Issues Evolve Through us Over Time
Phases in Long-term Adjustment
Issues Evolve Through us Over Time
I’m very long-term. I began my trek in 1977, switched in 1981. Newer people—10 to 20 years—relate these issues differently from people who’ve been in role 30 or more. The older view is not wrong because of age or fashion but is seasoned through time, usually less given to denial, less insecure, seeing more the value in being our true selves.
I’m also a Master of Social Work, LCSW—transitioning entirely on my own in 1981 as a sophomore in college, taking a full-time job during the day with insurance to pay for SRS. I was alone mostly in life, insatiably curious, so I was in college for about 11 years, off and on, probably about 7-1/2 years worth if it were all full time, absorbing campuses and classes, studying everything from cryptology and period direction finding (DF), Egyptology, anthropology and statistics to psychology and clinical social work. And I was later with Joe, a genius engineer, for 22 years so I appreciate the sciences in life.
Everything I relate, on all these web pages, in my book or in life, is colored by that decades-long evolution of ideas and my interest in study. Nothing I say can be understood without taking the information in this page into account.
NOTE: I tend to reference MtF so I can compare and contrast to myself.
See in the composite photo above how I evolved post-transition, relative to my own range, not to an absolute standard: relatively ultra-fem in my early years, notably less so in my intermediate years, and then how I evolved into something between the two later in life. Also note that the photos are limited, don’t show it all. In life, I’m also including my approach to myself and others, my manner. (The photo on the left was damaged in one of the moves. I did my best to restore it.)
A transition is not something that happens and is done; it’s a process that continues for the rest of life. I’ve seen phases in transition, how we present and feel about ourselves, individually, through many years, decades. These are my observations in brief.
I find great difficulty discussing things with newer people, or even non-trans people who learn about all this primarily from newer people, because our perspectives don’t mesh. I feel I’m in the position of having to reinforce a common denial or leave. I’m sometimes told by newer people, or said non-Ts, that my ideas are old fashioned (Reason #12) or idiosyncratic. But I’m not. Gender can be a matter of fashion, but physical sex cannot; it is part of our physical state, and in sex identity, likely part of the brain as well.
I am referring to a presentation of gender, masculinity or femininity, not physical sex.
I’ve observed over 40+ years that for most people in the trans world, there are gender swings that affect our presentation and approach to life. I’m not referring to a swing from day to day or year to year but from decade to decade, each phase years at a time. These seem based on
- being transsexual or transgender, whether one needs to be the other physical sex or another gender yet not the other sex. An internal need to be the other binary, vs. non-binary, can affect expression.
- age at transition, as it takes decades for these swings to be noticed as phases, and greater mental and physical agility is part of it, diminishing with age. Childhood transitions may not have such noticeable swings, as gender may not have been so long held artificially to one side and the natural gender was allowed to form. With older transitions, one may be more settled into a way and there aren’t as many years left for swings. Transitions of strong need in the early 20s (like me), may be more noticeable over time—I think because of years of pre-transition emotional scarring, with decades left for swings.
- strength of need for transition. The stronger the need (like me), likely the greater the gender swing and subsequent phases.
- how far gender was artificially held to one side prior to transition. In my case, through childhood, I was not at all allowed to be myself, abused physically and emotionally for any expression of femininity. I had to pretend in small-town Midwest and in the Navy.
- Promotion of a social movement. If someone is involved in the promotion of a social meme, movement, or is a celebrity who depends on response from others (book sales, media), it will greatly affect these swings, maybe even prevent them. I have a book out, but I was never promoting a social meme.
someone who is transsexual, switches with SRS at a young age, has a strong need, who had previously held gender expression far to one side in pre-transition life, and who is not public or involved in promoting T issues…is likely to have more noticeable gender swings through decades of life;
someone who is either phenomenon, switches later in life, has a need not as strong or rather evolved as a person, who had not struggled to hold prior gender expression unnaturally to the other side…is less likely to have a noticeable gender swing in remaining years of life, and even less so if she is public or promoting gender issues.
For the 1st group above, imagine a pendulum apparatus, an axle at the top, a pendulum that can swing beneath it, each swing years at a time, and the whole thing built on wheels so that as the pendulum makes larger swings, the axle is also moved somewhat. The gender presentation is the pendulum; the real person inside is the axle. After decades, when the pendulum stops swinging, the axle is in a place farther to one side, M or F, than it was when it began. Who the person is, reflected in her presentation, has evolved and settled.
Description of an example: If gender presentation (pendulum) is artificially held to one side in childhood and life prior to transition, then released (transition), one’s gender presentation may swing through years and settle—I’m meaning only perhaps two major swings, overall, from M pre-transition, F at Phase 1, middlish in Phase 2, then F again in Phase 3 (see below for phases)—while the overall the person’s center (axle) will move in the direction of transition affected by the degree of swing.
You meet such a trans person at 2 years in transition, 5 years, 10, 20? You do not yet know them, nor do they yet know themselves. They are still evolving, reacting to life now and pre-transition.
Pre-transition life doesn’t disappear now that you’ve “become yourself.” More objective examples: how you learned to speak, noting such as Arnold Swarzenegger’s accent; handwriting, once learned, may not change unless focused.
