Very early, I came to the realization that with my bones, I could never pass for having gone through puberty as a female. I was living with a born female woman who is 6′ 3″ and has size 13 feet when I first came out as trans, understanding how different her female-bodied experience was from mine.
If I couldn’t muster enough magical thinking to believe in invisibility, and being raised by two Aspergers parents, magical thinking was always in short supply, I had to find another understanding of my transgender nature.
I started with a Jungian perspective, working to integrate the masculine and feminine persona, looking to be comfortable in my androgyny. I didn’t take a femme name, never tried hard to female my body, even temporarily and searched for actualization rather than the compartmentalization that drove the majority of trans narratives at that time.
The more I explored, though, the more I understood my own nature was essentially feminine rather than masculine. I had never been cocky enough to be a good man, never taken to that kind of gendering, even if I tried. Engaging lesbians, my choices growing up finally made sense.
If I couldn’t be either/or, even switching between, then I had to be myself, crossing between. Even in 8th grade when the therapist was using her crude tests to identify my gender identity, I saw the trick and refused to answer, insisting that I just wanted to be myself.
Calling was the answer I found, looking to the role that gynemimetic shamans have always played in culture, reminding us of our continuous common humanity.
Healing was the plan, understanding myself and the world. I took my hermetic journey inside, working to develop a conceptual map of the world. Spending ten years taking care of my parents was part of this process, demanding that I drop my own ego, move past my own desires and search for something more fundamental.
I lived outside of gender, not in romantic relationships, not exhibiting displays of gendered expression, just doing the job.
After this, I was given two and a half years of poverty as problems and missteps caused problems in resolving their estate. I started by reaching out and searching for encouragement and affirmation, but found very little. As my resources, both internal and financial dwindled, I learned to hold back, using the stoic discipline I learned to reduce my expectations.
Now, somehow, I am supposed to blossom again, taking form in the world. When I enter the world, though, my years of seeking give me a very clear vision of where others struggle, and my bedrock approach, full of hard questions, makes them less than comfortable.
I live with the effects of too much therapy, a kind of analysis paralysis that limits hope. My potential partner pool (PPP) is very small because few people have done the work to be where I am in understanding. I am able to enter other people’s worlds easily but they struggle with mine and quickly give up even the attempt.
Much of this is rooted in the understanding of trans in the world. Transpeople find a lonely path, moving beyond the separations that comfort so many and demanding partners who engage the whole person, not just their gendered expectations. We can play roles for a bit, but over any time, relationships are very hard.
Some comes from being trained in an Aspergers household. I begged to get help for my parents when I was a kid, but the understanding of why they struggled was not there. Even now, very few people, even in the networks around autism, have any understanding of the effects of parents who can’t be emotionally there for their children.
My thoughtful approach has also been a challenge. Most people don’t lead with their head and if they do, they have probably not done the work to open up the pathways to their heart that engaging my trans nature required I do. I know myself to be a femme lesbian, my brain engaged with my emotions, not compartmentalized off from it.
How do I take who I am, all of who I am, and package it up in a way that can build me effective relationships in society?
The obvious solution is compartmentalization, putting the messy bits behind a wall and doing the kind of work which other people like. By using a concierge approach, professionalism, I can gain some kind of business success, satisfying the needs of others.
My deep needs, the needs for emotional mirroring that Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about in “The Body Keeps The Score,” the need to get past the scarcity of emotional understanding and support that comes from a lifetime of scarcity capturing my mind, the need to be supported as a whole person, not just a fractional person playing out a part, well, those are much harder to address.
Unless I find a way to have those emotional needs met I will always be an empty shell, depending on willpower alone to be effective in the world. I am at the limit of that possibility, the very limit.
To be too needy is to be crippled because your needs get in the way of just doing what has to get done to be effective in a social, bureaucratic, market based human world. People aren’t there to meet our emotional needs and even if they were, the needs I have, from decades of my experience of being trans, living with Aspergers and leading with my head are beyond their understanding.
Decades of clearing my vision though sharp written analysis allows me to see patterns emerge quickly. I know that people heal in their own time and their own way, even me, and that trying to demand that they do what they are not yet ready or able to do is not a useful approach.
People can’t change just to make my life easier. In fact, they probably can’t even acknowledge how they have made my life harder in the past because they are sure that they just did the best that they could, that change is not just too costly and too difficult, it is impossible to even imagine. Why should they, why would they change?
Very early it was clear to me that the solution of fitting neatly into a box of expectations wasn’t open to me. I had to take the path of enlightenment, facing the terrors and burning away what clouded my vision. I had to own my own gifts.
Returning with the gift to a society that deliberately put it beyond reach, though, is very costly. I know how to battle my inner demons, but facing down the demons of the world around me has left me depleted, lonely, lost and without hope for the kind of change which can get me the understanding, affirmation and love that I need.
My challenge is not to increase my coping skills, my contextual understanding of myself and the world. My challenge is not to try to go back to some time before I was traumatized and claim those feelings and possibilities for myself.
Every day, I do the work of going inside and understanding, looking at signposts and narratives in the world, listening close and putting them in context. I am not clinically depressed, though I am very much suppressed, husbanding the very limited resources I have left and attenuating myself to fit into the world around me.
I will never be twenty again, never have a body that isn’t decrepit, never have the kind of innocent exuberance that offers hope and quick resilience from challenge. I will never find an easy peer group with whom to share jokes and understandings. Limiting my play partners limits my joy partners, people who hear my song and get my jokes and who are able to give them back to me when I have lost my way.
Over the decades a number of therapists have heard my story, seen the pain in my eyes and told me that they can’t imagine how they can help. I am doing the work that they know how to assist with. My challenges are real and deep rooted, not just some kind of adaptation issue that new skills can easily overcome.
I reach out to find mirroring and I get back fractured understandings, limited by the range that others can see. They often want me to compartmentalize, to put away the challenging bits, to be who others want me to be. I can do that, of course, have done that for decades, but I also know that it leaves me hollow and broken.
Too much actualization, it seems, puts us too far from the conventions and routines expected in everyday life. It marginalizes and isolates us, taking us away from the kind of small chit-chat and shared assumptions that lubricate routine social life. We become something different, useful when insight is needed and to be ignored and dismissed when “real life” just has to be gotten on with.
I know the kind of emotional toll that is written on my body. I have used my smarts to keep going even as the cost increased.
Eventually, though, the price becomes too high. The needs overwhelm any chance of getting them addressed. You become too isolated in your own understanding, too resistant to playing along with other people’s games.
And that kind of actualization overload is where I live.