A long time ago in a blog not so far away, I wrote about “Collateral Damage…”
I used the term to describe every single person we harm by transitioning late in life. It’s actually one of my most read pieces, and not a week goes by that I don’t see that someone else has opted to read it. It’s necessary to mention here, because it’s the crux of much of my own current angst.
In the wake of “Opening Up — and the Death of Absolutes” I have been having to wrap my head around what my future even looks like. It was necessary to open up our marriage because from an intimate perspective, neither of us can fulfill the others needs. The fact that it was going to come to this was something I’d been in denial about for a very long time. My wife was not; she saw it a mile away.
In comes the collateral damage.
Imagine loving someone for more than 13 years, then agreeing that it’s acceptable to be with another. It’s not the idea of that which is overwhelming, so much as the uncertainty that we can keep ourselves from drifting apart. Neither of us signed up to be asexual, and while I won’t speak for her, I know that my sexuality is a small component of a larger identity issue, I also know that it too cannot be ignored.
As one of my readers pointed out, what I seek is far removed from anything depicted in porn, but merely a connection with an individual that has the capacity to treat me in a manner that complements my gender. She used the word “chaste,” and that feels really appropriate. I imagine just hanging out on a couch, with my head on their shoulder, and my hand on their chest. An almost iconic representation of a woman feeling complete from being in a presence of “her man.” Given my stature I have to jump through all sorts of hoops just to make this mental picture feel proportionate. And I’ve had this very same conversation with another one of my very tall Trans friends. We both want that same thing, but as she put it, any man who’d be with her would have to be as big as Andre The Giant.
In this instance, I see more collateral damage, this time I am the victim. To be fair, there was no hope to change this outcome for me, and I blame no one. Even if I had proclaimed I was a girl as a child, I still would have passed through a natal puberty and grown this big, because the medical community would not have given me any other options at that age. But I will, once again, take this opportunity to bang the drum that it’s critical to recognize and treat Trans kids before they end up being disproportionate for their gender — like me.
So now here I am, a 6’1" woman built like a linebacker. How does my chaste fantasy work when statistically speaking men want a woman who is smaller than they are, and women want a man who is larger. It’s that safety of the whole internalized misogynistic narrative that both individuals subtly seek.
This fucked up dichotomy weighs heavily on me. Mostly because I know it’s unlikely that I would ever meet someone who would even entertain the notion of being this connected to a Trans person. Perhaps that’s me projecting societies disdain into that fantasy, but I know that it’s more likely that I am dreaming of a situation that will never come to pass.
When I spoke about the “death of absolutes,” it was the thought that perhaps the situation I just described could actually happen. I give some credence to the possibility that someone might actually love me, and create a level of security that this woman longs for. What happens to the woman that I love then? I’ve already told her that so many things wouldn’t happen, but they ultimately did. Am I prepared for what happens if someone sees me as a woman, treats me as a woman, and actually loves me as a woman? Can I steady myself for the pain this will inflict on someone I care deeply for?
Of course I’m still working off of “what ifs,” but I can’t help but be terrified. My transition, and all the bullshit lies I had to live (pretending to be a “man”) leading up to that transition have already left a considerable amount of collateral damage in their wake. I didn’t want any of that to happen. I swear, I am not a monster; I don’t want anyone to suffer because of me simply being who I always was.
The unfortunate reality is that it’s already happened. We kiss each other good morning, we kiss each other goodnight. She’s literally my best friend, and I have more love for her than I can properly describe. But we’re distant. We’re in the same bed 6 days a week, but we might as well be on opposite sides of the planet. It’s like we’re sailing in two different ships, yet searching for the same spice. I suppose we’ve both protracted as a means of defending ourselves from what seems like the inevitable and impending hurt. I get it, I can’t hate her for it; I just hope she doesn’t hate me, or come to hate me.
As I edged closer to identifying just what I was needing in a partner, my old friend alcohol seeped back into my life. I thought that letting my wife know what was happening would make it go away; it actually made it worse. It’s gotten bad enough that I have been sporadically attending AA meetings; I just wish that attendance meant you were instantly free from it’s toxic grasp. What I’ve come to realize about my drinking is that I am most compelled to drink when I am in extenuating social situations; when I am physically alone, and when I “feel” alone. If that sounds like nearly every waking moment, you would be correct.
Some of my friends saw this play out just days ago. I walked into a support group, saw a room more packed than I expected, then I immediately left. The second I saw all those faces, I was overcome with anxiety; after I left I had a drink. Ironically attending AA actually makes me want to drink because of the intrinsic social aspect of the group. I’m even worse when I’m alone; I usually drink to the point of ideation. Last night I even penned my suicide note, and made a noose with my belt. One of these days I am concerned I’ll follow through, and I won’t even have a clue I’ve done it. That’s really scary, and I fucking hate it.
I really only thrive when I’m having one-on-one interactions, I actually crave those. Many in the community will recall meeting me for coffee or lunch; I miss that. Those are the moments I feel the most connected; probably because for that block of time, we are both engaged in a very focused bonding. These days my life is either filled with a lot of people all at once, or no one at all; both situations are bad for me because they are triggers for drinking.
