By Angelica Bottaro
The moments before and after big changes are always significant. Personally, my journey of puberty was a pivotal period in my life where the line between the girl I was and the woman I was becoming was marked in the sand as blatantly as the crack in tectonic plates found after the notorious magnitude 8.2 earthquake that hit Mexico in 2017. These marks—the cracks in the earth or line in the sand—represent the specific moment between the before and after of meaningful changes in our lives.
Although puberty, a devastating earthquake, and the transition that transgender people go through to finally reach their level of authenticity hardly compare to one another, they do have the pre- and post-experience in common.
For those transitioning, it is a personal experience that gives them their true identity. Of course, to the outside world, it’s treated as a public affair—something that we feel should be everyone’s business. The thing is, though, transgender people and their identities aren’t any of our business.
So, why are we so obsessed with the before and after of transition?
The Grand Reveal
For as long as I can remember, there have been countless aspects of entertainment driven by grand reveals. Makeover shows take “ugly ducklings” (I believe everyone is beautiful in their own way if you take the time to truly look) and turn them into beautiful swans for viewers to marvel at and question how they managed to change someone so drastically.
Home renovation shows pit prominently dilapidated dwellings against the work of a few contractors and designers and turn them into enviable properties. And Netflix’s Skin Decision looks at the drastic changes that plastic surgery can achieve.
These shows all focus on one thing—the horror that was and the impossible beauty made a reality—all to entertain people who thought it just wasn’t possible. That grand reveal, though, gets you every time.
For transgender people, their grand reveal isn’t meant to be something to entertain the masses, nor is it designed to be a reveal at all. For one thing, their before was not horrific. It just didn’t fit who they are. And, their after isn’t a superficial art show. It’s who they are as a person.
Sure, after transitioning, they will get to revel in the fact that the significant changes are grand and were the right choice for them. However, the issue is that this highly personal experience—an experience driven by a person’s need to live freely as who they are—seems to be unjustly lumped into the same grand reveals that are on display for the public.
Forcing Transgender People Into The Spotlight
Not everyone wants to be the centre of attention, especially during a time when they’re finding themselves. The act of transitioning is never a simple one, even if the decision to do it was the easiest one a transgender person has ever made. The idea that they are signing up to be in the public eye is not only misguided, but it’s also upsetting to those who are doing it so they can feel comfortable in their own bodies for the very first time.
For many, an unwanted audience often sees their transition as if they were enigmas solving a problem, not human beings achieving their most authentic selves. We tend to approach transgender people differently to how we would cisgender people because we feel we’re owed an explanation regardless of our closeness to the individual.
This ignorant and self-entitled obsession turns those transitioning into something they’re not—homegrown celebrities required to step into the spotlight just to appease those who demand to be a part of their very personal experience.
Let Transgender People Be
My story about hitting puberty was, in no way, meant to compare to the lengthy and emotional process of transitioning. However, it was meant to highlight one simple fact: I was granted the privilege of doing it privately. No one hovered over me as my breasts came in, gawking to see what kind of lady I had become. And as I imagine, my allowance of privacy during that transition has been granted to most cisgender people as they go through their own changes.
So, why is it that we feel we have the right to shine a flashlight in the face of every transgender person’s experience? They are not before and after entertainment, and they don’t owe the world anything. It’s time we drew the curtain on those transitioning and let them live their lives, be who they are, and exist in a world where it’s none of our business unless they want to bring us along on their journey.