Intimacy in the Void: A transgendered perspective.

Intimacy in the Void: A transgendered perspective.

I was wondering why this particular article was giving me so much trouble. The words appeared to be stuck in a type of cognitive quagmire. Then I realized “Hey I am transgendered” and it all just fell into place. One of the problems facing a person that struggles with sexual identity is that you learn to get so good at telling everyone what they want to hear that you lose your own voice. It is like being Echo wanting desperately to be loved and only able to mouth someone else’s words. You become as irrelevant as the wind moving through a hollow. This habit of reading the room or giving people what they want to hear is purely survival of course. When you grow up wanting to be another sex well it isn’t the topic for a Sunday dinner table. In some ways you become a fairly well rounded person. In my time on this earth I know a little of politics (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian) history, mechanics, sports, hell even mixed martial arts. My interests can turn on a dime to meet the audience that I am in contact with at the moment. However, if you look more closely you may notice the slight desperation, the need to be liked or rather the need not to be discovered. Fear keeps you moving things along, sometimes you talk over people when you are not careful and they think that you are narcissistic. The real issue is keeping everyone at arm’s length. It is not lack of depth but really an unauthentic or false self that people read on an unconscious level.

It is sad to say that I have met many people and can at times be well liked but alas few can feel deeply toward me. Intimacy requires true self-disclosure. When you reveal what you think or feel you allow another person an opportunity to enter your world. They may wish to learn and grow more as a person just by being in your presence. It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Unfortunately for a person that may be transgendered the risk can far outweigh the rewards. Once the mask is removed, no amount of talking about the recent pitching rotation will bring things back to their previous state. So what exactly am I talking about? Over twelve years ago I opened up to the wrong person and found myself out of a job. A man who was gay but loyal to my ex saw me in a club and I was cashing in my retirement fighting for the right to see my children. Re-location, the loss of visitation, economic hardship all because I was born in the wrong body or at least cannot get comfortable in the skin I am presently in during this course of life.

Intimacy also requires a level of self honesty that helps a person move in a direction motivated by self-discovery and not survival. When you are honest with yourself you may learn what you like and what you don’t like. The ship gains a rudder and you steer toward that destination you have formed in your mind devoid of outside influence. Identity according to Erickson is a key component of a healthy adult personality. When as a young person, you are denied the opportunity to find your identity you may drift aimlessly from one relationship to another frustrating others and frustrating yourself in an attempt to make contact with at least one human being that may understand you. If you are raised with traditional values and expectations you desire to live up to what your family considers a good life. Many of us have served admirably in the armed services. It is funny but no one has ever complained when a transgendered person saved their ass on the battlefield. It has happened countless times. However, the little sissy princess isn’t worth a damn if his buddies learn who he really is as a person.

Let me take a moment to explain the effect of these marvelous little epithets that get tossed our way. I was a father, a husband, a member of a religious community (Jewish at the time). Worked as a coach for Special Olympics, cared for the elderly and occasionally volunteered at the local soup kitchen of the city I lived in for over ten years. This human being was wiped off the face of the earth as if he had never existed. The terms freak, pervert, mentally unstable, unfit father became the reality of my existence. How can you remove a person’s worth with the utterance of one venomous statement? How do you live with yourself when a person’s humanity is eliminated just so that it may be easier for you to vent your hatred on a more anonymous target? This is the price that transgendered people face when looking honestly at themselves and at the world they are living in despite all the “so called” advances in social consciousness.

Being transgendered means often forming relationships that are not founded on trust and self disclosure. How many times can you hear “Well I could like you as a friend but I am just not into that type of thing.” “I like White Italian Catholics but you know those Latin Americans well I am just not into that type of thing.” Would anyone in their right mind utter such a hateful statement in public? Most bigots have the good sense to hide such open hatred until they are in the presence of other small minded people. However if you are transgendered well why not make the little fairy cry? Motivated by just the human desire to be loved many of us lie to ourselves and to others with tragic consequences. The desire to be loved can play strange tricks on the mind. “Hey this is just a phase you know, all you have to do is get this out of your system.” Sure let me try flushing who I am down the toilet and I can wash my hands, rearrange my face and join the rest of acceptable society. You marry hoping that you have put yourself away, locked yourself up in a chained trunk located somewhere where even you can’t find yourself. Marriage, children love at any cost but always a sense of distance. The people with you don’t understand why you can’t cry. Sadness, grief, joy and oh yes love are locked in that steel trunk, unavailable to you or the people you wish to love.

Many marriages to people that are transgendered end in divorce. Most spouses feel they have been cheated. And of course in this case they are correct. Each spouse has lost the opportunity to be close to this human being that they have spent a lifetime with in the course of a human life. When you tear away the veil you cannot go back. Knowledge will not be stifled; it cannot be eliminated by anything save death. No one knows this better than people who are transgendered. We will try over and over again to fit in just to experience love, but this can never happen without true honesty that is the very foundation of intimacy. To meet someone that shares your interests, who is kind and caring, oh just to be in the presence of love! A person may give away anything including her identity in the hope of experiencing real human contact. If you try hard and go to bad therapists you may indeed bury everything including the person that your spouse was attracted to in the first place. It is a painful, gradual death that starts with numbness and ends in overwhelming depression. To increase your pain the person who loves you starts to blame herself. Why doesn’t he touch me anymore? What happened to all of that spontaneous conversation? Does it sound familiar to the millions of Americans who have experienced the death throes of a relationship? The unique twist for us is that the answer and the awful challenge stare us in the face until accumulated pain becomes so great that something breaks our self control and our true self emerges. Sad and beautiful, like a lunar moth that soars in the first night of star light we finally reveal the unique gift of who we are to the person who matters the most to our lives. This is often met with tears and rebukes, angry hurtful statements and an absolute ocean of guilt that is so great that many of us would rather end or lives than cause one more moment of pain to someone that we truly love.

If you manage to survive this awful trial what becomes of the person who has achieved this self-discovery at such a great cost? You land in a cold world of empty keystrokes and further hopes of future contact. You may send e-mails and join like-minded people in internet chat groups. You get emoticons instead of human touch. We package our hopes and dreams and send them off in cyberspace like messages in a bottle. We wait in dire expectation just to receive a return e-mail from a like minded person. The fact is we can be hard on our friends. If you have the strength you may actually venture out and meet other transgendered people. Hey you get to go to a convention and spend a few days being the person that you should have been your entire life. Wow at least you get to express yourself right? We wander aimlessly in the cold expanse, pressing our face against the glass of human interaction, looking at others that may share a meal, watch a movie, go shopping- anything mundane that is done in the company of someone that loves you. We ache to share our bathroom counter with a person that loves us without conditions.

Finally we have achieved the foundation of real intimacy. We have made peace with who we are so that any future interaction may have the potential to be a genuine relationship. In the world of social media, blog posts and chat groups we take our first steps. The children of Teiresias pick up their staffs and wander over the electronic landscape. If you come across this journal in your endless travels through cyberspace you may learn a little of what it means to be transgendered. For me and so many of my transgendered sisters, we continue to strive to make contact; perhaps with any luck we may achieve intimacy in the void.