The Burden of Being (Trans)

backpackingSome days I feel as if I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Between running my own business, the needs of my husband and children, community commitments, trans-advocacy and personal well-being, there are times when I just don’t know how I’ll get it all done.

I worry about doing the right thing, meeting deadlines and living up to expectations. I lay awake concerned that I didn’t return a phone call or check on a sick friend. Some nights the weight of all the worrying knocks me out cold, some nights there’s too much neuro-interference to sleep at all.

Admittedly, some days the burden of trying to please everyone is just too much. There’s guilt in wanting to just please myself.

Hunter returned home from camp a month ago.  He spent 40 days just being himself in the purest of environments, completely unplugged and unburdened except for the responsibility he shouldered as part of the camp community. He wasn’t a “trans” kid at camp. He was just himself.

The weight he carried was his contribution to the group. His back hunched under the complexity of his pack but it was a privilege not a burden to traverse the trails with his belongings so thoughtfully assembled.

If you have a transgender family member, friend or acquaintance, you need to know they bear the burden of just being. There is always something to worry about. If they are FtM (female to male), you can be sure that they obsess over clothes that give them a more masculine looking chest. If they are pre-op/pre top surgery, then the goal is to have the perfect binder/chest compression garment to insure that they are completely flat.

For the MtF (male to female) individual, there are other concerns. A post-pubertal trans woman will often worry about her voice. Is it too deep? Does it sound masculine? Is the adam’s apple pronounced? Most of us never gave this a second thought, but guys and girls speak differently. The cadence of our words are different. The amount of words that females use in conversation differ significantly than the number of words uttered by males.

Then, there’s the walk. For a trans* person who wants to express themselves as a gender other than the one assigned at birth, they often find it necessary to relearn how to walk and talk. Guys take longer strides, they don’t sway at the hips, their stance is wider, they stuff their hands in their pockets, and so on. Trans* individuals work hard to alter their gender expression and overall presentation so the public’s perception of who their are begins to match up with their own identity.

So, the burden of being, when someone is transgender, is immense. Add that on top of all of the other everyday stuff that we stress over and that pack is almost impossible to lift, let alone carry.

For additional resources, visit Stand with Trans or the Ally Moms web page.

 

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In a different place

Hunter

When I take the time to think back, I am startled into the realization that a mere eighteen months ago I was in a very different place. Our family was in a different place.

Somehow I’ve managed to brush aside the memories of that overwhelming urge to google every iteration of gender identity disorder that I could come up with. Simultaneous to this desperate search for knowledge, my husband wrestled with the possibility that this was a phase; many adolescents go through an exploration stage, he insisted.

Deep down, I knew he was wrong. I knew this was not a phase. I knew that our child was clear headed in his convictions. This was about much more than shopping in the boys’ department. CONFESSION. Though I was avoiding the inevitable–what I knew down to the core of every fiber of my being, I was seeking out a therapist — not just any therapist. We (Richard and me) wanted someone that would act as “Switzerland.”  FEAR. We were desperately afraid that the wrong therapist would polarize the situation rather that remain neutral. We were terrified, really, that if we chose poorly, the outcome would be devastating.

At this point we are “pre” everything; pre-male pronouns, pre-name change, pre-purging of all things girlie, pre-public awareness, pre-full understanding. When Olivia* initially asked to buy a chest binder I put her off. When I found the remnants of clothing layers shed before bedtime the previous night, my heart began to break. Sports bras, t-shirts and a home-made device looking something like a prototype of a strapless chest binder, heaped onto the floor taunting me to LOOK at what my child was going through. Then, upon discovering that Olivia took it upon herself to order a binder and have it shipped to a friend’s house, a strange mix of tangled emotions reared up at me.

It’s one thing to say, “OK. We accept you. We are with you. We support you.” It’s another to actually feel comfortable with a shift in mindset. I completely understood that my child, my DAUGHTER, wanted to look male. I understood that in order to look male, breasts needed to be camouflaged. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was the use of a binder. I read all the articles that said compressing breast tissue was “harmful, could cause cancer, might cause shortness of breath, and so on.”

It was strange to log on to my computer and see google and amazon searches for chest binders available in a variety of colors, styles and sizes sold by Chinese companies that guaranteed discreet delivery. Hunter was hopefully searching for solutions that would aid his transition and help him “pass” as male when out in public. This garment became a lifeline.

I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the place we are in. We’ve come a long way over the last year and a half. That’s the good news. The downside is that this is just a temporary stop along the way.  Every so often, I need to remind myself that over the next eighteen months we will be in a very different place than we are in right now. I am not really ready nor prepared for moving on in our journey. I know that moving on means letting go of what has become familiar and comfortable. I am not really ready for the unknown.

 

*Olivia is “pre” name transition