When Is Transition Over?

We read articles, blog posts and see videos where people talk about being fully transitioned or “post op”.  This gets me thinking.  What is it they mean by fully transitioned or post op?  It feels like people use those two terms interchangeably.    People talk about how things will be when they are done transitioning.  I hear folks talk about “once I’ve transitioned”.  What does all this mean?  How do they know they’re done transitioning?  Do we get a certificate that states that our transition is complete and there’s nothing left to do?  Who gets to decide this?  Doctors?  Society?  The government?  Ourselves?  People ask us if we’ve had “the operation” like that’s some kind of testament to whether we’re fully transitioned and, like-wise, when we talk about being post-op, we buy into that whole notion that it takes an operation to fully transition.

Transitions are as unique as finger prints.  No one walks exactly the same path or has the same experiences.  Not everyone has the same end point in mind when they begin to transition.  What one person might consider a complete transition another might consider only partial.  Many blog posts have been written about people who do not buy into the gender binary and what their transitions look like.  There is wide variety in what any of us, whether binary or not, consider that point where we’re done transitioning.  I’ve heard trans people who started transitioning 20 years ago state that they don’t feel done or that they don’t completely relate to the opposite gender as they were assigned at birth.  Some are adamant that they are no different than someone who was born and raised as their transitioned gender.

Personally, I don’t even like the word transition.  To me it is misleading.  It means that we’re going from one thing to another.  We’re not doing that, though.  We already are this thing that we’re supposedly transitioning towards.  It’s true that our bodies change and how society sees us and treats us changes, but who we are stays the same.  Because of the brainwashing that we received from birth it might take us quite a long time to realize who and what we really are but it doesn’t mean that we weren’t that person all along.  Sure, hormones can do some wonky things to our heads, especially at first, and make it seem like our personalities have changed, but what’s really happening is that our true self is coming out and we’re being allowed to let our personalities be free for the first time since we were little children.  I prefer the word align.  I feel like I’ve gone through an alignment internally and externally as a person.  My internal and external are in alignment.

The general population of cis-gender people see people like Kaitlyn Jenner in the news and they assume that we all go from being a hyper masculine dude to a hyper feminine woman (or vice versa) in the blink of an eye and that then we’re done transitioning.  This is a fairytale.  Even Jenner, with all of her money, will still continue to transition throughout the rest of her life.  Transition is so much more than just surgeries and hormones.  Those are the most talked about components, inside and outside of the trans community, but they are just the gas that makes the engine run and not even completely necessary for some people to transition.  The nuts and bolts of the transition engine is internal/emotional and social.  Why do we get surgeries and take hormones?  So we feel better in our bodies and to align our internal and external personas to both ourselves and the world.  They change the way we look and therefore how other people see us.  They change the way we see ourselves.  For me, personally, I wanted to experience having the body I felt I was supposed to have as well as be seen by the rest of the world as the person I have always known myself to be.  I could say that once those two goals were met that I was done transitioning.  But that’s not even close to true.  Even though strangers might see a man when they meet me, people that knew me before as a female often still see a female and want to treat me that way.  They are uncomfortable referring to me as he and him and using my correct name.  They say things like, “you’ll always be my old relationship (brother/sister/mother/father/etc) and old name to me.”   I won’t even go into how selfish and cruel this is to say to someone.  Let’s just suffice it to say that the social side of transition is often the hardest and most complicated portion of the journey.  And then, there’s our own emotional, internal world that battles over whether we’re really men or women after all and whether we’re “trans enough” and whether we’re performing our new gender correctly and worries about whether someone is going to be able to figure out that we weren’t born into the gender as we present and kick our ass or worse.  There are people who will crop up out of nowhere for the rest of our lives that didn’t know we transitioned or that we are forced to “out” ourselves to for a myriad of reasons (think doctors, lawyers, judges, employers, etc.)  We can never escape our past.

