I haven’t posted recently because I have chewed on a lot of information, a lot of realizations, and a lot of tough questions I had to ask of myself. I think I have finally found a moment of clarity to discuss them. Transition of any kind, from one job to another, or from one gender to another can be a stressful time in one’s life. It can, as it has with me caused me to challenge everything I understood about my life. It’s safe to say that I am not the same person I was 3 years ago, though I am still me. The things that make me who I am now were there, but they all made that transformation with me. The transformation from a believer to a skeptic. The transformation from a man, to a woman. The transformation from a conservative to a liberal independent. There is so much more to this transformation than I can do justice in such simple terms, so I’ll elaborate. The past three years has been part of a long over due, but perhaps aptly timed transformation set in motion decades prior to them ever occurring. I am writing this mainly as a “stripped down” of cultural dichotomies and conditioning version of my own trans and life story.
This all started long ago, the year was 1983. I am going to be detailed, honest and descriptive about the journey to who I am now. I am almost certain it was spring. I was only just becoming aware of the differences between boys and girls, at least in so far as society constructed them. All in all, things were… Okay… But, something was amiss. Something inside me felt… broken. I felt wrong. Every time I went to the restroom I felt this ominous and vague sensation that my body wasn’t right. It was like a thorn in my mind. Every time someone called me by my gender, it just felt… Off. I didn’t really have any inkling about what these feelings meant, at the time. I just felt this “pit” in my stomach when it came to some vague feeling I had about my gender. To onlookers there was nothing that would trigger alarm, but I felt something was up. I did feel rather limited by the “boys do that” sort of abuse I received, but that wasn’t a terribly big issue for me. I wasn’t masculine or feminine inclined, or biased towards either set of gender constructs. This narrative isn’t going to fit the standards used to police the genders of trans people, that I can guarantee you.
As I got older, the vague sense became less vague. I began doodling with zeal and joy about the day I’d no longer have a penis. I had identified what felt wrong about my body, and thus I thought and felt that it would be better if I were without it. By the age of 5 I was having dreams about losing it. But at the time I was unaware of any alternative, I just knew that it felt like there was something there that shouldn’t be there. That naivety was short-lived. It wasn’t long after that I did know that there was another way one could be down there. I knew in the following years that what I now knew felt more like what I should be. I can’t say I was terribly dysphoric about my toys, though my forced playmate selections were rather upsetting. I was happy with my toys, happy with my clothing to some degree, and while there were toy options I was denied that I wanted, it wasn’t the source of my unrest. My body just felt “wrong”, “ajar”, “out-of-place”. It was around 8 that I started dreaming and daydreaming about being liberated from that state of being. I’d wish, and often with tears in my eyes for many things back in those days. Most of all of those, I wished that angels would make me into a girl.
I knew nothing of “gender dysphoria“, or trans* people. I knew that I was “supposed to be a boy“, something I told people when asked. Not that I didn’t, but I can’t recall having said “I’m a boy” in earnest, without some sort of vague misgiving about it. Likewise, I never said “I’m a girl” either, I just knew for certain being a boy was wrong. There was no information for me to conclude more than, “I’m a boy outside, but a girl inside”. For years at this point I’d been writing and story telling about a fictitious girl named “Renee”. This “other person” was my outlet for the side of me I wasn’t permitted to show, the less “boy-like side”. The despair of that disjointed feeling I had with my body came and went, all but gone. But the crying and pleading… Well, that was pretty consistent. It at times made me wonder, just wonder what death would be like. Morbid curiosities to say the least, especially for a 9-year-old. It wasn’t until puberty hit full swing that I experienced gender dysphoria on the most absurd scale or such potent self-disgust. Being male, and experiencing the side effects of puberty disgusted me. I felt on many levels I didn’t “measure up” to the standards of males set forth for me by my father.
So I kind of played along, and tried to work to gain his approval by “being the man” I wasn’t. I failed at that a lot. I was always too docile, soft and sensitive for the stereotype conditioned onto males in our culture. Now, I am not saying that these things are inherently female, just inherently me. It’s just how I am, not something intrinsic to women, though some believe otherwise. But I liked girls, so the role had some “perks”. Also, being assigned male carried its own perks. But I hated it. Sometimes I was livid about it. I hated my penis, and I espoused it enough that my friends remember it after 15 years. Certainly, I complained about male gender construct related constraints, but mostly I complained about my body. Specifically my genitals, body, and hormones. They never felt right. It interfered with romance for me, because I hated how the whole exchange made me feel. I liked girls, but I couldn’t get close to them without feeling dysphoric about how my body felt to me. I still felt like I wanted to be a girl, but the “boy out/girl in” mentality was the reality I’d been forced to accept. No way of knowing, and no information indicating that there was another reality out there for me. I didn’t know that I was a “girl” per say, just that I was “not like other men” and that I didn’t relate to them. “Not like other men” was literal verbatim of my mantra, and inner monologue.
I compensated in everything. I worked constantly to “mind my posture” to not “appear gay”. Nothing about “being a man” in the cultural sense came natural to me, and a moment of disregard could at any time cause the behaviors and feelings I shielded to show through. None of these things, on their own, indicates that I wasn’t a man, or that I was transgender. Many men fail to keep up the behaviors accepted of men without becoming women. Like I said, the only thing I was sure of was that boy was wrong. Compensated by joining the military, and in my choices I made with in. My only hope was to stifle and conquer the scorn of my father for “not being the man” I wasn’t, and perhaps even gain his approval. When I was young and still baby-faced I was cute, soft, petite, and rather “pretty for a boy”. This is no doubt. The rewards of heterosexuality, and living cisgender, coupled with the distractions and my androgyny made more alluring by maturation through military training made my image “palatable”. For a while.
Few friends saw my façade shutter or fall, because it was almost like habit. But it was clear to most, a “man” in the traditional sense I was not. Generally speaking, I came across to some as “gay” both in my mannerisms and in my presentation, especially during my metrosexual phase. But most people who knew me well knew that it wasn’t likely that I was gay, but there weren’t many who didn’t have some misgivings about what made me different, or some suspicion. That is a cultural axiom it would seem, and the dogmas of gender tend to give people a head tilt when someone seems to “walk besides” and not within them. To my recollection, there is little outside of my direct experience of this “feeling” to describe it. But like all people with testosterone, time passed and I became more masculine looking in body. Weight lifting, and testosterone were doing its work, and I started to hate my body and face. The androgyny I loved was fading.
I had trouble facing myself, and no matter how hard I tried to capture a feeling of wholeness, it was simply not possible. As time, and relationships passed the rewards of living in that form diminished like-wise. I was quite literally losing the fight to keep up that façade. I started questioning my gender, as my health, my libido and my hormones dropped. What was I? What had I been forcing myself to accept myself as all these years. For the first time I challenged the notion that I was what I was told I was supposed to be. But it took a while for that to come to fruition. It wasn’t until reality smacked me in the face that I even asked that vital question. Why am I a boy, but I feel like a girl? Why do I feel like I am pretending to be something I am no? Those questions and many more would lead me to where I am today, more full and more happy with myself that at any time in my life earlier. I do still struggle with my gender verses the world I was taught to believe, but I am better for where I am now. I know that my transition is right for me, and I have decided on my path.
I have made mistakes along the way, stumbled, and even doubted myself along the way. I feel everyone does at some point. The path to transition isn’t about one being “absent of doubt”. There is very little room in thinking about this within our culture, so that is what we fight with. Being demisexual, non-binary, androgynous, and a trans woman were all things I came to learn about myself after refinement. I am sure some of what I have discussed is redundant, but I also mentioned in earlier posts how this would happen as I refined myself. I have ever recently come to refinements in my identity with regards to gender fluidity, which I have experience my whole life, and with identifying as an androgynous woman. The path is never about the end, but about the journey they say.
