I’m trans, But I’m Still Entitled to Feel Joy!
Society and the Trans Community Shouldn't Shame the Transitioned for Their Expressions of Happiness.
I have been debating this topic for a while now, contemplating whether or not I should write about it. The final straw came when I read an article last week a younger trans publisher had written. The report for a noteworthy publication was about how terrible her life was before she transitioned, and how it was still awful now even after years of transition. The writer goes on to say that she would never feel like she had arrived at being a woman. She would ultimately live a life of depression and soul-crushing dysphoria. I am paraphrasing here so that I can get to the point. She used her clout as a journalist for a high value, liberal, publication to tell the world this is how all trans people feel. I naturally felt the need to provide a more hopeful and positive point of view.
Before I dive into this, you may already be thinking to yourself that I’m not sensitive to the struggles and perceptions of others who live under this perspective. I want you to understand that this isn’t about other people’s experiences; this is about mine. The Trans experience is unique in that everyone’s journey is different, and people do respond differently to those changes in our bodies and minds.
Our day to day lives are full of things that are designed to bring us down. Dysphoria, a predisposition for depression and mental illness, hate and intolerance. Oh, and let’s not leave out the daily challenging of our freedoms and right to exist. Lest this not be enough, we cannot forget to account for any of a thousand different and individual challenges we independently face daily.
“This article is about happiness, isn’t it Constance?”
This article is about happiness, but more importantly, it’s about our right to not only feel joy but to be able to express it without being scrutinized or chastised.
A happy Trans person is not a threat to the LGBTQ+ Community nor the Trans cause as a whole!
Joyful trans people are instead a testimony to the personal fulfillment brought by the transition journey. Further, genuine happiness and satisfaction are just one of many measures that can be used to show the legitimacy of transition on those who suffer from dysphoria.
The thought of me as the poster girl for joy is ironic in and of itself. I, a reformed Pessimist and longtime miserable human being, would become the champion for trans happiness? I have lived 38 years with Gender Dysphoria. It has hindered me in one way or another since I was old enough to talk. On top of that, I have been morbidly obese since puberty. My growing up was a never-ending and tormenting experience of self-loathing and ridicule. That whole experience alone would prove enough to make a Debbie downer out of anyone. The story continues, though, into my adult life. There were five years where I went through sheer hell. I went through a horrible first marriage ending in a life-sucking divorce. While I was licking my wounds from that, I lost my mother, who was my closest friend and confidant. Then my life turned into a tale of death as my cousin, my aunt, and two uncles and another aunt, and finally, my grandmother, all passed away. By the time this five year was over, I had gained an additional 100 lbs. and found life utterly pointless. Finally, to cap off the shit show that was my life, I failed at my business. I had run this business for 15 years, and it was my dream. I was forced to re-enter the corporate workforce (at the bottom no less in a position I was overqualified for). I remember telling myself I would rather die than go back to corporate America, and I did die inside, one day at a time.
I don’t say all this to invoke pity. I say all this so you can understand the shit heap I have been trying to crawl out from under all these years. I have shared my testimony already so I won’t go into specifics here. Needless to say, things are turning around for me in a big way. One would think that recovery from all that might be the source of my happiness, but it is much simpler than that. My joy comes from the fact I am now living a life as my authentic self. My physical transition is ongoing, but my internal transformation began the moment I accepted myself for the woman I am. The physical transformation is for the world, but I am already confident in who I am. No matter what happens in my Physical transition, no one can take that away from me.
‘Transitioning’ Out of The American Dream
Taking the leap of faith as a middle age, middle class parent to embrace a transgender identity and life journey
It brings a smile to my face even now as I write this;
I am free; I am genuine; I am me.
I am mindful of everything I stand to lose and have lost already, but it doesn’t matter anymore; it can’t. I have been like Edmond Dantès, a prisoner for 38 years in my own Château d’If. Now I have washed up on shore screaming madly that ‘I am free!’
Cis people often view trans as mentally ill or deviant; thus they should feel shame and isolation, not joy
Disclaimer (again): I am not talking about all cis people, or even the majority. The thoughts I am sharing here do represent a large enough portion of society to make it an issue.
The first time I ever came across this phenomenon was with my wife. When I first came out to her, my egg had just cracked, and the shame of my new reality consumed me. As time went on, I began to feel better about my own identity to the point where I felt pride over my new authentic self.
One day I told my wife that I was no longer ashamed of who I was; that I was proud of my female identity. She seemed very dismayed by that as if to infer that I should understand I was quite mentally ill and needed help.
