There is a lot in the process of transition that often gets lost because it is not now, not immediate, even though it is something that people think on rather constantly.
That something is afterwards.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
I am, on occasion, accused of thinking that I know more about how other people are supposed to live their lives than they are. This often comes right after I say something that isn’t popular on the sidewalks and in the bedrooms and the support groups. It is almost always something that comes from application of theory to lived life.
Stuff like the nature of stealth being part of an internalized stigma manifesting itself. Which is almost always followed up with a statement that stealth is good for the individual, but bad for the community, and bad for those still to come.
People think I am making a judgment of them, setting down some sort of moral and ethical rule for them to live by. This isn’t true — what I am doing is applying theory to real life. And, in real life, those things are factual statements — but people do not live by factual statements. People do not live their lives — their complex, multifaceted lives that are so much more than just transness — according to facts and figures and tables of incidence. They live their lives based on their experiences, and let’s be perfectly blunt here: perhaps 52% of the total trans population spends any kind of time looking into this stuff of theory and applicability and all the rest. That’s still a lot of people mind you — to use the figure I recently wrote about, that is still something akin to 12,000 people — but in the bigger picture, it really isn’t that many.
I am not judging them. I have little invested in the idea that they need to live their lives according to that fact — people are, for example, more rooted in what they believe than what is fact (and this seems particularly true for cis folk like Cockroach Brennan). Cognitive dissonance is present in everyone — even the infamous example of Mr. Spock had to deal with it constantly.
People are free to do so. Hell, I do so. I am often aware of it, which gives me some limited influence over it. It is, to a great degree, a lot like privilege in that respect. People often forget that privilege is not something you can easily cast aside, and that, indeed, people cannot cast it aside. If they could, it wouldn’t be privilege, which is deeply and strongly tied to the overall culture they live in, and isn’t something they get to decide if they have or not.
Tumblr peeps — that last point is important. Calling someone out for their privilege only has value when their privilege is actively being used by them to further oppression. It does not mean they can suddenly stop having it — for that to happen, the entire culture around them must change. People are also capable of enormous stupidity. Take the aforementioned insect for example.
And as I have noted, I benefit from all sorts of privileges. Anyone who is reading this post does as well. Fundamentally so. To read this post requires that privilege, and for me to sit and explain it to you would involve getting into stuff like the point on stealth above — people will think I am making a judgment on them. Just like most folks with privilege, you are not going to be aware of it unless and until it is pointed out to you *and* you take steps to incorporate it into your thinking and every day actions, which most people are not going to be doing. In this case, to do that means you have to start being aware that to read this post you are capable of doing something that most folks in the trans community are not capable of doing. And that you gained that ability because of social systems and structures that favored you over other people.
There it is.
But the point here isn’t to get sidetracked down various ideas and systems there, it is to deal with the issue of Afterwards, to look at what life is like after the process that is usually referred to as transition is over.
And that’s what I’d like to mention. I have to note that for me, a large part of my life afterwards involves being active in the community, being involved in this larger thing and this effort and all this other horsecrap. So for a large extent of the time, what is going on for me after transition is externally not all that different from what went on during it.
To talk about this effectively, I have to pause and deal with an idea that is directly related to this. This is the idea that transition does end.
As one can surmise, I am finding that it does end. That there is a point where you stop being in process or progress from point a to point b and you have arrived and you can do stuff. There are not fixed and firm markers there, not absolute points where one says you start here and you do this, this, this, and this, and now you are done.
Some folks need those points — and everyone does have some sort of fixed point in their personal time where they can point to and say “that was the end”.
But a lot of folks feel that it doesn’t end. And many of them, who read this, will not be liking what I am saying that it does end. But the reason we have these different points of view is in part, because of the philosophy that underlies how we look at transition. How we define it, for a short hand, though definitional arguing isn’t the goal here.I see transition as distinct part of one’s life. They see it as an ongoing whole of life.
