The past year or so has been an interesting one. Not unlike Zarathustra coming down from his cave, it was time I once again join those from whom I had consciously separated myself years earlier. I wanted to both share whatever insights I might have gained and to learn from others. I wanted to (re)connect with people I consider to be most like myself. All in all, I feel I have been able to do so. However, this has not come without a price.
After I had more or less sorted things out (circa 2000,) I found myself growing distant from my on-line kin. Other than an occasional lunch with a few of friends, I pretty much walked away from it all: having never been a part of it prior to 1997, this wasn’t all that difficult to do. I went back to being regular old me – a bit different philosophy on life perhaps – but essentially the same person. I made some ‘adjustments’ with respect to my appearance – things upon which my wife and I can usually agree – and I set about getting on with my life.
Over the next five plus years, I had become increasingly more ‘out’ at work with respect to my appearance. I approached HR twice on this point and was assured that I have their support for what I do. I felt that overall, there had been a evolution of sorts taking place during this time, and around January 2006, something started tugging at the back of my mind: I needed to (re)connect with other transpeople. I went back on-line and ultimately ‘rejoined’ the greater on-line trans community…
But as I said, I have paid a price: and for me, that price has been to once again think about things I had managed to neatly tuck away for several years. It has caused me to have discussions about and look at things in ways I might not otherwise have. And while I believe that this is can be (and is) a very good thing, it can also be uncomfortable and often unsettling. With respect to this, I embrace Nietzsche’s motto: “increscunt animi, viriscit volnere virtus” – “the spirit grows, strength is restored by wounding.”
Part of what has helped me accept all of this trans stuff is the notion that Nature is, above all things, ambivalent. It is neither beautiful nor ugly, good nor bad – and it acts neither out of benevolence nor malice: Nature simply is. There is no grand purpose to it, no cosmic ‘reason’ for things being as they are. We as humans, we impose purpose, value and reason on Nature – it is an all to human veil in which we have shrouded Nature with respect to our understanding.
I acknowledge that I have done exactly this in my understanding and acceptance of the world. I have discovered / created my own interpretation of the world: one which allows for an explanation of who I am as opposed to one which denies my existence. However, that interpretation – the veil through which I view the world – while not wholly dissimilar from that of others, is itself different enough that it serves to magnify what I can only describe as the existential absurdity that is my existence.
When all this trans stuff came crashing in on me, I realized that whatever sense of self I thought I had before, it clearly was no longer working for me. What I needed was something new, something more durable and more complete. I needed something that worked with everything I had been feeling all my life. My goal was to figure out who I was and how I needed to be. I expected to find myself somewhere in the girlie queue: after all, it is where I had always felt I belonged, even when I tried to deny it. Nevertheless, I took an objective approach (as objective as one can be during self-reflection and examination) and was determined to not make assumptions. To that end, I largely gutted the place with respect to whatever I thought I knew about my ‘self’ – especially my ‘gender’. I looked at all the pieces I had left, analyzed where I thought they belonged, and began rebuilding. When I was done, I found myself living in a very different place – a “no man’s land” with respect to gender.
I didn’t set out to wind up where I am. In fact, I don’t know that I want to be here at all. A TS friend of mine mentioned wanting to be a woman plain and simple: and there is a part of me that wants that as well. Hell, I’d even take being a man plain and simple. But there is nothing plain and simple about where I wound up. Often times, I feel as if I’m on the outside looking in. I see men and women happily being men and women, and in many ways, I so want to be able to do that.
Part of the price I’ve paid is that I have been questioning whether this whole non-gendered thing is even real. I recognize that it is real insofar as it is my view of the world, but I wonder if maybe this isn’t just something I’ve talked myself into, as a way to stay married. If you tell yourself something long enough, you will eventually start to believe it’s true: maybe that’s what I’ve done here. Or maybe – as I’ve heard suggested in the past – I am just a frustrated TS and it’s only a matter of time before this all caves in on me again and I plow head first down the slope – a trail of destruction left in my wake.
Then I remember that there are other people who feel as I do. I’ve talked with them and they share similar feelings and experiences. My experience of the world is not unique, so there must be something to this, but this offers little solace with respect to the day to day of living in the world. It does nothing to mitigate the overwhelming feeling of disconnection I sometimes have. It does not change the fact that no matter where I go or with whom I interact, I will always be treated as something which I’m not: I will always be gendered as a man or a woman. People I have as friends – people to whom I’m out – know me as Gary, and gender me as a man. And my wife largely dismisses my ‘non-genderness’ as just so much nonsense most of the time. In many ways, I feel as if I’m trapped in a prison of my own making.
Again, I didn’t set out to wind up where I am. Who I am and how I feel are what they are – and I can either accept that or deny that: I choose to accept it. But it does not change the fact that day to day, I live in a world where I am invisible. I always pass and never pass at the same time: always as a man or woman – never as me. As much as I might want to be a woman ‘plain and simple’, I need to be me ‘plain and simple’ – and I cannot seem to figure to how to do that. It seems to be a constant battle one way or another.
I related all this to my therapist the other week, as well as my concern over whether or not I can maintain this long term. She asked what my alternative might be, what I might do instead. I said “I suppose I could transition to some extent and live as a woman – allow it all to ‘gel’ a bit better, but that doesn’t change how I feel about myself. I’d simply have swapped one ill fitting ‘being’ for another – and lost so much I value in the process.” She smiled at me, because she knew what I was going to say next. “I suppose”, I said, “that I have little choice in the matter. This is who I am – and I cannot ‘be’ someone else.”
Sometimes, I just feel so worn down by all of this – trying to prove / justify / defend who I am to others – as well as to myself – and realizing that this is but another Sisyphean task. It just gets overwhelming at times.
No matter how well I think I have things under control, it seems I never actually do.
Plain and simple is something my life will never be.