Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Girlfriends

Last night I was listening to a song by Mana. I closed my eyes and picked out the various parts – two acoustic guitars, keyboard, bass, drums and percussion – hearing how they played off each other and blended into this incredible beauty of sound. I thought of how Kristin and the boys are learning music, and often play together both with Ken, their teacher, and with each other in practice. I thought how much fun it would be to join with them, though I've been resisting for some time now because I just don't have the time to learn music. Then I reflected on the many times I've tried to learn to play an instrument – drums, guitar, banjo, jews harp, harmonica. I never learned any of them, and thinking back, it seems to me the reason is I never played with anyone else. I never got lessons, never played with peers. For me, like everything else, learning music was a solitary experience.

Then I got to thinking about why that might be. Part of it – maybe most of it – is because I never had friends I could share that with. I noticed that my entire life, I could make only the most shallow friendships, because my primary goal in any relationship was to protect myself – to avoid revealing who I really am, to keep my deepest thoughts and desires secret to myself alone.

The overriding reason I wanted to keep myself private was shame.

I was so deeply ashamed of myself for those thoughts, desires, and experiences that reflect who I am. I was ashamed because I saw that my own experience was so different from everyone else's; because I simply could not relate those thoughts, desires, and experiences to the male role models in my life – at least, not in a deep, personal, and gendered way.

While there are many activities in life that are not gendered – woodworking, chess, gardening, the list goes on forever – there are no relationships that are not gendered. I relate differently depending on who I'm relating with, and gender is part of that relation. Even my relationship with myself is gendered. Women relate differently when they are in a women only group vs. mixed company, men do the same. Mostly, I think, people accept these differences for granted, perhaps don't even notice them. For me, they dominated every social experience.

Because I was so deeply ashamed of who I was, I tried to relate to people according to my sex, and because doing so meant I could not relate in a genuinely gendered way, I could not reveal enough of who I was, even with my most intimate friends, to share real intimacy.

In short, I never learned how to be a friend. Others related with me in the fullness of who they are, and I responded with a deep reserve and definite deception. I related with a mask, an assumed persona I'd pieced together to disguise my real self.

As I reflected on my current life, this became very clear, because I am finally learning how to be, and what it means to be, a friend. It's a matter of baby-steps, of stumbling in the dusk. I still don't have the basic skills of friendship down, by any means. However, I am relating in the wholeness of who I am, and that is bringing incredible changes.

I have real women friends now. These are the people most responsible for my new growth. This is the growing richness of my life. Girlfriends. I am finally welcomed into the social role where I belong. No longer am I isolated, an outsider in every social situation, an interloper who feels out of place. I can be myself, and people actually like me.

I cannot relate to you how incredibly beautiful that is, to belong, to be myself, to relate to others as fully human. This is the best thing, for me, about my transition. Women friends. Honesty. Relating fully, no longer isolated and alone, no longer a square peg in a round hole, but real, comfortable. I am just me. I cannot find words to express the sense of wholeness I have found. It is a pearl of great price.

To the extent that my body does not match my gender, it affects how people relate to me. But the need for human, intimate connection is so great and so basic to our humanity, to feeling and expressing love, so essential to our development and survival, that I will change my body as much as I possibly can to achieve that fullness of social connection. I cannot do otherwise. I am amazed that I stayed alive for so long without that intimacy. Kristin is responsible, of course. I was able to forge a relationship, cobbled together out of my deceptive persona and elements of my real self, with her that was sufficiently intimate to survive, and her love sustained me for 15 years. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that if I had not transitioned, I would now be dead. I simply could not survive in that vacuum of my own soul, in that social and personal isolation, much longer.

There are still a lot of aspects of being transgendered that suck. I hate parts of my body. They betray me. They are completely dysfunctional to who I am. Every day, throughout the day, they rear up and show me how still incomplete are my social relations. The pain of them is constant and unremitting. God, how I wish I could change them! But they do not dominate my life. I have hope. I have meaning. I have girlfriends.

8 comments:

anne said...

Hey girlie!

You're worth liking, you just never liked yourself when cobbled with manhood. I don't have many friends either, because of being superbrain. You and K are smarter than the average bears and thus can put up with me!

Friendships require work. Sky was complaining about not having any friends, but he's not willing to work; he wants to be catered to. The problem with that is that no one knows that you like them. The work is in liking others, making it known, coming forth, being yourself.

I happen to like your odd mix. I might have liked you as just a gal from WY, but I don't know--you're much deeper for all this.

I don't share musically with others either anymore since I lived with people with perfect pitch who made me too intimidated to sing. You could play the bongos...

Maybe we could get together and you and I can be the nerd section of the orchestra!

oh, hugs, girl--you and K are my best friends!

me

Seda said...

Anne, I love you! It is so cool to have girlfriends, and yes, you're one I was talking about when I wrote that.

My instinct was always to seek solitude, because it was too painful to relate to others and by myself, I could be (more) myself. Transition has changed that - it's so much easier to relate to people now, and it's deeply rewarding instead of confusing or painful. But that urge to be alone, that habit of assuming I'm unlikable because I hate myself, that's a pattern built over 40 years. It's harder to break than I'd like. Even so, it's crumbling. It's just too good to connect with people, to have friends. Real girlfriends. You don't need a lot, but you sure need some!

Seda said...

It should say "hated myself." I certainly don't hate myself now! But that's another miracle of transition - learning I'm not only loveable, but learning to love myself as well.

aj said...

You are fantastic.

Friendships are so much more than someone to talk with... they are like you said, uplifting to our souls. We all, also like you said, need acceptance, and much of that comes from our friendships. Especially when some of it does NOT come from our families.

I'm so proud of you Seda. Thanks for sharing pieces of your life with all of us.

Kristin said...

Dear Seda, it's such a joy to see you spreading your wings, no matter how tentatively.

I wish to deny responsibility for your survival and flourishing. You drew me to you because despite all that you could not bear about your presence in the world, the lovelight in you was undeniable. Your will to live and thrive, your intention to grow and integrate blew as seeds on the wind to my doorstep. They gestated and grew there, winning my own admiration and appreciation over the years. I never sought to cultivate you in any way.

I opened my door and fell in love with what had appeared.

And I suppose that I called that along to me. So appreciation back to me in the Universe for manifesting you, dear sisterlove.

Seda said...

Kristin,
I never sought to cultivate you in any way.

But you did, my dear. More effectively than you ever could have by trying. Your example, and your unconditional love, combined to lead me to be the best I can be.

And they still do.

Kelly said...

Seda,

I read your blog and know exactly what you are saying. I have made more friends as a woman in the last two years then I did as a man the previous 38.

It has been the greatest joy of my life as for once I feel at home with myself.

I wish you all the best as you continue your journey. You are a beautiful woman with an incredible heart.

Kelly

Kristin said...

Thanks for visiting, Kelly! and thanks for the kind words. You know whereof you and I both speak.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz