The post-transition void?
Several of my classmates have started using my new name, or at least my gender-neutral nickname. What a relief. I didn’t get around to proactively enforcing my name, so I’m not sure what happened. Maybe one of my friends realized I was upset about this issue and she asked people to please respect my gender. Or maybe it was bound to happen eventually, once I reached the critical mass of people who use the right name. It’s contagious! Seriously, though, I think people feel less awkward if others are also using my new name. In any case, I feel grateful.
Now I’ve encountered a new challenge. After years of practice, I got so used to interacting with my classmates from a defensive place that now I don’t really know how to act. I’m not complaining, and I certainly don’t want to go back to a gender-hurtful situation; I just need to relearn how to open up a little with this set of people. I’ve spent almost five years with them, and some are really nice; it seems worth a shot.
I’m glad that I’m experiencing this now, right when I’m ending one stage of my life. Even if I can never overcome the safe distance I’ve placed between my classmates and me, it won’t be a big deal: I’ll be moving on to college soon. It’s a chance to start over.
I’ve read several trans people’s stories of feeling empty when they “finish” transitioning: when they’re satisfied with their bodies, everyone respects their names and pronouns, and gender ceases to be a huge issue (even for people who consider transitioning to be a lifelong process). I think that by beginning my transition at this point, I might avoid some of that feeling. Since I’m just starting to build my own life, I won’t have to base my whole existence around feeling uncomfortable with myself.
For instance, I like thinking about how society works. If I didn’t have my gender issues at least half figured out, I might center my whole college education around gender, sex and sexuality. And when I sorted out my gender, then what would I have left? What would my aim in life be? I’m still interested in sex and gender identities, but I don’t feel such a tremendous need to study them anymore, now that I’m pretty comfortable with myself. In college, I’ll be able to find other subjects that interest me, too.
It is a little confusing to deal with gender concerns while I’m still dealing with other teen and coming-of-age stuff such as friends, parents, the future, newfound responsibility and independence. But it probably isn’t much easier to transition later on, when one has to deal with work, aging parents, family, and possibly spouses and kids. Now, at least, I’m allowed to make mistakes and redirect my life in accordance to my personal changes. People of all ages deserve to do this, but unfortunately older folks who do this might be frowned upon.
Maybe I’m just saying all of this because I don’t know much about Life and Growing Up. I tend to think of college as a tumultuous time of rapid growth, change and discovery; it’s hard for me to imagine feeling empty during those years. But I’m sure that it depends on the person. Many trans people probably never feel a post-transition vacuity, and many people –trans and no– experience emptiness for lots of different reasons.
How did you feel after going through your gender process? Did you feel empty? Confused? Relieved? (Thanks to everyone who shared tips and stories about watching Boys Don’t Cry.)