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The post-transition void?

September 19, 2009

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.)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2009 9:20 am

    Feelings of emptiness and ennui after a big accomplishment are common, and not just part of gender transition.

    When you’re working toward a goal for a long time, then you experience a high, then a comedown. I had this when I finished my university degree. A big feeling of “now what”, since I hadn’t planned ahead for what happened after.

    I think for many trans people this is the kind of thing that happens. I can’t speak for myself, being at the very beginning (though well past the starting line), and still dealing with things. And the thing is that while I do have a certain aim, it’s nebulous, unclear and shakey, just how I like it. I despise certainty.

  2. radicalyffe permalink
    September 22, 2009 1:52 am

    I think that the post-transition come down can be quite common, particularly for people who are a bit less self aware, and find them selves suddenly, and unexpectedly ejected from their previous pursuits and social circles. An example that springs to mind is the heterosexual trans man who no longer feels comfortable in a queer setting, but have spent the last 10 years among womyn and dykes, and so hasn’t got the knowledge required to successfully navigate heterosexual society. I don’t think that its inevitable though, and I think that maintaining a healthy balance throughout ones life is important regardless of their stage of transition. That said, obsession is so much easier!

    I have already hit the point where transition itself no longer occupies me, and to a certain extent the topic bores me, but I’m not feeling any less keen on my involvement in A Gender Agenda, because community building, political change, and all the people involved in that don’t get boring the same way as reading yet another FTM’s biography.

    Also, I think you are an incredibly intelligent and self aware young person, and that with a little bit of time you’ll figure out all this adolescent stuff, and be well set up for college, and The Rest Of Your Life etc. :)

  3. September 22, 2009 8:01 pm

    “How did you feel after going through your gender process? Did you feel empty?”

    That’s hard to answer. On one hand, I’m basically transitioned now since everyone reads me as male. On the other, I see the process as ongoing and I really don’t know where it’s going to go from here.

    In the first case, when I see myself as “done” with any other physical changes just being extra, I don’t feel empty. I have so much going on in my life – always too much on my plate, that it’s kind of a relief to not have to worry about my gender identity for a while.

    In the second case, when I think about how this will be a lifelong process of reassessment and growth, I just kind of see it as one more aspect of my life and the idea of being open to more change, in whatever direction, is nice and freeing.

    So . . . in a nutshell, to give you the short answer . . . . no : )

  4. September 22, 2009 9:11 pm

    I don’t feel empty at all. I feel like I’ve finished something, but I am excessively glad that it is now over so I can move on with my life, and not drag incorrect ID, pronouns etc. along with me for the ride. Now that I have dealt with it I can safely take care of other mental health concerns that I have, without worrying that some professional is going to say that that is the cause for my being as I am or, that that is being caused by my gender identity. I have yet to meet a psychologist/psychiatrist who can appropriately deal with both as their respective entities.
    Personally, I think transitioning in college would be a terrible place for me to do it. I have enough difficulty in dealing with school by itself, and I feel that being able to transition prior to that has been critical to my success. I guess I sorta see the process as on-going, but also not, because I feel like I’ve accomplished the major milestones I need to get on with my life in the day to day and survive. Should I choose down the road to have bottom surgery of some sort then that will continue on, but right now I’m content with as far as transition is concerned.
    I think that the most difficult thing about transition is not the times when I didn’t pass, when I got outed publicly by accident, or when some other major mishap occurred, but having to adjust to being a male person of colour (sorta). Fyi, my background is Native (Metis and Maori) and white, and so I have the usual brown hair, blue eyes of a white person, but my complexion compared to my family is a lot darker, and some of my physical features come across as more Native than white. My mum is not proud at all of her Native heritage, and so never educated me about being Native or about how to deal with racism.
    For some reason as a “female” I was never harassed or questioned about my race or about being Native, but almost as soon as the affects of hormones become more apparent, I began to get questions and harassment.
    Just some thoughts.

  5. September 24, 2009 8:20 am

    I am not yet close to “finishing” my transition in any respect and am one who feels that my transition, as with any change(s), will be a lifelong process. At this point, I cannot imagine feeling empty or sad or negative in anyway in regards to my transition, as my transition has effected my life so positively. It is important for me to view my transition and my trans identity in positive terms because of society’s stigma associated with trans people and the overall general hate we receive for merely being ourselves. It is my hope that I can continue to view my transition in positive ways throughout my life.

  6. September 30, 2009 2:26 pm

    Still not close enough to finishing transition to worry about it much, but I understand that it is a problem for many. Honestly, I’m not worried. I’m more genderqueer than trans, so I’m coming to the reluctant conclusion that I’m never going to feel “finished.” Not to mention, I have to deal with the intersections of ethnicity, race, sexuality, etc. to still deal with. ><

    But I'm glad you're getting closer to your goals, and I'm so glad your classmates are calling you by your nickname and chosen name. That always seems to make things way better. It's all little steps, you know?


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