Doing, being, becoming
Feeling real, being real and telling our truths.
You are always becoming trans and you always have been becoming trans. You are in motion, being yourself and becoming yourself in each and every moment.
Trans people have often used autobiographies to tell our stories. In 1907 Karl M (Martha) Baer wrote A Man’s Maiden Years using the pseudonym N.O. Body. In the book, he tells the story of how he knew himself to be a man and transitioned to become Norbert Body in his early 20s. He writes about his attraction to women “It occurred to me that I alone felt like a lesbian”. He falls in love with a married woman and reports a meeting with Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin in which he is told, “If you wish to be close to your friend and you can see a future for her, then go ahead and marry her! You are as much a man as I am!” Hirschfeld later describes Body’s/Baer’s case as one of “hermaphroditism”. Body writes that he was “born a boy and raised a girl”. In 1906, Body’s birth certificate was altered but he kept his middle name, Martha.
How can we tell such a story today? Do we have to settle on a definition for Baer/Body as being one thing or another or could we think of his story in terms of being and becoming?
Can we get comfortable with being in motion rather than striving for arrival?
Permission to be Uncertain
The idea that we are always becoming, meaning we are always in motion and creating ourselves in each moment is taken from Queer Theory. Acknowledging that uncertainty and flow are key experiences as trans and queer people gives us permission to not have to know everything about who we are or who we might become right now, allowing a freedom in the possibility of it all. But sometimes uncertainty can feel a bit scary or overwhelming. We are not taught about how to get comfortable with the great unknown of who we may become.
How do you remind yourself that its ok to not know or be able to explain everything about who you are right now? How do you remain steady when things seem unclear or hard to know? How do you give yourself permission to be uncertain?
EXERCISE – Doing, being, becoming Venn Diagram
Draw three big over lapping circles
Circle one – DOING
List, write or draw all the ways that you are doing your transness.. how are you turning who you are into actions? What behaviours show your particular way of doing trans? How do other people help you to do your transness?
Circle two – BEING
List, write or draw all the ways that you are being trans right now… how are you inhabiting your trans identity? How do you show the world you are trans?
Circle three – BECOMING
List, write or draw all the ways that you are becoming trans… what still feels in motion for you? What unfurling’s are you part way through? What feels uncertain and unsure? Do you wonder what areas of your life might change again or be different somehow in the future?
Think about where these answers overlap and what might even be possible in the middle space.
Exercise – Signing it off
It can be frustrating and overwhelming to wait for official documentation to reflect the changes you are making or want to make. There is so much joy in creating your own documents of identity and achievement. You might make documents to honour your being trans or celebrate trans things you have done. These documents can serve to counter the ones you have that don’t fit with who you see yourself to be. Here you are invited to create and sign off on your own documents of identity and achievement so that you can welcome the transformations and award the successes that they represent.
For documents of identity, you might use the following sentence beginnings, or you can make up your own.
I Hereby Declare….
From this moment onwards…
It shall be so that….
Signed ______ and Dated_____
Don’t forget to sign and date the document and then keep it somewhere safe. You might like to share it with trusted ones, put it on display or keep it somewhere private. It’s totally up to you. What’s important is that you allow the document to signify the transformation you desire.
You can award yourself certificates or make them for friends and family. You might like to recognize learning, victories, successes, or small gains. For example, you might make certificates to recognise in yourself or others the ways in which you have stood up to transphobia, resisted cisnormativity, or embraced your gender euphoria. You might make a certificate to commemorate steps you took in your transition.