The Hero's Journey and Finding Home: Gender Transition in the Digital Age
Each one of us is a hero on our own life journey, whether we are male or female, whether or not we bring home the Golden Fleece. We have different itineraries from one another, different scenic overlooks and destinations; we take different short cuts and trade routes, we face different constraints and catastrophes. But for those of us who know we are not at home in our own bodies, the journey has now taken on extra dimensions.
You may have learned your transgendered nature through school or work; but most trans individuals—though not all—seem to be instinctively aware of the disjuncture between self and genitals before the age of five. In your early teens, you almost certainly turned to the Internet for more knowledge, for support, for answers—because the constantly evolving resources of the World Wide Web have fueled and been fed by the explosion of trans awareness in the past 30 years. You view records of transitioning through U-Tube, you make contact through Tumblr, you find brothers and sisters in cyber-space.
Therapy can give you a road map, a pilot’s almanac through the unconscious. You find that Coming Out is a telescope—you do it time and again, on the web, with friends, with family; with casual sexual partners and with those where the outcome is profound. We can work on how to do this well, sharing successes and pitfalls; and when to do it… a question more complex than most of us recognize.
You decide to re-engineer your body through hormone treatment, a process both drastic and achingly slow. Who will you become? Your core identity remains, your body changes on a cellular level. The functioning of your mind and your muscles, even your priorities, may change in complicated ways. What are the dangers for you as you negotiate your everyday life? When parents resist, they are often fearful: they are afraid you will not be happy, you will get hurt, they will not know you anymore. They are afraid of what your gender quandary says about them. You are welcome to invite your parents to join us, for their transition as well as yours.
You have always known yourself as gay, gender-queer or non-binary; after hormone treatment, whom will you be drawn towards? Who will love you as you transition, after you transition? Who will they become when they love you? In this constellation, everybody changes. When you make a home with your life partner, it becomes natural to want a child; will you be sterile, or will you be able, one day, to have children of your own? What are the physical and emotional dangers for those children?
Last of all, be aware that transitioning is not your only choice. Many early gender pioneers chose no hormones, no operations. They chose the space between, the no-man’s land we now call gender-queer or non-binary… a rich but difficult terrain in this culture of polarities. There is no obligation to make changing sex your goal: you will be given time and the respect that you need to make your own decision.
If your family rejects you, and even if they embrace your change, you become part of an infinitely larger community of those who have trodden the same path you set your foot on now. If you chose sex-reassignment, the scars of your surgeries will become the marks of courage. If you chose to remain gender variant, your courage may be even greater. Those of you who have met abuse because of the differences embedded in your minds and your bodies, your very presentation to the world, can find companions on the road, and eventually a sense of a whole self and of belonging. To know who we are, to have purpose, to have family out of the past and into the future, then we are seen and can see ourselves as fully human: and the world is our home.