Decision? What decision?

As I come out to more and more people, one comment I have heard a number of times now has to do with my decision.

This word, when applied to anything I might have to talk about when coming out, is always tricky for me.

“What, you mean the decision to be trans?  That’s not a decision.  That’s who I am.”

“Do you mean the decision to live as myself?  That’s not a decision. That’s a necessity.”

“Are you talking about the decision to tell you who I am?   I suppose you could call it a decision, but it’s more of a necessity if I am to be addressed by the correct name and referred to with the proper pronouns.”

I try to explain that there really aren’t choices, so there aren’t really decisions to be made.  Not really, in the grand scheme of going through the process.  Well, maybe for others, but not for me.

Oh sure, I could make decisions about how to cut my hair or what clothes to wear or whether to come out to someone in person or by writing a letter, but in the department of just plain ol’ coming out and being myself, mostly, there are steps to take, but not really decisions.  At least, that’s the way it seems to me.

The best way I can put it is like this:

Imagine you’re paddling in a canoe down a lazy stream.   The stream is a metaphor for your life.

The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and you’re just taking your time paddling along.  And you paddle around a bend, and all of a sudden, you find yourself in some nasty rapids.  You didn’t know they were there, you didn’t see them coming, and there is nothing you can do to avoid them.  The rapids are a metaphor for the realization that you’re trans.

So now you’re in some raging white water.  It’s roaring around you, swirling and crashing over you and your canoe, and you paddle like crazy, trying to avoid deadly rocks, trying to keep the canoe from tipping, trying not to fall in.  Are you making decisions?  I mean, really making decisions?  Hell no!  You’re just trying to get through it.

When you finally make it to calmer waters, you paddle over to the side and get out with shaky legs to pull your canoe up onto the bank.  And you walk into camp and everyone is sitting there waiting for you — your family, your friends, your coworkers.

Now, I suppose you have a choice whether to tell everybody what happened.  But if you decide not to come out as having just gone through the rapids, it’s still going to be obvious to everyone that you are soaking wet.

–ATM

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16 Responses to Decision? What decision?

  1. j says:

    Beautiful … espcially the last line. Ordinary Joe Blow of the street, the common man, the layman… they think being LBGT is a ‘choice’. And the ones that get the worst of this attitude are crossdressers. They’re the wildcard of the LGBT world. They’re not transexual, yet they wear women’s clothes and talk of the girl in them.
    In India, most of our medical fraternity is so uneducated, they think that transexualism or crossdressing is a choice or a disease. My plea to any CDers and transexuals, is to please go out to medical colleges and offer to lecture to the final year batches. If they are educated, it’s the first step towards making the layman understand , it’s not a choice.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Cool post, and I like the illustration.

    I’ve never been able to understand people who posit that being LGBTQ is a decision over reality, but I think in some (many?) cases it’s a way for them to rationalize what they can’t (or won’t) connect to their rigid set of beliefs about the world. In a subset of these cases (I can’t make the claim it’s across the board without becoming “them”), I believe it’s primarily about fear: of the unknown, perhaps, but also of themselves. I don’t think ignorance borne of fear is any kind of excuse for behavior, but it worries me greatly when I see people acting, voting, and hating based on that.

  3. Josh says:

    Where is this lazy stream? I don’t remember seeing that at all.

  4. Nate says:

    I love that metaphor. Spot on.
    Keep on blogging, you’re a natural! ;D

  5. CombatQueer says:

    See ATM, here’s why you can’t win when you’re trans:

    If I try to explain to straight folks that the reason I’m transitioning is that it’s something I need to do, it doesn’t work much better than when I’m telling the story as if by transitioning I am making a choice, I’m taking control of my destiny and taking the path that I am supposed to take, the path that I was made to take.

    I have found that many, certainly not all, but many straights will either cast me as some poor pathetic creature who can’t control herself and is forced to take hormones the way a rabid dog is forced to take a tranquilizer dart or as a wacky pervert who is breaking all these social norms for the thrill and joy and breaking rules.

