Think we do it because we choose to? Perhaps we want attention?
Well you would be wrong. To understand you need learn a little more about what it is like to BE transgender.
Yes, we have made the decision to transition. It is a conscious decision but it is more complex than people first assume.
For many, life is a series of events which lead us through a meandering journey in which ultimately we are all trying to live happily and in harmony. Some drive to be successful in their career, some throw their love and passion into building a family, perhaps a life of art or music.
My personal experience as a transgender individual is this: I have not always known that I am transgender, but I always have been; my series of events has been this similar pursuit of happiness; the happiness that I found was always short-lived and often felt incomplete; the only happiness that ever felt real were the connections I had with loved ones.
Connections we have to close friends, family and loved ones are special. As individuals we connect on a more spiritual level with these people. Whether or not they are male or female (or anything in between) does not matter, we treat people differently due to their gender, but that is a portrayal of society rather than our own prejudgement and prejudice (prejudgement and prejudice is really just a construct of society and the fabricated expectations which are placed upon us).
Example: if a person were to meet a man, let’s call him James, they worked together and have similar interests so became friends and socialised outside of work. Alternatively this person meets Jane, they work together and have similar interests so become friends and socialise outside of work.
The point I am making is that people connect with the person inside the body, regardless of gender or physical appearance. In regards to this, I have found that transgender people are very good and loyal friends as they value friendship extremely highly.
Back to ‘choice’. Society accepts the binary gender markers of male and female without question, they are the template. Our choice to transition is born from our search for happiness, something everyone can relate to. In searching we discovered that no matter what we do, there is something that still does not fit. Something missing. The day when we realise that we are transgender is a terrifying one, not just because of the journey ahead, but also the reflection upon the past. We realise how deeply rooted and significant a realisation this is, a million thoughts pass through as we process every life event and align it with the new variable of being transgender. Like a scientist having a eureka moment and realising much of their work up to this point is irrelevant, but they have finally found what they were searching for.
Now, there are still choices to be made. Do I transition? Which breeds questions. How? When? What will happen to my life?
To decide not to transition, having had that eureka moment, would be difficult. To continue as you are when you know there is something out there which will bring you more happiness, that happiness which we work all of our lives to find.
So I ask you this. Is it really a choice? And if you were in the situation of knowing one path led to the happiness you have been looking for all your life and the other path was the same difficult and confusing one that you have always walked, which path would you choose?
Perhaps we want attention?
A common assumption of many people who bring ‘drama’ into life. However to presume that we are merely being ‘dramatic’ is incredibly patronising and whilst making the person accused incredibly annoyed and upset, it also drastically reduces the respect they have for the person who made the assumption.
It is not for attention. In my experience, most transgender people have done a lot of reading about what being transgender means and is like. They do this before coming out to others. When we do come out to others it is often forgotten that whomever they tell has not done this research so we may be hitting a wall of preconceived ideas, society norms and incorrect information about being transgender. So please don’t get offended if we are quick to jump onto a defensive foot, we’ve just put quite a lot of time into our research to validate and understand ourselves.
In this research we discover that transgender people struggle for rights and are often not treated as equals. Being looked down on, patronised to, made fun of, harassed, beaten, raped, murdered. These are unfortunately quite commonplace for transgender people. There are still many countries where it is illegal.
In the UK doctors refer us to a specific Gender Identity Clinic (GIC). The waiting list for most of these clinics is over 500 people, which equates to at least 12 months until a first assessment. After which it can be up to 6 months before your first appointment with a GIC doctor.
GP doctors do not really know what to do with transgender patients yet. There is also no appropriate counselling through the NHS.
If a person is seeking attention then being transgender would not be a good path. Firstly they will get pretty much ignored by their GP, who does not want to get involved at this stage. Then the person will be on a waiting list and receive one or two letters from the GIC.
In addition to this it is well documented by many that when you come out as transgender to your friends and family you will lose a lot of them. And those who you don’t lose will initially have trouble coming to terms with it as it is not an easy thing to get your head around. I experienced this first hand, my mum did not understand initially, which is absolutely fine. She suggested that it might not be that I’m transgender, there could be any number of other reasons why I feel this way. Mum, I love you and have so much respect for your willingness to understand, you still accepted me and loved me, that never changed, I could see that in your eyes.
However, my mum had her own process to go through in order to understand my situation. I gave her time and space to do that, didn’t pester her or force her to come round to me perspective. And in a few short months my mum became my best friend and biggest pillar of support.
But look at the process. A transgender person who has done a little research can see how hard the first year is. This is not something that would be done for attention… EVER! So please do not make this assumption, it is incorrect.
And yes, we have made a choice, we have chosen try and find happiness.
All we really want is to be happy. Just like you and everyone else in the world. Is that too much to ask?