I’ve been thinking about how I explain myself, my condition, my decisions, to others who are not trans. And I’ve noticed that instead of using “I want” or “I feel” kinds of rationales, I tend to appeal to other transsexuals and their experiences to justify my condition. I tend to say things like “most of the late transitioners I know from blogs, Second Life, and discussion lists have said they feel like X,” whatever X happens to be, whether it’s guilty, secretive, depressed, trapped, elated, self-deceiving, or what-have-you. And while the general prevalence of these feelings makes me feel better (or more normed), I’m not sure that distance from my own experience is helpful.

I am beginning to realize from talking with these non-trans colleagues and friends that the question isn’t how the general class of transsexuals feels about a given thing at all. My challenge is how to make my own experience real for these people. When you’re talking online or face-to-face with fellow trans-people, you can assume that you all have some degree of common background, at least with regards gender issues. I have plenty of shared experiences with my friends and colleaguese, of course, but I think what’s hard for non trans people to get is the experience of simply BEING inside my body (or any body with GID). How can you do that? It’s like trying to tell someone what a strawberry tastes like, or even harder, trying to tell someone how you know you like strawberries.

Such a discussion requires a degree of trust, or at least a leap of faith. For the transitioner, a leap of faith that the non-trans person is going to make the effort to understand what you’re going through, even if they can’t possibly feel what it’s like. For the listener, a leap of faith that the trans-person’s pain and subsequent decision to transition is legitimate, even if it’s really hard to explain precisely.

I have been so focused on understanding, on self-acceptance, on trans-community, on trans-family, on trans-theory for the past year that it’s difficult to step outside of that world where people aren’t obsessed about gender at all. These discussions with non-trans people are critical for me. While they’re frustrating, they help me understand what kinds of questions and issues they have, and they pull me out of the trans world and into the regular world.

Interestingly, the one area in which I have volunteered lots of personal details with others is that I have disclosed the crushing depression that settled on me last year, and explain that it was caused by GID. I think that’s a move designed to distract my listeners away from the issue of “sex change” and to generate some sympathy for me. It’s true, of course, that I was depressed, and I think the depression that accompanies GID (hell, defines GID, I believe), is at the core of why someone decides to move towards transition. But leading with that topic may be a defense mechanism for me as I fully expect to be rejected for my transition, but who can fault someone for being depressed and doing something about it?

Do people want to know about transexualism and transsexuals, or do they want to know what I’m up to?

Am I being direct and informative, or am I hiding behind another wall?