Trigger warning: Some discussion of suicide.
Choices are something we face every day. Choice of what to wear, what to eat, which tasks to prioritise etc. These are usually relatively easy, even when we can’t decide on whether to have chicken or fish for supper. Sometimes the choices are more difficult like deciding whether or not to find a new job. Sometimes there are choices that are quite literally a question of life or death. People who are diagnosed with cancer have choices to make about their treatment path, radiation, chemotherapy, surgeries or even no treatments at all. For those with kidney failure the choice is dialysis or to die from the build up of toxins in the blood. In both of these examples the results of the choices mean a significant change in how one’s life is lived or ended. Each is profoundly personal and impacts on family and friends.
What about those of us who transition? What sorts of choices do we face? Are they the simple choices of what to eat and wear? are they more profound? Are they a question of living or dying?
When I am talking to people who have little experience or knowledge of transgender or transsexual people quite often comment on the choice to transition. I turn this back around, is it really much of a choice? In my particular case I had been suffering from depression, often severe, for many years prior to my epiphany and realization of what was wrong. With this epiphany also came the very real knowledge that I was down to two choices.
Choice One: Continue as I was, be depressed, non-functional and knowing that I would likely come to a point where I would take my own life. I would become a statistic. Part of the more than forty percent of trans people who attempt to take their own life.
Choice Two: Start the process of transition and eventually be myself. Stop the denials, suppression and move forward with life. I knew that this choice would end my marriage of almost ten years. I knew that there was a good chance that I would lose family, friends and that it would impact my work life, most likely in a negative manner.
At 36 years old there wasn’t really a whole lot of choice, I was not going to keep going as I was and end up dead. In some ways this is the more difficult choice to make, especially early on. There were a few times in the first year of transition where I was very close to ending my life anyway. Given that I’m writing this now, three years after the start of my transition, I obviously chose to keep moving forward and life my life.