My blog’s probably about to get a lot more journal-ly and self-involved, possibly less interesting to random interweb readers, and painfully awkward for people who actually know me. Oh well, whatever. I’m doing this for me anyway. Aren’t I?
Trans isn’t on my mind so much lately as is attachment. I have a fearful-avoidant attachment style. Sometimes I think the severity of it approaches what could be classified as “avoidant personality disorder.” I have deep-seated beliefs that I am unlovable, unacceptable, not okay, defective; and that everyone else is untrustworthy and an inevitable source of rejection and pain. I desperately want to have close relationships but I’m terrified of being known well enough to make that happen. I believe everyone knows how relationships are supposed to work except for me. I believe that if I let someone see me with transparency and asked them to love me that only two results are possible: they would recoil in horror and disgust, or they would reluctantly offer me pity for my less-than-human nature.
A subtler form of this conflict plays out in more mundane interactions with acquaintances and strangers. I’m hyper-vigilant for signs of rejection and am either extremely reserved or sort of disorganized in my communication. If I have to say something personal about myself I feel like I’m not actually communicating but adjusting this convoluted sequence of mirrors and lenses that will hopefully allow another person to see some vague impression of what I’m talking about while staying detached from whatever it is.
It’s taken me a lot of work to uncover that this way of thinking is ruling my life, and I feel proud of the success of finding that awareness, but now I wonder: what do I do with that? How do I change it? Where the fuck do I go from here? It’s not a way to live. I’m so tired of it.
Sometimes I think it’s impossible to change it. It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I’m really this hung up on myself then I’m going to shoot myself in the foot in most interactions with people and they really will perceive me negatively and reject me. When I think it’s impossible to change, then thoughts of suicide creep in. Not serious thoughts, interwebs. I’ve experienced those and know the difference. I went ahead and scored myself on the suicidal ideation scale: 11/38. No need to worry, I promise.
This fear extends to the stupidest ideas. For example, I’m living on my own for the first time at the age of thirty-one, having met my ex-wife at college, where we were on the same dormitory floor, and having co-habitated with her ever since. My condo is kinda small and I work from home and have an electronic drum kit and a treadmill which take up a lot of the space so I bought a love seat that was curved so you can walk around it even though I plopped it in the middle of traffic to make room for my other stuff. I also wanted it to be conducive to a romantic or sexual atmosphere because the condo is a one-bedroom and the bedroom has my child’s loft bed and toys and what not and is not a very sexay space. (I sleep on the floor when my child is here.) So the sofa is upholstered in a deep scarlet velour. The pillows are, of course, fashioned with every transfeminine person’s favorite symbol–the butterfly.
The design of this curved love seat is really awkward. Two people can hardly sit on it without a stilted, erect posture. And I feel like it screams out in desperation for an unwelcome level of intimacy.
A few weeks ago I invited a friend over to play some music and it was my perception that ne was avoiding sitting on the sofa, which ordinarily would be fine, since there’s another chair. But the other chair is an antique rocker and a bit awkward as well, so ne sat on the floor practically the entire time. I was also wearing a pretty ridiculous outfit I acquired at the thrift store–hot pink micro-corduroy jeggings and a Mudd Jeans juniors floral denim shirt that really resonated with the girl I locked in my psyche back in 1990. I imagine a grown “man” in 2015 donning something Mayim Bialik might have worn while splaying nir jazz hands on the intro to Blossom is probably not very appealing.
My friend had written in several text messages about how ne wanted to kiss me so I finally asked nem to get up off the floor and sit on the couch with me and we kissed for a while. It was awkward. I’ve spent most of my life with a straight submissive so I’m only interested in being with a top right now. This new friend is probably a bit of a pillow queen. I hope that doesn’t sound like sour grapes. Anyway ne’s fallen in love with a butch woman. I’m really happy for nem. Ne follows my blog, so writing this is rather embarrassing. Oh well, hopefully ne can keep a straight face if we see each other again. I’d still very much like to be nir friend.
