On Loneliness

Loneliness is a common theme that runs through this blog. It’s common, because it’s common in my life. I very often feel alone.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my name change. I don’t celebrate my birthday, so some people in my life had asked if I would be open to celebrating a nameday. My wife and I had already talked about the idea, because she had hoped to have a day to celebrate me, since I guess she likes me at least a little bit.

Needless to say, all of the people that asked about it, those that I work with, friends of mine, even my own parents. Said absolutely nothing yesterday. After pushing me to get excited about it, and open myself up. To make myself vulnerable, so that I could be surprised and delighted about actually having something meaningful and good happen, that was exclusively about me. They couldn’t be bothered to recognize the day with even a simple message.

Having a day to feel special is not something that’s ever really happened for me. So I’m not going to lie, I was kind of excited, I thought hey, it’s a little different, but it gets me closer to feeling a little normal. Everyone gets a day that’s about them, that’s the whole point of birthdays, so it’s a second chance at a slice of regular, plain, normality.

So when no one even notices, an anniversary of something as spectacularly meaningful. I still remember the smile, the tears, the elation I felt when I held that stupid piece of paper in my hand. For something so small it meant so absolutely much. Even among all of the difficult and terrible things that had begun to unfold, and the year of pain and hardship that sits between yesterday and the same day last year. It’s still a testament to a lifetime of struggle to achieve something. To the labour of becoming oneself, and the effort of self actualization.

So to celebrate something so monumental seemed worthwhile to me. It was an important accomplishment. It was a defining moment in my life, and one I will treasure forever.

I just won’t celebrate it, because I now know, unequivocally, I am not worth celebrating. I’m not worth knowing, and I am especially not worth anyone’s time.

There’s a comfort in knowing where you stand. I know who cares about me, and even if the list only has one name on it, I at least had the foresight to marry her.

The Unspoken Line Between LGB and T

Netflix recently added a new special by Dave Chapelle called Sticks and Stones.

First off, I thought the special was hilarious. Especially, the segment about the alphabet people as he calls us.

You should go watch the segment, Here’s a link to an animated version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ_sPR2V1RA

I’m going to assume you’ve watched it. This interpretation of the community to me, is spot on.

To explain this I’m going to tell another story. Recently, I worked with my town to recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance. It would have been the first time the town did. I didn’t have a lot of time to organize anything, but I did get the town to agree to light up one of their buildings in the trans pride flag.

Well, they did the rainbow instead. When we went to go see the building lit up, I was pretty immediately disappointed. What was more disappointing was what happened when I shared a picture of the building to a group of local folks in the community. Where I was somewhat crushed to see the town, on a day specifically for the trans community reduce us to just ‘the rainbow people’ none of the queer folk saw anything wrong with it. They’re trying they said, what should I expect they said.

A more polite way of saying “just shut the fuck up.” sure, but still not nice, and definitely not very inclusive. There’s the unspoken line right there, and it manifests in so many different ways. It’s why the trans community had to wait until the gay community was more settled before we were invited back in.

Everyone says that pride was started by trans women of colour. Yet no one cares that the T wasn’t widely added to the acronym until the late 90’s, 30 years after Stonewall, what happened between those points? No need to speak of that. Gay political groups undermined the advancement of trans rights in order to secure their own, as gay rights were seen as more politically palatable and advancing the community as one would hold them back. We don’t talk about it, but it’s a part of our history.

“Just shut the fuck up.”

It’s why when I talk to an old gay man about how we were both hurt when we came out to our parents he was brave and he told me I’m selfish and need to understand my parents perspective.

Because it’s hard to love trans people, it’s hard to accept trans people.

Because we’re different within the community, Because it’s their community and they’re generous enough to allow us in.

I often feel the most accepted by the community when I’m perceived just as a lesbian, not a trans lesbian, I can’t bring that up. Acceptance to them is accepting that I’m gay just like them, the trans part is messy and difficult and better left out of polite society.

