06 December 2010

Without Guides

Yesterday I was teaching my cousin how to use his computer.  Well, at least I taught him how to get on the Internet and check the e-mail and eBay accounts, and use the online dictionary, one of his friends set up for him.  

After helping him, I started to think that nobody teaches anybody how to use a computer.  It's more like someone opens up the computer for someone else, and the person who's learning navigates his or her way through whatever is necessary or interesting.

Maybe that's how we learn anything, in the end:  Someone shows us the basics, then we figure out what we need to do next.

Some members of my family thought that the last woman  with whom I was involved in a relationship
"influenced" me to start my transition.  For one thing, by the time I started my transiton, there weren't very many people or things could have influenced me much, if at all.  By that time, I'd come to realize a few things. about myself and about the world, that nobody could have swayed or coerced me into.  Truth be told, not many people would have wanted to nudge me, if that was possible, into the direction my life has taken.  

What this person did was to acknowledge and, for a time, indulge my inner femaleness and the ways in which I was beginning, again, to express it.  If she "swayed" me in any way, she encouraged me to do things that were not only making me happy, but that were also allowing me, for the first time in my life, to make any sense of who I am and what, exactly, was my struggle with living.

What she did not intend, I think, was that I would embrace the essence of myself and live by it, not merely exhibit it when we closed the door behind us.  That, of course, is the reason why we broke up:  It was obvious that there simply wasn't any other way I could have chosen to live.  And she decided that it was incongruous for the life she was making for herself.  She works in a very conservative industry, and her colleagues' knowing about me--or, rather, fears about me--could very well have detoured, or even ended, her career.

But she didn't "influence" me, and she certainly didn't "teach" me how to be who and what I am.  Nobody could have done that.  Some might argue that nobody can teach us how to be ourselves; I wouldn't disagree.  And I'd say that it's doubly true for transgender people, especially those of my generation or earlier.  There was nobody who could have taught us how to be the women (or, in the case of FTMs, men) we are, and there certainly wasn't an atmostphere that would have allowed us to seek out such knowledge.  For too many, the only ones who taught them anything were the ones who were the most violent and grotesque parodies of themselves.  That's the reason why so many could make their livings only as performers or sex workers:  If a boy or young man were to leave everything and everyone he knew--which is what he would have had to do--in order to live as a woman, the only role models she would find were the most exaggerated kinds of faux femaleness, and the ones who preyed on them.  

Most people, no matter how self-motivated they are, still need a teacher or guide of some sort, at least when they're embarking on whatever journeys they're taking.  Anyone who can't find a champion, or mentor, becomes either the most intractable, incorrigible sort of individualist or falls prey to someone who shares his or her determination and disregard for the consequences, without the ethics.  Or they simply give up.

The woman I mentioned, while she may have been tolerant during the first couple of years of our relationship, was definitely not a mentor.  She couldn't have been; there was simply no way she could have mentored the sort of person I am.  

On the other hand, she is the one who taught me--after I'd turned 40--how to use a computer.