Grown Up Transpeople

“I would never make that choice for myself, but it looks great on you!”

To me, that line is the test for grown up transpeople.   That simple.

When we first come out as trans, we aren’t at all sure who we are.

We just know who we aren’t.    Or at least, we think we know that.

We know we aren’t just the man we pretend to be.  We know we aren’t the girl our family saw us as.

And as we progress through our explorations, we find more things we aren’t.

We aren’t a drag queen, aren’t a crossdresser, aren’t a patriarchal man, aren’t normative, aren’t genderqueer, aren’t a transsexual, aren’t a hermit.

This is, of course, the path through so much of adolescence.

You can no more look at your own soul than you can look at the back of your head.    To map your heart, you have to do it indirectly, testing it to see what fits.  We try on attitudes and looks and personalities, and then we discard them again, keeping only the few bits that fit.

That process has limits, as any transperson can tell you.  Anything we are constrained from trying on is something that we don’t get to explore.  Gender lines, family pressures, cultural expectations, church teachings and more all limit the amount we can test, all limit the amount we can try on.

Coming out as trans has always meant playing with expressions that have been proscribed to us in the past.  It means moving past convention to explore more.

And that process has limits and flaws, too.  No pendulum can find its natural centre unless you swing it wide.  When we make a list of things we don’t want to be, when we avoid testing areas because we fear them, we boldly define ourselves as who we are not.

The problem is that without testing, we don’t know who we are not.  We only know who we are not because we won’t let ourselves explore those possibilities.  We reject some modes because we don’t like the idea of them.

What does this mean to our relationships?  What does this mean to relationships in the trans-communities?

It means we can easily reject others because they make choices we would never, ever make for ourselves.   If they are bad choices for us, choices we reject, then how can they be good choices for others?

When I hear a transperson say “I would never make that choice for myself, but it looks great on you!” I know something about them.

I know that they are at least beginning to be comfortable in who they are.   They are centred in their own choices, comfortable in their own skin.   They can respect the choices of others, not just reject them.

“I would never choose to be a drag queen, but it looks great on you!”

“I would never choose to be genderqueer but it looks great on you!”

“I would never choose to be a businesswoman, but it looks great on you!”

“I would never choose to be a straight man, but it looks great on you!”

When we come to peace with who we are, rather than just being sure who we are not, we can embrace choices others make that we would never make for ourselves.   To me, that is the foundation of true community, not just supporting others who we see as mirroring us, but supporting others who we know have faced the same struggles and come to their own strengths.

There are transpeople who make me uncomfortable.    I can’t define those people by category, though, because I know people from every category that I love.

The transpeople who squick me are the ones who aren’t yet grown up.  They are the ones who only know who they aren’t, and who feel the need to belittle or surface others who make choices they don’t understand, don’t like or don’t support.

Genderqueers are cool, as long as they can see the beauty in those who choose to assimilate, and those striving to fit in are amazing as long as they can get the striking beauty of being genderqueer.

Crossdressers are great as long as they can honor transsexuals who live as women and not men in dresses, and transsexuals are wonderful as long as they can value the fun in gender play and exploration.

Drags are lovely, as only as they can respect those living trans lives, and those living trans lives are lovely as long as they can respect the energy and art of performance.

I’m sure that the list can go on.

These ideas play out in many ways.

I have seen lots of spaces on the internet where people want to shout down others, to show where others are wrong.  To me, the grown up behaviour is to instead speak for what you know to be right, to offer your own knowledge in a way that is compelling and healthy.

I recently met a transsexual woman who didn’t want to go to a party because crossdressers in mini-skirts and heels would be there.  She wanted me to know that she never wore min-skirts and heels, never went through that stage and was proud of that.  I remembered all the times I had been invited to those events and went, but making a choice to wear my own version of elegant attire.  Evening trousers and a beaded jacket?  Why not?  It is when I came to understand my job was not to reject the choices of others but rather to make choices that were my own that I could stand with my own grace and strength.

The secret is, though, that until you are making your own choices with maturity and self-knowledge, it’s hard to make anything look great on you.  It is an understanding of and comfort with yourself that helps others see you as great.

“I would never make that choice for myself, but it looks great on you!”

To me, that’s the mark of grown up transpeople.  When you know who you are, and not just who you are not, when you know your own truth and not just what is lies, when you know what you love and not just what you fear, you are safe and empowering.

“I would never make that choice for myself, but it looks great on you!”