I see it as a discrete shift from one state or condition to another, and they see it as the entire of all conditions. So we are, really, talking about two different things. What I think of as personal growth and development they see as transition — I could hypothesize that they do so because for them, to a great extent, transition is just a part of their overall personal growth. But I don’t have an interest, at this time, in testing that or looking more deeply into it, and perhaps one day I will be able to do so.
Especially if people take the time to donate 10 bucks a month to a charity I know of that is really keen on doing a big ole needs assessment that would include that.
There are a lot of fascinating things that go along with transition. Since many of them are, indeed, set forth by cis folk as markers that provide a simple and easily referenced progression, those markers are often used. But that is a fairly new phenomenon, and one that is not likely to hold for much longer (though it will be a bit further along in my life that it ends).
These include the standard rites of passages, the hormones, the surgeries, the letters, the dx, the ID changes and paperwork stuff. Passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses or identification cards. Name changes. These things can mark significant points for a person.
And everyone is different about the importance of such things — not all of those work for everyone, but for many, they do.
For me, in particular, I am very much binary. Things like the cockroach saying I am not what everything else in the world says I am do have an impact on me. That means that for me, those documents are important. Those documents are needed.
During my transition, I needed them for two basic purposes that affect a lot of stuff. I needed them for Validation of my internal self, and I needed them to make my life easier as I went about doing things. I do still on occasion get carded when I try to buy my smokes or a bit of alcohol. And having an M on my license creates a sense of unease in me that I no longer have.
But those things are long gone for me now. I have a birth certificate. It is the only one available, it is not an “addition” or a listed change, it is the sole birth certificate. That states I was born female. It is the end argument when it comes to pretty much anything — if that says I am what I am, then thee is nothing that anyone can really do to argue with it effectively. They can say shit, and online people often do, but in the physical world around us, that means the argument is over.
I have an ID that says I am female. I have, in fact, all my documentation done. I still recall the impact of that, the realization of how much stress was dropped from me on getting all of that stuff done. It took nine months. (9). For me, that is the point when I came to the realization that my transition was over in the legal sense.
It was another year before I realized my transition was over in the rest of it.
And that left me facing a challenge. That challenge was afterwards.
Throughout my transition, I looked ahead. I had plans and dreams and goals. Some of them are recorded here, in fact.
I still want them all. I am, in various ways, focusing on how to get to them, and working towards them, and I have been — nothing of the sort that I want to happen goes on easily or quickly. I am well aware of this. I have to be, giving what I live on.
But I still have those basic goals. I want my little cottage house. At this point, I am well aware I will have to hire landscapers to help me get it to where I want it to be grounds wise, which I hadn’t realized in the past, and I know it will take two years once I do get the house to get the landscape where it needs to be. But that is still part of my overall plans, part of my goal.
I am fairly certain that I will not be surrounded by cats at this point. It is almost certainly going to be poodles. Three of them. I am still a cat person, but once you go poodle, you never go back…
I still plan to have my own Inn. Think a bed and breakfast, except I don’t do breakfasts. I still plan to offer a “family” discount. I am certain to also offer a surcharge on anti trans folk of 250%. And I am def going to advertise in those spaces.
Those are simple, hardworking dreams. I don’t leave myself a lot of time to be wishy-washy or to relax or any of the rest.
And those goals don’t have much to do with trans anything.
They also don’t tell you anything special about Afterwards. But they are important to talk about when one is dealing with afterwards because an afterwards without a long-term goal strikes me as kinda foolish. I can’t say that I saw myself when I started as doing anything even remotely like I am doing now, but I am flexible, and I am able to adapt, and so long as I am always working towards my goals, I am good with adapting and being flexible.
But the day-to-day afterwards is fascinating.
I worried that I would have a hard time to find someone to love me. I was, after all, trans. I have someone to love me. And love me he does.
I was worried that I would not be able to use what I spent a large part of my life learning. I have that — I use it every single day.
I was worried that I wouldn’t find work. I have, It is very fulfilling, but it also very distressing. That donation thing.