    It’s extremely hard to find a middle ground, a place where I can explain to people that, yes, I am trans, no, there’s nothing to be done about that, nothing that should be done about that, but at the same time a place where I can explain that the decisions around my transition are mine, are costly, are deeply and well considered, and are right.

    So, the whole situation confuses and angers me, but eh, that’s the world ain’t it?

    • It’s really difficult for a person whose body and gender are congruent to understand how we feel and what we’re going through. Some try. Some don’t. (IMHO) For those who don’t try, is it because we can’t explain it well or because they just don’t want to try to understand? (I think the latter.) I say the hell with them — I prefer the company of the ones who may not understand but who trust what I tell them and support me. I hope you have people around you like that.

  6. A says:

    Ok this is from my point of view here.. I’m not so sure anyone notices or wishes to notice.. Also, for those of us married with kids.. I wonder if it’s worth putting them through a comming out. It’s too simple to say “I need to be me” when the effect of my transition doesn’t just involve me and the adults in my life. For on it would invalidate my marriage it would defenitely affect our kids on many levels. It’s not about whether I am trans or not but about what I choose to do with that and to what extend. It’s true that most kids would probably be okay with transition when handled right but there are plenty of people who would go to authorities trying to take your kids away because they feel you must have a bad moral influence and or a severe mental condition. That is what I fear facing, and I am sure in some cases enough for people to decide not to transition.. Now I’m not saying people like me shouldn’t transition or be true to who they are but “just do it” is maybe a bit too simple in some situations..?

    • I understand where you’re coming from A, but I also think you over-simplified my message. “Just do it” is not at all what I was trying to say, nor is it a representation of what my process has been like. I became self-aware 3 years ago, and I didn’t “just do” anything. My process has been thoughtful, careful and introspective, but I have indeed been in the rapids the whole time, and my process began the minute I woke up out of my fog and became self-aware of my transness. As I have moved through the process, I have taken steps when the pain of change was less than the pain of staying the same, in the direction of comfort with myself at any given point in time. There was a time when my perception of my family dynamic did not allow me take steps that others around me were taking. Staying there in that space was no more of a ‘choice’ than when I have actually taken steps forward. And as I do move forward, nothing about my family changes. It’s my view of them and of the whole situation, of us together within this situation, that has changed and has brought me to the point where I am now able to be out to them. Three years ago, two years ago, that wasn’t possible.

      So in your case, you are where you are. It’s not about “those of us married with kids” as much as it is about YOU, married with kids, because I can show you plenty of trans guys with families like yours who have medically transitioned. You have reasons that are part of your process that have you where you are right now. There is no guarantee that your views and fears and concerns will stay the same, but there is also no guarantee that they will change. The last thing to do is to put pressure on yourself or to compare your process to mine or to the next guy’s who happens to be married with kids, or to anyone else’s for that matter, because we each have our own unique path. I think we all take steps (or not) depending on the expansion (or not) of our comfort zone. In doing so, we are still being ‘true to ourselves,’ which is what you are doing right now for yourself.

  7. A says:

    Maybe I did over simplify but I feel you’re missing my point. Being trans isn’t a choice, no choice, no decision, but transitioning isn’t without it’s choices, from whether to transition, to how far to take it, to the legal matters (the “m” on the drivers licence).. If I’d been by myself I probably would have transitioned years ago. Now I am very much in the rapids, I am going through changes, so maybe I am not seeing it very clearly but I hope you get what I’m trying to say.. A

    • Thanks A. Actually, I hear you, but what you mention for yourself is just not the case for me. That’s what my post was about. Yes, there are the decisions like the one you listed (the “m” on your DL), and I mentioned that in my post, but for me, speaking for myself, whether to transition and ‘how far to take it’ are not really ‘decisions’ as much as necessities as I move through the process. For me, it’s not about “I need to be me” as much as “I need to be comfortable,” and if being me is what it takes to be comfortable, then that’s the step I will take — then it’s not really a decision, it’s a necessity (but I only speak for myself here).

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