Baring your Soul: The nature of introspection

I don’t truly believe that introspection is a trait limited to people who find themselves a member of a minority group, whether it be cultural, racial or of a sexual or gender nature. I will say that I believe that being a part of any minority requires more introspection then being part of a majority.

I can’t speak for any experiences other then my own. But our society demands a far better explanation of those who are different, then those who conform. So those that differ, in order to stand on their own two feet. Need to understand why they are different, and what it means to them.

Knowing yourself is incredibly difficult, and often times painful. It means confronting your negative qualities. It means accepting the source of your positive qualities. It means understanding the decisions you make, and why you make them. It’s an exhausting process that doesn’t always leave you in a better place.

Constant introspection is a demanding process. Whether you do it on an ongoign basis or you take time to work through the issues doesn’t really matter. What matters is you work to find some understanding of yourself.

The very act of observing something changes the nature of it. When you go from living without understanding to living with it, then your decisions are cast through a different lens. There are no innocent actions, as every action is considered. Even impulsive decisions can be understood because the source of the impulse can be traced.

This means that between you and your self, there is no innocence, there is no casual forgiveness. You are always responsible for your actions, you are always responsible for your thoughts. This is a heavy weight to bear when you make a mistake. Knowing yourself makes your soul heavier.

If everyone truly knew themselves then there would be no difference. But when you have groups of people who have to work through all of their issues, their trauma, their desires and dreams. Who intimately understand their very natures. Then place them beside someone who has not been forced to do so. It can make you bitter, and resentful.

Introspection can make you a better person, and it can lead you to a truer and fuller happiness. But the happiness of the ignorant will always seem easier and more attainable. There’s a jealousy for me, that I was never able to just innocently be. I had to be something, I had to understand something. Because of who I am I have never been able to live, from moment to moment.

I have always needed to worry about protecting myself, I had to know my surroundings, those around me, and myself to ensure I didn’t put myself into a position to be harmed. Living on that razor thin edge is tough. It’s painful and ultimately, it might bring you greater joy and happiness or it may bring you nothing but misery. No matter what it will leave scars.

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.

Playing Pretend

It’s funny the questions I get about transitioning, and especially I find how people word things.

One of the most interesting things is when someone says “when you were a man.”

I’ll be honest, I was never a man. Obviously it was pretty uncomfortable I went through a lot of effort to get away from it. I’m also a financial professional who is white. I walked away from a lot of privilege, not that I ever wanted it.

But the idea that I was ever a man is crazy. It was a part to play. I often think about the issue of trans actors, especially with the few trans roles out there. There’s always a controversy because invariably they cast a cis man to play a trans woman. As if that trans woman doesn’t know how to play a trans character. But honestly, even those trans folk that don’t choose to be actors, have had to be actors.

Having to wear a gender identity that isn’t your own is exhausting and grueling. It requires a constant level of analysis and understanding, because you have to make your way in the world in a way that doesn’t feel natural. You have to question your initial reactions, your instincts constantly, lest they expose you and place you in danger.

So no, I was never a man, I just pretended to be one because it wasn’t safe to be myself. I was apparently pretty good at playing pretend, because no one ever guessed I was trans. Yet I was constantly fearful of the tiniest slip. Which is probably why I never outed myself.

We all have to play roles that don’t quite fit in our life. We need to be something for someone because that’s what they need in the moment. I’m talking about the surreal experience of living a second identity, honestly from a very young age too.

I was never a man, I just donned that identity out of fear. it never fit, and honestly I wasn’t very good at it. Yet it got me to where I am now, in only a few pieces. But I’d rather live a single day of honest, sincere, unyielding truth then a lifetime of pretend.

Discrimination: Subtle vs. Overt

Discrimination is a bad word these days, diversity and inclusion is in, discrimination is out. So did we abolish discrimination? Obviously not, but we changed its characters. Back in the day it was socially acceptable to openly hate someone because of some element or another. Now you have to be careful and hate them quietly. You could obviously treat everyone with dignity and respect, but that’s hard and doesn’t make you feel good, so just hate quieter and you won’t feel awkward at family get togethers.

When people think of discrimination they think of the overt kind. Segregation as an example. Where there is a very obvious difference placed between two peoples for the detriment of one and the improvement of the other. What has happened is that these behaviors have largely become unseemly, so that its become preferable to create institutions and practices that move people and resources away from each other so that, no there’s not a segregated water fountain, but oddly there seem to only be white people at this park.

So subtle discrimination comes from the same troublesome belief that not all people are equal, that not all people deserve the same dignities and that not all people deserve equal opportunities. It’s shameful but it still exists. It comes from hate, it comes from fear, it comes from envy. It does not come from a positive emotion.

So how does this subtle discrimination become enforced. In very quiet ways, in a lack of opportunity, in a need to prove yourself above all others. I remember a joke by Jerry Seinfeld “I’m not afraid when I hear I have a female pilot when I’m flying, because I know she had to be three times as good to get there then a man.” That’s subtle discrimination. When you expect more from someone with no basis, it’s discrimination. When you try and teach someone a lesson because they don’t conform to your ideals that’s discrimination. Basically when you lord your power over others that don’t comply with your world view you are discriminating.

