If You Think You Are

“If you think you’re trans, you probably are.”

“Can you imagine waking up as the opposite sex and being okay with it? If so, you’re probably trans.”

Today is the six-month anniversary of the day I woke up and said to myself there has to be another way. There has to be another way to handle this “gender dysphoria” thing; there has to be another way to approach and unwind the confusion and discomfort I’ve struggled with since my childhood. It took me a while to find that way, to sort through a lot of outside perspectives and a lot of personal pain, but it did eventually all unravel. Last night while I was putting on my pajamas and catching glimpses of myself in the mirror I thought, “I would never want to be anything but a woman. There is nothing anyone could do or say to me that would make me want to change into a man.”

I was struck by that thought at that moment – you know when you think something that surprises you?  It made me pause, because a little more than six months ago I believed wholeheartedly in those two statements at the top of the page. I wanted to wake up in the morning and be a man, because I had thought about being trans so I probably was.

It’s amazing how our thoughts and beliefs can change once we step back and look at them objectively.

My last post here brought up some interesting commentary about childhood escapism, fixations and fantasy worlds that helped us cope with growing up a little different in such a homogenized world. It made me, to use an old and perhaps oddly related turn of phrase, “lie back and think of England.”  I’ve been in love with England since I was eleven-years-old and read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. I’m not sure exactly what it was, some passing similarity to the things I loved most about my own home – the green fields, the Sunday dinners – with less of the things that rubbed me the wrong way, like American gun culture, pressures to be a girly-girl and “date boys” (I put it in quotes because of the way my Midwestern mother always says it, that draws to mind images of 1950’s boys buying milkshakes for girls in poodle skirts in chrome diners.)  I watched British sitcoms about intelligent and funny old people and built models of spitfires to the Two Fat Ladies on their motorcycle with their pounds of butter; I was frightened by the daleks AND Tom Baker’s Doctor on PBS, intrigued and amused by The Hitchhiker’s Guide and spent a few months asking my friends to call me Zaphod. Later on I read books about Nelson and wrote about the Royal Navy and painted pictures of sheep on hillsides of the Yorkshire Dales. Several years ago I made 300-some tea sandwiches for an afternoon tea for my mother’s church, because I insisted they be authentic and not bastardized American versions. I perfected the scone and the plum pudding even though it was hard to find the right ingredients. And then I actually went over there for three weeks, stayed with a friend and tasted real cask ales in a real pub (and back bacon and sausages, mmm) and never, never, never wanted to go home.

I really can’t tell how much I love it without going on for another few paragraphs. I know it’s not some perfect utopia – I’ve seen poor parts and ugly parts and have read UK news and politics – but there’s something about it all that has been so precious to me for so long that makes England such a dear, beloved part of my life. In my perfect vision of the future, I end up in a nice little cottage in a nice little village where I can go have a pint every day and buy phenomenal cheeses at Sainsbury’s, and there’s a great place for curry that delivers nearby.  But that’s an escapist fantasy, isn’t it?

I asked myself last night what I would have done if, at a low point in my life – like last year, when I was out of work and directionless, embarrassed about leaving the only really lucrative job I’d ever had, battling with terrible depression about that, lonely for my friends who had moved on to other pastimes, socially isolated, anxious about my health and everything else – someone had come to me and said, “You could be English, you know, if you wanted to be. You could just BE that, if you love it so much. If you could just wake up tomorrow and live that life, wouldn’t you? After all, you sure do think about it a lot.”

It seems like a ridiculous comparison, but in all honestly, the angst I felt when I came home from those three weeks in England to my middle-class American life was not unlike the angst I felt when the trans narrative promised me I could live comfortably if I just identified as trans. Sure, it would take hormones and name changes and surgery and all this other stuff, but I’d be happy, right? After all, I could imagine it. I thought about it a lot. It lined up with so many things that were already a part of me –

And if I had five million dollars I’d pick up and restart my life in England. Bacon and sausages, here I come.

But both of those things are pure fantasy, pure escapism. One of the most painful things I experienced after July 20th was sitting down and admitting to myself that I’m a lesbian and I’m going to have to live with that. I’m going to have to deal with people not liking me because of it. I’m going to have to deal with there always being this chasm between myself and my straight friends. I’m going to have to deal with homophobia, internal and external. I’m going to have to deal with being one of those gay people myself.

I’m going to have to deal with my real life. Accept it and deal with it, everything about it, from my lack of work and financial success to my living arrangement with my mother to my sexuality to my gender non-conformity and the way I can’t always trust my mental state. I’m going to have to look at this and accept this for what it is because there ain’t no quaint English cottage in this American girl’s future.

(Well, let’s not write that off just yet -)

The funny thing is, eight years ago when I finally came to terms with being a lesbian, when I finally climbed out of the denial built on years of a conservative upbringing where it wasn’t an option, I didn’t ask any questions. I didn’t go online and google “Am I a lesbian?” and nobody offered “If you think you’re a lesbian, you probably are.”  Nobody asked if I would be happy if I woke up a lesbian tomorrow.  I watched Helen Mirren kiss Kyra Sedgewick in a clip from the movie Losing Chase (just a clip mind you!) and said to myself, “Oh my god, yes.”  I’d been thinking about it, roleplaying a more definitively female character than any I’d ever had, and gosh, she wanted to kiss that other female character just like that. Just like that. There were no questions or doubts. It was crushing and terrifying, yes, but also expansive and wonderful.

