A while back my friend Will (who’s blog is awesome, seriously stop reading this right now and go check out his page) wrote about how he suddenly realized one day that he had reached a point in his life where he wasn’t expected to need erasers anymore. He gets a bit deeper on the subject but in summary, he realized that as children we are expected, heck encouraged even, to make mistakes. It’s how we learn. It’s how we grow. But then we reach adulthood and overnight we’re supposed to have our entire live worked out. No more erasers. No more do-overs.
That post really hit home for me. Partially because I, with age 30 peeking right around the corner, am nowhere near having my life in perfect order. True, the past few years I’ve started to figure things out, but compared to the typical adulthood timeline, I’m slacking.
But the idea of erasure also really hit me because in the spring of 2015 I decided to announce to the world that I’m transgender. And with that statement I was basically asking the world to erase the idea they had of me as a female. I started my transition. I legally changed my name and all my documents. And I started erasing my old name and gender as much as I could.
These days when I tell stories about my younger self, especially to people who’ve just met me and don’t know I’m trans, I’ll use “he” and “him.” I leave out the fact that I was a Brownie in elementary school, that I dressed up as Minnie Mouse for Halloween, or that I didn’t join the wrestling team because I was a girl. Just the other day one of my new classmates was talking to me and another guy about how we would never understand the pain of period cramps. I didn’t correct her.
But while some trans folks want to completely erase their past selves (and that’s completely cool, it’s a personal choice) I’m not sure I want to let go. Just because I’m going by a new name and new pronouns doesn’t mean that I’m not the same person as that little girl who wore pink from head to toe on her first day of school. I still have all my old photos up on Facebook. I don’t cringe any more than average when I look at pictures of my younger self. Sure the hairstyle was sometimes hideous, but under all that it’s still me. And I’m a compilation of all of my past, not just past year or so when I’ve really been seen as male.
It’s interesting to note, that when a transgender person talks about being seen as their correct gender, we might say something like “I passed at the checkout at Walmart today.” The same word used to talk about someone who has “passed” as in “passed on.” It’s like we’re alluding to the fact that we’ve killed off our past selves. In fact Skylar Kergil, one of my favorite transgender artists/activists has a spoken word poem where he says, “Some days I feel like I’ve killed my twin sister.”
Still more often than not, I tend to think of my transition as more of a transformation or evolution than an erasure. When I’m in safe spaces, I don’t feel the need to hide who I was. Being trans is a part of me and my history as much as being from Virginia, growing up in a large family, and being a superhero fan are parts of me. Who I was is an important part of who I am now. And it’s the struggle to become the person I am now, and be recognized as that person, that has built me into the man that types these words.