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.

 

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.

Gifts

Walking about, without purpose or doubt

Trepidation and angst, wanting to shout

Fraud, Fraud, Fraud is all that you are

Your gifts are empty, your presence we bar.

 

But the barring won’t come, there’s none who suspect.

That there’s nothing of hope or of joy i inject.

Merely I take, and I squander and ruin.

The opportunities others, would give their whole due in.

 

I can’t give all I should, and try to repent.

but next darken a door, with kindness unspent

 

 

The Value of Stories

I’ve always had an interest in history. One of the greatest joys, and heartaches I’ve found over the last six months is discovering queer and trans history.

The stories are empowering and give me life. The fortitude and endurance that has been required to move our community to this point is astounding to me. It gives me hope, and it supports me when I’m feeling down.

I want to talk about a profoundly moving moment I had a few weeks ago. Even though it’s not based on a real story, the relevance of it spoke to me. I was watching the new Tales of the City, and we got to a certain episode set in the sixties.

The episode centers around Compton’s Cafeteria, and what happened that fateful night. What struck me, and it struck me hard. Was to see this dramatization of these deep rooted fears, and to see presented, and then validated, those deep deep, to the core of my being fears around being an out trans woman.

I’m not that old, but I still grew up thinking that the best I could hope for, was to not hope for anything at all. To be able to see, just a sliver of the faceless amorphous terror that still haunts me, gave me an opportunity to deal with it. To see it for what it was, I knew it was fear, but it was the fear of an isolated little girl living in a world that didn’t make any sense, forced into a life that didn’t fit. All of the years of running and hiding away, trying to build a life that I could call my own. It all made sense why I’d felt that incredible pressure, why I’d felt like I didn’t belong in the world.

So it was also so powerful to see that turned on its head, and see that there was still a future and that I’m part of something bigger then myself, and to feel it, and to feel connected to this whole history, as rough and bloody and awful as it might be. I belong in this world, and that I’m made of some pretty tough stuff.

On those days that I just wanted to scream ‘why don’t you love me world! Why don’t you want me!’ I understand now, Not in a thinking rational way, I’ve had that for awhile. On an emotional level, to the core of my being there’s now a sliver of light because I know that I’m not alone in feeling that, and if I’m not alone then there’s love in this world, and if there’s love and acceptance somewhere, then I need to keep that light for the next, and the next, and the next. Until we all feel welcome.

In and among the whole sobbing mess that I’d made of myself, and I cried for a solid hour. The pain and anger, and then the realization, and then the laughter and joy. All at once at times. Just letting that all pour out of me.

I walked down my hall and looked in the mirror. In the mirror looking back at me was this hysterical, sobbing, snotty woman.

It was the first time I’d looked in the mirror and seen a woman. Known that the woman I was looking at was me. Not a woman that needed to be looked through a lens, or squinted to see, not a woman with conditions or explanations. I saw myself, the woman I always knew that I was looking back to me. The messy crying disaster of a woman that I am. Smiling like an idiot back at myself.

and I laughed, and I felt changed in that moment. I felt a wholeness of spirit that I hadn’t felt before. I felt good, and felt good about myself. I’ve had other fulfilling moments before that, but that was so powerful. To just feel at peace with myself and what I am.

I am a woman, and I’m going to be okay.

 

The Pain of Loneliness and Isolation

Coming out publicly has involved a lot of painful and difficult times. One of the aspects I hadn’t really considered, was how lonely I would still feel.

Before I came out to anyone, it was my burden alone, I couldn’t expect anything from anyone, because no one else knew. Which was fine, I understood that.

As I’ve come out to more people, the weight doesn’t seem to get any lighter. Sure, there is plenty of support offered, but no one knows what it feels like. I’ve talked about it before, but coming out has never felt good to me, it has always scared me, and left me feeling vulnerable and isolated afterwards. Yet, the straight and cis people in my life assume that it must feel like a burden has been lifted.

To take a tangent, I think it’s because they think it’s the same as coming clean on a big lie. That it would feel like the weight of the lie was lifted now that the truth is out. Yet though I know I had to lie to stay in the closet, I never felt like a liar. I felt like someone trying to survive. I didn’t feel the relief on honesty, I felt the fear of vulnerability.

I work a lot, and I work with a group of white, cis, straight people. Most of whom come from good families, and have had good opportunities in life. I grew up poor, I’ve been the only one to worry about myself as long a I can remember. I moved out on my own as soon as I could. I put myself through school and have had to make a lot of sacrifices to catch up to most of my peers.

So I couldn’t even really start dealing with the whole being gay and trans thing until I’d found a modicum of safety and security. Pulling yourself out of poverty is a lot easier when the world thinks you’re a straight white man. Doesn’t do a lot of good to your psyche or sense of self worth.

So most of my struggles and experiences are alien to the people around me. I’ve got seriously reduced vision in my right eye because of a treatable eye disease that could have been diagnosed sooner had I had the money to see an optometrist. Sure, $150 to see a doctor that might be able to save an eye sounds like a small amount, but there were a lot of those small things that when added up I couldn’t afford. By the time the eye was bad enough I needed to deal with it, I’d gotten through school and had a job with benefits.

