Thursday, March 8, 2012

"What's wrong with being a Man?"

My “big sister” sent me this article and it spoke to me. Spot on. Joy Ladin said exactly how I feel. Here’s the URL. Go read it. I’ll wait.


Ok. I’m guessing that if you read my blog you have a passing interest in transgender issues. Either that or you are a literary agent waiting to sign me up for a lucrative contract. No? Then that article may speak to you as well. It’s her book: Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders.

“What’s so bad about being a man?” That’s a good question. And Ms. Ladin’s answer is correct- "nothing… if you’re a man." There are many passages that rang out. I quote:

“To her, I am sacrificing our family for a panty-hosed version of a typical male midlife crisis, abdicating relationships and responsibilities to roar off on the Harley-Davidson of transsexuality (the metaphor is hers) toward a fluffy pink Shangri-la of self-centered gratification.”

She discusses family obligations, which I feel and debate:

“This seemed to me a supremely moral decision, a form of transcendence, a triumph of mind over matter. In the deepest sense, I was living my life for others, and isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Years of parenting turned this lie—I was as selfish and self-centered as anyone, despite the hollowness of the self I was centered on—into a semblance of truth. Like most parents, I had to ignore my own needs to care for my children’s.”

And she discusses the feelings inside that I couldn’t discuss for so many years:

“Nothing else mattered to me but fantasies of transformation. The realities of my life, my career, my family seemed like shadows on a distant wall.”

“A body is there, but it’s not yours. A voice is coming out of your throat, but you don’t recognize it. The mirror contains another person’s face. When your children wrap their arms around you, they seem to be hugging someone else. Every morning you wake up shocked to find that parts of you have disappeared, that you are smothered in flesh you cannot recognize as yours. That you have lost the body you never had. This isn’t me, you say to yourself. This isn’t me, you say to anyone you trust. Of course it isn’t. There is no “me,” no body that fits the map, no identity that fits your sense of self, no way to orient yourself in a world in which you exist only as an hysterical rejection of what, to everyone around you, is the simple, obvious fact of your gender.”

That’s really how it feels to me, and I’ll bet to many others too.

So what’s stopping me? Well, as she wrote:

“I have no illusions that becoming a jobless, homeless approximation of a middle-aged woman is a recipe for bliss.”

Homelessness. And then there’s hurting my wife. Well, she’ll be hurt no matter what. As soon as she finds out about Sophie. Does that excuse it?  Am I hurting her for nothing?

I’m 45 years old. Even as a man, finding a job is difficult. I work two jobs that don’t pay much. However I’m working and that’s something. Would I lose these jobs by transitioning? Maybe one of them. Can I live on one of those salaries? Nope. Not even close. And I know it. That’s why if my wife tosses me out, I’m in trouble.  (I've made plans though.)

So. Stop thinking about it, right? Stiff upper lip. Carry on. After all, I have a family and all. Well, that’s easy enough to say, isn’t it?

As Ms. Ladin wrote:

“The more I outwardly surrendered my life to those around me, the more I thought about gender. When I walked to the bathroom, I thought about gender; when I sang my daughters to sleep, I thought about gender; when I sat in my office, I thought about gender; when I stood in the classroom, I thought about gender. Finally, I realized I was thinking about gender every waking minute. There was no relief anymore, no moment when I was unaware of my estrangement from my skin.”

That’s really it, isn’t it? I think about it constantly. I am out and about once a month and that leaves 30 days... a total of 720 hours...43,200 minutes... to think of being out as Sophie but not be able to do so. (But who’s counting?)

Worth Waiting For?

I spoke to my therapist about the article (I forwarded it to her.) We had a good discussion. She forwarded it to two different therapy groups. One meets tonight, but I can’t go as I will be working.

Ms. Ladin writes many things in her article, but she has an amazing metaphor that stuck with me.

“Happiness was right there, all around me, like a fragrance, if only I would let myself breathe.

But, for me, being a man meant holding my breath. If I couldn’t breathe as myself, I wouldn’t breathe at all.”

When will I let myself breathe?

Can I?

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful quote...

    "But, for me, being a man meant holding my breath. If I couldn’t breathe as myself, I wouldn’t breathe at all.”

    So many times in life, we breath the air given us by others who expect us to be who they envision us to be. It is a stagnant air... it is breathable, but it is like breathing smog... suffocating us slowly into a hypoxia induced semi-comatose realm. Yes... being a man would be fine... but how long can we re-breathe that stale air without a part of us dying within and without....