I spoke a couple months back on limbo, that in between place that we find ourselves in where we are obviously trans. I spoke then on how this is a hurtful place for us to be sometimes, and today I think I’ll talk about it a bit more. You see, I don’t know if I can possibly convey just how painful this stage can be for us. The problem with doing so is that for each of us, our transitions are different. But I think I can give a few examples from my own experience to highlight the issue for others.
One of the disadvantages of how everyone transitions at different paces and different ways means that far too often, we see other trans people whose transitions are quicker and smoother than our own. A good example from my own life is a friend who is about the same age as me, has been on hormones for 4 months less than me, and yet has no problems being read as a woman. She had no problems with the DMV getting her license changed because they read her as female. And seeing instances like that, where others have no problems while some of us do, it’s hard not to be envious, or to wonder what we’re doing wrong. We ask ourselves why we’re the victims of discrimination while our friends are not.
We also run into issues with it in public, even on a smaller scale. For example, a few nights back, I was buying a DVD at the store, and the guy behind the counter called to another and said “hey, can you help this gentleman right here when you’re done?” When the other guy came over, because of wording like that and possibly his own reading of me as trans, he avoided pronouns and terms like Sir or Ma’am completely. And while this seems small, it’s like a grain of sand. And as the day goes on, you get more and more grains building up, and over time, those grains begin to weigh you down. And soon, you’re so burdened by the weight that you can barely move.
Queer spaces aren’t necessarily safer for us either. I work with queer youth as a volunteer, attend my school’s LGBTQ support group, and am a member of two of the local transgender groups in the DFW area. With the former two, I have outright had people assume I’m a guy, even after I introduce myself as Caitlin and state I prefer female pronouns, because they go off of what they see or hear. And in the latter two, the trans specific spaces, it’s not really any better. My first meeting at the larger overall trans group, open to all trans people, I was read as a trans man, and treated like a guy by the group. Even a good trans man friend of mine approached me that night because he thought I was a guy like him amidst all the trans women. And in the other group, specifically for 17-29 year old members, I’ve as recently as last night had members try to find polite ways of saying that I don’t look enough like a woman.
When one is in this limbo space, a space which some of us never escape from, there really is nowhere safe from being viewed as the gender we were assigned at birth. And when nowhere feels safe, when you can’t feel like people see the real you, it bears you down. There’s a reason that even after coming out and beginning transition, far too many of us feel that there is no other option but suicide. When you can’t feel like yourself no matter where you go, sometimes there seems no other option. In those moments, I urge all of us to reach out. If we feel that way, find someone who has always treated us as the real us, reach out. If it’s a friend we see sliding into those spaces, we can reach out to them.
It may never get better. It’s a sad fact that many of us never leave limbo, but many others do. We need to learn to have patience with our transitions, as well as to learn to accept ourselves as we are. Sometimes, we are all we have.
So I turn it now to you, my readers. Do you have any stories of your time in limbo? Do you have advice for those struggling through it?