• Reading time:7 mins read

So much of the pain and upset and conflict that we experience comes from trying to put things in boxes and realizing that they don’t fit. What’s wrong with the data, we demand, as we jam it in, try to force it into the system we have, instead of asking, what’s wrong with my system?

If the reality doesn’t fit my way of organizing things, maybe that’s not a problem with reality. Maybe I need to change the way i’m dealing with what’s in front of me.

The most horrible people all seem to get that reality as we understand it is what one asserts it to be—it’s all a matter of framing—and they are so afraid of anyone else realizing they have exactly the same power.

I probably would have realized and accepted that I was trans much earlier if it weren’t for a couple factors:

  • a lack of bodily autonomy
  • a lack of understanding of gender theory

Without these, my head wasn’t in the right place—so even if the thought flitted in, as things do when they’re obvious, it didn’t stay. It’s not like I hadn’t repeatedly entertained the idea for decades, on a “ha ha, wouldn’t that be something, huh ha ha, oh well” level. but it took tangibly understanding that I could, was allowed to go there, and what it would mean for me to do so, to finally connect those dots.

Basically my whole life I rode with this idea that my body wasn’t my own; that I had no right to mess with what was in effect other people’s property. If made any of my own decisions, down to getting a new style of haircut, I would get in trouble with whoever was in charge at that moment.

That lack of autonomy, it tangled me up with a few thoughts. One, I wasn’t allowed to make any potentially permanent changes, because what if! What if someone else wanted [x] from me down the line? No matter if I didn’t want it myself; I would regret it! They would make me regret it! It would ruin everything!

In hindsight my queerness was so fucking obvious, but my life was this long series of interventions from the age of six, with the people who dictated the rules of reality doing all they could to prevent me from recognizing and accepting it, lest it in turn become real.

As late as the back end of my marriage, my ex-spouse kept up this running commentary about trans and queer people—not that they were bigoted, heavens no: what kind of mental illness led them to destroying their bodies, how they lost their right to make that sort of a decision once they entered a relationship. This, on top of just going overboard in control over every aspect of my presentation and behavior from the way I stood and walked to the expression on my face, to the point where I couldn’t go out for milk without them forcing me to change three times to make sure I didn’t reflect badly on them in the event someone saw me.

They didn’t spell out their accusation long-form, but they knew! They knew, like everyone always knew, as they lectured me out of the corner of their eye. The whole goal was to keep me from developing my own ideas; to try to force their own version of reality by sheer force of will.

I think ironically it was the intensity of their control and general violence toward me that made the void all the starker when I cut them out of my life. They achieved such a total successful wipe of anything I had been before I met them that without them to maintain the facade I was… open, raw, in a way I might not have been otherwise. The whiplash forced me to recognize that for me to survive I needed to find my own control, figure out what was really going on with me.

To understand that the decision was no one’s but my own, that it didn’t meaningfully affect anyone but me—

To know I had nothing else to lose, and that I didn’t have to play by anyone else’s standards to do it—

To realize that if I asserted it, if I wanted it to be true, that’s all it took to make it it true—

Finally, it clicked.

Of course on top of the basic autonomy, I needed to fucking understand what gender was. which isn’t really intuitive based on what we’re handed from the culture around us—or it wasn’t to me. There’s an element of agency to this as well, in terms of people trying to control one’s behavior and make sure they fit this or that mold, but it’s also about theory. First principles, that let you build bigger ideas.

To fully grasp the difference between sex and gender, and the range of ambiguity to both of them, was this lightning bolt. To not have to fit this model of, “Well, if I’m not what they tell me then I have to be the other caricature here, and I don’t think I’m really that either…”

See, right now I’m all on this kick of embracing my femininity, which rocks and is great and I just want to run with this forever, and I’m medically transitioning, which is making me feel like a human for the first time—but I’m doing this within my rejection of an opaque gender binary.

This is what I need, and i’m pursuing on my own terms. I’m not doing it in order to fit someone else’s ideas about what it would indicate if I rejected the gender that was forced upon me, with all the sneering and insecurity and stereotypes involved in that. This is just about me.

To get to that understanding, one has to shed so much. There are all these dumb concerns one has to wade through, based on gross internalized ideas like, “If I were a girl, I would be an ugly girl, so ha ha, what would be the point?” But, well:

  • Who’s to say you have to be a girl?
  • Who’s to say what ugly is?
  • Seriously, listen to yourself. Would you talk that way about anyone else?

Between that garbage misogyny and the whole what-if-i-regret-it, i’m-not-allowed angle, all constructive thought shuts down in this rationalized collapse of hope that one doesn’t really dare to pick through and inspect closely. Of course, there is also a flip side:

  • What if you regret not looking into it?
  • You’re allowed to do whatever you want with yourself; no one owns you.
  • No one owns gender, either. You’re allowed to read it however you want to.
  • If you love yourself, then you’re beautiful.
  • No one has the right to gatekeep your basic fucking existence.
  • Seriously, it’s okay.

That gatekeeping is is a big hurdle to get past. Everyone wants to preserve this order they’ve been handed, that they’ve spent their whole lives trying to game in order to win—in this unfair culture that says winning is a meaningful goal. It’s a hurdle that everything around us wants to prevent us from understanding, from our capitalist social structure down to individual interpersonal grief.

You owe yourself more. You don’t have to be what other people want you to be. And your only options aren’t the ones they hand you, which are stacked to feel hopeless.

You can just… figure it out. Figure you out, on your own terms, and call it what you want to call it. There are no real gates to keep. They’re imaginary. They’re just a box. A box that was never made to purpose, and is only distinguished by a label scrawled in sharpie on a peeling piece of masking tape.

Once I understood that I actually could just do it, and decide who I was—that truth of self was just a matter of assertion, and that i could make my own rules in the process—it all just exploded. The barriers dissolved, my brain did the same thing my body is now doing on HRT. It’s like letting go of that rubber band. It knows where it wants to go, and it’s not going to delay any further.