In honor of National Coming Out Day, I will be giving my best personal defense of queerness and living as queer either in or outside of the closet. For greater context, please also see I Am Transgender and I Am Transgender (Part 2) in addition to Dear Christians.
I should have written this before or during the whole Hurricane Matthew chaos because things were, to be quite frank, chaotic. I didn’t know what would happen to me if the storm came right toward me like the models were predicting at the time. I didn’t know if I would ever see my mother again, and I found that almost unacceptable. I have continued in seeking to establish an authentic mother-daughter relationship, but I failed to do it in a moment when I was confronted with the reality of my mortality in a very concrete way, and in so doing I have ‘sinned’ by failing to follow through–which I am now seeking to correct.
I love her very dearly despite what mistakes she made or whatever her flaws may be. I know she would never do anything she sincerely believed would hurt me. Unfortunately, we go through life unavoidably hurting each other but that does not mean we cannot strive to do better, to correct our mistakes whenever possible, or to make amends to the best of our ability. I have committed plenty of mistakes of my own. Though I would never take back nor seek to change my transition, I do wish I could change the way I went about it. Though it is in the past, I can’t help but think back with an eye toward the future. I feel that the best attitude I can take is to humbly examine my past choices and their consequences in order to learn from them and move on.
Therefore, I hope she will consider this as my sincerest attempt at amends for the wrongs I have committed before and during my transition. I know I definitely did not mean to hurt her, but consequences do matter and I ultimately have to take responsibility for my choices, right or wrong.
There was so much uncertainty and randomness as the storm came and went. It made me reflect on a lot of things such as who I am and why I’m here and all the things that follow from pondering those two fundamental questions–questions I have pondered as long as I can remember. People have come up with their own answers to those questions. They find meaning. Some people have relied on religion to give them that meaning. Some have not. When pondering this question of meaning, I have come up with many different answers for myself–some of them more satisfactory than others. My parents did their best to help me in my search for meaning, but I ultimately went in directions they undoubtedly found unsatisfactory, or disturbing. I realize this, and I take no pleasure in the pain they experienced in response to my choices. It was a practically inevitable consequence of the choices I ultimately felt I had to make to be authentic and cease pretending to be something, or someone, I am not. I wanted my life to actually mean something. It felt sad and empty before.
I intend to expand on things that I have continued to learn about myself and my past. In order to do that, I have had to let go of several things. I have had to learn not to distance myself from what I am really feeling inside. My intellect, as powerful and creative as it is, has been one of the most destructive things in my life. It effectively cut itself off from my feeling, emotional side through dissociation and other means. It’s why I had a hard time being aware of my social surroundings much of the time. It’s why I had such a hard time feeling much of anything by the time I reached adolescence.
Why did I dissociate so much? It was a coping mechanism. I was experiencing an intense trauma that started when I was very young (since before I can remember, which is before I was three years old) and continues to this day. This trauma comes from my experiences in childhood both in and outside of our home(s). Being mistaken for a boy at birth did not sit well with me even as a toddler. Though I could not verbally, much less consciously, articulate what was going on, I felt the incongruity all the same. Though I can’t remember too many matters of fact that can be expressed verbally, I can remember what I felt much more clearly thanks to months of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy.
What did I feel? Sometimes I did feel happiness. This dissociation or lack of understanding helped me cope in many ways and the truly damaging results of this dissociation and lack of understanding had yet to come. But I also often felt fear, guilt, anger, and hatred. I felt fear because I didn’t ever want to lose my mother. Ever. When I was told that I would be separated from her for eternity if I weren’t good enough, it frightened me like nothing else had or could. In response, I obsessed and developed an obsessive perfection complex: an impossible game where I was doomed to fail–doomed to lose her forever. This was my personal hell. It killed me so much to think I would lose her, and so the madness that was my trauma continued to intensify in a vicious cycle.
That’s when my mind, my soul, started to split. The rational and cognitive components, in order to preserve themselves, had to distance themselves from my feelings. I didn’t become absolutely emotionless, but I drifted closer to it and it got worse as I aged.
I want my mother to know that I love her and accept her role in creating who I am, for better or worse. I do not regret having her for a mother. I can’t even imagine feeling that way. I want her to fully heal, so I feel it is my responsibility to help her take whatever comfort she can take in the reality of my situation. I have made great progress in healing and moving on from my past. I have been able to find a way to bring the different parts of my mind, my soul, back together in harmony once again. You might say that I am bringing my body back into submission to my spirit. I have learned that reason is nothing without feeling. As Scottish philosopher David Hume said, reason “is a slave of the passions”.