Why I didn’t transition

I realized that I was transgender for the first time in my junior-senior year of college. I had been struggling with gender-related issue and dysphoria the entire time I was in college (and probably long before), but it took me a long time to identify and label it. It turns out most college-age men don’t spend hours a day depressed because they weren’t a woman, who would have guessed. Around the time that I figured this out, I wrote a list of things that I would need to transition. I still have that list:

  • Must pass
  • Able to get bottom surgery
  • must sound like a woman
  • No facial hair
  • Must have hair
  • Name change
  • Must be pretty
  • Must live alone
  • New city where no one knows me
  • must cut off everyone from before transition
  • No changes to sexual attraction
  • Money and stability

Some context for this list: I was not in a good situation at the time. I was living in an apartment with three roommates who were less than pleasant. One had threatened to kick me out if I was gay or trans within the first month living there and another threatened me with physical violence on multiple occasions. Needless to say, it was not exactly the ideal situation for exploring one’s identity. It was in the middle of this situation that I realized I was trans and wrote the above list.

My conclusion at the time from this list was that I could not transition. At a high level, I wanted 4 things: to transition, to be safe, to be financially stable, and to have romantic partner and get married. The problem was that I could not see a way to have all 4. Transitioning would jeopardize the other three goals. However, if I didn’t transition I could never have a romantic partner without having to maintain a considerable deception. No matter how I sliced it, I could never get everything on my list.

The other obvious problem with that list of dealbreakers is that you can’t predict half of it. You won’t know if you will pass until you transition. You won’t know if your sexuality will change until you transition. Too much of the list was ultimately matters of chance.

I did not transition at the time. The list of necessities seemed impossible to fulfill and so I rejected being transgender. I reasoned that even if I was trans, there was no benefit to transitioning. If I had the choice between being miserable as a man or being miserable as a woman, I chose to at least be safe and miserable. I can’t be mad with myself for not transitioning. Even now, I don’t disagree with anything on the list except maybe the necessity of bottom surgery. The choice I made then was completely reasonable. I did the math and determined that transitioning was not a risk worth taking. It would be several more years until I changed my mind.

Post Script: my list of transition requirements is pretty awkward. I considered revising the list to make it less embarrassing, but I decided against it. Every trans person has to go through an awkward self-discovery phase and it would be wrong to pretend that mine was not. The formation and understanding of one’s identity is messy and gross and awkward. But it is also beautiful and necessary.

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