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.

 

Dealing with the Consequences of Transition

Transitioning is a very consuming thing. You need only read through this blog for the last year and watch as hope turns to despair, despair turns to anguish, and then just sadness.

The hard part is waiting for things to get better. From experience, I understand that when things are tough, they don’t usually stay tough forever, you adapt you grow you learn, Either way, you find ways to deal with your situation.

So I’m in an odd place now. The last year has created a lot of damage in my life. My head spins trying to think of everything that’s changed in the last year. My relationship with my wife has change, in many ways for the better. It took a lot of effort to hold it together while I figured out who I was. My relationship with family has in a lot of ways deteriorated. my career, as has been noted, is basically a flaming shambles, which is fine. Something I hadn’t expected was the role that chosen family would take. Finding a community for the first time was amazing.

As things begin to calm down, and I feel like I have some stability in my own head. I’ve got to deal with the aftermath of the destructive spell. The calm after the storm. Survey the wreckage and discover the new wonders.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this is all so tough. and even as it gets easier day to day. There’s still the consequences of your previous actions, and meltdowns, and breakdowns and fights and arguments.

But that all just means that I’m living. Only now I have the benefit of being the woman I knew I was while doing it.

Finding Motivation Pt. 2

I talked last week about how I’ve lost access to a lot of the typical motivation and incentive systems by transitioning. I talked about the environment that unfolded, but today I’d like to go further and talk about how it affected me, what I did internally to find motivation, and the struggles I have with staying positive.

If you’d like to read the first part it’s right here: Finding Motivation

I had to go through a pretty intense period of melancholy and hopelessness to get to where I am now. Growing up, and going into my transition I held on to one idea, and it’s an idea that kept me in the closet longer then I probably needed to be. I never wanted my identity to hold me back from accomplishing whatever I wanted to do.

Well that happened anyways, so that was jarring and I had to unpack that. I moved past it because I’ve already had some incredible experiences, made some completely unexpected connections, and found a community that I could share my experiences without reservation with. So what I lost in the hetero-normative and cis-centric world around me, I gained in the queer community many times over.

It took me some time to realize that, and to let go of what I’d lost. I still vividly remember a few months ago when I gave up on having any sort of financial success in my career. I may still progress roles, take on additional responsibilities, I may have opportunities to learn. This progress has taken on a different perspective to me though. It’s because of personal growth, it’s because of the opportunity to learn, it’s not because of a raise or a bonus, it’s not because of what I will get materially, but what I will gain as a person. Which is somewhat depressing, because some would say that this represents exploitation.

I’m talking about doing more work for less pay. I’m talking about not being recognized for my talents. I’m talking about fighting to hold on to a job that I was told I did very well before I transitioned, and now that I have transitioned I’m constantly being reviewed, and found wanting. I’m talking about accepting discrimination.

That’s a depressing thought, and this is why I’ve had to find ways to motivate myself, because I’m living on a knife’s edge. If I don’t accept that I am constantly dealing with discrimination, that who I am is considered fundamentally lesser then others, and by people I have and need to respect then I’ll break. So I have to persevere, and accept what I can’t control.

I think the hardest part of this is that it proved a lot of my fears rights. I am treated differently, being trans has impacted my life, and in negative ways.

So what have I held onto?

I hold onto the present, my responsibilities to my clients has been the only thing keeping me going some days. I’m damn good at what I do, and have only gotten better since transitioning. So now it’s almost like the gods called my bluff. I said I got into finance to help people, well, that’s one of the first things I hold on to.

I hold onto the future, I believe I have a responsibility to other trans folk. I managed to push the door open a small crack, I’m doing what I want to be doing, and I’m doing it at a level that I don’t think would have been possible ten years ago. If I want kids growing up to see that trans women can be professional women, and have the career and live the life, have the title and the corner office that comes with it. Then I’m still accomplishing something. I often joke that I didn’t break the glass ceiling I’ve gotten myself crushed against it, it might not have broken, but if I can withstand the pressure it might just crack, and someday shatter. I’m hoping it happens before I break.

