The problem with living a trans life is living a trans life.
It’s not about being trans or not trans, not about who you love, not about how you present and what you wear, not about some kind of moral or demands, not about big, high-falutin’ things.
Every human life is just a sequence of choices where we do the best we can in any moment. It’s that simple and that complicated.
TV producer Don Ellis had to make an announcement when they started to live as Dawn Ellis, and because they were in the media, it was a Big Fucking Deal. And when Dawn Ellis decided to live as Don Ellis again, well that had to be another BFD. Ellis blamed “transient global amnesia” for their behaviour.
I saw Mx. Justin Vivian Bond perform yesterday at Out In The Woods. V performed a number of songs, including The Golden Age Of Hustlers by Bambi Lake. It’s a sing about the intersection of lives, an observation about a group of people at a certain place and time, making a series of choices that were the best choices they can make at the time.
Bond is fascinating to me, the energy that sweeps through Kate Bornstein’s first play “Hidden A Gender” though Kiki and Herb to a relatively recent coming out as transgender. Today, when I see them, I see both the claiming demands of a newly out transperson in pieces like their blistering, scathing assault on a basically positive New York Times review that didn’t honour V’s new assertions of self — Have I Been “Hate Crime”-ed By The New York Times? — and the wisdom of a fabulously eccentric and brilliant transperson who has let go of the fictional fantastic life of Miss Kiki DuRane and is now living the real fantastic life of Mx Justin Vivian Bond.
There is more there, too, of course, because Mx Justin Vivian Bond is neither any one bit of their history or the claims & assertions they cast in front of them like an icebreaker to make room for transformation in a world where being trans is still a BFD. They aren’t a symbol or an icon or anything that grand.
They are a person making the best choices they can to live a life that includes trans in this world. And, luckily for us, their life is not over yet, so they get to make many more choices, and some of them, will involve JV sharing some energy with us, and that will again be a joyous and ecstatic treat, even as, behind those moments, life goes on, for us, for JV.
Every damn choice that a person who knows they are trans makes is a tiny bit of a long and complicated trans life. The choice of who to date or who to stop dating, the choice of where to work or when to leave, the choice to share their life with someone or have a child, or even just do something that make create a child, these choices are really, really, really just parts of a trans life.
So why are some choices just taken for granted and some choices a Big Fucking Deal? Why are some choices just passed over and others so tough that they demand a huge palaver, an enormous weight to lift, a massive exertion of force that breaks everything? And when we make a choice that seems to go against whatever BFD choice we made, well, that’s another BFD, not just for us but for every other transperson who also needs to make a BFD choice, or who has made a BFD choice.
Face it: living as visibly trans in this world is hard. Heck, even living invisibly trans in this world is hard, no matter if you are living in a claimed gender or an assigned one.
And living as trans is hard because being trans is still seen as a BFD in this world.
You are or you aren’t, say some, as if your choices today prove if you are a true tranny or not. The political issues, where binaries are enforced even by LGBT groups — you are or you aren’t, no messy bisexuality here that might make people question the BFD statements in my life — are just choking for someone who just wants to figure out how to live a good life.
We make genital reconstruction surgery (GRS) a BFD, protected by hurdles and barriers. The reason we do that is to make sure that people who choose GRS really understand the choice they are making, that they don’t think it’s just something casual to try.
The problem with this approach is that too many people then think that if GRS is such a BFD, it must be magical, potent. Get that and everything changes. Life snaps into order, and being trans will be less of a BFD.
That’s not true, of course. The only thing GRS changes is your body. That may well give you standing and focus to change your life, but any life change comes because you create it, not magically from surgery.
TBB is clear: the best part about her surgery is that people finally stopped trying to tell her to make more normative choices, stopped demanding she sit down, shut up and wear something appropriate to her crotch.
There is such a huge damn cost to just exploring who we are that finding balance in a trans life is almost well-neigh impossible, because too many choices are such a BFD.
I was recently talking about transwomen who knew they weren’t men, so they assumed they must be women, but after they rushed to claim surgery and self, they found that role didn’t fit, either. Then they had to come back to find queer space, even taking exogenous testosterone to male up again, at least a little bit.
The solution to not having marriages where one partner comes out as trans and makes a nasty explosion is to encourage people to explore and own their own nature before they take a marriage vow. The only other solution is to demand that people never grow and be authentic after they made the choice to marry, and not only is that never going to work, it’s just bad for people, for families and for the world to constrain people in constricting gender roles that don’t fit.
Every transperson is different and unique, with their own needs, desires and situations. They make the best choices they can to serve all the different components and demands of their life. That’s all they can do.
The choices of a trans life are the choices of a trans life. Every damn one of them, no matter how small, no matter how reactionary, no matter how claiming, no matter how sad, no matter how joyous, no matter how conventional, no matter how politically correct, no matter how queer.
And they need to be honoured as the best choices we can make in the moment.
But when they become a BFD, some kind of political test that is seen as either affirming or denying the worldview of others, then they become choke points.
And who the hell needs to be choked?
You can argue that every choice we humans make is a BFD, that we should be more conscious, more considered in all our choices. I certainly agree with that argument.
When only queer choices are a BFD in the eyes of the world, though, then we back people into corners when they make such a choice. No wonder then we need such claiming to get in or out of that space, be that claiming new pronouns or “transient global amnesia.”
The problem with living a trans life is living a trans life. It’s just hard to find a balance.
But when some choices are a BFD, well then it’s well-neigh impossible.