It’s not what you think.
I have never been more myself than I was until after I transitioned (as previously stated.) However, before I transitioned I had worked very hard to become comfortable with being an out lesbian. In Texas — that isn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t for me. Even in the last 10 years, from when I was probably the most out, it was common to be known as the one lesbian in whatever social circle I was participating in. In college, I was part of a group of students that started the first LGBT student organization. Things felt a little better but there were many struggles within and outside of the organization. It seems odd to say, ‘it was a different time,’ but we have had so many social shifts that the taboo of LGB (intentionally left out the T) has dwindled to a norm. All things change in time.
THEN to NOW
My Post-Transition Loss of Identity is not about who I am but who I was as a part of the LGBT community. (Yes, the T is back from my previous omission.) When I first began to transition, I still had a place in my small LGBT community. I wasn’t the first transition but I’m pretty sure I was the second and the first didn’t really come around much. I wasn’t regarded any differently and my transitional stage still made me telegraph to people that I wasn’t just another guy. Whether it was my voice that sounded more like my mother or pre-op chesticles, I was still a card carrying member of the rainbow flying LGBT community.
The more time (yes, time) went on, the more my transition shifted how my gender expression was received by people I encountered. They weren’t seeing who I used to be anymore. It caught me off guard when I realized for the first time that I was talking to someone who didn’t know I was (I am) trans because to him I had become just another guy. I think it further surprised me because it was a young man advocating safety for women on college campuses. It clicked to me because he said, “You don’t know what it’s like for a woman. You can’t possibly understand.” I had known this young man for months and I just assumed that he knew, because it felt like everyone knew, that I was ‘the trans guy.’ How could he possibly say that I don’t know what it is like to be a woman? I was one!
[Well, that’s debatable and a trivialized thing to say. Please see this future blog.]
It’s not his fault that he didn’t know. He saw me exactly as the person I wanted him to see. I believe that most transgender female-to-male or male-to-female hope to hit a point in their transition where new people they meet don’t look at them and wonder, ‘are they or aren’t they?’ I hated when someone would meet me, be prepared to address me as a man, but then I would speak and my voice would telegraph female to them. Almost on cue they would turn down from my face to look at my chest and do a boobie check to confirm their suspicions from the higher tones in my voice than immediately start addressing me as a woman. It was a great feeling to meet new people and not have to go through the looks and questions anymore. My passing privilege (the ability to pass as another gender without being seen as your former gender) was in full force.
There was a trade off I hadn’t anticipated.
There is a cool thing about being LGBT — that moment when you meet someone else that is LGBT and you know that they know that you’re in the cool kids club and they know that you know that they are too. There’s a camaraderie in the minority. When the world started treating me like I was just a regular guy, I noticed that there was a small group of people that did start treating me differently: the LGBT community. I didn’t know that by gaining passing privilege my rainbow card had expired or in some cases, flat out revoked. The same LGBT mentorship or advocacy I had done before was being met with questions of ‘why are you here? you don’t belong.’
Imagine that? I no longer belonged to something that had become such a huge part of my life. To make matters worse, I wasn’t just seen as a guy but I was seen as a conservative christian white man of privilege. While all of those adjectives about me are true, it is not true that I am automatically the bad guy because I’m a white guy. I don’t normally talk about race, but it is significant for this blog.
When you start delving into LGBT issues, intersectionality always comes up and race is just one of the intersections. It’s such a hot topic right now. It makes it difficult to say that it is hard to be a white guy right now. Don’t start hating me yet, hear me out first. Everyone hates the white guy right now because it’s his fault that the world is so messed up. He’s spent centuries making it about his needs that I guess it’s time to pay the piper. I’m all for accountability but my issue is that I’m in my 30s and I haven’t even been a white guy for a decade, what did I do?! I didn’t do any of the things that I am generally held culpable for just by being a white guy. The irony is that I’m the bad guy for attaining privilege but in reality I’ve been ostracized. I’ve sat at lectures and attended conferences where white privilege is a major topic but most of the discussions revolve around calling everyone out for their white privilege and telling everyone who was born white and can’t control their race that it is their fault and they are all bad because of it. (By the way, that is the definition of racism and yes people can be racist against white people too — I see it every day.)
I know it seems off topic but let me refocus it so you understand.
I was born female, half Hispanic and raised by a poor, single parent and lived that for over 25 years, with 10 years of that as an out lesbian and active member of the LGBT community. That is not all that I was but that was the identity I lived and that was my lens of perspective.
All the world sees is that I’m a straight, white man with a college education. It is assumed that I have had no struggles in my life and I couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to not be accepted for who I am.
I’m still coming to terms with this loss of identity. Sorry if this post isn’t as funny or snarky as others. I try to focus on something a friend of mine who works with diversity issues said, “I believe in celebrating all people, even if some people have been celebrated more than others — historically.”
I want to celebrate everyone! I really want to help others with their transition and let them know that just by being themselves they are a cause for celebration. My membership card is gone but I still taste the rainbow every day.