By , January 26, 2011 12:26 pm

OstrichI’ve been really bad about posting lately, which usually means I’m avoiding writing about something. I’ve been trying to figure out what, though.

I’m still not used to ‘the transition’ being something that’s more in the past than the future. I’m not sure I’m “done,” whatever that would mean, but I’m forced to admit that I’m more transitioned than not. Which is weird for me, in a really unexpected way, because I’m so used to having “The Transition” as something in the future, something to plan for, an over-arching goal in my life. And now that I’m slowly moving past it, I’m struck with the unsettling experience of not knowing what comes next.

I’m having trouble getting out of the mindset that my body isn’t good enough, and needs to be improved. (I mean, in a larger ‘transition’-type way, bigger than simply losing some weight or whatever.) How do other women deal with that? I don’t want to spend the rest of my life pining over not being curvy enough, booby enough, thin enough, instead of focusing on the curves and boobs and body I do have. When someone at a bar says, “Wow, do you work out?” I want to be able to take the compliment and smile instead of  feeling like my muscles make me ‘too male.’

Being an educator, an authority on trans issues, a role model, is also something that’s still new for me. I’ve been doing more workshops with high school and college students, which has been really enjoyable, but also somehow makes me uncomfortable. Why wouldn’t I follow my own advice, ten years ago? Who am I – who still often feels weak and scared and unsure – to be called “brave” for how I’m living my life? I feel like I still have one foot stuck in the past, instead of firmly looking to the future. Instead of focusing on making up for lost time, or living the rest of my life, I get pulled into regret for what I feel like I missed.

I haven’t found many resources for this experience, even though my therapist tells me it’s not uncommon. Most trans narratives end after “The Transition,” with a “Happily Ever After.” Websites I’ve found on transitioning, being trans, living as a trans woman, don’t talk about getting over the regret of not transitioning earlier, moving past the (universally female) experience of not feeling pretty enough.

Anyone have some advice?

10 Responses to “Avoidance”

  1. Diana says:

    Advice, I don’t think so. Shared frustration? I can offer some of that.

    I struggle to explain to my non-trans female friends that my “body image issues” are not always the same as theirs (although I have the other kind too). The trans kind seem to be related to a form of Impostor Syndrome, and it seems VERY common among trans women post transition.

    On the other hand you’re in the same boat as any other woman for the more general kind of image issues. I don’t really expect those to go away entirely. I just hope I’m able to find a livable balance.

    I think in both places you have to start with being comfortable with yourself, and work outward from there. We’re social beings. The opinions of others will always play some role in our self-image. But others pick up on a positive self-image WAY more than our mirrors tell us.

    • Rebecca says:

      Yes! (For those not familiar, Impostor Syndrome is about not being able to acknowledge or internalize accomplishments, or doubting their deservedness of their own success.)

      One of my big attempts at this has been to try and think more about how I’d view myself if someone described my life to me. That usually makes me feel a bit better. 🙂

      • violet says:

        One of my big attempts at this has been to try and think more about how I’d view myself if someone described my life to me. That usually makes me feel a bit better.

        This is so good — I should do some more of that. Then again, sometimes I’m not sure I would believe myself if I described my life to me. Especially younger-me. I mean, I’d think I was awesome, but be like “you’ve got to be kidding me”.

  2. Valarissa says:

    I’ve actually thought about these questions quite a bit. I’ve officially moved beyond transition in the traditional regard. Being post-op however, has not put my mind at ease completely. I still get creeping thoughts about why I didn’t transition earlier, or why my parents didn’t help me out more. Perhaps if they knew what I went through internally, or perhaps if I actually let them know about certain things I almost did, then they might have helped and I could have transitioned earlier.

    I have dealt with the thoughts of not feeling pretty enough by adopting a genderqueer identity. This helps me to deal with the constant barrage that the media uses to make women feel inadequate by placing myself outside of that target audience as someone that is unique in their own way.

    To be quite honest, the answers for how to deal with this are something that comes with time, through questioning. It is painful at times, but the introspection divines certain truths about our lives, both as trans people, and as humans in general. I am quite sure that no one is without lingering questions, doubts or regrets.

    I’d be more than willing to talk in a more conversational medium if you wanted to. I enjoy reading your blog, so it would be the least I could do. 🙂

  3. nix says:

    I am coming from a slightly perspective on this, as someone who has ‘transitioned’ in all the traditional ways over the last five years except having any surgery (and therefore not being able to change my gender/sex markers on important paperwork) . . . and who is not planning to have any trans-related surgery for the next couple of years at least. I almost feel as though I’m between two ‘transitions’, and this (apparently somewhat unusual) position means I’ve had to make lots of non-transition-related goals, and think about non-surgery-related futures. I think that has helped me feel less stuck in a stale ‘transition’ space (i.e. ‘done’/’not done’) and more in a vibrant space of potential. What do I want to do? (Travel! Live in another country! Finish my PhD! Go walking! Get involved in researching local queer/trans history! Learn another language! Get back to life drawing! Play music!) Of course, this doesn’t necessarily help with your questions about learning to deal with the feeling of not being pretty/curvy/whatever enough (and of trying/wanting to separate that from the ‘wrongness’ of trans related body stuff). But perhaps it does relate to the idea of imagining futures with the body that you have now?

    • Rebecca says:

      That makes a lot of sense, though. I definitely know what you mean, of having spent so long focusing on How To Transition, that the idea of focusing on anything else seems utterly overwhelming. In some ways, I think it’s similar to the end-of-college transition (for those who have gone) where you’ve spent so many years of your life focusing on the What’s Next of education – middle school, high school, tests, college, graduation – that there’s a big “Now what?!” at the end for lots of people.

      An exciting question, to be sure, but also overwhelming.

  4. Morgan says:

    I can’t speak to the trans side of the body image issues, but to the question of standard-issue female body issues – I suppose the first thing that needs to be said is that cis women have generally had longer to get used to the idea that this is what their body is like. How you’re feeling coming to the end of transition is how I imagine a lot of cis women feel coming to the end of puberty – the gradual realization that this is the body you’ve got for the rest of your life and you might as well make the best of it.
    I realize I’m not being very helpful, but the best answer I can give to the question of how other women deal with it is: time. You haven’t had that long living in your body as it is now, yet. The longer you live in it, the more comfortable you should get with how it looks, and what looks good on it, and the less self-conscious you should get about it, as it becomes more just the way your body is.

    • Rebecca says:

      I actually think that’s super-helpful, Morgan. Time (and patience) is something I’ve never been great at, but I appreciate your reminder that all women undergo something similar, and time will help. Because you’re right – I’ve only been ‘post-pubescent’ for a year, two years tops, and am still allowed to figure out how I want to present myself, and time to come to terms with what I can’t pull off for whatever reason.

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