I started out young with little to no formal religious education. My first education came in the form of schooling, and a larger volume set of encyclopedias. I read them so extensively that I had a 12th grade reading level in 3rd grade. This is where my love of science, as well as long hours watching Nova and PBS, came from. I guess my plunge into atheism was a scientifically high probability. But because of my strange experiences in life I was highly inclined towards the spiritual. I’d seen ghosts, had unusual dreams of death, and experienced what those in the metaphysical world call, “The Indigo Child”. I seemed to have memories of past lives and places I’d never visited, as well as strong emotional connections to them. I even had a period of my life (around 7 – 9) where I experienced morbid and vivid experiences of death. My brain is either very strange, or science is missing a huge chunk of phenomenology about the natural world, the earlier being the most likely. My skepticism has taught me that there is all kinds of “unexplained things” out there, but that jumping to a conclusion that “you know” when you don’t is deluded. I don’t claim to know the cause behind these unexplained things, but I know that it was enough to make me a spiritual person for a long time.
I began practicing metaphysical beliefs from a very early age, and continued to do so for a long time, thus the indigo child piece of this. There is no proof or evidence that supports the beliefs I held at the time. I did these things as if they were instinct which begs the question about how some of the first religions started. Did some “Indigo Child” come along with this built-in “spirituality” built into them, some kind of “neurological propensity to religiousness”? Did they then inscribe this supposedly “divine knowledge” to be passed on, and become modern-day religions? Who knows. What I do know is that I unquestionably followed these “feelings and beliefs”. I couldn’t explain them and hadn’t thought critically enough about them to discount them. It just seemed to fit. Now, it need be said, that though I am an atheist, and a skeptic now, these beliefs and experiences aren’t “gone”, just passed through a different filter for me is all. I still accept that I experienced “X”, I just don’t make evidence free conclusions about their nature. Given the degree of brain trauma I have experienced that factor likely plays some role in all of this. My extremely potent imagination plays another. Either way, I still wonder about the things I did, I just don’t accept them as fact while unproven. In a sense, I guess I could be a bit “spiritualistic” for some atheists. But it’s okay as long as I check it with critical thinking.
I went through Buddhism, Wicca, Shamanism, and Metaphysics all before I even touched an “intimate and personal” relationship with Christianity. I was just on a search to “understand” and to decrypt my place in this world, something religions are all too willing to offer in their unprovable promises of grandiose things. I wanted to know why I was who and what I was. I had so many questions, as the last section suggested, and few answers. I was drawn to Christianity because of the fact that “on the surface” the Christianity I saw seemed to fit my morality and world view, which was not entirely the case on further evaluation. I can’t say that my transition didn’t play a role in my religious re-evaluations of Christianity, but it wasn’t most of it. Something didn’t jive. There were too many contradictions, prohibitions in one chapter, but accepted in another. Logical inconsistency that gnawed on my brain like a tumor. Each question begged for more questions, and the more I questioned the more the bible fell apart in my hands. Couple this with my wish to find a new place for myself within it, and it unraveled even faster. Because the more I tried to find that place the more I read and found these contradictions. So no, my gender isn’t why I am an atheist, but it contributed. The “nail in the coffin” if it were. Furthermore, the cruelty of the bible and the intolerance of Christians drove the nail deeper.
I didn’t want to let go at first. The idea was too “comfy” for me. The afterlife, and all the other wacky and unchallenged beliefs I held without evidence demonstrating them as I perceived them were a thinning veneer covering my fears, shame and other bewildering feelings. The more I shed the beliefs the more I had to face the realities that were supported by evidence, observation and science. Science gave good, and consistent answers. Answers that were logical and concise. Results that were repeatable. Religions track recorder could not touch this. I valued science to begin with, mostly thanks to Dr. Bill Nye (The Science Guy), and the blinder upon my eyes crumbled and fell away. It revealed a universe so much more magnificent that what my “God Goggles” permitted me to see. I’d rather have mysteries that science is yet to show than the bad, half-assed, concocted, bad shit crazy, explanations to the universe that blind you from the truth. My life as a person, a science enthusiast, and a trans* person greatly improved upon doing so. It also gave a boost to my feminism, and a growth phase. Everything, every change I have undergone over the past few years has been a process of growth.