My usual day, sans the trans stuff, involves talking to a lot of people. Writing a lot of materials for other businesses. I have a house to clean, people to take care of, groceries to buy, food to cook.
I go out into the world as myself, Every day. The stress that once came with that is long gone. I do not have moments, save for a great once in a while when the one incongruous point in my life asserts itself.
I get ignored in groups of men. I have adapted to that. I also do not get ignored in groups of men. because I have adapted and one of the things I get to do that some forget is that as a woman, I do feel it necessary to not be accommodating and pleasant and polite.
I over extend myself. I do not try to be superwoman. There are times when I never get around to cleaning my house. There are times when my work suffers because of domestic stuff.
I go out with my girlfriends. We have lunch or dinner and we chat. We chat about a lot of things. Some of them x rated, most of them not so much. When I get asked about periods and babies and stuff, I talk about those things. I do not say I have one. I say I wouldn’t have minded having one.
I do not say I ever gave birth, I say I am envious and then I talk about my children.
That’s about as “weird” as it gets. It really is a non-starter, a non-event, a not-something-that-anyone-really-cares-about.
I do not get stopped trying to go into the women’s restroom. I do occasionally get odd looks. And, as I learned once, I walk up to them and ask the what they were looking at, because hey, I might have something odd with the dress or the blouse or the skirt or something.
Part of the reason I know that I wouldn’t have any issue entering radfem space is that there really isn’t anything they are going to talk about that I haven’t talked about already. And, to be blunt, it isn’t all that different from the stuff we talk about in women’s spaces already. Except they generally don’t like men. So says my radfem girlfriend who all but spits on folks like the cockroach (and who is the person that suggested I use that particular name). This is why I say that that group of people is pretending to be radfems.
The only thing that really does link them together is their anti-trans sentiments. That’s it. The growth they are claiming in some areas is primarily because there are already a lot of anti-trans people out there because the very patriarchy that they grew up in is filled with anti-trans sentiment. This isn’t shocking, this isn’t new. And it does, indeed, prove the point that our efforts to undo our oppression are working.
And in my daily life, there isn’t anything all that odd.
Now, I do have a tendency to meet certain cultural expectations about women. I have a decidedly personal patriarchal bargain that is, without any doubt, informed by the experiences I had growing up in a culture that strongly misrepresents women’s lives and bodies.
Lisa Wade summarized the concept of a patriarchal bargain as
“a decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact.”
I really like that summary. Especially since a part of my daily life includes helping people to negotiate their own version of such. And I am very familiar with that mechanism of action, in other areas.
This means that I do, indeed, have some sense of false privilege that comes as a result of that bargain and that meeting of expectations.
Not all trans folk do have that. For some, that bargain is simply never going to be made. For others, they are not willing (and, being directly honest, not able) to meet those cultural expectations. I think that part of the reason that it bothers so many trans people these pretend radfems say the stuff they do is that we usually get what they are saying far better than they realize.
Once, that is, we get past the tendency to rely overly much on the validation that we have craved for so long, and the sense of affirmation that we create in ourselves when we encounter that validation.
Of all the traps and difficulties I have seen in trans people — myself included — that one is the single most venal, most vile, most evil of them all. It is the one that makes people stereotype us into whores and sexual creatures far more than the drag and porn imagery and salacious news reporting of our dead as sex workers ever did.
For most trans women — and especially those in their 20′s and 30′s — that deep-seated, lifelong need for validation and affirmation manifests in a patriarchal bargain that is fully informed by the objectification and the prescriptive expectations for women that is so strong, they will do anything for more of it.
I have heard of it referred to as the ugly duck syndrome — where once an individual reaches the swan stage, they “go crazy” and begin to do whatever they can to get and gain that attention, that validation, that they never had before. Much has been noted within and without the community about our tendency towards narcissism, and while a lot of people remark on it, very few folks ever take the time to sit down and try to figure out *why* there is such a tendency.
Well, there you have it.
