I can’t believe it has been three years already! Despite the dilatory effects of pandemic lockdowns, despite the whirlwind of changes in my life—not all directly related to my transition—it feels like this first half of my thirties is rocketing past me. Slow it down! I need to remember to enjoy these years as much as I can. There are things I miss about my teens and twenties, to be sure; however, these past three years have been the best of my life so far—again, not always directly as a result of my transition, though that is always a contributing factor.
So join me as I reflect on what this year has wrought in terms of transition. I am going to start with the difficult parts so I can end on the happiness and hope.
By and large, I have attempted to remain graceful against the tide of transphobia out there in the world. I titled my first anniversary post “Fearless” and my second post “Free” precisely because I wanted to emphasize that my decision to come out as trans has always been a net positive in spite of marginalization I might face as a result.
I could have titled this post “Fearful.” It’s getting scary out there. Our society is objectively taking a more transphobic turn. We like to think Canada is “better” than the US, more progressive. That has never been true, but it especially isn’t true now. This stuff is coming north from the US into Canada with alarming alacrity. It began well before I came out and has only intensified.
Every day brings more news of what politicians in the US want to ban next or a delegation to a school board in southern Ontario complaining about schools “pressuring” kids into transition. (I am not making this up.) It is relentless and exhausting and taking a toll on my mental health even as I continue to stave off burnout from a profession that has gradually been curdling under the management of our current provincial government.
What to do? I could stick my head in the sand, of course. But that won’t work indefinitely. I don’t believe in running. I believe in fighting, and I fight with my words.
So all I can do is keep writing, keep telling my story. It isn’t a remarkable one. It isn’t filled with any particular hardship—although my coming out was still audacious, it was mostly easy thanks to all my other privilege in this world. I am very fortunate, very loved, and in spite of the existential threats lurking just beyond my door … I am very happy.
Real Like a Girl
It’s for this reason that I try to ground what I share about my lived experience of transition in the concept of trans joy. Yes, I experience dysphoria—probably more days than most—but overall I experience much, much more euphoria.
As I transitioned, I came to understand that gender is relational. I talked about this very soon after I came out, as I was feeling lonely during lockdown, and my understanding of gender as a social relation has only deepened since then.
This is why, although I could go on at length about how gender-affirming healthcare has helped me, has improved my confidence and self-esteem, I tend not to talk much about the medical side of my transition. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trans people sharing their gender-affirming care journey with the wider world. That’s just not for me.
Yes, I am using science and modern medicine to change my body, to realign my physical appearance with my gender identity. It’s fantastic. Ten out of ten, highly recommend you look into it if it sounds like you it might be your thing.
Alas, cis people often remain far too fixated on medical transition (and there is, sadly, members of trans communities who join them in this fixation). This is reflected in the legislation sweeping across the US, which has been stoked by and is in turn stoking a moral panic centred around children’s bodies. The truth is simple: social transition has always been more important. It’s just that medical transition helps, and it’s the fact that it helps that transphobic people hate, because they hate us.
If you truly want to accept trans people and support our rights, you will affirm us regardless of what we look or sound like. Self-identification. It should be good enough for you that I am a woman because I say it is so. If you think it’s appropriate to hold out for some standard of evidence, be that putatively biological or relatively cultural, you are not an ally. You’re Lucy, pulling away the football.
While I don’t claim to speak for all trans people, I can say that, in my experience, the most affirming moments come not from loud declarations of “trans women are women!” or the like (though those are appreciated) but rather from the subtle interactions that might be easy to miss. You might not even know you’re doing it, but trust me, we notice. It’s a neighbour offering you first refusal of some clothes she’s planning to donate. It’s being sensitive to situations that might be awkward for us—like, sadly, using a public restroom—without making it into a big thing. If you’re me (and you’re not, but that seems like a you problem), it’s listeners of your Buffy rewatch podcast consistently saying, “Hey ladies,” when they comment on your social media, always affirming your gender (even when they disagree with your takes) despite your voice remaining deep and stereotypically masculine.
True acceptance of diversity is awareness and understanding of difference without discrimination. I don’t really care about “passing,” about one day being mistaken for a cis woman. I’m fine if you mention that I am trans to my face—it’s not embarrassing. It’s not a dirty word. You can ask me questions about my transition the same way you would any personal question: gently, with respect and care and an understanding of how well we know each other. See me as a woman, see me as a trans woman, see me as a funny and kind podcaster and book reviewer and copyeditor—simply see me. My transness doesn’t need to be hidden or erased; it is a wonderful and beautiful part of who I am—but it also shouldn’t be remarkable.
That is the boring future I am fighting for.
Bad Bitch in the Mirror
I think a trilogy of anniversary posts is appropriate. This will not be the last post I’ll write about my transition, perhaps not even the last one I’ll write on an anniversary—but as the years go by, I hope that this milestone recedes until it’s just another date, another moment to mark before I go on with my day. That is, after all, the whole point of transition: to go from one state to another. Not to get stuck in between.
I will keep writing, and I will keep fighting, because that’s what I do. I don’t know if my words matter all that much, if they are signal or if they are noise. But I will try.
What I can say with certainty, three years after coming out, is that I feel more myself than I have ever been.
Every morning I get up and wash my face. I look in the mirror, look at myself without any makeup on, my hair a mess … and I smile at myself. I tell myself that I love myself. Because I do. Even on the days when the dysphoria hits harder than I like, when I wish parts of my life and my transition had happened in different orders or at different times … what matters is that I still see that bad bitch in the mirror staring back at me. I am beautiful not because of my cute eye makeup or beautifully styled hair but simply because, after three years, I can honestly say that I have done the work. I have done the self-examination. I have put in the time. I know who I am. I have accepted myself.
Hi. I’m Kara Babcock. I’m thirty-three. I am an aromantic, asexual, trans woman. I read books, write reviews, make podcasts, and knit a lot. I am joyfully kind to my friends and relentlessly kind to my enemies. I am fantastic. And I am just getting started.