Transitionus Interruptus: The Flights

| Jul 16, 2018

Back in 2014 my transition was in full swing. I had been on HT for a few years, finished electrolysis and real-life experience all according to plan. But things got in the way. Specifically, my spouse came down with some form of dementia. Although medical researchers are trying to develop diagnostic procedures and therapies for the dementias, they are not there yet. Dementia is usually progressive and as they say constitutes “a long goodbye.”  So, I shelved my transition plans because I needed to take care of my spouse. I did so by myself except for a few hours each day when I went off to work. Eventually I had to find an assisted living place for my spouse and sell our big house which had accumulated the remnant “stuff” of at least 4 families. I lost 30 pounds moving out.

I am now on track again but it took some support from friends and members of my support group. I had lost hope of ever continuing. First, I had to find some friends. Since I am not from Atlanta, I had always counted on my spouse for social contacts. When she started down her dementia path, all of them seemed to disappear. I started going to support groups and meetups, teaching at an LGBT-affirming school and even for a brief time became the chairperson of a local political party. But of course, all those social things also interfered with restarting transition.

One of my friends was going through her surgeries and I was worried that I would lose her although the surgery risks were not really that high. I realized that she could run off with some handsome young thing of either sex and we would lose our friendship. But I wish her the best whatever path she might take.

Our support group divides up into separate subgroups for transgender people, SOFFAs (significant others, family, friends, and allies) and sometimes trans kids, depending on who shows up. I have gotten to facilitate all three subgroups but usually go to the transgender subgroup. During my friend’s surgeries, I even got to the point where I went to the SOFFA group because I was a SOFFA to my friend and I needed support. Got some good advice from one of the support group members that I needed to take care of myself.

I suddenly realized that I had become too involved in taking care of other people and not myself. I would never cut back on taking care of my spouse but I have cut back on my volunteer work. I am getting on track with what I wanted to do since I was 4. Dressing better now and starting to make the rounds of consultations for surgeries.

I should have known better. I knew that many transgender people get involved in other activities that distract from those transgender feelings. The feelings never go away but one can rationalize that one has a social obligation to do the other activities. In the literature, these involvements are known as “flights.”

There is “military flight.” Military service is attractive to many transgender people. Trans women join up at a rate twice that of their peers, while trans men join up at five times their peers. I think that the estimates of transgender people in the military are actually low. Why are transgender people attracted to the military? It certainly can be absorbing and it provides continuous companionship. Transgender people tend to be withdrawn and loners but military duties require interactions. I do not buy the psychodynamic explanation of proving one’s hypermasculinity. Psychodynamic explanations cannot be scientifically studied having no objective referents or evidence. They cannot be proved or disproved. But it may take the minds of psychotherapists off their, I imagine, boring “professional friendship” obligations. I did not join the military for these reasons, I joined for the practical reason that it was during the height of the Vietnam war. I figured I would volunteer rather than being drafted out of college. Another (probably stupid) reason was that I wanted to learn how to ski and they offered me free skiing lessons. But skiing got a little out of hand my first year because I was required to take physical education, so naturally I took skiing. I ended up skiing three or four afternoons a week which took me away from the books.

My military experience led to fighting the Cold War through science advancement and technology development. It was my “career flight.” That lasted until the Berlin Wall fell and I lost meaning for my life. That was when I started to come out.

Then there is “school flight.” Children at all levels of education see changes in schools as an opportunity to be free from their previous “pretend” gender. It gives them a chance to unburden themselves from the mountain of lies they created at their previous school to mask the fact that they were transgender. Some young kids, with help from their parents, deliberately change schools for a clean social transition. Those moves sometime go bad because of fumbling or prejudiced school officials, resulting in outing.

And, of course, some go off to college. I did that. I wanted to go to a college that was as far away from my hometown as possible. I may sound corny but I wanted to be free to “find myself.” I also wanted to be free from the family pressure to be what they wanted me to be. I thought I might be able to deal with my transsexuality there but I was wrong. (This was before the word “transgender” meant what it does today or I would have used that word.) But I found that there was no information in the “halls of higher learning” that helped me.

Marriage is a common distraction. So-called “marriage flight” for some also means hope of a “cure” for being transgender. The thought is that if one could only love a person and have sexual relations with them, it would take away the feeling that one needs to cross-present. Of course, sex is not gender. And marriage often leads to children, so the obligations multiply. My kids needed support and I was my kids’ soccer and basketball coach for a time.

Most transgender people find it possible to put aside their need to express their congruent gender because of important activities. I have been through all of the “flights” that I know of, including the most recent one which I will call “relationship flight.” There, you have a new term. I guess I am still in “transgender science writing flight” but I will never give that up.

So, my period of transitionus interruptus has ended. I do not know exactly what is ahead but I no longer have flights to distract me. Well there is the “transgender science writing flight” but transition is research for writing. From time to time, I will chart my progress for you as I go on. But now I am going on.

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Category: Body & Soul

About the Author ()

Dana Jennett Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of The Transsexual Scientist which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Her third book Being Transgender was released by Praeger in November 2016. She can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (1)

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  1. carlaroberts says:

    Your journey sounds so familiar. Being able to survive a difficult time of hiding and denial in a small southern town, I just knew college would not only provide me a way out, but an education that would support my ambitions. College was interrupted by the draft, further putting into denial and hiding, although not dampen in my dreams. Military service after Vietnam, provided the education and skills, I had intended to pursue in college, and a wife that was generally accepting and supportive, but cross dressing was as much of myself that I could express at the time. Soon there was more to my family than my wife and and I, and caring and supporting wife and kids took precedence, but the dream lived on. Twenty years passed quickly and free of the need to hide from the prohibitions required to maintain my career. Transition to civilian life, came with more freedoms, and I was able to more freely engage in the dream of being myself. Life was good and I was able to be much more free to express myself, and engage with other trans women, although, this was still the early 90’s, living in the conservative Midwest, where laws deemed it a citable offense to be found wearing more than three items of female attire. Granted, this was only a misdemeanor, local authorities seemed to delight in publicizing any infractions, along with prostitution. Tavel to events provided the opportunity to grow, and begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and hope was high. The light at the end of the tunnel, was not a train, but definitely got run over, as my wife almost 30 years, abandoned my family and myself, only after outing me to friends, and what family had not already been made aware. So now with kids still at home or in college, another interruption.
    Another ten years pass, kids are on their own and stable, I am partnered with an accepting an loving woman, now spending as much time presenting as my ideal self as I wish. My current interruption, comes in the form of my eight Grandchildren. Some of the older ones, having gay, Trans* and Queer friends, think it is okay and even cool. Younger ones are a bit confused, preferring Grampa over Granny. Only some of this is based on their parent’s wishes, as some of the Grandkids will specifically ask, “Can Grampa come over next time”?
    So for me “Transition Interupus” continues. Not so much externally imposed, but a choice that gives me the best of both worlds. Disappointment? Of course, but I generally get to do whatever I please, even though sometimes I pick and chose my situations. My friends and acquaintances, know me for who I am, many never having encountered me as anything other than female. I am healthy, but not a good candidate for any surgery, and I am fortunate to be able to present comfortably as female, in any situation I choose. For me it may be appropriate to use the characterization, of “Girl in-progress, instead of “Girl interrupted!

    Carla