I’m Digging in the Dirt to Find the Places I Got Hurt

While gender-issues have ended up being the lesser focus of stuff I’m working on with my therapist, there’s still some heavy-duty gender-related stuff I’m working through — stuff that I wasn’t necessarily aware of.

I’ve always been a loner, armoring myself so that I wouldn’t get hurt. It’s what I needed to do to survive. But the price of loneliness has been building and building. So it’s learning to open up, to reconnect. But it’s just really hard at the moment, since I’m so incredibly burned out, and my natural instinct is to retreat into myself, to somewhere safe and quiet where I can recharge.

One big realization is that I’ve internalized much more of society’s negative messages that I’d allowed myself to realize. (Compartmentalization can be a useful survival tool.) As a wise friend said: it’s hard to swim in a sea of poison without swallowing some. It’s not at the overt level, like those of us who struggle with being told they were an abomination. At an intellectual level, I know I’m worthy and deserving of love. More insidiously it’s at the gut level — the other reason I’ve been a loner is that subliminal sense of “who would ever want me.”

Working though the anger about that. The solutions that turned into problems (like walling myself off), I can honor, they were things I need to do to survive, even if now it’s time to discard them. But the internalized transphobia…. there’s nothing I honor about that.

I’m still struggling to see myself as fully a woman. I’m definitely not a man, but a woman, I’m not sure I know that’s that like. I’m not one of those folks who knew they were a woman from age 4. All I know is that I’m happier and more comfortable interacting with the world as a woman, and to have a more feminized body.

But my therapist has been helpful in me looking back on my life and seeing more of the feminine spirit than I’d realized at the time. For example, the intimacy and connection women typically have with each other (albeit not to over-sentimentalize it) is something men generally don’t pick up on, whereas it’s been a yearning in me for decades. Or the particular ways masculinity chafed on me in ways they don’t usually do for men.

Last week my electrologist asked an interesting question: What happens to [boy name] after I transition. I had to think a minute. I’ve never been a fan of “[former name] had to die.” I finally responded that [boy name] would be taking a well-deserved retirement. (At the risk of talking about myself in the third-person, which I find weird), I do think that’s apt. I do honor my male persona. He did a difficult job until he just couldn’t do it anymore. He protected me, at great cost to himself. And now he’s stepping aside to let me be free.

The other but thing I’m working through is coming to terms with the life I didn’t have. I don’t necessarily wish I’d transitioned earlier — I don’t know that I would’ve had the strength to do so, given society’s bigotry 30 years ago.

But yeah…

I won’t have the experience of being a young woman, with life’s possibilities ahead of her. I won’t have the body of a young woman. I’m transitioning into a middle-aged woman, with all that implies. I won’t have the experience of being cisgender, of not having to deal with Teh Tranz. But obviously the past can’t be changed, only made peace with. But I’m also doing a bit of grieving about it these days.

It’s all growth, but growth can definitely be challenging.