Being Trans is Good, Actually

I am tired of being mourned. I am more alive than ever before.

“Endless” by Kah Yangni, with poetry by Vita E.

The news cycle is rarely kind to trans folks.

So it goes: another morning, another misguided op-ed about trans issues, written not by a trans person (go figure) but by some self-appointed cis authority. They claim to know and represent us, our stories, all the while seething with perceived victimhood as their claims to our identities are shaken. Concurrently, trans people are rejected, abandoned, murdered for merely existing, for attempting to pursue the joy and comfort that should rightfully belong to them.

The idea that transness is fraudulent — a ruse, a secret to be unearthed in the ultimate act of betrayal — is the thread that holds these stories together. So-called ‘trans widows’ demand the media spotlight: they describe the devastation and grief that follows their partner’s coming out — as if this ultimate confession is a slight against the sanctity of what their relationship used to look like, should look like, and not a desperate moment imploring for continued understanding, love, trust. Their partner’s insistence upon transition is marked as deceit, as an affront; they are stripped of their personhood, of sympathy and recognition.

Transition is undeniably turbulent — not by the simple virtue of being trans, but rather of being trans in a world with radically different expectations. Heteronormativity has a vice grip on what constitutes the norm; on the opposite end of that spectrum is transness, otherness. Decades-long relationships are toppled in an instant at its prickly reveal. Change is seen as failure: for the path ahead to stray so far from expectation, something must have gone wrong, right? Transness folds inward, becomes a warped reflection of a damaged relationship, becomes personal.

Bewildered cis partners demand answers and certainties: What have you done to yourself? they ask, meaning, What have you done to me?

Before I knew I was trans myself, I loved a trans person. I hadn’t the slightest clue they were trans until it all came to a head: a soft bed, a quiet confession in the early hours of the morning. I was stunned, it hadn’t been on my radar whatsoever — and yet all I could think about was my unconditional love for them. There were no mental gymnastics, no desperately trying to iron out the kinks in my sexuality to make it all congruent, make it make sense.

Sure, it was unfamiliar territory for me at the time, but any trickle of fear I may have felt was instantly overshadowed by the magnitude of this secret — how much courage and trust it must have taken for them to confide it in me. My partner was hurting, was afraid, and I was there for them. It was all I could do: to listen with kind ears, to remind them how tremendously loved they are and always will be.

Cis people do not, cannot, will not ever understand what it means to transition: they will never understand the weight of the self-doubt, the resistance disguised as tough love from family members and friends, who suddenly act as if someone has died — as if you have died, the person they once knew and adored lost in the impenetrable shadow of a different gender. To the people you know best, you become a ghost.

The early months of my transition — much like many others’ — were marked by loved ones’ skepticism, desperate pleas to derail plans for hormones, surgery, things I already knew I needed to feel complete in myself. These choices weren’t taken lightly: I spent every day agonizing over different shards of my identity, over what they meant to me and to the people I loved, long before I ever dreamt of coming out. I had to push through the slog of rejection and misunderstanding, advancing forward only by the flickering light of self-recognition blinking in the distance.

An impossible amount of trust is woven into this grand confession of self; it’s not easy to reintroduce yourself to people who have known you for years, even decades — people who hold fast to the image of who they always thought you were or wanted you to be. Transitioning is having people stare right through you, their eyes glazed with an impression of the person you’ve replaced. I was fortunate enough to be accepted by my partners in my budding transness, to be seen and loved entirely as myself — and this is a gift I hold dear to my heart, for all those deprived of it.

The notion of ‘trans widows’ exists because cis people feel entitled to trans bodies, to policing nonconformity, to policing their partners. Transition is a magical process, an opportunity to repaint oneself in the image of your dreams with unfettered authenticity. Is this not what we all should want for the people we love: to encourage them to explore and change and chase their most profound sense of self and of happiness? Is this not what we want most for ourselves, too?

If your partner comes out to you as trans, and in that tender, vulnerable moment, your only urge is to bemoan your own losses, to cast blame, maybe you never deserved their companionship, their trust, their bravery. Perhaps this instinct to recoil, to lash out, to publicize your perceived slight far and wide across the internet, is an indication of your own misguidedness — of how you’ve turned your back on the person you purport to love most, in the time they needed you most.

The truth is immutable: it is a privilege to know and be known by trans people, to be let into their rich and vibrant and expansive worlds.

Transition is not an end; it is a beginning. A beginning for new, malleable love to burst forth from its seams; for the emerging life given by self-creation; for recalibrating the way you exist within and throughout the world, so that you are your most complete self.

I did not die when I transitioned.

You do not get to grieve me; I am right here.

I am tired of being mourned. I am more alive than ever before.

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M. Kerlan

M. Kerlan

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M. Kerlan (he/they) is a queer writer and artist. For more about M. & their work, visit novelost.com.