I also hold onto the past. The more trans and queer history I read the more I realize in someways I’m lucky to be able to be fighting different fights. fifty years ago trans folk were fighting against police brutality and a criminal code that mandated adherence to gender roles. If my ancestors had the courage and bravery to stand against dogs and batons and incarceration for being true to themselves. Then I can find a way forward, step by step, day by day.

The big issue I’ve run into is that straight cis people don’t like an uppity Queen. There’s an expectation for folks that identify as a gender or sexual minority to not be too… I’m going to use the word different. As long as you’re not too gay, too excited, too opinionated, basically, too different from what a straight cis person would do then you’re begrudgingly accepted. So if you’re trans, there’s a pressure to not transition, and if you have transitioned. You’re held to a very high standard in upholding the gender role and norms that you have transitioned too. If you’re gay that’s fine as long as no one ever has to think or deal with that.

Any deviation from this in my experience has lead to accusations of negativity and toxicity. That my queerness, that the messiness of a transition is unprofessional. That I can identify how I want so long as it has no impact and requires no effort on the part of those around me. There is incredible pressure to hide and repress any part of my trans-ness, my gay-ness, my me-ness that doesn’t conform to cis and straight culture. Which isn’t a whole hell of a lot, my lived experiences are usually pretty different from those around me.

So it’s hard to be positive, it’s hard to be motivated, and I think the most important thing is that I’ve worked through enough of it to be okay with myself when it’s hard, because I’m not crazy for thinking it’s hard to keep going forward. There’s more against me then with me and if I want to change that then I’ve got to find the strength to get through it. If at the end of the day I don’t have much left in me, then I know why.

In a lot of ways I’ve internalized what I said months ago. I’ve gotten used to not being okay, but at least now I know why, and I have reasons to keep fighting. I’m not alone in the fight, and that’s enough for now.

 

 

On Dysphoria and Modern Trans Youth

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually specifically spoken here about gender dysphoria. I’ve been thinking more about it lately. Not because of my own experiences, but from working with some trans youth.

I’ve started volunteering with a youth group for LGBTQ+ teenagers predominately. There’s several trans kids in the group, they’re all trans boys but what they say gives me a lot to think about.

My own experiences with dysphoria were far less nuanced. It wasn’t something I had time or space to really elaborate on. I always experienced it as a general malaise, a feeling of wrongness, there were parts of my body I didn’t like. I didn’t enjoy what puberty did to me by any stretch of the imagination, and I longed for things I never thought would happen. I thought about my transness in a very general sense, and not hopelessly, but in a way that I understood that these were far off dreams. That transition wasn’t somethign that could be entertained as a teenager.

Transness was viewed as fundamentally wrong in the world that I grew up in. I was in high school ten years ago, and I truly believed that my safety would have been at risk if I had of transitioned. I don’t know what would have happened, but I knew at the time that it would be bad. That I had to hide any sign of femininity from my behavior or I would out myself.

The energy I had to deal with my dysphoria was focused on survival and hiding myself, not growing and realizing myself. So it’s interesting to me how much the world has changed.

I’m in awe of the fact that we live in a world where a fifteen year old comes out, that’s incredibly powerful to me. They are so incredibly brave, I can’t express how proud I am of these kids.

One thing that I have found interesting though, is that they have the opportunity to deal with gender dysphoria in a very different way then I know I did, and from conversation I think other trans folk my age and older did.

Dysphoria to them is a very active and real thing that they’re dealing with, sort of as it happens. They have this very sophisticated way of speaking about it, they don’t just experience gender dysphoria as this overwhelming weight or burden, this foreboding sense of shame or a crushing wrongness. They are able to speak more finely about it, as if it’s something that comes and goes, and rears it’s ugly head but is ultimately a part of their lives that they can deal with.

There might be days that their voice is the concern, and other days it’s not as bad. It might be something about a mannerism or how they speak, or it might just be the pitch of their voice. Either way they’re dealing with their trauma in real time, not repressing it all. So they’re able to take these bite sized problems and address them to give themselves some comfort.

It’s so incredibly inspiring to me that we might see the first generation of trans kids grow into adults without the shame, and fear that I know I grew up with. To come to terms with who they are and to try and deal with the effects of their transness in a safer environment.

