I finished Nevada last night and went for a run to sit with the novel for a while. It went a long way to calm me down and put things into perspective. I came back, ate and fell asleep pretty immediately.
The whole time I was highlighting passages that stuck out to me and had some kind of weird insight into my own life, and then it got ridiculous because it was like there ended up being something on every other page. My frozen emotions and moods stuck in anger and fear and complete apathy for everything have started to thaw in the last few years as I have begun trying to deal with these issues and reading this book was like taking a flamethrower to them. It was so much, so fast. I devoured the book and when I woke up this morning I was falling apart. Or, more like I was watching myself fall apart and wondering also like… when I’m going to be done because I got shit to do and dude, enough is enough.
The descriptions in the book of the characters dealing with these issues was more accurate to me than I would have liked. The terrible dissociation I feel all of the time and which has only gotten stronger as I’ve gotten older and which is the single most identifiable quality of my experience that feels like it is killing me is written all over these characters. Disappointingly, it stayed with the first character Maria long after she transitioned. Fuck. I was hoping that part was merely chemical and Estrogen could take it away. Wake my brain up. I guess not.
My take away from this is relax. I know you don’t got this. I know its overwhelming, but it was never meant to be easy. It was never meant to even be, so. Take a breath because you’re not the only one to construct a complex understanding of gender in order to survive your own mind and body and social experience. You’re not the only one who has ever done that and still doesn’t get it. No one gets it, so stop putting all that pressure on yourself to just ‘know’ or ‘figure it out.’ There are as many different perspectives on this experience as there are people out there to experience it and as many ways people have tried to deal.
So relax, its OK to be exactly where you are with it and its OK not to be able to talk to anyone about it because there are reasons you can’t, reasons they won’t be able to pick up on your real meaning, and its all OK, because it has to be because that’s all there is. You were fed a mountain of harmful rhetoric in a million of different ways, some so subtle that you may never be able to recognize them to even deal with them properly. You internalized a lot of hateful bullshit about how wrong you are and that’s OK too because everyone did. It’s all there has ever been. So stop worrying so much about whether or not you’re OK, because you are. Or at least exactly as OK as plenty of other people who experience these patterns. And they are patterns, they are human patterns, and they are such strong human patterns that you just read an entire novel that was basically someone else processing your entire life in front of your eyes. So relax.
But, you still do also need to address it somehow because it is literally killing you and it is not going away.
And when I woke up this morning my thoughts were obviously really even way more brilliant than that but I didn’t have my phone so I lost it before I could write it down. but that’s the gist.
I struggle to understand the point of transition now, then. IF estrogen is necessary for me medically then I will take it without even a second guess and just figure everything else out from there. If it’s not, if it’s truly just a choice, then I don’t know if I should bother. I don’t think I have what it takes to transition ‘properly,’ and I wonder at what I can even expect. I have given up on this so many times, I have put this to bed, I have moved on so thoroughly that I’m at a loss as to why it won’t go away. Like I let go, see ya, byeeeeeee. But it’s still here.
Its like I left it behind, but only with a huge chunk of myself and moved on or moved away and the world just slowly started to recede from me to the point where I don’t even feel like I exist. To the point where I developed mental illness? To the point where I’d rather die than spend another year and another year and another year living with this pain. …and that’s not even about gender, explicitly. It’s just what’s left over when you’ve excised yourself from all the stuff you’re not supposed to think or say or do. I’ve cut off that limb. I decided just not to have a gender. To “be a man” in the sense that that’s the default character I play in the world but one which I’m not really that into. But its the one so consistently placed onto me that It’s actually more difficult to deny than it is to accept, reluctantly. Every time its brought up. Which is also like 3 or 4 times a day minimum, for some reason.
It’s never me that brings it up, because I “don’t care.” I live my life in a genderless world and am constantly reminded just how bullshit obsessed everyone is about it. It cuts through everything from civil rights to sexuality to basic social interactions and social groups to walking through the grocery store and wishing you could look like that gorgeous girl wearing the body flattering dress or jeans and the perfect hair and makeup so on point and just so confident looking at the frozen pizzas (and the cereal and the tomatoes and you are totally not following her around on purpose) that you just know she must be in charge of her own life to such a degree that you didn’t even consider may exist. And you’re forced to play the part of the gross leering predatory straight dude obsessed with sex when you just want to know how she does it and can we be Facebook friends and yeah, sure if you want to have sex that’s fine too, umm where should I stand?
It’s not about gender really, because it can’t be. Because I can’t be a girl, fine. I accept that. Not everyone gets to experience life the way they want to, they way they feel they neeeeeeed to. They make do with their height, their hair, their stupid acne scarred face, and move on. But there’s something about gender that also ghosts over every exchange we have with almost every other person and tells us who we are supposed to be on all these stupid levels that it makes sense why some people just reject all of it and if I had been a woman I would probably have been the biggest feminist because that rhetoric would have been liberating instead of isolating.
But that’s it right there, in a nutshell maybe. People who don’t care invariably adhere to the stereotypes, the innate understanding, the psychological imprints of who we are and who we’re supposed to be as people, and those who do care shut out and isolate the other gender, sometimes so thoroughly and to an absurd degree. My life has been surrounded by either one of those types and in all cases there is a push to make me be a man. To identify me as a man. I don’t like the word ‘identify’ as a way of describing yourself. I don’t ‘identify’ as a man or anything else, I just am. Whatever the hell this is that I am. But, there is a huge push from other people to identify everyone else. Myself included, I’m not blameless. It’s probably an inevitable part of human nature.
But I don’t want to be a man. Fuck being a man. I didn’t sign up for this shit. I was curious about my puberty, what would happen, and its like god forgot to finish me or something because I hated every minute of it. And something they forget to tell you is that your puberty never really ends, it just slows down and gets mixed in with some aging factors, but you will continue to masculinize forever and if you hated it when you were 14 you’re gonna reeeeeeeaaally love what happens to you as you get into your 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
I shut out all notions of gender entirely beginning when I was 12 and didn’t figure out I was also shutting out a huge portion of who I was in the process. I think (trans or not) being a man is restricting and suffocating and subject to random violence that is just accepted as part of the package, and its amazing how much the result of that passes for a normal masculine personality in America. (Which is almost verbatim a line from the book but I never thought about it before and she’s so right.) One time one of my friends asked me to teach him how to act straight and all I could tell him was to just kind of switch off his emotions. I got really good at being the weird shut off kid in the corner who didn’t say much or have anything to add and didn’t date or interact with anyone in any meaningful way, and no one noticed that anything was ever very very wrong.
But whatever, that happened. So ‘what now?’ is always the question. Until it becomes why can’t I move my body, why can’t I move my mind, why can’t I now decide to start interacting with the world on my own terms. Why despite all efforts am I so stuck, and why am I now so far gone that I don’t even want to play this stupid game anymore.
So, it was nice to see I’m not only not alone, but how not alone I really always was.