I had the pleasure of accompanying my friend to a transgender support group. He identifies as a man some of the time, and she identifies as a woman at other times. He has transformed his body to be of peak masculine condition and she finds make-up and form-fitting skirts flattering. She looked beautiful that night; she had stopped by a makeup store and asked them to decorate her face. She wasn't sure who she was that night: woman emerging, or man expressing a piece of himself. Regardless, she intended to show up authentically, and would figure out the pronoun later.
I pulled up to a dark corporate building. A bank on the corner and 6 stories of dark glass windows alongside a busy road. I waited for her to arrive. She had asked me to come because he when being him was terrified of both expressing and not expressing her. He liked him, but at the same time he didn't want her to get caught inside of him, suffocated by the feeling of not being enough to be accepted. She, like all of us, wanted to be seen too.
When I saw her, I was struck by how defined her features were. I hadn’t before noticed the high cheekbones and narrow jaw, but when contoured by blush, highlighted with pale powder, this person was striking. We hugged and I felt the empty bra push against my chest. Something familiar there; the time when I had yet to go through puberty and a longing for acceptance took me to the mall to purchase a push-up bra in a size too big.
We were told to sign in and go to the fourth floor. I saw the scribblings of women’s names next to room 420. I asked my friend if we were going to dance, I imagined the freedom that might bring for both of us. When we got to the room, the group had already begun. We took our seats in the circle. A woman in transition was sharing her story about the hormones she was taking and the experience of talking to her wife about the transition. We'd be dancing through stories.
The women went around and shared their experiences. Being called “sir” and the heart ache it brought. Being pointed and laughed out in public. Crumbling and re-fortifying partnerships. The journey of being publicly reborn, the desire to pass 100% of the time as a woman. The freedom of wearing the clothes that felt sexy, and the terror of telling parents who were less than supportive of alternative paths. Each women spoke honestly, at times heatedly. I sent each of them silent love and hoped they could feel it.
There was another biological woman in the group, and she spoke about her Native American culture. She offered to the group that in her culture, transgender was a gift from the divine. It enabled the person to see from both perspectives. It was above binary, transcended single opinion. I noticed a few soft smiles as this new view point landed in the room.
I found myself touching my heart as they spoke. I wondered if they wondered if I was transitioning. I wondered if they were happy I was there, or perhaps didn’t care. I wondered if I too was accepted in the community in that moment. I thought of all the times I too had felt not enough of a girl, young woman, adult.
And then it occurred to me - a felt sense in my chest. The details of wanting to belong are unique to each of us. For some, it’s as encompassing as not fitting into the body one was given - anatomical parts that do not match up with one’s deeper truth. For others, it’s discomfort with the shape of one’s body, the color of skin. For some it’s intellect and performance. For other’s it’s the size of their ears or the way they speak. For some it’s they popularity that lacks, their family structure, their job, their bank account. There is an infinite list of how we can choose to feel inadequate.
I went to the meeting to support a friend and I received the felt-sense o human solidarity. Transitioning from man to woman or woman to man can bring forth an extreme version of what each of feels - a desire to belong. A longing to be validated in our enough-ness. To feel deeply our own worth and for it to be reflected by those around us. My sisters in that room are on a rocket ship to true self acceptance though an often misunderstood and even rejected route. I can only hope to be as brave and as willing to support myself when feelings of inadequacy - as they inevitably will - poke and pinch.
We’re all just trying to come back home. And I’m proud to have met wild women who blaze a new trail, some in high heels, some lipstick, all of us choosing truth, and praying that someone one day will acknowledge how beautiful that it is.