For many years I had a future I was headed towards. It was, in retrospect, an extremely ambitious project. I would be a trans man. I would own a horse farm in California. Quite a set of goals for young woman who hadn’t been on a horse since seventh grade and had nowhere close to a down payment for California real estate.
It was a fantasy with a lot of power. It kept me going. When being awake is painful and scary a fantasy to keep you going can be a real blessing. It was a blessing until it wasn’t, it was a blessing until I set fire to my life for it and realized the nature of fantasy.
In that fantasy the detail of visiting a doctor every 6 months for the rest of my life wasn’t in there. The detail of what I’d actually look like- much more like Dom Deluise than David Duchovny- wasn’t in there. The changes to my sexual desire, my attraction to women being wiped out, sure as hell was not in there. How I’d navigate my dependence on the service sector for employment with having an off-putting gender presentation was definitely not in there.
How I’d deal with men saying hateful things about women once I passed as a man wasn’t in there. The emotional impact hearing that hate would have on me wasn’t in there. How I’d deal with women leaving me out of female friendship wasn’t in there, how I’d deal with women wanting me to play an extremely gendered sexual role so they could have their femininity affirmed wasn’t in there.
The mainstream narrative about transition is that you have a gender in your head that you must express to the world, and if you don’t get to express it you will be miserable. This incorrect gender role is the source of your dysphoria and once you get that squared away you’ll be good. For people who never experience dysphoria, it’s perhaps a good story to convince you to not be an asshole on the street to a visibly trans person. But for the individual who has to make choices about what their dysphoria means for what their happiest life would be the narrative that expressing a brain gender is the key to contentment can really throw you off track. Happy lives are made happy by the accumulation of many small joys- the joy of being a necessary, useful person to others in your community. The joy of stable housing and stable sources of food. Getting to create, having a craft you can lose yourself in. Having a workplace that doesn’t encourage people’s power trips. Having credibility as a witness to your own life, ie. being believed about the shit people pull on you.
Getting perceived as the gender you internally identify with could be a piece of that happy life puzzle, or that internal identification could be an escapist fantasy that takes your focus away from building up a happy life. For me, the internal identification with men was a way to keep going when I felt humiliated, confused, and beaten. It was very useful for awhile. Then once I began investing myself in that internal identification- started injecting hormones into my thigh, paying doctors to draw on the parts they would cut off, having people call me “he” and “him” and trying their best to affirm my gender in their clumsy, offensive ways, it became clear it wasn’t a lack of congruence with an internally felt gender that was making me miserable. It was a lack of power. It was a lack of autonomy. It was a lack of safety. It was a lack of being believed. It was a lack of comfort. It was a lack of believing I was necessarily and useful and valuable as I was. Did you know confused, agitated, desperate young women are extremely necessary people for the continuance of the human race? Did you know the human community can’t actually keep going without young women with a fighter’s temperament? I only ask because I didn’t know how necessary I was.
I have friends who care very passionately, whose lives are dedicated to, the project of getting people with dysphoria access to hormones and surgeries. I have friends who care very passionately, whose lives are dedicated to, the project of making sure people with dysphoria understand there are alternative ways to treat dysphoria (which center around anxiety management and embodiment). They care deeply about the same group of people. They want the same group of people to have happy lives.
I don’t exactly know who I care about. You have to commit to an audience at some point. I don’t care to talk anyone who has got an idea of how to treat their dysphoria into some other way of dealing with it. It’s your life. I don’t know what you need.
I guess my audience is really myself, last October. It was crystal clear at that point in my life, it had been made clear over and over, that transitioning wasn’t going to make me happier and was going to keep me from things that would make me happy. I didn’t know what to do with that revelation. I was apparently a terrible kind of unicorn the likes of which nobody had ever met. I was so desperate for fellowship I posted on craigslist looking for anybody who had come to a similar revelation about their life. I got a couple of women asking me out, a guy describing his dick, and some people of indeterminate sex saying they thought I was “fascinating.” A woman in the middle of the country emailed me to tell me there used to be a list-serv for detransitioned people but it was no longer active.
I guess I’m writing just so the me of last October could know there actually is still a future out there. I guess I’m writing so she knows she doesn’t have to think she’s failed, on an epic level, at one more thing. I guess I’m writing so she knows there are other women out there who have come through this particular fire, and actually, they are really wonderful women, a lot of fun to be around, really great to be able to talk with. That she may have come to a spot in her life with a lot of endings, but if she can just keep waking up everyday for like, even four more months, the beginnings will start kicking in. You don’t have to buy into a story where you have to be ashamed of trying to solve your dysphoria or finding out that transition was not a solution for it. It’s not a competition between you and Caitlin Jenner.
This is a transmission from the future. You keep waking up. You think of things in a new way. You get into better job and friend situations. You learn a new way of relating to your body. You learn new ways of cultivating happiness.
The old futures have fallen away and new futures are shining for you. You may not be able to quite make out their details. You’re going to have to travel further before you’ll be close enough to see those. But I hope, over the distance you’re squinting at, you can see me waving at you.