So, I’m sitting on the sofa, dosed up on painkillers and trying to fend off the side effects of my second Covid vaccination. The TV is on, but I’m not really paying any attention to it - it’s just background noise, a muted soundtrack to my state of minor misery.
As usual when I’m like this, my mind often wanders off to do its own thing, meandering down the forest paths marked 'gender', 'identity', 'trans' and 'get off your backside and do something productive'. That leads to the bit on the map marked “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here”. We don’t like going there, the ADHD bunny tends to get a bit unmanageable.
Sometimes the gentle stroll itself is productive though - letting your mind do it’s own thing can lead to interesting places..
I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the term “Transition”. I’m not sure it’s something I can really explain, but I’m going to have a go.
The dictionary definition is something like “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another”.
Now, when you’re trans you do go through a process of change. Quite a few in fact. I think its the “from one state or condition to another” bit that sticks for me, although when you consider the steps involved in “transitioning”, it's fairly accurate in itself. Socially, we change our names and appearances to better reflect who we are - sometimes within the gendered expectations of the society we live in, sometimes not so much. Medically, we change our bodies through hormone therapy and surgery, to make the flesh that carts us around a more comfortable, more enjoyable experience.
Kinda like “Pimp my Ride” for the human condition, but with less metallic paint.
But when it comes to who I am, when it comes to my identity...I’m not changing that at all. Transition implies I’m changing everything about me.
Sure, others might perceive it that way - but that's what they call a “you” problem.
What I’m changing is everything else, the trappings I’ve been assigned by society because of the flesh I was born with. But I’m more than trappings, more than the external layer that others perceive, and even the under layer to that can sometimes be seen as an identity change - when we suddenly start using “feminine” or “masculine” mannerisms for example. Stopping the pretences used in our previous incarnations can be seen as starting new ones to the outside world.
But I’m not changing me, I’m changing society’s perception of me.
Which got me really thinking. What term would I be more comfortable with?
Don’t even get me started on “Gender Reassignment”. Straight in the bin. I hit the thesaurus.
Adjustment sounds a bit clinical. Regulate is awful. Metamorphosis? Alteration? Synchronisation? Nope, nope and nope. Conversion? Eek, by the gods of air and darkness, NO. Sigh.
Confluence? The junction of two rivers into one. Sounds like something a Poundland Philosopher would come up with, so screw that.
Realignment? Almost, but has similar problems to Transition. That suggests putting things in an order they were not mean to be in.
What about just “Alignment”? That has possibilities.
Gender Alignment : The individual process by which a transgender or non-binary person changes the social or physiological aspects of themselves to fit their actual identity.
I’m aligning the way I dress to fit who I am. I'm aligning my body to fit who I am. I’m aligning the social and cultural cues that tell you, the person perceiving me, who I am.
Alignment says “this is who I am.” Putting things where they should have been in the first place, into a state where everything functions smoothly, meshes seamlessly and runs like a swiss clock. It makes your gender little more than background noise - leaving you free to live your life and pursue your dreams.
Cisgender people use many aspects of gender alignment without even thinking abut it. But they call it “fashion”, “style” and “subculture” - because for them, all they change are the social trappings within the gender category they’re already comfortable in. They rarely venture out of that walled garden into the wild forest marked “gender diversity” that lies beyond.
For them, that's the bit on the map marked “Here Be Dragons”. For most of them it’s a scary place full of unknowable horrors and eldritch fears.
For us, those that love us, and our allies - it’s a place full of sunshine and unicorns. A place of possibility, full of the richness of discovery and wonder of difference.
In some ways it also negates “Detransition”, with all the associated baggage and hostility that comes with it. Transition implies a one way change, and Detransition implies that was a mistake, and has been weaponised as such. Detransitioners see the wide open, sunlit spaces and reject them, preferring to hide in the dark forest so they cant see themselves. Or are dragged back there by those who prefer the comfort of the dark and gloomy woods.
Alignment is a neutral term that comes with no preconceived notions, and works omnidirectionally.
I’m not telling anyone to ditch the term “Transition”. If you’re fine with that, great. Use what you like, use whatever best reflects your process. And sure, it replaces one word with two.
But for me, Gender Alignment fits. I find that..comfortable.
So that's what I'm using from now on.
Authored by our Co-Editor, Claire - Twitter @ClaireExists