Someone is going to try to talk you out of transition. They will probably be someone very close to you, who claims to love you. More than likely, they will not be the only one.
They may be your partner or parent, a relative or close friend. Whoever they are, they will surely come.
This person is going to tell you that you are not really trans. They may tell you that trasngender people are delusional and/or imaginary, or they may compare you to a “really trans” Other, You’re not one of those people. They will marshal whatever demons they can to frighten and paralyze you.
I make no guess as to content of the hearts and minds of these naysayers. Maybe they’re deeply sincere, maybe they’re full of shit. It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that you are ready for them. This is a question of when, not if.
They can come in any form, and they can use any line of reasoning against your transition. Perhaps they will call on your politics, your commitments, your religion. They may insult you, or they may claim to defend you from insults. They may scream, cry, or whisper. They know you, and they will twist what you love against you. They may even come to you as yourself.
This person has no idea what they are talking about. They have never been you. They are probably moderately to profoundly ignorant about transgender issues. They do not know what is best for you. Do not listen to them.
A useful analogy is the attempt to talk a person out of being gay, lesbian or bisexual. It would never work, and it would be completely contrary to the wellbeing of that person. Many LGB people face this. Sadly, many who would never do this to a LGB person will try to do it to you. In my case, for example, out-and-proud lesbian and bisexual women were the fiercest opponents of my transition.
There are some signs by which you can know them. The surer you get about transition, the more dead-set they are against it. They claim to know what is best for you, to know you better than you know yourself. They argue with you, throwing your own memories in your face. Things you’ve said and done, your likes and dislikes, your personal qualities, all become proof and fodder, indications you cannot be trans. They deny that your experiences even exist. They dismiss and demonize other transgender people. The things they say are extremely painful. Your stomach twists and then turns over. There is a dissonant murmur in your bones when they speak. Yet your own mind turns against you. You seriously suspect that they are right.
They may even convince you, for awhile. But hours, weeks, or years later, the truth will come back, over and over. Do not argue with them. This is their game. You cannot win. But you can transition.
Note that this is a different beast from someone merely sharing their reactions to your transition. I am not talking about when someone expresses fear, confusion, shame, guilt, anger or grief–or pride, happiness, love or relief. I am talking about when someone denies your gender identity, questions your judgement, downplays your dysphoria, remarks that many people dislike their body, slanders trans people as a group, imposes a religious or political purity test, scours your life for evidence that you really are your assigned gender, wields whatever leverage they have to try to control you, mocks you, rejects you, implores you, ignores you. They may claim to be just sharing their feelings, of course. It can be subtle or overt, dressed as a sheep or plainly a wolf.
Nothing they say means that you are not trans. On the contrary, that you find yourself here, that someone is telling you these things, is a strong indication that you are trans. If they have to say you’re not, you probably are; if you weren’t, they would never mention it.
Don’t me wrong–it is entirely possible to be confused about your gender and/or trans status. Transition may or may not be right for you. I have no way of knowing. That’s the whole point: only you can know.
If you are trans, then transition–in whatever form that takes for you–is an irreplaceable part of your self-actualization. How can you know? Do not listen to the voices. Do not listen to the voices of the naysayers or the advocates of any variety. Do not listen to the voices in your head, those that berate you or those that long for better futures. Do not listen to my voice.
Listen to the voice that is not a voice. Obey that impulse alone.
Once each week, I spend four hours in a tiny office on campus. All the windows are covered; the door is made of metal and requires a code to open. I sit at a station with a computer and a phone. My job is simple. The phone rings. I answer it.
At the suicide hotline, I have two tools: voice and silence. I have learned when to speak and when to be quiet. I echo emotions, diction, volume, pitch. The technical term is tone-matching; I prefer to think of it as harmony. People call for every reason you could imagine and many you couldn’t.
During my first shift, two years ago now, I dreaded the shrill alarm of the telephone. My hand trembled as I lifted the receiver. Who was on the other side, waiting for me? Now I love the surprise. I welcome the blinking red light, the ring, pleading and insistent. I sit quietly in that strange place. Secret windows on other lives open before me, then vanish. I will never know their names or see their faces. I have only a voice that comes to me riddled with static, beaten by wind, drowned by traffic. Sometimes I hear the croak of a television or the chirps of children playing.
Each call is a dance with a stranger. Sometimes it’s tender, sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to vomit. Sometimes I just sip on weak coffee and share in the sounds of two human beings breathing, not saying a word. Sometimes I struggle to understand somebody. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to someone I’ve known my whole life.
The service I provide is both infinitesimally small and unfathomably large. Sometimes I feel like I helped somebody, sometimes I don’t. I rarely know for certain. I can’t fix desperate poverty, crumbling marriages, or intractable addictions. I can’t cure illnesses or mend hearts. I can’t fix anything.
I can only do one thing, faithfully, over and over. I can listen. I can echo. I can be there, a companion, a witness, for a few minutes of existence. The phone rings. I answer it.
Another doctor refused my offer of literature, saying he didn’t need it because, “I don’t believe God makes mistakes.” “Neither do I,” I replied. He smiled and said, “Good,” as he walked off, but I don’t think he knew to whom he was talking.
— Jamison Green, Becoming A Visible Man
Do transsexuals exist in heaven? Are we unhappy accidents, fractured pieces of a broken world? Are we crooked, unbalanced, subpar? Were we born with the wrong hearts, the wrong bodies? Did my soul take a wrong turn on its way to the world? Am I a mistake?
I don’t think so. I refuse to believe there is anything wrong with me. Maybe there is something very right about me, something incredibly sane. Unhappy accident? Try unhappy culture.
I am a mystery, a paradox. I am a testament. I am a manifestation of consciousness, absolute proof of the reality of subjective experience, my essence persisting through guises of form. I am opposites; I am one. Like the full bloom of a very rare flower, incalculably valuable in a domain beyond all rational sense. I exist.
I don’t believe God makes mistakes. We are far too curious to be meaningless. We mean something about the interdependence of male and female. We mean something about the human heart.
Nothing can extinguish us. We are born over and over. We are born in the right body every time.
You will find me in paradise. I will be as I am. Same soul, same body. We will both have new eyes.
There will be transsexuals after the revolution.
I couldn’t find myself in history. No one like me seemed to have ever existed.
— Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors
There is a special violence in erasure. We have been edited out of everything. History forgets, religion abhors, culture ignores. We are a people with no path. We are a life with no story. We are a future with no past.
We chart a dangerous course, balanced on a tightrope over oblivion. One false move, and it’s not just death that awaits us. It’s invisibility. Buried in the wrong clothing. Jealous hands of relatives reaching, taking, possessing into nonexistence.
I am indebted to those who work to fill this gap. And yet, those who do find themselves in history find mostly convenient illusion.
Maybe there is also power in not finding. Maybe it is life itself that lies at this narrow intersection of void and multitude. Freedom emerges, a fragile vibrational chorus, produced in this tension of opposites.
I lost exactly nothing when I lost my first self. Havel havalim. A face, a name, memories–it all amounts to nothing, for I am more now, not less. Therefore there is addition in subtraction.
Transition is a spiritual discipline. We die many times before we die. Some spend their lives straitjacketed by path, past, story. Not I.
I couldn’t find myself anywhere. First I cried at the injustice. Then I smiled, and I opened this strange gift.