Trans ≠ Transition

In the comments recently, Jamie Ray of A Boy and Her Dog wrote:

We have to get out of this idea that trans=a particular style of transition.

There is no point at which we become transgender – it isn’t because you have changed your name, or taken hormones, or had surgery, or legally changed your gender markers. You were transgender before you started your transition, you’d still be transgender if you never transitioned. If you feel that you are not authentically the “sex you were assigned at birth” then you are trans.

I love this apt reframing of what it is to be trans. Jamie Ray’s words are a powerful case for solidarity and respect among diverse transgender people. They are also an antidote to the some of that crippling shame we so often feel as we attempt to be our whole selves.

I talk about my transition in the language of choice, and I have made choices. Yet that’s really beside the point, isn’t it? Whatever gender my ID says, whatever clothes I wear, whatever medical treatments I have–I’m trans, and I always will be.

My transition has gotten to a point now where the steps I desperately wanted are behind me. But loose ends remain. I’m moving step by step towards getting a hysterectomy, at the suggestion of my doctor and pleading of my mother, because of the unknown risks of living with male hormones and female internal reproductive organs. I’m less than thrilled about the prospect.

I recently found myself thinking, If only it weren’t my choice, I could accept it. Somehow I feel I got myself here, I am to blame, and now I have to make this difficult decision. I don’t even want the stupid organs–I just don’t want to be responsible for choosing to remove them.

It isn’t my choice, though, not really. I am choosing to take care of my health. That’s a choice I can feel good about. But all the other stuff, the stuff I sometimes feel really bad about, is no choice and is not affected by choices. I didn’t choose to be a guy who was born with ovaries. I didn’t choose to not produce enough testosterone. I didn’t choose to be a member of a group whose health the system blatantly ignores.

I am trans. I was before I started transition, and I will be til the day I die. No choice I can make will ever change or “fix” that. And by the same token, no choice of mine caused it, nor could have ever caused it.

In other words, I didn’t choose the situation. Observing the situation, my course of action is a simple thing. We make our choices within limits entirely outside of our control. One more reason to respect each person’s unique journey. And a reason, too, to give ourselves our full permission to do what we have to do. We’re doing our best with what we’ve got. What we’ve got is what we’ve got, and nothing more–not a reflection on us.

Sometimes the personal is political. Sometimes the personal isn’t even personal.

Love your neighbor as yourself; love yourself as your neighbor.

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2 comments

  1. annamagda4christ

    I love this and totally agree. I find myself extremely anxious about the choice I have to make with regard to transitioning, especially regarding SRS. “If only it weren’t my choice, I could accept it.” This really resonates with me. But given the extreme situation in which transgender people find ourselves, and the general sincerity with which we try to make the best of a limiting situation, it would be nice for the world to give us a little more credit.

    • rimonim

      Thanks! We definitely deserve more credit than we get. It is such a bizarre conundrum–to have to make a profound choice that isn’t really a choice. The only real choice, I suppose, is whether to hide from the truth or face it with open eyes.

      I’m not sure if the reproductive organs aspect is as challenging as you as it is for me, but I recently found a bit of relief on that front. I was reflecting on the fact that in the Jewish tradition, men are obliged to (try to) have at least 2 children. Women, however, do not have a religious obligation to bear children. Of course it is highly encouraged, but given the burden and risk involved, it’s consider cruel to require it. The underlying logic is that in some cases, procreation poses such a great burden, the general requirement doesn’t apply. If there’s ever an obvious case of that, we would be it! This line of thinking brought me some peace about the whole thing.

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