I’m a thinker and I really like to understand things (including myself). I’m also transgender and genderqueer, which can make the whole understanding myself thing pretty difficult (if not outright impossible at times). I’ve struggled a lot to make sense of my experience of gender and to figure out what I should do about it. I’ve recently started a gender transition and this blog is an effort to capture and explain as much as I can about that. I hope it turns out to be illuminating.
About the name:
My undergraduate degree was in mathematics and I’ve long been fascinated by infinity, and taken philosophical inspiration from it. One of the most interesting things I studied as a math major was the theory of transfinite (a.k.a. infinite) numbers. The smallest transfinite magnitude, Aleph-0, is the “regular old” infinity that most people are familiar with. It’s the infinity that you get if you count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … and keep going forever. The next transfinite magnitude is Aleph-1. Aleph-1 is my favorite transfinite number because it’s the first number that’s too big to reach just by taking small steps like 1, 2, 3, etc. It’s fundamentally larger than just “putting one foot in front of the other.” To reach something the size of Aleph-1 you have have no choice but to take giant leaps.
I’m not a religious person and I don’t believe in the supernatural, but the kind of leap you have to take to get to Aleph-1 feels a bit like a “leap of faith” to me. I love Aleph-1 so much because it’s so precisely defined and so well understood and yet it’s too complicated and too huge to ever get to if you stop to digest each piece along the way. Aleph-1 reminds me that as much as I like to understand, some things in life are too big and too complicated to understand. Sometimes we just have to take leaps to get where we’re going. Sometimes we have to move forward on faith without really knowing quite what we’re doing.
Aleph-1 inspires me to take the leaps I need to in my life. Or at least it removes the illusion that I have any hope of getting through life without taking leaps. Aleph-1 helped me move to New York City after college. And it helped me drop my career in computers when I was burned out and go to grad school in philosophy instead. And it helped me get my through my gender identity crisis and now Aleph-1 is helping me get through my gender transition. If an atheist can have a spirituality then my spirituality has transfinite numbers at its core.
In addition to loving transfinite numbers and feeling like they play a part in my emotional and spiritual process, I also like the way the word “transfinite” breaks down into “trans” and “finite”. It feels like not only can the word represent the need to take leaps to get through things I don’t understand, but it can also represent the parts of my being trans that are finite and comprehensible. I feel like “TransFinite” captures both sides of the fundamental tension in how I deal with my gender: the desire to make sense of as much of my gender experience as I can, as well as the simultaneous recognition that ultimately I’ll never complete the task of understanding it and that I have to move forward with faith that what I’m doing is right.