Redefining our identities — discovering our trans selves
One of the interesting facets of getting older is being able to see how the years have shaped our personalities. From callow youth to life worn middle age to beyond, the world has was of moulding us into people that we never expected or anticipated when we look forward all those years ago. For me, the real turning point was turning 30, as while I still retain a certain impishness, I have mellowed out into a slightly more responsible adulthood. Along with this has come a deeper understanding of my womanhood and what it means to live in a society that places youth, alpha masculinity, and economic superiority at the apex. I have had to rediscover my trans identity, seeing myself not as an island content in my own world view, but placed within the wider social fabric.
Time is the one thing we cannot fight, a river that however hard we try to paddle back upstream will only ever carry us forward. That journey can be sublime or savage, a gentle stream that hits rapids at the most inopportune of moments. Transgender journeys often take many sojourns over the rapids, and finding our identities in the process is complicated by the fact that we are often unsure whether what we experience is our true selves or just the selves that had been forged in the trauma. This is true for many folk, as the crucible is often the defining moments, but for trans folk that white hot forge is in part due to how people perceive and react to us.
I would like to think that my identity is a self-made thing, that who I am is as much shaped by whimsy and levity as it is ground out on someone else’s millstone, but that would be a lie. It is easy to imagine that who I am is this self-contained being, that all my good and bad flows from some inner wellspring. Yet, the honest trust is that I am as much a creature of the world as we all are. I have my biases, my key influencers, education, work life, and many other things that have come to shape me. My trans identity, in as much as I allow my gender to colour any of my world views, is more a pale shade of woman than it is a raging heffer staring down the bulls. I have redefined my gender in through a feminist lens that finds ease in being a momma bear who can provide sanctuary for those in need. This has been my path of discovery.
And this is where the long game, in my opinion, is so vital for trans folk. In initial throws of transition it is easy to rush and do everything now. The irony is that while the here and now is a splendid time, you have your whole life ahead of you to discovery and realise who you are in your totality. Your identity will weft and weave, come together, pick apart, and the threads will be coloured by things you have not yet imagined. Living your internal gender externalised is a liberating experience; finding out who you are and getting to redefine it more so.
Why talk about discovery and identity? Surely when we transition we are ourselves in a new skin? Yes, and no. For some trans folk it is simply a process of business as usual with a new exterior. For others it is uncorking years of pent up emotions that explode in a sea of changes. For some others it is a whole recalibrating of who they are into a form that those around them will barely recognise. And then there are those who tread equally divergent paths that a unique to them. Part of transitioning is finding the right way for you personally to find and refine your identity to better suit yourself and your new phase in life. Being trans is as complex and complicated as we are, and sometimes that means reshaping our entire selves.
In the end who we are as individuals is as much about our lived experiences as it is who we are by genetics and temperament. This goes doubly so for trans folk, as we have to find space for a complete reforging of ourselves in the public sphere. We get to define and redefine who we are, and our lived truth becomes more than the expectations originally set upon us at birth. We who are takes a lifetime to fully flesh out, and there is a certain joy in that.