As a transperson, what was the point where you decided that you had to give up on passing as going through puberty with a conventional body for your gender?
I know that you always had the fantasy of becoming “real,” whatever that meant, dreaming of body change, and that wish is always still there, at least a little tiny bit.
At some point, though, you have to face the practical limits of what is possible for you. More than likely, your body can’t be made perfect, at least on some level. Even FTMs for whom hormones do magic, as they have nothing to reverse, still have to face the fact that at some point they will have to drop their pants.
Even if you can get your body into shape, your story will still protrude in some way with things like family ties, reproductive expectations and formative moments cutting into any kind of perfection.
The struggle between immersion, really working as hard as possible to let go of the old so you can assimilate into the new, and ownership, realistically owning your own story, respecting the challenges you and others face, is at the heart of trans emergence.
We need to shed limiting and outdated habits, being willing to embrace new and more effective choices while not just building another wall in an attempt to conceal what we don’t want others to see because it raises too many questions, creates too much noise.
Working to eliminate all the tells that might reveal our trans history and allow someone to gender us on our biology and not our expression is an attempt at drastic concealment. Passing is a form of lying, creating expectations and assumptions that always have the possibility of shattering in an unpleasant way.
I recently read an OpEd in the NY Times against speed reading, claiming that it is only skimming. The problem with that argument is that all reading is essentially skimming. Unless we can take the entire text into our mind in a way that we can retrieve it when required, the best we can ever do is squeeze our some meaning from reading, some anecdotes and add them to our memory store.
Speed is far from the most important criteria in taking meaning from what we see. A third grader can read a novel very slowly, for example, but will have no context to understand, integrate and store the authors deeper meanings. The experience and structures of understanding that we have built determine how we can pry out and retain meaning.
This is why great texts reward coming back to them again and again. They seem to unfold new meaning even though it is only the openness and pliability of our comprehension that has grown, allowing us to engage them in a new way, with previously unsuspected depths.
Living in a world where people skim all the time, we have been taught that simple and expected are the first and easiest level of conveying how we want to be seen in the world.
Trans identities are complex and deep, as much as some want to insist that we are just boring and simple. Anyone who has a deep enough drive to want to walk away from the conventional expectations written on their reproductive biology and claim a personal gender rejects the normative and claims the individual and queer.
How do we, though, code that in our everyday expression?
The dream is to not have to carry any kind of political burden of sickness, brokenness, deviancy, immorality, or other kind of stigma, instead being able to blend in as just another one of kind of person we dreamed of being. We want to be able to connect in the way that other people do, without the heavy baggage of negotiating differences that bust other people’s expectations and make them queasy.
Being like other people, though, inoffensive and interchangeable, doesn’t allow us to be the best we can be in the world. Rather than feeling loose, free, safe and open we end up feeling constrained, bounded, unsafe and defended.
Maybe, if there really was the kind of magic we dreamed of as a child, we would be transformed into our perfect body with our perfect history, allowing us to trust and be seen as we imagined.
The kind of magic that exists in the world, though, doesn’t work that way. There is no average, no normal, no abstract kind of flawless perfection. There is only the power of open and present humanity which makes connections and unleashes love.
That’s true for everyone, of course, not just transpeople. Giving up on images of perfection and revealing the energy flow inside of us is the only way to have people see, understand and value us, no matter who we are.
No matter how much we understand that concept, getting to the point where we want to give up the attempt to pass as more ideal than we are is always a tough road. Going to the queer side is always a risk, which is why so many of us work so hard to soften the edges, attenuating ourselves, trying to show that we are “just folks.”
When our goal is to just pass by others through keeping our head down and avoiding scrutiny, by striving to be “boring,” we can never shine in the world.
The dream of being perfect still is deep within me, driven by years of people pointing out what they saw as my flaws, my failures and my ugliness. Those echoes haunt me, telling me that hiding is the answer.
Giving up those fears, though, and letting my truth show through all those tells that reveal that my life, my experience and my viewpoint is not simple seems to be not only the honest thing to do, it also seems to be the only way I can shine in the world. Rather than trying to hide my differences, I need to trust them, even if they were never part of my nocturnal fantasies.
Working to hide where we cross conventions and expectations may seem to be a way to make people treat us the way we want to be treated, but it leaves us always on the back foot, always ready to hide and always broken when we don’t.
Queer wasn’t my princess dream, but it is my adult reality, authentic, twisted and potent.
It’s still hard to give up a dream, though, even if you always knew it was just a fantasy that can never come true.