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We need support to not transition

I was disappointed to read in Helen Boyd’s blog that people have been attacking Christine Benvenuto for writing about the destruction of her marriage.

I was also very disappointed that Helen’s main solution was “People need to transition younger so that some of this can be prevented.”

That’s it? Transition younger?

I was glad that Helen posted (in comment number 3 on her post) a poignant anonymous reply from a closeted, non-transitioning trans person, that included a call for better counseling:

Treatment has at least gotten to the point that no one seems to believe that you can reroute our brains back to our genetically assigned sex. But the truth is, I simply don’t see anything in “treatment” that is helping us to find a path in the binary world that we don’t feel like we belong to. I love my wife and I love my family. There has to be some type of counseling to help the “responsible” TG family person and their families move to a place of less discomfort, less of the all or nothing options that seem are there for us today. Solid and consistent counseling to help us is desperately needed. It seems as though so few of us ever find peace with who we are, and to be pushed to choices that are also quite binary (closet or transitioned) seems ludicrous to me.

Sure, some people could avoid this particular class of tragedy by transitioning younger. But others, including people who missed their chance to transition younger, have chosen not to transition. They – we – can honor that choice, that commitment that we made to ourselves and our loved ones, and do what it takes to keep that commitment while still honoring, loving and respecting ourselves.

We can learn that transgender feelings are not static, but rather change with circumstances. We can learn about gender fog and the slippery slope, and how they affect our feelings and actions. We can structure our lives so that we enjoy them the way we chose to enjoy them, with the people that we love.

This is not repression. It’s not self-denial. It doesn’t mean being in the closet, hating yourself, living a lie. You can be out, trans and proud without transitioning. You can be true to your self. You can have the authentic life that the Transgender Law Center promises us.

And just like gay marriage doesn’t “destroy” heterosexual marriage, choosing to live as an out trans person without transitioning will not destroy other people’s transitions.

Is it disappointing? Of course. Is it frustrating? You bet. But it’s not depressing, and it’s not a life full of fear and despair. Show me the transgender life that doesn’t have its frustrations and disappointments. Show me the human life that doesn’t.

People can do this. It’s not for everyone. But for a lot of trans people it’s the best option. And the anonymous commenter is right that we need expert counseling. I’m not talking about reparative therapy or any of that self-denial shit. We need people who can help us navigate a path between repression and family disintegration, to avoid the slippery slope and identity fatigue, and to cope with gender fog. We need this to be included in the menu of “transgender health” options offered by clinics and covered by insurance.

Before we can do this, though, we need one very important thing. We need to smash transgender essentialism. We need to get rid of the idea that every transgender person has to transition. Transition helps a lot of people, but it’s not the only choice, and it’s not the best choice for some of us.

If you agree, please comment, link and reblog this, and post your own thoughts. And then, every time you see something that implies or assumes that all transgender people transition, please question it. Nothing will change if we perpetuate that fiction. If you do, email me at andrea@grieve-smith.com, and I’ll have your back.

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13 Comments

  1. Thank you. I believe gender lies on a spectrum where one may identify as the other sex, but still have strong tendencies to their physical gender. Thus a Man who identifies as female, but would be a very Tomboy female, may be just fine not transitioning, but living somewhere between the 2. Not fully male and not fully female.

  2. The truth at last. I love my closet. I Think transitioning is a concept made by people who have money. what if you can not come up with the money. What if that is ok. What if you love love love being in the closet. What if being poor is hard enough as it is. So to my fellow closeted transgenders who love love love there closed and know that there is a secret door in your closet that leads to a paradise that is not just for the haves. A door that leads to a universe that will sooth you in times of need that at will make you laugh with the silliness of a teenager that will be a porthole to searing Wisdom that abides in you. To say we must all transition is as judge mental a statement as any. To my transgender closet poeple I say STOP calling it a closet. Call it what it is. A gateway to you vast inner being. if you hate the closet then that sucks but if you think the only answer for relief is conforming to the advice of poeple who have money, if you let them tell you will rot alone in your closet I say not for all of us. Give it one year. That’s right. Take a break from all the voices telling you how it is. Forgive them. They have money and they wil never have the slightest clue what your life is like. Let all that go and committ to giving yourself to yourself when ever you can. I decided to go that way and slowly It Got Better. I renamed my Closet To Getting Her. I found out for myself my inner girl was bigger the conformity, bigger then a cause. I know many of you are loving what your hearing right now cause somebody is finally talking to you. Somebody is saying to you will not lose your mind. Somebody is saying to you that yes there is a kind of gold that you have found in your so called closet that is real. You do not need others to make it real. It’s real.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I am 35 years old and been very happily married for 11 years. I’ve also recently come out as trans to my wife, which as expected, has totally devastated her. I couldn’t find anything until I saw this post suggesting that I have an option other than “transition now, or do it later once you finally want to kill yourself”.

    Fact is, my dysphoria is not so bad and the thought of losing the person I love most in the world is far far more damaging to me than continuing to live as a man.

