“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene 3
Experience shapes perception. Perception defines reality. This is an axiom. What is also an axiom is that each of us creates a reality apart from what anyone else knows as a direct result. We respond to feedback from our senses, and that feedback shapes our experiences. How we interpret those experiences may be very different to someone else’s, especially when taking into account upbringing, education, personal morality, and so on. All of this is a variation on the world’s oldest recorded axiom: “As above, so below; as within, so without.” It speaks to an ordering of information whereby we might understand our place in both the grand scale and the small stage. The cosmos and our personal inner space, if you will. It’s inseparable. Indeed, we are all inseparable because of it.
I lead with that because this post may challenge your balance, possibly to the point where it’ll offend you. Then again, it may reaffirm that which you already understand. I don’t know. How you respond to it is ultimately up to you based upon your beliefs and backgrounds. Judgment reflects more upon the judge than upon those who are being judged. It’s why reviews of books and movies and such are so subjective, and it’s why the best works in the artistic realm are truly personal ones.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m in therapy. I’ve also made no secret of the fact that my brain is wired a little differently when compared to others. I deal with Sensory Processing Disorder, or so it’s sometimes called. Those who deal with it don’t really like that terms, and it’s easy to see why. You’re basically being told something’s wrong with you because you’re different than the majority, different from “normal” people, whatever it is that normal is supposed to mean. Essentially my senses, especially hearing, are heightened to the point where I experience pain or disorientation. It makes being in crowds difficult at best. I have trouble enjoying movies in a theater because my attention is drawn invariably to the audience all around me. On the flip side, while thumping subwoofers cause migraines and deep-throated engines give me chest pains, there is ecstasy in other types of sound, a transcendence I wish others could experience as I do. I wish I could describe for you what it is to experience a symphony orchestra on my terms, to truly live inside the greatest works ever composed. In those rare times when I can find peace, there is no quiet. I can hear the Earth hum. You’ve probably heard of the Schumann frequency. I can hear that and more besides when I’m away from people and their cacophony.
My brain is wired a a little differently in other ways as well. It has caused me to question the terms of my very existence, to live in fear for most of my life. Growing up, I latched on to fictional characters as personal heroes who were not afraid to live their truths. I envied them as much as I admired them. Over time, I discovered real people who did the same thing, who struggled perhaps not with the same issues I did, but with their own. I did my very best to shape myself in their images so that my internal energy would somehow align itself and better allow me to be aligned with the world around me.
Eventually I found myself in all of this. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Not so much. The truth I found scared me like nothing else has before or since because it reaffirmed my perceptions, the ones I’d been trying to hide from myself since I was a child. Ultimately I made peace with who I am, but I couldn’t deny the world around me. It’s an unforgiving world, I told myself. Everywhere I looked was nonacceptance, intolerance, and injustice… hate, by any other name. And as much as I sensed it around me, I hated myself more than anyone else ever could.
There’s a line from Master Yoda that resonated within me the moment I heard it because I had lived its truth: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.”
This truth has defined me since I first came face to *ahem* facemask with Darth Vader at the age of four. I identified with the great movie monsters because I always feared I was one. I did everything humanly possible that I could think of not to go down that path. But for all of my efforts, fear has dogged me every step of the way, a silent hunter that absolutely will not stop until I faced it. And so I did. I had learned over time that some monsters can be redeemed, and other monsters were never monsters at all. Only our perception defined that idea for us. Over time, I came to accept who I am, and slowly I came to terms with the idea that I am, in fact, not a monster. Once I got over the idea that maybe it would have been easier to live had I actually been born a monster, fear of myself slowed and finally stopped. I listened to the wisdom of my heroes and learned to live for my perception of a greater good. But I did so from the shadows. Unknown. Anonymous. Alone. Fear of others remained because I was born a little differently, and people tend to fear and hate that which isn’t like themselves. You see, every single week, at least one person just like me is killed in a hate crime. It happened not that long ago in my own city. Have you ever imagined how terrifying your last moments must be if you were to be strangled to death in the “safety” of your own home? It happened to her. Far worse happens out there all the time. My imagination will not let me forget it. It also won’t let me surrender to such ideas.
