TBB and I agree that not everyone in the interlocking communities around trans are in the same place. We each have different areas of interest, different levels of commitment and different degrees of experience.
That’s one reason why I don’t like to blithely say “the trans community,” as if there is only one. We have people who love drag, people who can only get out one weekend a month, people who are struggling with addiction issues, people who haven’t come out yet, and on and on, and while there is overlap between us — interlocks — we aren’t just one group.
TBB was very, very happy to identify as a crossdresser. She even gave speeches explaining why crossdressers are worthy of respect and dignity. Now, many years after transition to full time life, she still feels that protective instinct.
I never, ever identified as a crossdresser. I rejected the classic Virginia Prince model — “Now I’m Biff! Now I’m Suzee!” — from the start, which meant that when The Prince and I met, there was always a bit of a battle, but for The Prince, battling was key to identity. My first stab at identity was to be a guy in a dress, and I used my own masculine given name only, and let my male body show. My goal was some kind of centring, some kind of balance, a kind of androgyny, not some kind of flip-flop switching back and forth. Personally, I always found the SSS CD model kind of creepy, with the idea that if you told your wife that your trans expression had nothing to do with Eros, even while your eyes lit up, she would believe you.
That said, I always understood the need for people who were born male and living as men to try to compartmentalize their trans expression because they valued their families, their kids, their wife, the career that supported them and so on. Coming out is still hard, and the journey to getting a degree of grace and compose presenting as a woman of transgender experience is still wicked hard. That’s why I came up with the concept of “crossdresser years,” noting that the amount of time people were out was directly related to their growth and maturing. A CD who attended one conference a year, for example, would stay more into fantasy than one who did regular education sessions around their area.
TBB, though, is very sensitive to any possible slight to those people who are not yet far in their journey.
“I understand that I have trouble spending time with first graders anymore,” she told me. “It’s just like any eighth grader. They have moved past that and find the old stuff boring.”
The difference between TBB and I, though, is that I am very interested in what the difference is between first graders and eighth graders.
TBB doesn’t think she has changed much over the years she has been out. To me, that is both true and untrue. It’s true she is who she always was, that her essence hasn’t really changed. It’s also true, though, that her expression has changed as her priorities have changed, and that experience has shaped her current consciousness. She is now more aware and sensitive to the challenges of women and transsexuals than she could have allowed herself to be when she identified as a crossdresser, and deliberately created walls to limit her expression. I see that clearly, but then I am looking at her from outside, not with her own eyes.
You have to swing the pendulum wide to find the centre. For so many people who are just starting exploring the nature they have been shamed into hiding, they put up real barriers to expression so they don’t possibly go to a place that might lead them into an expression they know would be unacceptable to others. That means that there are many places they just can’t let themselves go, many ideas they just cannot engage at the point they need to be at.
To me, that means it’s not just like first graders who don’t have the experience of eighth graders, it’s about people who willfully keep themselves back in order to defend the status quo. That choice to hold onto the conventional may be understandable, but it means that I know they have to silence me to stay in place.
My experience of transpeople, of everyone in the world, actually, is that I connect with the travellers, who know themselves to be on a journey that will change them, and not with tourists, who only leave their home for a bit of a thrill, grabbing a little novelty and excitement and then working to go home unchanged.
I know many transpeople born male who embrace growth and maturing but who never will live full time, who see their expression as part of their journey to a more integrated and actualized self. I also know many transpeople born male who only want to indulge their own Eros and come home unchanged, who see their expression as strongly compartmentalized, not something that affects their core identity. It’s that compartmentalization that I find a bit creepy, because it can easily lead to aberrant and unbalanced behaviour. Let’s face it: I’m a connection gal, in favour of integration and not separation.
To resist growth and transformation and hold onto the status quo by dismissing and compartmentalizing the challenges life hands us means we are always rejecting others who make choices and hold ideas that we choose not to engage at this moment. Whatever group we think we need to link with by defending their own dogma against the challenge of the world, we resist the possibility of personal enlightenment and actualization.
That’s why I think TBB’s idea of going through the grades in school has real limits as a model for trans expression. We aren’t all going through the same curriculum; life has its own lessons for each of us, and we each have our own destinations.
I understand why everyone needs to grow and heal in their own time, in their own way. What they are not ready for, they are not ready for. And that means they can be frustrated with me not holding their view, not really able to believe that I once tried the view they hold now, but found some limits to it and moved on from that view.
It’s people who feel the need to compartmentalize and destroy challenges they don’t want to engage who are difficult for me. They can’t respect and honour the journeys of others which challenge their own status quo, and so need to lash out at them. They resist their own growth and thereby limit the growth of the interlocking communities around transgender.
Everyone needs to start somewhere, no doubt. And we each proceed on our own path and at our own pace. That’s both frustrating and true.
It’s just people who resist growth by dismissing challenge so they can keep their own compartmentalization who get me a bit crazy.
No matter what grade they are in.