Sunday, December 23, 2012

Yuletide Backslide

It's the night of the 22nd, and my family get-togethers have officially concluded for the calendar year.  For a number of reasons I have chosen not to come out to either of my grandmothers.  My mother's mother, although one of the most liberal people above 30 I know, has Alzheimer's and I don't want to confuse her even though I know she wouldn't love me any less.  My father's mother is an old school rural Iowan.  A good Christian (which I mean sincerely; love thy neighbor and all that jazz) but also very sheltered from diversity.  What this means for me on holidays is de-transition.

From an outside perspective de-transition may be a strange concept.  Surely, one might think, it consists of simply not shaving my face, not putting on makeup, and not doing my hair.  The reality, however, is that it goes much deeper than that.  It involves picking up a role that I have increasingly sparse practice at and performing that role to people I have known all my life.  It's true that occasionally I will go to the store in a decidedly male presentation, but this tends to be out of laziness more than anything, and all of my actual social interaction is lived as Abbie (whether I'm "dressed up" or not, whatever that means.)  It is also a role that I find it increasingly uncomfortable to be in, and so it did serve to make this holiday season somewhat bittersweet.

I am also afraid that because of this de-transition, my little brother has been shielded from the reality of my transition.  We are fairly close, but his schedule is busy and we lead very different social lives, so he has not really had the chance to acclimate to the new me.  Over Thanksgiving he informed me I would have to rent a tuxedo for his wedding.  While I am honored he wants me to be in the wedding party, I was a bit put off that he didn't ask me if I wanted to be (or was comfortable being) a groomsman.  Ultimately I decided it was best, given my decision not to come out to my grandmothers, who will both be there, but I was a hurt that I was not consulted.  It came at a time when the road seems to be getting a bit steeper for a ways, and I could have really used the support of my closest relative, but it seemed to me that he was being somewhat dismissive as to the importance or sincerity of my transition.

For whatever reason as I get farther into my transition I become less patient about the outcome, or at least certain outcomes.  I understand that physical changes will take a long time, and I am doing my best to be patient, but the social changes are the ones I wish I could light a fire under.  A good chunk of my friends call me Abbie and use the right pronouns most, if not all of the time, but there are a few that seem to almost refuse to, and a few that do so conditionally.  The latter confuses me a bit, since I'm not really sure what conditions it's being based on.  To me it makes about as much sense as changing anyone else's pronouns based on what they're wearing (calling a cis-woman "he" because she is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, for instance.)  I was also told by a friend that he didn't know if he should start saying "she" and "her" since I was still speaking in a somewhat low voice, not realizing that there's not a lot I can do about the register of my voice.  None of this is to their detriment, however.  To them I'm sure the concept of gender non-conformity is as confusing as gender conformity is to me.  In truth, as with my brother, I should be the one tell them how it makes me feel instead of expecting them to know.

I also wonder what role my heightened emotional range plays in this.  I am terrible are relating emotions to friends and so there are times when I feel I'm going to burst from all the excess feelings piling up and my usual response to that kind of scenario is to cut myself off, which is incredibly counterproductive.  I have noticed I don't have nearly as much trouble (though not quite no trouble) opening up to women, which is probably only natural, but I have also been noticing more and more how predominately male my usual social circle is.  Recently at an all ladies craft night, which I was thrilled to have been invited to even if I'm not the most crafty person, I realized it was the first time in recent memory when I was in a social situation where there wasn't a male majority.  I love all my friends the same, and don't wish any less time with anyone, but I do wish I had more interaction with others who identify as female, cis or not.

Although de-transition is an uncomfortable process for me, it has given me some insight into the actual nature of my place in the process of transition.  Now is the in between time for me.  The time of self doubt.  The time of perceived isolation.  The time of ambiguity.  The time of mixed pronouns.  The time of mixed names.  The time of well intentioned questions.  The time of emotional surplus.  The time of tears of unknown origin.  Now is a time when the road appears to get much harder, but only in the sense that it was easier to stay in the ditch than to climb out.


  1. Your bit about de-transition was really interesting and well put. It captured a lot of what I feel at family gatherings but could never put into words. In daily life I try to stick to somewhat of a gender neutral environment, or at least one that doesn't assert gender roles on me. No one in my family knows that I'm slowly transitioning in front of their own eyes (both towards a girl in life but at that moment back to a 'son') it's kind of a surreal experience.

    Hope you're alright at your brothers wedding. Make sure to treat yourself well after it all and, if needed, take some time to relax and just feel awesome about who you really are :)

  2. Hey you. I just wanted to let you know that you're beautiful.

    That's all.
    Happy ChristHannaKwanzakuh or whatever you may celebrate.