Editors' Note: Guest blogger Zythyra is an acoustic musician, writer and activist who lives in New Hampshire.
I read the news yesterday of Christine Daniels re-transitioning back To Mike Penner. As a person who did RLT for over a year and then re-transitioned, also while in a fairly public profession, I truly understand the difficulty of this decision. It was among the hardest decisions of my life, much more so than my original choice to transition.
The news stories I've seen of re-transition have often been sensationalist, over the top accountings of this situation, containing mostly stereotypical views of transgender people. I don't know the reasons for Christine/Mike's decision, and I'm not going to speculate on them. I respect her privacy. If she ever decides to write about her experiences, I will look forward to reading them. If she chooses not to share these in the glare of the media spotlight, that's completely understandable.
Not everyone who starts on the road to gender transition decides to continue. Everyone has different circumstances to take into account when deciding to step back. Families, finances, health, religious beliefs, etc. Many of us live very different lives than those portrayed by the media. I'd like to share some thoughts about my own reasons for re-transitioning. I could easily fill up a book or two, here are a few of the more significant factors that informed my choices at that time,
Not wishing to be tethered to a medical process for the rest of my life. I've always been one of those people who won't even take an aspirin when feeling sick. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of needing to have regular appointments with an endocrinologist, blood work, and daily hormone regimen. I was always pretty sure that I didn't want surgery, so then there was also the issue of possible negative side effects or complications from long term hormone use. Add into the mix that I have no health insurance, and so all treatments would be paid for out of pocket. I know, even if I had insurance, the chances of it actually paying for treatment aren't good.
My need to make a living. I'm a self employed musician, and I give private music lessons. When I transitioned and went "full time" in a rural southern town, I lost a lot of work, and experienced significant decrease of what was already a low income. You can well imagine Johnny's mom's concern about him taking guitar lessons from a "dude in a dress". The calls for playing weddings and private functions from other musicians who previously hired me as a side person stopped. I still managed to get enough work to survive, but offers to play Michigan Womyn's Music Festival as an out transwoman singing songs about being a gender outlaw didn't magically appear. They still haven't called me. And trans music festivals don't yet exist...
Coming to realization that I was neither of the binary genders. I think that in the beginning of my process, I'd figured that since I hadn't ever been happy or comfortable as a man, thus I must be woman. Simple. And so I transitioned. As my perceptions shifted from seeing gender as either/or, to a broader continuum, I realized that although I wasn't a man, I also wasn't really a woman either. I was something else, that I didn't even have words for expressing.
Religious/spiritual belief that g-d/dess created me exactly as I am, woman spirit in a male body, for some special purpose. It's my life's journey to figure out how to use this unique gift. Transgender people have existed throughout history, in all cultures. Many have lived as exactly who they were without any sort of medical intervention. Perhaps that's my path. A strange journey to be sure.
Need for physical safety. As we know all too well, transpeople are murdered for expressing who they are. Did I mention that I was a non-passing genderqueer woman in a rural southern town? I must have had an angel over my shoulder that entire year.
I didn't return to male, although that's likely what it looked like from the outside. I simply returned to wearing male clothing, and since I hadn't started HRT, no physical transformation had occurred. Interestingly, although I am supposedly male, I am still sometimes perceived as a woman by complete strangers. I make no attempt to act male, for that matter I make no attempt to act female either. I'm always the same person regardless of my external appearance. I don't have different persona depending on what I'm wearing. Mostly I'm just frumpy. I currently identify as neither gender - androgyne. That's what works for me, at least for now.
I don't consider that my gender issues were resolved when I re-transitioned, nor do I ever expect them to be. This will be part of me for the rest of my life. I didn't transition back to male. I transitioned to something beyond binary gender. I still feel a disconnect between the physical and mental. Things could change, I could wake up tomorrow, and decide to transition yet again.
I continue to work for the day in which a person doesn't have to be one or the other, that it will be possible to live anywhere on the gender continuum that feels right for each of us and to express that safely in the world. I wish Mike/Christine all the best in her journey.