I have been going to counselling sessions again, and it feels a very safe place. Maybe I would like a bit more probing, but I do understand it is a space in which to work things out. I try to prepare, think what’s been going on, what it means, observe myself, learn. But I also have this sneaky feeling that it makes me rehearse my story again and again, without helping me to really understand the plot.
Imagine I had been shopping and bought something the wrong size. I might be a bit upset when I got home, especially if I couldn’t go back and change it. I’d incurred cost, not been advised, not checked carefully enough, so quite rightly kicking myself. What should I do?
might be to see if I could make it fit. Why not? Sometimes a tuck in a waistband is a reasonable thing to do. Not perfect, but comfortable and not looking stupid.
might be to count my losses and take it into a charity shop. Never mind; lesson learned, my expense has benefitted someone else at least.
might be to tell everyone my regret. And there would be at least two responses. The first would be, yes, that was a bit careless wasn’t it, but no point staying fed up about it forever. You made a mistake. We all do. The second might be, it’s OK, why don’t you come round for a coffee, and tell me all about it. How about every Tuesday for six weeks, and see how you feel?
After a while (plan D) I may feel that it might have been better to bang my head smartly on the wall ten times and promise not to let it happen again. And forgive myself and/or the shop that sold the ill-sized item to me. Even if the shops are shut forever.
So why am I not doing just that? Why am I stuck in Plan C?
I have written over and above anything really necessary, about grief and loss. If you’ve stuck with my blog you’ve done exceptionally well! I have done it because I am not the only one for whom being born transsexual has meant loss of family, love, and more, and feeling completely undeserving of such rejection. And I have done it as a form of therapy, as this page is now. I can’t pull myself up by my own shoelaces, but I can at least make sure I don’t trip over them as I struggle to my feet.
Be careful what you blame
If you buy something and it doesn’t fit, you don’t blame the colour. Maybe the style, as well as the size, but not the texture either. What do we – as trans people – blame for not fitting? Our nature? Or society/culture?
Maybe, like me, you get assured that it is not about blame (‘don’t blame me for being normal and I won’t blame you for being different’). Maybe in the end, there is no ‘blame’ in the world at all. Just the way things are. So if you prefer, let’s talk about the way things are.
And what about cause? Our first thought, and that of others, is that our gender mix-up is the root cause of it all, without which everything would be alright. That’s true; but it is no valid reason for looking at how we suddenly don’t fit other people’s lives and blaming ourselves. And we do, don’t we? Somewhere along the line, maybe many times, we look at our situation and blame ourselves. It’s like an apology to everyone who feels hurt or at risk by our life situation. Please accept us if we promise not to be ourselves, or not to embarrass you. Or change you.
And we just take it. And we must not. It is self-flagellation where there is neither sin nor forgiveness.
The cause of the item of clothing not fitting is twofold. And the reason is not that we bought the ‘wrong thing’. The reason is that the item size is not our size: nothing else! We thought at the point of transaction that we had a match, and we were mistaken. The clothing didn’t make a mistake in being too big, our body didn’t make a mistake in being too small. Wishful thinking may sometimes make us buy too small, and we might decide to lose weight. But too big? When did you last decide to fatten up to fit a rather nice dress? The mismatch is not the dress’s fault and it is not our body’s fault. But combined there is a reason, and of course a huge disappointment. A realisation of expectation unfulfilled.
What have you really lost?
The biggest question for me is about what has been lost by emerging as my true gender. And, make no mistake, when you gain authenticity like this, the gain is incomparable, however tinged with grief and pain. And for my wife and I, the loss is not what we thought it was, and that is where I have to come to terms, and I suspect, so does she (though I will not try to speak for her). I believe that she has lost something that made her feel more complete as herself. That was not me. It was the competent, self-assured, masculine figure that made her the nurturing, complementary, desirable woman. Not just that, but certainly that. So she has lost something she never had: the ‘man’ was nurturing, not so complementary, wanting to be as desirable; and a woman.
I feel that I have lost what I thought was a regard for me as a whole person. What I thought was unconditional commitment for who I am, was nothing of the sort. It made me feel safe, not alone in the world, loved, really cared about for everything and anything. To me, it was so many things other than being required to be a man. So I have lost something I never in fact had either. The love was not unconditional, but sex-dependent. It wasn’t a love for the whole of me at all, but for the required parts to complete another.
Within that illusion we were one of the best partnerships I have ever seen. Kind, caring, no real arguments, stable and loving. But it was, and it really was, an illusion.
And that is why I need to bang my head smartly against the wall ten times and come to my senses, rather than rehearse my story and drag myself down again and again. I have to come to terms with the fact that I have not been rejected for being the amazing and lovely person I know myself to be. That’s the colour and the texture, not the fit. And that no tuck would adjust me to be what I was wanted to be. And there is no point being angry that the ‘purchase’ led to disappointment. My wife did not know any more than I did, that it was my gender that was in trouble. And I did not know that she was in love with a bunch of things that made her complete (the fit), not with me as a whole person (colour and texture). And let’s be honest we have all loved beautiful clothes that would never fit us.
I don’t have regrets as such. I helped bring up a family, all the way, and now they have gone. It was good, and I believe I did well enough at it. But I wish, so deeply now, that I had known. That I had known I could have been released as a woman long, long ago, and that I could have avoided being the flattering dress in the wardrobe that never actually fitted like it should. That was scrunched up on a trouser hanger, wanted but never truly worn.
This is the harsh truth. I was always a woman, I was always mistaken for a man, I was loved only for being like a man, and that this love had little to do with me being, simply, me. And on top of that, I wholeheartedly gave my love in return for that, when maybe I could have found something far greater.
I can’t do Plan B. I can’t call my 30 plus years of loving marriage a stupid mistake. I can’t un-love that easily. I feel so horribly, deeply, hurt that I was not loved with an extraordinary love, that I have been cruelly subject to the social conditioning that makes the ‘wrong’ sex something that cannot be accommodated through love. But there’s the fit. This is the world that has shaped us all, and that dissuades the extraordinary.
In a previous blog I described the love bond as two hands, each holding the opposite wrist; it takes two to let go. I think I should correct that now. Love is a link with two ends, one for each, and only one has to let go. I’ve been hanging onto a love that is not there. Maybe I too have loved the love, the colour and texture, not the fit.
Plan D. Pick me up if I knock myself out. I have places to go.