Transition in Transition

The sea is a lonely place with a beauty its own.I am now well and truly out of the Guy Club. Of course, I only ever lived at the edge of it: one foot in, one out – I never “got” guys, and they never “got” me. Just tolerated, always suspect. As a child, this was much more existential because I was ostracized and sometimes beaten for simply being me. As an adult, people gradually saw that I lived as a special sort of man – some even saw this as a good thing, but we all knew I did not really belong

…Now, I feel like a small fishing trawler chugging out of what had always been my home port. I have passed the outer buoy and out into the open sea. I know I will never return. The bittersweet feeling of sadness is due to loss of a familiar place, a space: I did not want to be there, it hurt, but it was a place to exist, and it nurtured me enough to me get here…

I have made contact with the Girl Club and have had tantalizing, wonderful, even unexpected connections here. These are becoming more frequent as I blend-in with other women my age: some women beaming at me with the “you go girl!” smile; others coming close-up to chat girl-talk in stores, in restrooms, at Zumba; being in a women-only fashion show; enjoying a coffee klatsch; sharing complaints about our bodies and bad-hair-days; hugs, touches, words, little gender-specific intimacies, even passing in the sacred-space of the women’s locker room.

These are beginnings, much as “‘passing’ in the mall” is an important early milestone, but small step in the rest of a trans person’s life. “Passing” must become “being.” The more difficult and more rewarding part comes ahead: assimilation, where chat is no longer idle, but is life serious; and of meeting people where they are in their hearts, hopes, dreams, daily grind and disappointments; of supporting one another; of loving and being loved and growing old through life together: as brothers, as sisters.

…Like some immigrants, I knew my way around the “old country” but was forced to leave because it was not really home. Will I always be an immigrant, never really learning the language, never fitting-in with my adopted culture? Will I fully assimilate and leave all my old ways behind? Will I remember my heritage, honor the good things, speak a few words with a bit of an accent, while I enjoy my new life in a new land – my heritage known to many, but my citizenship, my belonging never questioned?…

Some who want and desperately try to assimilate, are never able to; they become and remain Transsexuals. Not men; not women: other. What is a way-place, even a “summer home” for other transsexual people, becomes a kind of ghetto for them — a place of longing short of their dreams.

Some opt for “deep stealth” – they are the ones who can, and actually do, fully assimilate. They are not transsexuals, they are men, women: former-transsexuals, yet not without cost. Likely, they have lost everyone, everything, burned-away, scorched-earth. Everything is new because it must be, and there is the past to bury, constantly and always.

…I feel like a tall, gangly tomboy whom the boys have just realized: “she’s not one of us anymore,” who herself feels the feminine longing in her heart: their door gently closes behind me – the way we interact together has forever changed: I am not one of the guys; I am treated as woman in both good and not so good ways. And whatever identity or perks I had as a man (like “male privilege”), I left behind

I knew it would be this way.

…Now I come to my sisters who are “older” women, and some of them have started to welcome me; they are teaching me to become the woman I am, to mature. Many know that there is something special about me because I am a 51 year old girl-becoming-woman, and they are being especially gentle. As I approach and quietly enter their door, my body language seems to echo my heart: “excuse me…please…I don’t mean to come where I’m not wanted…I know I’m late to the party…may I come in if I’m quiet?…please?” There is a balance between crashing-in and demanding one’s “birthright” and being so quiet that one’s presence is overlooked, unmet. I need to strike a balance or I will never assimilate…

Do I want to fully assimilate? The whole goal of my transition has been to live authentically as myself. Well, myself includes my past, and it includes the parts of me that were called “Brett.” But it is equally true that I was and am a female person, now expressing myself as a woman. Somehow I am all these things. Yes, I am a woman, but my past and makeup are very different than a natal woman’s…and hers is different from mine: we are both women, but we have become along different paths. Moreover, I do not view “transsexual” and “woman” to be mutually exclusive. And I must also live with the fact that I am a husband, a father, as well as a woman. Impossible! some say. Necessary for me! I reply. I cannot escape that I am a blend of sexes and genders, but that I am most me when I express myself as a woman. Maybe embracing is better than escaping?

Perhaps I will be one of the lucky ones who are somehow accepted, embraced, by others of their gender, whilst honoring their whole selves, fully integrated, not required to hide anything, yet not exposing everything, all the time. The same and yet changed: loved and respected for all that: a unique human being…

…Now by God’s grace, I live as a special sort of woman.

Postscript: I am now nearly 55 and I have assimilated nicely; it is no longer obvious that I am a woman of transgender experience. Yet I live my life “simply open,” which for me means that in casual encounters, I am “just” a tall, boyish woman — but when people come to know me more intimately, the fact that I am a trans woman becomes apparent in relaxed, natural even winsome ways. Being transgender is one of the countless beautiful ways to be human, and I communicate that, mostly without words; I am gracefully transgender.

Postscript: back when I wrote this several years ago, I was much less aware of a larger segment of the transgender population — those who are non-binary — that is, those whose (beautifully) natural state is to be neither a man, nor a woman. Transsexuals as a rule gravitate to the opposite “pole” from where their birth assignment would suggest, but non-binary people find they are more comfortable somewhat away from the poles. And while my gender identity feels pretty fixed to me (I can trace my sense of gendered self into my early childhood and it’s always been the same), other people experience their gender as something that changes over time — sometimes over years, sometimes even daily or moment by moment. Such people are not in a ghetto when they are not at the male or female pole, they are simply where they are most comfortably at home! It’s a point that I did not understand then, that I understand better now, what with having a number of non-binary friends.

While I have left behind whatever privilege I had in being a ‘man,’ I still retain most of the responsibilities: with poignancy I recently realized that I am no longer the family “fix it” as in “the husband/son-in-law fixes things.” My spouse and her mom have turned to our young adult son in the way they used to turn to me: he is taking-up his ‘manly’ mantle and doing well. It wasn’t that I refused this duty, but I gravitated away from it. I beam with pride that our son is becoming a man as evidenced in yet another way. But it is also sad. I never had realized this was a “gender role” in our family – maybe it is not, but this change correlates with my change. It is another part of who I was that is gone; I am done with it; I am not going back.


2 thoughts on “Transition in Transition

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