Life in Transition


A kind of courage I’d never seen

By Diana Goetsch | February 24, 2016
Justin Kiner/Flickr
Justin Kiner/Flickr


One day Matthew joined the Good Stuff Girls, a loose group of trans women who meet for a meal each Wednesday at the Good Stuff Diner on 14th Street. There were four girls this week, all of us in various states of transition and presentation, and Matthew, a handsome young gay man. Or was he?

Matthew was in the midst of an investigation. He was talking to as many trans women as he could to help determine if he himself was trans. He was hoping he wasn’t. A few years before, he had already gone through the ordeal of coming out as gay, and now that he finally liked his life, he didn’t want to face anything like that again. He was smart, well-mannered, and well-employed (some around that booth were getting a crush on him).

Why would someone who liked their life and their sexuality want to question it? The answer was as simple as it was strange: a few weeks before, Matthew woke from an unexpectedly deep nap, overcome with the notion that he might be trans. He stumbled over to his computer, typed “Am I transgender?” into the browser, and the word “yes” floated alone on a white screen.

What a story. More accurately, what a non-story, for it was completely bereft of all the hallmarks of any trans narrative I’d heard: no childhood longing to be a girl, no discomfort with being male, no history of or interest in cross-dressing. Just a bolt from the blue alone in a room, a hole in a day and the quest to fill it.

He asked how each of us discovered we were trans, and we went around the restaurant booth telling him. The closest among us to Matthew’s experience was Robin, 34, and about to undergo gender reassignment surgery less than two years after she found out she was trans. Like Matthew, Robin lacked a childhood of longing to be female, though her late realization confirmed a lot of things in retrospect: a history of repressed discomfort, and gender-bending through role playing and sexual experimentation. I talked about Carolyn, a trans woman I used to know, who lived clueless as a man into her 50s. Then one day her girlfriend invited her to try on lingerie, which opened the floodgates.

Matthew said if it turns out he’s trans, he’ll do it, he’ll transition. That was the most remarkable thing of all. Here we were, a circle of trans women who, if we could have, would run from what we were, beholding this man (or was he?) who could easily walk away from a momentary vision, though he wasn’t about to. This was a kind of courage I’d never seen, and couldn’t quite place.

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