All my life, the basic advice about transgender expression has been the same: If there is any way you can swallow, suppress, deny or can the desire, whatever the price, that is always the best choice.
The advice was simple: Just say no to transgender. Just say no.
That advice acknowledges the cost of being visible and trans in the world, the costs around falling out of the system of desire, of credibility in the workplace, of the stigma and stress of being seen as queer. It acknowledges that we can’t simply slip between sex/gender roles, that history and biology do count for something, and we can get stuck in no-man’s/no-woman’s land, stuck in the battle zone of gender enforcement.
It does not, however, take into account any costs in denial, compartmentalization, disintegration, anger, stress, touchiness, fear and so on that come with the attempt to conceal or kill off the nature of your heart.
Those costs were by definition hidden deep within you and not on the surface, so they were easy to mark as invisible and therefore irrelevant. Just saying no to transgender was supposed to be easy, simple and cheap, at least for those who advised it.
When I started to emerge, oh so long ago now, my goal was to become more androgynous and integrated, bringing my feminine energy into balance in my life. The plan was to be more gender playful but to remain man-identified, because I knew that between my big body and my desire towards women, I was never going to easily pass as someone born female.
Through the decades I realized that my nature was much more feminine than masculine and that passing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. My internal identification and understanding shifted, even as my expression often stayed in what I saw was an androgynous zone. Recently, the importance of showing myself in the world has become more clear and that is my current challenge.
The notion that unless transgender ripped its way out of you, like an alien emerging from your chest in a movie, you should just grin and bear whatever was inside of you in any way that you can may have left the world unchallenged & comfortable, but it also left many transpeople broken and suffering.
We learned to live our lives with lowered expectations, having our own power and agency disabled and leaving some of the best and most potent parts of us mouldering in the swamp of denial. Our energy went to policing, modulating and suppressing our own nature rather than to allowing our strengths to blossom in the world. Instead of having the chance to find balance and grace, honing who we are in a healthy way, we had to hold onto sickness and fear that would serve us in staying small and hidden.
It seemed to be the proper and kind thing to do to ask us to keep our own perversion and sickness hidden, making “normal” choices that kept us far from the heinous sin of being unmanly or unwomanly. After all, we expressed the notion that our nature caused us suffering, and any cost to swallow it would be borne by us, so why not ask for normalcy? No, why not demand normalcy, the normalcy that they complied with, the normalcy that made people feel unthreatened, the normalcy of ease for them, whatever the cost to us?
Shouldn’t we be able to inhibit unholy desire? Wasn’t that best for everyone?
The answer, of course, was no. It was not the best thing for transpeople to have to learn to break their own heart and try to poison their own essential nature.
We could not say no to our “bad” emotions, to our “bad” nature without also saying no to our “good” emotions and our “good” nature. Without actually feeling, engaging and processing our own energy, not just walling it off, we could not own it, not use it, not become integrated, actualized, vulnerable, whole-hearted, integral and authentic.
Just saying no to transgender was a suicidal, crap idea. It cost so many of us so much of our precious time and energy to stay in denial, to try and kill off our own heart. We broke ourselves over the binary gender system, thinking we were doing the honourable thing, the smart thing, the rational thing.
So many paid so dearly for their attempt to silence and destroy our own nature, to just say no to the truth that was so clear in their heart. They tried to say no and ended up saying no to full, happy and connected lives.
How do we find a place for transgender emergence and growth in the context of a complete life? Running from one closet to another as quickly as possible is clearly not a good solution, as no one can thrive in a cage.
After so long saying “no” to trans, lowering our expectations rather than raising our sights, change is due.