The scene: you have a situation, an issue, a problem, a dilemma. A choice has to be made as to how you are going to manage it with, hopefully, the least amount of drama and the greatest amount of success. What to do?
Recently a friend* was sharing with me a difficult personal situation which he had faced. He told me that it became very clear to him that he had one of three choices: tread water, swim wildly and to the point of exhaustion or get out of the fucking pool. It struck me as an excellent set of choices to consider, no matter the issue. And then I realized that in approaching the issue of Jessie’s transition, I had actually exercised the option of, well, exercising all the options.
When she first came to me with her declaration, the pool into which I was thrown (without, I might add, much warning) felt as though it was a thousand feet deep, with a strong undercurrent and a malfunctioning filter that would, instead of cleaning the debris, suck me into a sinkhole from which it would be impossible to free myself. I instinctively knew that I had to figure out a way to manage the scenario and, without the T.S.G. (tread, swim or get out) philosophy articulated, I now realize I did it all.
While the “public” announcement was made in early December, I had known since the beginning of September. I will never forget her tear drenched cheeks as she told me that she, (or, more accurately, he) had always wanted to be a girl. From that day forward, until December 12, when she shared her “secret” with a teacher, I was treading water like nobody’s business. I had my full Esther Williams going on: my head was above water, my hair and make-up were in place and I was furiously flapping my feet hoping for nothing more than to stay afloat.
That worked for some time, actually. Everything was under wraps and magnificently controlled. There was no explaining to do to anyone…nothing external had changed. The community was none the wiser and maintaining the status quo made perfect sense…but it was not sustainable. Treading water never is. It is fine (excellent, even) for the short-term, but eventually you are going to peter out and sink to the bottom of the pool. And then you are screwed.
Upon coming to this realization, I began to swim crazily. I met with the school. I shared with friends. I fielded well-meaning inquiries from people I hardly knew. I talked with press. I wrote articles. I even joined a support group. In time, I perfected my stroke and continued circling the lap lane, wondering if and I when I would be allowed to stop. Each day brought new challenges, questions and concerns. My arms and legs were growing tired and my skin was growing tight from the unnatural “stuff” in the water. My hair was no longer manageable from the saturation. I couldn’t rotate my arms one more time. I had to get out of the fucking pool.
It has been a year and a half since George transitioned to Jessie. In some ways, it seems that it was just yesterday that I was frantically swinging my legs, secretly hoping someone would toss me a life-preserver. It seems merely days ago that I had perfected my stroke and was impressively maneuvering the water, fighting the urge to sink to the bottom of the pool. And now, here I am, settled in with my transgender child to the point that I can comfortably sit poolside and enjoy a cold drink with a little umbrella in it. I got out of the fucking pool.
But I will never be able to leave the deck. There will always be another situation, issue, problem or dilemma that arises related or not to transgender-unique issues. Since hearing about the T.S.G. phenomenon, I wonder if next time I will go through all the paces or skip to the exit. I wonder if it is better to “T”, then “S” then “G” or if skipping one or two is preferable. I wonder if TSG is a process or a choice. I am mulling it over and over in my head. I guess you could say I am treading water with it all.
So next time you either jump or are thrown into the deep end, think about TSG and see where it takes you.
*Creds to BTS