Since I was officially diagnosed almost 25 years ago, the way that I have communicated my trans status to those around me has taken three very distinct turns.
Stage 1: Terrified Silence to Thrill of the Case
I always knew of course, but knowing is different to doing. I came to understand the nature of trans during the early 80’s. I said nothing, of course. To twist from an old movie line, ‘we didn’t have trans people in my town – not live ones, anyway’. I’d barely whispered the word transsexual – and it would be the best part of another decade before such an utterance would find full voice in the incongruous surround of the family GP’s consulting room. Within a year, my early psych treatment had begun and I’d swallowed the first of perhaps 25,000 oestrogen pills.
What followed was a sense not only of liberation from a secret, but exhilaration from the shift in status. Instead of assumed male, I was trans-in-treatment. I had paperwork, and everything! You know that feeling you have when you’re bursting with a secret? Yup, I started telling people. It was heart-poundingly difficult the first few times, but after a bit I’d feel driven to explain it to almost anyone. I felt than unless I did this, I couldn’t possibly be understood in context. (Like that mattered, right?).
Fast forward another year and I had sunk back below the social surface. My appearance was overtly shifting, albeit subtly – but I became guarded. I’d lost a job that I liked because whispers had begun. (You could fire people for being ‘commercially compromising’ back then). Apart from discussion with my close, safe circle, I chose to keep tighter control over my transition.
Stage 2: Through the Looking Glass to Grown Up
Just before my main surgeries, I felt obliged to explain to my then employers the pending lengthy absences. I’d calculated that if they were okay with it, I’d be able to come back to work with an understanding that my duties would need to be a little lighter for a few weeks. If they wanted me gone, I’d start anew post-op. To their credit, they barely hesitated and I counted myself incredibly fortunate to have their support through that difficult stage. I also had to get used to explaining changes to officialdom: Passport, HM Govt, and eventually among the first in the UK to present to the Gender Recognition Panel.
With my treatment behind me – and although continuing to be wary – having no issues passing, I absolutely buried my past. My secret was out there and would rear its head every so often (more about that another time), but I was long done volunteering my transness. Being able to take part in the world as female was almost all I’d ever craved – and I wasn’t going to voluntarily compromise that.
There were a few occasions when I felt I still had to confide. I would tell a new employer’s HR dept; I would tell anyone treating me in a medical capacity – and I would tell men before sleeping with them. (More about that last one another time, too).
It took me about 5 years to write Interloper. Lots of reasons for that: I had a demanding work life; I lacked confidence in my writing – and it was incredibly hard to get the book to publication. Once I knew it was definitely going to happen, I had to decide whether to publish under a pseudonym or with my real name. In a digital world, I knew that the latter would mean an echo of that earlier shift: assumed female to trans-in-actuality.
I wanted to head things off at the pass somewhat. This would mean getting back into the practice of saying the words out loud, in social conversation. Only society had changed. I found myself using words like ‘transgender’ (which hadn’t existed when I’d first started around the block). Still, unlike that previous stage, I found myself not wanting to dwell on detail – or tour too far into an explanation. In short, I wanted my gender definity back.
I’m pretty sure that desire to run back to safety will pass. Those with whom I work will presumably go back to not really giving it much thought. I’m the same Kim they’ve always know – turns out I just got there through a different route to that assumed. People have plenty more important things to be thinking about.
I suppose the point of this particular entry is to offer my belief that identity as a truth matters fleetingly at all – and only acutely to ourselves. Put it out there and it settles, like one ripple among many – just part of the everyday wash.
Be out. Be proud. And then just get over yourself.
http://kimerincowley.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Kim-InAndOut-e1514924439168.jpg10611770Kim Erin Cowleyhttp://kimerincowley.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/kim-erin-cowley.pngKim Erin Cowley2017-12-03 23:00:342017-12-04 21:11:49In and Out