Dear Prudence

I’m Thinking of Transitioning, but I Don’t Support All LGBTQ Rights

Prudie’s column for March 30.

One hand holding a rainbow LGBT pride flag and another hand holding a blue, pink, and white transgender pride flag. The flags are crossed, with a question mark behind them.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by llewellyn_chin/iStock/Getty Images Plus and franz12/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,
As a recreational cross-dresser, I’m increasingly feeling like I want to transition, which would make me trans and a lesbian. However, I have serious doubts about some “LGBT rights.” I am firmly against allowing trans women to compete in women’s sports. I am against forcing bakers to participate in celebrations that they don’t agree with. I am even sympathetic to concerns about an “LGBT agenda” being pushed on children and parents. On the other hand, I have used the ladies’ restroom while en femme and am grateful for LGBT protections that may make my life easier going forward. I used to think that a middle ground was often good, but now I’m not sure whether such middle grounds are really viable. Would it be wrong to transition while holding lukewarm views on LGBT rights?
—Transitioning While Not Fully Supporting LGBT Rights

I think it’s good to have robust, progressive views on LGBT rights, but they’re not a necessary precondition for transitioning. Caitlyn Jenner is one of the most famous trans women in the world, and she’s rather well-known for her lukewarm views on the subject. If you’re concerned that you may find yourself on the outs with other trans people by espousing these views and therefore may not have the strong community support you need during your transition, then I’d encourage you to spend a little time preparing for how to deal with conflict graciously and respectfully. Perhaps you might spend time learning more about how rights that might not seem desirable or beneficial to you might be so for other members of the community. You are free not to participate in any sports professionally or recreationally, to only patronize the bakers you like, to ignore all children and parents, and generally to sit out the push for any rights you don’t support. It may help for you to think about the causes you do support and find ways to further them, rather than worrying about causes you don’t. If you were to move from having certain private qualms to actively campaigning, say, against an “LGBT agenda being pushed on children” (I’m not quite sure what that would look like—forced calendar updates?), you may very well find your life quite lonely, alienating both transphobes and trans people alike. But none of that would have any bearing on whether you ought to transition. That’s your call to make.

Dear Prudence,
I swore off dating after my last relationship. It’s been several years of no dates, no sex, just being single, and I love it. I’m in my late 30s, and for the first time in my life I feel OK about myself. It’s not that I was a relationship-hopper, but once I decided to give it up completely, my life began. I managed to make real progress in a creative field I never felt good enough for and stopped feeling “too ugly” or “too emotional.”

Now I have developed feelings for a colleague, and I feel like that’s all coming undone. I’ve had passing attractions, but they’ve always run their course in a few months. This one has only gotten stronger over the course of a year. I tried talking to him thinking maybe it would demystify him, but that backfired. I’ve started to avoid him, which means avoiding things I enjoy and missing out on events that are important to me both personally and professionally. I’m alienating myself from an industry that I’ve come to love. And suddenly, for the first time in years, I feel not good enough again. Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not pleasant enough. I am out of ideas. I just want to appreciate this person as an individual and not tank my whole career over a dumb crush. I also now worry that I’ve been dishonest with myself this whole time and that my happiness with being single was just me avoiding the painful truth that no one wanted me in the first place. Can this be fixed? Do I have to leave town? And what if it happens again?
—Co-worker Crush

You do not have to leave town, and this will probably happen again over the course of your life. Unless you’ve heard specifically that you’ve missed out on professional opportunities because you didn’t attend a particular conference or event, you can set aside the fear that you’re tanking your entire career. That’s not to say your anguish and self-doubt aren’t very real or that you’re overreacting. Right now it might be tempting to assume your chaotic internal state accurately reflects how other people are seeing you, and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Nor do I think that you have to assume that the happiness you’ve felt during your single period was necessarily fraudulent or a fantasy. Crushes are destabilizing! They can make people question all manner of things—even really happy people, really successful people, really together people. Trying to dismiss your own feelings as a “dumb crush” is potentially connected to your fears that you’re not pretty or chill or good enough (for this guy or for the concept of dating in general), and it might be worth seeing a therapist over some of this. It won’t cure your crush, but it will be helpful to figure out different ways you can acknowledge your feelings or talk to yourself when you’re in a spiral of self-loathing. Mostly I’d advise you not to be surprised or disappointed that you haven’t been able to get rid of your feelings for this guy by trying to wish them away or berate yourself. It’s OK to like someone. It’s OK to feel vulnerable. Find times and places outside of work where you can investigate and tend to these feelings so that you can focus on all the things you love about your career when you’re in the office.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.