Life before transition

8 04 2009

This post by Gender Outlaw and the comment by Genderkid made me reflect on the common portrayal of trans people as miserable, near-suicidal individuals who would not survive if they did not have access to physical transition through hormones or surgery. I understand that this might be t he case for some people. I’m sure that in some cases, transition is a life saver.

However, I resent that this has become a generalised statement as though it were applicable to all trans people. I’ve read it time and time again on blogs or on listserves. “We transition because we have no choice. It is that or death.” If they said: “I am transitionning because I have no choice. It is life or death for me,” I would have no problem with it. “I statements” are good things. It is the we that bothers me.

I resent it when other people speak for me with the assumption that my experience and perception is the same as theirs. I resent it when my protests are silenced because my pointing out that I don’t share their experience or perception bothers or scares people. I resent it when my experience is looked at by other trans people as “abnormal” or “fucked up” because it is not aligned with their experience.

There are a variety of paths to transition and no one trans person, or group of trans people, can speak for all of us.  Not everyone experiences or perceives gender dysphoria in the same way. Not all of us are miserable and on the verge of suicide before transition.

I have always felt uncomfortable in my skin. Always. I didn’t know what exactly was wrong with me as a child, teen or young adult. I didn’t have the words to express my feeling of not being a “real” human because I felt like an imposter. However, I did find ways to be happy. It wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t very happy with how I felt, physically, but I didn’t spend most of my life being miserable and depressed. I found other ways to be happy. I had beautiful times with wonderful people. I learned a lot about myself and I grew a lot. I experimented with different ways of living and being.

My path led me to transition not out of necessity or as an alternative to suicide. I got here because the more I learned about it, the more I felt that it was right for me. I knew that I could survive without it. I knew that exploring alternate gender identities was possible for me without physical transition. I knew that, ultimately, I would always consider myself in-between, or beyond, male and female. However, I also knew that male came closer to expressing who I am than female and that living as male would allow me to develop in other ways – in ways that would make me feel more fulfilled and happy. In ways that would build on and complement what I had achieved as female.

Transitioning has changed my life by helping me feel right in my body and by eliminating the overwhelming concerns that I had about it before. Transition has allowed me to deepen the textures and colours of my life by allowing me to focus on things other than my gender. But it hasn’t saved my life because my life was not lost before. To say that my life was lost before would be an insult to everything that Nancy accomplished in spite of the difficulties.  Had I not been able to transition or had I not chosen to, there would have been other ways to build on the past. It might not have been ideal but it would have been possible. I probably would have continued having gender issues all my life. But I don’t think I would have become depressed and suicidal. I really don’t.

I’m sorry if this pisses anyone off. It undoubtedly will. It undoubtedly will lead some to think that my reasons for choosing transition – yes, choosing . . .   in my case) are invalid. I don’t care. I only speak  for myself. I do not seek to create a general narrative about the trans experience based on my own.

I chose this path because it is the one that felt right to me. I’m staying on this path because it still feels right. If others do it out of necessity, then it is great for them that they have access to something that is saving their life. But that, my friends, is not my case and I will not shut up and adhere to a story that is not mine just to avoid being told that I don’t deserve to identify as male or as transsexual.


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21 responses

8 04 2009
genderoutlaw

Huzzah! Beautifully written.

8 04 2009
Jacky V.

Thanks dude! It’s at least partially thanks to you that my thoughts led me down this path. I mean, I’d been thinking all this before but it all came together with those happy childhood pics of you : )

9 04 2009
Shirley Anne

I couldn’t have said it better Jacky. You are quite right, you know who you are, what you are and where you are going….and it is all your choice. If turning left in life is the way for you then that’s what you should do. If turning right, that is also what you should do if it feels right to you. I can understand how, for some transgendered people, transitioning is necessary, you are doing that yourself but having the operation(s) does not necessarily mean a life or death decision for you as it might do for some. Quite frankly I think people who say that they have no choice and their lives depend on the complete change have real psychological problems in their approach aside from dysphoria. I could have stayed as I was, of course I could and I most probably would have made the most of things had it not been possible for me to transition. I am very sure I wouldn’t have topped myself by not being able to transition. That is probably true for most transgendered folk I would think. My life prior to my transition wasn’t all bad at all, in fact it was very good for much of the time and I, like you, achieved quite a lot. I simply wanted to transition and I always did. My circumstances simply allowed it.

Shirley Anne x

9 04 2009
Jacky V.

Thanks for your feedback Shirley Anne. I don’t know how it works for people who feel they have no choice and I’m not willing to assess the validity of their point of view. Unfortunately, some that I know are more than willing to assess the validity of MY point of view and that’s what irks me.

Ultimately, I think we should be fighting for social respect for people who transition, whatever their reason for doing it, as long as they are well informed and know what they are getting into.

9 04 2009
Sui

I totally agree with this. When I first decided to transition and all, I don’t think my views on it were entirely healthy. I looked at it as something I would never be happy with out, something that would solve all my problems and make me boy. Now that I’ve started socially transitioning before medically transitioning I’ve realized that I don’t actually need to medically transition at all, I’m a boy, period, regardless of whether I’ve had surgery or hormones. It’s not perfect, but it’s not unlivable. I’m even more solid in my decision to transition now because I no longer see it as “Omg, I want to be a boy and the only way I can be is if I do this and this this.” I see it as “I am male, and I choose to medically transition because I strongly believe it will make me a happier, healthier, more confident and comfortable person and it is my right as a human being to do so.”

9 04 2009
Jacky V.

