My Great Journey, Part 7
Gender Transition – Selfish or Selfless?
I’ve been thinking about this question a bit lately. Is it selfish to transition genders? After all, it puts one through huge physical and emotional changes, and affects everyone in your life. The costs are huge, including hormones, hair removal (for transwomen), surgery, counseling, impact on employment, etc. Costs of transition can go upwards of $100K depending on what options the person pursues.
Many would say this is the epitome of selfishness. After all, think about what this is doing to your spouse and children, if applicable, your broader family, your friends, your coworkers and employers, etc... And think about what it’s doing to you; all the changes you’ll go through. The emotional roller-coaster, the physical changes and all. And think about what you could do with all that money, if you are self-paying, because you don’t have insurance, or your insurance doesn’t cover it.
Webster’s Dictionary[i] defines selfishness as:
1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
2: arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
This seems to be the absolute exemplar of selfishness. People who are in the “cis-hetero-binary normative” world do not understand what the transgender person experiences, either prior to transition, or during it. They have no direct frame of reference, because it’s “not normal”. Of course normal here is defined by the cis-hetero-binary world, so of course it’s not normal.
I have discussed some of the science behind being transgender in previous blog postings, and Lynn Conway’s excellent website, www.lynnconway.com gets into it in wonderful detail, so I won’t rehash it here. Suffice it to say that the majority of transgender people are physically different than cisgender people. It’s just like whether one has blue eyes or brown. You are born with these physical traits, and you can’t change them, only mask them.
So, when a transgender person is living in their birth gender, instead of their “correct” or “expressed” gender, they aren’t really living. I’ve discussed this in previous posts as well.
When I began Hormone Replacement Therapy for my transition, I found that I could really smile, for the first time in my life. I am truly happy. As I’ve written previously, it took me a very long time to figure out what my true identity is. But I’ve jumped in with both feet, so to speak.
I’ve had a few hurdles along the way, also detailed in my blog. But my transition so far has been absolutely wonderful for me. Further, my wife Susan has stated that she thinks we are doing better than ever. We are coming up on our 32nd wedding anniversary in a couple months, and that really says something.
I’ve also met some truly wonderful people after beginning this new chapter. So we have more social events than ever before, and I think we have made some lifelong friends in the process. Amazing stuff.
Further, this has opened some new doors for me in my professional work. I am now an operator and team lead on the Trans Lifeline, www.translifeline.org. This has given me another way to work with people when they need help, thus expanding my ability to be a positive influence in the world.
Jewish tradition teaches that to save a life, Scripture ascribes to you as if you had saved the entire world. I make no claim to be a superhero or something, yet, I have been able to help many more people in times of crisis. This kind of positive work is the absolute opposite of selfishness.
People who go through gender transition are said to be living as their authentic selves. Before transition, many, if not most, transgender people are extremely unhappy. Gender transition isn’t always as easy as it has been for me, and there are those who regret that they transitioned, at various stages of the process. I am not claiming that transitioning is the easiest or best thing in the world for anyone but me. Others have to make that assessment for themselves.
But, I will say, that given all the many positive changes in my life, along with all the new opportunities I have, that this has been well worth it. I am, I truly believe, a better person for it. So, is this selfish? I would state that it is just the opposite, a selfless act.
Webster[ii] defines selfless as “having or showing great concern for other people and little or no concern for yourself”. Clearly my transition does not fully meet that definition, because I do express concern for myself. However, I think I meet most of the definition.
I also believe that this is the case for the vast majority of transgender people. So, in conclusion, while gender transition appears to be one of the most narcissistic things people can do, I would say that it is truly a selfless act, in the end.