Being told that I’ve had it relatively easy because of money or power grates against my internal sense of having worked really, really hard on myself in order to survive my transsexual transition and suggests that I’ve been able to buy or bully myself out of trouble. A third term, Luck, completes the trio of dismissive terms, and I would like to explore what’s so wrong about being lucky.
For the ancient Greeks, the concept of luck was embodied in Tykhe:
Tykhe was the goddess or spirit of fortune, chance, providence and fate. She was usually honoured in a more favourable light as Eutykhia, goddess of good fortune, luck, success and prosperity.
Tykhe was represented with different attributes. Holding a rudder, she was conceived as the divinity guiding and conducting the affairs of the world, and in this respect she was called one of the Moirai (Fates); with a ball she represented the varying unsteadiness of fortune — unsteady and capable of rolling in any direction; with Ploutos or the horn of Amalthea, she was the symbol of the plentiful gifts of fortune.
Nemesis (Fair Distribution) was cautiously regarded as the downside of Tykhe, one who provided a check on extravagant favours conferred by fortune.
For Tykhe or Nemesis, the concept of luck is either random or divine and doesn’t have much to do with the deeds, intelligence, or strategy undertaken by someone. No matter her personal qualities, the recipient of luck has no part to play.
Sometimes, when people say, “You’re lucky,” I am left with the impression not unlike the ancient Greek idea, that my hard work, communications, therapy take a back seat to chance. In other words, this transition might have turned out disastrously, regardless of my efforts or qualities.
And maybe that’s true, but I simply don’t think it’s good policy to believe in such things because they remove agency and responsibility from the transitioner, who is tempted to ask, “Why go to therapy — it’s all fate, anyway.”
Why tell a transsexual she’s lucky, in any case? What’s the effect of saying such a thing? True or not, it’s going to feel to the transsexual that she’s being dismissed, that what you’re saying is that their transition is somehow not as hard as it might have been. Pointing to money, power, and luck suggests that a good transsexual transition is almost predestined if you have enough of one, two, or all three things, and conversely, that a transsexual is doomed without them.
Not that there’s anything wrong with having these things, of course. It’s good to be lucky, to have some money, and to be powerful. But if you come to rely on them, then luck, money, and power become paradoxically disempowering because they trump hope, and hope is what’s in short supply when a transsexual finally faces her demons and realizes she must take action. I’ve been there, and let me tell you that no cushy balance in the checkbook, no collected power over others’ lives, and no track record of good luck makes any difference to one facing the daunting task of transsexual transition. Hard work and a belief that such hard work will get us through our transition are the only things that really have an impact on a transsexual transition, as far as I can see.
I have always bristled at such dismissive observations, even those that fall outside of this transition crisis of the past couple of years. When I used to be told, “Of course you did well in college — you always had it easy,” I felt as if my reading and studying and struggling with academic concepts weren’t worth recognizing. These days, comments like “It’s no wonder you’ve had such a good transition — you’re in the protective walls of a university” diminish the struggle that my friends and colleagues and I have had in understanding and accepting my changes. While it is certainly true doing well in college or surviving transsexual transition are facts of my life, I don’t believe in predestination, and I certainly do not believe that having power or working in the right industry will inevitably smooth over all life’s difficulties.
Maybe this essay is just a cry for you to “look at me” and appreciate me. You already know how painful and difficult my past couple of years were, and so I don’t need you to acknowledge it again. But I really want to know how we can ever learn from each other through honest criticism and praise if money, luck, and power obstruct us or cause us to reduce hard work and struggle into predetermined outcomes.