I. What I Did On My Vacation
I’ve just finished a five-month weekly consultation with a therapist specializing in gender identity issues. During that time, I did not feel a huge desire to get out in the world much or socialize outside of my job. It is hard to do stuff like that when you are not really sure “who” you are or how to present yourself.
I had briefly used the services of such a therapist last year. He turned out to be somewhat of a “meninist” & I wasn’t sure where he was quite going with the therapy. I think he was trying to steer me in the direction of becoming a “bro”—for example he gave me this MRA-type book to read called something like “The Dude Is Always Right” (probably not the exact title).
He also told me that the “good news” was that when I reached middle age it wouldn’t really matter if I was a woman or a man, because that’s when women aren’t really considered “real women” anymore anyway.
But the impetus of my second, and ultimately successful, attempt to get this type of counseling was an anonymous email I received in March.
Basically, the email called me the C-word. Cunt.
To give you some context, I used to deal with a massive amount of cyberbullying. That really trailed off over the last 5 years or so, and I rarely received any nasty messages anymore. I had also taken to engaging in “conversation” with the few haters who did contact me, which helped me a lot and actually yielded some important insights.
But here I am, staring at this word this person just sent me via email. And for the first time, I realized that this word had little-to-no meaning to me. It was like this nonsense word. It was like writing, “ftc7ri7.”
As an aside, I’ve noticed that the C-word seems to be the default when attacking women online. Here’s a word that refers to the gateway that most humans go through when first entering this world—something that’s kind of this sacred thing—and it’s used with the intention of being the worst pejorative EVER. What does that say about the worldview of the people who use it?
So anyway, I wrote back to this person and pointed out that, for a number of reasons, what was meant to be a “put-down” had missed its mark with me. That it was not a word I had a great deal of personal identification with (you know, other than it being the gateway where I was shot-putted into this universe).
The person wrote back asking if “shithead” was a better word to use.
My would-be harasser was now trying to negotiate put-downs that better conformed to my personal identity. There was something kind of touching about that. I suddenly had this flash in my mind of an alternate universe in which all the harassment I received had better addressed who I felt I really was. It still would have been hurtful, to degrees. But it also would have felt…”right”?
I responded, sort of in this burst of revelation, that it wasn’t the name-calling or the threats that had really hurt me all those years. It was the fact that I was so horribly, profoundly misunderstood (not the least by my own damn self). And that if this person sought to attack me in the future, it would have to be addressed to who I really was, not this ephemeral “idea” built out of cliches, personal fantasies, ideologies scraped from the Internet, and so on.
And that was when I realized I needed to find a therapist and just comprehensively deal with my gender identity issues once and for all.
II. Learning To Be Comfortable
What happened next would be a whole bunch of posts in itself. But to cut to the chase, I decided that what I wanted was not to physically transition into a man. My gender identity was far more fluid, rather than desiring to be “all in” one end of the gender binary or the other.
But I did learn to recognize, honor, and understand the masculine aspects of myself. I learned to forgive myself for not “nailing” the whole “feminine” thing the way I thought I had to. I learned that I should wear what makes me comfortable. I learned that I didn’t need to make a “decision” to be all-this or all-that—that my gender identity rested upon a spectrum & it was OK to let it be natural and move back-and-forth on its own.
And I revisited countless situations and scenarios from my past that suddenly made total sense with this new sense of self-knowledge. Talk about your moments of clarity…
III. Something To Think About
And here’s one more thing I want to say on the subject for right now. I’m not minimizing my own struggle, but I’ve had the privilege of spending a great deal of my life wearing clothes that felt comfortable to me. Pants, t-shirt, hoodie, sneakers, boots, etc. I think sometimes people made assumptions about me based on my sartorial choices that weren’t true—but regardless, I felt that I was more or less “allowed” to wear these clothes without being overtly confronted or even physically attacked.
But what about my gender counterpart who wants to wear more feminine clothing? It seems like the choices are much more limited.
My therapist told me the story of a man in his sixties with a family and well-respected job in the community who had kept his true gender identity a secret his entire life. Imagine that…not expressing yourself publicly for that long. Imagine never feeling safe or comfortable or “allowed” to express who you really are…your entire life!
And then I think back to the person who wrote that crucial email to me, the one who called me the C-word. The throwaway “burner” address (it was later deleted, of course) had a woman’s name incorporated within it.
What damage does forcing rigid gender identities upon others inflict on people? What happens to the person born biologically male who has his desire to express more feminine traits brutally suppressed by his parents and his immediate society?
What damage does it have on a person to be compelled to live other than what one feels in one’s heart?