Sometimes, a comment only becomes toxic in hindsight. That’s usually because it wasn’t meant harmfully or it was pitched as a compliment; a validating statement. I’m sure every disadvantaged group has this happen: the well meaning outsider reaching out in a way that, actually, has a pretty dirty underside that they didn’t think about. And we let it slide because we like the person and we don’t want to create a thing.
I believe that we all want to see good intent rather than bad language. Besides, it’s not really possible to challenge every unintentionally invalidating comment in a conversation. For a start, we’d never talk about anything but unintentionally invalidating comments, but we’d also just end up being angry and alone all the time. I spend enough of my life in fear; I don’t want to add anger and frustration to the pile.
Trouble is, the words sit with me. My mind chews on it enough, and suddenly it becomes the thing I was trying to avoid. Challenge it, it becomes a thing for everyone in the exchange. Don’t challenge it, it becomes a thing for me on my own. I don’t really know which is better.
This is particularly tricky to navigate with new friends. New people, particularly new cisgender people, just need to have that time out to get educated a bit before things can be normal. I hate that. If I could get through a day without educating someone about the trans, I might just drop dead in shock at the realisation. I can completely understand why some transgender people just give up and don’t bother, but that’s not me. I’m an educator at heart and I want people to understand as much as they need to. Besides, it’s better for me in the long term.
At the core of the unintentionally invalidating comments is the implication that this is somehow a thing that I want. That I chose this. Talking to some folk in a support group the other day, I found myself challenging the deception narrative: the idea that the trans or cross dressing or gay was somehow kept from a partner. That the partner actually needs more sympathy here because they were effectively lied to.
"THE DECEPTION NARRATIVE FALLS FLAT ON A NUMBER OF COUNTS, BUT THE MOST RELEVANT POINT HERE IS THAT, VERY OFTEN IF NOT ALWAYS, THE PERSON COMING OUT DOESN’T WANT TO COME OUT."
The deception narrative falls flat on a number of counts, but the most relevant point here is that, very often if not always, the person coming out doesn’t want to come out. I obviously can’t speak for all of transdom, but it’s reasonably safe to say that nobody wants to be transgender. I’ve written it before: nobody wants to be transgender. Everybody does everything they can to not be transgender, and the only reason anyone comes out as transgender is that they become a greater danger to themselves than the danger being transgender represents.
Nobody wants this. I don’t want it. If I had my choice, I’d have accepted the role I was given and spared myself the utter annihilation of my life. My ex asked me how I could lie to her, and the truth is I didn’t. I was trying not to be this thing. I didn’t have a precise word for my state, and then once I did, I freaked out and did everything I could to not be that thing. I didn’t want to be that thing, but I am and I can’t help it.
This past week, I came into contact with a few new friends. One mentioned that our mutual friend only wanted me to be what I want. I want to be cisgender. Since I can’t reach a hand back and change my assignment, that means that I want to be male like they told me… but I’m not male and I can’t be. Trying to be what I wanted nearly killed me, so I had to give up what I wanted in favour of what I needed.
"I PUT OFF BEING WHAT I AM FOR SO LONG BECAUSE I DESPERATELY DIDN’T WANT TO BE ME."
I put off being what I am for so long because I desperately didn’t want to be me. I wanted to be that person that was able to be what they were told at birth. Two years and a month ago, I stepped away from a curb side after almost jumping in front of a fast moving lorry. I still don’t know why I didn’t jump. I just didn’t, but even as I backed to safety, I hoped a bit of pipe might be poorly loaded on the trailer, say, head level. That would be clean, I thought. I did not want to be me, and I don’t know why I decided to be me instead of deciding to be dead. That was my choice.
I guess if you’re going to see suicide as a viable option - I have met and learned about people who really do have that as a viable alternative for them since coming out - then yes, I’m being what I want. I’m being not dead, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to die. I do want to die quite often, but I don’t think that’s what I need right now. So again, this isn’t about what I want. It’s about what I need.
So what about the here and now? My transition is mostly done; I’m just mopping up some loose ends. Life is starting to just move along. Now that the messy business of coming out and transitioning is over, is being transgender or a woman really what I want? No. No, it isn’t. It’s what I am: a default setting. No choice means I am a woman and I am transgender. Would I rather not be transgender? You betcha. I would still give much to be that person that could just be what the doctor said they were at birth. I would still rather not be what I am. This is not what I want, it’s what I need.
Transgender is what I have to be because some time previously I was assigned male at birth and I’m not male. Being male is worse than being transgender: my mind and body reject maleness like poison, but I would still rather not be transgender. I’ve been given the choice between hospital or airplane food and I picked the one without the strychnine in the sauce. We all make choices for the sake of survival that we don’t really want to make. It happens to everyone at some point. My choice just happened to be to try and live authentically. I never wanted to be transgender, and I still don’t.