Found in Formlessness: From Pretty to Free

by Terra Anderson

For many years, some aspects of my gender transition have remained illusive even to me. I skirt around the question “How did you know you were trans?” with bated breath, secretly wishing I had an answer that could sooth my own mind. This morning, in the liminal space between sleep and waking, at 5:34am I saw current self and myself of years past sitting side by side on a windowsill.

Somewhere in that in-between place (so typical of me… ) my truth emerged in poetry.

Here is what I wrote:

I did not transition because I was unable to perform womanhood well.
I was more than able, I did so with confidence and poise.

I did not transition because I disliked dresses, or lipstick, or sensual seduction.
I loved them dearly, and I still do.

I did not transition because I felt alien in my body.
My unchanged form is now more precious to me for its curves and pleasure than ever before.

I transitioned because I felt alien to you.

I transitioned because when you saw me as a woman, you saw the shell of me.
The body, the pretty face,
The pieces that fit into your vacant definition of womanhood.
A vacancy that I filled to the brim and poured over,
Flooding the spaces neither you nor I could recognize.

I transitioned because I outgrew womanhood.
It was a role I was not born to play.
For a time, I’ll admit, I milked that ripe and supple breast.
I enjoyed the attention that came with beauty, the free rides and predictable actors.
I tolerated your hollow compliments and conceded to your gaze until your eyes set fire to the fallacy that my womanhood was ever more mine than yours.
I played pretty when it served me and resented it when the deeds turned sour.
I walked the tightrope of sexism and I wore womanhood well.

I transitioned when I realized I had relinquished myself to your image of me.
I lost myself to womanhood the way a lover can lose themself to codependence.
I differred my truth for approval.
I sacrificed myself to your comfort and sought safety in your enjoyment of my womanhood.
I outsourced my identity in your words and definitions.
The extent of me stretched into your eyes and no further.

The day came when I looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person staring back at me.
I saw my reflection as if through a long dark hallway, a distant relic.
My body became a place of confusion: yours or mine?
In my closet hung veil after veil of dissonance between truth and my complicity.

I sought sanctuary in the shadow cast by your expectations.
In those untouched places duality dissolved,
Dismembering womanhood to remember and reclaim myself.
I carved the dark underbelly of gender into a gutless cavity I could fill with my own substance.
It was an unlearning, an undoing, a returning home.

Transition, for me, was not a journey from one destination to another,
But from one place into no place.
I no longer label, define, or cage myself in expectation, neither yours nor mine.
The quantity of me that once poured over the rim of definition now flows freely in all directions.

I may be beyond your comprehension, for I too am beyond my own.
A gender active in self-discovery.
Found in formlessness,
A pure expanse in which I am free.