… It’s not just a destination. It’s a journey. I’ve really been struggling to blog these last few weeks (in case you haven’t noticed). Partly, because of the world, the news, the season. But I think partly it also has to do with this concept I’m struggling with… or should I say, exploring: the notion of authentic self. I’m trying very hard to find and be authentically me. I know there are lots of other people out there trying to figure out the same kind of thing. Bookstores are filled with self-help books on the subject. And yet, I can’t seem to get a good grasp on it, something that feels right to me.
I would like to say that I’ve always attempted to be as authentically me as I could be at any given time in my life, at least as much as I was able. Certainly I’ve always believed that was what I was doing. But that was before realizing (I know. I know. How could I not have known?) that I am transgender. That was a serious monkey wrench in the I-know-myself-so-well purview of my life. What was going on for me before figuring this out? Was I just fooling myself? Was I truly unaware? How can I now be my true me if I thought all along I was being my true me?! And, now, with this new knowledge, this new clarity, this new understanding, the stakes feel higher somehow. Now, knowing the real me, how can I be anything but the real me? Oh dear Lord, I’ve fallen into Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe speech.
What I’m trying to say is, I feel so lost about the right way to be trans. Is there a right way? What should I be doing? Who should I be? There are small flashes of moments when I feel in control and discerning. Yeah, that’s right, I’m trans. I’ve got my own swag going on. I’m just being trans the way I am. While at other times I feel just plain wrong. Folks I know are lining up to get on T, buying gillette razors at CVS and changing their pronouns. There is so much to be considered. So many decisions, so many possibilities. And I know I lauded, in another post, the whole “gift” of decisions notion. But in terms of the whole transgender thing, the sheer number of decisions feels more a burden than a boon. How do I even approach, never-mind make, these decisions?
With decisions in general , as I’ve already said, I tend toward looking at the gains, what I need, what I’ll get (and how much of an impact it will make – bang for the buck so to speak) rather than what I have to give up. I can’t figure out whether I actively ignore and avoid thinking about the negative consequences of a decision or whether I intentionally focus more on the positives, or whether I’m wired in such a way that those things just happen. On some level it doesn’t make sense to me to focus on what I can’t have, what I’m losing. But maybe that is my early childhood training in hardship and not getting everything I wanted. A mother who withheld things from me but then held them up in front of me, poking me antagonistically saying, “see what you’re not getting?!” So perhaps I built up a protective shell against seeing things I can’t have. Or maybe, as was the intention, I learned to believe I didn’t actually deserve whatever it was I wasn’t getting/couldn’t have.
Whatever it is, I am trying to live my life authentically and make decisions with integrity in my trans-journey. I’m trying to go with what feels essentially right to me. Top surgery was a big thing for me, a real need once I realized it was an option. I felt compelled in a way that brooked no argument. And by the grace of an insanely dear friend, I was able to do it. I cannot, in words, explain how completely right that decision was for me. It is the one single thing that has improved and enhanced how I feel about myself in my body and in the world. Even my dowager’s hump seems to be receding as I stand straighter and move more freely.
I don’t feel nearly as compelled in the same way to make other trans changes though. Sometimes I think it is sheer laziness. During the times when I have attempted to envision transitioning, being more male in the world, it has felt like a lot of work and not a whole lot of gain for me. Work I don’t feel willing to do. With the exceptions of knowing what to wear for dressy occasions or at the beach, I feel the gains would be negligible, microscopic (literally and figuratively) for me. And quite frankly, the losses would not be worth those gains.
I have thin, fine hair. And while I have oft joked about my next life having glorious, thick, curly hair, when faced with the possibility of losing the hair I have, I am forced to conclude that the hair I have is better than no hair at all. I hate armpit hair. I hate it on men. I hate it on women. Having more of it holds no real allure for me. Deeper voice might be cool. Shaving might be cool. Though, come to think of it, I thought that when I started shaving my legs too. Shine wore off of that pretty quickly. Scratch the beard growth. I would love a sculpted body with a serious six-pack. But let’s all be honest. Number 1, what 47 year old man or woman has that without near single-minded almost maniacal focus? Which leads to number 2, when was the last time I did a single sit-up?
The other reality that begs consideration is that there are certain limits to reality. By that I mean, the reality of my 5’4″ small-boned frame. Regardless of the fact that I am 6’2″ and burly in my mind’s eye, no one else sees me or experiences me quite that way. I’m not willing to have that uphill battle be the introduction to my interactions with the world. And quite frankly, I’m not willing to give up my compassionate, nurturing warmth that is so much my personality. And I’m definitely not willing to give up hockey.
It should not feel so pressured and rigid and difficult to be myself. I’m trying to make my life easier, not harder. Thankfully, I don’t have to make any decisions right now. And luckily, I have a lot of love and support in my life for who I am. The thing I need to remember, is that I simply need to be authentically who I am in this very moment and the rest will fall into place. And perhaps Nina said it best when speaking to one of her caretakers when she happily announced: “mommie is my daddy.” Let the journey continue.