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Transition Fatigue

Transitioning is perhaps the hardest thing people can do, so how do we keep it from consuming our conversation?

“I can see a time when I’m just tired of talking about transitioning.”

“You’re not already?”

I am. It’s this thing that took over my life and, for a while, it was all I had to talk about. People would ask how I was, and it was all hormones, the fight over my documents, uncertainty over my voice and general bits and pieces about how I feel in my new role. How I felt, what I was doing next, what barrier I hit, how the medication was changing me. As boxes are ticked, it matters less. I have less to say about it, but it’s still an expectation that I talk about it, especially with people I meet.

Among transitioning transgender folks, saying where we are in our transition is a ritual greeting. Name, rank and serial number, if you will. Some get it down to a line: ‘I’m J- full time 4 years, 2 years HRT, 1 year breast augmentation.’ It’s an automatic sharing; the first thing we discover about a person. Once that ice is broken, we exchange how much (or how little) support we have from friends and family, which possibly gets accompanied with a coming out story.

From there, the conversation will usually wind around various components of transition: what needs doing, how much we need, what we reckon we’re happy with - what we don’t want. Why. Who we need to come out to still, difficulties at home or work. Logistics of the gender clinics here in the UK. If not in the UK, queries about what services are about and how easy they are to get at. Suggestions on how one might proceed, given the new understanding of where we are and what services we have to work with.

"IT’S A COMPLICATED, TIME CONSUMING PROCESS THAT TAKES OVER A LIFE."

It’s a complicated, time consuming process that takes over a life. It’s only natural that we spend a lot of time exchanging notes - not only is it long and drawn out, there are many pitfalls. Services expect certain responses and delay us if there are certain complications. We share with each other what might create barriers and how to navigate whatever system we’re moving through. Or we just moan about our given obstacles in exchanges where the systems are different. Venting is important.

Conversations with cisgender people often revolve around the systems as well: the polite people are curious about the experience, the struggle. They want to know all about it, and it colours their interaction with a transgender person, even if it doesn’t really change the gender treatment of that person. They’re particularly interested in our unique perspective; ‘You’ve seen both sides!’

A sentiment I find true in some ways and really not in others. It’s rather a lot more complicated than just seeing both sides: I was never a man. I was treated like one; people applied those expectations to me and my reaction was one of discomfort. I don’t think men find their place in society upsetting, but I have to nod and say I do have a slightly different perspective on gender dynamics than cisgender people. I wish I didn’t, and that makes discussion on the topic problematic.

There is so much more to me than my transition, even if it is a major undertaking like a degree course or building a house. It’s impossible to get away from it, even if it’s just this thing we’re doing. It’s my side job: that thing I fit around the rest of my life. I’m a writer (almost). I love my beer, I play Dungeons & Dragons. I’m a psychology student. I work at a charity supporting LGBT+ people, emphasis on the T. I’m in love with my fiancée. These things loom on my consciousness more than my transition. They’re more important to me.

Lately, when I meet a new transgender person (or anyone, but transgender people in particular), I make it a point to not talk about my transition. I’ll tell them about that other stuff: what I do, my interests, how life is going generally. I’ve noticed it stalls the conversation - they didn’t get my name, rank and serial number. They will often carry on by observing the ritual of trading transition details despite the fact that I haven’t done that, and then they’ll prompt me by asking questions. Some will even go so far as ask me if I’m transgender even if it’s plain from the context of our meeting that I am.

"CISGENDER PEOPLE DON’T SEEM TO WORRY ABOUT THAT, BUT THEY HAVE CISGENDER ASSUMPTION ON THEIR SIDE, AND THEY’RE NOT IN THE HABIT OF DISCUSSING THEIR GENDER IDENTITY AND EXPRESSION."

Cisgender people don’t seem to worry about that, but they have cisgender assumption on their side, and they’re not in the habit of discussing their gender identity and expression. The conversation will usually turn to my transness, but only after I say something in conversation that prompts it. I don’t mind that. I’m not sure why it matters that it isn’t the first thing to come up, but it does. Being transgender just isn’t the first thing I want to discuss, even if I’m perfectly comfortable discussing it - I even encourage it. It’s important to me that I express my transness, even if I don’t want to get into the details of my transition.

That transitioning is actually a small part of being transgender despite the scale of the project is probably why. Social issues that rise from transphobia and gender conformity are important; a much larger part of being transgender. Being transgender, in itself, isn’t actually a problem. Actually, the treatment transgender people suffer from society is what causes the many mental health issues we face. I’m visibly transitioning because I’m not done, but the goal is to be visibly transgender; to normalise that fact about me. To make it unimportant.

