Recently, I was able to see some of my relatives in person, for the first time in…has it been three years? I recall that lockdown started in our area three years to the day ago, though I don’t have as crisp a recollection about when it ended — due to the fact that we were easing ourselves back in. The previous time we saw these members of our family was right as the pandemic was beginning, at the end of 2019.
In fact, I got sick on that trip (someone always gets sick on every trip, even if it’s just from different food or water), but we were quicker to suspect a mild case of Legionnaire’s Disease from the dripping air conditioning and poor ventilation, than COVID. Awareness of the latter was just emerging at the time.
I did note the high rates of illness — a crowded Longs Drugs — on that trip, which leads me to think that COVID had been circulating there before it was officially recognized. There’s also the bizarre fact that I tried to get treatment at the beginning of 2020 (I had symptoms which lingered longer than they should have, from something which left before it was identified), and my stand-in doctor ghosted me on the video call.
Though it wouldn’t be prudent to get into other people’s mental health, the toll that lockdown has taken on all of our psyches is apparent. The very good thing about this is that the last visitation has everyone in agreement about next steps. I’m not going to get into them, here — but there is an actual workable plan for reuniting our family, this time.
I’ve reached the point, whether by age or maturity (they’re different things), where I don’t feel the need to live to write, like I did up until…apparently, several years ago. To me, writing is enjoyable and useful, but no longer compulsory. It’s no longer my reason to stay alive, precisely because there are better reasons to live, than to subsist in a world of one’s own making.
The butterfly analogy actually somewhat fits, here: some day, one has to come out of that cocoon. (Do pupae dream of flowers?) And yeah — maybe like a butterfly, maybe I should just live. For life may always be too brief and beautiful.
Granted that I think a lot of us write in order to escape the confines of this world (not to mention, this body in this world).
I’ve reached a point with the “identity” theme, where it has become so well-worn as to be tiresome. Just because I fall into particular categories, doesn’t mean I need to aim to make stories about people in those categories, those stories ultimately being about myself. Personal experiential input is inevitable; but I don’t have to expressly aim to write about me.
I’m finding that I do better when I’m in nature than when I’m with people, particularly because many people see me and think they know (or can find out) who I am, from what I look like. Or what I was named, or my ancestral origins…
I’m not sure…how much media consumption (and production) goes into the idea that anyone should be able to look at a person and think they “know” who that person is, on the inside, from how they look on the outside. I only know this from having practiced character design, and having been on the originating end of multiple creative pursuits…plus having gotten an inkling of the influence of Marketing and committees, on what people eventually see.
Art != reality. Especially: Commercial Art != reality.
The fact is, there is a lot about that outside that a real person can’t change (try race, or height, or build); so thinking one knows a person based on their physicality — something they only partially have control over — doesn’t make sense.
But then, there’s also the fact that, at least in the U.S., never-ending sitcoms also seem to condition viewers to the idea that change should never happen, ever, when in fact change — or the problems that come with existing as physical beings, like responding with resilience to aging and death; in addition to having to regularly eat, sleep, take care of hygiene, take care of health — are together, the greatest challenges I have faced in my life.
Once I’ve said that, I’m sure it is no great revelation to know that I at one time did not expect to live as long as I have…meaning that for a good portion of my life, I was not preparing to survive to old age. And I now, surprisingly, find myself in middle age. And needing to get a, “real job,” when most of my meaningful employment has in fact been, being a student.
This is the way I’ve approached study, since high school. Maybe it would be a good thing to try and ease myself into the job market?
I also, however, am coming to a clearer realization that I am participating (or hoping to participate) in a society which was not made with me in mind as a fully independent and self-sufficient agent. Most women get married; I’m trying to build a career.
I’ve mentioned before (though I can’t remember where; I mention it quite frequently) that one of the greatest draws to writing, for me, historically, has been the ability to express myself without others being able to see what I look like, or hear the sound of my voice. It keeps people from drawing conclusions about me based on my physical embodiment.
The problem isn’t entirely based in race, or gender, or what the Autism community calls, “neurodivergence.” It’s all of those, plus the select difficulties that come from the overlap and interaction of those factors, especially in a society where others may seek to attempt domination of me because of any one of those factors alone.
Nature doesn’t care what my gender identity is, or what gender of person I want in my life in what role, or what shade my skin takes, or how much money I make. What I do and who I am at core, is who I am supposed to be; or at least, in a world which seems in various ways to tell me who I should be, I am seeking to realize the person I am.
That’s as worthy a goal as any, for this lifetime.
There are at least two approaches to mental health, in my scenario.
The first is to try and correct the false image conjured by my appearance which leads people to do things like compliment my, “femininity” — as though that is an idea with which I sought to connect. The sole existence of trans* men indicates that the “female” sex contains multiple genders, not just “women” who all seek to be “feminine”. The gender encoding of the clothes I’m wearing shouldn’t matter. This relates to changing society, one person at a time…or changing my wardrobe, which may require sewing, so I actually have a say in the gender cues of my clothes, as versus having to navigate ready-to-wear.
The second is to disconnect from society and find solace in nature; as when touring a supposed resort, the most meaningful part of it is being away from all the people and the performance and the sickness and the shops, and being with the ocean. Not the protected artificial cove (of course it’s artificial), but the huge wild waves crashing onto the breakwater. That water will eventually break through.
This is reminding me of the fact that weeds were one of my favorite subjects in the Art program…maybe explore this further as subject matter?
I might want to try both avenues. Though how to break it to someone that what they just said did not have its intended bonding (or is it testing?) effect, is its own problem…and there is the question of whether it is even necessary when one sees them for a total of 40 minutes in one’s lifetime.
