In my experience one of the main features of a transsexual life is editing. We edit our true reactions to just about everything to make sure the proper filter is applied before others see them. We edit our expressions of taste in everything to conform to sets of expectations, always external to our own.
Let me give a couple of examples on my mind at the moment.
Back in college (I’m getting ready for the upcoming reunion, so these thoughts are really fresh on my mind at the moment) I spent a lot of time at a coffeehouse called, with Mid-Western directness, The Coffeehouse. They didn’t play a radio at the coffeehouse, but rather full CD’s (remember those?). Three artists who’s CD’s they played a lot were Bob Dylan, 10,000 Maniacs, the Cranberries. I liked all of the above quite a lot. But… when it came to buying my own music and really exploring, I only went for Dylan. I was afraid that if I expressed too much interest in 10,000 Maniacs or The Cranberries it would read as too “feminine” for a guys’ taste (female lead singers, don’t you know). I liked them all. Left to my own I would have bought albums from them all. But that didn’t mean much when it came to expressing my taste in public. Officially I was into Dylan, and oh, yeah, those other artists played at The Coffeehouse were okay, I guess.
It was the same thing when it came down to the beer or wine question. I’ve always preferred wine (not that I hate beer – I just prefer wine). But my cultural reading told me that beer was a “guy” drink. And so… up until VERY recently, if I was out with guy friends I made sure I ordered a beer. And if wine ever entered the discussion it had to be teeth-staining red, even though I generally prefer white wines. That seemed to hold a defensible machismo in the post-Sopranos era. The point was, I drank things I liked less when offered a chance to substitute something I liked more. Because what the heck should my opinion matter about such things? It wasn’t about my taste. It was about editing those tastes to fit into my role.
In this way all my likes and dislikes were heavily edited before ever being displayed to others. They were in fact edited so much and for so long that in some places I almost lost track myself of my actual tastes. One of the joys in coming out has been rediscovering them (at the moment as God is my witness, I’m drinking a glass of white wine and listening to a Cranberries album).
And as much as I’d like to see transition as the cure-all for this condition, I fear this addiction to editing infects a lot of trans people even after coming out. Sometimes we don’t learn to turn it off, only turn it around. So now we’re not playing to an audience expecting us to be perfect males (in the m2f case – as usual, flip it around for the f2m guys) but rather perfect females. We go from one unrealistic ideal to another and all the while ignore who we really are.
I think transition is one of the best circumstances anyone might experience in order to really examine the question of who we are on the deepest and most honest levels. And yet if we’re not careful our editing instinct can jump in there and snatch it away, leaving us still removed from the ability to be our true selves. And that instinct is frighteningly well developed.