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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

Explaining Transition

Transitioning is a very difficult process to explain. I’ve been dealing with discussing it a lot lately because the misunderstanding of it is having a rather detrimental impact on my life lately.

A lot of non-trans folk seem to think there’s a light switch moment where you go from transitioning to transitioned.

It’s not that simple.

First off a transition is really the attempt to reconcile the external with the internal. As I put it to a co-worker recently. I’ve been a woman my whole life, it’s everyone else that has thought I was a man.

So the fundamental crux of transitioning is it relies on something you can not control, other people. As such its an attempt to be as comfortable with yourself and aid the world in treating you with basic human dignity.

But as far as when it’s finished or when its done? There’s always going to be a certain degree of conflict, there’s always going to be someone that doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care. Even if you manage to control the external a lifetime of fear and pain take a toll on the soul. The scars of a life lived before transitioning emanate well into your transition. This is why there’s no end point. It’s a process of healing, and some wounds are deep, and some scars don’t fade. It’s a lifetime spent finding yourself and feeling good.

Do you hit a point of equilibrium, where there’s really nothing more to do but live? Absolutely, but I don’t believe the introspection and the desire to be authentic to yourself can stop. One of the fundamental trans experiences is a fight to find yourself within the chaos around you. That’s something that takes ongoing discipline and concern, and doesn’t’ end when your clothes fit a certain way and people get your pronouns right.

Being trans forces you to always look for meaning, because you’ve been denied an easy identity you have to figure it out on your own, something not everyone can understand because they treat their identity as a given, their life lacks the challenges in discovering themselves they can live in ignorance of their own nature. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to just let myself be me, there’s always going to be that layer of introspection that requires me to understand myself more deeply then others find comfortable.

And I’m glad of it.