Thursday, February 24, 2011

Integrity Well Placed

Have you read this blog post?

It's an elegantly phrased call-to-attention for all transfolk about the fact that, as weak as many may feel, what all trans people have in common is their "integrity." She says this because in order to allow oneself to go through with the transition, one must be willing to give up everything.

This is a true statement, I think, especially for adult trans people. Kids don't have as much, if anything, to lose.

What I first thought about after reading this blog was, "Does this apply to ALL trans people?" I mean, from my understanding, only transsexuals have that overwhelming urge to transition, even if they don't. Those who are called "transgendered" occupy many positions on the gender identity spectrum, but none are medically diagnosed with a gender dysphoria that can only be cured with gender reassignment. To me, how anyone else "comes out" or doesn't is a choice that is not necessarily absolutely necessary.

Okay, so let's say I'm wrong and that anyone who considers him/herself a "trans person" risks losing everything if he/she tells the secret. Why is this "integrity"?

Integrity has two major definitions: honor and wholeness. At first glance, I questioned its usage here because from my experience with Natasha, her decision to tell me and everyone else was not because she needed to be honest but because she couldn't stand not doing anything about it anymore. Yes, after a while, she would say that she couldn't stand the "lying" to people, but truthfully, was it the lying that was so painful or the hiding? They're not the same. For transsexuals in particular, there is a NEED to transition. If one doesn't start the process, then one must live with the constant pain of denial. Even during the process, just waiting for each step is... painful. So, is telling everyone... stepping out of the darkness and into the light... an honest move or is it a move to stop the pain?

Having thought that, I reminded myself that coming out can cause its own kind of pain: that of loss and segregation. This was the point of the article, after all. But again, if you have a giant axe in your leg and if you pull it out you'll bleed a ton but you'll survive, whereas if you leave it in, you'll slowly die of blood loss and infection, which choice do you make?

What about "wholeness"? That's like the integrity of a ship's hull. Without it, the ship would sink. In that respect, I think "integrity" is what trans people are looking for. Part of that search is letting people in so that any rebuilding of a person's foundation of support can take place. Telling people and risking their rejection of you enables you to continue forward towards wholeness.


There needs to be a tremendous willingness to sacrifice meaningful relationships and other things in your life when you come out as a trans person. I'm just saying that I'm not sure it's "integrity" that moves a person to do it. I'm arguing semantics. :-)

I think a better word is: courage.

Courage means bravery: a willingness to face fears or pain or danger.

Why courage? Didn't I just say that I thought most trans folk NEED to come out? Yes, I did. You tell me if everything you NEEDED came easily. Did you just say, "I need this job" and you got it? NO! You had to work for it. You had to kiss somebody's butt or get that stupid degree or sit in traffic for two hours to get that job! What you NEED rarely comes to anyone without a fight and sisters (and brothers), you sure had to fight your way past your own fears to come out and say that you are who you are. You had to say to yourself, "As much as I need to do this, to make myself feel right, can I do it even if I lose everyone I love and everything I have? Is it THAT important?" You answered, yes, and so you gathered up your COURAGE to tell your loved ones, hoping so strongly that you were not wrong about their unconditional love for you.

And sometimes, you were wrong. But you did it anyway and you continued to move forward.

Natasha, my wonderful, funny esposa, you ARE courageous. You might not have all the strength you wish you could have, but you must be courageous to have stepped through the fire.

...Stay tuned. I have another post on the way wherein I will attack partners who leave because of a LACK of integrity and courage...


Sonora Sage said...

I'm hoping your final sentence was just a poor choice of words, but I'll reserve judgment until I read your net post.

Casey said...

Not a poor choice of words, Sonora. I chose them precisely. If you're assuming that I will "attack" ALL partners who leave, then you have misread my sentence. :-)

Teagan said...

One thing I've heard over and over from people, is how brave and courageous I am. It is a very kind thing for them to say, and on one hand, I appreciate that, but on the other hand, I don't feel like what I am doing is really all that brave.

I'm happy and excited to be doing what I'm doing. Those first couple times out and the first few people I told... that was a little scary and took some courage, I suppose... but now? Now, it's faith. Faith that I am doing the right thing, and faith in the goodness of people. I've found that most people just want me to be happy. People by and large are good, and virtually everyone in my life is proving this to me.

At this point, there's nothing courageous at all about what I am doing.

Natasha said...

I don't know, Teagan. That thing with the shoe takes a lot of courage.

It's funny, because I don't feel all that brave either. And thank you, my darling esposa, for saying so, but courageous is not a word I would use to describe myself, although I have heard it as well from others.

I'm not sure if there is one word to describe what doing this means to me. Honesty? Sanity?

How about balance? I'm just trying to find some kind of balance in living.

I love you, my darling.


Ariel said...

Because Lisa uses the word "trans," it's hard to know exactly whom she is including. All transsexuals and those who consider themselves transgender? I can't tell.

At any rate, I felt that she was waxing a bit rhetorical in that post. It's lovely in its way, but it feels over the top to me. I really don't feel that trans-whatever people inherently have more integrity than others.

Diana cited Lisa's post in her blog today as well, so maybe I'm missing something.

As Teagan said, we are often called courageous by others. I think that's the word people go for because they're trying to imagine themselves doing what we do. I do agree that the initial steps in transition take courage. After a while, what it takes more than courage is perseverance, through thick and thin, especially if the person's particular path is long.

Ariel said...

My bad. Diana pointed out to me that Lisa Harney did not write that post. It was a guest post.

lisainbc said...

Integrity, courage, honesty, sanity, faith, perseverance... To these I would add desperation and fear. When my bell started ringing, I felt cornered by all my fears, which are too many to list here. Basically, I feared my life would be over the minute I started the disclosing process. But as irrational as this might sound, I was more fearful of a breakdown, and a not so pretty one at that. It then became more of a choice between what I feared most, transitioning, or having a total collapse. I chose to transition. In retrospect, perhaps the reason I obsessed with not wanting to have a breakdown was because I did not want to lose control. Something told me that if I had a breakdown, that's what I would be doing and that scared me too. In the end, I discovered that most, if not all, of my fears were unfounded. Like many of you have discovered, friends and family did not run away, instead, their affirmation, love and acceptance have won the day. I like this quote by Mark Twain: "I have suffered a great many catastrophes in my life, most of them never happened."

Casey said...


Natasha is still processing these fears. Sometimes she says that she should have never started this process because of what it is doing to the people around her. Yes, the people around her are having to make adjustments, but in reality, there is nothing amazingly horrible going on because of her transition. When she does say this, I remind her that she would have remained miserable and depressed and not a good example for our kids. She agrees, but adds a "but still..." comment.

We all wish none of this was happening, but it is and you folks especially have horrible fears of the unknown, even if the future will most likely turn out better for the effort.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :-)