Being transgender prompted me to undergo a lengthy period of deep introspection. It forced me to question things which the general population perhaps doesn’t give a second thought to, ever. It also gave me a lens to reexamine other aspects of my life with a broader perspective. Thus, here I present the lessons I’ve learned by virtue of being trans, that aren’t really about being trans at all.
Gender is f’ing everywhere!
Fetuses are imparted a “gender” based on microscopic hints of genitals as seen through an expensive x-ray printout. Our involuntary gender journey thus begins, plaguing us with pink and blue stickers, gendered names and spaces and play places. This dichotomous fanaticism extends well into adulthood. From the facial moisturizer for men (boosting your burliness) to granola bars for women (which surely elevate estrogen levels), the battle of the sexes plays out even in the most inane scenarios. Everyone could benefit from a little lesson in gender.
Reading and Writing help me cope
When I first started this blog, I posted at least a few times a week. Furiously typing, my fingers tried to keep up with my thoughts as they rambled on and on in a subconscious stream of confusion. As my mind tried to sort through my feelings, and vice-versa, this black-and-white world I knew as gender was starting to unravel, each small step leading me to a thousand diverging crossroads. It took many late nights to figure everything out, a lot of which was achieved through writing, and even more through reading what other people had written before me.
I don’t write as much anymore, mostly because I don’t feel the need to expel and organize. I still read a lot because it’s a semi-productive way to procrastinate. I still share a lot of information – through new posts or emails or talks – because I do feel the need to keep this going, to catch others before they fall, to pave the road and make their ride a little less bumpy.
I still don’t know who I want to be when I grow up
I don’t know what my gender will look like, or what I want my gender to look like. I don’t know when I will tire of blogging, of talking about gender, of answering emails and giving talks and reblogging links. I don’t know if I want to become a public speaker, a relentless advocate, or a quiet defender. I don’t know what my day job is going to be in 20 years, what haircut I’ll get next time, or even what I’m doing this weekend.
But I know that it’s ok to not know yet. That it’s ok to know now, then change your mind later on. That it’s ok to never know.
I never thought I’d say the words penis, vagina, and sex so much
As an asexual and slightly prudish person, I used to blush at the mere thought of these words. I never would’ve imagined casually throwing them into a microphone in front of hundreds of people. Tricks of the trade?
Men have boobs. Or moobs.
Or whatever you want to call those lumps of fatty tissue with a nipple. I have spent far too much time looking – or rather, staring, as is my tendency – at men’s chests. Probably more than my fair share. Probably more than anyone’s fair share. Through all my gawking, I have come to the irrefutable conclusion that many men have at least some semblance of boobs. Here lies an untapped market for the bra industry. Nipples are a whole other story…
Everybody struggles with finding clothes
I used to enter a store and longingly look across the aisle. “I’d totally buy ALL THE CLOTHES, if that were my side of the aisle.” Now, I usually say “I’d totally buy ALL THE CLOTHES, if they would ever fit me.” Same problem, different color?
When I bemoan the fact that “nothing fits” usually every single one of my friends chimes in with the same complaint. Clothes come in cookie cutter shapes, but bodies do not.
Zippers and Buttons are reversed for men’s and women’s clothes
It’s true! More or less, with historical reasons in contention. But for the most part, it’s true: gender is in our buttons.
Doctors can be stupid too.
Though doctors are often bestowed special status as demi-gods, I’m not one to place undue respect or admiration on someone. From the burgeoning antagonization of my pediatrician as a toddler, to a series of misdiagnosis as a young adult, my growing disappointment led to a natural distrust that these “professionals” knew what they were doing. Yet I still held out hope that doctors would be a little more knowledgable than my googling skills regarding the human body and all of its magnificent variations.
You just gotta find the ones that care about you, or care enough to learn.
After meticulous research spawning revolutionary sets of questions, some doctors left me empty-handed. Only a select few reached into the invisible depths of their Mary Poppins bag to provide a magical solution. I guess doctors are people too, and while some people are completely ignorant, others are fantastically awesome, and caring. The same goes for therapists, lawyers, teachers, policy-makers, pretty much anyone in any position to be of service.
Transgender medicine, law, policy, education, is all new territory, as much for us as for them. It’s going to take a little while for collective knowledge to catch up with the reality of our desires and needs. In the meantime, we have to remain patient as we teach each other, and in turn find those willing to learn.
Nobody knows the truth about your body
Lab results are just numbers, intended to provide a baseline metric for evaluating your body’s state. However, you are the ultimate authority on how you feel about it.
Moreover, there is plenty of unexplored territory in the scientific advancement of gender and trans medicine.
People will surprise you
Someone who has never wavered in their love for you soon becomes cold and withdrawn, unable to “accept” your choices. Someone who you considered closed-minded and conservative has no problem embracing this “whole new gender business.” And just when I thought I had it all figured out…
People can be really shitty
Right-wing hate. Ignorant hate. Cross-community hate. Intra-community hate. It just hurts. I shake my head, and reluctantly resign myself to the fact some haters are gonna hate, and some people are just going to find negative things to say no matter what.
People can be really amazing
There are plenty of other people out there helping out. People who organize conferences or give workshops at conferences or volunteer at conferences or go to conferences. People who run blogs and relentlessly answer questions. People who put themselves out there in the media, exposing their private-most lives at the risk of public shame. People who show up at their local support group, because just being there is being supportive. People who comfort you as you nonsensically babble at the brink of an epiphany. People who leave a comment to show the shy lurkers that there are more of us out there making a life for ourselves. People who read, listen, and support you to be who you are today, for no other reason than because they care. People like me, people like you.
Everything is a spectrum.
Gender. Sexuality. Transitioning. Hormone therapy. The color red. Shoe sizes. Actual feet sizes. My craving for chocolate. Knowledge. The universe? How much of a failure I feel like today. How much I love someone. Sometimes it’s better to not set a limit.
How to deal with the world
The world sucks a lot sometimes. Whether I’m bemoaning the fact that my hips are wide when they shouldn’t be, or that my hair is curling up instead of down; whether I’m frustrated with a stupidly unnecessary costly legal process for changing my gender, or stupidly unnecessary costly legal process for staying in the country; whether I’m fearful of being harassed for being gender ambiguous, or not looking my age, or being short and feeling vulnerable; whether I stress about my next testosterone shot, or my next project deadline; it’s all STRESSFUL.
Some problems have solutions. Some don’t. Some have solutions that are not ideal. Some have solutions that are not within our reach, yet or ever. Some problems have consequences that are worse than others. Some problems aren’t really problems at all.
The world will keep throwing rocks or pebbles or boulders in my way, some of which have been related to gender, most of which I’ve learned to deal and cope with, allowing me to continue to live my life.