What it Means to be Trans? Oh gee, this questions has been in my head for the past few weeks, and the other night I tried to come up with an answer after I told someone that I wasn’t trans enough. When I said that I wanted to understand how or why I came up with such a quick comment.
Coincidentally a couple of weeks ago I also saw a video titled “What Being Trans is Really Like”. Though I respect and acknowledge her perspective, I did not identify with lots of what this girl had experienced. After watching her video and feeling somewhat detached I started writing my own “What Being Trans is Really Really Like” blog post. I wanted to write something that would apply to every trans person. As I started, after just a couple of paragraphs I stopped because I figured I could not write something that could possibly apply to everyone.
Clearing out so Many Thoughts
After thinking deep and hard about my particular situation on how I identify, how I present, my sexual preferences, how I’ve changed my dominant sex hormones, my body, the outfits I wear, my interests, etc. I can confidently say that every trans person has their own definition of what it means to be trans.
When I first tried to answer “what it means to be trans” my immediate thoughts were a convolution of conflicting and contradicting emotions, like happiness and dismay at the same time, which is pretty much what it means to be alive.
… Ok, I got it… I’m going to put my engineer (hard) hat on and will give you a factual and accurate definition of what it means to be trans. But I have to give you my very personal answer, which chances are, it may not apply to anyone else. Stripping out any emotional words and removing the time and circumstantial elements, I came up with:
For me, today, to be trans means that my gender expression and presentation do not match my assigned sex at birth.
If you had asked me what it means to be trans a few years ago I would have answered “I don’t know, I’m not trans”. Awkward side story, but thanks to how I’ve always felt about myself, it took me months after being full time to comfortably use the label “trans” or “transgender” or “transition” when referring to myself. This is the main reason why the other night, without much thought, I told someone I’m wasn’t trans enough. How could I be trans enough if I struggled applying that label to myself?
Above I said that my first thoughts when trying to answer the question were conflicting emotions. I can also think of a larger contradiction. To me it means a great deal and at the same time it really doesn’t mean anything.
It Means a Great Deal
This one is easy to explain. If my gender expression and presentation don’t match my assigned sex at birth it means I changed them. It is a great deal to do that. It’s been a long process involving most aspects of my life. It also means a great deal to people around me because by proxy I dragged them into my process even when in most cases they didn’t see it coming.
It’s my life I’m talking about here, so to me this means a great deal. How I do it and what I do defines myself and has had life changing implications.
It means a great deal because I had to really get out of my comfort zone or from the safety of my old norm to do what wanted to do. It also means a great deal because all my life I had the question in my head of “what would it be like” and I would answer it.
Anyone that didn’t know me a few years ago takes me and treats me as a cis girl. This means a great deal because at first I was not used it, and to this day I often find it surprising. It also shows me that all that I have done with my gender expression is working as I wanted it to work, and that also means a great deal.
It means a big deal because I was able to conquer all my doubts and fears. For others around me it also means a great deal because they also had their doubts and fears. I believe they feared this was not the right thing for me. I’m pretty sure they were very concerned for me and my safety. I also get the sense that for people close to me like my family or my friends it was a great deal because of possible insecurities about how they would be judged by other people for being associated with a trans person.
It takes so much energy to make the change and that means a great deal. Every step of the way is new and though I thought about it all my life there was no roadmap and no more preparation than trying to learn from those that had gone before me. That means a pretty great deal.
I believe that since I started my process as a middle age person it meant it was a great deal to unlearn behaviour reinforced by so many decades of my life. It’s not that it was painful, but gee, it was and has been and will still be lots of work on my part. This has meant a great deal of learning helping me grow into a more empathic and overall rounder person.
It has been the best decision I’ve made for for myself regardless of the ups and downs. It means a great deal because I’m happy with myself and with what people perceive of me.
But It Also Really Doesn’t Mean Anything
I know this statement sounds like an exaggeration, but I can think of a few ways why it really doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s because even with all the changes at the core I’m the same. Just like everyone else, I have changed and evolved through life, but in the end I’m the same person.
It doesn’t mean anything because if I hadn’t done it I would have stayed the same way I was before my decision, I would have kept wondering “what if” all my life and no one would have known.
It doesn’t mean anything because life continues. It goes on for me and for others around me. It really doesn’t mean anything since people that don’t know my background have no idea of what it was. For those that love me… well, they still love me and I’m sure that in the bottom of their hearts it really doesn’t mean anything to them either.
It really doesn’t mean anything seeing that I live a normal life. After the first 2 or 3 years in HRT life started settled into the new or current form. Like everyone else I try to be the best person I can, I try to by happy, I work to pay the bills, worry how to make ends meet and I have the same life struggles that everyone else has.
A Universal Answer
So what does it mean to be trans? It means to be human. Just like you and I and your neighbours, my neighbours, our parents, our friends, like all the people out on the street, on TV or the internet, everyone before us and everyone else to come.
When I was preparing to come out to my family and friends I came across a document at The Trevor Project that shows “the spectrum” divided into 5 different dimensions. It helped me tremendously because it allowed me to untangle my own situation and explain it to others.