This month’s Ask a Trans Woman column will focus on reader-submitted questions.
By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
Q. When are you too old to transition?
A. Short answer? Never. You are never too old to transition. Transitioning is something we do for ourselves more than anyone else. We do it to feel whole and happy. We do it because we must. We do it to feel complete and correct in our own skin. We do it for any number of reasons.
But none of those reasons are limited by age. Sure, many of us who are older may wish we had transitioned when we were younger. But frankly, I find these sorts of regrets to be the devil’s game. It’s interesting to think about “what ifs” and certainly hard to avoid doing so. But ultimately, it’s not really useful to our current happiness and wholeness to live in and be limited by those “what ifs.”
All we ever truly have is the moment we are in and the moments that will follow. That is all we can change. And if that means transitioning at 50, 70, 90 or 100 years old, even if that means being happy and whole for just a very short time, isn’t that worth it?
My direct, non-philosophizing advice? If it is at all possible for you to transition, no matter how old you are, if it is something you truly feel like you need to do in order to be happy, then you should do it.
Q. Why is it only the rich and famous transgender people who get interviewed for any public exposure? Why not show the reality of trans people?
A. I could teach a whole lecture series delving into this one. But since this is a short answers column, I’ll be brief.
I’m going to assume that by “interviewed for any public exposure” you are referring to the mainstream media. And the answer to that is quite simple: “Mainstream media” is a business. And unfortunately, and increasingly, the mainstream media, including those parts we think of as including more serious “news” and information, is in the business we call “show.”
“Show business” basically makes money in three ways: advertising revenue, direct sponsorships, and subscriptions. And there is steep competition for all of these resources. That competition means the content has to be “flashy” enough to attract an audience. The easiest shortcut to this sort of attention is name recognition. Hence, putting the spotlight on people who already have some degree of fame or fortune.
Although, I would note, it can be important to make that “or” distinction. As a person who spends a bit of time in the spotlight myself, I can tell you that fame often does not equal fortune. I have known quite a lot of fairly famous people who often struggle financially. But I digress.
The last thing I will say, though, is that if you want to see this change, if you want to see the “reality of trans people” gain more of the spotlight, then the best thing to do is to go looking yourself. We have never lived in a time where the tools of the media were more freely available to the masses. There are so many great YouTube shows, podcasts, live theater events, and even independent media outlets like this paper, that spotlight, or are even made by, non-rich and famous trans people, that don’t get nearly enough of the attention they deserve. And that is because you have to make just a little more effort to find them.
But you can and you should. Don’t rely on the mainstream media to tell you who you should pay attention to. They have their own agenda. But, if enough people actively turn their attention elsewhere, we can change the whole game.
Q. As a cis woman I’ve always told people “I love sharing the women’s room with trans women (who I know and I’ve been friends with) because they’re always so respectful and clean and proper.” But is that an unfair demand of all trans women? Like, it has always been my experience, but trans women have the right to be slobs like the rest of us.”
A. Well Emma, to be honest, I have two answers to this. The first answer is that, yes, it is unfair and unreasonable to expect that all trans women should behave in any more cohesive manner than any other group of women. I know plenty of cis women who are obsessively neat and courteous, or “respectful and clean and proper” if you will. And I know plenty of other cis women who are horrifying slobs, and rude to boot. That’s just how any group of human beings are; diverse in belief and behavior.
To expect trans women as a group to be any different is not a fair standard. However, speaking as an activist and a polemicist, I think this is an excellent argument. It may not be absolutely “true” across the board. But it’s emotionally resonant and it helps to counter certain problematic views of trans people and bathrooms that are equally false and actively negative. As an argument, it is, “true enough.”
And yes, in fact it is also my own experience that many trans people are sort of extra “respectful and clean and proper” when it comes to public restrooms. But I think that has more to do with the fact that public restrooms are an actively hostile and dangerous place for trans people in the current (and much of the past) political and social climate. It is not necessarily a behavior that is inherent to us. Rather, in its deviance from cis norms of “disrespectful and messy and improper” behavior it is an intentional defense.
So, by all means, keep using this argument with your cis friends. It’s a pretty good one. Just don’t expect it to always be true once the revolution comes.
*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer, and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at: [email protected].