Hi Sui;

Thanks for reading and thanks SO MUCH for sharing your views. I find it very interesting that you feel more solid in your decision now that you DON’T see it as a necessity but as something that you are choosing to do to help you feel better. It’s nice to hear!

10 04 2009
missnomered

I’m not trans (well, a wee bit genderqueer, but not trans), but I still like this entry a lot. Generally, one of the things that annoy me most is when people universalize their own experiences, and claim that anyone who falls outside of that is intrinsically messed up.

(By the way, I kind of fell off the face of the blogosphere for a while, but I’m back! Hello again!)

10 04 2009
Jacky V.

Hey Missnomered;

Welcome back. I have seen a couple of your entries on my WordPress blog surfer I think. Thanks for the comment. I agree, it’s never a good idea to universalise and project one’s own experience onto others, especially when it leads to labeling that one as the only legitimate one.

10 04 2009
syrlinus

I chose this path because it is the one that felt right to me.

And you’re not the only one. I do have to agree that life prior to starting my physical transition was, well, just life. It was neither bad nor good but just was. Doing the transition hasn’t changed my life but has changed me in the sense of finally being ok with the parts of me that left me uncomfortable.

I do believe there is a large portion of “us” who are ok with choosing the path because we finally understood what it was and what it presented to us. If a person is unaware of the opportunity then they will know nothing else and can probably exist, albeit with some work, with where they are. Nothing is perfect but when an opportunity is there at least there is a choice to address what needs to be addressed.

10 04 2009
Jacky V.

Thanks for your comment Syrlinus. You’re right, if the choice just isn’t there, the person usually goes on living somehow. I found that for me, just acknowledging who I was improved my life dramatically. Having the words to express what I hadn’t been able to express before . . . *that* was what truly changed my life. You’re also right about nothing being perfect. Being of the “right” gender or sex after transition doesn’t fix everything either.

11 04 2009
My trans identity in a historical context « genderkid

[...] This post by Tboy Jacky somewhat relates to the topic, in my opinion: he writes beautifully about how transition isn’t an absolutely necessity to some people, but the best path among the many available. Thanks for describing this so eloquently, Jacky! [...]

12 04 2009
Vanessa

Well said – it is an individual choice for each of us.

12 04 2009
Jacky V.

Thanks Vanessa! Welcome to the blog!

19 04 2009
gnatalby

However, I did find ways to be happy. It wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t very happy with how I felt, physically, but I didn’t spend most of my life being miserable and depressed. I found other ways to be happy. I had beautiful times with wonderful people. I learned a lot about myself and I grew a lot. I experimented with different ways of living and being.

I followed a link here from Womanist Musings. I started out writing a longer response, but it was coming off a little me me me for my tastes. So suffice it to say that I think this bit is really important. Just because you can live with something doesn’t mean you have to, and it doesn’t trivialize people who are in a more desperate situation.

It took me a long time to realize that it’s okay to make things easier, that there’s no real virtue in doing everything the hard way just to honor people who have it worse.

19 04 2009
Jacky V.

Hey there gnatalby;

Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Your comment gets at a couple of very crucial things that underly my post. Yes, realising that it’s OK to make a certain choice can be quite the process. And once we see something, it’s hard to remember why we didn’t see it before. But I think that’s a part of it too – real knowledge is earned through experience and reflexion, not just handed over on a platter.

Thanks again for commenting!

24 04 2009
barok.eszter

“I would always consider myself in-between, or beyond, male and female. ”

A wonderful sentence and a great entry.

4 05 2009
Jacky V.

Thanks!

4 06 2009
BT

This is an awesome entry, and it also made us think.

Rogan’s been having gender trouble, and probably some social deconstructing would be handy. One of the commenters above mentioned how he felt medical transitioning was the only way to be a boy. Do you think there are ways to socially transition while still maintaining flexibility?

–Us

6 06 2009
Jacky V.

Hi guys;

Nice to hear from you. I’ve been meaning to check out your LJ page to see what you’ve been up to.

There are certainly ways to social transition and maintain flexibility. In terms of your self-concept, it’s definitely doable and all it requires is your own thinking and figuring out who you want to be and how you want to express it. Above all, giving yourself permission to find that out for your self, not necessarily based on societal standards. You already have experience with that on other fronts : )

Where it gets tricky is getting people around you to see you for who you say you are. In some circles, it’s easier than in others. Regardless of how we express ourselves, people around us feel more comfortable keeping us in a box. So no matter how you express who you are and how you identify, and how much fluidity you want to have access to, people around you won’t necessarily follow you. Again, it’s up to you to determine how important that is to you. How much energy is available to you to spend on social acceptance or on fighting against potential harassment and discrimination?

We all make decisions on this every day. In an ideal world, for example, I wish I could go to the beach without having to worry how people will react to the fact that I have a beard AND breasts. Last summer, I wore trunks and a bikini top. But I didn’t like the energy that I had to spend on making sure my son didn’t hear the comments of the other kids, etc. So this summer, I just want to be unobstrusive and will wear a surf shirt because I don’t feel like spending my energy during my supposed fun time having to keep my shield up against the angry and uncomfortable gazes.

2 06 2010
Faggot Boi

So happy to stumble upon this post! I’ve been blogging lately about getting over my feeling that I was morally obliged to cling to femaleness until I found it absolutely intolerable to live there. Happy to find similar thoughts here!

30 12 2010
Jacky V.

Hey Faggot Boi! I’m so sorry, I only saw this response now in the midst of some re-org of my blog. Weird. Thanks for reading and commenting! Your name doesn’t link to your blog but I’d love to check it out, if you’re ok with that.

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