Close friends of mine recently had a beautiful daughter and I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with her. I’ve gotten to feed and hold her and generally enjoy her in fits and spurts that allow for the rosiest view of what life as a parent is to be like. I’ve known for a long time that I couldn’t (biologically) have kids myself so getting an opportunity to enjoy this experience by proxy is really significant for me.
Not surprisingly my mind has wandered onto the topic of adoption. For a person like me, the idea of adoption is ludicrous. I have a slew of things going against my favour: I’m older, I’m single, I’m heavily tattooed, I’m queer, I’m trans, I’ve got no substantial support structure, and I’ve got a history of mental illness. Disregarding whether or not I would ever WANT to adopt a child it’s clearly something that could never happen. I could pour effort into the problem until I ran my resources and resolve dry but there’s no surmounting all of these obstacles. In the end all there’d be to show for it would be the pain and disappointment for having tried at all. There’s no partial victory condition with regard to adoption.
I have to wonder how many trans people perform similar calculations in their head with the assumption that transition is all or nothing, success or failure. I know when I started out a combination of a lack of role models and some very narrow and cisnormative medical conditioning (and online resources!) led me to believe that there was one golden path to being “real” and that anything short of that ideal was effectively a failure. I ran the tally in my head, figured my odds were good, and took the chance. Two decades later I understand the naivety of those assumptions and have realized that MY golden path doesn’t conform to the one I set out on all those years ago. I am re-drafting my own success condition that, when measured against the narrative I used as a template, is by comparison a failure. I’m okay with this.
I wonder how many others, even today, do the same calculations and, making the same mistaken assumptions I did, decide that failure is the only option. For every one of us that takes the plunge and begins making incremental steps towards… something… how many more draw the conclusion that their ideal can never be reached and therefore it’s not worth the attempt.
I would hope that as trans folks become increasingly visible and our presence more widely felt that a greater number people will cease seeing transition as an all or nothing proposition, or at least, have access to exemplars that are comparable to themselves. This means that to the extent it’s within our power to do so we owe it to those that come after us to highlight as many unique voices as we can. We don’t have direct control over the narratives that cis media wants to prop up for popular consumption but we do have some means of control within our own community and I hope that we find a way to reign in our individual egos and agendas enough that these alternative routes can be highlighted as the successes that they are.
(And yah, I realize this is stuff that’s been said a million times before. Blame the egg nog. Or rum. Or The Feelings.)