One thing, and one thing only, delayed my transition for many months.
I had come to accept my masculine gender and my body dysphoria. I had let go of a lot of fear and shame. I had told my friends and my parents that I was questioning my gender and considering transition. I changed my name. I changed my gender presentation. I knew, beyond all doubt, that I wanted to transition. I desperately wanted to start hormones and have chest surgery. I knew in my bones I was like the trans guys I had seen and read about. I could imagine two possible futures: growing up to be a man and death.
But one thing was really, really difficult to chew over. It took longer to digest than denial, longer than my fears of being a freak and a monster, longer than my fear of rejection.
It was my fear of selling out.
My commitments to justice and solidarity form the absolute core of my value system. Growing up as a Sephardic Jew and the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I learned that standing for the just treatment of human beings is the single most important thing a person can do. As a young gender-variant person, I developed a strong queer identity. My marginalized positions as a queer and Jewish person became deeply connected for me. I worried that by transitioning, I would somehow betray my principles and my community.
Why? For one, spending years in feminist circles, I had heard a lot of rhetoric that frames transsexual people as traitors. I had heard that people who transition harm the cause of equality by supporting the binary. I had heard that butches who transition are just grabbing at male privilege. I had heard that after the revolution, there will be no need to transition because all our genders will be respected. The message was basically, “It’s okay that you have these urges, just don’t act on them,” dressed up in feminist clothing. (Note: This applies to a subset of feminists, which is small, though sometimes loud.)
There is one thing that is always more important than ideology, though, and that of course is human life. After wrestling for quite awhile, I realized that I have the right to fight for my own survival, to seek my own wellbeing, to live the best life available to me. And so I made a big circle past my principles and right back to them again. Compassion is the reason for justice, and I had to learn to give a little to myself.
I am happy to report I have in no way sold out. Six years after I began questioning my gender and three years since my transition, my commitment to justice is as passionate as ever. I still cultivate a critical consciousness and speak out whenever I am able. I am going to school to learn to help people in better, deeper, and more lasting ways. I remain actively concerned about issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, trans* status, ability, and many more dimensions of diversity. I am a more complete advocate now that I am at peace with myself.
So don’t believe the hype. Surviving isn’t selling out. Our principles emerge in our words and our actions, not in our gender presentations, medical histories or hormones.