Let’s talk about grief, shall we?
Going through gender transition is tough, and there are so many milestones to reach: First appointment at a gender clinic. Second signature for hormones. Referral for surgery. Passing for the first time. Gender marker changes.
With all of these it is easy to get caught up in the excitement, and the narrative we see splashed across the media is this one too. It is the story of rebirth, of becoming who we truly are.
But there’s one thing we don’t talk about often enough, and that is grief. Becoming LJ has been tough, but losing my old identity may have been tougher. It seems cliche to say that the child I was is dead, but in many senses it is the truth. For my family and friends who have known me before transition, they have to grieve the child they knew before they can accept the person I am now.
I have to grieve too. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be LJ, or that I regret any of the decisions I’ve made in this transition. The little girl I was doesn’t exist anymore, nor does the woman I was expected to grow into. There are times when I miss that person, what she accomplished or who she might have been. I have such a huge passion for women’s rights and I can remember the person who told me about feminism and the moment I connected with the movement. I could understand the misogyny, I had ample experience of sexual harassment, and now I regularly feel that I am not allowed to be part of the “sisterhood” of feminism.
I grew up as a girl, was socialised as a woman. My history is female, but my future and present is not. It’s OK to miss that life, though I often have to reassure myself, and others, that this doesn’t mean I’m “less trans”. Trans people are allowed to love their bodies / lives / childhood and still be trans. It is also OK for others to miss this. My parents, sibling, friends…they must all miss the person I was. My sister and I would make plans of things to do when we grew into old women, my friends and I planned holidays together and went to female-only spaces…all of which have changed now.
It is also a sad fact that society dictates a shift in the dynamic of friendships when gender is changed. Male – only friendships differ from female – only friendships (whether they should or not is another matter). For many people friendships are lost, and there are far too many family members lost through transition too.
There are times when I have felt such intense grief, having lost a well-established life as a woman, that I wonder whether this transition is worth it. I have grieved over experiences lost, over an easier life, over the hurt and confusion caused to my family and friends. But ultimately… it is so, so SO worth it. Though there are times when I feel a sense of loss, none of those feelings can overcome the excitement and contentment I have found in becoming myself.