Elasticity

  • Reading time:7 min(s) 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.

Orientation

  • Reading time:5 min(s) read

A thing I didn’t account for about transition is, okay, it’s one thing to have myself figured out more or less. But one forgets, so easily and so quickly—especially with this addled neurology I’m rocking here. Old habits are hard to break, even when they’re clearly wrong. One begins to doubt one’s self, often one’s basic sanity.

Having physical reminders? It’s amazing. It’s so helpful. It takes away such a cognitive, emotional burden to be able to look down and see, oh, right: boobs. Or feel them brush against my arm when I reach across. To mutter to myself, and for my voice to come back… well, closer anyway to how I want, without my thinking or trying. Having a daily routine, maintaining myself, doing my hair and makeup. Getting dressed properly.

All this grounding, it’s like writing a list and realizing, oh, I don’t have to carry all that in my head anymore and work myself up out of fear I’ll drop one of the balls. All this tangible aspect, it offloads so much burden, and at the same time confirms it’s not just imagination. I can relax.

I am so unused to anything in my head mapping to the world around me that I didn’t know what it was like or how much of a fucking relief it is to be able to just have reality taken care of, so I don’t have to hold it every moment of every day, afraid that it may shatter. I am so used to living exclusively in my head because there has been no interface. Now it’s like reality is spilling out of my skull into my waking, sensory world, and it’s so weird and trippy and makes me feel drunk. If this is reality, and it makes sense to me, what was that world I was living in before? This is why I say it’s like I’ve woken up. It really is. It’s everything before that’s now in question, fading into the cobwebs of a decaying dream.

It’s so strange to rewire my sense of being in the world on such a basic level. Like, this is what it feels like to be alert and aware and to feel things and know things and for all this to be confirmed instantly, viscerally. Is this what it’s like for everyone else, always?

I had no idea how much burden I was holding at all times, and how much space and power and resources that ate up. How it left no room for me to just exist, and breathe, and feel, and want, and be an actual human being. I didn’t know what it meant to be alive.

There’s so much overlap among PTSD, ADHD, autism, gender and sexual dysphoria. It’s common for them all to be… I don’t love the term comorbid, but you know. You’re toting around one of these disorientations, the chance you’ve got another one is that much higher than if you didn’t have any. And each one just adds another layer to the yergh.

There’s this sense of carrying around one’s own reality all the time that doesn’t match the models provided, which one has to learn to entertain and navigate while translating all the way. And until the disjunct becomes clear, there’s just this continual knowledge that something, everything is wrong, nothing is working, your ideas never seem to match the physical world, and you don’t know how or why. And it’s such a fuckery. It’s so isolating. Nothing makes sense.

For decades I’ve made the analogy that my waking life, it’s like watching a TV screen. If I fell hard into identifying with videogames as a medium, that’s because that’s basically what life was like. Sitting apart, pushing few limited buttons, hoping they do what’s intended. You want to take these other actions that aren’t pre-programmed in? Step over that police tape, see what’s up that hill, talk to the creature instead of stabbing it? Tough. Those aren’t the rules of this world. Learn to play the game right if you want to get anywhere.

It’s no accident that my reckoning with all of the above pretty much has happened in one rolling wave. It’s all tangled up, intertwined. And letting it out…

There’s also this anger, that I’ve never been allowed to feel. Like, anger is one of the Bad Feelings, right. Except it’s not, of course. Emotions are neutral. They just are what they are. They’re signals. What isn’t neutral is one’s behaviors; how one acts on them. Denying the feelings, that’s basically the first step to major dysfunction.

There’s a lot to be angry about. And it’s fine.

One of the overwhelming narratives of the last month or two is, how dare they keep me from myself? All of them. How dare they. And that’s really what it comes down to. This is what I could have been this whole time. It didn’t have to be the way that it was. I lived through that for no reason.

I barely can wrap my head around what I dealt with, for so long. It’s a lot. There’s so much that I’ve accepted as normal, that’s just… clearly not something a person should have to put up with. But it’s getting better. I’m finally putting together this world that I guess comes pre-assembled for others. Becoming human.