No one convinced be to be an ‘Atheist’, I just came to realize that my beliefs, and religion failed to meet the criteria of truth according the methods of science which had demonstrated themselves to be effective, and measurable. I traded the intangible for the tangible. Falsehood for truth. It’s often that the religious will claim to have done the same, but that argument falls apart under scrutiny.
There is a lot of realizations to dole out here, because a lot has changed in the past few years. Certainly my transition, my deconversion, and my growth as a person has drawn me closer to some and more distant from others. It has been both filled with joy, and occasionally has some strife. The biggest realization I have had in this regards lately is in realizing things, both about myself, and about others.
My opinions, and my firmness in them can come across to some as quite negative. Some have even commented about how I come across as in a “matter-of-factly” kind of way. Perhaps some even see it as “abrasive, or insulting”. Some of its intentional, and some of it’s not intentional. I have heard many theories about why that is, to which I will put the matter to rest once and for all. I am not like this because of my station in life, for being trans, or for being anything in a passive sense. I am like this because I grew up in a household where a part of my abuse came from a father who saw fit to “force me to see” how much he gave for me. I was told how much it cost to “Save me” when I had my head injury, and I was always made to feel guilty when I had something in place of my father getting something rewarding for him. It’s why I was so scrawny in High School to some degrees. I had trouble eating as much as my body was demanding me eat, though I could honestly put it away, but I hardly indulged myself out of that guilt that “I didn’t have to sacrifice” to put food on the table.
So because of that trauma I can be rather blunt, and even abrasive about how I speak when it comes to things I feel strongly for. I have no sympathy for sexists, misogynists, transphobes, homophobes, and I will not hesitate to tell them how angry it makes me that they say and do the things they do. I am sure there is probably ‘other ways’ to do business, but on many manners by the time I “blow up” so to speak about a matter, it’s because I have been patient earlier, and are no longer able or willing to contain my opinion for the sake of someone’s hurt feelings. But this process is a double-edged sword for me, as I have mentioned before because I am both opinionated and very sensitive, especially to how other perceive my words. Obviously on certain matters there is little to no sympathy, but such exchanges deplete me greatly. Even if I go on the offensive, it is still uneasy for me. I will stand up for what my value system represents, but I don’t really like confrontation. On issues like gender, religion, feminism, et cetera, I am particularly stern about them, and particularly callous to how what I write on those subjects affects those who feel “contradicted” by it.
Another thing that came to my attention relates to the negative responses about how people respond to me being an atheist, trans, a feminist, and otherwise. And that is that because of the contrasting positions I now take, people whom I was once more aligned with are now misaligned with me. Family, some friends, and others now find themselves on opposites on more positions that our previous involvements with each other have exposed us to. As people, even though these juxtapositions don’t directly equate to this, it is possible for us to experience feelings of rejection between these ties. For instance, my need to live as another gender could lead my parents, my father in particular, to feel rejected because of the fact that his pride, hopes and dreams for me are “rejected” by my refusal to play the role associated with said attachment. The same is true for the relationship between atheists and theists. A theists when presenting with God beliefs, or opinions or positions based on dogma, can so whole be devoted to those beliefs that they feel rejected by the non-believer.
People who have been rejected can become very frustrated, even feel anger and resentment towards the person who rejected their beliefs, positions, et cetera, very similar to romantic rejection as illustrated in this video by DarkMatter2525 on YouTube. (Note: Do no watch this video if you get upset easily about discussions of atheism and debunking of religion. This video debunks an aspect of religious belief.) Anyhow, a person who has been rejected suffers an effect to the cortisol and dopamine in their brain, which can actually cause physical pain. Anyone who knows about psychology knows the kind of effect that negative reinforcement can have, now imagine a relationship with negative reinforcement going on with key issues which they are opposed on and the subsequent rejection that follows. Each will feel inclined to feel “rejected” by the other, and may even state it as such, even though they aren’t “rejecting” each other, rather they are rejecting their representation of the positions each other holds. Religious beliefs though can be one of the most troubling and complicating factors of a relationships, for sure, next to politics and how the money is spent. These are subjects very close to the individual, and thus the feelings of rejection are very intense. In the changes that have occurred with me, there are people with whom I am 180 degrees reversed in position with now.
