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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Open Letter to a Young Transman

(I originally wrote this as a private letter because the subject matter was private. But earlier today, I was asked to advise someone else as they began their transgender journey at the same time as the original recipient was moving forward with his life. I took this as a general sign from the universe that I ought to repost this for all see, in the hopes that it helps others. 

I have done my best to strip out identifying remarks, but if I remove too much context the letter will lose much of what makes it useful. Therefore, those of you who travel in the same social circles as I do may be able to figure out the person to whom it was originally addressed. I ask that you keep this information to yourself so that the original recipient can come out at his own speed. 

Thank you! -- Erin)


As one transgender to another, let me welcome you into the fold and say that you made the right decision choosing life. That was very brave of you. I know it must have been difficult for you to have decided to face the consequences of both your suicide attempt and life as a transgender person, but that is what made it so brave! You decided to take the harder path, and that speaks well of your character.

I'm hardly an expert at being trans, but I feel motivated to write to you now, when I ought to be sleeping, because there is no handbook for this sort of thing and there darn well ought to be. So if you will indulge me, I'd like to share some hard-won wisdom with you.
  • You can decide to get sexual reassignment surgery, and that's okay. 
  • You can decide just to have hormone treatment, and that's also okay. 
  • You can even decide not to have anything done to your body at all, and just dress in men's clothing and ask to be treated as a male, and that is also equally okay.
The important thing here is that you need to be comfortable within your own skin, because it's where you're going to spend the rest of your life (and I hope your life is a long, happy and productive one). You don't owe anybody else a justification for what is done with your body or how you choose to express your gender.

You will probably end up explaining yourself a lot, though, mainly to your parents and to doctors. This is okay, because they want to help you. Your parents may not understand what you are feeling, but they desperately want to understand because they love you! So please keep in mind that when they ask you to explain it's not because they want to argue with you, but because they want to know what you're going through so they can support you.

Doctors will ask you to explain because they want to make sure that the decisions you make about your body have been carefully thought out and all the consequences of those decisions considered. This will likely be a long and annoying process, but the good news is that you're going to learn so much about yourself that you didn't know before! Plus, when other people ask you why you did what you did, you can give them amazing answers that will shut them up.

Now on to the difficult portion: Yes, there will be people in the world who will give you trouble about your decision. That's the bad news. The good news is that their opinions aren't important!

I realize that, as a young person, you are worried about what people at school may say, and that their opinions are very important to you because that social environment is your whole world. You may not believe this now, but keep these facts close to your heart because as you get older you will find them to be true:
  1. Every kid in school feels awkward and is convinced that everyone is judging them. When you get older, you will realize this means they're all thinking about themselves more than each other, so most of the things which embarrass you now won't even register in their brains as being worth remembering. 
  2. Everyone is screwed up, and no one is perfect. The ones who seem perfect have only figured out how best to hide their imperfections. 
  3. Kids who taunt and harass are the ones who are really screwed up, and they're trying to hide it by having everyone look at the people they're taunting instead of themselves. 
  4. When you go to high school, all the middle school drama gets left behind. And when you go to college, you get to leave so much high school baggage behind that you can become anyone you want. In other words, what happens to you in school now, however painful it may be, won't matter in a few years. 
You may not believe me, and that's fine. Just refer back to this letter every few years and I think you'll see it coming true.

Finally, there is the question of coming out. We all have to do it in one way or another, and I expect you're worried about what kids at school might think. Well, see above. :) But there's a greater truth to coming out, because when you do you get to see the true character of people.
  • Some people will support you and cheer you on and not make you feel at all awkward about your gender or sexuality or anything else. Keep these people close, because they can be your dearest friends. 
  • Some people simply won't care because it doesn't affect them. These will be the vast majority of people.This is a good thing, because "None of my business" is a great attitude for people who don't know you. You'll spend some time finding a good balance around these people -- some will be "Yeah, you're trans, whatever" and others will be "I don't want to hear about it", so expect to stumble a bit around them. And guess what? That's also okay. 
  • Finally, you will meet some jerkwads and buttheads. They will call you names and try to make you feel terrible. You'll probably end up trying to make them like you (which is okay) but most of the time that won't work. This is fine for two reasons: 
    1. Remember what I said about people who are jerks make fun of others so that no one sees how messed up they are? Yep, that's them. Don't get mad at them (and that's hard to do, I know); instead, pity them. You're far more complete a person than they will ever be, because awesome people don't have time to be petty. 
    2. So much of life is about figuring out who you can trust and who you can't, who is worth your time and who isn't, who you should listen to and who you shouldn't. These people have put up a sign saying I'M NOT IMPORTANT! DON'T LISTEN TO ME! by their actions. This will save you so much time in the future. 
Finally, my dear young man, I need you to know this: You are not a freak. Everyone has baggage and issues to deal with; this is yours, and it's just a lot more visible than, say, people who are alcoholic or were abused or any number of things. This is the thorn that God put in your side, and how you bear it will be a testament to the strength of your character. Think of it like a video game: you are simply on a higher difficulty setting than other people (not "normal", never "normal" -- remember, everyone is screwed up somehow) and so when you win your scores are going to be so much higher than those who are on easy mode.

Make peace with yourself. Love your body. Exult in the wondrous feeling of becoming a man, and making your body your own.

I'd wish you luck, but with your attitude and your awesome family to back you up, you won't need it.

Knock 'em dead, kid.

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