Hey everyone, I have a story post written and prepared, but I feel like instead I’d like to open up a bit and be a bit vulnerable with how I’ve been feeling.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about death and dying rather a lot. It feels as though I’m trapped, blocked on every side by problems that only pretend to be beatable, but which actually are not. And they’re building. Bit by bit.
I’m overwhelmed so much of the time by one thing or another, and it so often feels like all my options in life boil down to one thing: just keep going. Just don’t die, because people love you, and suicide would hurt them more than you're hurting and they don’t deserve it. They don’t. They’ve all been so good to you. But that’s the whole problem: how long until you’re in a stable enough position that you can be good to someone else? How long before your continued existence isn’t dependent on being a burden on other people?
Most days at work I last until noon. Once lunch is over, the struggle starts. I stop being good at my job because My IQ drops about fifty points and I find myself just staring at the screen for periods of time, trying to remember what I was doing while fighting off the intensifying pain in my body. Somehow, some things get done. Most days start out optimistic, end in misery. Sometimes that’s just fatigue, other times that’s muscle spasms that are my body’s way of coping with the pain. I had a day where I couldn’t make my hand do what I wanted for over an hour because it kept flicking in the wrong direction and I kept having to ctrl-z over and over. But if I can push through, it levels out after an hour or two and then I can be moderately productive for the last two.
Some days I try to work but can’t and try anyway until my boss sends me home sick. He’s a saint for hiring me at all, much less feeling that I’m worth the trouble and stress of having me as an employee. But beyond the physical, work has been stressful in the pay department. I know why it’s happening, and I trust that the problems aren’t intentional or continuing, but when your paycheck is three days late, and then when you get it, it bounces and you find yourself overdrawn a few days before your next payday, it’s really tough to feel secure.
Complicating matters I have this new place, an apartment with two people I don’t really know. And it’s not going particularly well. I’ll probably have to move again soon, and the prospect feels defeating. Work takes so much out of me that I still haven’t been able to bring all my stuff here or finish unpacking all the stuff I did bring. I’m so sick of being disabled and having no stability. And I’m worried that trying to work full time is making my physical condition deteriorate again. It’s really, really scary.
So my body, work, and living situation are all on thin ice. But wait, there’s more. Don’t worry: At the end of this long whiny diatribe there’s a silver lining. I hope as much can be said for life.
But first, let’s talk about gender dysphoria. Or as I like to call it: endless psychological torture.
Right now I’m starting to experience what I can only assume are the beginning stages of gender misogyny. Which is to say, random people seem to think I’m stupid and an unreliable witness to my own life. And it sucks, but it’s a lot better than having to deal with people trying to force me to *man up*, which they’re still doing, by the way. As long as they can tell I’m male, they’ll do that. Thus, it’s the worst of both worlds and so far the benefits of neither.
Moreover, relative to my natal sex, I’m gay. Which is to say, that through no fault or desire of my own, my body responds in a physical way to men that it never has to women. When I say I’m gay, I mean that as a description of my physical experience. I don’t want to be physically attracted to men because it causes a lot of social problems. But I am. And if a decade and a half of repressing it and forcing myself to try to think of women sexually hasn’t worked by now, it’s not going to. If I could just be into gay guys that would be great, but they don’t often seem to do much for me, and generally gay men want men. Straight men generally want normal women. Or at the very least they want people who look like normal women. So I’m in a very lonely stage of transition.
My flamer tendencies are getting harder and harder to keep under control because I’m just flat out too exhausted to keep on policing every action I take. I’ve been doing it since high school, and I just can’t keep it up. I can feel it annoy anyone who isn’t female. But I just forget myself and then it happens and then I want to hide under a rock.
Fuck, I can’t even dress myself without anxiety, lately. It’s this balance between feeling like I look okay and feeling like I might get beat up. Which is ridiculous, considering where I live, but if it were to happen I couldn’t defend myself. I’m neither strong nor fast. I’m just tall.