    Thank you so much, again. It means a lot to see that I’m not alone.

  4. Oh my god. Thank you. I’m crying right now. I thought I was totally alone, or some sort of phony, until it finally occurred to me, just now, to Google “deciding not to transition”. Thank you so much for saying all the things I’ve been thinking, it means it can’t be all wrong. I chose this because I love my boyfriend of 10 years, and because I am trying to learn what it means to be a man on the inside, (because isn’t that more important than the outside?) And I am learning to love my body for what it is (a beautiful, powerful tool that can do anything a male body could do..) And because it just seems like a terrible idea to choose “cosmetic surgery” (I can’t help but think of it this way sometimes) over financial security. Are these reasons petty, am I in denial? No, I am making decisions based on my priorities, like with anything else in life. People paint this issue as black and white, but why would it be, when nothing else is? Again, thank you.

  5. Hi Andrea, I just recently found your blog and I have to say thank you! My husband is transgender. I have known for 10 years now and we have gone on this journey together, though it has not been easy. He, like you, has chosen not to transition but recognizes he lies somewhere along the gender spectrum. Support and finding similar paths like ours is rare. Feeling alone in all of this can make one crazy; however seeing your blog and reading people’s comments has been such a comfort. Thank you! Wish we could join the group in Queens but we are not local. If we get a chance to visit, we’ll stop by. I can’t thank you enough. My husband is such a blessing to me. I couldn’t imagine a life without him. Thank you and thanks to the amazing people out there!

  6. Thanks, Vern, and all of you who have said that this post helped you and your loved ones. Sometimes it feels so lonely to be talking about this stuff!

  7. Yes I’ve finally found a web site that talks about dealing with my trans side .I’m 48 married 25 years and my whife will not live with me as crossdresser let alone partly transitioned eg low dose hormones.
    Being transgendered a big part of my life but so is my whife , kids ,family and friend’s .I’ve looked at websites for cures for disphoria but most say transion is the only way.I’ve been in therapy for months ,with a lot of emotional ups and downs . l have excepted that I’m trans .I have decided transition is not for me.Accepting my self ,admitting this is what I am knowing these feelings will never go away . So my plan is to tell people who I care for what I am and explain this is not a choice , for some reason I would prefer to be female but will live as a man .I think opening my hidden side to people will help me .
    Some of them may say ok I thought there was something about you but I couldn’t put my finger on it. This will only be done if my whife is agreeable.

  8. Thank you for this. I currently find myself in pretty much this situation. I’ve accepted that I am transgender but also middle aged. My history is a little frustrating because I’d never even heard of being trans until my mid thirties, and by the time I realised what was going on I had the life of a middle aged man. My partner and kids are wonderful, my friends know about my gender, but transition would place so much stress on us all (not least of which is me not believing I would pass anyway). I don’t want to stay in the closet pretending to be a cis man, but neither do I want to trash the wonderful life that I have by attempting a transition that I don’t think will be very successful, all in the name of appeasing someone else’s ideological purity.

  9. I agree, transitioning is not the only way and have been looking for a bit to find some information on people who do not transition. Most say you have to transition en-order to ease the depression. I do not want to transition; I look at it this way, I have spent over 40 years hiding, ashamed, hating myself, feeling I am broken and pretty much miserable, tried suicide 2 times. So am a poster child for transitioning. However, why should I continue to be what I am not? I am a man outside and a woman inside. So what I have determined is I have two spirits (first nations of North America). What I need is to continue to explore my repressed insides, and try to embrace my outsides as I have hated them for so long. I want to find a happy median. In the end it might end in transition but don’t think so, there has to be other options. This will likely be a long journey but worth the climb I think. Why not move slowly and enjoy the moment rather than fight everything. I also believe that changing my outsides which will not change my genetic structure and never allow me to be pregnant etc. always falling short of what I am inside. So why do injustice to myself, people I care about and deny my outer the way I have denied my inner all these years.

  10. Thank you all for posting about this. I am transgender and would love to transition(and already have to some extent), but my wife can not handle people seeing me as female. She loves me, but would prefer to divorce me than have people see me as female. I understand her need to be married to a “guy”. She’s a heterosexual woman after all.
    I would like to pretend to be a guy for her sake and so that our family can remain together, but I don’t know how. It seems that some of you are living as your assigned sex and you are not suicidal or depressed. How do you do that? I’ve tried everything. Anytime I try to repress being trans by dressing or sounding like a guy my mind can not stand the pain and pressure it is put under. I understand the idea that you are promoting here, but how do you actually do it?
    Thank you all.

  11. Thanks, Bianca! As I said in my post, I got a tremendous amount of relief from simply coming out verbally, telling people that I’m trans without presenting as a woman. Also, see my page on The Slippery Slope (listed in the top menu) for suggestions. Let us know how it goes for you!

  12. Thank you, I needed to read this. It comes at a pivotal point in my life when, as a 50 year old trans man, it is not feasible to transition for a number of complicated reasons.

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