I’ve spoken of this before, and it’s so pervasive. This idea that because trans people are begrudgingly accepted in the community, that we should be happy. So they don’t need to try and meet any of our unique needs, because we should appreciate that they let us in at all. So we shouldn’t be upset when they expect us to “Just shut the fuck up.”

They’re trying, and that’s supposed to be good enough.

 

 

 

 

On Belonging

Belonging is a hard feeling to quantify. You can be welcomed somewhere and not belong. You can have the warmest reception and everyone be kind and gentle with you and still not belong.

Belonging requires that you not just exist in a space but that you have a right to it, that you aren’t just allowed to enter but to take up that space and be free to express yourself within it.

Talking about taking up space and claiming your own expression is a concept that is difficult for some people to understand. Those are people that have never had issues with that concept. If you’ve never felt like you haven’t belonged, it’s hard to imagine how others might feel.

There’s many reasons space is denied people, children are often denied space because as adults we feel they don’t use it the way we want them to. Beyond that there are countless reasons we deny space to our fellow humans, and in a lot of those cases I doubt there’s any credible reason. We deny space to women, we deny it on racial lines, we deny it on the basis of sexuality and gender, we deny it to the young, we deny it to the old. We deny it to the ugly, to the poor, to those that are sick, to those that suffer from mental illness, to those that are disabled, and to those that look different, act different, think different.

Are different.

The elegance of belonging, the crux of politeness culture, of rules of professionalism, of guidelines for etiquette, is that it goes unspoken. Belonging is the responsibility of the unwelcome. Conform or move on. When you walk into a room and the conversation immediately stops until you choose to stop bothering others, or you choose to continue to take up space that is silently not offered to you. Each act you take after that reinforces the fact you aren’t’ welcome and that you are disrupting some unspoken status quo.

It takes an incredible amount of energy and nerve… yes it do take nerve, to claim space. To exist freely and openly, to flaunt that which makes you different, even where there’s no reason that you are different.

Sometimes it takes nerve just to exist, to belong in your own head. The pressure outside of your mind forces it’s way in sometimes.  The internalized hate that infects your mind and makes you feel less then those around you. I’ve talked before about the shame that I feel about my own life, the weakness I felt growing up, the control I tried to exert because I felt helpless. Belonging starts in your own heart and head.

Finding places that you can just be, space that is given freely and without reservation is often rare, but it’s important to find those spaces, because I believe we all have an internal battle with our own issues to fight, and sometimes relieving the pressure on the outside is what’s needed to keep your own house in order.

As far as claiming space for yourself and being able to just exist.

Well I’m still working on that.

 

I Still Don’t Hate my Penis

One of the most looked at posts I’ve ever made is I Don’t Hate my Penis I don’t really know why. Maybe hating your penis is something that resonates with folks, or the fact that I don’t hate mine is controversial.

But I wanted to have a bit of a penis appreciation post right here. If you’re not comfortable with that, then please stop reading, I don’t want to trigger anyone’s dysphoria here. Or make anyone more uncomfortable then they currently are. If you’re along for the ride though, it’s going to get personal up in here.

Often transness is reduced to very medical terms, it’s often a discussion of surgeries, of characteristics. Which is totally okay, but sometimes it would be nice to be positive about one’s body. It’s mostly bad, but it’s not all bad, I know positivity coming from me, very off brand.

I like my lady dick, which for all intensive purposes is just a regular dick, maybe a little smaller then usual, definitely smaller then it was pre-hormones, but a dick nonetheless.

And that’s A-okay.

Maybe it’s a result of my trans experiences, maybe it’s just a flaw in my worldview but I’ve never made the connection that genitals = gender. Maybe it was a product of my time, it’s not like anyone was talking about this stuff almost thirty years ago, so I got to grow up thinking whatever I wanted about it. Sex and gender have always been fairly separate in my own head. Which has come in handy. It’s got me in the situation I am now.

