Being in a new and unfamiliar scenario, I have been told, can be exciting and refreshing to break up routines. I can’t recall how many times I was told in college to break out of my comfort zone, aka “come join our club!” Unfortunately, it is an unspoken truth that no amount of steps outside of my comfort zone will make me suddenly enjoy whacking a puck across the ice in your hockey club. Maybe if I could play goalie and there were pizza rolls being sent my way instead of pucks. Maybe.
The point I’m trying to make is that I’m in general an anxious person, and unexpected and new situations are incredible stresses for me. I don’t think it would come as a surprise to hear that starting this journey of transitioning has made practically everything a step outside my comfort zone. My journey has come with a big list of ‘firsts’ that I’m dreading: first trip to the endocrinologist, first time using a women’s bathroom, first time wearing women’s clothing in public, and it goes on. Even my own body feels like it’s something outside of my comfort zone sometimes; just like with the hockey club, there is no amount of mental gymnastics that I can do that will make me to truly enjoy the body I’ve got now. But that’s precisely why we can change ourselves to match the self we want to be: we diet, we exercise, we get tattoos, we dye our hair, and for people like me, we transition.
One of my ways of coping with my anxiety over the unfamiliar is to create a plan and diminish the unknown. After expressing some nervousness to my therapist over coming out to people and how they might react, she suggested that I try coming up with questions they might have and answers to them. One of the questions I thought might come up, and the one that sparked inspiration for this post, was, “why are you trans?”
After thinking about this question for a while, really the best answer I could come up with was the disappointing “Well, because I am!” Now I don’t think I’m the type who isn’t creative enough to give a better answer, but honestly I think that’s the best and most frank answer that I could give. Questioning my trans-ness would be akin to me questioning why the asker was a boy, or a girl, or a human for that matter. We simply are. What I believe one who would ask “why are you trans” really means is not a matter of why, but what. “What makes you trans?” And that is a question that has an answer.
What makes me transgender is that I get euphoria from looking in ways, acting in ways, and imagining myself in ways align with female gender norms. And I get varying amounts of dysphoria from looking, acting, and imagining myself in ways that are in-line with male gender norms. As an example, I am incredibly dysphoric about my facial and other body hair, to the point that I need to be clean shaven to feel comfortable (and confident!) in my skin. Having visible hair on my body is embarrassing, unattractive and feels “wrong” to me in a very visceral way. This is in line with a dominant norm of feminine appearance, and my embodied and largely subconscious sense of what it means for me to have hair on my skin is part of my gender identity. My identity as a woman allows me to express myself with minimized pushback from society and, ultimately, is what makes me the happiest.
Following my euphoria and just being who makes me happy has defined for me what it means to be transgender. And in a way, I suppose stepping out of my comfort zone had something to do with that. Maybe we grow the most as people during those moments of discomfort; perhaps our anxiety is like a spotlight on all of our insecurities, a mirror showing ourselves what we don’t like about ourselves and giving us the opportunity to change the reflection.
I think I’ve taken that opportunity a bit more literally than most.