I have been reading a book “To My Trans Sisters”. A collection of letters edited by Charlie Craggs written by trans women for their sisters. It has been a really affirming read. Eighty five letters from a very varied set of trans women of all ages.
I realised how times have changed. Letters from trans women of a similar age to me (70s, I didn’t really admit that did !?) growing up pre internet feeling totally alone and in a very hostile environment where you were basically mentally deranged for feeling as you did. Homosexuality was still illegal and this was worse and incomprehensible. My light bulb book by Jan Morris Conundrum featured in a few letters. It was about the only book available and by then I was in my thirties still struggling with gender dysphoria and not knowing what it was.
All I knew then was that if I could have taken a pill and it would all of have gone away and I could be male I would have gladly taken it. As all trans people know it is not that simple! I have referred to tis before as the need to be true to yourself, to transition is like an unstoppable train, a runaway train. You are going to arrive whether you like it or not. I have always struggled with the thought that “you are so brave” to have come out and transitioned. I do not see it that way. It is not brave to do the inevitable.
Reading the letters this feeling of the inevitable is repeated frequently. The word that comes out of the letters is resilience. Trans people take a lot of stick, get knocked down, knocked back it’s the ability to pick oneself up. Many don’t. Sadly it is too much to deal with. Charlie Craggs, whose letter is the last in the book, she says “I had known she was transgender since she was four. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I accepted I was transgender though. This is because I didn’t want to be transgender. I didn’t think life would be worth living with how hard it would inevitable be, but it got to the point where I was so unhappy living a lie and so dysphoric in my male body it wasn’t worth living that way either.” The inevitable unstoppable train. She goes on to say “as soon as I stopped fighting who I was and accepted myself everything changed”.
The key is to accept who you are. It doesn’t change anything about your body, you still dislike bits of you. Surgery may help change things s you are more comfortable with your body, ease dysphoria but it doesn’t change who you are. You have to learn to accept yourself, love yourself for who you are. Charlie Craggs goes on to say “it is vital we love ourselves as transwomen, because so many other people don’t. In fact they hate us”. What a dreadful thought. Learning to love yourself is essential.
It is resilience that carried me through. Some might say stubborness. Charlie Craggs says “when I started presenting female my life got so much harder. The amount of transphobia I faced on a daily basis was debilitating and I was scared to leave the house most days. But although my life got harder I was happier than I had ever been because I was finally being true to myself and more importantly loved and accepted myself.”This is so true. In my case a significant portion of the transphobia I faced was internalised, fear of transphobia also very debilitating.
Many letters make another very important point. Do not get so wrapped up in transition that it becomes your life. Transitioning is a period of change and route to freedom to allow yourself to lead a life, a true life of who you are. Having been on this road for a while I have realised I did become lost in transition and am now spending time in rebuilding a life first and foremost while improving my trans presentation continues along the way. It is important not to be defined by transition and being trans. At the same time I do not want to go stealth. I do not want to hide I am trans, it is what I am and I own it. However I do not feel the need to shout it from the roof tops to all and sundry.
One last thought I came across yesterday in the blog Cristi’s Condo who says where a CEO in his, now her, 50s realised he was transgender he said it best. “ once you have come to the conclusion that this is who you are…don’t delay.”
With hindsight that is so true and I wish all my transistors the resilience to take the knocks, pick yourself up and keep going towards living a true life.