I wrote recently about the ‘coming out’ process for the transgendered individual and suggested a particular method (the letter). This post furthers that discussion and talks about the concept of integration.
Coming out involves integration.
There’s the integration of what you suspect about yourself into what you know about yourself. This in itself can be a lengthy and difficult process and may or may not involve a full acceptance of the knowledge.
There’s the integration of what you know being known by others in your world. This is what is typically referred to as “coming out”. This involves letting others know. There’s also the idea of the knowledge spreading, i.e. people knowing who among other people in your life know and what they know. When you look at it from a purely mathematical perspective, the permutations get very large very quickly.
Other people’s level of acceptance of you effects your level of integration into family, society, work and friends. This can also change over time. For example when you first come out to someone, you may be in a very beginning stage of accepting what you know about yourself. Later on, you may have evolved with your self acceptance and integration, and the next time you talk to that person, you may be presenting a very different view of yourself. My thoughts on this are – don’t fake it. If you are ambivalent, or unsure or hesitant – then that’s where you are. It may change in your own good time, but there’s no point in presenting yourself as super-trans when you’re not feeling it. It’s ok, to take your time with your own self-acceptance process.
Perhaps the most important one is the integration of what you know about yourself being consolidated into your identity. One small example would be having gone from suspecting you feel female to knowing you feel female, you then integrate that knowledge into your identity by wearing more female-type clothes. This can start slow – I’ve often had people come into my office and tell me that they are wearing some male/female undergarment.
You can often tell when one has successfully integrated a sense of themselves as transgendered. Very often people seem more comfortable talking about their trans identity and transition path and engaging in politics and activism and even forgetting about being trans and working on their careers or love lives. This can often be confused with having attained hormones, or SRS or a new wardrobe. The integration of being transgendered into ones identity is related to those things, but also separate.
The more fully one has integrated one’s identity, the freer they are to reach out to others, to participate in community and to engage in relationships. I think everybody has seen examples of people with poorly integrated identity (trans, queer or otherwise) and It always has some kind of limiting effect on them. For example, one might have a partner, but might not feel comfortable taking them to a family event.
Of course the main problem with integrating or incorporating a trans-identity into your personality is that its part of a stigmatized group and it takes some not small amount of courage to go there. However, knowing that you are integrating an authentic part of yourself into your whole identity can help.
Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.