I know how to put my head down and do work, bulling through to get done what needs to get done. I have proved that.
I know how to open up, working through emotion, being open and vulnerable, integrating thought and idea. I have proved that.
What I don’t know how to do is seamlessly switch between those two things, how to integrate them into the expression of a life.
What I don’t know how to do is to be effective in the world as a woman rather than a guy, even a guy in a dress.
Guys compartmentalize. It is what they are trained to do. It is what we expect of men in this culture. The shameful thing for men in this culture is to be seen as weak, Brenè Brown says. The expectation of strength is woven into every assumption about what it means to be born male.
Women are emotional, needing the kind of support that entails.
Learning to be seen as male born and tender in a feminine way in this culture is enormously hard. It’s hard to do in a supportive network where people allow you to drop your guard, where you have active and present support to have your emotions affirmed and reflected, where you have allies who understand your tender heart, understand what you missed behind the armour.
Doing this work alone, though, or worse, doing it with the glare of press cameras on you, becomes almost fucking impossible.
I am very happy that I have been able to be that kind of ally to a few transwomen, encouraging them to go there. I am very sad that it has been impossible for me to find that kind of ally in the world, someone who can help me go there.
The demand to be tough in the world, to “grow a second set of balls,” as TBB put it, is inherent in the experience of those who come out as transwomen. We are told that we are obligated to negotiate the fear, the ignorance and the simple binary assumptions about biological difference in the world if we want to claim our place in it.
The Guy-In-A-Dress Line is very, very tough to permeate, especially for those of is whose bodies will never easily be read as femaled. We have to be ready to slip back across that line in any moment, with all the demands that being seen as a man in this culture, even a man in a dress, includes.
The price of that stuttered life is, at least for me, paid in deep loneliness, the kind that doesn’t let me develop a smooth way to integrate emotional accessibility and doing the work expected and demanded of me. I may try to be visible but will quickly find that my message has gotten lost in the gendered crush of assumptions as I am perceived as a “he” and then feel forced to compartmentalize up to do the required work.
My voice never comes back to me. Instead of being in a world where I can share my emotional state, getting it reflected and respected, I am in a world where I have to police my own expression, attenuating it down to that which doesn’t push people’s emotional buttons by demanding they examine their own assumptions and comfortable boundaries. I have to be ready to negotiate guy in any moment, hiding it or becoming it, rather than integrating and easing it.
This demand slices right through me, leaving me in parts on the floor. I search for solutions, for support, for techniques, for spaces, but they have escaped me for decades now. I know that the magic dream of sex change just isn’t available, know that my story will always be liminal.
I walk in the world with my feminine nature exposed and find emptiness. I walk in the world with my masculine body and I find emptiness.
Doing the work is possible. Being emotionally present is possible. Doing them both in some kind of gracious and integrated manner, though, feels impossible.
I know the loneliness of a long lost tranny. I don’t know how to transcend it, at least for someone like me.