The scarier thing, and I know it’s scary because I’ve scared people by sharing this fact. Is not only do I not hate my penis, I even like using it. I was at a conference recently with obviously still gendered gender neutral bathrooms, which is a story for another day. The point I’m going to make is I pissed at a urinal for the first time in a long time, and I’m not going to lie, I kind of liked it. There’s something powerful about peeing while standing in five inch heels. Not an every day necessity, but on occasion, hell yeah.

Another point in the penis-euphoria section… It still works, and I use it.Here’s some fast answers to some of the questions I get.

  • Does it work the same?
    • No
  • Does it feel good?
    • Yes, but in different ways. For example it’s not a prostate heavy orgasm, as there’s very little ejaculate.
    • I also ‘arrive’ more then once now.
  • Can you have sex?
    • Yes, you don’t need a penis to have sex.
      • Also yes, I can still have penis-vagina sex, don’t have the staying power I used to and sometimes there’s some discomfort afterwards, but I am able to ‘get it up’ and use it.

I’m sure there’s more but those are the big ones, yes my endocrinologist was amazed when we talked about this, so this is not a particularly well understood thing. The only thing I can think of is that since I don’t really have any genital dysphoria that there isn’t really a block on having an erections. Erections are part mental and part hormonal, so there’s not the hormonal support, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

So there you go one trans woman’s opinions on her penis. Solicited or not it’s here, and if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask.

 

Remembering Without Wallowing Pt. 2

This isn’t a post that I thought would get a follow-up, but it’s interesting how our perspectives change. As I come up to the first year since coming out completely and socially transitioning and all of those big milestones There’s a few things I find interesting, and some new challenges to deal with.

If you’d like to read the first part it’s here: Remembering Without Wallowing

One of the most interesting parts of this is the fact that I now have a life lived, as a woman. Which needless to say is a very interesting experience.

Before transitioning all of my memories had one thing in common, they were coming from a male presentation, a life that didn’t feel like it belonged to me, but ultimately that maleness always changed the tone of something negative.

I remember going out to buy clothes before my first day of school in Junior High. My parents must have had some extra money, because it was the first time my mother had ever shown any excitement toward me spending money, and she wanted me to ‘find my style.’

It was really a free range offer to express myself. The problem? Expressing myself as a man isn’t something that really works well for me. So an experience that should have been foundational and important, and really could have been a good memory was ruined by the maleness attached to it.

As a tangent, I bought clothes that looked incredibly similar to what most of my friends wore and was made fun of for it for years. I didn’t emulate, I copied, and it showed. I learned to be slightly unique after that, still male, but a unique one, it wasn’t really my own expression or related to anything I felt. I just needed to be different, to be overly male, to fall into easy stereotypes. The best way to hide is to be so obvious no one notices you don’t belong. Yeah, I wore dress shoes in high school, and button up shirts.

Anyways, getting back to my point. I have the interesting challenge now of addressing my life and my memories, of a life that does feel real. Of decisions I’ve made and am not only accountable for, but really don’t have an excuse.

Memories are a weird thing. They don’t always mean the same thing to you twice. I had no intention when I started writing this to tell the story that I did, but it fit where my head space was. Really, it’s a good story, at the time it was terrifying to me, expressing myself was dangerous. If only my mother had of known that pain and difficulty it caused me, but I know to her it’s probably a good memory. It was one of the first times I’d really had the chance to be more mature, and make my own choices. It was likely an important milestone for her as a parent, and could have been a good one for me.

If I can describe my experience as a trans woman growing up, it’s that dichotomy. My transness took away even the good memories because I wasn’t in the moment and I wasn’t experiencing what I was supposed to be. Those foundational elements of your life are always wrong, they don’t quite fit who you are. That’s the hardest thing about remembering the past is the parts that are good, but weren’t good for you.

That’s a good memory, and I need to learn to appreciate the goodness in it. Even if it doesn’t feel good immediately, I need to learn to focus on the good.

 

 

 

The Pain We Cause Our self

You can’t be hurt unless you care. That’s something I’ve known for a very long time, but it also comes with the caveat that you can’t enjoy unless you care.