So here’s the stupid idea. I have this irrational belief that anyone I would invite over to my place would view the awkwardness of my furniture as a tragic character flaw representative of my utter ineptitude at life. When I moved into this cohousing community, where all the neighbors are involved in each others lives by working on the property together and sharing community meals, I had this plan after I got some furniture to invite one household a week over to my unit for dinner or tea but because I ordered this awkward love seat I can’t bring myself to expose myself to the potential awkwardness of hosting them without a comfortable seating arrangement. So I’m thinking about ordering the same sofa in the condo size rather than the love seat and waiting another six weeks for it to arrive before inviting anyone over again. This is after having already bought the same love seat in a different fabric on craigslist before realizing that it smelled like dog pee and was too orange to go with the desaturated cyan color I’d painted the walls. I failed trying to clean it and dye it red before taking it to the dump and buying the same model new in a different fabric. If I buy another one it will be the third attempt and $300 (craigslist) + $ 1800 (new love seat) + $2200 (new condo sofa) = $4300 spent to get it right, although I would put the new love seat up for consignment.
Of course I’m blaming this stupid sofa as a rationalization for the fact that I don’t want to let anyone in. The sofa has nothing to do with it. It’s me. I don’t want them to see me because I’ll create some stupid narrative about how I embarrassed myself and they saw through to my supposed underlying irredeemability. Someone with healthy self-esteem would of course know that they are acceptable as they exist despite the horrific flaw of having an awkward curved love seat as their only seating. Not me, though. And there’s the vicious circle: none of this shit that I worry about is a problem but this lack of esteem for myself actually is a pathetic, irredeemable character flaw.
Which came first: the avoidance or teh trans?
This low self-esteem, fear, and avoidance could be caused by being trans, but sometimes I think teh trans might be a fantasy used to resolve an underlying attachment conflict. Maybe somebody with an abusive father and a neglectful mother flees from the “masculine” and tries to internalize the “feminine” as a way of coping with the situation. I suppose a cross-gender identification could be a multifactorial system with reinforcing feedback loops between denied gender inclinations and unhealthy attachment patterns, rather than one causing the other. In any case I think chalking cross-gender identities entirely up to an innate neurobiological phenomenon without considering the environment is a mistake.
My style of interacting with others is causing me more distress now than any conflict over my cross-gender inclinations. The parallel between my self-concept and the experience of other adults who experienced childhood emotional neglect is eerie. I think that is really my core issue.
The issue still strains my relationship with my mother. She called me the other day to ask a favor of me and I said in frustration that I’m dealing with a lot of stuff now and don’t want to be on the hook for it. Ne asked if there was any way that ne could help. As I paused to think about it for a few seconds ne jumped right to saying “I wish I could help. If I can, let me know. Okay? Bye.” and abruptly ended the conversation.
I don’t blame my mom for being avoidant nemself. And I’m not just saying that because ne’s following my blog as well. When I first started talking to nem about my father’s abuse of me after my father’s death in 2009, my mom said I should have seen how abusive nir father was. Nir father died before I was born, but I believe nem. And nir mom was not a paragon of empathy either. So I believe my mom did the best ne could. And maybe I felt neglected because of my gender inclinations, which I repressed and hid. How was ne supposed to know? But, god damn I wish I did not still feel so empty. And I wish I were not repeating emotional neglect with my own child.
I had a lucid dream the other night after working on my attachment issues in therapy and trying to work up the courage to talk to some strangers at a bar. In the first dream I was at a historical museum and I saw a beautiful woman with an androgynous, cropped-back hairstyle. I was following nem through the crowd and working up the courage to go talk to nem when I looked down at my hand to count my fingers and noticed I had six, which is my most reliable reality test for lucid dreaming. At that point, since I knew I was dreaming, I started pushing my way aggressively through the crowd because I knew there was no longer any reason to fear talking to nem. But I couldn’t find nem anymore. I started making my way to the exit, but found myself in in the kitchen of my childhood home. There was a woman there and without saying anything I just wrapped my arms around nem and kissed nem and kneeled down and lay backward, pulling nem down on top of me. We made out for a while and then I realized ne was a trans woman. For some reason, ne started showing me nir hair removal routine, and then I woke up.