When I was younger, I had a lot more genital dysphoria. Lately, I don’t really care all that much- genitals don’t have any particular affect on my daily life. But what *really* bugs me are my adam’s apple, voice, and beard. The rest of me leaves things to be desired for sure, but those three are the Spanish Inquisition. Facial hair is parasitic worms extruding constantly from my face (not really a metaphor, by the way, I can feel them growing and coiling and pushing their way out sometimes), my adam’s apple is a spear through my neck that always makes me feel choked, and my voice is a clear indicator to the world that I’m really just a failed man and the reason that music is rapidly becoming a sacrifice.
Look! I drew a pretty picture of happy joyfulness! Life is great! Everybody dance! My anus is bleeding! For the love of God and ALL THAT IS HOLY MY ANUS IS BLEEDING!!!
-Parts of diatribe shameless stolen from Don Herdtzfelt’s “Rejected Cartoons”
And all of it, social and physical, pale in comparison to the moment I look in the mirror and see parts of my father staring back.
I don’t hate him, but if you’ve been reading my blog up until now you’ll have some idea of just how complicated my feelings towards him are. The last time we spoke, things seemed pretty good. Half an hour later he was on the phone with my brother, trying to convince him to kick me out in the beginning of winter because I’m “acting outside of submission to the church”.
I don’t hate him. But I do, oh God, I loathe the parts of him I see in me. Comparatively, I could care less about my gender dysphoria. It’s background noise. But looking in the mirror and seeing my dad makes me want to take a razor to my face. It would help if I could make myself suffer the worms and keep a beard, but that’s not so cathartic either. And so transitioning seems a fine solution. It works for me on a lot of levels- I’ve already got more feminine interests than masculine ones, I’m a failure of a man, I’m sexually attracted to men, I’m on hormones whether I want to be or not (and now that everything I was worried about losing is lost I’d stay on them even if I were cured), and the changes the hormones have already made in the past eight months have been relieving in ways I didn’t know they could be.
But that doesn’t make me a woman. It makes a gay man with a fear and repulsion for his own masculinity, a medical problem, and daddy issues that are increasingly beginning to look like PTSD from childhood abuse. You’d think I’d have grown the fuck up and gotten over it by now. I haven’t. Oh well.
In short, I’m really fucked up.
So my living situation, health, and ability to work or have agency in my own life are all on very thin ice. Add to that sometimes severe anxiety, physical and social dysphoria, the reality that hormones are not enough to solve the social gender problem, the fact that I can’t even manage to afford to start electrolysis or any surgeries that can ease the rest of the tortures so I can think more clearly, and the painful fact that I’m very unlikely to ever be in the physical shape to have any real hope of that, perhaps the fact that I can’t stop contemplating suicide lately will come as no surprise. Life is just killing me.
I’m so, so tired of the endless bullshit. God, please: I just want to be done. If I’m lucky enough to get into an accident and I’m on life support, please, for the love of God, pull the plug. Let me go.
This is where things shift gears a little:
I’m hurting, God, so much. But I’m still not done. Maybe I have the will to keep on just a little longer.
Because my life isn’t just about me and my struggles. I’m not alone over here. I’m here with a lot of wonderful people, and they’re all hurting too. Some of them are trying to survive as they fight to remain sober. Some of them are trying to come to terms with the reality that family can be real, fighting the aching anxiety of imminent abandonment even in the midst of a perfect dream. Some of them are dealing with their own pain or disabilities or dysphorias. Some of them have given up their time to help others who don’t seem so grateful. All of them love someone. All of them are loved by someone.
And my own life is not my own. Changing my name or gender marker or body doesn’t let me off the hook. It solves some problems and creates others. But I’m not here so that world can validate me: I’m here because I am a being who can make choices, and even in the middle of this kind of borderline pergatory I can choose to make the choice to choose to love. And if I can be that, choose that always, fill myself with it, then I’ll become love and learn that my value isn’t in my situation. Rather, it’s in the way I choose to handle the pain.
