To Be or Not To Be…

You’ve been thinking about it for a long time. You know that your body is a lie to everything you know and feel about yourself. The name that people call you makes you cringe.

It’s time, you think, to finally do this. You reveal your identity to a few close friends and family members. To your surprise, many are supportive! And so some of the people around you start calling you Anthony instead of Anne. You begin introducing yourself this way and using the restroom where you belonged in the first place.

But you begin filling out job applications and you’re not sure what to write. With no legal backing yet, do you write Anne, even though you’re an Anthony? Do you select the box for male or female? How will you navigate the conversation with the manager who is filling out federal forms and insurance information? Will the manager offer understanding and support or just laugh and show you the door?

It’s nice that people are addressing you by your new name and calling you sir, but it feels a little strange. And the restroom? Wow! That’s a different culture! The confusion and the fear and the anxiety are overwhelming. You knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it’s taking an emotional toll you didn’t expect.

You’re stuck in the middle. Half of your associations know you as the same old person, but the other half is getting to know the true you. It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable. You begin to doubt yourself and ask questions like, “Can I really do this? Who am I kidding? Am I just fooling myself?” So you decide it would be easier to give it up and go back to living as Anne, resigning yourself to live with that pain instead. At least you know what to expect and how it feels, you figure.

Making the decision to transition is a bold step. The first few months, in particular, are especially challenging as two genders are integrated into one. Consequently, it is not uncommon to begin living as your authentic gender, and then step back into your birth-assigned gender role. While it’s not who you are and how you want to live, it’s familiar and doesn’t feel as intimidating.

This is not a sign of failure. The transition process doesn’t always happen in a linear fashion. Neither do many big changes that happen in life, really.

For example, Brent has been a truck driver for most of his career. A couple years ago, he quit his job and began his course work in seminary to become a preacher. Now most of our friends and associates know him as a preacher, even though he’s not there quite yet. In order to make ends meet over the summer, though, he returned to the trucking industry for a few months while school was out. He didn’t identify with this job position any longer and it wasn’t in line with his goals and aspirations. But it was familiar to him, and it was a step that he needed to take to achieve the bigger picture of becoming the preacher he knows himself to be.

Sometimes you just have to get a few more things in order before taking the final step. Maybe you continue to live in your birth-assigned gender until you have found a physician to prescribe hormones or to sign off on a letter; or maybe you wait until can legally afford a name change. Perhaps you need more time to process the journey with a counselor or a friend. It may, at times, feel discouraging that it’s not going as quickly or as smoothly as you had hoped.

This doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to being in this position forever. Take the steps that you can and keep a healthy perspective on where you are going. Undoubtedly, you will move into your own identity and experience true fulfillment. And the process you had to go through to get there? It will all be worth it!

~ Julie Walsh

6 thoughts on “To Be or Not To Be…

  1. Jade Rowe

    Thank you so much for this article! After 12 years of transitioning, hormones and coming out, I can’t find a job (I’m mtf), my partner hates that I’m trans, and after dealing with considerable harrassment and vandalism from neighbors after I went full time, I went back to the androgynous/male role. It just feels safer and easier, especially when dealing with my elderly mother (90), my sons (mid 20s) and living in a fundamentalist right wing town. I legally changed my name, but haven’t changed my gender marker or my birth certificate mainly due to confusion with my inheritance, which although not a fortune, will involve inheriting several real properties and some other assets. Most of my friends know me as “Jade,” but people I’ve known for 20 years still know me as “Tim,” and at times it’s confusing and I feel like I suck at being transgender. Nearing 50, I’m not sure I want to end my 15-year relationship either (with a cis woman), and if I fully transitioned it would be over. This essay was exactly what I needed to read today — thank you! 🙂

  2. Laura

    I have found that trasition is different for everyone and there are as many ways to do it as people. I have found my own middle ground that my wife and I are happy with that did not involve bottom surgery. Listen to your inner self and do that which you are comfortable with.

  3. Laurie Farrington

    Thank you. This is beautifully written. I am passing it on to a young friend who deeply needs to hear your words. We are sure we have failed when we are only seeing a small part of our journey. There is so much shame when we don’t understand how much is still in the future. There are always new choices to be made. One step at a time.

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