It turns out, reality is intoxicating. And I want to feel it, encourage it, declare and define it as an ongoing work. I need to keep this moving.

We Became Our Fantasy

  • Reading time:2 min(s) read

Since the spring it feels like I’ve been caught in this material eddy, unable to make any big steps, barely able to maintain the day-to-day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the things outside my reach, as modest as they may seem. But as much trouble as I have coping with big and small things and ghosts from the past, there are times where perspective clicks and—

  • I’m a girl (sort of)
  • with maybe 40 years of life left
  • living in a small apartment
  • by herself
  • across from a large park
  • close to downtown
  • of a major city
  • in the northeast
  • in the autumn (currently).

It’s just, this is so close to a life that I’ve wished for since I was little, that I knew would never be available to me, that for years only ever seemed to get further and further from reality. In the ’90s I wrote stories with characters in almost exactly this scenario—yes, who were female, and had gender issues.

The main missing piece is an ability to support myself, and in such a way that I have mental reserves to do creative things again. (In the stories, money was always vague but I figured maybe she did computer stuff?) Other than that, it’s all just… continuing. Working on the transition, working on the therapy. maybe even piecing together my own social circle, once the plague dies down. Making this city the home I’ve never had, building a world I want to live in.

But on a basic level, like. I’ve more or less done it—including the parts that seemed, when i was younger, physically impossible. This was the escape I dreamed about, where after high school I would finally sort myself out and become alive… and where I was a girl somehow in these fantasies, which was absurd of course, but whatever.

Hell, with how drawn-out and reluctant my first puberty was, people regularly assumed I was maybe 20 until I was close to 40. It’s catching up a little now, but—it feels like even on a cellular level I was just hibernating; waiting until the moment I could truly live.

Now if only I were able to safely go outside….

Measuring Tape

  • Reading time:5 min(s) read

This is a lot of words about something stupid. But I’m going through a thing, okay.

The thing about measuring for a bra is, it forced me to recognize what was going on in this empirical way. I think what still stuns me is how they feel like they leapt at me out of nowhere. I was vaguely aware of their development, then all at once I had to address it. While I was otherwise preoccupied, these two separate mounds of flesh slowly began to aggregate. And, you know. When it’s not supported, stuff’s gonna spread out. Shape isn’t gonna be as obvious.

So they progress to the point that one finally turns their attention to these deposits and goes, huh, guess they’re growing a bit; should look into this. And by then… those modest rolling bumps, they consist of so much material. And if you just gather it up, give it a little support? The slightest pressure and suddenly, wait, these are actual breasts. When did that happen? What? Like, just lightly cup your hands underneath and hang on, there’s a shape here. Cleavage appears.

What I’m saying is that physics play into my obliviousness, then my sudden realization. This tissue is malleable, right. It deforms like a Japanese pudding with any pressure, including and especially gravity. (Which is in part why one wears a bra, yes.) And the reason I’m dwelling on this again is that I checked and despite the destruction of our postal service my first bra still seems set for delivery in three days. And, that’s gonna change things. It’s gonna be this leap where suddenly these untamed lumps are collected and contained, and… there’s a lot there.

In just a few days, I’m… my whole profile is going to change. The way I carry weight is going to shift. There’s going to be visible cleavage. This is becoming real, you know.

And it’s just.

Again it’s not even about the breasts, right. Not in and of themselves. The significance here is more symbolic. It’s kind of a landmark in reclaiming myself, healing my damage. Becoming myself, at last. It’s this objective metric, helping me to see the change in me in much the way the measuring tape was an objective metric allowing me to clearly see them.

I am so bad with measurements without an outside guide. I am so bad with intuition and emotion and vague mushy notions about things. Like how despite the blinking neon lights it took someone dragging me aside and pointing to them for me to see my queerness. I just shrug and accept and don’t really know how to quantify the qualia that make up my world. I appreciate every bit of proof I am who I am. The breasts to my sense of self, the measuring tape to the breasts—it’s all measurement of a measurement of a measurement; this existential train dragging me to the acceptance of my own fucking reality.

