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Since I’ve been so unhappy lately, one of the things I discussed with my gender therapist was the possibility of de-transitioning.  With as sensitive as I’ve been about being misgendered, I wonder whether I have the thick skin that I’ll need in order to survive as a trans woman in this world.  It seems that transition hasn’t necessarily made me happier and I continue to doubt whether I’m a “real” woman.

But what does that even mean?  The word “real” is used to differentiate from things that are “fake” and when people are talking about other people, what we’re really talking about is exclusion, the exclusion of a set of people from a larger group.

I’m sure that some people wouldn’t consider me to be a Christian, much the way that many Evangelicals doubt the authenticity of a Roman Catholic’s faith, but that’s not a valid distinction, merely an attempt to validate one’s life by invalidating the experiences of another’s.

Make no mistake, I’m certainly trying to validate my own life and the choices I’ve made to get here.  I want to be a “real” woman, but the problem is that “real” doesn’t mean pretty or sexy or smart or tall.  It’s possible that considering myself to be real is a fairly meaningless distinction– other people, such as extended family and some friends will always try and exclude me from being a woman.  I wouldn’t presume to invalidate their experiences of gender in order to make myself feel better, but I wonder whether we need a bigger view of what a woman really is.

What I’m trying to say is that I want to be just a woman.  I want to move past any notion of real or fake because those words take the power of identification away from the place it belongs– the person being categorized.

The solution of suicide, of self-doubt, as it applies to this problem not only evades the question at the heart of the matter, it also robs the person of her ability to self-determine, to self-identify.  I am who I am, the woman that I am, because I grew up with GID.  Had I successfully suicided at 16, that would have cut short the whole process.  Maybe my childhood wasn’t particularly easy or awesome, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it changed the person I am today, not least by freeing me from the need to call other people “fake” in order to validate my assertions about myself.  Suicide is a circumvention of that necessary work.

My solution, if I have one to offer, is for all of us to be real.  I’m sensitive to being misgendered, to the allegation of not being a real woman, but I can’t let that stop me.  It puts all the control into the hands of others when any decisions should be mine.

So how do I deal with it?  A terse ‘fuck you’?  A strong assertion that no one is fake, that no one can possibly be wrong about who they are?

I was looking through my journal earlier today and I noticed that all the entries before my name change were relatively optimistic and that the majority of the entries after my name change, after the fight with my parents, after all the full time stress, were drastically more dark.

I know that I expected things would be different on this side of full time, that I wouldn’t have the continuing need to prove myself to others.  I think I expected that people would look at the “F” on my driver’s license and stop questioning.  Instead, it seems like they can’t figure out how I got an “F” on my driver’s license in the first place.  In other words, I feel like I’m still fighting for acceptance.

Too, I still feel quite alone with my hurt, the dysphoria is more acute than it used to be and I lost my job earlier this year.  There’s more stress in my life when I expected there to be less.  I expected the dysphoria would get better, not worse, but here I am, crying and wondering where the next cut of the razor blade should go.

This uphill battle of life isn’t going to level out just because I get surgery, either.  The need to fight for validation of myself will still exist– having the right genitals isn’t going to fix that.  Some people will continue to closed-mindedly point to genetics or any of those other things that I doubt myself from time to time.

What I’m seeing from that realization, that the weapons of other people are the same weapons I use against myself, is that I have yet to recover from my own internalized transphobia.  I’m ashamed of being trans.  I don’t want to have to fight for acceptance any more.  I’d rather just be stealth, assumed to be a woman, blend in.  But I can’t just blend in.  I’m trans and I have to own it, even if I don’t want to.

So I wonder, can I be trans and beautiful at the same time?  The question underneath that last question is this: can I stop being ashamed of myself, of who I am?  Can I be a trans woman and not be a freak?

On one hand, it seems more than odd that people accept labels and behaviors simply because society deems them acceptable.  In that sense, I may never not be a freak, but I will never be a mindless asshole, either.  I am, at the very least, willing to own the person I am, to own my behavior rather than performing it without a second thought.

But how can I stop being ashamed?  How can I find happiness?  I can be happy about being able to be a girl despite the accident of biology that made me a boy, but that’s not really what I mean.

