It’s funny how you can think about a word so much without thinking about its actual definition. The word “transition” lodged itself in my brain more than a decade ago, but the context was about whether or not to do it. The word became tied to the decision, not the process. When I finally made my decision last summer, I spoke to a trans man that I’ve known for a long time. He said it’s strange when people ask “when did you transition?” as if there is a completion date. Even hearing those words from him didn’t prepare me for how much of a process transitioning would be.
I’ve been watching and listening as my body changes and my voice deepens during the seven months that I’ve been on T. I like looking at my face in the mirror and seeing the gradual growth of facial hair and I enjoy hearing the monthly recordings I’ve been making to track my voice changes. Hormone therapy was one aspect of transitioning that I did understand to be a process before I began. That goes for the pronoun switch too – I knew it would be a process for others. What I didn’t realize was that it would be a process for me. It took some time to get used to hearing people refer to me with male pronouns even though it’s what I had wanted for so long. For a while, neither feminine nor masculine descriptors were comfortable. Now I love hearing people describe me in masculine ways and I have to be patient with friends and family who are still adjusting.
One thing I was not prepared for experiencing as a process was top surgery. There is a good bit of information about top surgery online. There are plenty of before and after pictures and videos of post-surgery reveals. Most of these reflect positive experiences and pleasing results. It takes more digging to find documentation of results that looked ugly before they looked good. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with too much research before surgery and I didn’t know the right questions to ask my surgeon, for example, how my recovery and results might differ from someone who is twenty years younger. I wasn’t prepared for the initial weeks and months after surgery. I knew to expect swelling and possible bruising and I knew that my scars might look worse than I had imagined. I didn’t expect the stretching, pleating, dimpling, and overall unevenness of my chest. So in the first three months after my surgery, I had a great deal of uncertainty. I had questions about what the doctor may have done wrong during surgery, what I may have been doing wrong during recovery, and whether or not I would be happy with the results when things healed and settled. It took many conversations with the doctor’s patient care coordinator and with other trans men to reassure me that my chest, and my perception of it, would improve because it takes time. Oh, right. It’s a process.
Once again, I received a physical example of an emotional lesson I’ve been learning. The lesson is being happy on the way to being happy, a concept I learned in my Trans & Queer Yoga class at Kashi Atlanta, an urban ashram. I remind myself of those words when I start focusing too much on what I want to happen in the future instead of how to be more content in the present. I understand now that choosing to transition is not a decision to do something – it’s a decision to begin doing something. Now that I’ve made the decision to begin that process I must learn to find peace in being while I am becoming.
In the words of William Butler Yeats, “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.”