Things have been changing a lot for me in the last several weeks. I’ve been a flurried combination of busy, unemployed and depressed (you didn’t think it would go away, did you?).

I don’t have much to say about the job other than I’m holding out a general hope that there’s something better in the works for me. You can probably imagine that some of the busyness comes from job hunting.

I started writing this post on April 9th, the end of my first year of RLE. April 9, 2009 was Maundy Thursday, four days before Easter. I went to work like I normally would, and went to church for mass that evening. I was already out to the congregation (the first announcement from my last post had been read aloud a few weeks earlier) but I was terrified about going in to church looking like a woman, that people would start treating me like a man in a dress. So while I was presenting as female literally everywhere else, I was still trying to dress androgynously at church.

My expectation that day was to take off my bra before church. My breasts were pretty small (well, they’re still small, but they were even smaller a year ago) but I still wore a bra every day. In some places when the situation called for it, I was still able to get away without wearing a bra and there were times where I’d switch back and forth between presenting as Jessica and a very androgynous, very feminine version of Josh, sometimes several times a day.

So as I was saying, I was expecting to take my bra off in the car and go to church as a very feminine looking guy. When I was in the parking lot though, I decided to just leave the bra on. I didn’t feel like going through the gymnastics of pulling the straps through my shirt sleeves, trying to undo the band without disheveling myself too much. At that point, I felt like God would just have to get over it, that if there was a problem with me wearing gender appropriate clothes at church, well then God or whoever could just pound sand.

It was a strange experience, really presenting as a woman in church for the first time, feeling like God and everyone else saw me as I really saw myself and despite the initial fear and trepidation, it was a very liberating experience—I was free to be myself, to be authentic in my life, dress and worship. I was no longer hiding anything about myself.

As time has passed, I’ve found that tendency to hide is automatic, either from shame or fear, maybe from something else, but it’s there nevertheless.

My depression has been getting somewhat worse lately– being unemployed is part of it, especially since I’m sitting around at home so much of the time. And so I started cutting again last week– I’d been on and off my anti-depressants, taking them as I needed the small boost and that had seemed to be working pretty well for the most part, but lately the depression seemed to be getting worse and the anti-depressants weren’t enough to stop it.

As I was cutting last week, I started tracing some of my old cuts with the razor blade, opening them back up. The thought that went through my head while I was doing that was that I had to pay for having messed everything up– my four year plan for getting surgery is out the window now, amongst other things.

One of my friends asked me why I started cutting again. Why didn’t I call her, she asked. It seemed like I was doing so well and she couldn’t understand why I started cutting and why didn’t I call anyone to stop me?

The simple answer to her question is the self-hatred that I mentioned above. I had to pay, not just for messing things up, but for even needing a surgery plan in the first place: the state of my body at this point is so distressing to me that in some instances I feel like I’d rather die than live another minute with the way that I am. I hate my body, I hate the way things are, and I hate that I couldn’t be happy with the way things were.

There’s a part of me that hates the fact that some people will ask “is that a guy or a girl that you’re with?” No one transitions to be androgynous, no one transitions to be the freak show, but sometimes it seems that I end up occupying that role anyway– I’m just a little too tall or my shoulders are just a little too broad, and it fills me with self-loathing.

The more complicated answer to my friend’s question is that I’m too used to withdrawing from others when I’m upset. I stop participating in those social circles that I normally frequent, the isolation making it that much easier to convince myself that I deserve the self-inflicted punishment. Don’t you see, I’m all alone and no one loves me? That I’ve pushed everyone else away is beside the point, part of the selective vision with which I view my own problems.

Withdrawal is normally considered to be a sign of depressive behavior, but something I’ve noticed is that it seems to be very common among trans people. We could talk about co-incidences of transsexualism and depression, but I think an easily overlooked part of the equation is much simpler: trans people are used to hiding the truth from the world– we’re too used to dealing with our problems, no matter how severe, completely on our own.

I also think that explains another statistic– the one in three suicide rate among transitioners. I don’t know how many trans people are depressed all the time versus how many of us experience it episodically (or if that’s even a useful distinction), but one in three sounds awfully high to me. I have a feeling that it’s based on that automatic tendency towards self-reliance: we’re expecting to pull inward, solve our problems and re-emerge as stronger men and women. The problem, obviously, is that too many of us don’t re-emerge and I think it has more to do with being alone than being unable to solve our problems.

I also think the problems that we try to solve on our own are intractable: how am I going to deal with always being a little too tall or having slightly too-broad shoulders? I can’t. Just like I can’t simply ignore people who invalidate my gender identity because our genders are validated, at least in part, by the actions and behaviors of the society around us. I think that part of the reason we go through SRS is that we’ve been indoctrinated with the belief that women must have a vulva and any other state of being is secondary or less-than. Even our ability to pass is measured by how other people treat us than how we see ourselves.

The way I see it, the question isn’t as much about how I’m going to deal with being imperfect as much as how I’m going to shift from this natural tendency to withdraw into myself. It’s a question I don’t yet have an answer for, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be one of the most important questions I answer as I move forward.

Advertisements