I lived most of my life in an emotional void. Very little really permeated that void, about the only thing that could was anger, and even then it was present but often subdued.

It’s hard to predict what will happen when you start feeling, it’s hard to know feelings and emotions work when you’ve never known them before.

I didn’t know how much pain I had endured.

I didn’t know how much interest was owed on that pain.

I really didn’t know that I was going to have to work through a quarter century of pain and suppressed emotions without any particular control.

I knew I was broken, I knew I couldn’t feel, but knowing something is broken is not the same as fixing it. Transitioning fixed it, it opened the flood gates, and it started the pain.

If I read through what I’ve written here, which has seen some pretty unfortunate events recorded in it, I see that the event itself was not the sum total of my pain. It’s not the pain of the event in question, it’s the flood of pain from a lifetime of events similar to it coming through. My anxiety is not just the fear of the current situation, it is also untold moments of fear before it coming to the surface.

All of this pain, is my pain, I have blamed others for it, but it is my own anxiety, it is my own fear, it is my own anger, it is the sum total of every night I cried myself to sleep as a child wishing to wake up a girl, it is every friendship that I blamed my friend for not being strong enough to help me, it is every member of my family I blamed for not seeing the real me and helping me.

All of the pain I hold onto is the pain of a life of regret. All of the pain I wish to release is the pain of a child, then youth, then adult holding them self to an impossible standard in order to survive.

As a child I wished for my life to end, I ran in front of cars hoping they would strike me, I was assumed careless when I was really apathetic. I ran away from home at eleven years old, I woke up early in the morning, packed everything I would need to start what I thought would be a new life. I planned to bicycle to a cousin who lived 100km away. I made it about 10 km before realizing I hadn’t packed water.

I went home, I’d locked myself out of the house I waited on the steps for my parents to wake up. My mother was furious when I told her what I’d done. She said we’d talk about it later. She went to work. I sat in the kitchen, not knowing if I should go to school or what to do. I stewed and I thought and I pondered.

We never spoke of it again.

I tried to kill myself a few months later. Again I woke up in the early hours of the morning. I didn’t want to be stopped from what I planned to do. I’d brought a knife with me to bed. I was eleven years old, I didn’t have some grandiose plan, but I knew that I could hack myself up well enough to die. I held the knife to my skin. I waited longer then I probably should have.

The only thing that stopped me, was a single thought, someday I can be myself. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that in eight years, when I was 19 I could move out on my own, and start figuring out my life. Everything from that day on was about survival.

I had no idea what puberty was going to look like. The struggle and pain that would be. The hurt that I would push down until I couldn’t feel anything at all.

I’ve blamed almost everyone around me for the pain. As if they should have known and maybe, just maybe saved me. Ultimately it’s just me that hurts. Those around me aren’t wounded by the pain I hold in my heart.

I’ve always carried the burden, I knew with absolute certainty that what I was, was wrong, was disgusting, was something to hate, was something to hide.

I grew up ashamed of who I was, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t ashamed of myself. Even now that shame still haunts me. And it hurts. It hurts so much.

I can blame every little moment for making it worse, I can tell you when things have felt worse and better, but ultimately, it’s the pain that I cause to myself that hurts the most. It’s the childhood I regret not having, it’s the milestones in my life that I will never achieve. I will never, ever have the full life I wanted for myself. I will never get to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of growing up. I lived a life for everyone but myself to survive. and I hate that it was the choice I had to make. I hate and resent those around me because I feel like I lived a life for them and they don’t appreciate it. I stand as I am today in spite of their fears and hatreds. Yet they don’t know the pain that I feel in my heart. They don’t will the pain on me, it is pain of my own creation.

It is the pain I’ve attributed to others because of the shame I’ve felt in my own heart. Every moment of weakness growing up when I had to express some degree of femininity, like some sort of addict under the influence of a great compulsion.

