Reckoning with the Past, Reckoning with the Future

My family and friends are all in different stages when it comes to settling with my new name/pronouns and changing how they think of me.  I’ve noticed that most people have a lot of trouble when referring to me in the past tense, slipping up with pronouns or my name or just saying, “Before he was Gareth.”  I understand why it’s more challenging for people to switch in that context, but I hope that it becomes easier for everyone as time passes.

When I first came out as trans, I wanted to remove every trace of evidence that I had transitioned.  Every photo, every reminder was a shot in the gut.  There are still spots where I’d like to minimize that sort of thing – facebook, for example.  I don’t feel the need to publicly display my transition on the internet (*cough* except for this blog) to people who know me, to my future coworkers and acquaintances.  But the photos of me from when I was younger are bothering me less as I progress further into my transition.  Some of them (the ones that make my friends ask how I ever didn’t know I was trans), I even like.  The rest I believe I can live with.

Janus was the Roman god of “beginnings and transitions.”[1]  He has no equivalent in Greek mythology, he was an important member of the Roman pantheon.  His domain over beginnings and transitions allowed him to also act as the god of endings and time, as well as literal thresholds.  The month of January is named after Janus – fitting since he looks over the beginning and the end of the year (though January was not originally the first month of the year).  In most representations, Janus is shown with two faces looking in opposite directions – the beginning and the end, the past and the future.

To be honest, I don’t know much about Janus and the myths connected to him.  On top of that, his involvement in myths focused more on the children he has fathered and the nymphs he has assaulted than on his role as the god of beginnings.  But when trying to think of a myth to relate to this post, I couldn’t get images of the coins with his two faces out of my mind.

Beginning my transition has, for obvious reasons, caused me to spend a lot of time thinking about my past.  But it has also forced me to think about my relationship to my past.  I had to figure out whether I wanted to have a relationship with my past, or just run away from it.  I am realizing more and more that, for the most part, I don’t want to run.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to be out – I don’t really know the answer to that one yet.  And it certainly doesn’t mean that I want to be in a position where I constantly have to explain attending a same-sex high school of the wrong sex.  But I have no interest in severing ties with those people who knew me before I transitioned.

I guess in some ways I am voluntarily complicating my life.  It’s quite possible I’ll end up on the opposite end of the country after college.  I could have grit my teeth and dealt with those people peripherally for one more year and then gotten myself the hell out of dodge.  Years from now, when I don’t look the same, I could have ignored them on the street.  But it just didn’t feel right.  Though there are reasons that, because of my gender, my childhood was challenging, it was not so terrible that I want to forget all about it.  Though I may never have fit in at my school, for now obvious reasons, I was still part of the community, still developed relationships with classmates I have known since I was two or eight or ten years old.

South Carolina Boy posted a youtube video by a trans guy discussing the questions people ask him most often.  When asked “Do you feel you were born in the wrong body?” his response is, “No, I feel that this is the journey I was born to take.”  I cannot claim to be quite as settled and accepting of my lot in life.  It still aches to think about the things that no medical transition can provide.  But, as Janus became the god of the past by being the god of the future, we are all made up of our pasts, our presents and our futures.  I cannot escape my past, my beginning – and now, I think I am settled enough not to try.  The more people see me for who I truly am, the easier it is for me to acknowledge that it has been a long journey just to get here, and a longer road ahead.

[1] “Janus,”,

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