Their road is by no means easy, but they’ve got such strength of character already, I hope that they’ll grow into fully realized adults, ready to take on the world.

I don’t have much objectively to say other then, wow, just wow. I am so proud of the steps these kids are taking and it’s inspiring to me that they have the strength to be who they are at an age where I was so afraid.

It’s nothing short of incredible.

A New Normal

I’ve written before about this but I wanted to take a chance and continue the conversation. I’ve written about having to learn with being okay, with not being okay.

You can read the first post here: It’s Okay Not To Be Okay

It’s a theme that I’ve touched on through out these posts, and it’s something that holds itself in my head.

The world is heavy for me. I went from living a life pre-transition where my major sources of stress and anxiety were internal. I didn’t know myself, and therefore I struggled.

As I dealt with that whole trans thing and came to terms with myself, and was able to rest for a moment and realize that, I’d been held back a lot in life, and that I had to do a lot of work to learn to be myself, whoever that was. In a very unsafe place. When we talk about children growing up, we talk about how they make mistakes, and they learn, and they grow. It’s what that point of your life is for. To suddenly find yourself an adult, with this huge chasm where your mature person-hood should be, is terrifying.

It takes time to build yourself back up. All of the stopgaps and makeshift personalities you’ve littered around you like confetti to distract those around you from the fact that you’re not really a fully realized person stops very suddenly, In my head it looks like the day after a festival, you can tell there was something there, you’re not quite sure what it looked like, and it was definitely temporary and meant to get people away from the business of living their regular lives.

Except that was my regular life. So as the carnival comes crashing down around me. The reality that you have to carefully stitch yourself back together and start moving through your life is a huge weight.  Because there’s times that I’m messy, and I can’t help it. There are times that I wish I could just scream but I can’t. I’d love to throw my hands up and just give up sometimes, and everything would still be okay.

But I’m an adult with responsibilities and if I give up than there are consequences.

I guess what I’ve learned is how to persevere, and to start understanding a bit when I’m a mess, and have started to learn to cope with my messiness. I struggle at times not to impact others, because it’s not fair to them. At the same time I know I need that support. That sometimes, I’m just so out of my league and depth, and I’m so scared and lonely, that I just need a friend. But I hate that my friendship comes with a price to those I care about.

I’m moving forward, and I’m finding some center and calm. I’m learning to be me, and coming to terms with what I am and what I am not. Which is so rewarding. I feel, oh how I feel! The highs and lows are dizzying, the depth is rich. The palette of feelings is so varied and interesting ,and even in times of pain and sorrow. I relish that I have an outlet for that now. I’m not limited to just bottling it all up until it all melts into rage.

I love that I can love things. Even the warmness of a hug doesn’t elude me anymore. I can feel that reciprocation of expressions now. Beyond knowing what to feel, in a very artificial and intellectual way. I care deeply, but there’s so much more passion now. It’s an incredible and mind boggling experience.

Life ain’t easy, and that’s my new normal.

 

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 sweet taste of joy

I don’t even know how to title this post. I want to take a chance to talk about mixed feelings. Transitioning has been in many ways very difficult and scary, and in other ways one of the mot rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

What I need to do a better job of expressing, especially to myself, is the joy and contentment I feel by feeling like myself. It’s odd how the better I feel the more obvious the bad feelings are. When I was miserable and in the closet I was fairly even keeled. Now I’m all over the place emotionally, and I couldn’t be happier about that fact.

It’s become difficult to be a moderate person, to feel moderately, live moderately. Sometimes I feel like a kid with incredible swings in mood, though I know they’re not very big to most people.

I never thought sadness could make me happy. I had never experienced happy crying, I had never been happy to cry. Yet, I have learned to embrace and love the lows as much as the highs. As winters chill makes summers warmth so enticing, so too does sadness’ cold embrace make the warmth of laughter and joy all the richer.

I have a brain that likes to think and I let it run away from me sometimes (all the time) but in my heart when my head is quiet, I can hear the gentle song of joy hanging in the air.