Sooner or later, something just snaps. The fear cracks, and little by little it begins to fall away. For myself, I credit all those heroic inspirations I mentioned. A person can’t follow in the footsteps of the noble and the courageous without adopting some of the manner and mindset that creates that condition. At the same time, I still stand in awe, and always will, of those very real everyday heroes who are out there making a very real difference in the improvement of the lives of others and protecting against the dangers of the world in order to protect those who cannot protect themselves. I’ve not tested myself against such ideals. But I have learned to develop a thicker skin, to deal with criticism, fear, and hate. I’ve been bullied for a great many other things in my life, none of them life-threatening, so I see that experience as training wheels for the day when far worse comes knocking. I have come to a crossroads in my life that will no longer be denied. Einstein is often attributed to a bit of wisdom that tells us that ultimately we have to decide if the universe is a good universe or a bad universe. Whichever we choose defines our reality through that perception.
The internet is dark and full of fearful little trolls. I pay them little heed. The world… pretty much the same, but the threats are palpable. Such people are part of the human experience, obstacles to be overcome. In examining the heroes in my life, fact and fiction, and in looking at the true heroes of history, I see that there is ultimately one cause that is consistently on the right side of that perception: civil rights. We lead by example. We lend our strength to those who need it, and we gain it from those who have it to lend. In discrimination, people become monsters, living in fear, striking out at all that doesn’t fit into their otherwise comfortable pigeon hole of perception. If we are indeed one people, all in this together, then it stands to reason that both the oppressors and the oppressed need to be welcomed into the fold and offered new ways to see the world. As Franklin D. Roosevelt so famously stated, “The only thing we have to fear is… fear itself.” (Of course, then a few short years later, he’d sign the order to incarcerate Japanese Americans for their own “protection,” so the tragic irony is not lost on me here as exactly the sort of thing that needs to be overcome.)
And so, I find myself at this crossroads. One path leads to continued fear and all that implies, shrinking back into the darkness where I’ve dwelt for most of my life, watching life go by as I stagnate. The other requires me to take a step into the light, knowing that in living my truth I still invariably have to deal with those who live in fear. In doing so I will continue to grow and evolve. Perhaps I can help others along the way who deal with their own fears. Courage has nothing to do with being fearless. It’s the willingness to confront the fears head-on and to give voice to the good things in life. I have made it to this point without thoughts of suicide, without cutting, without drugs, and without any number of other types of self harm. Many aren’t so fortunate. As many tears as I’ve shed over the years, others have shed far more. It’s impossible for me not to think about it.
Today I choose the path of light. To keep from falling into the abyss myself over the years, I adopted a code of chivalry a number of years ago. It helped me to toe a line and pull myself back from the edge. In recent months, I’ve realized that even that isn’t enough anymore. The mindset of it is a good beginning, but it’s only a beginning. It no longer serves. To that end, I have decided to discard my code for something far more simple and purposeful: love, compassion, and hope. The only way to truly live in this path is to make myself vulnerable. So… here it goes.
I am transgender.
Without any way to quantify the ideas and feelings behind what that even means, I have been questioning in dread silence since I was five years old. I came to accept it, fearfully, when I was fifteen. I’ve been hiding ever since, hyper-aware of every word, deed, and mannerism that might give me away. Over time, cultural awareness would allow me to build a vocabulary from which I could begin to understand some things, and the internet has certainly helped since its advent, but these things came way too late to help me in my formative years. To protect myself, I built a mask that became like a second skin, complete with subsets of beliefs and mannerisms that were not necessarily my own but helped me to assimilate unseen into the world around me. In those times when I could speak the truth due to overlap, I second guessed if I were giving something away, leaving breadcrumbs for others to find. If I did, no one ever said so. Over the course of my life, this idea of being trans has been a target of disgust, a low-hanging fruit for bad comedy, and a source of a great deal of political, societal, and even spiritual upheaval. Consider how much hay has been made here in the States about simple things like public restrooms. And we’re supposed to be the open and accepting society where all are made equal with inalienable human rights. Laws protect us only so far.
