14 March 2010

Recovering From An Earlier Season

Heavy rain continued to fall this morning, but it had tapered off to a drizzle by the middle of the afternoon. I went out for a walk; I actually rather enjoy the drizzle, even on a rather chilly day.

A few people strolled with their dogs. All of the canines seemed to know me, even though I couldn't recall seeing any of them before and I haven't had a dog in a long time. Do they know that I have two cats? Sometimes I think I should have been a veterinarian.

Anyway...Another season will soon have passed. In three weeks, it will be Easter. Mom and Dad plan to come up this way that weekend. As we grow older, they talk a lot about what could have been or, at least, what they wish the past had been like. I suppose just about everybody does that. And I suppose that the things they missed, or the things they would do if they could go back in time, aren't so different from what many other people would have wanted. He says he would have liked closer relationships with his family and wishes that he had more of a life outside of work. So many other men of his generation--who similarly devoted themselves, whether out of necessity or choice, to their jobs and careers-- say such things. She says that she would have married and had kids later than she did, after getting more education than she has. Other women--who, like her, followed the unwritten timetables women of their generation followed-- have told me similar things.

For me, thinking about what might have been becomes very complicated. On one hand, there are some aspects of my earlier life that were very good. For one, I had--and, thankfully, have--a great mother. A social worker with whom I talked as I was about to start my transition said that I was one of the few women, trans or otherwise, she met who didn't have "mother issues." And, I had the opportunity to travel and do some other interesting things. However, there is that one huge "what if"--about my identity, of course: What if I had been raised as a girl named Justine, or with any other girl's name? What if I could have experienced my birthdays, the holidays and the seasons as the person I actually am?

Even though the past few months have included a bit more drama than I'd anticipated, I still feel that in some way it's been a kind of hibernation. I don't mean that in a negative way: These past few months have been a time to recuperate. In the summer--or the part of it that remained after my surgery--and for the early part of the fall, I was recovering physicall. During that time, I also experienced another kind of recovery, which has continued: from my previous life, or more precisely, its effects.

Probably the worst thing about my previous life, and the thing that has made much of my recovery necessary, is a particular psychic scar that is just starting to fade. All of my life, I somehow felt "less than." Other people could find happiness and fulfillment in marriage and families; I could not. They could feel comfort in their own bodies and secure in their persons; I could not. They could love and be loved, by others and themselves; those things, it seemed, were not permitted to me. And, perhaps worst of all, they could be unselfconscious in ways that I could never be: They did not have to censor themselves in expressing their desires and dreams.

Now I realize why the college feels so oppressive to me: There are a lot of people there who don't--and possibly don't want to--realize that I am not "throwing my sexuality in anyone's face." For that matter, I'm not throwing anything in anyone's face. Other people can keep photos of their spouses and talk about their kids, and no one thinks it's "obnoxious." Or they can announce that their getting married or that a kid's on the way and no one expresses discomfort.

But when you're trans--or gay, for that matter--people ask, and then they're upset with you for answering--or not answering--them. Or else someone in a position of authority tells you "It's not an issue as long as you don't make it so," then treats you in exactly the kinds of ways that can lead you only to the conclusion that your "issue" really is the issue.

What they don't realize is how much privilege they have because their gender expression and sexual inclinations are so assumed to be the normal ones that they're almost never noticed, let alone mentioned. Shortly into my transition, I realized that privilege is something that you don't realize you have until you lose it.

Maybe that's why lately I've felt frustrated and drained when I'm at the college and not in the classroom: It's a reminder of the inferiority complex that I had internalized so thoroughly, from which I am only beginning to recover.

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