Firstly a shout out to Erica for her post http://inchoaterica.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/who-will-come-to-find-you-first-your-devils-or-your-gods/ that made me get off my butt and write this.
In nearly every trans space I spend any time at all a specific narrative seems to be tossed out and used to divide the crowd; late transition versus early transition. It usually starts in the form of such and such believes this because they started late/started young and they just don’t understand what its like for us. People are then labelled as being in one group or the other. There is an assumption that everyone in one of these camps have similar experiences because of it. Its bad enough that this is used to divide the community but even worse its serving to erase certain trans peoples experiences perhaps even most.
This is the stereoptype I have gotten both from people who self identify as one or the other and from people in the other “camp”:
Late Transitioners: Came out late in life. Tried to live for years as men often going into very masculine professions to cure their feelings and having families for the same reason. Denied who they were till very late. Tend to have very conservative views of gender roles. Tend to be bad at “passing”. Tend to be judgemental and urge caution to younger transitioners. Kept secrets for years. Always tend to wear dresses and skirts or very masculine clothing based on MTF/FTM. Seek out stereotypically feminine/masculine hobbies.
Early Transitioners: Came out young. Always pretty much knew what they were. Challenge assumptions about gender roles. Out and living as themselves from a very young age. Fit in as chosen gender role better. Tend to be impatient in dealing with others around their gender issues. Judgemental of older trans people. Insensitive to barriers for older people who could not transition.
What is even worse is that both groups come to believe this whole story as the truth of the transition expereince. They even tend to gloss over aspects of their own lives that dont fit as if they never even happened. They get very antagonistic when you challenge the fact that there are experiences that dont fit with this simple framework.
What happens to people who don’t fit this narrative? Well in my case I get ignored and belittled by both sides. Older transitioners will tell me that I got to see life from both sides of the coin. That I can appreciate my male experiences and female experiences. It makes me want to scream. I never for a single moment felt male. I ALWAYS knew exaclty what I was. They will also assume I want to live out a certain standard of feminity. I have been told that I can be myself and wear skirts and dresses if I want…I dont wear skirts and dresses because I find pants and shorts more comfortable and practical most of the time. I am not denying myself. This is me. Also, I didnt keep secrets, many people clearly knew, I just wasnt allowed to say anything. No guilt here on that count.
Younger tranistioners? They treat me like I am a failure. Why didnt I just transition? Why did I keep secrets? As I said above I had no choice at all. It was secrets my life was just denied me. It was more like a prison sentence than a choice. They also treat me like a threat. Like I am an embarressing conservative barrier to their future. I support them, I am just trying to live my own life and would never claim to know whats right for them. Unfortunately they still other me. As if I dont feel enough rejection in the non trans world.
My history is non standard. I came out really really young but was stopped from transitioning. Same thing happened later. I didnt try to marry, didnt try to push away who I was because I knew I couldnt. I did eventually get to place where I could transition. Does that make me late or early? Does it matter? I am Anna not a label. My experiences are not the same as yours. I still want support I still want community.
I think nearly all of us don’t fit any kind of dominant idea of transness. We experienced out lives differantly, it erases our pasts, our family life, our disabilities, our colour, our ethnicity, our place of birth, our date of birth, our education or lack thereof, our poverty or wealth. We are not a single narrative. We never will be. But we do need each other. Stop dividing, stop making assumptions, learn about each other and show support.
Society already divides us, alienates us. We shouldn’t be doing the same
(Thanks also to WilloNyx for the proofing/editing)