There’s an irony in having to make it an important fact about me in order to make it unimportant. Getting away from the discussion of transition itself is a small way of biting back at the attention it gets, but it’s also just boring. I’ve been talking about transitioning, my own or other people’s, non stop for just over a year. It’s time to move on and find some new territory - a transgender space that isn’t about transitioning. If the start is to get away from the ritual of trading transition notes, then perhaps we should.

"It can be difficult to find the line where we're sharing just enough without getting bogged down."

It is difficult, but you’ll figure that out too, many of us keep a toe in the community some will keep a foot in the community and others are all in, but it’s from the perspective of looking back (thank God that’s over), keeping up with events, helping others, activism, but those all-consuming thought, learning, exploring, physical change, transition is over, that doesn’t mean we are the know it all’s, ready for the catwalk, it just means we’ve found our comfort zone, achieved our original goals, and have moved on.

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Visibility as trans is important today, though having the option to blend into the community is excellent.

Blending was more important way back. Today, it's a political act, one to increase trans visibility and start to normalise it in society. In the past, not so much, though there were pioneers. But mostly we were just seen as freaks, and if that's not what you wanted, it was "blend".

I've had a lot of input from older ladies that lived in relative stealth (or deep stealth) for most of their lives. There's an article in there somewhere - thanks for sharing your thoughts!

This is great. It it however, a completely different story for me. When I first came out I got the usual questions from a few people(mostly family) but after the hype died down no one asks me anything! It might be due to the fact that I live in a very acceptable town or maybe that no one cares enough to make a big deal out of it idk. But I love talking about it and no one seems to want to lol

@Dragongrrl

“ Today, it's a political act, one to increase trans visibility and start to normalise it in society.”

I’m sorry my life is not a political act, it is not a dress rehearsal. There is so much confusion in public space over the word transgender, whether it be transsexualism, gender fluid, genderqueer, drag kings and queens, crossdresser, tom boy, butch, metrosexual, effeminate, I just saying each group has its own needs, concerns, and public perceptions, there is overlap in the different groups and the public perception of it. You are right that if we are not seen no one knows us, I am not seen as trans so my visibility doesn’t do any good for anyone, unless I out myself and that’s not going to happen, unless I let it slip by accident, which has happened from time to time (that is one way I know how I’m perceived), if it’s a political event, or a person interaction, otherwise it’s no ones business. You say being seen is a good thing, I say it “can” be a good thing, it completely depends on the on the many different factors of the individual who is seen.

Amber: Perhaps it's a cultural thing? It also depends on how many transitioning transgender people you come into contact with on a regular basis - where I live, there is a huge transgender scene with literally hundreds if not thousands about, and of those a good hundred or more are visible and talking about it. It also happens to me where I work as a support worker and encounter a lot of vulnerable people who are transitioning - so personal context is key.

@Michaela As someone who is not seen as trans, though I am seen as queer, actually being visible as trans, whether at a stall for TDOR or going to a class at a high school, both of which I've recently started doing, it is a political act. That doesn't mean my lie is a political act. I live reasonably quietly outside a small rural town. Mostly, my "political acts" of visibility are in the city, an hour away. Most of my life, I've felt being seen as trans is the last thing I want, since in a small community, once seen that way, news spreads and we're rarely seen as anything else, and that may be something about me, but I don't identify as trans. (I do identify as a dyke, and have the very good fortune to be seen that way.) But recently, there has been a lot of transphobia as a way of generating bigotry against LGBTI people generally, mainly because most people aren't homophobic any more, but "gender fluidity" still freaks people out. So, for me, it was a political decision, that it is important people realise there are trans people around.

It's hard, in many ways. At the same time, it dovetails into my sense that I need to acknowledge my life history, and not hide large swaths of it, or censor myself all the time.

@Dragongrrl

"it is a political act"

I only said, “my life” is not a political statement. Our opposition has made our/my existence political, which it is not, it is our right. I agree being seen as trans is “”in part”” a political statement, I’m not sure where I said it wasn’t. I’m saying how you are perceived matters, I do not say that from a judgmental point of view. There are a lot of trans people who are not seen because the blend in, they have regained cis privilege. I know a trans person, that others and I wish wasn’t out and open, she is a good person, but she has other issues too, but not wanting her to represent our community isn’t unique to the trans community there are many many many cisgender people that cisgender people do not want to be judged by either. Being out and open as trans, having good and positive “interaction with individuals”, is the most effective way of changing hearts and minds about the lgbt communities, being “seen only” can be a "political act" it will only deepen any preexist ideology of the individual that saw the trans person whether that be good or bad.

It'll be nice when our presence is normalised to a point where nobody really sees us just being around as some kind of political statement, but here we are.

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