In coming out, especially to family, I inevitably get the question: “what makes you think you are a woman” and “give me examples through-out your life” followed by “well, men are like that/do that too”.
One can get caught in this game of proof by example …
I always try to start by telling them that since birth I knew myself as female, that this was something inside me and that through-out my life I have struggled either by denying or rationalizing.
Still, they want examples …
It seems like most people want concrete examples, more or less proving that I am a woman. Situations or characteristics that to them prove who I say I am. Even those that know me well, start to point out “well, you are a scientist” or “you fixed cars” in trying to dis-prove or perhaps substantiate their own notion of who they ‘knew’ as me. Even after giving them examples of natal women who hold those roles in life (and who I work with), they still look for other proof, either for or against.
It probably did not help that for most of their lives, I filled the ‘male’ role quite well. I had kept this under wraps very successfully (and to an extent, even to myself with multiple rationalizations such as “I’m just a guy with these other abilities/characteristics …”).
Most people required someone in an authoritative position to be able to proclaim that I was a woman. For example, “after 4 years of therapy, Dr. so and so diagnosed me as a transsexual woman”. I hate using the word ‘diagnosed’ and I usually explain that this is not a ‘condition’ or a mental anything – this is akin to having red hair or green eyes – it’s just another version of the human experience – albeit not as common.
Even then, they dismiss that as “who is Dr so and so, are they qualified, are you sure?” …
I have also started to see or recognize that people are going through phases in dealing with my news. It usually starts with the type of questioning I mentioned above, almost always from a negative/denial perspective. Then they start to accept or see or perhaps relate to events where they have personally witnessed me, that they can now, in light of this news, re-interpret as coming from a feminine being.
This is usually followed by another phase where they now start asking ‘genuine’ questions and I can start to see the ‘wheels turning’ as they start to put everything together. Acceptance is still a ways off, but now they are also more receptive to further information as well. A lot of times they ask questions that I had already addressed right in the beginning – almost as if they didn’t hear what I had said. I think most of the time they were just not ready to hear it then and that this was so overwhelming that they could not take it all in. That is one reason I wrote both the coming out letter and the slides on what transsexualism is (both I have included on this site).
On the one hand I feel sad that people can not accept my feelings about who I am, my internal process, without black and white logistical proof – something that just does not exist in this realm. About all that can be ‘seen’ externally is this ‘preponderance of evidence’ of example situations from one’s life experiences – things that taken individually can be dismissed quite easily.
This happened to me as well as I came to terms with who I am. One of the phases I went through (see the tab above titled ‘Beginnings’ – I called them ‘bathtub moments’), was a collection and analysis of all those events that I could remember. Look around at most of the other transsexual stories you see – almost all of them have major sections devoted to events and incidents through-out their lives attempting to offer proof that they/we are who we say we are – played with the girls, dressed in women’s clothing, not competitive, was creative, etc. All of these, on a one by one basis could be dismissed, but on a preponderance of evidence criteria, perhaps could offer circumstantial evidence that we are transsexual beings.
But – why does that matter? We know who we are. Yes, we want to be accepted by our loved ones, our families and our friends. How much of their questioning and disbelief comes back inside ourselves and either upsets us or perhaps even forces us to re-examine ourselves – to ask “what am I doing? (not in the context of “am I right” but in the context of what is the extent of the damage I am doing to others). It forces us to once again weight risks and benefits – as if this is a business decision that can be rationally analyzed ….
In the end, it is our personal fortitude and strength that is tested, over and over again. Perhaps this is good – it re-affirms who we are. But why do we allow external forces to effect us? Don’t get me wrong here: I know who I am – this is not raising doubts. However, we are social beings. As much as some might wish independence – we do need loved ones and friends/family to live happily – at least I do.
We can ignore the plights of others as they go through their stages of accepting us, we can help them understand, we can have patience and show love and/or we can silently suffer through their angst and bewilderment.
I think what is most important is that ‘we’ know our own ‘truth’, know it well and are stable/grounded in it. We are all different, but I choose to help those that struggle through these phases – I choose to avail myself to them (if they wish) and offer what ever support and love that I can. Most importantly, I see this as ‘their’ problem/issue. I am who I am and as a transsexual author friend of mine said (and her book is titled) “It’s ok to be me” !
With much aloha,