Two things defined my nights growing up: my huge collection of stuffed animals, and an extreme difficulty going to sleep. The former consisted of every creature under the sun, in all shapes and sizes. I still have a harbor seal with the whiskers cut off (so it didn’t tickle my face while hugging it in bed), a huge sheep dog with eyes buried under inches of fur, and countless others, all in a closet somewhere at my mom’s houe. The latter, the fear, consisted of an aching dread of…of…of something. Nothing so simple as a monster in the closet or under the bed, but the nevertheless undeniable knowledge that something horrible would happen if I closed my eyes. To say that – “something horrible would happen if I closed my eyes” – oversimplifies things: I had panic attacks. And not little ones, either. Great big crying-and-difficulty-breathing, staying-up-until-sunrise-out-of-fear panic attacks. “Read until you fall asleep” was a dangerous suggestion from my parents, because my fear would win over my exhaustion and I would read right on ’till morning. The stuffed animals could offer some protection, piled around my bed to obscene levels, but never enough.
While my days weren’t filled with stuffed animals, the fear remained. A memory sticks in my mind, of watching an eclipse in third grade through shadow boxes. We were warned not to look at the sun, even with sunglasses, because it could hurt your eyes. I looked anyway (you really could see the moon blocking the sun!) but was told by another third grader, something of a bully, that I was going to go blind as a result. He had me so convinced I was going to go blind – not years down the road, but later that afternoon – that I rushed to the nurses office, crying. I was unwilling to say why I was crying, because I knew I wasn’t supposed to look at the sun, but I was inconsolable. Ultimately, my mom had to pick me up and take me home.
Almost twenty years later, three years living fulltime as Rebecca, I confessed to my mom why I had been crying that day, and asked if she remembered it. “Yes,” she said. I asked if she had any idea why I’d been crying. “No,” she continued, tears of regret and past pain springing to her eyes, “but you were unhappy and asked to be pulled from school often enough that it wasn’t too unusual. I’m sorry I didn’t know what was wrong.” I heard in her words not only talk of an eclipse, but an oft-repeated apology for not somehow catching my trans-ness, bringing it up, helping me even when I wasn’t yet sure I wanted help. Continue reading 'Things that go bump in the night'»