If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, it probably comes as little surprise to you if I say that I hate myself. The thing is, that statement is only half true– I hate that I’m trans, but I don’t actually hate myself. I believe that I deserve to be punished for being trans, but I don’t actually like it or get off on it.

Some of that mindset comes from the way I’ve felt for so much of my life– I had to be a good man or else I’d be teased, mocked and harassed. And I have been; both sides of it.

But what do I mean when I say I hate myself, or that it’s only half true? There’s a quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that got itself stuck in my head: In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

It seems to me that St. Paul was taking a person’s self-preservation instinct for granted. And so he should. I may hate myself, but if I stub my toe, do I not cradle it and let out a string of profanity? Do I not make certain to keep my hand out of a running garbage disposal? (If I were trying out for a job as a Bible translator, maybe I’d add, ‘Woe unto me, if I did not those things.) But what does self-preservation have to do with the idea of hating oneself?

Let me answer by way of an anecdote: I’m afraid of the dark. Everytime I get up at night to go pee, or anytime I have to wander around without the lights on, I actually carry a flashlight around with me. I don’t know why that is, but it is. I’m afraid there are monsters in the closet, Freddy Krueger hiding in my shower, Pennywise the Clown in the drain of the sink, calling out to me, “We all float down here…” The flashlight drives away the darkness and I can see well enough that I’m no longer afraid. But something weird has been happening since my suicide attempt– I’ve stopped carrying around the flashlight. In fact, I hope that if there are demons, devils or monsters and that if they do come out at night, they’ll slaughter me when I walk past.

The reason I bring this up is that I feel that prior to starting the working medication that I’m now on, it seems like my self preservation instincts were failing me, that instead of being afraid of something, regardless of the rationality of the fear, I should have been running and jumping the last few feet on the bed and instead found myself kneeling down and peering in the dark, convinced that the creature under my bed was going to claw my face off forthwith.

But is the self preservation instinct really what St. Paul is getting at when he says that no man hates his own flesh? I think not. If the Bible is really true, then I’m at least one exception (maybe the one that proves the rule, since I’m not, in fact, a man any longer) but I don’t think this is what he meant.

I think what we’re talking about is the notion that people are selfish. That we want those things that are best for ourselves, that we want what we cannot have, no matter how absurd it really is. As I said in my previous post, I want the miracle cure, I want to be a born girl. Wandering around in the dark, I want murder to find me instead of suicide. I want to die. But the desire underneath is that I really want to be at peace.

So why am I not at peace? Because there is something about myself that I hate, that I cannot stand. For all those people who say they love the sinner but hate the sin, I’m sorry, you’re full of shit, because I can’t even love myself when I hate that part of me. I either embrace it or I hate it enough that I will eventually destroy my own life.

In other words, there is internalized transphobia that I have to deal with. I’m afraid, hateful, of this part of myself and until I become okay with being different, with not fitting in, I will continue to hate that which does not blend in. One of the things I found out about myself as I started transitioning was that I wanted to pass, to blend in. I didn’t want people to see me and clock me as trans, I wanted them to think I was a normal cisgender girl. And I style my hair, do my makeup and dress like I expect a stereotypical woman will, I behave the way a stereotypical woman would behave, right down to liking boys, even though they’re not entirely my thing.

So how do I deal with this insistence of mine that I fit in? As I’ve already said, the time when I was androgynous and wasn’t getting read as a woman at all was very stressful. I wanted to fit in. I dealt with it through a kind of gleeful anger, a delight at smashing the status quo, at sticking myself right up in everyone’s face and saying “do you have a problem with me?”

When I realized that people were willing to fight back, I wilted. When I realized that people would discriminate against me, that they’d talk about me behind my back, I felt deflated, as though all the fight went right out of me. Whatever passing involves, for many of us, it isn’t a stealth existence. I need to be more at home with the idea of sticking it in everyone’s eye. The question is how? How do I change my whole mindset?

By not beating myself up, emotionally or physically, for failing to fit in. Others will take the opportunity to do that themselves. I ought not help them out, or make their assholishness any easier for them. By embracing who I am and all that entails. I’m transgender and I’m beautiful. I may not be mistaken for a cisgender girl all the time, but that doesn’t make me any less beautiful. By understanding that gender roles exist, but that they are as much a social construct as a fact of biology, we can realize that these things exist to be decimated; our fears aren’t supposed to control our lives, they deserve to be conquered.