I was recently faced with someone close to me (close in the sense of immediate family, not necessarily actual intimacy of relationship, but anyway…) showing genuine concern about my being genderqueer, because “what if I change my mind?”
I know a lot of people face this question, or something like it. For younger trans people, it might take the shape of “but what if it’s just a phase?”
I don’t even know what to do with these trumped up concerns, because really my answer is “so the fuck what if it a phase? So the fuck what if I do change my mind?” Why would that be so terrible? I’m managing to change my gender identity once; if I want to I can probably manage it again. Seriously.
There are four possible scenarios here:
- It’s not a phase, but Concerned Person thinks it is and doesn’t respect Trans Person’s identity. Concerned Person is an asshole, simple as that.
- It’s not a phase, and Concerned Person takes it seriously. Awesome! People should totally support the trans folks in their life! Well done Concerned Person, and thank you for just believing the other person.
- It does turn out to have been a “phase”, Trans Person changes their mind. Concerned Person refers to Trans Person throughout by birth name/pronouns/whatever. The relationship between Trans Person (or I guess, Ultimately-Not-Trans Person in this case) is strained by the time Concerned Person spent being disrespectful and ignoring Not-Trans Person’s wishes. Concerned Person was still an asshole, and is not retroactively justified in their actions.
- It does turn out to have been a phase, Trans Person changes their mind. Concerned Person used Ultimately-Not-Trans Persons’s preferred pronouns/name/whatever as appropriate for each phase this process. Ultimately-Not-Trans Person comes out of the experience with the knowledge that Concerned Person is someone they can trust to respect them and their identity no matter what. And, importantly, no harm has been done by the fact that Concerned Person used the name/pronouns/whatever that Non-Trans Person later changed their mind about.
Regardless of whether a person later changes their stated gender identity again, (and regardless of how many times they change it), the right thing to do is respect their identity in the moment. Don’t worry about their theoretical potential future identities. They’ll tell you about those when they get to them, and it’s not your problem. Mkay?
Also, you know what? Sometimes “phases”, aren’t “just” anything. Sometimes they’re a really important form of self-exploration, of a person coming to understand themself and the world they live in better. Sometimes phases are awesome life-changing growth opportunities. Sometimes phases are the best thing that ever happened to someone. Why are we shitting on phases, like they’re the worst possible thing that could happen?
I mean, I know in a lot of cases, these Concerned People are worried about potential irreversible medical interventions that trans folks might undertake and then regret. But seriously, you just gotta trust trans folks to make these decisions themselves, because if it’s not phase, (and let’s be really clear here, it almost never is a phase, ok?), *not* getting those interventions may be far more dangerous than the potential regret of them later. Because what if it’s not a fucking phase? Why are people always more worried about the potential consequences of theoretical phases than the actual consequences of constant realities? It’s pretty clear that these Concerned People aren’t really all that concerned about the trans people they know.
Because the convenient thing about the “but what if you change your mind?” thing is that it literally never expires. How long do these people think a trans person should wait to be sure? The spectre of potential mind-changing never goes away. It’s the *perfect* wall for cissexist family members to hide behind to justify any behaviour and make it out as a demonstration of how much they “care”.
And so I say: Fuck. That. Noise.