Limbo. The gray area. Androgyny. Whatever name is used for it, those of us who go through physical transition will find our selves in a place between the sexes, where we’re visibly neither sex yet both, not quite male not yet quite female. Androgyny runs in my family, which is both a boon and a bane for me. It’s a boon, because I moved away from male and became “not male” sooner than I should have, despite how slow my physical transition will be. However, it means that I will spend more time in that limbo space where I am easily read as trans.
You see, androgyny is usually a bad thing for transsexuals (though there are some who revel in it). The reason being that it forces others to examine us closer in their attempts to gender us, and thus they may look at things they would otherwise overlook, and “clock” us (i.e. read us as our birth gender). It’s a dangerous world out there for someone to be trans, and there’s always the risk of us being attacked. This is why so many choose to leave the trans community behind, and live “stealth” (not a word I like, much like passing it denotes pretending to be something one is not, but it is the best we have for now).
That’s not to say that it has to be a bad thing. There can be much joy to be had in androgyny (and I am one who can find fun and love for it, when I choose to be androgynous). For example, a few months ago, I walked into a Wal-Mart after work to pick up a vitamin supplement as I was out. I was dressed in “guy mode,” jeans and a polo shirt, and looking down at my cell phone as I walked through the doors. The greeter started greeting me with “good afternoon, young la- … man” catching himself on the word “lady” as I looked up. There are times where being called a man would be hurtful to me, but the fact that he saw me first as the woman I am made me smile, and the fact that he actually paused and reconsidered his opinion of my gender made me giggle. And I find it funny when those in the trans community or who are trans friendly read me as a trans man, as my soon to be new roommate did.
That in and of itself may be the most important lesson of this phase of transition for us, to not be hurt or upset when someone misgenders us on accident and let it slide. It will always hurt when they do so on purpose, but transition helps us develop a thicker skin. To become more comfortable in our identities, and to develop some self-esteem. Like most things in this world, the limbo phase has its good points and its bad.
Do any of you have transition stories about that limbo phase you care to share? How did those moments shape who you are today?