So, to me, transition never ends.  The human body is constantly transitioning, whether we want it to or not.  As we sit here reading this post our bodies are all in the process of transforming into something new.  Our viewpoints are changing constantly.  Our brain is always in the process of change and adaptation, learning new things, forgetting old things, building new pathways.  Society might see a man or a woman, but our mother will always see that baby girl or boy that they gave birth to and will struggle to honor our truth throughout the rest of her life.  Old employers, even if they got the memo that you changed your name and gender marker, will still mess up your information occasionally.  This is just life as a trans person.  Or life as a person.  How many of us are the same person at 40 that we were at 10, 15 or 20?  Hopefully none of us.  We’re all transitioning, some more dramatically than others, but we’re all doing it everyday, all day long.

As I sit here writing this post I ask myself this question.  When will I be done transitioning?  Technically, I am done.  Society sees me as a man.  I see a man in the mirror.  I’m happy with my surgery results.  I don’t plan on any more surgeries at the moment, but I’m open to the option in the future.  I like the facial and chest hair that hormones have given me, but I want more of it and I know that, with time, it will come.  My body is not done changing and it never will be until long after I’ve physically passed on.  Even after death our bodies continue to change.  We’re never static.  Nothing ever stays the same.  So, I can happily put on the clothes I feel best wearing every day and step out into the world as a man today, but I know that the transition process will continue throughout the rest of my life.  The only difference is that now I can live a more honest and open life and there isn’t anything besides maintaining my hormone levels left to do.  If this is what someone means by being fully transitioned than I guess I am at that point but I know that things will continue to change as I go throughout the rest of my life and there is more work to do.  And I’m ok with that.  I am in alignment, and that’s what matters.

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16 thoughts on “When Is Transition Over?

  1. “but who we are stays the same”. Exactly. I wish more trans folk would say this truth. I have always been a woman, I didn’t always know that I was a woman, I didn’t always live as a woman. But I have always been a woman.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes! Whether we have the words and knowledge to understand who we really are is irrelevant. Our core selves do not change with transition. Sometimes we change our viewpoints and alter some of our beliefs because of our new perspective in the new role, but we are, basically, the same people.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Legally Toni and commented:
    I love this guy and his clarity. This was my comment on his post: “but who we are stays the same”. Exactly. I wish more trans folk would say this truth. I have always been a woman, I didn’t always know that I was a woman, I didn’t always live as a woman. But I have always been a woman.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful post. People often ask me about my husband’s transition and who was “she” before. He was always him, he has the same values and humor that he did before hormones and surgeries. The changes were he became happier, more confident in himself and his body, and wore more comfortably mens clothes. I like your use of align and I’d say for C his alignment brought out the self he buried but in no way is a whole new person. He receives certain privileges now from people who don’t know his history and he has learned to work within the space he is in. I don’t think any person is ever “done” -we are in motion all the time.
    Thank you for your story!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You put it all very well. One has a whole new world to learn and blend into, and it will indeed take the rest of one’s life. But you get more and more relaxed and comfortable with how things really are and, within some limitations, can have most of what life can offer. And I speak as a late-life transitioner (or aligner). These are truly my best years, partly because I know who and what I am, and the old rules and barriers have gone.

    Lucy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lucy! I agree that these are some of my best years as well. For me, it’s because I’m at peace now and not at war with myself or society. I no longer feel like I’m struggling to fit a square peg into a round hole and that is a huge relief!

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  5. Thank you for writing those words! I could never describe it better myself!
    I like the word alignment, it feels more true to what’s actually going on. All humans are in transition, but a few of us also need to align society’s view of us to how we feel inside.
    I love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Fredrick! I’m glad this spoke to you and you can relate so well to it. Hope things are well with you and your family.

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      • All is well and I have a few posts in pipeline, especially since reading yours!However work and family life takes all my time at the moment but I hope things will quiet down a little in a few months so I will have time to do some writing (and take lunch breaks).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great to hear! Can’t wait to read your thoughts.

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  6. Ugh- I wrote a (long) response and lost it!

    Great post, Shawn! I think the word-align- is more accurate than transition. I know that I have used it when describing what Kris is going through over the years. It’s hard for a person to understand that Kris transitioned (“completion certificate” almost in hand), when they changed their pronouns, names and gender expression and in the eyes of some de-transitioned? Aligning definitely makes more sense. I see Kris as being more fluid in regard to gender making an end result tricky to pin down.