This awakening turned out to be a false awakening, however. I woke up in the house I used to share with my ex-wife. As I went down the stairs I performed a reality check again and realized I was dreaming. I was wearing only underwear and a tee shirt, but decided to go outside like that anyway since I was dreaming. It was in the pre-dawn twilight and snow covered the ground. There were people in lively groups cross-country skiing and ice skating in the snow (never mind how that makes no sense). They were all enjoying themselves, but I was too cold. So I decided I was going to force the sun to rise. The sun did not come up over the horizon quickly, but rather burst into the sky like I had etched into glass with a corrosive. As the dim, mottled ball appeared in the cornflower canopy it made a tremendous sound like a firecracker, and then everyone on the street all stopped what they were doing and looked at me with alarm, confusion, and irritation, challenging my reasons for disrupting their peaceful morning. And then I awoke…for real.
Why cannot I not join in and revel in the wintry early morning twilight? Why do I feel compelled to hide away unless I can force the sun to rise?
I went ahead and ordered the condo size sofa after mulling it over for a few weeks. I arrived at that conclusion in a roundabout fashion.
Last night I openly “cross-dressed” and attended a “men’s group” and did personal development “men’s work,” whatever that means. I’m trying to work on relaxing gender schemas as recommended by ThirdWayTrans, so I figure if I can present the same person at a “trans women’s group” and a “men’s group” and integrate the supposed polarities called “masculine” and “feminine” and be both “masculine” and “feminine” with the “trans women” and both “feminine” and “masculine” with the “men,” then I’m on the right path.
When it was my time to “claim space” in the circle and work on my issue I, after a brief foray into a diatribe on the nonsense of sexual identity, discussed my difficulties with attachment, and the facilitator offered me an interesting exercise. Ne asked me to visually represent with my hands a balance scale with my desire for safety on one side and my desire for connection on the other. I thrust both of my hands to the ground. Ne said, with the understanding that I (correctly) inferred could only come from someone who had also experienced a traumatic youth, that I should honor the beliefs and coping mechanisms that have helped me to survive until now, but that I need to recalibrate this scale so it functions again if I’m going to make any progress. As someone who has experienced a drug-induced near death experience, I find it difficult to judge which weights I can test on this scale because they all seem to have catastrophic potential, but I suppose I’ve survived every weight I’ve tested in a while.
I went out for drinks with the facilitator afterward, and described the book I’m reading, The Invisible Partners, which I picked up from ThirdWayTrans’s re-post of a redditor’s third way of crossdreaming. (I’m going to need to start abbreviating that TWT given how much I refer to nem!) The book describes how bringing the “anima,” or Jung’s conception of the unconscious projection of internal psychological phenomena in a person raised as a male onto people raised as female, into conscious awareness can benefit one’s relationships. In response the facilitator discussed Jung’s supposedly masculine archetypes of the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover (which I’m guessing ne picked up from this book.) Apparently, the king (which could just as easily be a queen in my view) is a chooser, the warrior is a doer, the magician is a knower, and the lover is a feeler.
I rather like these images because they quickly reveal where I am out of alignment. My magician is very highly developed. My lover has recovered somewhat. But my…um…monarch?…is snoozing and my warrior has locked nemself in the dungeon, cowering in fear. So today the monarch woke up and ordered the warrior to trust the magician and upgrade the sofa.
My real challenge now is to invite some more people over in the twilight before it arrives. Because if I don’t I’ll always be able to find some other reason to keep the sun behind the horizon.