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.

 

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.

Pushing past being a pushover

I’m a pretty confident person, not always by choice, part of it is my profession and part of it is who I am, mixed in with a healthy dose of unending opinions from people about being Trans. So I know I’m fully capable of expressing myself and letting my opinion be heard. Yet, I don’t always choose to do so and I’m starting to wonder why.

I’ll give an example of a situation I find myself in, my office is small there’s only two of us here full time. So to keep the office open we both go to lunch at different times. Since graduating and starting my career I’ve always taken lunch at noon, for one simple reason. I love it. I worked in restaurants from high school until graduating from college. I never got to eat lunch at noon when I was working, because everyone else was.

Getting to eat lunch at noon was a meaningful thing to me, I had moved on I ate when I wanted to, I got to enjoy lunchtime as it happened, not serving other people. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

So when the woman I work with started last year, she came in and claimed my noon time lunch. Which at the time I didn’t think mattered that much, but it bothered me. I’d been here longer, she was changing my schedule, but I wanted to be nice and accommodate her, starting a new job isn’t always fun so I thought I’d be nice.

One problem with being a pushover is if you push back, people get offended and weird about it. So last week I’d decided after nearly a year that I would really like to have my noon lunch time. I missed it, I enjoyed it. It was meaningful to me. I wanted it back, I was even willing to compromise, she could have it more then me, she takes three days a week, I’ll take two. That doesn’t work for her, she wants to alternate weeks, that’s fine I’m flexible.

Today’s the first day I’m supposed to take a noon lunch, I’d even kind of forgot about it because she’d reacted so poorly I didn’t think it was on the table. She brought it up today, and insisted, but first needed to tell me that she didn’t like this at all. Then diminished my feelings by saying I don’t even care.

I hate when people tell me how I feel, and part of its my own fault. I keep my emotions so close to the chest that 90% of the time they’re wrong. But don’t diminish things because I don’t seem to care about them. I don’t express myself well at the best of time and something as simple as a lunchtime is not going to move me to great passion.

But it does matter to me.

Planting the flag

Last week I put a flag up in my office. It should not surprise any of you that it was the Trans pride flag. I have said before that I have an odd relationship with Pride, and most of it comes from a pretty big lack of being proud of who I am.

So I put up my flag, it was bigger then I wanted it to be but finding the damn thing was difficult enough. So I get it up, I’m feeling good about it, Gotten some compliments. It’s becoming part of the background.

If you’ve read a couple of my posts you should know the hammer is about to fall.

One of the partners calls me up to his office.

“You’ve got to take the flag down.” He said other things to justify it but really, what matters is, flag comes down, heart goes with it.

Whether it’s the hormones, or letting myself feel pain. I cried in the bathroom at work for the first time in my life. Like full on red eye, stinging tears, hacking breaths, sobbing. I’m not easy on the eyes on a good day, and I was looking extra rough.

I’m a believer of stoicism, I worked to control my emotions, this wasn’t the time. Its tough, but I sucked the tears in. Let what calm I could find run out the day.

The flag came down.

I put it in the closet.

The poetry of that is grade school at best but I still enjoyed it.

I spoke with that partner again yesterday about this event. I was, and am still unhappy about it. I think its cowardly, I think his fears are legitimate but that they perpetuate the same problem. In business it’s often difficult to know what innovation will lead to success. BlackBerry created the smart phone, now they’re a bloated app service. Not everyone wins all the time, it’s what makes it exciting.

I don’t want my identity to lead my life, but there is a certain aspect of my career where I am going to have to fight for oxygen, and create a space for myself. I understand that. Fear and concern over the feelings of our clients reduces us. I have to believe that there are more people in the world that want to live in a freer more open society then don’t. It’s not fear that creates that world, it’s courage.

Coming out to my mother Part 1

This is a harder story to tell, I might have to make it a few parts because there’s a lot to talk about.