    In regard to “You’ll always be my ——” — I think those people truly do not realize how hurtful that is. They probably don’t even realize why they are saying it- It could be for any number of reasons. Of course the first that comes to my mind is that they are not accepting. I thought Kerry was my daughter for over 18 years so in that respect Kerry was my daughter but when Kris came out, it took time to sort it all out. I think I was afraid if I let go of the idea that Kerry was my daughter that I would lose Kerry completely and I didn’t want to do that. I talked a lot with Kris about this. Daughter is a word that carries a lot of weight- emotional weight- so to lose that it wasn’t easy- but it was best for Kris and Kris was my son- or so I thought! To really drive home the point that those are just words- son, daughter, brother, sister…..- I had to accept that I had neither son nor daughter, simply a child. And even if Kris was identifying as male, I still had to strip it all down to the bare bones of Kris- the person. It can be hard for some- they probably carry of a lifetime of expectations based on the gender binary and don’t even realize it. Gender creeps into every little crack and corner of our lives and we never realize it. Yikes I’m getting long winded and rambly here- sorry about that! This post really struck a chord with me. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kat, sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your (and all the other) comments on this post. Life has been a little hectic, but good, and I’m just now trying to catch up with WordPress. I hate it when I write a post or comment and the internet eats it! That sucks!

      Your perspective, as a parent of a young trans person, is so helpful and important to any discussion of what it is to transition/align in society. The person who is under-going the alignment has their perspective but they aren’t doing it alone or in a bubble. It affects their family, friends, co-workers, classmates, practically everyone in their life, tremendously as well. Even my dentist has had to rearrange how he deals with me a little bit. I think it’s quite possible that the people most affected by us aligning ourselves is our parents. Like you said, they have so many, mostly unconscious, feelings and expectations wrapped up in the child/person they thought we would grow up to be. I know my mother always made it really clear to me what she expected of me, even though I had absolutely no intentions of fulfilling her wishes (demands?).

      Words do matter and they carry a lot of weight with them. I’m still not really comfortable being referred to as a brother or a son. All those years of programming take a long time to un-do (if that’s even possible). I can only imagine how it must feel for a parent to have to switch from referring to their child as a daughter to their son. And then, to not refer to them as either or both must be maddeningly hard. Truly, I can’t really imagine how difficult it is. You’ve done a lot of thinking and agonizing about this, I know, and to your credit, are dealing with it better than most people would. Gender truly does run through every vein of life and every conversation we have. It’s impossible to have even the smallest, most insignificant conversation without gendered pronouns or expectations creeping into it at some point. Most people aren’t even aware of this happening until they develop an awareness of how often it happens. I’ve had friends comment on how they hadn’t been aware of how often we use words like he and she in every day life. But they’re becoming aware now and that’s a start.

      Liked by 1 person

      • One thing that surprised me most is how often we might talk about a person in front of them using their pronouns!

        But I also know that it is possible to change the pronouns you use for a person….more than once, in fact! And it is possible to call someone by a different name. There is no one in the world who called Kris- Kerry for over 18 years and if I was able to adapt, others could too. The 2nd name change came quicker and easier but I don’t advise changing names often! 🙂 Lately I’ve been bungling Kris’s name a lot- probably because they are home from school now.

        I think it all takes time. Kris took to being one of the brothers like a fish to water. It’s the one male thing that remains constant even though Kris doesn’t identify fully as male.

        I’ve come to realize that as long as we are open to it, we can adapt to the biggest changes over time. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes, it’s definitely possible. It just takes time, effort and practice. That’s all it is really. And still we slip up sometimes because it’s so hard wired into our brains. I referred to myself as “girl” this morning, while talking to myself…a habit I’m not ashamed to admit that I do on a regular basis.

        I just got back from my quarterly family trip and I’m pleased to report that people are finally starting to use he and him for me. It could be the facial hair and the fact that everyone else sees he and him now, but whatever it is, it’s working. Very happy about that.

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