I remember years later going to sleep at night after roleplaying or writing or just watching a certain movie or tv show and thinking, man, no matter what happens, nobody can ever take this away from me. Nobody can ever stop me from loving women and I will love women until the day I die because it is just that true and pure. It was just an essential fact of my life, no fantasy, nothing to escape to, nothing else to try to be.

And I felt that last night, for the first time, really, about being a woman myself. As corny as it sounds, I felt proud to be female. I felt rich and powerful in my own skin, with nothing but pajamas on, on a cold night with no partner to go to bed to and no money coming in and no trips to England planned. It just was some clear, essential fact I’d finally come to terms with. Maybe I got “sir’ed” at the grocery store the same day, maybe I had a slight panic attack because an old man insisted on kissing my cheek, but at the end of the day, I was all right. I was all right, at last, with this body, this life, this existence as a female human being. I could finally deal with this.

Six months, or six months and thirty-eight years later. Finally. I just had to write about it today.

 

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11 thoughts on “If You Think You Are

  1. James Herriot made me fall in love with Yorkshire and I already AM English – his fictional world is a compelling one, all right! It’s not real of course, but nevertheless England has many marvellous and uplifting aspects. It’s so great to read that you’re more anchored in the present and more okay with it – freed from the compulsion to renew the belief in the trans ideal every day (been there, briefly, but it was exhausting having to re-convince myself all the time). I was also really happy you didn’t write off the cottage just yet! Who knows. It’s nice to have something to daydream about from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Exhaustion is a great word to put to that time. It is wonderful to be past that. Who knows where things can go now.

      And yes, part of my dreamlike visions of Yorkshire crackled when I found out James Herriot wasn’t even the author’s real name. But it is a lovely little world. I’ve been watching some current dramas that take place up in Yorkshire (Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax) and they certainly show a different side. I am ever comforted by the calming statement “I’ll put t’kettle on,” though. 😉

      Like

  2. Hey there, 🙂 … I just discovered your wonderful blog. If I knew you better I’d wrap you up in a great big hug and say welcome! … but I don’t so I’ll stand over her a bit, beam a huge smile at you, and say, “Welcome.” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LOVE this post!
    Firstly I was born n raised in the very place you mention in … West Yorkshire… W. Maggie Thatcher, miners strikes, on the dole, the whole bit.
    I still look for places I knew to be home in All Creatures and Last of the Summer Wine (have you seen happy valley?)

    It wasn’t any easier as a genderqueer / nonconforming person over there I can assure you. Scars on my face remind me not to romanticize my history…. from that area of West Yorkshire … Still isn’t. I’m now estranged from my family over there.
    Though oddly Hebden Bridge is the lesbian Mecca of England or something.
    I had a similar awakening / trajectory … But here are a couple things that made me pause for further thought along the way
    2. The realization that my thinking around being “Trans” was still boxed in by a gender binary… That if you don’t want to transition to one end or the other … Well you mustn’t be “finished” yet … Effectively you’re “not Trans enough” to be accepted by any community now including many of those whose goal is Binary transition. As we’re now realising, gender identity is different than sexuality… I felt uncomfortable with lesbian as I’ve never felt like a woman … What stunted me is I never wanted to become a man… Also curious… I have never had a dream in my life where I was female. But would check to see if I was make then… My young mind unable to conceive of any other option.

    Genderqueer, gender neutral, third gender, gender other … Are now becoming recognized as a final resting point … Not as a “fence” for the indecisive… I feel personally it’s the hardest place to exist among all identities, as we are kinda homeless… In every community … For now.

    3.
    But I also love what you say about reclaiming woman again… Maybe for some of us … The current history and definition is just too wrong and too narrow and has been for so long, we forget we could just widen it… And eat bacon sandwiches and cups of tea every day for breakfast too if we want to!

    For me … I’m not male, I don’t want their bits added. Its more … An absence of female. I want woman and lady and girl things to be unhooked from my person. Small enough chest I can wear men’s clothes with a sports bra don’t hate them… But the absence of periods, breeding equipt and being a “receptacle” for other people was huge. And when a medical issue presented the chance to address that I lept at it a little too enthusiastically – several “raised eyebrows” followed … After hysterectomy I finally found my home on there genderqueer / therefore sexuality “queer” square of the spectrum. It now feels like I finally own my own role in the world … Coz the things from “that expected role” are literally gone, as are defending myself from assumptions of being yer common garden variety lesbian.

    Thank you for also making me add the possibility that the word woman is just so wrongly defined to begin with … It’s causing its own identity backlash.
    Very interesting post!

    Like

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment – I felt a little guilty and embarrassed going on so about England when I know I’ve got readers from The Actual Place. But I have seen Happy Valley, and was excited to hear they were making a second series. Maybe it’s all the tea and bacon sandwiches. We don’t have bacon sandwiches over here. We don’t even have proper bacon! Just the “streaky” kind. Alas.

      But yes, this space in the middle needs more space. More room to exist as valid and viable for all of us, whatever words we want to put to it (I have a blog brewing about that I hope to get to writing soon) and however we end up here. I think being reconciled with being here is the biggest thing. Like it’s easier to be here knowing it’s an end unto itself and I don’t have to move away from it or prove myself as something else. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily see it.

      I hope by seeing each other, even in just the stories we throw onto the Internet like this, we can at least see it ourselves. I was telling a young person on tumblr a few weeks ago we have to just keep making space to be ourselves. Glad to have you here. =)

      Like

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