I came out to my mother when I was 21, I’d started talking to a Councillor seriously about transitioning, I was on the road to getting the letter and part of that discussion surrounds the support of your family. I didn’t think my family would be supportive, thus why I’d never told them. I put it off for a couple months, I’d told a few friends and gotten some decent responses. So I’d had enough success to get an ounce of confidence.

So I visited my parents, At the time I was occasionally stopping by for a visit and to do some laundry (most of the time I did laundry elsewhere, or even in my bathtub to avoid seeing them) so I had some laundry to do, and I waited, trying to build up the courage to speak some truth. My mother and I have never really had very deep conversations, she’s always been comfortable talking about things and events, not people and emotions. So I spent hour by hour keeping up a conversation, I don’t remember what we talked about.

I gathered up my laundry as we neared midnight, I had school the next day and should have been gone hours ago but hung around because I had committed to myself I’d say something. My brother and father were already asleep in bed upstairs. I finally told her. Her face reddened, her eyes teared up. I’ve tried to forget exactly what was said (it’s still been my worst coming out story) but her response was anger and betrayal. She accused me of lying to her my whole life. Of the hurt she felt that I hadn’t trusted her, she was astonished that I couldn’t confide in her. She was quiet at first, letting what I had initially said hang heavily in the room, I considered leaving but I wasn’t sure what would happen. I should have left. The anger and rage, the betrayal the pain that she accused me of inflicting on her is and forever will be etched into my soul. It still hurts. I don’t like her, and I never will. It’s been five years (just gave away my age I guess) and I still can’t dull the pain she caused me. Time has softened it, and made it less encompassing, but my idea of my mother will forever be tied to pain.

I’ve had a couple people say to me that they couldn’t imagine what its like to be Trans, how hard it must be to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve never had a problem being Trans, I’ve had a hard time with the life I’ve been forced into, the relationships I’ve lost, the things I haven’t done. Being Trans has made me cautious and afraid too often. I’ve been afraid to have a life, that I deserve happiness. It’s taken a lot to try and build a sense of self out of the bunker I’ve built around myself.

I didn’t lose what little love my mother may have had for me because I was Transgender, my mother lost a daughter because she couldn’t handle that she’d never had a son, I just had my fears and insecurities proven right while she questioned the integrity and reason of her child. I can go on. and I know from each of our perspectives we both lost something, but she never had what she was upset about losing. and I’d never had what she thought she’d given me.

Part 2

Coming out to your boss

I’ve talked a bit about my more recent experiences coming out to my boss. I wanted to share a couple stories about a previous time it didn’t go so well.

The first time I came out to my manager, I was working at a huge national financial institution, the type that wins awards for diversity inclusion and has ‘support’ for people. At the time I was getting frustrated, I needed time to go to a nearby city for appointments to get things rolling. I couldn’t get a lot of appointments with specialists at six in the evening. So I rather naively believed that all the talk meant something. It didn’t, all I did was ostracize myself from my manager and mark myself as a problem.

It wasn’t any particular thing that changed, just all of a sudden I wasn’t worth putting effort into. Who’s ever heard of a Trans banker anyways? Especially in a small town.

In an unrelated manner that manager was laid off. So I thought, lets try this again, I waited a few months. I listened for anything overtly hateful, nothing was forthcoming.

Told this manager, was given verbal support (as in I’m not going to say anything to your face at least) Things were again awkward for a bit until I think my manager forgot. Again no real support was forthcoming.

Now if you’re someone who is in the position of having a Trans employee and they ask for some time to figure things out, they’re not trying to get out of work, treatment, though I dislike that term, is not a quick process to come by. I’ve talked before about some of the hurdles and how long it took to get over them. If you have the ability to be flexible you’d be doing right by the employee by allowing it.

Too many Trans folk are stuck in temporary, low paying, shift work because they have to choose between their identity and their career/livelihood. A choice that often ends in death.

One of the more melancholy aspects of being Transgender is that I managed to ruin my career in banking in record time, most people need to get a job to ruin their careers. I was just born.