Word Therapy

This is going to be one of those things that I write for myself. It’s being put here because, quite frankly, keeping my journal open to the world is part of why it works for me. It lets me vent my thoughts and put some pieces together in a way that helps me make sense of myself. It presents an opportunity for conversation with people who want to engage in it. It allows me the chance to just get things off of my chest and try to find some sense of solace, despite the raging sea of enormous confusion that our world has become (or always has been, or always will be — I’m not so sure). It’s a method for me to resolve some self-turmoil and find out things about myself through exploration of my own psyche; like a one-way conversation with a digital counselor. Here we go.

It’s been a few years now since I came out as transgender. I didn’t even use the term at the time, because I was still trying to find out where my place in the whole miasma of gender-identity was; I knew that I felt feminine. I knew that I wanted to let that be a part of who I was known as. I knew that I wanted to say, “Hey, this is me,” and hope for the best — because, quite frankly, it was a gamble. It was a shot in the dark, to see if the people around me could even deal with the idea that I’d been living some kind of lie and just decided to up and tell them about it. It was like a secret that I’d kept from even myself.

So I said “fuck it” and let that secret out, and you know what? It went over pretty well. In fact, it’s become such an intrinsic part of myself that most of my (online) friends couldn’t imagine me without it. And that’s what brings me here, today, right now. I’m still living a lie, holding secrets from myself, being something that I’m not. It’s a cycle that pulls at my head every single day and makes me feel distracted, worthless, and inadequate. This isn’t quite the same kind of lie, though; it’s ultimately one that’s probably more sinister.

So here’s the deal. If you’re reading this — and especially if you’ve read my other posts or follow me on Twitter — then you know I’m transgender. Great! Did you know, though, that since my coming-out, I haven’t really … done anything about it? I started shaving more of myself, and doing so more regularly. I sit down when I pee, because it is something I can do that is small and entirely for myself and makes me feel “feminine”. I got some pictures of me, face all done up in some pretty makeup, to plaster on my social media profiles. It feels performative in contrast to the rest of my life.

Maybe it’s stupid to think that I’m being “performatively” msyelf, but that’s just it — my life, day in and day out, remains largely unchanged. I haven’t updated my wardrobe or learned to do my own makeup. I haven’t found a way to really express the person that I am, and I can’t bring myself to do much about it for a number of reasons. The biggest one, or what I tell myself is biggest, is the cost. Buying new clothes, gathering lipstick or other things — these aren’t inexpensive endeavors. I don’t even know what would look good on me, and I’ve got no frame of reference to try and figure it out. So I just don’t bother.

The apathy in that is probably the biggest problem. Maybe I’ve just become comfortable plodding through life in the body I was given, draped in the half-thought outfits that society expects to see it in. Maybe I’m scared of being attacked or harrassed if I step outside of that norm; more likely, I’m using an imaginary fear as an easy excuse to keep on seeming like a somewhat-effeminate guy that’s otherwise pretty normal. Maybe I’m ashamed of the idea that wanting to be who I am would require these sacrifices. Maybe I’m just twisting myself in knots because, deep down, I still struggle with the fact that I feel like an imposter.

I feel like I’m treading water. I feel like I’m co-opting the struggles of people who, far braver than I, have not only found their identity, but embraced it openly and been persecuted for it. I feel like I don’t deserve the happiness of knowing who I am if I’m not going to put in the work of making sure others know it, too. And that’s probably an incredilby asinine statement — after all, being myself isn’t about doing anything for anyone other than me, right? Yet still, every day, I see myself in the mirror in the men’s room, feeling out of place and wrapped up in the wrong skin and the wrong clothes and the everything is just … wrong.

So I retreat to my online space, the place where my physical trappings aren’t important. The place where I’m known by my words and a single prettied-up picture that I wish was really me. The place where I know I’m safe to shout long and loud about the person I feel is me, and still feel welcomed. The internet has always been where I belonged; it was this when I was young, finding people around the world in Yahoo chat rooms and just talking about whatever. It was there when I was playing online RPGs, hiding behind characters I created — most of them female, of course. It was there in the persona I created as my “player”-self in those same games, another assumed identity that was just a performance I played for the sake of expressing things I wouldn’t grasp about myself for fifteen years.

And so it comes around in circles, looping back around on itself — which of these two faces is actually me? Am I the person that I put forward in the spaces where I feel secure and supported? Am I the face that walks around my city in poorly-picked clothing, much of which is older than my ten-year-old son? I’d like to think I’ve changed and grown and, dare I say, found out who I really am — but if that’s me, then why the hell is it so hard for me to want to do anything to show it? I twist back and forth between feeling like maybe I’ve just invented some persona to play online, and feeling like the persona I play is the one that walks into work every day with poorly-shaved stubble and ragged-edged t-shirts that long to be replaced by something new.

And hell, let’s be real — sometimes I feel like this internal “struggle” is a bunch of bullshit all around, and that I’m just making up problems to obsess over because I’m looking for excuses to explain away why I’m not constantly content. My life is pretty damn good, after all, and while I’ve got my share of the standard problems that most people deal with, it’s not an overwhelming heap of issues to slog through. I am, for the most part, doing well and able to help provide for my family, but we’ve all got that swirling discontent that lives within us and sometimes I feel like I’m clinging to something that makes that feel justified — which is, perhaps, ridiculous, since there’s literally no reason that I should have to find something to “justify” my own emotions to myself.

I guess the point of this is that I really want everyone to know that, sometimes, I feel like a giant fraud. In fact, most of the time. I don’t quite know what to do with it, and it’s been a huge knot in my stomach for months or maybe years as I’ve searched to find new ways to try and actually be who I am. Putting all of this into words, I think, is helping me find a way that I can try to address some of my own insecurities, but the end result is going to be the same: I’ll keep being these two people, keep digging at myself for failing to reconcile them, and then eventually I’ll wind up back here throwing a thousand words of self-pity together in some vain attempt to collect myself and soothe the disquiet that I keep dredging out of the corners of my own mind.

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