reflections > prescriptions
Very early on in my transition to a woman, I was filled with a parade of doubts. So I read... a lot. As I discovered myself and looked for articles to understand more about what it means to be trans, what it's like to be a woman, I didn't get much out of articles like "10 things that trans people do" or even much definitions. I have always found it hard to really make sense of definitions for new concepts, untethered to my past experience.
For instance, the Wikipedia article on "Transgender" starts:
A transgender person (often abbreviated to trans person) is someone whose gender identity or gender expression does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. Many experience gender dysphoria, which they may seek to alleviate through transitioning, often adopting a different name and set of pronouns in the process.
This is a good definition, but it doesn't answer the two critical questions for me: "Am I trans?" and "If so, how can I handle it?"
Instead, I found solace in accounts from fellow trans women, who delved into their own emotions and wrote back on what they found. This came in the form of personal reflections, transfeminist essays (many of which influenced by reflections), and music or literature based on personal experience. The essays from trans men have been equally illuminating in contrast to my experience. They have been particularly inspiring to help me see masculinity as a positive trait that just doesn't agree with me.
The truth is, being trans is complicated. Starting out I looked for signs in my past to explain my current feelings. Could my traumatic response to getting my hair cut be because, deep down, I feel like a girl? What about my longing to wear colorful clothing? Perhaps. But really, no sign, no quiz can ever truly tell you whether you're trans or not and how to live the rest of your life in the context of your world. What if you're trans and an immigrant? Black and trans? A trans parent? All of these? There's no prescription tailored to your life. The uncertainty on how to live day to day compounds!
That's why I find solace in the deep dives on specific lives. Each person that has lived and written about it has spent some time untangling the inconsistencies of all their narratives. At times, they have integrated the narratives. In other times, they have rejected them. Perhaps they kept some parts and rejected others. Each time though, the complicated feelings of each life shine through: the many compromises and disappointments that we must make as humans that are sanitized from Wikipedia descriptions.
It is comforting to see others somewhat like me experience the full range of human emotions. It is, fundamentally, human.
So I advocate for personal narratives, for reflections and stories that reflect the messy lives of their writers. Let the definitions and prescriptions take root within the greater forest of each life.