Combine that with a perception of women in culture who are narcissistic as being shallow superficial, plastic, and sexually available, (as well as a culture that encourages that in women), and you have a potent tool for establishing why it is that so many trans women put such grave importance on a concept as horribly and obvious transphobic as passing.
Hell, even our opponents put a huge amount of emphasis on it — the cockroach does, the AFA does, mass resistance does.
And I mention this because in the Afterwards, where I have been for several years now, there is none of that kind of ting except when I get online.
I do not get called sir. I do not get funny looks about being a man in a dress. This is because I am not such, and pretty much everyone I encounter does not see me as such.
And, again, I live in Phoenix. Arizona. This is not a bastion of liberal, progressive, open and accepting idealism, folks.
But what it does have is an idea that people should be left the fuck alone to live their lives how they see fit.
So long as they don’t go into the wrong place or cross the unwritten, unspoken lines.
And I can go to those wrong places. I can cross those lines. I do it all the time.
I am not world-famous. I do not have a Wikipedia entry, I am not listed in any great listing of important or memorable trans people. I have not won awards or been considered to be a great and noble leader. I do not engage in a lot of media appearances — indeed, it is best said that I am avoiding such.
That’s going to stop, but it is a truth. I am not interested in such. I do not have a need to be seen. I have a need to be heard, but that’s my need, not other people’s.
I am also aware that for most people, being seen means you should be heard. I just avoided that at all costs.
I live a fairly basic life once you take the Trans stuff — and, for me, that means the whole of it — out of the equation. My afterwards is filled with the basic things that trans people seek, and the two problems that I do have
- a medical issue
are not issues that are uncommon to anyone. Many people have unresolved health care stuff to attend to. And most folks I know are always stressing about money — even more especially the ones that make me roll my eyes when they whine about having to choose between this 500 dollar thing or that 500 dollar thing. And they have the 500 bucks right then on them to spend.
I would have a lot more respect for the cockroach if she wasn’t in the realm of the filthy fucking rich. Then again, she almost certainly believes that she earned that, that she worked hard to get her there and did it mostly on her own.
Well, so did I. And I really shouldn’t bitch too much — I’ve had my point where I was there.
And I will get there again. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.
And that won’t be related to my transness, or to my ethnicity, or to my womanhood.
It will be related to the basic needs of my life, the same as anyone else, and yet, it will have been because I reached the Afterwards. I reached that point in my lie where my days stopped being about getting from the past into the present, from shedding that “boy” and embracing that “girl”, from reaching the Afterwards.
Which is not fun, and not easy, and which sucks and yeah, we sometimes have to revisit it in our afterwards, but those days are not as bad.
I still do a lot of the stuff I did during transition. I realized that they aren’t part of transition, though. They are part of the stuff that I have to work on anyway — and would in the end.
I do still see the boy on occasion. I have a constant reminder of such — part of the reason I have 150 dollars of hair sitting on shelf behind me is because I want to return to a point where that reminder was not part of my daily life. That costs money, however.
And those times when I do see that boy, they are brief. And I usually laugh, because you know, that’s just the ghost of a sad person whispering when I am weak.
Reminders of the past, and I do not live in my past, which so much of transition is really about.
I’ll say it if others won’t — there are things that you sometimes need the presence of other trans people around you to talk about. But often, in the afterwards, we don’t have those places. In the afterwards, you aren’t supposed to need those things.
Yet we do, and we cannot go to the usual places, the common support groups, because the afterwards there is still a ways off for many.
So we need a place for the afterwards, but we are often unwilling to get involved because we worry about falling into the old traps, the old habits, the old ways.
And hell, we might run into one of those in the afterwards that are working in the community all the time and all they ever seem to fucking talk about is trans this and trans that and holy fuck does it get old after a while.
It gets old for me, and I am one of those people.
So for those wondering if the Afterwards is all that you hope it is, the answer is usually no.
It isn’t. It is everything you didn’t think it could be. Because you didn’t know. It is just like your life before, except you have solved a problem that got in your way, and so things are, in some way that I don’t have the words for quite yet, easier.
