I’ve become increasingly aware of a behavior I have that is ultimately damaging to my self-esteem and my spirit overall. As a transgender woman, I’m find that I’m often quite desperate to find other trans women that I can identify with. I’m looking for women who’ve had the same experiences I’ve had and then I compare myself to them. I think to some degree this is a part of the human condition but at times for me (and other trans women I know) it becomes almost obsessive.
We create these Facebook groups, online web forums and other social media interactions so that we can find people similar to us. We’re looking for support, we’re looking for assurance that we’re not alone in our experience, or maybe we’re just looking for people who will understand us. We use each other’s experiences to guide our decisions. All this is good and I believe it helps us as transgender people work through the very difficult process of transitioning.
However, where I think the damaging element comes into play is when we start comparing ourselves and our journeys to those of our peers. For me at least, I’m always trying to find that person who’s just like me. Had the same disposition pre-transition, was the same age, followed the same steps. I think the truth is, however, that person doesn’t exist. The reality of this process is that we each have our own journey and it is unique to us, just as unique as our face or our fingerprints. So while we don’t want to feel alone in our journey, we are walking a path that no one else has or will ever walk.
An analogy comes to mind here. Our transition journey is like walking through a large forest. There are countless ways we can enter the forest, once inside there are paths that have been created by others that we may follow for a time. They might start as an established trail, but as we go on, they branch off into many smaller individual paths. We make choices, we go different directions. We choose one because the going looks easier than the other options. We might choose another because it will get us where we want to go faster even though it will be more challenging. We might even choose not to follow someone else’s path and go a new way because we want to check out an area that no one has been to before. At times we may rejoin a larger path and follow it for another length of time until we have to choose again. Our transitions are no different.
So the issue I’m realizing in myself is that despite the fact that we all take different paths in our transitions, I try to look at those whose path is most like mine and then I compare the progress. I look at how much their bodies have changed, how many surgeries or electrolysis sessions they’ve had. How have their breasts grown compared to mine. How is their family life, their dating life, etc.? How open and well known are they in our community? Are they involved in activism on behalf of trans people? The truly damaging part of this comparison is that, like we humans tend to do, I become focused on the ways I perceive those people have progressed farther than me but I forget to acknowledge the ways that I perceive I have progressed farther than them. I also fail to take into account the unique hills, obstacles, and delays that I have encountered on my path that they may not have run into on their path.
The result of all of this is that I put a lot of pressure on myself. I become anxious and impatient. I want all the things and I want them now. I started my transition mere months before my 40th birthday. I did my research. I saw the articles about how much harder it is to transition after 40, how much more limited the body changes can be. So like so many trans women, I want to maximize the changes, I want to have the “best results” I can get from all this that I’m putting my body through. I want to be as beautiful as I can possibly be. Sometimes I feel like I started a marathon 10 minutes late and now I’m trying to catch up to the pack.
It also goes beyond making the physical changes. I also want to maximize the time I get to spend being my authentic self. There are so many things I would have loved to have experienced as a 20-something or 30-something year-old female that I simply have to accept I’ll never get to experience. I know 40 is the new 30 and all that, but let’s be real here. There are those behaviors, those discoveries, etc. that young women go through that women my age are no longer a part of.
Often, I get pulled into looking back on those things, I feel the regrets. I feel the “what-ifs”. However, I again fail to put things into context. Sure I could have transitioned 15 years ago. But while yes I might have a more close to “ideal” (whatever that is) appearance and I’ve have gotten to live in my 20’s and 30’s as a woman, other things would have changed too. Society in general wasn’t as educated or willing to accept transgender people. One of my three kids would have not even been born. My then wife wouldn’t have had nearly the understanding she did at the end of 2016 when I came out to her and our divorce would have been far messier than it was. My career likely wouldn’t have been as successful either. I gained a lot from my white male privilege and from hiding behind that male façade, and I have to acknowledge that too.
I don’t know where I’m headed with this blog other than to acknowledge these feelings and behaviors and the effect they have on me. I’m sure if I’m experiencing this, other trans women are as well. I’m struggling at times to find a true sense of self-love. Sometimes I struggle to just live in the present moment and be happy and content with who I am right now. It’s improving. More and more I find myself able to just live and be a woman in this world without constantly thinking about everything I have to do to feel comfortable out in public, without obsessing over all the steps I have yet to tackle on my journey. Sure as I tackle each new challenge it becomes easier, but somehow I want to find comfort in the unknown of what the future holds for me. Rather than try to plan each step and make it perfect, just take things as they come and live in the now being authentic to who I am. That is my goal, that is my true journey, and I hope I can fully connect with it.