So last time in therapy I was asked to do a little homework for next session: write about how Tyler feels looking at the world though Christina’s eyes, and failing that, introduce Tyler. I spend a little time moping and whining about this and then finally set my feet and got to work. I wasn’t moping or whining because I didn’t want to do it, but rather because Tyler and Christina are not distinct people or personalities. I’ve searched for years for the crevice between the two, hoping to find “Tyler” and hide him away forever and finally rid myself of these insecurities for good. The problem is, I’m not two people trapped in one body. The issue is that I’m one person, trapped in the wrong body. Tyler is not some presence trapped away inside of me, watching me live my life. He is me. And I’ve been living my life though my own eyes for…ehhh…almost 28 years.
That’s not to say that nothing’s ever changed the way I see the world. I spent most of high school being called a lesbian, or most notably a “man bad at dressing like a girl”. I spent an equal amount of time desperately trying to prove them wrong. I wasn’t a lesbian and I certainly didn’t want to be a boy. I grew up in a small town and the internet wasn’t as boundless and expansive as today. My only experiences with people who didn’t fit gender and sexuality norms were caricatures on TV or jokes my parents told each other or their friends that they didn’t realize I understood. You don’t have to know that transgender exists to know that there isn’t something quite “normal” about you. I was 15 or 16 years old when I developed my first real crush on a girl. “That’s it,” I decided, “I must be a lesbian.” I’m over-simplifying my own coming to terms with it, really; it was a struggle for me. But I fit the bill of the only things I knew about lesbians: looks and acts like a boy and into girls. That must explain everything, right? And it did, until college. That’s not to say I felt happy, or even satisfied with that explanation, but it was the only answer that I had and it sufficed.
In college I met other gay people. Specifically I met cis-gendered lesbians and I learned that maybe feeling like you wanted to be a guy wasn’t “normal” for lesbians. And I learned about drag queens and kings, and retreated back into my hidey-hole a little. The flamboyancy scared me; I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I want to be a boy, I just want to do it.
I think it concerns my therapist a little that by the time I was in college I’m still not willing to say that I felt like dysphoria permeated every aspect of my existence, like it should have been a terrible, depressive nag that tormented me at all hours of the day or night for years on end and now I simply must change it. There was no nag that was obviously in regard to my gender. I’ve always felt like I never fit in with any one group in high school. When you don’t fit in, you sometimes don’t realize all the ways in which you are different from your peers. You chalk the discomfort in your own skin up to being an overweight, 6-foot-tall teenage girl rather than digging a little deeper. And really, when your most prominent example of non-cis-gendered, non-heterosexual lifestyles growing up is Dennis Rodman, what teenager wants to wander down that path?
In college, I finally met the people that are my best and closest friends today. They loved me no matter what. It didn’t matter that I was attracted to women. It didn’t matter that I was bizarrely tall or overweight or that I was different from them. And when you find that sort of environment, it becomes a lot easier to try to love yourself a little, too. So when you meet people that finally give you the strength to be you, it’s not nearly as scary when a 4-5 hour drive turns into a 3 hour conversation where you finally admit to yourself and to your best friend that maybe…just maybe…lesbian doesn’t cover all the bases.
And in that moment, you can look back on all the years of self-doubt, justification and denial and see them in a different light. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to go back and retroactively feel things differently. It doesn’t mean that I can look back and say definitively and without a doubt that every scrap of self-loathing I ever felt rests solely on the shoulders of gender dysphoria. What it means is that I can now look at my past and see where I need to be now.
So there is no story of Tyler seeing the world through Christina’s eyes. I love my life right now, especially since coming out a second time. I feel a strength and confidence that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. There is no introducing anyone to Tyler. They’ve known me all along, and the people that are new to my life can get to know me over time, the same as everyone else did. I can tell you stories and anecdotes about what makes me me, but the bottom line is there’s more to a person than any amount of writing can do. The problem isn’t with how I see the world. The problem is how the world sees me. The problem is the body in the mirror every morning and the voice in my throat each day.
And that’s not to say that I see the world perfectly or that I don’t have growing to do, but I’d rather continue that growth and journey in a body that matches my soul. I’d rather feel that life with hands as strong as they are in my mind and finally let the world see the boy that I finally feel comfortable embracing. Does it mean that I’m not transgender because I refuse to look back and blindly blame it for everything? No. It means I refuse to accept a crutch or to use my gender as a disability. It means that I can accept that it has colored my world, while not being the driving force for my every action. It means that I can accept that I made mistakes beyond misgendering myself for years and to chalk up every mistake I’ve ever make and every negative feeling I’ve ever had about myself up to that gender is more narrow-minded than I ever was for resigning myself to a lifetime as a female.
Well, I’ve got almost 3 weeks until my next therapy appointment, so I’m sure this is just the first of several posts that will eventually be compiled into a single “letter” to give my therapist, but I suspect that this will turn out to be the bulk of it.
Until next time,