Right now it doesn’t really make me feel any better. But maybe it gives me a little bit more strength- it’s always nice to be reminded we have choices, even if it’s just the simple choice of how to feel about being in a place where nothing feels safe and you feel powerless.
Powerless and endangered though I may feel, those feelings are an illusion, a veil of sorrow brought on by changing hormones and the process of grieving the loss of the painstakingly constructed iron maiden I shed the moment I informed the Christian world I’m several levels of pariahs in one.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have value.
About a year ago, somewhere in the eight-month span between realizing I’m going to have to transition and having the balls to begin, I wrote a song called “My Heart is a Garden”.
It’s a love song, a song I wrote to express my sheer gratitude at how wonderful and open my partner at the time (a woman), had been in helping me explore and come to terms with the immensely difficult feelings involved in accepting my transness. I wrote the song before I actually came out to her, because I mistakenly assumed that her previous behavior would indicate support. When it didn’t, the song felt like a lie. But it kept it, because somehow it was more than just a song for her. It is perhaps the most poetic and perfect love song I have ever written or ever will.
This week, I was blessed enough to give it to a couple I care about very much as a wedding gift. We were all standing around a fire on the beach as darkness fell, the cold sinking into us, but somehow the song warmed us all. It’s the only time on my life that I knew there was only one song I could play, and in which I played only one song. It was right. It felt meant to be.
And if I hadn’t been through all the pain and the hurt and this whole ridiculous experience of coming to terms with transition, I’d never have written it, and that night would have been missing an important piece and we’d never have known. It’s not the first time that song has made someone cry. Not by a long shot.
So maybe there’s a purpose to suffering. Maybe there’s a secret beauty in pain. Maybe pain and being unsafe are just different ways of framing the sensations we experience in the process of becoming whatever it is the seeds inside of us, the ones we’ve chosen to focus our watering on anyway, have been growing into.
And maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to love myself despite everything. Yes, all my life I’ve been a coward and a liar, constantly modelling my personality on what I thought was the least likely get me abused and never allowing the truth to show. Yes, people thought I was a normal straight guy unless they were dating me. Yes, I’m turning into a sometimes rather flamey gay man with boobs and transitioning in hopes that I’ll have a shot of living the rest of my life publicly appearing to be something people have historically and misogynistically seen as weak and stupid.
And if you’ve been to classes with me, if you thought that because some old fart put me in a position where I’m supposed to be imparting wisdom at y’all from some lofty enlightenment, give me a break. The point of all this isn’t to rise above suffering. The point is to reclaim it, and to use it to rise above ourselves. It’s a difficult process, and it takes time. We make mistakes. And sometimes it reveals things in us we’ve been hiding so deeply and for so long that the truth feels like a lie. Sometimes it makes us weak, like, actually genuinely weak.
But the truth always wins out in the end, but it’s only what actually happens that causes the causes and effects of life’s continuous karmic waves.
So I’m in pain. And right now I dare to say I am worth loving. I’m beautiful, even if I’m an awkwardly patchwork androgyne. I dare to believe that I can choose to do something as simple as transition, and that even if that choice fails to align my body, mind, and external reality there’s still going to be something worth learning about in the process.
Maybe I do have courage left. Maybe I’m not yet completely out of strength.
And I think that life won’t get easier. I’m still walking naked, straight into danger. I won’t feel safer. But maybe love and joy are found when I think of the happiness of others instead of my own pain. Maybe it’s not all about me.
So I vow to keep going. If I can. I will learn to focus beyond identity, to stop trying to figure myself out and just learn to live instead. Because focusing so much on my identity is really just a way of me trying to grasp for control of something when I could just be loving, instead. Even if we do manage to take control, it never lasts, does it? And half the time we just end up ruining any balance we had in the process.
Once more for everyone in the back:
I’m beautiful. I’m worth loving. Not because I’m perfect or physically stunning or because I’ve got life figured out. None of those things apply to me. Instead, I am worth it because I choose to believe there’s more to me, and to all of us, than life’s problems.