What is Transgender grief?
Our social spheres online and in real time are deluged with accounts and experiences of parental grief at a transgender child coming out, at a partner's 'loss' of their loved one in the gender they preferred...with accounts of strangers' unsavoury reactions and unsolicited observations that "so-and-so used to be so....pretty/handsome before...it's such a shame." This is thankfully changing rapidly with greater awareness and knowledge of transphobia and the issues we face. However, this was not always the case. What happens to our lives, before now?
Trans people have been made to account for and repent to our loved one's, and society at large's grieving process, resulting in countless delays and decisions to remain erased and unseen. We have sacrificed our lives and full expression due to our family's, friends', neighbours', coworkers', highschool friends' we no longer see or hear from, our medical providers', lawmakers' and government decision makers' sadness, hurt, confusion, and revulsion at the possibility of the expression of our very being.
But what about the grief and loss involved in transition, social or otherwise, by the trans person themself? What about that experience?
It occurs to me that a space must be created for trans people to feel that we can honour and mourn our own experiences. Aside from remembrance ceremonies that rightfully place experiences of transmisogynistic, racist, violence on the forefront of our awareness...where are our grieving ceremonies for our own lost experiences? How can we begin to reclaim and honour that space that was taken away from us to simply exist in the world, that space which others take for granted...that space that just...is?
Transition, social or otherwise, may never end. We are ever evolving. And we must make sense of a past life and body, that did not fit with this world. We must make sense of coming into ourselves in what is often a non-linear fashion, out of sync with social expectations and norms. For some this was 50 years, others 30, now hopefully for our youth coming up, less than 10. But, alas, where is our space to grieve the loss of ourselves amidst the chorus and cacophony of restricting expectations surrounding us historically, or presently?
We need our own space to mourn our losses. We need to create that space. A space unknown to people with cis privilege. A space individual to our needs and experiences, and collectively respectful of the common experiences of transphobic erasure.
Many of us have been forced into survival mode for too long. We need to create that space for ourselves, to honour the path we have lived and are living. No one can or should do this for us, but first, we must recognize we have grief too. It is possible to honour, let go, and integrate our selves in our entirety, on our own terms.
For transgender wholeness and realness, maybe we owe it to ourselves to create rituals that honour our grief and uniqueness, that restore and resist and fortify against any other narrative than our own.