On Community & Adolescence

Ms Combs

Thank you for your reporting on transgender challenges in Minnesota as seen by people who are on the ground, facing those challenges and helping others with them.

I had a couple of thoughts, which I write here so I can keep them.

First, the premise you start with — that some how there is a trans community — limits the view.

People do not emerge as transgender, needing to reveal their heart rather than the gender expression they were assigned, because they want to join a community. Lesbian and gay people may need other lesbian and gay people to explore and engage their sexuality, coming together in mating rituals and forming some kind of community, but transpeople don’t have that same drive.

The trans journey is very individual, very personal. It is not a drive to join a group identity, it is a push to claim a very personal expression of individuality. This makes it very hard to find the shared values beyond a kind of activism that really support and grow community structures. There are many interlocking communities around transgender, and transgender people exist in every human community, even if their trans nature is invisible there.

Second, all transpeople are, to some degree or other, trans youth.

Even the transperson who emerges from a lifetime of living in the gender role they were assigned has to relearn all the things that adolescents have to learn in this world because they were denied the experience of adolescence in a gender role that reflects their heart. You may be 50 and divorced as a man, but when you emerge as a woman, you are, on some level, still 12.

There are few models for what being a grown up transperson looks like in our culture, and even in there were, the path to getting there after emerging from the dark closet of denial would never be simple or standard.

Transgender activists are most often those who are still coming out, who still are struggling with identity, because transpeople who emerged some time ago have learned to keep their head down. Mature trans stories are complicated and nuanced, not simple and easily understandable. Even Janet Mock says that while most writing in this culture is at a seventh grade level, trans issues have to be discussed at a third grade level.

Thank you again for your reporting. I hope you get a chance to come back to trans issues again in the future, maybe to find some long emerged transpeople and share their experiences.