Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Hard Is It To Transition In Your Hometown?

Back in the day when transpeople were advised to keep their transitions secret and never let anyone know their status, one strategy for doing so was relocating to another city or state far from your birthplace.

Today, many transpeople reject that and are opting to stay right in their hometowns and transition.

What drove me to write this post was an e-mail I received from a young person who is starting the transition journey. In that e-mail she asked me the question that is the title of this post.

Well, it varies depending on where you live.

If you're born and raised in a small, conservative rural community, you may have to move to a larger, more accepting city for your own safety and peace of mind. You also have to bear in mind you may even have to relocate to another state or even emigrate to another country because some cities aren't as tolerant or welcoming as others.

As someone who transitioned in her hometown, it's an interesting and challenging experience at times. For the most part you're going to be around the people and family members that knew the old person. Sometimes it's harder for them to make the mental shift and see you as the person you've evolved to rather than the person they remember.

It leads to the maddening at times tendency to use incorrect pronouns or the old name in your presence. Sometimes when they slip up, they inadvertently out you by doing so in front of people who didn't know your trans business.

Sometimes you'll have your old and new lives clash at inopportune times. You may run into an old coworker or classmate who hasn't seen you in years at a local event or a store.

You'll have the awkward moments of running into an old lover. You'll pass by places and locations that trigger good and bad memories for you. You'll have those moments when you run into somebody from your past, but are unsure whether to reveal how you know them, how much you've changed since your last meeting, and how they'll react to the news.

And you won't have the excuse of distance or finances to prevent you from attending your high school reunion. (Go JJ Falcons!)

But those stress inducing dramas are mitigated by the fact that you are transitioning in familiar and comfortable surroundings. You already know the politics at the local, county and state levels. You are cognizant of the level of organization, support and activism in your local trans community. You're aware of who and where the trans friendly medical/legal/pharmaceutical professionals are and what the local GLB community support level for trans issues is.

Best of all, you don't have any moving expenses unless you're bouncing to another apartment.

So how hard is it to transition in your hometown? Depends on the intestinal fortitude of the person involved. I did so while working for an airline in an international hub airport. But I also realized because I did so back home, I acquired a mental toughness I probably wouldn't have if I'd simply moved and started over.

To transition in your hometown or not is just another thing that you have to factor into your transition related decisions.

But despite the headaches, it has its rewards as well.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I transitioned in Indianapolis, which is only a few minutes away from my hometown. I've lived here all my life. Despite the occasional hangup, I would _definately_ recommend hometown transition to folks who already have a strong network of friends and family; it's much easier to make female friends, get established as a female, and generally transition successfully when becoming familiar with a city is not an issue.

Besides, Indy's a great town. :D I can't complain.