Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 19 June 2010

Why Does It Matter?

Gavri’el is away in the mountains with her family this week. This is a momentous occasion because it is the first time she is going as a woman. In addition, this is the first time she’s spent any significant time with certain members of her extended family in about a year. These people completely rejected her long before she decided she was happier as a woman. They even went as far as to throw paintings she had made for them out in the rain so that her spirit wouldn’t “contaminate” their homes.

I started writing a blog about her experiences coming out to her family, but that isn’t my story to tell. It’s hers.

I sometimes have a hard time letting go of her story. At the beginning, when she was struggling with her sexual orientation, I held her while she cried and when she contemplated suicide. I’ve stood by her as she explored polyamory, tried to make a heterosexual relationship fit her needs and through a difficult break-up. I was there when she decided she wanted to dress as a woman, when she decided she WAS a woman, and when she decided she’d like to fully transition. I was there during the days when she was out to everyone but her family. She didn’t want to risk losing her relationship with her mom and brother–the only members of her family she had left, really, after she chose a different religious path than she had been raised with and fully embraced her sexual orientation.  Of course, her feelings were hers and not mine; during that whole period of self-discovery I felt sad that she didn’t feel comfortable being herself and had a hard time understanding why she was reluctant to express herself fully.

And I’m here to see what a gorgeous woman she is inside and out. She is so tall in her heels that I feel tiny–I am short but not THAT short. The dye is growing out of her hair; her naturally copper curls glisten in the sun as she walks. She laughs a lot more than she ever has.

She is the same person she always was, just happier.

I wish the whole world could see past a person’s exterior to who they are underneath. I think that’s what I’m looking for in a romantic partner, too. Recently, someone on OKCupid accused me of being a trans-misogynist (whatever the hell that means) because I want my partner to be fully out. According to this person, it’s easier for me because women in men’s pants don’t get murdered and men in women’s skirts do.

None of that is true, of course, but what IS true is that it’s hard for most people to adjust to a woman expressing her true self in a man’s body or vice versa. I don’t really understand why it’s so hard. Maybe my brain just doesn’t make the connection everyone else’s does because of Asperger’s Syndrome, or maybe I know too well how Gavi and other Transgender people, especially Transgender women, have suffered. I look at Gavi, and to a lesser extent (since I know them less well) other Trans women, and I see happy, beautiful people. Why does it matter so much that they don’t look the way they used to? NOBODY looks the way they used to, but there’s not nearly as much fear and pain associated with men growing beards or going bald as there is with them putting on more feminine clothes.

I read an article recently about Warren Beatty’s child, who wants to transition from female to male like his friend Chaz Bono. Beatty and Annette Bening are having a hard time accepting it, according to the article. The writer then went on to say that a person should realize how hard it is on their family and choose not to transition in order to avoid upsetting them.

This REALLY pissed me off. First of all, nobody decides to transition just for the hell of it. It’s a hard thing to do–and not just emotionally. Financially, medically, emotionally, and physically, it is HARD. Even getting ready for an evening out is difficult. Transgender women have a lot to do to make themselves look as female as they really are. I’m not just talking about makeup here. Transgender men have to bind their breasts. Taking hormones is necessary at some stage of transition but may lead to other health problems if not controlled. In order to get surgery at all, you have to have the approval of a psychotherapist EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE NOT PSYCHOLOGICALLY OR MENTALLY UNWELL.

Oh and transgender people who cannot or do not want to fully transition cannot marry their partners in most of the United States because of bans on same-sex marriage. It is doubly insulting to be told you cannot marry your partner because same-sex marriage is “wrong” when you aren’t even the gender the government says you are.

I have no doubt it is hard on parents because I’ve seen it…even if I don’t understand, on an emotional level why it is so hard for people to accept. But I wish people would have the same consideration for US as for our families. Being transgender is not easy.

I am glad that Gavi has the courage to be herself no matter what. I hope this week she is able to build some bridges with the rest of her family. But if not, I’m glad she is refusing to be anything less than herself.


  1. Linked to here from Shades of Gay on Facebook.

    Very nice article. I definitely agree with your statements. I just don’t understand how some can place so much on one chromosome; aren’t we supposed to love and be loved for what’s on the inside, lest we be called superficial?

    I remember coming out as gay to my mother and asking her not tell anyone else YET. She agreed and then told everybody, her reasoning being, “well, it makes it easier for ME to deal with.” I’m happy to be fully out now, but I was only 15 at the time so that was very stressful and a breaking of a lot of trust.

    I like to think of gender as not only fluid, but not just male/female either. I feel there’s got to be a third (or even fourth or fifth) gender, not just a half of both, but something new entirely, since I still don’t feel I fit in either one. That’s too complicated for me right now but hopefully one day I can figure it out.

    I end this comment with a quote from “Transgender Allies” off a pamphlet I got at pridefest (and kept) two years ago:

    “Do not tell transgender people how uncomfortable they make you. If you are uncomfortable with a person’s transition or transgender status, find ways to work on it. YOUR discomfort is not their fault.”

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