No matter how far I go in life my past will always be there, and who I am and what I am will always be a present part of my life. When you regularly spend your time with people that can’t understand any part of your life, and can’t empathise with your experiences it makes you feel so very lonely.

I work with and I know a lot of good people, caring people. Yet I feel I need to isolate myself at times because I know they can’t handle my story, they can’t understand it. I know it won’t do any good to stress them out, so I go on in silence with my own pain.

People think that inclusion means creating an environment where no one experiences hate or discrimination. Yet they don’t realise that the isolation eats away at people just as easily. It makes certain spaces significantly less appealing because you know you have the responsibility and burden of holding the weight of expectation and bias and all the other negative emotions and ideas that people carry around with them. It’s hard to walk into a room and know that you are the single point of connection between everyone else’s discomfort.

It’s exhausting and lonely to be isolated like that, yet without the first person to endure that, there can never be a second to take up the weight. Eventually you hope there will be others to help you carry it all and hopefully get rid of it for good.

Retelling History

I’ve talked before about coming out to my mother. it was a bad experience. You can read about it here if you’d like.

Coming out to my mother Part 1

There’s two parts, enjoy if you wish. What I’m going to talk about today is the interesting way in which we perceive our own histories.

Growing up I didn’t have a lot to rely on, rose tinted glasses are a very ingrained tradition in my family. So if I wanted to keep a firm grasp on reality, I had to stay keenly aware of my memories. As I couldn’t rely on those around me to remember stories correctly.

So I was rather amazed when I spoke to my mother over Christmas and told her that I had thrown out an ornament my brother got my wife and I for Christmas the year we were married. Frankly, I didn’t think a Mr & Mrs ornament had any place on my tree.

(We’d considered giving it away but the only other wedding we attended that year had also been a gay wedding. It was a nice ornament, just not appropriate for us.)

My mum, in her infinite wisdom told me that she had bought the ornament. “Why?” I asked, “you knew I was trans.” She didn’t remember when I’d told her. The bitter tears of rage had evaporated from her memory. I was married two years ago, I came out to my mother five years ago. She’d managed to lose the timing of an event, and likely the negative feelings to a more convenient place and time of her choosing.

Which is frankly. the worst example of that behavior I’ve had to endure. We all lose track of events at times, no one remembers everything that happens to them. But to forget when I came out to you, especially considering how poorly she took it, and how much that still hurts me today, was another painful stab in my side.

I don’t wish I could forget like she did. Because there’s power in remembrance. I just wish my mother, and my family had the strength to remember along side me.

The subtlety of trans unacceptance

My Wife and I are in the process of becoming foster parents. This process hit a rather unfortunate roadblock the other day. My wife started her own business a month ago, it’s a busy time, she is working more then ever. She’s enjoying her work and its been a really positive experience.

The social worker doing our assessment tried to explain it wasn’t entirely because of my transition that she wasn’t ready to accept our application. She was great about it, I can tell she cares, and I’m curious how much of her misgivings are from her supervisor. I can not help but think that if my wife was my husband, they would forgive a busy father. That I am seen as too unstable because of my transition, I need the support of a ‘real’ mother for those kids.

I’m pretty devastated, my wife and I aren’t in a position to have kids of our own obviously, and we’re not sure about adoption yet, but fostering was a way for us to do some good, we have a huge empty house, we both have had rough childhoods and want to try and give some warmth and safety to a kid that really needs it. I know we’ll be good at it.

I’ve talked about how I don’t hate being trans, how its a defining part of me and has shaped me into the person I am. I wouldn’t change it if I could. I do so wish that it didn’t make my life so difficult. I find myself feeling tired, not physically tired, but emotionally. Having to justify transness, and explain it, and put it into a box it doesn’t fit in is exhausting.

I am a person, I am a human being, I am a woman who happens to be trans. I want nothing more then the dignity afforded others. I wish only to be treated like a person with a name that explains who I am, not who my parents thought I was before I was born. I wish that my sum total experiences were cherished and celebrated for what they are not as a contradiction of what is ‘normal’ (which just means straight and cisgender.) I long for a world in which transness is an experience that can be shared with others to enrich them, not to justify why others are ‘coerced’ into being uncomfortable.

Every culture is enriched by the variety of experiences and stories that are allowed to enliven it. Let us culturally accept that transness does not fit into any other context then itself and give it the room and space to breathe life into the lives of those who don’t experience it. Let trans people be people, let them give you strength as their experiences have given them, let their stories give your life greater meaning, let their struggles help you understand your own. We are not monsters, we are not to be feared, we are not looking to upset any natural order, we are but people whose place in history has long been blotted out, and whose stories have not been allowed to pass to others. That no more makes us new, or frightening then any other group who have existed outside of ‘proper society.’

Trans stories and lives matter, we have a role in society, we have a place in the hearts of those around us. We have a right to do good around us. Just let us.