In the world of LGBTQ+ (or whatever variant of this your identity politics suggests), the trans community has often been the foot soldiers on the front lines, standing alongside their allies in the name of civil rights. When it comes time for trans rights, we often stand alone. Thankfully, this situation is improving, albeit ever so slowly. The world is changing as it always has and always will. Even if we will never be fully accepted in the minds of some because of some primal fear, sooner or later the wheels of history still turn in the direction of protecting civil rights. Protection against discrimination leads to openness, and openness leads to more acceptance as people realize that we are just as human as anyone else. We have a very long way to go. In my neck of the woods, too many remain unconvinced that our Civil War ended in 1865. My next door neighbor still flies the Confederate battle flag on occasion (it’s always the battle flag, isn’t it? — not the actual representational flag) just to piss off my darker skinned neighbors, who in turn have learned to fear and hate anyone who doesn’t look like them. If we can’t even get past this sort of thing, what chance does someone like me have?
It has made life a living hell for me to know that if I so much as let down my guard or let the wrong word slip, someone I love and trust might turn on me in an instant. If I were to ever fully live in the open, I could be assaulted or killed by a stranger just as easily. As the saying goes, it’s not really paranoia if they really are out to get you. One in every two transgender people die from murder or suicide. 50%. A toss of a coin. As you can imagine, that number escalates for my darker skinned trans-sisters and trans-brothers. Some countries have it easier. Some have it much harder. That level of fear is crippling, which in turn keeps the numbers so high. Even so, I am dedicated to the idea of survival.
For me, there is a biological imperative that overrides all of this, the very impulse that led me to this crossroads. It’s an idea eloquently stated in the American Declaration of Independence: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” From my position in my mid-40s, I look back and realize I’ve wasted my childhood and young adult life cowering between the proverbial rock and the hard place, unable to go backwards, too frightened out of my mind to move forwards. I can’t merely exist like that anymore. I won’t exist like that anymore. I refuse to let a differential between sex and gender define my life or lack of it. I was not given a choice in how I was created. I can only choose how I play the hand I’m dealt. I am not mistake of nature, nor am I the joke of some twisted deity or demon. I am so much more than the sum of my parts. I stand equal to anyone else on this planet, no greater, and certainly not lesser. I claim my right to live. I claim my right to identity without fear. I am. None get to tell me otherwise, no matter how uncomfortable they are. It’s not about them. I’ve more than learned that life doesn’t come with safety helmets and protective bubble wrap, so I’m not going to apologize if me simply existing offends someone else’s fragile sensibilities. But I will treat none of these closed-minded types with the same disdain they’ve shown others like me. The road to here made me strong enough to overcome fear. It also made me compassionate enough to forgive it simply because of how much of it I’ve endured. My well being will not improve by holding grudges or trying to combat ignorance at its own level. Deep problems require a higher imagination.
As I write this, I am more than aware that some didn’t make it to the end of this post without turning away. Perhaps some will unfollow this blog entirely. That doesn’t concern me. I’ve never blogged for numbers or marketing; it’s a hobby, and I even pay extra to keep this site ad-free because advertising sucks. People must find their own paths. For the rest of you who have made it this far… thank you for reading all of this, even if it’s not something you even want on your radar. I cannot tell you how to feel, nor is it my place to persuade you of some higher truth. Everyone has to do that for themselves, just as I did. For me, the fear of the Dark Side finally gave way to the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination.
As to further details about any of this… I’m not part of the younger generation that lives out loud. I don’t need everything to be chronicled and quantified on the internet, and I don’t need my insecurities to be validated by those who do not know me. There’s a lot to be said for honesty, which is what this is about. There’s also something to be said for privacy. Some things are simply not for public consumption nor spectacle. I did not leave one hell simply to replace it with another. My closest friends know me for who I am, and they support me. They’ve demonstrated as much simply by sticking with me. I am eternally grateful for each of them. As one friend put it, I’m no different than I was before. It’s just that now people are aware of more of who I am. New perception redefines reality. I write about it at all because coming to this crossroads is the sum of the journey I’ve walked thus far. I step across the threshold simply because want to live a quiet life, free from fear. This is the first step in developing a new sense of peace at the core of my own being. “As above, so below; as within, so without.” It’s a humble start, one with purpose.
From here, I’ll return to normal blogging on this site… whatever “normal” means.