Today marks one year since I first started taking my hormone replacement therapy. Up front, I need to say this – no one’s trans identity needs medical intervention to validate it. There are a lot of trans people who don’t want medical intervention, and that is not something that anyone needs to justify. I was as much a woman before I started taking those tablets as I am now, one year down the line.
But, nonetheless, that day was a turning point for me, and its anniversary is a milestone. For me, HRT was a necessity. And it was a struggle, even for me, to access this life-saving intervention. So that day – Monday, the 9th of February 2015 – was a victory. And today is a celebration of that victory.
I’m not going to talk today about what has transpired during the year that’s passed, or what the hormones have done for me. You can already read about some of that elsewhere, and I’m sure I’ll speak more about it in time to come.
Instead, today I choose to write a letter a letter to my trans family, those I know and those I don’t.
A love letter to my trans family on this, my first anniversary
My dearest siblings, brothers, and sisters
You wonderful, beautiful, amazing people. You who inspire me, and give me courage, and help me to find strength that I never knew I had.
It was you who helped me find my way when I set out on my journey. It was you who gave me hope when I was drowning in despair. It was you who reminded me that I could be loved, and it is you who help me sustain the will to carry on, to stand up, to make my voice heard, and to do so with pride.
I am young, in my transition. I do not have all the answers. Sometimes, I wonder if I have any at all. But transition works like that. It gives you the most certainty in one moment, and the most doubt in the next.
But still, I have learned some things – and perhaps those of you who are younger than me may gain something from reading this.
You are not lesser. You are not alone. You are loved.
I know how it feels. To wonder if you’ll ever be “good enough”. To feel that you’re just an imitation of what you were supposed to be. To feel that your lot in life is destined to be bitter, that you’re not worthy, that there is nothing within you that can be loved. I have been there, in that dark place. And I will admit that, sometimes, I find myself back there.
And so vicious is the cycle that I shame myself even for that. I blame myself for forgetting or ignoring all the evidence that proves just how valuable I am. It’s not a nice hole to fall into it, and it’s not an easy one to get out of.
And it’s not easy to reach out for help, either. When everything is telling you that you don’t deserve the compassion of others, that you’re a burden, that those who love you might be better off without you anyway, it’s hard to reach out. And it’s hard to look after yourself.
Again, I don’t have the answers. I wish there was an easier way. I wish I could do more to help – but all I can do is to tell you that you have worth, to tell you that every breath you draw is a victory that should be celebrated without reservation, to tell you that the world would be poorer without you in it.
I love you – and I am not the only one – and I don’t want to lose you too.
You are trans enough.
I mean it. It doesn’t matter how you identify. Binary, non-binary, male, female, both, neither, or in between.
It doesn’t matter if you’re closeted or you’re out.
It doesn’t matter if you’re stealth.
It doesn’t matter whether you have debilitating dysphoria, or none at all.
Whether you’re on hormones, or never will be. Whether you want a million surgeries, or zero. Whether you wear dresses or jeans or pretty floral tops or big clunky boots.
Whether you speak out, or you stay silent.
Whatever people read you as.
You. Are. Trans. Enough.
And you do not owe anyone anything. No answers, no explanations, no impassioned discourse around gender politics.
You don’t have to be an activist. You can if you want to, but you don’t have to want to.
This is your family, and you are welcome here. You don’t have to prove yourself.
Old habits die hard – and that’s okay.
For a good number of years, I bet you were conditioned to respond to a certain name and certain pronouns. And maybe that name and those pronouns don’t fit you anymore.
Maybe it was a big step for you to muster the courage to say that to other people – to ask them to call you by something new, to break those old habits. Maybe you’ve even had to correct them when they get it wrong – and I know that can be more daunting even than telling them in the first place, especially when you have to do it multiple times.
It sucks to be misgendered and deadnamed by other people. We have all been there, at one time or another.
It also sucks to be misgendered and deadnamed by yourself. And we have all been there too.
And it’s okay.
If you turn your head when you hear your deadname, if you still feel a twinge over the pronouns, if you see yourself as the wrong gender in your dreams, it’s okay – don’t beat yourself up.
Those around us often complain that it’s hard to adapt, because they are so accustomed to using whatever name or pronouns we used to go by. But how much harder is it for us? When everyone has always addressed us in that way. When years of upbringing has taught us to address ourselves in that way.
