“But I have hit a wall with a couple of people – not in terms of the reality of gender dysphoria, but in the extent of it. This results in a lot of conversations along the lines of ‘I support your transition, but I don’t understand why you have to do X,’ or ‘I want you to be happy, but I don’t see how Y would make you happier,’ or ‘Why do you have to do this now?’
“Is it even constructive to try to bring these people along with you on your transition? When they claim to want to participate, but only on their own terms, I wonder if I’m doing anyone any good in trying to push them to empathize.”
There are huge differences among the concepts of experiencing something, having a general understanding of it, and simply accepting that it exists. When I speak to classes or groups, I often say, “It’s very difficult for people who have never experienced this to understand it. But you don’t have to experience it yourself, or even understand it, to accept that it exists.”
It sounds like the people you are referring to accept the fact that being trans exists and that you are experiencing it, but, as you say, they are accepting it on their terms. They are asking you to explain yourself and to defend your decisions and your path to their satisfaction.
The problem is that they will never be satisfied, because they haven’t experienced what you are experiencing, and they are not willing to simply accept the fact that your situation exists in the way that it does, and you have to do the things that you are doing, for no other reason than because you say so.
And that’s honestly the only explanation that you have to give.
Of course, it’s nice to fully explain things to others, especially those who are very close to you, and hope that they will understand as much as possible. But when you get to a point where others are asking – or demanding – that you defend your experience or provide them with explanations that they will “get,” then you’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere.
So my answer to these people would be: “Of course you don’t. You’re not going through this and you’re not me.”
“I support your transition, but I don’t understand why you have to do X.” “Of course you don’t. You’re not going through this and you’re not me. You don’t have to understand it. You just have to accept that it is.”
“I want you to be happy, but I don’t see how Y would make you happier.” “Of course you don’t. You’re not going through this and you’re not me. You don’t have to see it. You just have to accept that it is.”
And then there’s the dreaded “Why do you have to do this now?”
You could always be a little snarky and say, “If not now, when? If not me, who?”
But you might just want to say, “Because I do.”
These answers will not satisfy them. But apparently nothing you have said has satisfied them. And you don’t have to justify yourself or anything that you are doing – to anyone.
It’s best if you can spend some time and work with the people who are closest to you and mean the most to you in life, but there comes a time when even that gets to be too much. And for people you are okay letting go of – well, sometimes it’s time to let go.
You can try one final time, if you want. You can say, “I’ve told you what I’m doing and I’ve told you why I’m doing it. You don’t have to understand it. You just have to accept that it is. But I can’t be any more clear with you than I have been, and I’m no longer willing to try to justify what I’m doing or to explain it any further.
“There are plenty of great books and websites out there that provide information, and I will direct you to them if you are interested. Other than that, I’m done. Now let’s go to lunch and you can explain to me why you went back to that loser for the fifth time after the way s/he treated you (or why you insist on wearing green nail polish, or why you voted the way you did in the last election, or why you always wear that ugly tie, or whatever).”
Honestly, there are people who will do you more harm than good in your transition (or just in your life in general). Identify those people and figure out a way to move on from them. Life (and transition) is complicated enough without having to justify or defend your every move.