There is a dilemma for trans folks, especially trans folks like me who came out and began transition late in life. What do you do with the past? What do you do with cherished memories? What pronouns do folks use to refer to the pre-trans you? The last question is by far the easiest. Since I was always a trans woman, even when I didn't let anyone else know, my pronouns for the past are the same as my current pronouns. I use she/her pronouns now, if you are referring to me in the past (and you know my current preference) that's what you'd use for me in a past memory. I think it's the simplest and more importantly the most accurate way of using pronouns.
What to do with cherished memories is more complex. There are friends and relatives that knew me intimately throughout my pre-transition life. Many, I see very little in the present. We don't communicate regularly, except for the occasional Facebook like or perfunctory birthday card. Maybe even a semi-annual Facetime catch-up call. They remember the pre "out" me and don't think they have memories of the real me. Unfortunately, some even morn the loss of the person they thought they knew. I saw reference of a young trans woman talking with her mother. The mother said "You killed my son!". The truth is nobody died. The child was looking for emotional support from the parent and the only difference is now the parent knows what gender the child is. All the memories, the cherished memories, are still there. And it's ok to cherish them. As a matter of fact it is good have such memories, too much of our time is spent on bad memories and their consequences. The person in the memories and the person today are the same. You just know more about the trans person in front of you than you did when the memories were created.
My wife asked me recently if it bothered me to have pictures of the old me displayed around the house. I said no, the pictures represent some very special memories. One in particular, is us sitting at a table on the upstairs balcony at the South Beach bar 'Wet Willies'. The picture itself, while it captures us smiling quite drunkenly, is not notable. The memory is very positive and gives us both a giggle and a warm glow. The picture was taken by the waiter on Thanksgiving weekend 2001. The nation was still reeling from 9/11 and very slowly trying to return to 'normal'. Nobody was traveling, when we got to Miami International Airport from our flight down from New England, there were more armed National Guard soldiers than tourists. It was spooky. At the hotel on South Beach, there were a few more folks but less than half the normal Thanksgiving tourists. We traveled up and down Collins Ave and Ocean Drive unimpeded. The famous night spots, restaurants and bars were practically begging for us, or anyone, to come in and spend something. Half price drinks and discounted meals were abundant. We found our spot at Wet Willies around 10 on Friday night. We thought we'd have a drink or two and watch the rich and famous come out in their million dollar cars. At 11;30 we asked the waiter to take our picture and when would the famous people come out? He took the picture and told us, "Soon, things will be hopping, soon". The street was nearly empty, at midnight we had one more drink and waited and talked. At 12:30 we had one more. At 1:00 we started to see the Ferraris and Lamborghinis cruising and the excitement and noise on the street below started to rise and rise. We never really identified anyone, but had an absolute blast trying. After 2:00 we staggered back to the hotel and enjoyed a quiet Saturday by the pool. The memory from that night is filled with warm conversation and the picture of us on the sideboard in our dinning room brings it all back instantly, even 20 years later. Is it me in the picture? An emphatic YES! Is the memory for either of us dependent on how I was presenting? NO! If someone asked my wife who is that in the picture with you, she'd say "That's Jaimie and me on the balcony at Wet Willies in South Beach. She and I are having a few drinks, waiting, hoping to see some celebrities.".
In May of 1998, we went to Las Vegas to celebrate my 44th birthday. One of the special things we did was book a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. This was a big deal on a few fronts, it was expensive, it was nearly the whole day and my wife is very scared of heights and not sure she could keep her eyes open for the flight. In the morning, we met at the little airport behind the strip in Las Vegas . Our tour group was the two of us, the pilot and two other couples, one of them had an infant. On the way out to the Grand Canyon we were in the front with the pilot, the others in the back. In the front was the pilot on the right side, my wife in the middle and me on the left. We all had headphones, even the infant, to allow us to communicate and to block the noise from the helicopter. After some instructions and safety protocols, we took off. As we flew along enjoying the scenery, we were headed towards a butte (a mountain like thing with a flat top). As we got closer and closer, the pilot had done nothing to go over or around the butte. He was talking about the desert and canyons looking out the side window. My wife, nervous to begin with, was getting more and more distraught. She finally elbowed the pilot and pointed to the fast approaching butte. He turned and looked at her directly and deadpanned "Don't you have somedays where you just don't give a fuck?". After a stunned moment, he pulled the helicopter up and over the butte and dove into the Grand Canyon. It was spectacular!! I think we all cheered!! Once the pilot knew he had us hooked, the ride got more and more wild, along with the reminder on how little he was really paid and how much he relied on tips. Back at the airport we tipped him all the cash we had and thanked him for a thrilling day. That memory of the deadpan, the dive into Grand Canyon and many other tricks will never fade. While we don't have a physical picture, the memory is wonderful. Does it matter to that memory how I was presenting? Not an iota.
It's all real, those cherished memories are me. I was alive then and I'm alive now. Nobody died. For us trans folks, I feel bad for the people who can't see who we are and who we always were.