In my last post, I outlined three aspects of trans resilience. Here’s three more. A note: there is some overlap in these aspects, ways in which working on one (such as standing in your self-worth) will help with another (such as respecting your own and other’s gender journeys.) These are all really just guideposts to the core set of five skills that you’ll learn here.
Investigate your feelings and what’s behind them. As I said in the previous post, emotions are ephemeral, and it’s our thoughts that keeps re-triggering our emotions. And what’s important to understand is that our thoughts are not necessarily what’s really behind an emotion – what’s behind our emotion is often long-standing fears or grief. Understanding our emotions is an important key skill for resilience.
For example, when I get misgendered by a particular old friend, my thought might be “she doesn’t care about me.” But when I dive deeper into the emotion, what’s really true is that I’m feeling scared that I’m not who I say I am – that somehow, I’m still that other person I was. I’m afraid that I’m not being seen. Understanding the deeper source makes it easier for us to handle the emotions, and also to speak in a self-responsible way about what we’re feeling.
Learn to love yourself. Self-love is a concept that is simple, but not easy. Cultivating self-love and self-compassion is essential for resilience. This takes practice, and time, but it is fruitful. First, you can notice your self-talk. Is it compassionate or critical? If it’s critical, can you bit by bit try to redirect that self-talk to more compassionate self-talk. Or, even if you can’t can you notice the self-criticism, and hold that with compassion? “I have compassion for my critical inner voice.”
Daily practices can be an important way to cultivate self-love. If you can find a way to give yourself love and compassion in some form everyday, it builds up that self-love “bank account.” It might be doing one type of self-care each day. It might be something like a daily Metta meditation, or affirmations of some type. Getting into the habit of taking care of ourselves, paying attention to ourselves, and giving ourselves love and compassion will help us learn to love ourselves.
Inhabit your identity. Your gender identity is uniquely yours. You may or may not identify as trans. You might identify very strongly as a man or woman, on the far end of the spectrum. You might identify as genderqueer, or genderfluid. You might identify as bi-gendered, or multi-gendered, or non-gendered. You might identify strongly with one gender, but know you have aspects of the other. Whatever that is, fully embrace it. Know that it is valid, and you can inhabit it, and express it in whatever way you want to.
Our society provides so much stress for gender-expansive people because it is so binary focused, and ultimately transphobic. Gender is policed, from family members, to what happens in school and with friends, to how dating apps are designed, and bathrooms are segregated. It’s hard to fully inhabit an identity that isn’t recognized, or in some cases is actively discriminated against. So part of inhabiting our identities is often fighting against what we’re hearing every day. Have compassion for your process – it’s not an easy one.