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.

 

Focusing on Why

I struggle at times, I’m not sure where it came from, I don’t know it it’s some remnant of a life spent asking myself every other question. I have a hard time not knowing why.

Not in any particular way, but in a very general sense, I want to know why something works the way it does. I did a test the other day. it was meant to determine one’s bias towards associating men and women with family and career. Rather then focusing on the test, which was basically a word association game. I couldn’t help but focus on how it worked, Until I understood how it worked, and why it did what it did. I figured it out while I was writing the test, but likely skewed my results because of the brainpower I put into figuring out the game.

For those that are curious it compared the time it took you to respond in different scenarios to different word associations. If I had of known it was going to explain that to me at the end, I wouldn’t have needed to think it through.

Which comes to my point, I struggle when I don’t know why something is the way that it is. I want to know how to works, I want to know why someone made it. I like knowing the who, the what, even the where and when can be interesting, how is usually important to breaking something down, but I need to know why. I need a purpose, I need a goal. I need to understand why someone put the effort into something in the first place.

Which is a struggle for me at times, because I don’t often have a ready answer. It challenges me in the workplace, because I want to very much to ascribe some grand plan, or well executed thought to an action of a co-worker or boss. Yet often there isn’t one. I’m not a fan of something happening because of apathy or lack of attention. It means that there is no reason something happened, there is no why.

I’ve been talking about motivation a lot lately, and it often comes down to why. If I don’t feel like my purpose, and the purpose of others are in alignment I struggle. I need to know that there’s more to something then inertia. The worst answer I can ever hear to a question is that “it is because it is.”

I’ve put a lot of effort in my life into knowing myself, and I’m not particularly good at it, but it’s a lifelong goal, and part of knowing yourself is why you do what you do, and we live in a social world, nothing is an effort of one. Knowing the why around you helps you understand yourself.

 

Finding Motivation Pt. 3

In continuation of my discussion around finding motivation, finding purpose, finding meaning. I find myself itching to discuss this when my motivation is at it’s lowest. In August I talked about this topic specifically, if you’d like to read them they’re linked below.

Finding Motivation

Finding Motivation Pt. 2

So I talked there about finding purpose and meaning and ultimately motivation beyond the prescribed methods. Material fulfillment is limited in a world that legitimizes discrimination in many different and subtle ways. Social fulfillment can be fleeting or difficult to grasp when confronted with the fact that your presence makes people uncomfortable, not because of anything you’ve done but what you represent to them. Spiritual fulfillment can be almost impossible when your existence challenges the basis of most modern religions.

Without a lot of external support, we’re left with only what we muster ourselves. I’ve said this before, but finding motivation has come down to what I can put forward for myself. There’s very little pushing me to succeed, what I mean is that there’s little expectation to succeed, and when I fail there’s a general acceptance that I shouldn’t have expected any different. Nobody goes, ‘well I think you should have done better, let’s see what went wrong and see if we can help you next time.’ instead I’ve come to expect ‘what did you think would happen?’

It’s amazing how pervasive the expectation of failure can be, it infects me at times. So if my earlier writing was about finding motivation, I guess I just need to elaborate that it’s not a one and done solution, you don’t find motivation and then you’re good forever, finding meaning and substance to what you’re doing. Finding a reason to do what you do, is a process that never stops. When no one expects you to do well, then you’ve got to fight everyday to not believe them. It’s hard, it’s tiring, but it’s the most important thing you’ll do.

A life of contemplation, a life of purpose, a life of meaning, a life of substance. A life worth living.

 

On Conforming

I’ve touched on this topic without ever directly discussing it.

The concept of conformity, of yielding to the group is one that I struggle intimately with.

My very existence sets me apart, my experiences are different then the majority of peoples, my perception of events is changed by my experiences and thus I interpret the world a little differently then the majority of people I interact with.

Yet, I am always acutely aware that it is their world. We live in a cis-centric heteronormative world. No matter how hard I try I can’t escape the fact that I am different, that my life is not the same as most people’s, and as such my experiences and opinions are different and at times difficult and inherently confrontational.

I am challenged at times to keep my opinions to myself, when problems arise that are so gendered in nature that I want to scream “it doesn’t matter” but I have to stop myself, I have to conform to the environment I’m in and understand that the way I perceive the world differs from others. Problems that I see as a result of a specific way of thinking are traditional values passed down generations that can be painful to challenge for others.

I’m sure there are many ways that my opinions and ideas challenge the orthodoxy of others. The fact that I and others like me exist inherently challenges rigid and defined gender roles, ideas of gender, and the role that gender has in our lives.

So conforming is both something I am pushed to, upholding feminine roles and ideals, not challenging sexism, and confining myself to a more narrow few of femininity then I truly believe because the alternative is transphobia. Yet conforming is also somethign I loathe and wish desperately to break free from, because it’s unilateral about appeasing an external world that still won’t like me, while also infringing on my own internal liberty.

Forcing conformity onto those that are different is evidence of a sick and disillusioned people, enamored with an ideal that can’t exist and afraid of a reality that forces them to acknowledge hard truths.

 

On Feeling Happy

I’ve recently been confronted with a rather difficult truth. That for the most part, the average person, on a regular basis, feels happy.

Not is happy, not thinks they’re happy, but actually experiences happy or joyful feelings.

Which is completely off the mark for me. When people talked about something making them happy, I never actually assumed that that meant that they then felt happy.

I’m likely the broken one, but my entire understanding of how the people around me work and make decisions has had to very rapidly shift, and it’s difficult to handle.

To give some context, I can think of feeling good, or happy or joy whatever you want to call it, maybe a handful of times in my life. All of which have been in the last few years. So to say, that I have a great appreciation for feeling happy would be a mistake. I was pretty excited to have felt it the few times I had. I thought I was doing well.

Now I find out, that I’m way on the outside. That people do things just to chase a feeling. It makes the world make more sense, and I believe it was something I knew, I just didn’t really internalize it.

I don’t really have a point here. I’m still working my head around it, but that’s the probleme d’jour.

Ego sum. ego existo

My very first post, was around the purpose of why I started this whole blog in the first place. I had set out to create a guidebook for trans professionals. Which I would hope is evident from the name of the blog.

What I didn’t know at the time, was how difficult it was going to be to get the life experience necessary to begin to write that guidebook.

Transitioning is hard. It takes all of your courage, and it takes all of your strength. I know I spent my entire life dreaming of a day like today, where I’m sitting at my desk, in my own office, with some time to think on my hands, and a little bit of reflection in my heart. Whether I particularly dreamed of the office is irrelevent, what I’m intending is that I had some comfort and space to just exist.

That’s ultimately what it comes down to, ego sum, ego existo. I am, I exist. The original writing of Descartes, I think therefore I am. I think the original speaks more broadly to my truth. Because I thought long before I was.

Let me explain that better. I spent most of my life in the shadow of myself, trying desperately to unwind myself from the shell that surrounded me. To confuse matters more, we’re more then just ourselves in the single context of our mind. Though the mind is the source of our reason, and thus our self. It is within a social world, a physical interactive world that the self is actualized and realized.

So my own thinking mind was never enough, could never be enough to realize my entire person. It is only within the context of it’s expression truthfully could I begin to know myself and just be.

It’s difficult to explain but the last year has been the process of introducing myself to me and learning to express myself to others, for the first time, openly and honestly. Learning how to understand my emotions, feeling them with the richness and endless possibility that exists, not just repressing and suffering under their load.

Now I feel like I am, and therefore I exist.