“Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”
–Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I went nuts this week. Melted down. Blew a gasket. Tripped a circuit breaker. Lost my marbles. Redlined the tachometer. Rounded the bend. Wigged out. Went totally bitchcakes. Shit a cold purple Twinkie.
One of the logical conundrums associated with losing one’s gourd is that it’s difficult to know when you’re done. I make every effort not to succumb to mad cow any more than necessary, so I’m not sure that I know the procedure as well as I should, but I’m reasonably (?!) certain that my name is not first on the phone alert list when it’s okay to stand down the firehoses. It’s the sort of occasion where it might be nice to ask someone who has kayaked in similarly dire straits, but a) I don’t know too many people like myself, and b) my insurance has decided that any turbulence in my psyche can be neatly filed under “transgender stuff”, i.e. totally elective and just as totally uncovered. Therefore, without a map of the woods or any particular proof that I have left them, here is what I think happened:
I started months ago with a fairly realistic conception of what it meant to change my name and gender. Then came the seemingly endless piles of paperwork. I developed a project mentality. I assigned myself name change tasks on days off. Legal transition became something to finish, and as each agency, website or business learned my new particulars, I logged it on a spreadsheet as a measure of success, or more to the point, completion.
“Victories” accumulated. I could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I progressively started to think that I would be done when everyone else “got it right”. Name and pronoun mistakes began to matter more to me. My frustrations rose, not only with distant entities who screwed up a mailing, but with family and friends who unintentionally slipped. “It’s been months,” I thought. “How long will until I’m accepted as a normal female?”
Except that this was never the goal. Without noticing, I had moved the goal posts, shot beyond the target, lost sight of the forest on account of the trees.* The reality check hit me hard this week when I realized that I am not any more comfortable as a regular woman than I was a regular man. Well, duh. Maybe I should read my own posts:
Political independents generally caucus with one party or another. I hope the metaphor will be instructive. I am Renae–reborn. I’m stuck between the poles of gender and it’s not always easy to see where I fit in the continuum, but I caucus with women. She. Her.
And so, I spent about 5 days in a near constant crisis of panic and self-doubt. It is probably the most intense one that I have ever weathered, and it was largely avoidable. Changing my name and gender was not a mistake. The error was in allowing myself to believe that I could be done with being transgender.
I remember my first transgender pride parade. 50 yards ahead of me was a young person carrying a rainbow sign which read, “I LOVE BEING TRANS”. Or, as Kathy says, “You need to learn to like yourself.” I am a long, long way from such an attitude, but therein lie my best prospects for happiness. As spake the philosopher, it’s not easy being green, but perhaps it is all there is to be.
I am going to take away some victories, if not the ones I originally perceived. When doubt and despair were crushing me to the ground, I sought help and talked it out. I didn’t let the feeling of being better off dead sprout into thoughts about making it happen. I fought off the shrill chorus of my thoughts by finding things to do.
Maybe some day all the papers and perceptions and pronouns will align neatly. Until then, I reserve the right not to give a shit, or at least to give less of one. I’m going to try not to worry whether people “get it right” or even if there is a right to get. I won’t be defined by my genitals, but neither will I be defined by my driver’s license.
The dark accusation of bigotry is that transgender is merely something that we do. “Just stop, because everyone knows who you really are.” About this too I refuse to be defeated. If it is merely something I do, it is something I do so consistently and thoroughly to invoke Aristotle’s concept of being. Therefore, I resolve to be…or to do…or whatever. I will haul my ass out of bed, often as early as noon, and take care of business. See you there.
* And quite possibly other clichés as well.