This essay appeared in the anthology To My Trans Sisters. under the title “The Gift of Fearlessness.”
It’s been decades now, and I’m still in transition.
We’re constantly in transition, though most of us rarely think about the many ways we’re changing minute by minute. Each day we move through the world, and we hurtle through time. Our experiences change us, and each day is an opportunity to gain new insight and wisdom.
A gender transition is expensive, stressful, and draining, yet you have the ability to reach your goals through realistic expectations and self-acceptance. How many people in the world will ever be able to say they accomplished something that challenging? How many people can say they realized their childhood dreams? You’ve been given a great gift. Please put it to good use.
If we’re open and perceptive to them, we can glean great insights from a gender transition. The greatest insight? Transition can liberate you from fear. As much as we might hope and dream and plan, transition is ultimately a leap of faith, an act of courage. It’s never easy, and it’s never over. As I write this, many years have passed since my own transition, and I continue to learn more about myself each day. I never take my good fortune for granted, and I have worked hard to help others have an easier time than I did, because I was in a position to do so. If you give of yourself without expecting anything in return, your gift will come back to you in all sorts of surprising and unexpected ways.
Many of us have a sense of feeling lost after transition, similar to scaling a difficult mountain, getting to the top, and looking out over the breathtaking vista of everywhere else you could go. As the exhilaration and awe wear off, at some point you must leave that mountaintop in order to get on to the next challenge.
The spectacular view doesn’t begin at the top of the mountain. You must find joy in the difficult journey itself, at each step. You must look up and around now and then, to marvel at how far you’ve already come. So many of us will miss the incredible experiences along the way. We often get so caught up in the “during” of transition, that we do not marvel at the joys each day can bring. Some even get so exhausted and depleted from the transition process that they don’t seek out a new ambitious challenge after transition. That is perhaps the greatest tragedy that can befall you after transition.
My therapist once told me, “There’s never a happy ending to an unhappy journey.” Don’t get so focused on your transition goals and outcome that you defer other dreams.
If you can transition, you can do almost anything else about which you feel that passionately. You have to be very honest about what else you want in life, though. I made the difficult decision to leave graduate school despite getting into the Ph.D. program, because I didn’t want to spend my life around the kinds of people I’d met in grad school. I got out of advertising because I just did it to make money for transition. Now I create whatever I want and only work with good friends.
What is most important to you? Love? Privacy? Fame? Family? Respect? Health? Solitude? Faith? Stability? Chaos? Only you can answer via deep introspection. Your answer may change over time, too, so ask yourself often.
The best thing you can do after transition is unplug from the trans scene for a bit and get a fresh perspective. What else do you feel as strongly about as your gender identity? How else would you like to move through the world? What other communities are important to you?
What kind of work would you do if money were not an issue? Then why are you not doing that work? Do what you love and do it well. The money will come, and you will be happier.
How could your social life be different? It’s critical to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. It will really help change your focus.
Think about what challenges make you happy in life. If you accept challenges large and small each day and have fun while working on them, there’s almost nothing you can’t do.
You’re already on the path to accomplishing something extraordinary. Now it’s time to accomplish something else extraordinary!