Denying One’s Past

One of the challenges that faces people who transition is what to do about one’s past. On the one hand there is a strong desire to live (in my case) as a woman and never return to being male. People see how I present now. They see a woman. What happens when the discussion rolls around to school, past relationships, health concerns etc.? There are three options:

  1. Lie. Make something up. Create a past as it may have been if one had always been female, or always male if you are female to male. This means creating a new past and being consistent with it.

  2. Be non-committal. Short answers, no definite information. This is somewhat easier than an outright lie and can still conceal that one is transsexual. This approach leads to less interesting conversation and less back and forth.

  3. Be straight up. This is probably the most difficult approach. It will likely lead to questions and in being out. It is not conducive to being ‘stealth’. It also leaves the door open to rejection, abuse, discrimination and possibly worse. On the other hand it means one is open. People will get to know you for who you are, which includes one’s pre-transition life.

I have used options two and three at various times. Fear of rejection is what usually triggers the use of option two. This fear is natural, everyone has it from time to time. It is easy to give in to. There are also situations where option two is the right option, where it would be inappropriate to use option three. For myself option one is not an option. I will not pretend my past did not happen. That I wasn’t married, didn’t sing in a men’s choir, and many other things that have all contributed to who I am today.

For others in transition, the choice is yours. I am not in your shoes. Do what is right for you. In many parts of the world, and even North America going stealth is often the wisest and safest choice. Whichever way you go, be true to yourself and what you need.

4 Replies to “Denying One’s Past”

  1. Being “True” to oneself ultimately leads to the most satifying life. The hard part is finding the self to be true to. Thank you for sharing your insigts.

  2. It seems like it is one of those tricky choices that everyone has to make for him- or herself. I have to say that I admire you for not taking “option one.” For one thing, I think openness is really valuable in teaching people to be accepting (although yes: there are times when you don’t want to be that open and ‘option two’ comes in very handy.) Speaking as someone who isn’t transgender but who counts a few transgender folks as friends and/or members of my social/professional circles, it can be a steep learning curve to know what topics or questions are acceptable or not (and to which people: and then there’s the whole wide and blurry gender spectrum to learn about.) I’ve known some people to turn around and just bite the head off someone who’s not versed and doesn’t know the etiquette around talking about someone’s pre-transition life, or who doesn’t know the pronoun rules or that you shouldn’t ask what someone’s “real” name is: but ignorance happens, it’s not hate (or at least, in many cases it’s not. You can tell when someone’s asking that kind of question out of hate or fear.) In those cases, the person being asked the awkward or uncomfortable question had a chance to teach the other person something, even if it’s just to say, “Sorry, but I don’t talk about that part of my life.” That’s how I learned what I know about transgender experience: by knowing some transgender people, and by listening.

  3. Thanks Mum, Kathryn.
    Kathryn, it’s usually pretty easy to tell when someone is just being an idiot and when they really want to learn something / expand their horizons. I try to keep a sense of humour and educate where possible. Every transgender person has different feelings about it. Personally, I try to keep a sense of humour, even if it does appear to be off-colour at times.

    Part of why I chose options 2 and 3, preferable more of option 3, is that I spent many years denying who I really was and don’t want to do it again with regard to my past.

  4. I will not chastise nor say anything negative about the transition process. As far as what one chooses to do with their “past” in this scenario. But I will say I think you have made the best choice Talia under the circumstances if this were to be something I would face I would be the same way that you are. And even not being in this particular transition process I sometimes face situations where I use both of the options you have mentioned. Sadly they generally have to do with having my daughter.

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