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?
– 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!