Trans folks call ourselves eggs when we talk about “the time before.” The people we had to be, the roles we had to act out, those were our shells. Realizing you’re trans is “hatching.” We talk a lot about the hatching, breaking free of the restraints that gave us a shape and form that didn’t belong to us.
I have a strange relationship with my shell. It hurt me. It hurt me to be in that form, pretending to be that person. It nearly killed me. And so I’m struggling with this other feeling I feel towards it — gratitude. We didn’t have a good relationship. But it did its job. It protected me while I grew strong. It gave me shape me until I was able to claim my own form. It gave me a place to be until I had the words to demand my own. My relationship with my past feels torn between the pain it caused me and the gratitude I feel for being where I am.
Transition is a lot of firsts, right? It’s the first time you wear a dress, the first time a person looks into your eyes and says your name with love, the first time a man harasses you, the first time someone talks down to you about something you’re an expert in because you’re a woman, and the first time you love someone with your whole self. It’s raw. It’s new. Everything about it is new. Every day I wonder something like, “am I the kind of woman who…” and I have to discover that answer for myself — there is nothing to protect me anymore.
And in those firsts I see the lasts reflected. There was a day this year, and it passed without ceremony, where I put down my deadname and I never picked it back up. It’s where I left it, discarded. There was a day when that person stopped showing up in photographs and I appeared. That day, too, passed with no ceremony. There was a last time I calculated what a man would do in my situation. These lasts all passed quietly as I celebrated the firsts.
So here I am, with all of these amazing firsts, and I feel guilt pricking my soul for how enthusiastically I’ve cast off the fragments of shell behind me. I don’t want to be gracious to the person I had to be — I hated every second of that role. But it brought me here, right?
So to the person I used to be, to the shell I had to have: you did the hard things. You made difficult choices. You gave me camouflage when I needed it. You took the hits. You handled abuses that would have destroyed me. You kept me going out of spite. You were stern and harsh, cold and robotic, logical and calculated — every single day I learn how much you weren’t me and I am grateful for it. But you carried me here and you were familiar. Some days I miss the safety of your cruelty. Some days I am haunted by the absence of the walls you put around me and terrified at my own vulnerability. I used to worry what I’d be if I left you behind, because your reflection was the only thing I ever saw in others’ eyes. I have never been grateful for that, but I need to be.
And I am proud of who I am becoming. I am strong enough to carry on, now. It’s terrifying — I feel exposed and naked — but I am learning. Every day I get better and more sure footed. My path takes me further and further from you every second I’m still breathing, and one day you’ll be a memory. So before I crest this next hill and go into a future I never thought I’d live to see, I just want to say “thank you. I’ll take it from here.”