The fires I started in the bathroom as a teenager to hide the fact that the nail polish remover I was using wasn’t for some pyrotechnic thrill but to hastily scrub and clean off the nail polish I’d put on my nails so I could see my hands as a girl’s hands, for even a second. The hastily applied make-up at lunch time in junior high so I could try and see the woman that might lie ahead. The burning astringent I used to take it off, stinging my eyes.

I was ashamed of every moment, the second of joy would be accompanied with days of guilt and shame. Each second I’d let the polish dry the anxiety that i couldn’t get it off later would grow but still I watched it, one of the only escapes from my male presentation.

The constant dread and fear of one of my parents coming home and catching me. The very real terror when it happened. My hurried run to the bathroom and panicked cleanup to hide the evidence of my crime. The hasty excuses and half believed reasons I was in the bathroom for so long. My parents ignoring or not noticing my red and raw skin.

This is part of my pain. A life not lived, and even a moment to enjoy was filled with sorrow and pain. Momentary relief, a compulsion I couldn’t understand and feared. An entire false person-hood I wore around me like a costume, so that I could feel safe enough to survive. Longing for some as yet unknowable and unforeseeable future day I could meet myself.

Some people long to meet someone, a celebrity and deceased relative, a friend now gone. I longed more then anything to meet myself, in some impossible future where I was me.

A future I’m now living. That teenager, so alone and scared, and full of rage and hatred and fear and loathing, mostly of herself because she didn’t see herself as that. Because she saw a young man growing out of her body and hating it more and more. With no way to believe that things could or would get better.

That is my past, my legacy, my life is one of pain, and I attach it to others because the truth is. That I hate myself, and now that I can feel and so desperately want to be able to love myself, and worse still I sometimes do, I’m afraid I never will. Because I’m so scared, and afraid, and ashamed of who I am. I wish I was stronger, I wish I was better, I wish that I could love myself.

Someday I will.

 

Damned regardless

I had an interesting case of being misgendered recently. It was interesting, because the only thing that I can really think of that triggered it, was the fact that i was not particularly coy about having an opinion.

I was being a bit of a bitch, I was in a store, they’d changed a membership program that I’ve always paid into, and in some respects, not for the negative. It just somewhat stuck with me, that they were changing it, and I didn’t like it. So I was vocal about it. I said I don’t like it. I said I don’t want to change, and was somewhat assertive about it.

Which is apparently far too masculine a thing to do, because then the he and him started.

I’ve talked about it before, but one of the elements of my transition that I have struggled with is sexism. This is really just a different outcome then usual.

Often what happens is I’m perceived as a woman, thus when I act in accordance with my own desires and not of those around me I’m the one who is hurt when I am suddenly and viscerally put into my place. It’s an internal problem for me, and something that I have to deal with the consequences of. Because people do not like a woman with an expectation of respect.

In this case, what happened was there were no real consequences, they just took my femininity. They denied my womanhood because I dared to have a meaningless opinion and stick to it. Not out of some designed attack on my womanhood, but by merely accepting my somewhat ridiculous stance on a meaningless topic, but they only accepted it and moved on because they had labelled me as male.

So I must now contend with the fact that my options whenever I assert myself are to experience sexism, or transphobia. If I’m too assertive then I’m too male, I’m too masculine, I’m not a real woman. If I accept my proper role in society and stay silent when I could speak up I’m propagating sexist ideals.

I know this is a conflict most women face, that dilemma between standing up for yourself and being abused, or enjoying some peace in your day and being disrespected. What is different for me is that I don’t get to hold onto being ‘that kind of woman’ when I stand out for expecting better. I’m not an angry feminist. My womanhood is denied and I’m placed upon some male throne momentarily. Much like most trans exclusionary feminists accuse trans women of doing. The uncomfortable truth about this. Is that I don’t get to choose when this happens. Nor do I enjoy it when it does.

It’s decimating to me that someone sees me as a man for expressing an opinion. You know how many terrible things that means for our society? I don’t have an exact answer but a lot. It means a lot of terrible things for us as a society that assertiveness is so masculine a trait that it overshadows my entire presentation in the eyes of others.

It’s not right, and it’s harmful for all of us.