Doubt everything. Find your own light.
Somewhat unexpectedly, if not to say surprisingly, my feelings about my transgenderism have recently taken on a new dimension, and one that I am struggling to understand. It has at times felt like my transgenderism is relapsing, going away and making itself less present in my life.
I have felt uncomfortable about this new twist, because it is taking away from me the certainly that I have finally embraced after months of psychotherapy combined with constant pondering in my head about who I am, what I want from life, how to be happy, and where it all leads me to.
Having finally accepted myself as a transgender person, having become less shameful about it, and having come out to a number of people including my sister, my fellow SGI member, my friend Manik, and of course my wife and my children, has been a very reassuring experience and one that I thought would settle the score, once and for ever.
And yet, doubts have re-emerged, and made me feel extremely uncomfortable.
And so, I have embarked on self-observation trying to spot the feelings as they come, this in an attempt to break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces, so at last I can understand what’s going on inside my head.
What’s become evident to me is that the self-doubting that descends on me quite often these days is the result of my upcoming meeting with my endocrinologist, and the start of my hormone replacement therapy.
Admittedly, going on hormones is a very big step on the way towards my transition, and it fills me with some sort of fear.
But it isn’t that I am afraid of my body changing, quite the contrary, I long for these changes and am keen to have them finally emerge after all the years of feeling trapped. I think my fear represents an anxiety of some sort. There are hints of nostalgia that fill me each time I think about being on hormones, nostalgia towards the passing manhood. Because in my head I imagine that the changes will very quickly take hold of my body, my mind and my emotions. And this in turn means the definite passing of manhood, and the emergence of womanhood. It means reaching the point of no return, an entrance into the novel and not-so-entirely-understood world of women. It is clearly the uncertainty of this novel experience that makes me feel uncomfortable, but also the practical difficulties of finding myself there.
To help deal with the uncertainty I have decided to be more explicit about my motivations for transitioning, and doing it with a clear head, uninfluenced by the emotions or coloured-glasses which my beloved wife claims I wear all the time.
To start with, I want to be true to myself. My transgenderism is not about whether I am a woman by some independent and objective criteria, but it is about a conscious choice of who I feel I am and who I want to be. And trying to answer these two questions has always leads me to the same answer – I want to be a woman.
What’ more, the socio-cultural view of men and women puts some pressure on me, and is clearly a source of my uncertainty. In particular, the society exaggerates the distinction between men and women, to the point where the line dividing the two genders is artificially thick, extremely oppositional, and clearly disadvantageous to women since it is them whose femininity is there to serve and reinforce the man’s masculinity. Think of how women’s stereotypical vulnerability or indecisiveness makes men feel more masculine, and how the departure from these traits by women makes men feel intimidated, and ill-at-ease. Well, that’s just a side-thought…
Clearly, belonging in one camp by default excludes the person from the other camp, which has always been the source of my shame. Because how can a masculine man want to be a feminine woman, this doesn’t seem right, and it breaks the established rules, and possibly the law of nature. Yes, I am a man and enjoy the privileges that come with it, particularly the freedom of not having to comply with the wide range of rigid rules that define so strongly today’s femininity. But on the other hand, this does not feel like being true to myself because I so much identify myself with being female. Being true to myself means recognizing the strongest feelings and images I know and carry inside me, those that involve myself as a woman. I shall honour these feelings and images and give them a central place in my life by undergoing hormonal therapy, sex reassignment surgery and social adjustment that would make it for me plausible to live as a woman.
But I fear being myself, because of all the pressure and weight that comes with the masculinity assigned to me by my history, my upbringing, the images others have of me, the gender identity they attach to my body, and by society in general.
The Buddhist wisdom says:
Do not compare yourself to others. Be true to who you are and continue to learn with all your might. Even if you are ridiculed, even if you suffer disappointments and setbacks, continue to advance and do not be defeated.
And so, I shall not be defeated, I shall have the courage to learn about myself with all my might, and eventually cross the gender line, and become true to myself.
