Clara Barnhurst

Editor

I make no effort to hide. I share my stories. I have no stories that are particularly gender specific, and even my mum doesn’t think of me in the past as I was.

I appreciate what you’re saying, but my situation is rather different :)

MelissaD
MelissaD

First, congratulations on reaching this point. It is liberating. It creates what I call the edited history portion of life. Where life before transition becomes edited as to not out yourself. Just as you are starting to edit your history. I spent 6 years in the Navy (age 18-24, started transition at 27) which when I'm together with other vet's, I can't share stories or I'd out myself. It's the other edge to that sword. I often feel cheated of that shared experience. Other times you develop friendships that last for years but can crumble when they discover your history, even though it's none of their business. For some reason they feel lied to for something that happened almost 30 years ago. Enjoy it for now, but there is a 2nd edge to that sword. As for visibility it will probably get worse before it gets better. At least here in the states.