Clara Barnhurst

I’m still not entirely sure why I came out in the moment I did. Hindsight tells me I had a lot of things that needed dealing with and my incorrect gender role was causing me a lot of pain, but there and then, as I said the words, I really don’t know what made me do it. I don’t know what I was thinking; what I thought it would solve. I had no expectation, except that couldn’t keep going as I was.

Whatever the reasons, it became abundantly clear quite quickly that whatever I did think, I was wrong. I was wrong about what kind of woman I would be, I was wrong about what living female was like, and I was very wrong about what challenges I would face with it. Nothing went to plan. Nothing worked out like I thought. Everything worked out despite that.

Twenty-three months later, I find myself staring at my two year genderversary rather nonplussed. There are many problems but life is just what it is. My gender is… uninteresting. I’m doing a lot of growing, physically - HRT takes years and I’ve had 18 months - and socially I’m just sort of in my life doing my thing. I’m enjoying the continuing change, but the serious problems I faced before coming out never really got solved.


I’m still suffering with mental illness. Hormones didn’t make my anxiety and depression go away, it just changed them. Same old stuff, new form. My brain works different, but I think the same stuff. I didn’t ‘get better’, I ‘got different’.

Working towards finalising my divorce is making that problem go away. Moving out of my unsafe house is making that problem go away. Transitioning didn’t have anything to do with that, except perhaps it signaled the start of the divorce and made me less safe in the house I ended up in. I highly doubt the guy that harassed me would have done that had he seen a man there, but I have to admit that’s a supposition based on my experience of how men treat me elsewhere. He might have.

Point is, transitioning didn’t solve my problems. Solving my problems is solving my problems. Transitioning just let me feel better in myself as I confronted those problems. In some ways, transitioning enabled me to face problems that I was unable or unwilling to face before. Hindsight tells me that transitioning freed me from an abusive relationship, but in the moment of coming out I didn’t think of that.

In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising. People rarely wake up one morning and say to themselves, “I can fix this by coming out as transgender and transitioning.” People are driven to those things, but in my work I do occasionally encounter people who say things like, “Hormones will fix everything.” Wrong. Hormones will enable you to fix everything, maybe. If you’re lucky. Hormones will make you more comfortable in your body and feel at home in yourself (hopefully), which should give you a bit more strength and confidence you can use to fix things. It doesn’t always do that, but it generally does.

That said, hormone therapy has had an impact on my mental health. It’s allowed me to feel things fully for the first time in my life, good and bad, and feel like a real person rather than a dissociative wreck watching my body move around like a puppet. It lets me engage with life and begin to like my body. It solved those problems for me. It absolutely makes life better, and without it I would die very quickly. So yeah it solved some problems. But the problems of life? It didn’t solve those.

Socially transitioning is a similar scenario: it didn’t solve problems. It created many insofar as misogyny is a thing and women are harassed and assaulted as part of day to day life. I had to learn a whole set of skills for dealing with people (men) touching, shouting and otherwise invading my space. Something I keep saying about the transfeminine experience is that nobody would sign up for that kind of treatment out of choice but here we are.


Social transition, like hormone therapy, really just let me feel good about moving through the world. I didn’t have a disconnect when folks talked to me, I gained an automaticity with titles: I never did automatically look over when someone said, ‘sir’ or ‘mate’, but I do when folks say, ‘miss’ or ‘darling’. It’s hard to express, but the world interacts with me in a way that I don’t resist. That made working with my feelings and wider issues of life much easier; it’s tricky to solve a core issue when the whole world is creating dissonance in your brain.

We all find our own way forward, but it’s important to understand the basic reality that transitioning helps in some ways, really harms in others, and changes the nature of things more than actually solves anything. It’s a thing we do because we must, not because it fixes. It doesn’t fix. Not automatically. My fiancée described it once quite well, “If your mood is a baseline, and we peak and trough, transitioning makes your mood rest in a better spot.” The troughs are still awful, the peaks are still brilliant. Transitioning makes the resting state better.

I’m looking forward to my proper two year mark and beyond. I’ve got plenty of problems to solve that might actually get solved, but not by transitioning. Transitioning let me solve them without having to play at being something I wasn’t. It removed a layer of complexity I didn’t need and I’m thankful for that. So yeah, let’s see what happens now that the friction coefficient of life is less. No doubt I’ll be writing about it!


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