I’m trying to think about something simpler– what are the good things about being a trans woman?

I made a list:

  1. I don’t take anything for granted, especially my gender.  And I’m more sensitive to how I treat others.
  2. I’ve had to really examine my ideas of male and female and I’ve gotten to choose what behaviors fit me best.
  3. I’m special.  I’m not just a regular girl.  In fact, I had to go through hell just to be a girl.
  4. I’ve gotten to be both a boy and a girl.  That’s unique, even if it was (and is) quite confusing.  I probably have most of the qualifications for a Ph.D. in gender studies just from living my life.
  5. There’s variety to my feminine form, a kind of masculine androgyny that’s both mysterious and sexy.

What I get from looking over that list is that everyone who’s different tries to find reasons that being different isn’t the worst thing ever.  In other words, what I really see behind that list is a desire to be accepted just like everyone else.  I may be different, but I don’t want to be treated differently.  In other words, I wish that trans people were just accepted and helped, that there was no $20,000 prerequisite to being myself.

In my absence from this blog, I’ve experienced my usual spate of ups and downs, withdrawn from people, cut only a little, and generally stayed away from most harmful habits except for smoking.  The thing my psychologists like focusing on is my tendency to withdraw, something I’ve talked about at length here.  Why won’t I pick up the phone and call them when I feel like picking up a razor blade?  Something I haven’t discussed before is the fruitlessness of so much talk: I feel like talking is like firing a gun in the air– the odds of hitting something, anything, are infinitesimally small.  I feel broken, like my problems aren’t just problems to be fixed but are systemic issues, problems with who I am and how I am.  Talking is no help.

What I mean, down at the bottom of that last statement, is that I want to fit in and I’m always unable.  I might be experiencing a very successful transition on one hand, but there are still instances where I don’t fit in.  It’s disheartening because I feel like I transitioned so that I could fit in better, not worse.

That sense of not fitting in reinforces my own feelings of self-hatred.  I hated myself so much that I decided to transition; I hated being a guy, I hated the body that I had, the way that I looked and I much preferred myself as a girl.  The problem with all that pent-up hate is that it has nowhere to go.  I may have channeled it for a constructive purpose early on, but it’s much more self-destructive now.  It’s always been directed internally; it drove me to transition, as I already said, but now that most of the work of transition has been done there’s no physical response I can make to lessen my dislike for myself.  The hate is becoming fixed on the person I’m becoming and I hate myself post-transition almost more than I did before.  Post-transition, I still don’t fit in.

I haven’t completely worked out how to handle these feelings but my psychiatrist pointed out an interesting idea to me the last time I saw him: if I’m on the first floor of a building, I might feel like real progress is being made if I’m on the escalator going up– I can feel the acceleration.  On the other hand, once I’ve been on the second floor for a long enough period of time, it doesn’t feel much different than the first.  All those feelings of progress are gone and stagnation moves in.

One of the problems with being a pessimist is that I tend to focus more on my pain than on my progress.  While others are telling me that I’m pretty, I’m telling them back that I still hurt.

I look at happiness almost like a balance sheet– credits for things that are self-affirming, debits for things that hurt.  One thing I’m quite certain of is that the debits remain static.  I don’t hurt more one day than the next.  The nice thing about dysphoria, in my mind anyway, is that it’s a known quantity.  I feel lousy, but I know that this is the worst of it, that it gets no worse.  So I hurt, but the thing I’m certain of is that I’ve plumbed the depth of my own pain– I’ve been to the bottom and seen how bad it is.  There’s nowhere to go but up from there.  And that’s at least one positive thing.

I’ve turned my life upside down over the past three years and in spite of the pain I still live with, I don’t regret any of what I’ve done.  I wouldn’t undo it, no matter what.  I would never de-transition.

So, there’s this massive ache inside me, this big black hole of light and happiness, but I might still be able to go so far as to say that I like the woman that I am.  I think she’s beautiful and bold and sexy and bitchy and smart and incisive and god-help-you-if-you-piss-her-off.

Liking that woman doesn’t mean I’m happy, make no mistake.  Happy people don’t try to commit suicide.  I am hoping, however, that one of these days I can find contentment.  I’m struggling to find my way there.