My wife has since come to understand a little more that it is better for me to be at peace with myself, and has taken steps to encourage and support me. We may or may not ultimately stay together, but I am grateful for her personal growth and willingness to think outside the mental box created by our upbringing and society.
Happiness is not a low-profile emotion, and trans people feel that shame and self-deprecation in the workplace, as well as public spaces, is often a much safer emotion. It is easier to keep your head down rather than being forced to be noticed or to account for their joy and high-profile attitude. To me, I find this systemic of not only gender shaming by society but also an ultimately self-destructive behavior engaged in by my trans brothers and sisters. Sadness can indeed be safe, but I have found that joy brings on a boldness, that can also be just as safe. When I am in a positive mental space, I am not bothered by the stares.
You might be wondering as you read this, “do you really think they are looking at you, Constance?”
The answer to that is a definitive yes! You can’t miss a 260LB flat-chested woman with an excessive amount of makeup failing to hide a 5 O’clock shadow, and a beer gut. If you are in line behind me at Starbucks, you are going to take notice. Spanx are magic, but they aren’t THAT magic. I often feel the eyeballs burning glare in the back of my head. I turn around and smile and say, “good morning.”
More often than not, they either don’t recognize they are staring, or don’t desire to engage in conflict. I will typically get back a short and courteous “mornin’” and the staring ends. We have the right to exist without shame or regret. There should be no such thing as Cis spaces and trans spaces. I think society can and should progress to the point where non-passing trans women like myself are commonplace and excepted as any other humans. That, however, is a rant for another day.
The Trans Community Can sometimes be dismissive or even Skeptical of Happiness in the ranks.
The whole thought of this sounds ridiculous, I know! We are a whole group of people who have sacrificed everything in pursuit of just the glimmer of hope for some inner peace, and yes, even happiness.
For a newly minted trans person like myself, my first and primary link to my community has been the internet. Community is a difficult challenge. After all, not all trans people are created equal. Age differences of even five years can make for a completely different perspective on life and transition. Having children and a wife also changes one’s goals and outlooks. As a result, finding a community that fits you can often be tricky. Despite that, no matter the age or status in life, we love to discuss the trans experience with one another. The effects of Dysphoria, Mental health, Clothing and Makeup, politics, and most of all, HRT and transition surgeries. If you get on a server and say to the group, “ I am having a terrible day; my Dysphoria is kicking my ass!” You will most likely strike a lively discussion about how dysphoria sucks, how you may need to adjust your HRT, or how they also feel the dysphoria or “mood” as the younger generation likes to say.
On the other hand, you get into that same chat, and you say that you are having a great day! You have been singing a tune in your car, and you love life. You will notice a different phenomenon; Radio Silence. No one wants to talk to you when you are happy. It’s as if you have some infectious disease.
On one particular day, I logged in to share with one of my regular groups a bit of positive testimony. I shared that my medical transition has changed my emotional state and that happiness was my new norm. I went on to describe how I now ‘experienced’ life instead of ‘observing’ it. I got mostly silence, but I did get one reply:
“happiness is a temporary state a side effect from your Estradiol. Enjoy it now; you won’t have it in a couple of weeks.”
I am going on three months now, guess what…I am still full of happiness and loving life. Does that mean I don’t experience sadness and dysphoria? No! Sadness now is intensely strong and overpowering. Often sadness or anger can be so intense I double over from the pain I feel. Physical pain, as part of a more intense emotional response. Within an hour, I usually come back around to center, and life is good again. In my past, once I worked up to feeling anything, it would take hours or even days for my mood to return to the ‘blah’ where I existed. I feel anger, depression, jealousy, rage, love, hate, and frustration. In between all of it, though, it always comes back around to happy. Maybe it’s not normal. Perhaps, one day, my happiness will go away. All the same, though, I prefer to celebrate it, and not allow the world to shame me for it. Especially those who I believe also have a reason to feel joy.
I also want to be clear that I am not advocating ‘fake joy.’ Nobody has time for that shit, and if there is nothing in your life worth flexing your facial muscles for, then don’t. I used to attend an evangelical church back in the day. They would always see me with a neutral face or a frown, and I would get the “Fake Joy is better than Genuine depression” bullshit. I would then really want to tell them why they and people like them had caused my ‘mood,’ but it was never worth it. Long story to say, your expressions are your own, and they are valid. My overall point for this whole thing is this: