Something that hasn’t been sitting well with me as I dig around, trying to find stories to orient myself, to figure out what in the world is up with me, is that in the writing I’ve found so far on trans stuff, there are constant tropes of having “always known” and of a very deep hatred of one’s existing body. This was less so in Nick Kreiger’s book, which I think is one reason that book got under my skin so much. The party line seems to be that if you can just do enough, check enough things off the list, then you can completely change to something new, rid yourself of this troublesome body, shed your old self, and this will fix everything.
I don’t doubt that for some people, fully leaving behind a body and a self that just never fit at all (or as fully as possible), will make life better.
But I doubt that’s me. At least right now.
I may have had the closest thing I’ve had to a real idea on this theme this morning on the train, the closest to a glimpse of how I want to be, who I want to be.
I want to add to my existing self. I want to fill in blank spots, to find the pieces that I cut off or shut down in order to fit, somewhat awkwardly, into the gendered space that was offered to me, as a kid, as an adult, as a woman. But I don’t want adding those pieces, accessing those places, to shut down the other parts of me that fit so well, that are so comfortable and are so much me. I don’t want an either/or choice. I do want to find a nicer space to be in my body, out in the world, during sex, when I walk, dress, bike, live, not because the old way of being in my body was so awful, but rather, because the old way was perhaps incomplete.
I’m a really bad liar. I don’t so much do “inauthentic” and I can’t really “fake” anything. I can, however, shut things down cold. I can stop talking, stop thinking, and refuse to look. As someone who mostly carries my feelings, and many of my thoughts, right out there on my sleeve, this sort of stone cold shut down is one of the few tools I have to protect myself. When I hit on one of these places, or when something out there in the world comes close, the feeling that bubbles up is often a deep anger. This anger is often a clue that I have some work to do. That’s one reason my anger while shopping was suspicious. Do racks and racks of crappy ruffly shirts usually inspire blinding rage? Never mind. Don’t answer that.
I think there are also feelings in my body that can help track down the pieces that I lost. I’ve never been coordinated. I have insanely good fine motor skills but awful large motor skills. I’ve always been awkward. I carry tons of tension in my back and shoulders and almost never relax. I love my body most when it’s being useful, most often in transportation (walking or biking, we don’t have a car). I feel almost coordinated on a bike, in tune with my surroundings, confidently navigating our busy city streets. I feel connected and strong and I love that feeling. One of the hardest times for me to live in my body was pregnancy and during recovery from birth, when I could not bike. It was hard for many reasons (including a difficult & risky pregnancy and birth), but I remember just aching to get back on my bike, to feel that freedom and connection to my body. About 6 months after birth (it really did take that long to recover), when I got back on the bike, it was such a relief, it was like coming home, like I got my body back.
The first time I tried on that binder, I got a jolt that felt similar. I felt like I was suddenly waking up. I immediately stood straighter. And before the panic set in, my shoulders relaxed a tiny bit. And as I’ve worn it more and more, when I can stay out of my head, wondering too much what people think, I think some of that awkwardness may fall away. I might be, just a tiny bit, more relaxed. So feelings like that, those are my clues too. I do think that in figuring this out, I’ll find ways to be inside of my body more, and be more relaxed there, and eventually, find ways to be a little less in my head.
But if I see this all as additive, as digging out lost parts, not rejecting who I am now, it’s a lot less scary and makes more sense. I also get to stop wondering why the hell it took me so long to notice, because I have figured out so much already, I know myself well, and none of it is a lie.