More often than not, lately I’m feeling uneasy about a growing trend towards reaching the furthest possible point of a journey as the only marker of success. An assistant manager hasn’t ‘become’ until they become the manager. A student isn’t finished until they achieve their bachelor’s degree… their Masters or PhD. This can be a driver towards further achievement – striving in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My concern is when that pressure feels onerous or heavy – that worth is based on degree of completion, and without reaching some arbitrary set of criteria, one is lesser than others who’ve gone further.
It is unfortunately more predominant in subgroups that already struggle with marginalization – the trans community, gamers, and first generation college students are examples. As if the same shaming and dismissiveness that inspired the group to form in the first place internalizes the negative mindset and undermines any who don’t ‘go all the way’ as defined by the group.
Within the adult trans community, there is a building consensus that one is only ‘really trans’ if they’ve had surgery, that ‘only’ HRT make you a ‘wannabe’. How old one is when they begin identifying as the opposite gender is worth props – the younger you are when you grow your hair or start binding, the more ‘real’ you are, and how quickly one progresses with surgeries, with pronoun changes, with legal marker changes, with ‘coming out’ all matter in a community that formed supposedly to cushion them from a society who often views gender dysphoria with antipathy or worse.
Why does degree of completion matter to anyone other than the individual? Not all who identify as a member of a group strive towards an end goal: not everyone who identifies as trans intends to have all the surgeries or go through the multiple legal hurdles to change their birth certificates, their names or gender markers on the their driver’s licenses. Not all who experience gender dysphoria identify as male or female; non-binary people often quip they spend more time explaining themselves to family than to strangers in the street. Success is not how likely the individual is to ‘pass’ as their chosen gender but internally – how they feel (and clinically, if they no longer meet the criteria for gender dysphoria.)
This is not a unique group, unfortunately: in a culture that is constantly ranking employees, students, friends… we learn about goals and competition before we even understand whether we desire either. Matsuo Bashō, a poet who eschewed convention in the 1600’s, believed “every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” Perhaps being comfortable with the road you’re on means understanding that the folks you meet on your journey might already be home.