I’m a typical mid-life transitioner (and no, that’s not me in the photo above. I wish).
People start identifying as trans, and come out, and transition at all sorts of different ages. Whatever “transition” means, of course: it’s not a single event, and everyone does it differently. This is completely non-scientific, for which I hope you’ll forgive me, but let’s say that most people’s transitions last (very roughly) around three to five years, and the average age for trans women to have GRS (if they have GRS) is 42. Or at least it was, a few years ago. So a straight-down-the-middle “average” trans woman might start transitioning in her late thirties, and complete her transition (whatever “completing” means) in her early forties.
As the modern vernacular goes: “it me”.
I came out when I was 38, and it took me the next five years to work out what I wanted, and how to get it, and then to actually get it. I’m now 43. This is why I called myself “typical”.
I often find myself reflecting, thinking about how I got here. I transitioned for the same reason that any trans person does: to be happier. So obviously, for at least quite a few years leading up to age 38, I wasn’t very happy. “Ah,” says the lazy voice in my brain, “you should have come out sooner! If you’d have come out at, say, age 20, you could have enjoyed a good chunk of your twenties, and all of your thirties, properly! Without the man-suit.”
I find that this is an easy trap to fall into.
A great many of my friends – which is to say, my trans friends, since that’s what most of my friends are – I’ve met in the last couple of years, via Twitter, and Facebook, and then by going to events such as Trans Pride Brighton. These are people from across the whole of the UK, and quite a range of ages – some in their early twenties, and others still going strong at around 70. All of which leads me to ponder: did I do it right? I compare myself to them. It’s inevitable.
Should I have transitioned earlier? Or perhaps later?
I see some really cool, very smart promising young people out there: some who already have transitioned, some who are doing so at the moment, still more who are really only just getting started. Such youth, such vigour. Transitioning earlier on in life can unlock your full potential so much sooner. (But hey: transition when you are ready, and at your own pace).
So with all of these thoughts, I keep finding myself thinking: I should have transitioned sooner, right? I could have enjoyed two more decades of life as me, as Rachel. Right?
At least, I think I’m wrong.
You can’t just take one turning point in your life, rewrite your life with that key event happening sooner, and yet still expect everything else that happened afterwards to be the same or better.
See, the thing is, there’s lots of other stuff that happened in my life that I’m just fine with (and yes: I’ve led a reasonably privileged life). I’m fine, in fact I’m more than fine, with the fact that I’ve been in a stable, loving relationship for almost the last quarter-century. I’m fine with having navigated almost all of my life without being the target of hate crimes, because I wasn’t LGBT. I’m fine with my career working out how it has, and the financial security it has afforded me. I’m fine with being loved and welcomed by my family.
Would all those things have been true now, if I’d have come out two decades earlier? That would have meant having to go through the nineties and noughties as a trans lesbian. Heck, it only just feels like it’s OK now: I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been twenty years ago, with society’s attitudes then. With Section 28 recently enacted and still in force, with homophobia commonplace – no, normal – in news, the media, in daily life – to say nothing of transphobia. My relationship would have at best suffered, and I certainly wouldn’t have been married as long as I have been, since women couldn’t marry women until 2013. My career in the male-dominated software industry would have been so much harder. My family would almost certainly have fought back against me and my “lifestyle” (eye roll) much, much harder.
I think I can safely say: it wouldn’t all have been a bed of roses.
So, those cool trans people I see now? Maybe what I want is to actually be them. Well, maybe. But people’s Facebook posts are their edited showreels, the best-ofs, the highlights and the Christmas specials. Of course I could do that part. But how about the stretching finances to afford rent, and food, and transition healthcare, could I do that? The finding your place in life, working out what you want to do, finding a good job and holding it down. How about the search for love and companionship? Basically, the constant struggle to secure happiness. That struggle, is that what I want? Really?
I’ve been there, done that: I’m in no hurry to go back. So no. I don’t want to be those people, however cool they look, and however pretty they are.
No, what I really want, what I miss, is something much more fundamental, and really, it’s nothing whatsoever to do with being trans.
I miss being younger.
But: no regrets. We each transition in the best way that we can, and make the best of each situation. I reckon I’ve got a few years ahead of me yet, and I intend to make good use of them.
Cover image © Christoph Ruhrmann (CC BY-NC) with changes.