You Don’t Owe it to Anyone to Stay the Same

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

When we come out as transgender, a lot of us are very quick to tell our families, friends, employers, and ourselves that we will be largely the same person we always were, with the same interests, the same personality, the same dreams. It’s just our names, pronouns, & presentation that will change.

At first, this will probably be true. Some sameness is comforting, and stabilizing. Too many changes at once are often disorienting, and too difficult to manage. Also, a lot of us are pretty sure we don’t want to change much. And so we rush to reassure everyone that we are intact.

That was what I told everyone. I said I’d still love to make art, and I’d listen to metal music, and I’d write poems, and read comic books. On and on, that I would be the same product wrapped in a different package. It made them feel better, and it made me feel better, too.

But the truth became that I didn’t stay the same. My musical taste did change. My artistic output all but vanished. I couldn’t care less about Converse sneakers anymore; give me a pair of cute summer wedges any day. I said I probably wouldn’t wear dresses. That was mostly because I was scared to, not because I actually wanted to avoid it.

But it’s been three years since I said I would be the same, and I’m not scared anymore. I’ve grown & matured. I’ve found new certainties, and new confusions, too. The reality is, I am a different person, and I should have always expected I would be. I could have encouraged everyone to delight with me in how I might change, instead of coddling them (and myself) with how I would stay the same. Maybe we all needed to tell ourselves that lie at the time. But the truth is that when you change how you live & move through the world, when you have pulled yourself out from under secrets & stigmas, you do change.

I don’t make art anymore because all of my art was about realizing my gender. Now that that’s sorted, I haven’t yet found another sufficiently buried existential problem that bubbles up out of me through paint and ink. As a result, I don’t express myself in art these days. Of course I miss it! But it seems not to be a natural part of my self-expression at this stage of my life.

I pretty rarely listen to the metal music I used to listen to anymore, too. If I do, it’s for difference & nostalgia, not actually for any emotional output. When I felt so angry, and isolated, and powerless, that music gave me a sense of power and belonging. But I’m empowered now.

I have community. I don’t feel angry about having no place in the world, and so that music is more of an old friend now. Now, I’m most likely to put on orchestral video game music, or chilled out electronic beats, or some pop or folk songstress that I denied myself pre-transition because it was “too soft.”

But the fact is, I’m softer now, in every way. My soul is calmer, & my brain isn’t the violent, divided battleground that it used to be. Different things matter to me now, and that’s OK. It’s okay for you, too. Transitioning to a more authentic expression of yourself is OK. This is a reality even if you’re not transgender.

You don’t owe it to anyone to stay the same. You don’t owe it to anyone to hold on to old things for their comfort. You aren’t betraying anything about yourself or the things that used to matter to you if suddenly they don’t matter much to you anymore. You are allowed to change.

It can be hard to process those changes, especially if they are things you pinned a part of your identity on, or even partially made a living from. That’s what art was for me. I identified as an artist. I don’t know if I do anymore, or if I can, or even if I need to. That’s a difficult adjustment to make.

But it’s OK. It’s natural to progress, to learn, to leave behind some things, and to take up other things. I’ve been considering that a lot of the things that stay with us post-transition are the things that were always true about us. Those things are our core, our essence. But some things won’t stay, & that’s a hard truth to come to terms with.

It can feel like a loss of who you are, and of things you love. That’s why we try to reassure ourselves and others from the start that that won’t happen. But what if instead of promising that we won’t lose ourselves, we promised that we would commit to finding ourselves? What if we said, “I am going to change.”

I’m going to find the best version of myself, one who feels happier, more authentic, more fulfilled and hopeful. I’m going to change because staying the same was killing me. Maybe you all loved the version of me you knew for so long, but I hope you’ll discover and love who I become.

You’re allowed to claim change right at the beginning if you want to. You’re allowed to look forward instead of holding on to the past, if you want to. You don’t have to bring anything into your new life that serves others but no longer serves you.

Change is good.

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