Erik Erickson, a famous developmental psychologist, revealed that adolescents must first develop a sense of identity before they can learn to be intimate with others. In his view, we must first know and love ourselves before we can love another. Carol Gilligan took a stance contrary to Erickson’s view in that traditional adolescent females learn to be intimate before they develop their self-identities. Regardless of which comes first, it seems that to be complete, people need to have both identity and intimacy.
A transgendered person can potentially gain self-identity at the cost of intimacy or vice versa. We have become aware of the pain of the transwoman who has lost family, friends, and loved ones upon successful transition. We are also familiar with the despair of the person who, for whatever reason, is not able to express her feminine gender except in the deep recesses of her mind or in the safety of her closet. Both of these extreme decisions have their costs and their benefits. The transitioned woman has gained her life and herself, feels whole, but has lost many of those who gave her life meaning and possibly even lost her career. The closeted transwoman on the other hand, keeps her friends, family, and her career but may lose herself in her hiding process.
A third way is followed by those transpersons who fear losing identity or intimacy and who take the middle road toward transition. Such people know a special kind of angst that comes with compromise.
Choosing to live in a compromised position, I have grown my hair long and have gone through procedures that have feminized my looks in various ways but I have not gone nearly far enough to live as a female. While I have kept my job and my family, I live in a twilight and somewhat androgenous physical state. Every time I do something to tweak my outward femininity, my feminine side gains. But I lose something from my old self that makes me less recognizable and maybe even less acceptable to some people.
While I fine it easier to interact with those I see on a regular basis, I have a deep fear of seeing family, friends, colleagues, and even neighbors who I have not seen for awhile. To maintain my career and social life, I feel the need to obscure my long hair and cover up my arms and legs so friends, neighbors, and family cannot see they are hair free. I feel I avoid the neighbors and they avoid me because I look different than I used to and this is uncomfortable.
Regardless of the costs, I choose to live this life where having it all means accepting compromise. Every choice has its price.