There are a lot of people seen rarely enough that a conversation on this may seem inconsequential. But when you see someone for 3-4 minutes a day, multiple times a week, for multiple weeks…it adds up. Especially when there are 20 of these people saying the same thing, every day, none of whom know you; all of whom, think they do. Because they don’t know that a blind spot even can exist where it comes to gender, and I’ve learned to associate being visibly gender-variant, with being a target of hostility.
But then, if “most people” think routine business exchanges are deep and meaningful human connection, I suppose that it may be normal for “most people” to go through their lives without really knowing or understanding anyone…possibly, including themselves.
I still haven’t found a way to avoid being disturbed by being assumed to be a woman, and thus assumed to fit the many different ideas many different people have, about women. Some of which are insulting; and some of which, come from unexpected sources.
I broached feeling alienated within Women’s Studies class (I believe I only tried Women’s Studies once), among two of my more potent female relatives, both of whom are apparently solidly woman-identified. They both had similar feelings when they took Women’s Studies classes. In my case, there was a specific — exclusive — version of “femininity” constructed by the Professor and the readings she assigned (I remember pink, babies, and lace; not that these are bad things necessarily, but it wasn’t where I was at), which did not reflect my life or internal sense of self.
As a 19-year-old heavily questioning my gender, I took the lack of applicability of this class to my psyche and life, to mean that I must not have been a woman. That really wasn’t the point of calling it “Women’s Studies,” M explained recently; the Department was simply named for its subject — not for its audience.
I still feel it was not speaking about or to me, which for me called its personal relevance into question. It didn’t help that the Prof seemed to assume that I was raised as a boy and on estrogen and that this was why I couldn’t identify with the readings. (I was also too inexperienced to realize that you get bad Professors everywhere.) But then, for at least 10 years — since I took Intro to Marketing — I’ve been able to shrug off messages directed at women, as though they were not directed at me. It’s saved me a lot of frustration, and dare I say, anger.
As I have gotten older, I’ve realized that — to myself — I’ve grown beyond having problems with my body’s secondary sexual characteristics. It operates. It gives me life. That’s what it’s good for, and that’s good enough. What I do have a problem with is others’ interpretations of what my body infers about me as a person.
I don’t have issues anymore with gravitating to menswear, when it will not fit this body at this age, and I have liked my curves since I have gotten them. I have issues with other people thinking I mean to say something about myself by my choice of clothing, when maybe I made the choice of clothing in reference to comfort and fit, not symbolism — and not as a bid to take up a social role.
I am clearly enby (a.k.a. gender nonbinary [NB]) in today’s cultural landscape; but not necessarily with a visibly different gender expression; and that’s on top of a lack of body dysphoria — the last of which, makes me an outlier in trans* community. The question that has been in the back of my mind is what simply having an unusual gender identity really ends up looking like, or exactly how to move forward from here.
I guess I should be thankful that I don’t have to deal with the body dysphoria…
What’s also interesting is that without the minutiae of a present-day gender community…others could mistake me for a lesbian person. The thing is: I’ve been in lesbian community. So have many of my past friends who wound up as trans* men. It doesn’t mean that I, or we, fit there long-term.
The thing about lesbian community is that it’s more permissive than mainstream heteronormative culture where it comes to gender identity and expression, but it’s not as expansive as transgender or genderqueer or nonbinary community. The division between myself and the lesbian community would be more striking if I were gender-variant and interested in men, thus appearing heterosexual (though what does “heterosexual” mean in a context where at least one of two people is not heteronormative)…which is a variation and nuance nowhere near as well-supported.
An interest in particular male-presenting people has happened maybe five or six times over my life, but mostly with bi, gay or trans* men. This has been apparent enough from a young age, which is the major reason why I had misgivings around identifying as lesbian, in the first place. I was slotted by bigots as the latter, but that really shouldn’t hold any weight. Bigots who don’t know me, are neither experts on my identity, nor do they know anything about my sexuality: except for the fact that they are making themselves likely not to be a target of it.
Being gender-variant with a male person who respects it, is an interesting possibility. There are cisgender (i.e. non-transgender) men who are more respectful of gender difference in their partners than some trans* people are. There were boys who were my playmates at one time and accepted me as one of them — until I got a crush on Evan. Which kind of spoiled it.
I have a tendency to be more direct than most guys easily handle: after all, I’m not seeking to play the role of a straight girl…because I’m not a straight girl. I think I had one straight (?) male friend who saw me as more than a friend, but he had already hooked up with a woman whom he insisted I should not meet…which was my clue that I was more to him than I realized.
I’m more used to non-straight dudes looking at me with interest and then seeing my chest and seeming disappointed, though. Or, that’s a memory that stands out in my mind. I don’t know what dream flashed open there and then closed. What I do know is that there can be multiple reasons for inhabiting any identity status: for me, it was avoiding pregnancy.
Then there is the question of why one prioritizes gender at all in seeking a partner, particularly if one does not plan on bearing children, and the relevant fertility factors are a separate variable from gender.
The only way I would ever consider pregnancy would be if I met someone I had a lifetime of potential with, loved, could emotionally tolerate, whom I didn’t have to mother, and who was willing to respect me, including respecting my self-definition (even if they didn’t see me the same way). They would also have to be willing to hang in there during the inevitable psychiatric quirks. But for multiple reasons — the most apparent, being that I have not kept up with old friends — that hasn’t happened yet, and menopause is not far.
Though why worry about menopause when you don’t want to get pregnant? It would seriously be a gift in that case, right?