As I make my way through this journey, I regularly return to my earlier writings. This is for two reasons: I want to see which things have changed and which have not, and I want to make sure that any of the things that I’ve asked to go into my journal are revisited and given the time and attention I promised them (see what I wrote about the container as a “contract” in EMDR, Part 2). I’m often surprised to find that while I feel like I have figured so much out about myself, I still have the same questions and doubts. To illustrate this, I’m sharing an essay I wrote just a few days after I came out to myself (slightly edited for clarity).
If someone presented me with a pill and said “if you take this, your feelings will go away and you will be happy in your assigned gender for the rest of your life”, would I take it? I so badly want to say yes. I would feel “normal”. I wouldn’t cause strain in my marriage. I might be able to feel genuine and authentic around people and actually build meaningful friendships.
This pill would mean the end to my suffering, but at what cost? My feminine feelings have value. They are valid. They (I hope) make me more sympathetic (or, dare I hope, empathetic) to women and things they face. My feelings make it impossible for me to not feel like a feminist and want equality – this is not a bad thing. I hope my feelings make me a better parent to my daughter – I want her to know that she is capable of anything she sets her mind to; that she is worthy of love, worthy of respect; that her body is hers, and nobody gets to tell her what to do with it; that she should be able to walk down the street at night and not feel unsafe simply because she is a woman who is alone. I hope my feelings make me a better husband – to know that my wife wants to be beautiful to me (and she is!), but also that she is a strong, smart, capable woman; to listen to her and hear her; to treat her as an equal, a partner, MY partner… my better half.
If I were to take a pill that would make me satisfied with my assigned gender, I’m afraid I would become a jerk to women.
If someone presented me with a pill and said “if you take this, your body will magically change to the female body you would have had if you were born that way, and this change would be retroactive to your birth”, would I take it? Again, I so badly want to say yes. I think I would feel like I were coming home, possibly for the very first time. I would finally feel right.
But again, at what cost? My wife is not a lesbian, so the best I could hope for is a strong friendship. We wouldn’t have been married, so we wouldn’t have our children. My wife and my marriage are so important to me, it’s hard for me to just turn my back on our relationship. But then again, perhaps she would have been happier – she would potentially have met a husband who was not “defective”, and perhaps I would have found a different partner and been happy, too. I guess it’s a good thing this is hypothetical – I’m afraid of what I might choose.
So much has changed, yet so much remains the same! I have answers that I didn’t then – I now know I’m transgender; I feel that my correct body is female. I wish that I’d been born in my correct body. But at the same time, I don’t want most of the other aspects of my life to change. I love my wife and kids, and can’t imagine my life without them. I remain conflicted over the question of the red pill or the blue pill, for the same reasons: I want the correct body, but don’t want to lose my family.
To the point of “I would feel like I were coming home, possibly for the very first time. I would finally feel right”, I have found that to be true since beginning medical and social transition. I am more at home in my body than I’ve ever been, and even then, I’ve only had glimpses of my true self – so much remains to happen before I think I’ll finally be as close as I can get to my correct body.
As for “I might be able to feel genuine and authentic around people and actually build meaningful friendships”, I have found that since beginning transition, I have been able to feel more genuine and authentic around people, and I’ve been blessed to develop friendships with a number of people. I believe I have validated my theory that my inability to present my true self was a hindrance to friendships before I came out – not that I was unable to make good friendships, but that I had to work hard to overcome the impediments that living as a man gave me. Now that I am finally able to present myself genuinely, I look forward to watching those existing friendships blossom into much better relationships than before.
I still struggle with the idea of being “normal”. I recognize that “normal” is a construct and that nobody on this Earth is absolutely normal. But I have a notion that many (if not most) people have at some time had some sense or feeling of themselves being normal. I have never felt that, and I crave it, even when I recognize it as a artificial concept.
How about you? Do you have anything in your life which could represent a red pill/blue pill decision? Perhaps some defining moment where you made a choice (or had one made for you) and things could have been drastically different if something had gone differently? Or perhaps you’re faced with a dilemma now, where you have to make a choice, and none of the possibilities feels exactly right or wrong?
Which pill would you take?
Until next time,
Hi, I wouldn’t take either pill. I think that while the “wrong body” narrative has meaning for some people, I think that being trans and the journey we take is all part of the glorious mess that is gender. As much as I too have wished to be cis, I’ve come to believe there aren’t “real” bodies, we’re all women, or whatever. I like your piece though. I should revisit my early writing, though it’s all in some journal somewhere. Darn traditional writing.
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