Part of going through the transition gauntlet usually involves dips in self-esteem. For me, I did not experience hostile or negative reactions from friends and family to my “coming out” as trans. I didn’t go through an acute crisis. I waited 50 years to finally become, on the outside, the person I really am on the inside.

For me the progressive decline in my self-esteem was more of a slow erosive process. Small insignificant drips carried away my sense of self-worth, little by little, until one day I woke up and realized what a terrible story I had been telling myself about who I am and how I deserve to be treated.

And I’ve learned that the terrible stories you tell yourself are not harmless. They can, left unchecked, become self-fulfilling prophesies and turn into a smoldering fire you just can’t put out without completely dismantling basic assumptions and disentangling yourself from anyone who is just “tolerating” who you are becoming.

Tolerance is bearable when you have a strong ego and feel good about who you are. Tolerance may not be bearable when you need to build yourself back up (which you may have to do on a daily basis when going through various phases of transition.

For my trans friends – here are some questions to consider:
– What does tolerance look like to you?
– Are you strong enough now in this stage of your transition to handle relationships built on tolerance?
– What are you doing to keep tolerance from taking a toll on your self-esteem?

My answers:
– Tolerance looks like the following kinds of statements:
o I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see you as a “real” man but I support your right to do what you are doing.
o I should be able to look past gender and just think of you as a person but I can’t.
o I need to mourn who you were. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to embrace who you are becoming but give me time.
o Your best bet for being in a relationship is with another trans person – they’re the only ones that will ever be able to really get you.
– In my current state, continual exposure to these types of statements sews seeds of doubt that take root and grow uncontrollably into choking weeds – weeds that keep the healthy growth from happening.
– Using the weed control analogy I am taking the following steps to take care of myself when interacting with the tolerant people I encounter:
o Dig them out at the roots. Although the tolerant person may think they are being wonderfully supportive it’s not my job right now to educate them. My first job is to get through this process alive and healthy. They may think I’m being overly sensitive or saddened by my sudden departure from their life but it’s something I need to do in order to take care of myself and perhaps, at some point in the future, circle back and give them a chance to learn a new way of thinking.
o Prevent them from growing in the first place. I need to put myself in situations where I’m likely to meet supportive people even though I can be painfully shy. That pain is more acute than sticking with the status quo but once I push through it and make new friends I will have less space in my life for people who can’t really be there for me.
o Promote healthy plant growth. Nurture all the relationships that are positive. Give back to the trans community.

Happy trans gardening!

7 thoughts on “Tolerance

  1. Well said. As I expected, there’s a lot of resonance here for me, although admittedly I’m prone to, erm, misplacing my self-esteem… but as always, you’ve put it expertly, and I’ll be sure to take your advice even if I wouldn’t take my own. Thank you!


  2. Please give the people in your life who love you a chance to adjust. I think it’s amazing how well your family has handled your transition. I recognize myself in some of those statements you make about “tolerant” people. I’m doing my best. Healthy relationships require honesty, and sometimes people’s honest reactions are not exactly what you hoped they would be. I can’t help but see the partner’s point of view in this situation. Most people (of our generation at least) define their sexuality based on gender. There was a time when you defined your sexuality that way as well. I love hearing the stories of relationships that survive one partner’s transition (especially that middle aged married hetero couple who stayed together after the mom became a man), but I can see why that is the exception rather than the norm. Most hetero relationships don’t survive one partner coming out as gay or lesbian either for similar reasons. I hope the “tolerant” people in your life become fully accepting of you someday. And I hope you don’t toss me out with the weeds!

  3. This by far your best post to date, not only does it speak to the shear lack of understanding about the Trans community but to the world that has haunted OUR community for years, Tolerance!! You tolerate bad service or uncomfortable situations. People are meant to be empowered and embraced. As my 7 year old Dylan says about his Trans Community of friends and family….”Momma, they are just getting the body they were meant to have, one that matches their brain.” If the world could just see the Tran Community thru the eyes of a 7 year old. We are off to go tubing with our Trans Family…wish you were here to come with us!! Thank you, for inspiring me everyday! Keep writing and watering your plants!!

  4. Thank you for posting this. I needed to read it today. It’s very hard to maintain self-esteem some days and it’s good to have a reminder that I have the right to define what makes me comfortable instead of always trying to make other people feel comfortable with me.

  5. Way to hit the nail on the head, Tam. I have often said that tolerance isn’t acceptance–it’s the insidious little brother of intolerance.

    I tolerate people I don’t like. But the people in my life that I do like deserve more than to be tolerated, they deserve to be respected, just like I deserve that same respect.


  6. This one really made me think. Love and acceptance are things we all deserve, part of the human condition. They should be independent of one’s gender (or race for that matter). I expect tolerance from those who don’t know me, but acceptance from those who do. We love you out here on the West Coast.

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