Reconciling regret

By , October 23, 2009 3:39 am

I just finished re-reading Boylan’s I’m Looking Through You, and it’s brought up something that’s really been on my mind lately. From page 256 of the hardcover:

Shell looked thoughtful. “I don’t know, Jenny. About ninety percent of the time, you seem like the happiest person I know. And then, every once in a while, I”ll catch you looking out a window like that. I don’t get it. How come you’re so sad, if you’re happy?”

[snip]

“I don’t know, Shell. I said. I mulled it over. “I get tired sometimes, of being different.”

[snip]

I wiped my eyes. “It’s like, I went through this whole amazing change, and at last I feel content, at last I feel whole. But what about that kid I used ot be? What about all those memories? That’s the one thing they can’t give you in surgery: a new history.”

I’ve been having a really hard time with that: how do I reconcile who I am now, who I want to be, with who I was?

The weight of that history, of the twenty-plus years I was living as male, feels like it’s overwhelming the ten months I’ve been living full-time as Rebecca.

Already ten months? Only ten months?

It feels like I, Rebecca, am spending each and every day putting down bricks, building a wall to defend against this boy or this man that I never wanted to be. Who keeps peeking over, around, pushing the wall over, screaming for attention.

I don’t do it as often anymore, but I used to have conversations in my head between myself and Rebecca, who was not yet “myself.” I thought of this because it’s something Boylan talks about having done – albeit in a slightly different way – in I’m Looking Through You. (I’m curious if this is common among trans individuals, or just among angsty teenagers in general.)

My conversations would usually start when I was feeling particularly stupid, or sad, or masculine. She’d start, this Rebecca that I imagined myself as in some alternate universe, speaking to me across the barrier which separated our realities: “You’re never going to be happy if you keep on like this.”

“Stop it.” I had no interest in hearing about what I should be doing, particularly from myself.

“I’m serious – you need to get off your ass! Go find a therapist! A doctor! Hormones!”

“I don’t want to hear it. Please stop.” It was true; the possibility that I could be doing something seemed, and seems, so tremendously tragic. That my pain and suffering was my own damn fault.

“Why?”

“Because I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to sit here and be sad. Sit here and wish things were different. Sit here.”

“Then why don’t you just kill yourself?” This line was always particularly seductive. Why not kill myself? Clearly, nothing was ever going to change. Friends would be happy, family would be happy, I wouldn’t. Maybe for brief moments, sunlight shining through the clouds, but never for long.

“Go away.”

“Just do it. Kill yourself, and it’ll be over. You’re never going to be me.”

Go away.” And she would, for a time.

She always came back.

Now that I am Rebecca, that I’ve crossed the barrier between realities, I’m realizing that I want to have those conversations more than I ever did when they were a regular occurrence. The fact that I can’t yell at myself across ten, fifteen, twenty years of time is an ache I didn’t realize I had. Because she was fucking right, all along: I could have gotten off my ass and done something about who I was, who I was going to be. I could have gone through puberty, correctly, the first time instead of needing an awkward and painful do-over ten years later. Erased and rewritten two decades of photographs and memories and stories and friendships.

It feels petty and immature, but I don’t want to have played the male love interest on stage, had my picture taken with the boys’ group at prom, hurt loved ones during my transition, been groped by someone who thought I was in drag, had to tell the same coming out explanation over and over and over, had (and continue) to struggle to figure out clothing and makeup and dating ten years after everyone around me. I don’t want to be, as Boyaln said, different.

I’m sitting in the present, looking back at a past frozen and permanently set, as if in impenetrable crystal, furious at myself, grieving for myself, regretting myself.

I’m ready to not be different, please.

10 Responses to “Reconciling regret”

  1. timberwraith says:

    Yes, I’ve had/have plenty of conversations with that same voice. *looks around nervously* I’m quite familiar with that voice, actually. I feel a little less odd knowing that another trans person has experienced this, too.

    For me, she’s far more than a voice. She embodies a deep center of emotion/spirit/self-knowledge that runs down to the core of my being. Although I can certainly have an (internal) verbal exchange with this part of myself, she’s more an emotional presence than a simple voice. All in all, she is me: the part of me that exists after you strip away all of society’s conformist bullshit, the fear, and the self-hatred.

