I never really expected that I would get to be myself all of the time, every day. That goes along with my gender too.
I think as a child I decided that I fully disagreed with everything my family told me I was. Since we were in total disagreement I would need to be the opposite. That or I would at least have to ignore the person they told me I was. I really didn’t like that person, because it wasn’t me!
Never listen to other people’s stories about you. There’s a good satisfying piece written about this in Thee Psychick Bible. It goes beyond doing or being what your parents tell you. It truly spotlit for me that which we already know about (parental expectations, guidance, and rule), but there are these stories that we are told by the society around us. And they go beyond the usual “you’re going to be a Doctor when you grow up” or “you’re going to marry a beautiful woman, have 12 babies, white picket fences.”
These stories go deeper than those blatant expectations. The stories are actually what we believe to be our first “memories.” These memories are actually hand-me-downs from other people. Amusing anecdotes passed back to us about ourselves. These stories are from a time in our lives we cannot recall ourselves and dastardly enough we actually begin to build ourselves from these fables.
“Usually, without much consideration of veracity or motive, we assume those original stories (whose source is usually parental) are true, rather than separately authored and constructed mythologies. Yet, with the best will in the world, they are edited highlights (and lowlights) from another person’s perspective, interpreted by them, and even given significance and meaning by their being chosen to represent the whole of us, before our own separate SELF consciousness sets in.” *
That was the paragraph that set off an explosion in my brain. It sticks with me years after first reading those lines. I had fought for most of my life to not be what I was told I should be, almost out of spite, but I never considered what foundation had been put down before I even consciously arrived on the scene.
My family told me that I would be like my father and I would follow in his footsteps. That meant to me, a Sun Sign and wild egotist, that I would never be my own person and forever live in someone’s shadow. I have nothing against my father or his chosen lifestyle, but you don’t tell someone that when they practically have marched from the womb with mighty delusions of grandeur.
I remember the type of anecdotes mentioned above most from a grandmother. If anyone was a fan of the mythology of me, it was she. She would observe me acting in a way she felt was “not me” and then go through great pains to tell me how the child I could not recall would have never done whatever I was doing. When I think about it like that I can see how that really did hurt me. To think as a child that you are not who your people know you to be. It means something different than it would mean now. Because as children we believe that these grown mature people towering over us surely must know something about who we actually are. Surely their time on Earth has been longer and they must know something.
We should all be able to remember a time when we were told, “This isn’t like you.”
How is something not like you? If you are doing it, then it must be like you. What they meant was that it did not match the myth that they had constructed of you in their own heads. I’ve always been the person I knew me to be. The only reason I did something unlike me was because it happened to be a trait I had that they ignored. Until they could ignore it no more.
I now know that these myths, anecdotes, and the common built-in expectations harmed me. They somewhat stunted my progress as a human. I hated things about myself because of what they represented to other people. My name was not just my name. It was a label indicating that I was secondary and “like my father.” It did not speak to the individual I insisted I was. And due to that it expected me, a flamboyant homosexual, to be strong and manly. Therefore I hated my label and therefore my gender. I hated its connection to masculinity and shunned anything presented in the masculine tense. This hatred stopped me from experiencing and learning normal everyday things. For example, as an angry teenager I refused to change my car’s oil or pump my own gas because the society I was raised in said it was a man’s job. I refused to do a man’s job because I refused to be a man if being a man meant everything I was told it meant. To me at that time it meant being something I wasn’t.
I created the persona of who I knew I was and I made sure it was very distanced from the mythology of “a normal boy from a poor farming community.” Instead I would be a glamorous transgender woman (looking back it was more transvestite), an individual, an artist, a raconteur and provocateur. It would service my ego, my lust and sexuality, and banish who they insisted I must be. That person I was before I could even remember being a person.
There was rarely a time throughout all of my youth (0-30) where I ever considered that I would have to acknowledge my birth identity or any of those masculine labels society had placed. I went to school, but that wasn’t really me. At home behind closed doors was when I was me. I went to work at a normal day job but when I came home the wigs flew out of the closet, the martini was poured, and I was living My Authentic Self online for millions of people to adore. Picture the story of Bat Girl from Batman. By day she was Barbara Gordon, the police commissioners quaint daughter, and at night she came home to a closet that secretly revolved to display a wardrobe of masks, spandex, and “interesting implements.” She was not really Barbara Gordon. She was Bat Girl.
Part of my ongoing transition from whatever I was to whatever I am now was the realization that it was all based upon a myth I accidentally believed. We are impressionable children being told stories about our past and our future. What the hell else are we going to believe?
When I legally changed my name it was on the heels of slowly acknowledging that I was going to be the person I knew myself to be, 24/7. I came to the horrifying realization that I might always have a day job and that I wouldn’t be prancing around in stilettos for the rest of my life. I wanted to build relationships with people from the world of daylight just as I had from my preferred world of darkness. And I could not do that while carrying around labels I absolutely knew I was not. There is this invisible barrier when you have to explain who you’re pretending to be vs. who you actually are. Then you’re friends adopt that same policy. They start to explain you to their friends as this great person who has to pretend to be this other person. Bat Girl never talked about Barbara Gordon and vice versa, it was a smart move but it really put a damper on her social life.
People from the streets could not get to know me when there were dozens of labels standing in my way. It’s like living a public double life. There was nothing private about it. And society told me I had to wear all the labels, unless I officially changed them. So, I stripped a few off so my authentic self was a bit more clearer by day as it was by night.
This marked a great psychological change over time. To have people call you something that you want to be called is a game changer. To be treated as the person you display yourself to be instead of the person people were told you were. This is why, among many other things, I can completely understand a person’s need to change their gender, name, identity. It’s not about them hiding who they are. It’s about them becoming what they’ve always been. To shed the mythology is exquisite. It is a psychological breath of fresh air to let a little more of yourself out of society’s bag.
Out of that journey is how I fell in love with being a man. I learned to love myself because I was able to figure out who that actually was. Then I learned to love others. Then others loved me. I learned that men don’t change oil. People change oil. The mythology I bought into as a youngster was that the world I would enter was black and white. Men did one thing. Women did another thing. And growing up in Pennsylvania during the 80’s it was clear that Men were boring and Women were interesting. So, who would want to be a man?
Had they told me that I had a penis and everything else was negotiable, I may have been much more open to the concept of being the man I was. But people didn’t do that. People still don’t do that! “Your name is Joe. You are going to work in a Button Factory. You will have a wife, three kids, and a family. When you were born you were a good kid who loved Jesus Christ and you never cried in church, so you need to stick to that or else we’re going to fuck you up ...”
This alteration does not disqualify the times I wanted to be a woman (or thought I was). It only addresses a constant transition which all humans should be allowed. We are not the babies we once were. We don’t have to be the teenagers we acted out. We do not even have to be the young adults making the same mistakes. We should be allowed great sweeping changes if that’s where the waves take us. We should build our own stories and not believe our mythologies.
The Artist D, October 2018
*Quote from “Being the First Part: Change the Way to Perceive and Change All Memory,” pg 277 of Thee Psychick Bible