Femininity, or rather womanhood, is also something I consider extremely empowering. I have always looked up to womanhood, perhaps in an idealized way, and have since the dawn of times longed deeply to integrate it into my life, in its entirety, so including my body, my mind, and my spirit. It is quite possible that my journey to date, especially this last year, has de-mystified and de-sexualized womanhood, and made it less appealing than it once was. And while this may be true, it doesn’t change my strong preference for living the life of a female, rather than a male. And my preference for womanhood is vested in my desire to embrace such stereotypical female characteristics as vulnerability, sensitivity, uncompromisingly strong emotions, nurturing, modesty, or gracefulness. But beyond this, I want to enjoy the freedom of dress that woman have, along with some frivolousness that comes with it. Women don’t need to show that they are strong, they can afford being weak, or soft, which is what I have found myself often wanting to be.
And yet, I doubt I will ever give up on what is stereotypically masculine, and which is the essence of who I have been throughout my life to date. How could possibly my self-confidence be eroded with my stepping into the womanhood? Well, theoretically it is possible since I will – at least in the beginning of my transition – feel not confident about my womanhood, and this will undermine my confidence as a person. In the long run though, the confidence should return I’d like to think, because I am a confident person by nature.
I have noticed these recent days, that the doubting about my transition descends on me when I am fully within my masculine world, which is typically when I am at work. It is at these times that I am in the flow of some sort, truly focused on my professional tasks and responsibilities, and it is then that my transness becomes suspended temporarily, and even disappears from the horizon. And then, when I leave the work behind, my transness re-appears but it feels out of place. I start thinking that I have reached the point where the two identities that I carry struggle to co-exist. It has never been easy for them to co-exist, but now one wants to push the other away, making it harder, and harder for me.
But what has changed during the last year or so is how I react to this battle of identities. Previously, I could feel down, and even depressed, but these feelings no longer emerge since I have worked out the plan for transitioning, and feel back in control of my life. But perhaps this regained sense of control is the very reason why I doubt my transness, thinking that I no longer need to transition. But if history is to be a good indicator of the future, I know that the current situation is unlikely to continue, and that my transness will return with vengeance. And so, for this reason, I shall persevere and continue on the path towards physical, mental and emotional transition to become a female. Only this can guarantee my long-term happiness.
On the practical side, the doubting and insecurity I experience these days have much to do with the classical “yeah-buts” which I have known since as long as I can remember. I worry about how the transition will affect my family, the relationship with my friends, my job, my financial standing, my social status, etc…
Yes, all of these are at great risk. My coming out, and my subsequent full transition towards the womanhood, will undoubtedly stir up some dust, perhaps more than some. And yet, it is my life, and I should live my life, and not that of others. Of course, my responsibility is and always will be that of the steward of my family, the parent and the partner to my beloved wife.
As I once noted, I cannot love my family enough if I don’t have love for myself. And living in a masculine body has proven to undermine me as a person in the most fundamental way, causing me to detest my body, many of my character traits and behaviours. And so, I shall do whatever it takes to start loving myself, and there is a great chance for this to happen if I transform into a female.
But I don’t want to be any female, but rather one that I relate to, respect, and look up to. I am not picky, mind you! I just want to take into the womanhood the things I hold dear. And this includes my commitment to live in a healthy and balanced way as well as my desire to live free of self-absorption, anger, impatience, or worries. What’s more, I cannot imagine myself living by the rigid standards which women are supposed to comply with. As I have said, I just want to be myself.
One other exciting aspect of transitioning is the unique insights that I will have into the lives of two genders. As I pointed out earlier, we either belong in one camp or the other, but not in both. In my case, my fate and my history will put me in an exceptional spot, for I will soon have tapped into the experience of living in both of the camps. And this will enrich my life beyond gender, something that only a handful of us have ever had a taste of.
Having been a trans person for so long has allowed me to glimpse into the life of women, giving me the insights that the vast majority of men simply don’t get. And being on the brink of new life, as a woman, carries a promise of gaining a direct experience that will be unmatched by anything I have experienced previously. I can only imagine how profoundly rich my life will become, provided of course that I succeed in transitioning. And I know I will.
As my psychiatrist has recently remarked, I am bound to transition physically very, very quickly and very, very successfully. And this leaves me only with the uncertainty associated with social, and emotional adjustment. The latter should be taken care of by the hormones, and the mind-set that will emerge under their influence. As for the social adjustment, that’s the part I cannot predict. But judging from how my coming out as a trans person provoked a truly positive and supportive response from several people, I can only presume that I will not be ostracized, and outcasted by the society, and friends. Perhaps, I will be welcomed, and admired for having the courage to be true to myself, and possible for being a beautiful woman, and inspiring person. Time will show if I am right, and let’s hope I am.