    Over time, I learned that in spite of having lived 17 years identifying as a boy and another 8 trying to survive until I could transition, what mattered most is who I am at the core of my being. That part of myself is always there, regardless of whether I choose to pay attention to her or not. Over time, I grew to accept that this center of self makes me just as much of a woman as any other woman—regardless of the first 25 years of my life.

    It gets much, much easier with time, Rebecca. It has been fifteen years since I transitioned. When I wake up in the morning, there’s no question of who I am. When I look into the mirror, a woman’s face stares back at me. I’m simply me. I’m Stacy.

    When I look back upon the first 17 years of my life when I saw myself as a boy, it feels as though I’m peering into a different person’s memories. It’s an odd feeling, but the experience no longer fills me with self-doubt. I’m a woman. Nothing can change that simple fact.

    You’re you, Rebecca. If this core of self didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have become the woman you now are. That part of yourself is always going to be there, in spite of self doubt and in spite of uncomfortable memories. Take faith that this center of being matters more than anything else.

    I suspect that this probably sounds like corny New Aged navel gazing. Ah well. The shape and texture of emotions are often diminished when they are rendered as language.

    Do you like salt and butter on corn? I do. :D

    • Rebecca says:

      Thanks for the kind thoughts, and the reassurance.

      I have moments where I’m there, where I’m happy with who I am and who I see in the mirror, but they seem pretty fleeting. I guess that’s still better than a year ago (or five, or ten), when there were almost no moments like that. I know I’m on the right track, it’s just sometimes a sucky journey…

      It also helps to think about it in terms of what’s set versus what’s to come. That is, I can’t change the past. But, now and in the future, I’ll never not be Rebecca. So someday that will overwhelm or overtake the past, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

      (And hell yes, salt and butter on corn!)

      • timberwraith says:

        What your describing doesn’t sound terribly different from the feelings I experienced after I transitioned. It really does suck at times, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel (and I promise that it’s sunlight rather than a train).

        It can be extraordinarily difficult to filter out society’s message of “you can’t possibly be who you say you are.” Just remember that this isn’t really your voice doing the talking. It’s society’s voice… and if you don’t mind my saying so, fuck society’s voice. That voice usually centers upon other people’s prejudiced interests rather than your well being.

  2. peta says:

    I have found a peace within myself since transitioning 11 years ago. But I really resent that I wasn’t born cis. Either male or female…I don’t care. I wish I had brain and body in sync since day 1. I’ll always feel different. I embrace my past because my ex and my children are a big part of that past just as they are a big part of my present. I do feel sad at times but I have not experienced the depths of depression I experienced before I did something positive about my transsexualism.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thank you for the comment, Peta. I feel like it’s really attractive to imagine transitioning as this magical process that solves everything. So it’s nice to hear someone honestly say that their post-transition life is better, but that transitioning also didn’t erase the angst of pre-transition life or recreate everything from the ground up…

      So I really appreciate you stopping by, and hope you’ll comment again in the future. :)

  3. [...] hope for some additional growth, or Stage V and am all boobed out. This also plays a lot into the feelings of regret I’ve been having recently, since one thing that everyone does agree on is starting hormones [...]

  4. Kei says:

    Ma’am (or miss I’m not sure of your age), I consider you lucky for having a sense of self discovery. Too many people don’t know who they are inside.

    Consider yourself ahead of the game.

  5. Sophia says:

    We come from extremely different backgrounds, but we’re both the same age, (10 months). And sometimes, for me too, those ghost voices seem rather too close for comfort. Every time I wonder about other possible pasts, every time some encounter cues male response patterns, every time I think how ludicrous I must appear to some people ; voices of ghosts, not yet ancient enough to ignore, sweep over me.
    I guess the thing that’s most important for me is not to build walls to keep out ghosts. I’ve got enough to do in building the places for the woman I’m becoming to inhabit and enjoy, and I’ve no wish whatsoever to distort them in that sterile exercise. The Sophia that might have been, and the Sophia that I might grow up to be, are admittedly more vulnerable, but the t-girls we are, the Rebecca that speaks so clearly here, is definitely substantial enough to weather such voices.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thank you Sophia. That’s a really beautiful way of looking at it, and I’ll need to hold close the idea of being “substantial enough to weather” doubt and my own past.

  6. [...] over a year ago, in a post called Reconciling Regret, I wrote about the conversations I used to have between myself and “Rebecca,” my [...]

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