There are so many people who reach out to me asking for my advice because the illusion here (in the blog) is that I have a handle on how to exist as Trans. The fact is that I am struggling just as much, if not more, than all of you. I don’t have any easy answers, and if you want someone to coddle you about the realities of transition, I’m not your girl.
I know some of you are reading this, and have recently bore the brunt of my frankness. Transition isn’t for the weak, and despite my perceived strength, it needs to be woefully apparent that I am struggling significantly. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I see all of you sharing your suffering, and I am actively disengaging. This has nothing to do with denying your pain, but it’s about acknowledging that I am so broken, that I am unfit to comfort you when I am currently existing outside the reaches of that comfort. Rest assured, I want to tell you that everything will be alright, but the truth is there are no absolutes, and I can’t promise you anything.
The death of Keira is a classic example of this, and it still shakes me to my core. I remember messaging her prior to surgery telling her she was going to do great. Next thing I know, she’s brain dead and they’re harvesting her organs. Life isn’t always fair, and I am struggling more and more with the zeitgeist. The realities, death of absolutes, and collateral damage are beyond crippling.
Strangely enough, the only thing I take any comfort in is my writing. When I put these words on the page, it’s the most cathatric thing I can ever feel; as if by acknowledging my struggle, I remove some of the weight that I am encumbered by. Of course, then I send these words out to the world in the hopes of seeing just how many people feel these exact same things. I look for the reassuring comment that says “you’re doing it right” or the ever so affirming “claps” and “thumbs up.” As if that is the only thing that can give my life validation.
In my day-to-day job, I carry myself with all the pomp and bravado that a body proud man would. In a manner of speaking, this is a horrific form of self abuse. Why would I want to promote these masculine features???
It’s my armor.
Remember all those men who can’t match my stature? As much as I might seek to find comfort on the couch with them, I am also scared of them. I’m scared that they’re teetering on the edge of their “Gay Panic” and are fighting their compulsion to end my whole existence. So I pop my trapezoids and posture like a silverback. It sends a very strong “don’t fuck with me” vibe; it works, I never get shit. As I start my day, I’m usually okay with this, but by the end of my shift, I am full of self-hate and loathing. Why did I do that? — I would think to myself. The only answer I have is that I have been armoring up for decades because of the trauma associated my school bullies. No longer the fat easy target, I’m an amazon woman covered in tattoos; that sends a very clear signal that I am more about bringing pain than receiving pain.
Of course, anyone who knows me knows that’s total bullshit. I’ve worn this false facade for so long that I don’t know how to even back away from it. To be fair, it’s an aesthetic I’ve come to like, but the idea that it was born out of a need to feel safe is what saddens me. When I moved to Hawaii, I had a housemate named Genevieve (Gen) who was from England. She asked about my tattoos, and I told her that it was a means of keeping those who would harm me away. She said it wasn’t working because the second she looked into my eyes, she could see that I was not the facade; she could tell I was gentle. She was right; I wonder what she’d think of me now?
At any rate, this twisted dichotomy of being female and posturing like a man is just another nail in my proverbial coffin; it’s another trigger to drink. While I love the work that I do, the fact that it is typically a “man’s” job means that I feel artificially compelled to do it like a man. And of course, since I am a woman, I am even more compelled to display the fact that I can do it better than a man.
Somedays I dream of what it would be like to work in a traditionally female job so that I can trade in my jeans for dresses and skirts; to finally sink to the life I’ve wanted for decades. Unfortunately that kind of job won’t pay as well, and this girl’s got bills to pay. Not to mention that my latent learned male tendency towards huffing-and-puffing would probably result in me telling the wrong person to go “fuck off.” I literally have no clue how to be demure; it’s frustrating because I know it’s a very important part of my identity that I need to connect with.
As you can see, I am a total trainwreck. I know my failings, I know who I’ve hurt, I know who I will likely hurt, and I see every toxic behaviour I participate in. I just don’t know how to change it. I don’t know how to do a “man’s” job while being demure. I don’t know how to reverse my need to look tougher than I am. I don’t know how to guide my struggling brothers and sisters without feeling like a complete fraud. I don’t know how to be social without being so social that I end up triggered. I don’t know how to ask for help. And I have no clue how to be with a man without hurting the woman I love.
Perhaps I will close this with an analogy…
Have you ever seen a vehicle that has a sign on the back which reads “Construction vehicle — do not follow”? If you actually do stay behind them, you get in the mode of thinking that following them will keep with the flow of traffic. What ultimately will happen is they will drive into a construction area, and you will be stuck. I’m left feeling like that vehicle. If you follow too closely, I’ll lead you into someplace you don’t really want to go. Okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad; at least I’m up-front about my issues, and who knows, maybe you were already in the construction zone, and now we’re just great company.
It’s important to note that something is always being built in a construction zone; it might seem rough, cluttered, and disjointed, but eventually something awesome will come together there. Maybe we’re supposed to build that awesomeness together.
So grab a hardhat, and a sledgehammer; we’re gonna tear some shit down and build it even better.
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