This was read yesterday at the Erotic Literary Salon (http://theeroticsalon.com/) in Philadelphia.
The safe quiet hell
Back story: After coming out as transgender in April, I’ve gone through a flurry of changes. Outwardly my fashion choices have become much more feminine, even to work. To my surprise, the world has not ended as a result. Of course I work around a bunch of geeks, so I’m guessing half of them haven’t even noticed the difference.
I have become a cliché overnight. My walk in closet is already packed to the rafters, and yet I still walk in, look around, and realize … I have NOTHING to wear.
But the deeper changes are slow in coming. I’m trying to find my people, and I can’t quite tell who they are yet.
I spend most days in predominantly female clothing, yet I also don’t see myself living as fully female in the future. As I look around in the trans community, I noticed that a huge amount of it is focused on crossing the gender binary. As in: I look like a man, but I want to be a woman. Or the other way around. But even in the trans community there is a relatively small minority that either enjoys being both male and female, or sees themselves as neither male nor female. The gender fluid or gender queer, to use current labels.
And so just like the lost bird in “Are you my mommy?” I find myself exploring, looking for the world that feels like home. Or seeing if I need to create my own world that doesn’t exist yet.
The greatest challenge for me now is emerging from my social hibernation. I never understood traditional male roles for dating, so I did it as little as possible until I found women assertive enough to pursue me. This, for the record, is not a very effective strategy in our culture.
My problem boils down to a severe fear of rejection. I never could connect with the attitude that you should take a statistical approach to dating, namely if you ask enough women out, some of them will say ‘Yes.’ And likewise, if you ask enough of them to fuck, some will say yes. Bingo, problem solved. Got laid. That always struck me as cold and heartless and to use feminist lingo, objectifying.
In recent months I’ve gotten better at asking women out and basic dating, but making the leap to intimacy is my goal now. The life I’ve lived has kept me in a safe, quiet hell. Like the vision of hell as a frozen wasteland, where nothing moves but also nothing ever dies. It is a land I have to leave, but the familiar hell often seems safer than an unknown.
I’m told that a relationship with true intimacy allows you to experience higher highs than you imagined possible. And it also requires complete vulnerability, to put your heart and soul and true self on the line. You don’t get the highs without risking the lows.
A couple of days ago I was reminded that I have an ally on this journey. Her name is Jennifer, my feminine aspect. For so many years I felt like I had to apologize for my feminine side, to hide her, to pretend to be the Perfect Man in order to find True Love. I have discovered that I’m not James Bond. Or Brad Pitt or even Johnny Depp. Love and intimacy can’t be based on a mask, can’t be based on an illusion, can’t be based on presenting what I think you want me to pretend to be.
So I need to love and accept all parts of myself, and present them honestly, not just to find someone who thinks that’s exciting and hot, but more fundamentally to be true to myself. Whoever that turns out to be.