There is a trope in the world of small-scale enterprise, that of the profile photograph of an entrepreneur showing its subject leaning against a Ferrari or other flashy car. It screams success, or at least that is the intention; but while some start-up owners may indeed own supercars, it’s likely that many such pictures are fake. They’ve been on a trackday, hired the car for a day, or are particularly good with Photoshop.
I frequently remind myself of those Ferrari entrepreneurs who keep having to tell everyone around them how rich and successful they are, when I see the social media and other online profiles of people in our community. Everyone is doing so well, they look perfect, their transition path has been smooth and fast, and by comparison I am a complete disaster.
Of course, I’m not a complete disaster. And neither are their paths perfect: I’m seeing their leaning-against-a-Ferrari portrayal of transition. The image of perfection they wish to show the world, not the looking-like-a-badger’s-arse bad hair day, or the moment when they too see a moment of the person they once looked like staring back at them from the mirror. Perhaps they see my online utterances and have the same moments of inadequacy. I must be so perfect!
Left Behind On The Tracks
There’s one thing whose effect on me I can’t rationalise by reminding myself that they’re probably in the same boat though, and it lies in their progress through the system. You see, for various different reasons my transition path hasn’t been as fast as it could have been. I’m one of a largely unseen group among the transgender community, the slow transitioners. And though it has not been an easy path, I have come to the realisation that it is not without its benefits, and taking a step back to look at what people consider to be the steps in transition tells us a lot about the process.
I’m sure there will be figures somewhere in the dusty far reaches of a GIC detailing the average length of time patients remain in their care. As a rough guess, I’d say in the absence of any waiting lists it might be possible to satisfy all the RLE and other requirements to go from first contact to recovering from GRS in just under two years, though by my observation it seems to take most people around an extra year and a half. But in that last sentence lies a critical assumption that transition is a process that starts with a visit to a clinician and ends with GRS. That may take care of the available medical procedures, but is that really all there is to transition? Very early on in my path, a friend of mine whose medical path was completed in the 1990s said to me that transition is a process that never really stops, and I think I agree with her.
There are many different reasons why for some people the medical part of transition stretches out, and few in that position will tell you the same story. Medical and personal issues abound, and I have yet to meet anyone whose path has been this slow by choice. In my case, after first seeing my GP in early 2010 I spent a year or two wrestling with it all and trying to save my marriage. It didn’t work, and then after I went full-time in quick succession my mother died, and I had a very difficult experience with an employer that took a lot of time and mental effort to fight. It’s fair to say my progress stagnated as a result, and it’s taken a couple of years to return to a point at which I’m going forward through surgical referral. Sometime in the next couple of years that hurdle will be behind me, and then I guess I’ll be able to say that phase of my transition will be over.
Words Of Encouragement For Fellow Travellers
If you’re in the group whose path has been smooth, then well done, and good luck! If though you’re like me and for whatever reason eight or nine years seems to stretch into infinity, then what can I say based on my experience?
First of all, remember the fake Ferrari pictures I mentioned earlier. All those perfect transitions aren’t really as perfect as they seem, they’re normal people just like everyone else, and they have all the same problems you do.
Then don’t take it too hard if you lose friends along the way. People who shared your journey for a while, and then dropped you like a hot potato because they felt that they’d transitioned and you haven’t, as if they are now a woman and you somehow aren’t. Nobody is better than anyone else in this business, so perhaps it is they and not you that has the real problem. Back to our entrepreneurs constantly having to proclaim how rich they are: the really rich people don’t feel so insecure they have to shout about it all the time. As an aside, it would be interesting to ask my trans men friends whether this is a phenomenon in their community too.
Finally, though it may not feel like it as you go through it, the extra time you spend on this part of the journey is valuable, as it allows you space to truly come to terms with everything. When you meet someone who has cut all the corners through private healthcare and returned from surgery overseas in the shortest possible time, yet whose social transition has been chaotic, it serves as an object lesson in what transition really means. To many of us when we are early on in the process the RLE requirement can seem an onerous imposition, but in fact it represents the essence of transition. If you have spent several years after going full-time successfully settled into getting on with everyday life, then it doesn’t really matter whether it’s taking you a little while longer to reach one or other milestone, you have made it. That which remains is necessary for your treatment, but does not change what you have achieved.
You have transitioned, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Infinity vanishing point image: Jorge Peña Ramos [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.