Remembering back to the beginning of this particular life journey, there was a time when I was very concerned with the performance aspects of being a woman. Life is a performance. All the world’s a stage, eh? I’ve always held fast to the truth that we, as humans, are different to everyone, constantly morphing in either the way we wish to be perceived or the way we are perceived. Every aspect of ourselves in public or private is a construct. There is no concrete persona that is masked by all the others. Rather, the masks are who we are and, when they fit correctly, we are something akin to comfortable wearing them… so much so that we forget about them entirely.
The First Transition then is the development of new masks, masks that we feel fit better. This transition is where we put away the ones that didn’t fit well, that didn’t feel comfortable and, more than that, were painful to put on day after day. So painful that masks felt like they were corroding our souls. We begin transition and we try on lots and lots of them to see which fit best and then, hopefully, narrow them down to the ones that others see more as we want them to see rather than how they perceive them to be.
It’s a long process, but eventually we reach a point where we no longer worry about putting on the masks, where they fit so well that even when we go from one to another…from work to family to friends…we don’t think about them as we did during that First Transition. This isn’t to say there isn’t thought as to being “clocked”, because it is a discomforting feeling. However, that thought doesn’t enter any part of day-to-day life. If it happens, it happens. Another pitfall of life as everyone has pitfalls in life.
It’s at this point, when life is and being trans does not define our existence, but simply an aspect of ourselves that we may or may not think about, that I believe we are in the Second Transition. Some might see it as the next phase or just a continuation. Some people see themselves as beyond transition at this point. Obviously, I don’t.
I’m at a point in this process where I’ve reduced the number of masks I wear to a great degree, but there is still some culling to do, some fine-tuning of what is left. I’m at that point where I mostly no longer worry about how I am perceived, whether or not I am clocked. For the record, I assume I am from time to time, but can’t bring myself to worry about it all that much.
And that’s the point. When I first ventured out of the closet, I was never less than perfectly coiffed…making sure that every element of my public mask was as perfectly made up as I believed it needed to be. That’s a part of the performance. We wear the costume and make-up for the part we’re playing. During those first years, the costume and make-up were very important because they helped me to accent my performance.
But now I find that I only need the very basics, which are the basics of anyone born to the role. I’m perfectly comfortable that my own skin represents the best truth of me, my most comfortable masks. My most authentic masks.
But N.Jade! Can a mask be authentic?
Well, yes. Masks are just the parts we play to different people, including ourselves. And when the mask we show to ourselves is most like the ones we show to others, then we are living as close to an authentic life as possible.
None of this is overnight. There isn’t a morning we wake up and know that we have experienced a sea change in our transition experience. But we do reach a point where the masks we wore before, the inauthentic ones, are no longer available to wear and we can barely remember what it was like to wear them, to feel them chafe against our skin. Where the new ones, while still not perfect, feel right and true. Then we know we’re reached the next stage of our transitionary life.