Transition is, by it’s nature, both intensely public and intensely private. In the Passion narrative there are parts that Jesus has to face alone. There were moments where his friends could not accompany him, moments when he was the only one experiencing the pain and suffering. Even though, in the end, all of the people involved would be transformed, they were all transformed in their own way.
Before I began to transition friends who were further along in their transitions or post transition tried to warn me about what a head trip it could be. They warned me about things I would experience that I couldn’t really prepare for. In many ways I wrote them off. In some ways I didn’t realize the truth of their advice until much later in my transition. The truth is that transition isn’t just physical, it is also mental. My friends could see my physical changes, they could hear my voice crack and see my scraggly facial hair, but they couldn’t understand what was going on in my mind and I had a really hard time letting them in.
I soon found that words didn’t come to me as easily as they once had. I found myself often with that feeling where a word is on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite remember it. I realized that I was becoming more visual; I would see images that before would have done nothing for me and now left me aroused. I realized that I was more willing to speak up in class, but that even in my willingness I had a harder time making my point. As an intense introvert I needed even more time along to process the things I was feeling and experiencing.
I was consistently watching men and trying to understand how they acted around one another. I realized that there is a fine balance in making eye contact with another man; you look away too fast and you might be seen as an easy mark for violence, you look too long and you might invite violence. How do you appear not afraid but also not too forward?
I couldn’t always anticipate my moods and I was exhausted a lot. I withdrew from the world because I couldn’t bear to have someone get my pronouns wrong. I didn’t want to be introduced to new people or deal with party situations because they were uncomfortable. I began to really question whether or not I wanted to be out as a trans person or whether I wanted to simply be male.
As I became more comfortable in my own skin there was an element of peace in my life that hadn’t been there before.
But nothing happened overnight. It was all a process. Mostly a painful process. Painful as I tried to get people to understand and they couldn’t. Painful as I dealt with anxiety over giving myself a shot every week. The pain of the actual shot and muscle soreness. Fear that I would no longer be able to sing, or that because I couldn’t think of the right words I would lose my ability to write.
And through all of this there was the dissolution of my marriage, brought on by my transition. It was incredibly painful to have the person who had been my biggest supporter decide she could no longer be with me because I was becoming the person I was meant to be. Without going in to all of the details, it was an incredibly hurtful time. She was watching the person she loved die and couldn’t handle that.
Even though I knew that what was coming was going to be worth it, the process, in many ways, simply sucked. And as I was going through all of this physical and mental upheaval I still had to attend classes, do my homework, go to work (where I was a bartender at a steakhouse; try explaining your gender transition over the noise of political news and sports and see how well it goes!) and try to keep my marriage together. Needless to say something went better than others. I had patient professors for the most part and friends that helped me to get through. My schoolwork definitely suffered and so did my class attendance. I was lost in my own head a lot of the time. I poured out my thoughts in my journals when I could and watched television when I couldn’t. I tried to do things that brought me joy and reminded me of why I was doing this. I will say, though, that from the second I took my first shot of testosterone I never once questioned whether or not this was the right decision. I knew that I was doing the right thing. Even as things happened that I wished were different, even as outcomes came about that I wished I could change, I still knew that I needed to transition and that this was right.
There were dark moments where I wondered if I would make it through. There were dark moments where I worried that I would never be accepted by my family and would lose them. I worried about flunking out of seminary. I worried that my wife was going to leave me. I worried that I would never get to be in ministry and had to deal with the loss of a job that I feel to be my calling but which I am unable to do because I transitioned. There were moments where, while I knew this was the right decision, I still felt abandoned and forsaken. Moments where I couldn’t see anything but my own pain, moments when I wondered why this had to be my path. Moments when God was silent.
In the passion narrative it says that there was darkness over the whole land. Sometimes it felt like that. Like there was only darkness and pain and I was completely alone. That’s the hardest part of transitioning; being alone in the journey. The fact that even though it’s public, there is so much changing that no one can see and you feel like you’re in the dark.
You crucify your body because you have no other choice. Because you know that it’s the only way you are going to survive. Because even if there is no resurrection, there is no life in the way you’ve been living.