It is, really, everything that you haven striven for, in many ways. I know a great many trans people who get very much caught up in being normal — and, using that as one’s touchstone, let’s look at what that means.
Ordinary. Unremarkable. Everyday. Plain.
That is what Afterwards is. And you don’t have to be stealth to get it. You don’t have to pass to get it.
It just is.
It is not your life on steroids. It is not filled with more success and less hardship — those things come regardless. Some of the most cool folks I know that are also trans are people who realized that being Trans simply means you took a little trip that sucked one day, it lasted a few years, and then it was over.
And life went on.
That is the trick to it all, in the end. That is the goal of all of it. That’s what you Transition for.
When you do, though, if you can and are willing to take a bit of advice.
Those cat calls and whistles? They are not people saying you “made it”. They are not people who like you or think you successfully became a woman.
They are fuckwits doing what fuckwits do.
That feeling that you may get that is a good feeling? It isn’t really all that critical. It doesn’t make you more of something, it doesn’t mean you are more desirable or less desirable. It just means you are, well, normal. It does not mean you made it.
Indeed, it doesn’t mean a damn think about you, because it isn’t about you, personally. It is about the people whistling and catcalling.
When that stranger suddenly finds you deeply and movingly attractive, if he or she knows you are trans, then it isn’t necessarily because you are trans, and it isn’t because you are necessarily all that attractive or hot or believably womanly.
It means he or she finds you attractive right then.
And what drives that sense of such is going to vary. For some it might mean you are girl with something extra and that is what starts it, but it could become something more. For others, it may be that you are a trans person and they want to have that one night stand with one so they can later tell their friends they did and it wasn’t quite the same.
And other times it is because they saw a cute gal and they wondered if they had a chance with her.
And there is no way for you to know that, because they usually don’t know it themselves. It is attraction, and it is not based on what’s between your legs except by some really sick people who probably have some other issues of their own.
It may become important later, but not during that attraction part. They can’t see that. They can guess, but they won’t know.
And that’s all there is to that.
The other thing about Afterword I want to give you advice on is that all the theory in the world is only as useful as what it actually works with. I have cast aside a lot of theories in my efforts to test them, against real world stuff. The rest of it is just something that may or may not work for you, personally.
The divisions within the trans community are one of those things — if they work for you, fine. Run with it,. Enjoy it. Pick and choose the people you want to support and have whatever fun you wish to have.
But know that in the end, it doesn’t matter.
Because it is merely theory, not fact. It doesn’t hold up in the real world, even if it sounds good.
But that doesn’t matter. Any more than being stealth or passing matters. Any more than the degree of internalized transphobia you make a bargain with in order to get by matters. We all do it.
We have to. We live in a world that is, at its best, hostile to our lives, even if that hostility is not intentional or malign.
Afterwards is a good place. I happen to like it, and I happen to find that in the end, afterwards is worth the pain and the struggle and the heartache that comes along with transition. I also started out being willing to accept what came my way. I did not have any fixed expectations — I did not know for certain if my kids would shun me or my wife would leave me.
I knew that there was no way I would have had to stop them from doing so and no way to keep them along side me. That was a decision and journey they would have to take themselves. And they still are taking that journey.
They are still in that transition period.
Me, I’m done. Me, I am in the Afterwards.
It is lonely sometimes. For me, at least. I know a great many other people in the Afterwards. I do not always get along with them because I am also involved in the work I do.
I am all trans, all the time.
That sucks not because I am all about transness, but because that does mean that I don’t get to spend more time doing other things. In the same way that if you are a programmer you are going to deal with programs a lot. Or a retail worker dealing with retail. Or a doctor dealing with medicine.
It is my job.
And I do not want to be my job. I want to be the gal that lives in the cute little house and has the poodles and that runs the cool little place down the lane that is great to stay at and kinda different and has the nice little store and the restaurant as part of it.
That will happen.
All things do in the Afterwards.