A reckoning and a process of change.
Trans-ness can be so generative and joyful, yet people often respond to trans people’s coming out as a loss. These stories of loss reinforce the idea that being cis is somehow more ideal and better than being trans. For a trans person, it can feel that those around us are grieving for something that never was.
One of our oral history participants said
“Because you feel shame. There’s something inside you that you want to do, that you need to do, but you know it’s going to hurt people around you. And you also, you’ve got to over-come that shame.”
Does all change start with a loss?
A lot has been written in reference to organisations, businesses and structures about transition being a process of change and loss. William Bridges (1933 – 2013) was an American author, speaker, and organisational consultant. His thoughts about organisations may chime with trans experiences. He identified three stages of transition, the first being Endings.
“The first phase of transition begins when people identify what they are losing and learn how to manage these losses. They determine what is over and being left behind, and what they will keep.”
The second phase, the neutral zone, comes after letting go
“People are creating new processes and learning what their new roles will be. They are in flux and may feel confusion and distress. The neutral zone is the seedbed for new beginnings”
followed by Beginnings
“Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction – they are an expression of a fresh identity.”
Another of our interviewees explained the impact their changing identity had on their partner –
“And also, can I just say, also because I have a partner who’s female, who identified, when we got together, identified more as lesbian. And that relationship… you’re often defined by the other, aren’t you? So in a way my partner has, I think, struggled with the idea of going ‘what does this relationship mean then? And what does it mean for you to say that you’re genderqueer and to have these pronouns? What does it mean about who I’m in a partnership with?”
Some of us go through the Endings and Neutral Zone phases described above all by ourselves. The release of energy in the Beginnings phase is when we finally tell those around us. It can be jarring when our joy and excitement is met with sadness. William Bridges says that even change for the better in a business can be experienced as a loss and that
“Empathetic leaders recognize that change can put people in crisis. The starting point for dealing with transition is not the outcome but the endings that people have in leaving the old situation behind.”
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
What needs to be composted as we change and grow?
What could death and loss offer us?
EXERCISE – SEASONS
Imagine yourself walking through each season as it changes.
What do you take with you and what do you leave behind?