More and more, the reality keeps crashing in—showing me that I’m right. That I am me, despite everything. Despite all the denial and harm.

At the end of it, it’s just boobs. Like half the people on the planet. Big deal, right. But I’m going through puberty here. If I’m a little juvenile, I think it’s warranted. There’s a lot wrapped up in this. More than I realized until it was impossible to ignore.

I’m sitting here, feeling overcome at just the thought of claiming that piece of ownership over myself. Putting on that bra, shaping my chest, understanding that this is the new normal, we’re really doing this, and a hearty fuck you to everyone who tried to stop me for 30 years. Who accused me of being myself, like it was the most reprehensible thing.

It’s a point of reference.

I’m making progress. Measurable, objective, real, meaningful, visible progress.

I’m so swimmy, all the time. Flailing in the void. But it’s working. I was always right, even when I didn’t know what I was right about.

I’m going to be okay, maybe. I’ve got this. I’m fixing things. It’s not too late.

Things are finally going right.

It just so happens that this landmark is goofy and comical and… sort of neat, in a visceral way. Which in itself complicates an already complicated set of emotions wrapped up in this. I feel so strange for feeling the way I do about something so base and silly.

This all crept up on me. I had no clue what value or significance it might have. I just wrote it off, until there it was. It wasn’t on my agenda at all. But apparently it’s what I needed anyway.

I’m sitting here, crying—but from happiness. Which is itself unfamiliar. Yes, crying from happiness is unfamiliar. But also, just… happiness? That has to be what this is.

I’m starting to realize I may have never felt actual happiness. That has to be that I’m feeling, and this is so novel.

Again, there’s just… a lot going on.

  • Reading time:1 min(s) read

So much of my life takes a different focus when I understand it’s not my responsibility to convince bigots that I’m human. It doesn’t matter who they are, how they may be related, what leverage they may carry over me. They were always wrong. And I survived, and I’m here now.

It was they who failed me, not the other way around.

Crack in the Cistem

  • Reading time:2 min(s) read

A thing to remember is that cis people often have a strange and fraught relationship with gender too. There are consequences in failing to adequately perform one’s assigned gender, even if one agrees with it. Achieving Maximum Gender is a big power goal for many cis people, especially neurotypical ones. It’s something more to win at.

When cis people feel undermined or shown up in their gender performance, or are misgendered, it’s a Big Fucking Deal. So if you’re trans and feeling weird about your whole situation, take solace in understanding it’s not you. It’s the concept of gender. Everyone struggles.

Well, not everyone. But anyone. That’s the nature of performance. People are just people, really, the lines we draw are arbitrary, and everyone’s faking this thing to try to meet some external standard. Not everyone picks up the skills or applies them the same way if at all. Some are years behind their peers.

What’s important in the end is just figuring out a way to like yourself. Be the person who you recognize as “me” and can feel feel comfortable inside. That’s it. That’s all. Whether you’re cis or trans. Playing someone else’s game is just a recipe for despair. People are people.

Here we are in the future and it’s dumb.

  • Reading time:1 min(s) read

Guy in distance: [incomprehensible shouting]

I: [tune it out]

Guy, closer: [more shouting]

I: [ignore it]

Guy, scampering toward me: “Miss! Miss!”

I, turning reluctantly: “Pardon me?”

Guy: “You’re just my size! I said, you’re just my size!”

I: [dumb stare]

Guy: [peers closely] “Whoop!” [turns robotically and walks away]

Later, on my way back, two different cars began to honk energetically, accompanied by more shouting, as I passed.

I guess it’s starting.

It was broad daylight. The first guy at least seemed amiable enough, if… a poor judge of how to communicate with people. I was too baffled to feel threatened or anything. But yeah, I guess I knew this was likely to become a thing eventually.

So. Here’s a new annoyance, then.

Today, this was just stupid. But if this is going to be how things go now, I guess I should start to be more careful.

All hail the monkey’s paw.

(Incidentally, this is not what I was feeling a few days ago. This is not the charming part. This is not what I find attractive.)