In that sense, their feelings of rejection are very real and have very profound effects on how they see me, and how they interact with me. They may even exist in denial of the fact that they resent me for rejecting the roles they desired for me, the loss of the person they saw me as, the rejection of their excuses for “Why Transition is Wrong”, my rejection of proposed solutions or arbitration, the contradictions of our belief systems, and my rejection of their theories about “who I am and how I came to be this way”. My father thinks some liberal think tank made me trans*. Really? Is that even possible? I highly doubt that. Point is this, that many of the people in my life who can’t, won’t or don’t want to accept what I am now, or find themselves diametrically opposed to me now can and do feel rejected by my positions, and by my very being. This is a tough situation to resolve, because the other person has to realize what emotions they are acting on, and why it’s problematic. Moreover, groups in said situations have to come to a place where they understand that ones mere beliefs, positions, or gender don’t constitute a rejection of that person, but are merely a different set of beliefs. Then and only then can the resentment and anger that builds because of that dynamic be alleviated. You don’t have to agree, but you have to agree that you do not agree, and resolve those emotions so that you can move on from them.
I sincerely hope that I can come to a point with that with my father, I really do. He maybe an asshole, but he is still my father. I am sure some feel I have been much too gracious and forgiving, but this is just my nature. In fact I hope that all relationships that have been affected by my transformations can be mended in a similar way. Certainly this isn’t the only phenomenon in play, and there are certainly other things that happened during transition that I hope to one day put to rest. Even I at times have felt “rejected” and experienced the above in response to those with whom I have become contrasted with. But I realized what it was they were rejecting and was able to dissect myself from it. Another issue that can come up with said interactions is a kind of unreasonable need to see a certain action from another person to move past the strong feelings associated with transitions like mine that I have been discussing. There can be a tendency when struggling with feelings of rejection, and the associated side effects to “have an axe to grind” about past offenses, and perhaps even have an internally dictated level of “punishment or reprisal” that the other person must accept to suffice the reciprocation of the perceived “first offense”. The things one person finds offensive aren’t always the same as another, and a person can change their opinion on the “offensiveness” of something once it’s pointed out.
We as people, when our deep, personal emotions and motives are involved can have a tendency to be vindictive when making expectations about what will appease us when people commit transgressions against us, especially when they are coupled with other negative emotions, like rejection. We can often wish for unreasonable, or over inflated recompense from the individual of said offense, so much so that any such reconciliation of the offense is impossible unless there is compromise of said expectation. I certainly know I have been guilty of this. I am only just now starting to decipher this and understand where I have taken the intensity of unreconciled offenses to a level which letting go of said feelings is difficult. In the end, it is those hard feelings that hurt me, not the person from whom the offense arose. Certainly, we should hold people accountable for their actions, and be consistent in expecting them to recognize fault, and correct the behavior. However, we shouldn’t be “vindictive” about it, as this serves no one, not even ourselves. This is something that I learned, and I wanted to formulate and share, not only with other trans* people, but with atheists, and anyone who as experienced what I am describing, when a disagreement elevates to uncomfortable personal levels. Hopefully knowing things like this can help people understand, and perhaps defuse a tense relationship matter. If anyone has something to add please feel free. These are just a few ideas I have tried to hash out over the past few months.
- Lies about transgender people (and how to spot a rubbish journalist) (blogs.independent.co.uk)
- talking about trans* folks (rainbowgenderpunk.wordpress.com)
- Ontario allows transgenders to change birth certificate without surgery (o.canada.com)
- A trans man on feminism and bodily autonomy (thefword.org.uk)
- Gender Expression: Why does it have to be so complicated (renetaxian.wordpress.com)
- The “New Wave of Atheism” (dead-logic.blogspot.com)
- Atheism Plus What? (freethoughtblogs.com)
- An Irreligious President (theyouthcaucus.wordpress.com)