I made a comment to my employer that their behaviour recently had a discriminatory slant to it. I told them that I hoped their actions weren’t based out of discrimination, but that I had concerns that they were. Since coming out their tones and understandings have shifted. I have changed as a person, or more accurately stopped trying to be something I’m not. I’ve been dropping my walls and letting myself be a person. It’s tough, but its healthy. Change always creates some sort of fear. Fear leads people to try and stop the source.

I want to impress upon anyone reading this. That its not your fault if you want to be who you are. If you’re trying to be a good natured, honest, caring, and concerned person. You can’t really go wrong. Don’t let others push you to fear what you are because its inconvenient. Don’t let yourself fear what you are, and hold yourself away from who you are because someone is pushing you away from it. It’s hard to maintain your confidence, especially when you’re already scared. Don’t invite in other hate to your heart. Know when you’re being manipulated, know when you are being pushed back into a corner, and know that you are worth being a person like everyone else.

Being yourself is part of the path to a contented and happy life. Some of us have to start further behind on that path, but don’t forget that a satisfying life is ultimately your own responsibility and you can’t afford to let others doubt corrupt you, if you’re anything like me then you have more then enough of your own doubt to get you through the day.

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.

Under pressure

I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen lately. I’m more and more feeling in a pressure cooker, as I transition from coming out to living out the tension just keeps building. I by no means can assume to know the inner workings of anyone’s mind. I do find some solace in Freddie Mercury’s voice. The twinge of pain stitched into the music is resonating with me.

I’ve talked before about how this process has been very dehumanizing. Well I’ve never felt more human, more vulnerable, more emotional, and most importantly more alive.

I just wish being alive didn’t scare the b’jesus out of me right now. I always knew this would be a difficult process. But I’ve never felt how difficult it would be. My days are wall to wall excitement, anticipation, tension, and stress.

At times I want to yell it from the mountain tops, others I want to curl into a ball and roll back into the closet. For the pain and derision its causing me I must say there’s part of me reveling in the primal vitality of it all.

Each step moves me forward, each thought entertains more possibilities. I want to talk about more about this later. But the quality and depth of relationships I’ve built because of this is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

As much as I may not appreciate the current of pain threaded throughout this journey. I’m ready to bear it for the sake of the primal vitality, living on the very bleeding edge of human experience. My heart is open, my mind is ready, my body is primed. I am living as much life as I possibly can, while I can.

Writing our own stories

I had a discussion about introspection today with one of my coworkers. I think its fair to say that most of us know we don’t always admit the truth about ourselves, to ourselves. We run into trouble when we start detaching ourselves from our own truth entirely.

So that begs the questions, who writes our own stories?

When I wake up in the morning, there’s a very simple task ahead of me, I need to pee. That’s the first thing I do every morning, I wake up, and I go to the bathroom. and it is just that simple, there’s no other step, and somewhere after that, I become a full fledged thinking person, before I pee though, I’m a toilet hunting missile.

So I think its safe to say, at some point I decide, to start deciding things. probably shortly after washing my hands.

So I decide to start deciding things, but what if I never look back at these things, or hold my own life uncritically. Who writes my story then.

I’ve talked on the nature or truth before, and how I hold it more tightly then I do the other lofty human rights, like freedom. Yet, truth is one of the easiest things to give up, and one of the hardest things to fight for.

So who writes my story if I don’t pay attention. Obviously as humans we’re very adept at creating our own narrative, even if we don’t understand the protagonist, because lets be honest, we’re the protagonist of our own story, and we generally don’t understand ourselves that well.

So, if we don’t understand ourselves, yet still lead lives of varying levels of fulfillment. Who writes the story, is it that as people we follow those who do make decisions, and as such those who don’t choose their own path are the amalgamation of a web of leaders and trailblazers their lives are touched by.

Or is there some sort of generic social template that you can put yourself onto autopilot with?

That’s not to say that there are people that never make decisions, but to truly understand yourself you need to know; what you decided to do, and why you decided to do it. For almost every decision you make. That is exhausting. Many of our decisions we redo day in and day out. I make toast for breakfast most mornings because I know I usually make toast for myself most mornings. So I don’t need to think too hard about that, toast is tasty and easy. That spins off into other decisions, when I buy groceries I need to buy bread, because I will choose to eat toast for breakfast etc.

Or maybe we truly are creatures of habit. There’s not much about Mormonism I find interesting but there is one facet. They believe that If you’re not ready for ‘heaven’ or whatever they call it. That you have a chance after death to prove your worth again. However, even knowing what you do, you’re held back by the routines and decisions you made in life. Basically, once you die its hard to break the mold of your habits. Whether its true is irrelevant, but I wonder, does this type of thing happen during our life.

Do we build ourselves into an idea of a person and run ourselves accordingly. Letting ever more major decisions wash over us as we build up a repertoire of premade decisions?

In that case, we do write our own stories, but we’re really boring and bad authors.

I don’t have an answer, but I always wonder.

Who writes our stories?