I have the privilege of treating many transgender and non-binary teenagers. I’ve been doing this long enough that now I’ve seen several teens from pre-transition to post.
One time some one came in to see me, they are someone I started seeing prior to transitioning, prior to even telling their parents or anyone else for that matter.
When I saw them in the waiting room I almost didn’t recognize them. The changes were immense. They were now on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and the affects of it were noticeable as they could now pass for their self identified gender.
Some clients respond well to comments about physical changes, some don’t, so I never comment on it. I tried to contain my smile as I thought in my head, ‘There you are,’ Because there they were. Smiling, confident, carrying themselves differently, talking differently, making direct eye contact.
The change is often astounding for me to behold as the dysphoria lifts and the depression eases, to see the person emerge who has always been struggling to come out- there are simply not enough words that describe the impact of that moment. That moment when they walk in and I haven’t seen them in a few months and they are themselves. For maybe the first time ever.
Some one came in who I have been treating for almost six years. I always see them monthly sometimes more frequently than that. They’ve struggled in the past and eventually came out as transgender. After supporting them through coming out to family and then transitioning and interventions, we finally scheduled our next appointment out two months. For the first time ever in almost six years we both agreed they were doing well enough to push our check in our two months.
Anyone who has seen the before and the after; you can see it’s not just the physical changes. The emotional vibes they give off in the room change. There is a quiet confidence that was absent before.
For those people who have never seen/interacted with/known a trans person from the before to the after…well they are the individuals who make statements like, “I just don’t understand it,” because if you saw the process- the before of the hurt/depression/anxiety/insecurities/self harm/suicide attempts/hospitalizations to the during- coming out to family/friends/healthcare providers/judgement/being disowned/being kicked out/being cut off financially to the treatment- HRT- Shots, side effects, lab work, dealing with pharmacies and transphobic pharmacists/surgeries-secretaries, billing departments/new license/new social security gender marker/transphobia everywhere/insurance companies now not covering a hysterectomy because your gender is “male”…to the after….quiet calm confidence.
If you experienced that moment when I go to get them in the waiting room and almost don’t recognize the person sitting there- but then I scrutinize their face and I think ‘there you are’. There they are. Smiling. Not depressed. No self harm. Not suicidal. Beautiful. If you saw what I see you would have no choice but to “get it”. Because when you bear witness to that over years- it’s impossible to see it with anything but sincere admiration for their strength, resilience, and perseverance in a world that often wants them to fail.
I often have trans clients relay to me stories of transphobia. I do not have one client who has never experienced transphobia. Not one. They all have been discriminated against at some point very openly- either spit at, cursed at, told to leave a restaurant, fired from jobs, and disowned by family.
Recently one client told me they were asked “Are you sure? That you’re trans?” My client laughed, and said, “If there’s one thing I’m sure about, it’s that.”
Note to reader: Don’t ask that question. It’s rude and invalidating. My client is good-natured and confident and was bothered by it but also recognized the source of the question and was not surprised by their ignorance. Don’t be that ignorant person.
There is a lot of press lately about transgender medical interventions and the validity of them. A lot of bills being introduced to limit and/or deny accessibility of HRT and surgical interventions for teenagers.
If you’ve seen what I’ve seen and the drastic changes they create in people and teenagers- you would never think to question the validity of interventions. You would only question the intelligence of the people questioning the validity.
In this case though I don’t think it’s a lack of intelligence in our lawmakers. I think it’s a lack of love, kindness, and overt transphobia and hate emboldened by an administration that is potentially the most toxic in our history toward minorities.
To all my genderqueer, gender non-conforming, transgender, non-binary people; I see you. There you are. You are beautiful. Your feelings are valid. Your journey is your truth. I’m sorry to my core that there are people in this country making you feel less than. You deserve better and you have allies.