A response to a list post from a transwoman whose year of euphoria at being out (as Joan Roughgarden calls it) just ended with a health challenge and the realization she is cut off from family and old connections.
For me, the challenge isn’t figuring out what box I fit into, man or woman, but rather how to live my life with authenticity.
For years I hated that the only way out seemed to be to lie. I could either pretend to be the man that people assumed was connected with my male body and lie about who I knew myself to be, or I could be the woman that I understood myself to be and be called a liar by the people who claimed that woman meant female bodied.
It was understanding the traditions of other cultures where spirit was valued over flesh, and those who crossed lines were seen as gifted, walking between worlds, shamans, that helped me understand.
It is almost impossible to be a woman if you have never been a girl. And being a girl always means being one of the girls, with a community of other girls, the social pressures that a girl is exposed to, and the expectations from men and women. The experience of girlhood is the foundation of womanhood, and anything built without a solid foundation will always be shifting and fragile.
For me, getting past the years of performing as a man meant immersion in the world of women. Chick flicks, Oprah, women’s spaces on-line, all that and more. I had to get naked again, washing away the assumptions that attempting manhood had taught me, and letting some other way permeate my performance of self.
That takes many years, at least in my experience. And it is hard. I know many transwomen who wear their modified skin as armor, staying defended, and not assimilating. That seems to mean they push off womanhood. You know the final tranny surgery? It’s when you pull the stick out of your own ass and let yourself start to flow.
I’m happy that other women now hear me as speaking “woman.” Now, they may well know that I am an immigrant to woman, learning the language later in life, and not a native speaker, but as long as I am fluent in the cultures, conventions and assumptions, we can get past most things.
My status as an immigrant is important to me, too. It means I can speak for change, to help younger transpeople, yes, but it also means I have the power of crossing worlds, a power valued in so many cultures in human history.
It’s easy for me to feel the sadness for how much of my life and energy was wasted dealing with stigma, keeping my light under a bushel, but I also know that in the long run, the only choices I have left are in my present and my future, and that’s where I have to spend the rest of my life.
I hope that your health challenges are just a small bump in the road of your life.
May you find your own authenticity beyond one box or another, finding your own expression and shining in the world.
In the end, that is what everyone on any spiritual journey is called to do.
– – – – – – – –
When you first come out as a transgendered person,
you spend your first year in absolute euphoria.
Then reality sets in, and you have to make a life and deal with the stigma.
Joan Roughgarden, NY Times Magazine, 9 May 2004