Is the ultimate goal of any approach to managing transgender feelings to make them go away?
Is success defined by the effectiveness in not having your trans knowledge and experience intrude into your day to day activities?
Is trans like some kind of addiction, some kind of behaviour pattern that can be effectively suppressed with proper treatment, tamped down enough to let sufferers live a “normal” life?
For observers, it often seems this way. If you know a person who tells you that have some predilection to trans behaviours — cross-dressing and some such — as long as they do it in their private life, keeping it where others can’t see it so it doesn’t get in the way of real, everyday life, so what?
Even doctors seem to hold this belief. If a patient reports they are trans, but they don’t end up needing medical support for emergence, well, then, why is it something to be considered in their health care? As long as you don’t see it, they must be managing it in an effective way, so it can go unspoken and stay invisible. After all, why embarrass them by bringing up private issues that they themselves are uncomfortable bringing into the light?
And if a patient has transitioned medically, don’t they just deserve to be treated like their trans is not an issue? They are, after all, just who they always were, just with some new medical considerations.
In the workplace, there are things that are inappropriate, contentious and provocative to bring up, so as long as employees do their work, keeping their own personal problems minimized, what does it matter what they wear?
From this perspective, the goal of any intervention with a transperson should be helping them get over their trans issues, moving them into a stabilized and normal role so they can take their place as one of the conventional members of society.
Transpeople are best, healthiest and happiest, when their transgender nature is put into the background, wen they can move past any trans issues to become an effective team mate.
I don’t see transgender ideation as a mental defect, though, something that can and should be treated by minimizing it and making it as small and unobtrusive as possible. Any goal to get people over their trans issues is a goal to erase their history, their unique view of the world, their special gifts, a goal to tamp down and erase diversity in the cause of homogenized “normal” behaviour.
Even when I put my trans nature into the background, focusing on service, on fitting in, on doing what others expect and are comfortable with, it is still always there. I pay the cost of transgender even when I get no benefits from it; in fact, the cost of denying, erasing and compartmentalizing my trans nature is high and destructive to me, especially over a lifetime.
That’s not something causal observers see, though. They only see how facing blocks on transgender expression, facing the erasure of others who cling to binary assumptions hurts me when I show that pain to them.
The problem is, though, that when I show that pain, they often see it as my problem, another indication that transgender issues are blocking my happiness, and that I just need to get over them with some kind of effective treatment or management techniques.
In other words, when I pay the internal price of not responding outwardly to trans challenges they assume that I am healthy, but when I effectively let those issues surface rather than holding them inside, they assume I am sick. This is just another reflection of the lie or be called a liar bind that transpeople face from their earliest days.
If the goal is to make our trans nature as invisible as possible to show people that we are healthy and not mired in some kind of mental defect, then we will always be managing the internal tearing which can magnify our own mental challenges.
“When she came out as trans, my daughter let go of all her ambiguity,” one mother said, “and she dumped it all onto us!”
The notion that somehow, there is a post transgender life for trans identified people, or even the notion that there is a pre transgender life for us, is just silly. Sure, we aren’t all professional trannys, wearing trans on the outside and fighting trans battles in every moment of our lives, but that doesn’t mean somewhere on the inside, the trans truth bounces around and affects our feelings, our understandings and our choices.
Getting trans in balance is a wicked hard thing in a world where trans is usually written off as a bit of behaviour or something some people have to work through.
“Surely it is a lifetime thing, this learning to be a woman,” May Sarton said, and learning to be an effective, balanced transperson is no different; we have to find ways to fit in and stand with others, find ways to claim our own truth and stand for ourselves, find ways to claim our unique and common humanity.
It always surprises me when people close to me don’t get how my trans heart and trans experience are always, always a part of my view of the world, no matter how much I put them in the background to do the work in front of me.
Others may be able to see me as someone who fits into their binary and self-centred assumptions, but I am who I am. The raw and tender person who writes these intense queer essays is not a different person from the stable and caring one who makes them dinner and fixes their computers.
Learning to live with a trans heart, to celebrate and own it, rather than learning to box it up and put it where the sun don’t shine, seems to me to be the only way to create a long and healthy life for people like me.
And that’s true even if everyone around me really wished my shimmering ambiguity would just go away.