Be kind to yourself. Have a giggle about it if you can, at how silly and ill-fitting those epithets are for you. “Teehee, how ridiculous is that, for a minute there I thought I was a <boy/girl>”. Forgive yourself, and move on.
I promise you, there will come a day when you will hear your deadname, and you will not flinch. There will come a day when you see yourself in your dreams as you truly are. And when it does, you will be overwhelmed and amazed and everything will feel okay.
That day will come, I promise.
Try to be patient.
Everyone’s experience is different. And no two transitions are alike. I know you want to compare yourself to everyone else you know – that’s a normal, human thing to do. I did it too, and sometimes I still do. But our bodies are different and varied, and they work in different ways. They respond in different degrees to different stimuli, different molecules. I know it’s hard to remember sometimes, but it’s true.
Try to be patient. Try to have faith. One day, when you wake up and you suddenly have boobs, or facial hair, or curvy hips, or a deeper voice, you will stand in front of the mirror giddy with excitement.
One day you will look back at how awkward you were, and how hard you had to try. And you will do so with a quiet, assured confidence. You won’t be able to pinpoint when that confidence emerged – it came gradually, not like a thunderclap. There was less fanfare with it than you anticipated there would be, for something so momentous. But it will be there, and that will be enough.
Transition does not follow the rules.
Well, this one’s not really accurate. Because, actually, there aren’t any rules. People will want you to believe that there are, but that’s actually not how it works.
I tried to set rules for my transition. I had it all planned out – a time-frame and everything. I was meticulous, and I even impressed myself at the thoroughness of my forethought.
And everything went according to plan. Until it didn’t.
And to be honest, that didn’t take long. It was a series of negotiations and concessions that I had with myself, trying to delay the inevitable. But the fact is, that once I’d had a taste of the life I was supposed to be living, it wouldn’t let go of me. And I couldn’t let go of it.
You have to be adaptive and flexible. If things don’t go quite to plan, it’s okay. You’re in a complex, evolving relationship with yourself, and there’s a lot of learning (and unlearning!) to do be done. Like any relationship, it takes time, effort, commitment, and flexibility.
And it’s not just about the timeline, either.
It applies to everything – there aren’t any rules. There’s no right or wrong way to come out (and there’s nothing to say that you must!), there’s no right or wrong way to dress, there’s no right or wrong way to act. What happens to your old life is up to you. Maybe you want to post “before and after” photos on Facebook to show how far you’ve come? Or maybe you would rather remove all images of you pretending to be someone you’re not. Either one is okay. You can even change your mind, and that’s okay too.
Perhaps your mom, who thought for however many years that she had a son, now sees you painting your nails, seated at her dining room table. It’s weird, and it’s bizarre, and it can make you feel a lot of things. And that’s okay. Talk about it if you want. Or don’t, if you aren’t ready to. Either way, it’s okay.
We all start out in different places, and we all explore in different ways. However you came to learn your truth, it’s okay. You’re here now, and you’ve come so far. Don’t fixate too much on where you’ve been, or the mistakes that you’ve made – try to look towards the future, because the best has yet to come.
Which brings me to my last point…
It gets better.
I don’t mean this to sound trite. But this is something I believe honestly and with my whole heart.
It does get better. But… not always in the ways that we expect.
Some of the stuff is pretty straightforward. Like if you’re on hormones, then as time goes by, your body will be remodelled in a way that you will hopefully find quite pleasing.
But a lot of it is less so. I can’t promise you acceptance in this world – though I wish so much that I could. But you will become better at finding spaces that are safer, and you will find that the opinions of those who reject you begin to matter less.
You might lose some friends, or some family. But you will gain new ones, too. And you will cry less for the losses.
Some of your dreams might be shattered, but there will be new ones to take their place, and the sorrow you feel will gradually fade.
You’ll learn things about yourself, and about the people around you. And some of those things you won’t necessarily like, but you’ll be stronger for knowing them.
There is a place for you, even if it’s not where you thought it would be. And it can be hard to let go of that, oh I know. But time will pass, and you will see how your priorities have changed, and somewhere in there you will find a moment of peace and comfort.
It doesn’t always get easier. It doesn’t always get simpler. But it does get better.
I want to thank you. Those who came before me, who taught me, who gave me someone to look up to, and reasons to believe.
And those who come after me, for giving me hope and reason and determination.
You are my friends, my loved ones, my chosen family. Without you I would not be here.
You are wonderful, beautiful, and amazing.
And I love you.