Lately, I have stopped using the t-word with respect to people who are transgender. The t-word I have stopped using is not the pejorative that might come to mind. It is the word transition. For much of my eight years of teaching about what it means to be transgender, I was inadvertently teaching something I have come to understand creates a different understanding than the one I was trying to create. I talked about my transition. It made sense to me at the time. Today, I have come to know that I did not transition. I certainly did not go from being male to being female. I simply began to uncover the female who had been there all the time.
Many times, I have spoken about the need for protections for people who are transgender. I have spoken in front of school boards, city commissions, and state legislators. I have listened to the opposition express concerns about the safety of women and children if people who are transgender are not stopped from presenting themselves authentically in public spaces. I have seen article after article, and a myriad of comments on those articles, lamenting the same misperceptions.
Without doubt, the most significant barrier to transgender protections and acceptance is the idea that transgender women transition from male to female; that transgender women were once men. Somewhere along the way, I finally made the connection between the objections and the use of the word transition when teaching about being transgender.
I was unintentionally teaching the one thing that is most not true; the one thing that creates the biggest barriers. Then the people who learned from me would go out into their worlds and teach the same thing. It is not the use of the word, per se, but the psychology of how the word is processed in our language.
Transition involves going from one thing, to something different. Psychologically, in spite of the intended meaning, this is processed as going from male to female. The word says one thing, but the mind hears something totally different. The idea that I have gone from male to female is psychologically reinforced, and no one actually realizes what just happened.
In truth, I did not transition. If I had been male, I would have been able to be male. The reason I wasn't able to function as a male is because that is not who I was. The reason living as a woman works for me is because this is who I am. It's not rocket science. I was assigned male at birth, but I was born female.
My "transition" was a transition of presentation. It was not a transition of identity. Yes, I did have medical intervention, but that is not necessarily part of the transgender experience. Taking hormones and having surgery did not make me more of a woman. They did not transition me.
The reason why I needed to take hormones, the reason why I needed to have surgery, was not to make me more of a woman. It was to bring my body more into alignment with who I am. Again, it is not necessarily part of the transgender experience. And I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the fact that surgery and hormones are not accessible for far too many people for whom they are needed.
So, the idea that we transition reinforces the idea that there is some kind of gender change. It reinforces the idea that at some point in my life, I was a man. It reinforces the exact idea that most significantly creates barriers to bringing about an end to the violence, an end to the discrimination, and the creation of an understanding that says the simple truth. I can't transition who I am. I don't need to transition who I am. I need to be who I am.
I have stopped using the word transition when I talk about being transgender. Instead of saying when I started my transition, I say, when I began to live authentically, when I started embracing my true self and when I stopped pretending to be someone who was not me.
It has taken some time, but I have learned to describe the journey more accurately. It was a journey filled with incredible new understandings of truth that had always been true. There was the amazing and wonderful discovery of my perfectly-created self. There was a shedding of the facade; that fictional existence that was never me. I stopped pretending and began living authentically.
When I did all that, light began to shine into my world. The woman who had always been there stepped into that light and she began to learn how to shine. I stopped using the t-word because there was no transition.
Transition? No, I didn't do that. I simply stepped off a stage, leaving behind a costume that never fit, and revealed my authentic self to the world. I revealed my previously hidden truth. That's a better word. Truth. Now, there's a t-word I can get behind.