Phases in Long-term Adjustment
Other issues also change through time. Newer people in role do not usually think of themselves as do longer-term people in role, and transsexuals do not tend to think of themselves in many ways as do transgenders. Interacting with people in person, I can sometimes
- see where they are in these below phases,
- interpret what a person is saying based on their phase, how they’re saying it, how they’re presenting, and even
- predict where they may be in several years if they’re presenting as a clear phase.
These phases are not iron clad. They’re something that are recognizable in some trans people, depending on the factors I outlined above. But when evident, they’re helpful—as in predicting times at risk for suicidality or depression, or also where it may enter in self-sabotage for some social engagements, integrating, and making friends.
Here below, more distinct phases as if in a transsexual of strong, life-long need, who felt traumatized by such a horribly wrong prior life, who was able to transition at a younger age:
Phase 1: “Disneyland.” Sometimes 5-10 years-ish in duration after transition:
- KEY ISSUE: Gender Swing. May be large in gender swing, going perhaps a bit overboard in attire or manner;
- Denial is a big problem: Even if biological details are known ad nauseam, the tendency is strong to think that one actually is what is needed; doesn’t see self as as the T others likely do;
- Insecurity: May act confident, but is more likely to actually be defensive; hypersensitive to criticism or anything that doesn’t seem to confirm self perception; cling to a paradigm; share cliches; very easily hurt; tends to assert new gender role, a particular way of pronouncing a name, or participate in activities that are sexed for validation;
- Believes this is her true self she’s been all along, doesn’t see it as a phase;
- Self-esteem rises with transition if successful;
- Suicidality decreases if successful transition. Can be at risk if social pressure.
Phase 2: “Just life.” Sometimes 20 years-ish in duration after Phase 1:
- KEY ISSUE: Gender swings back the other way, but still not as far as it had been pre-transition. If MtF, may be notably less feminine in attire and manner;
- Thinks she’s seasoned; doesn’t see this one, either, as a phase;
- Denial is still a problem.
- Insecurity still a problem.
- Self-esteem a little less than Phase 1, but still okay per this issue.
- Suicidality not as big a problem, until…
Phase 3: “At risk anew.” Sometimes 25-30 years into transition. I’m in my Phase 3 now; have been since about 2005 or so. I don’t know if it’ll lead to anything more, but it feels like it’s the last of 3, so perhaps the rest of life. Aging affects presentation, also, which is not, itself, a T gender swing as I’m discussing here. I’ll discuss my Phase 3 from my own experience:
- KEY ISSUE: Denial fades. The light goes on. I, sadly, do not think of myself as “woman” (never really did, anyway) or “female” (which I need but cannot be). I’ll refer to myself as such if needed, say for a government or medical form, or from another person’s view, but I think it’s presumptuous. This is a not un-common characteristic of longer-term. Also, I don’t prefer others to refer to me as such, as it seems patronizing. For me, it dawned during a time of relative peace, at 24-or-so years in, and I was suddenly able to see myself more realistically. Knowledge didn’t decrease or increase; it was perspective on self. I was acutely aware of what I’d made myself into through life, and it was not what I’d intended: really female. I did not want to be, but in reality, I was / am transsexual. People who I’d been angry at before, in life, for not being tolerant were instead, I could now see, putting up with more than I knew. I was angry at doctors over the years for going along with the idea of “woman” and “female,” not pointing out the reality of the matter. They probably thought they were being kind, or wanted my patronage for money, but what I needed most—even though I didn’t realize it at the time—was truth, instead, mixed with consideration. For doctors, therapist, etc., I think it would be best to admit to us prior to medical treatment that we’d still be biologically cis sex, “transsexual,” and nonetheless refer to us as she/her, woman, and female out of compassion. The truth has got to find its way into treatment, too often ignored by treatment professionals who fear being black-listed from a significant source of income. Reinforcement of denial sets us up for long-term social embarrassments or worse;
- Insecurity rises. Aware of what I’d denied for so many years, I could now see more accurately how I was presenting to and being taken by others—and I was disgusted by it. Being male is good, for males; I’m into them, but on me, it is disgusting. Transgender is good for people into that; I’m pleased to be friends, but it was never my need, and on me, it is also disgusting for the same reason. If someone refers to me as “transgender,” I will not utilize their services as they’re being offensive, and if I am connected to them, I may well begin advocating with them to also be included in narrative (such as with Virginia Tech).
- Self-esteem drops. Aware of inability to reach an inborn, neural needed goal, that one is something else, I cannot feel good about that aspect of self. To me, being transsexual is needing not to be transsexual but the other sex. My need was always to simply be female, just female, really female, and that’s not possible, so I’m—sadly just me, someone who needs to be, has done all I can, but it’s not enough.
- Suicidality. With awareness, the cessation of denial—particularly if there is little social support—suicidality can increase, here, at Phase 3, for some—and the reason for it may not even be known, as sophomoric people missing the point might say, “It couldn’t be gender. She switched long ago.” Or worse, “See? Transition didn’t help but for a while.”
- Gender swings back a bit, the pendulum relaxing under the axle, the person more centered, with perspective that newer people lack.