I took advantage of the warm weekend that might be our last to persuade my reluctant spouse to take a few fresh outdoor photos of me - I seem to take marginally better pics outside. Looking them over made me think about a larger point which seems worth writing about.
Most of my sisters, it seems, LOVE the camera. Or maybe it's not most of us, maybe it's the illusion created by the fact that those who do love the camera leave evidence and those who don't . . . can't leave evidence that they don't all over the internet. In any case, the perception at least is that there's nothing that a TG girl likes better than glamming up and taking a photo or forty.
But I don't. I mean, I can see where I would if I was genetically gifted with the ability to look really soft and pretty but clearly I'm not. Looking at my pics, for me, is an exercise in critical self-analysis to try to see myself through the eyes of others - looking to see in what ways I "pass" and in what ways I need work, comparing what I see in the photos to what I see among the natural born women around me. So taking photos, and examining them and eventually choosing which ones I'll even let others see is an exercise in physical self-examination.
I should divert just a moment here to say that in the last couple of weeks I've found that I actually do "pull it off" among those who don't know the old me a lot more often than i would have expected. usually when I'm "clocked" as they say, it's my voice that gives me away. That's not to say I would stand up to a really close inspection but the average person doesn't think THAT much about how the person they meet in the aisle at WalMart actually looks like. Just tonight, I met someone who knows me in another town - someone who knows about my transition - and she (who has a habit of not BS'ing me on these things) said she thought I passed well.
But this post isn't really about how the physical presentation is coming along - that part won't really be where I want it until a good 80-100 pounds have gone away. It's about the subject of self-examination and calculating what others see when they look at you, not just physically but internally as well.
Perhaps the most common reactions that non-trans people have when a person they like or love transitions is "Are you sure?" or some variation thereof. If there is any one thing I would love to communicate convincingly to those who know me, it's that this is not only not a casual or unconsidered choice (anyone who thinks I do this lightly should spend five minutes with my epilator!). when a person transitions, it's the product of a lifetime of internal agonizing over the subject. Now, I suppose one could, if they really wanted to, ask the 20 year old transsexual if they've given enough thought to it (although even then most have a decade or more invested in just that). Nor am I going to deny that some people just "discover" they are (or rather think they are) transgender some or many years into adulthood --- but such cases are very very very rare. Odds are you'll never meet such a person.
Most are like me. I've spent over 30 years considering every conceivable angle, every "cure," every downside, every consequence, every argument against, every doctrine or teaching on the subject. Occasionally I'll come across someone who wants to "change my mind" somehow, to "talk sense into me" or counsel me to "get right with God" --- apparently assuming I never gave any thought to all the religious, spiritual, and scientific arguments on the subject. Trust me friends, if you haven't lived this, you haven't give one/ten thousandths the thought I have to this subject including every conceivable argument against it. Please don't think you are going to bring something to the discussion to which I haven't already given many long hours of consideration.
Which is what I'm driving at --- the nature of self examination. It is my life's work. Examining my physical presentation (not only looks but mannerisms, tone of voice and etc) is the most obvious but in some ways the least difficult part of this journey. I first had to spend these decades figuring out who I am and what God really intended for me in this life. I had to filter through and reconcile what His Word says to me, and my own heart and life, and what the wise and respected people around me thought, and what science and culture say and out of all that distill what the implications were for me, and the people around me.
It is no mean feat.
But that's not the end of it. Then you have to apply the conclusion you reach. Even one who concludes that they have no choice but to stay in the closet and stay miserable, they still have to process how to stay sane in that closet. If you chose to accept your nature as I have at long last decided, then your self-examination has to expand to take in what others think of you, how they will deal with you, how relationships change, evolve, or even end.
i have to process what happens in my marriage to a woman who didn't deserve to have this happen to her; how my relationship to my kids changes; how I persuade someone to hire me and so much more. I have to wonder every time I see someone on the street that I know "what is this person thinking concerning me?"
Not because I choose to subject myself to the storms of public opinion --- quite the reverse. I am prepared, if necessary, to be rejected by them all, though thankfully this doesn't seem to be happening. But it's when they DON'T openly reject you that you have to examine the relationship. In some ways, open rejection is easier to process. Cut the cord, it's done, move on. But when you - for instance - see a long time acquaintance at his job in the supermarket you frequent several times a week - and that man sees you going about in makeup and a bra and sometimes a skirt as if you'd been doing so all your life, how does that change how you interact? does he just pretend not to notice and you pretend there's nothing TO notice? That's how it's gone so far, which I'm cool with. But I think about it, I'm always thiking.
More importantly, what happens when it goes beyond a casual friend to people you have to interact with, to family. Everything takes on a new drama. What happens when someone's in the hospital? Do you pay a visit when you're unsure what drama will ensue if even one family member chooses to take a stand against you? What about holiday dinners? I dare not submit to "manning up" and give the illusion I'm ashamed of what I am, yet what will happen if I present 100% Laura?
Every interaction, no matter how seemingly innocent, takes on that sharp edge of uncertainty. This goes not only for myself but for my wife and by extension the kids. Maybe more so. will her family try to "rescue" her from the freak living in her house? Do they have a legitimate point? Will they make things worse for us --- or for her relationship with them --- if they try? Or will they even try, or will they simply accept it? To be clear, I don't fault anyone else for this, it comes with the territory. But the point is that self-examination is, HAS to be, a way of life.
I have to think about these things every waking hour. Even if I don't submit myself to be approved by others, there is still a set of implications that arise from whatever reaction occurs and it pays me to have considered the potential implications.
Another example: I graduated from a conservative Southern Baptist college that I was admitted to based on the professed (and it was no lie, I firmly believed it at the time) understanding that I was called to the ministry. I see many of those people on Facebook now, but for the most part I dare not approach them. Even a couple that I think might support me have to interact with many who potentially would not. Who am I to inject such unwanted and unnecessary drama into their lives? So I willingly cut myself off from those people, and from high school classmates and former fellow church members and a host of other former acquaintances. If I run across them in my walk of life, then obviously Laura becomes a part of their world, but I do not press for contact with very many.
Because I'm thinking. Self-examination at every turn.
So please, call me insane, call me a pervert or a sinner, whatever gets you through the night. But DON'T insult me by presuming this is a casually arrived at decision. don't presume I'm going through the world blithely unaware what most people think about people like me. or that I don't care. Just because I have made the decision to not be controlled by the judgments of others doesn't mean I have no heart, or that I can't be gladdened or saddened by the reactions of others.
Those of you who've been good to me, if you read this, know you've been a blessing to me. Very small kindnesses mean a very great deal.