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An Over-analysis of Anniversaries

Well, it’s been a whole year since the start of this podcast. And in the spirit of the show I am celebrating through over-analysis of topics that people don’t normally talk about in daily conversation.

So today let’s over analyze the concept of anniversaries.

There are a few studies about the effects of anniversaries on a person’s perception of self and motivation. For one thing, we have a very strong tendency to divide our lives into chunks or chapters based on what the studies call “salient temporal landmarks.” These are usually very strong and recognizable moments in time such as birthdays, New Year celebrations, National or cultural holidays, etc. For some people these can also consist of the beginning or end of a relationship, a job, school, or other more personal landmarks.

So, what’s a group of people with a lot of temporal landmarks? Guess. I dare you, as a listener of this podcast, to guess wrong here.

And we do draw very strong lines between the phases of our lives surrounding these landmarks. “Pre-hrt,” “first year on hrt,” “post xyz procedure.” We divide the sections of our journey by a combination of solid, physical events: like getting your prescription in hand, getting your name changed, or getting a procedure done; and temporal anniversary markers like how many months or years since a particular event. These are the basis for the timelines some of us obsessively monitor in hopes of achieving the same level of results. They’re the basis of our expectations, whether we want to have those expectations or not, as well as the comparison and potential dysphoria if our reality at those landmarks does not match up to our expectations.

So what, really, is the significance of these temporal landmarks for us? Why do we celebrate them? How do people celebrate them? Should we even celebrate them at all? Certainly to the outside world these are not landmarks of the same category as birthdays or relationship anniversaries, so the likelihood of getting anyone outside of your close circle to be as excited about them is relatively slim. That’s fine, though. The celebration of a personal landmark does not require a parade and fanfare for it to be celebrated at its full potential. Instead, many people will take the opportunity to have a very personal celebration of their own, in their own significant way.

A decently common personal celebration in the trans community is a tattoo for the anniversary of starting hrt. For those who are able to and decide to start hormonal therapy for their transition, this is what they consider to be one of the first big milestones of their journey. The common designs I’ve seen for this kind of tattoo usually involves the date, either in regular characters or in roman numerals, and potentially some significant imagery of new beginnings. Phoenixes are a common trope among these for the symbolism of rebirth, but there are plenty of other symbols of new beginnings spanning multiple cultures. It all comes down to the individual and what is significant to them. PSA: Of course, getting a tattoo is never a necessity to the celebration of any milestone, and if you do decide to get one I do recommend doing ample research on your artist and parlor to ensure an enjoyable and safe experience.

So what about people who are not pursuing hrt for whatever reason? There are still very important milestones that can be celebrated in whatever way the person decides is right for them. For a large majority of the lgbt+ community, there’s the moment of realization of who they truly are, or the realization that who they are is not considered by society to be the default setting. There’s the “coming out” phase in which the individual is telling and showing the world who they really are. For some it’s the first time they purchased or wore and outfit that reflected their identity. Whatever moments in time that you find to be important milestones to your life’s journey are the moments that are worth celebrating.

So then why are we celebrating to begin with? Salient Temporal Landmarks are found to be used by the general population as times for self reflection and a kind of re-calibration. These are times where we look back on where we were before, and look forward to our potential future. A common starting point used for research is New Years, which is the time that people resolve to better themselves over the following year, regardless of how successful they may or may not be in acting on this. Other landmarks commonly cited for this viewpoint is birthdays, particularly decade birthdays. These can potentially come with more weight than a New Years self reflection, since our expectations of our lives tend to be partitioned off by thoughts of “I want to achieve blank by age yadda yadda,” and suddenly we’re faced with either the success or perceived failure to attain those goals by our arbitrarily set deadlines, and will end in lamentation and/or redoubled efforts to achieve our personal goals.

We can apply these same concepts to our landmarks in our transitioning journeys as well. It’s a good opportunity to reflect on how far you’ve come since the time many consider to be “the before time.” It’s a time to meditate on the concepts of who you were, who you are now, and who you want to be. Don’t limit yourself to your physical appearance, either. Also reflect on your emotional and psychological changes as well. How much have you grown as a person? How much more can you grow? What actionable items can you plot out to attain your goals? You’ve already taken steps to put your life in your own hands, so see how else you can positively shape it so that you can be the best possible version of yourself.

To quote a friend:

I am a body in motion

Who I am today is not who I will be tomorrow

I am grey I stand before the dark and the light

I am myself becoming me (or my true self becoming me)

I am trans

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5353b838e4b0e68461b517cf/t/53b17c1be4b09fe9f6e12f32/1404140571261/the-fresh-start-effect.pdf

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797615605818

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2012-27895-001

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5353b838e4b0e68461b517cf/t/5730b8c9b654f9062918926d/1462810825925/2015_PsychSci.pdf

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