Sunday, October 12, 2014

10-12-2014 Entry: Painted Fingernails at the Mall

This weekend has been interesting, as are all of my days recently. I find it both amusing and somewhat exhausting that everyday has both highs and lows. There are times where I find myself very happy with how things are progressing and how comfortable I’m beginning to feel in my new life as Emma, and then there are times when I feel completely sad about what it is doing to the other parts of my life. My wife is a paradox, and I believe she is experiencing a similar roller coaster as I am. In one breath she is very open and supportive of my interest in exploring this new self, and then at other moments she seems deeply perturbed by the changes that I am making. I describe them as changes because that is what they are.
I haven’t started hormones yet but I can feel myself changing, even just by the thoughts I am having and the things I am doing. I’m allowing myself to flow more naturally without trying to filter it through a masculine mask as I used to. This basically means that when I have a reaction to something that comes out effeminate, in the past I would either stop halfway through or I’d try to make up for the action by doing something more masculine immediately after. Now, not only am I not stopping the effeminate reaction, but I’m trying to embrace it or to own it completely. I reacted that way because it’s who I am and there is no need to try to hide it or to feel ashamed by it.
With that being said, it means that my wife is having to face the real me more and more, which means her denial (which is the stage I think she’s in) is constantly being challenged by the new reality. I have known her long enough to know that she’s feeling both sad and probably a bit angry at me for this somewhat new and radical change in behavior. I want so much for her to be happy with me and for our marriage to work out because I love her dearly. In her moments of acceptance and fostering of this new me, I am given hope that things will work out and that she will ultimately be able to accept Emma as her partner. In her moments of quiet discontent I am forced to face the very real fear that this transformation might break our marriage apart.
If I’m completely honest, which of course I should be given that this is a journal intended to help me through this change, this isn’t the first time I’ve been forced to choose between what I want and what other people expect from me. Honestly, it’s like a cycle that keeps repeating again and again, and for the very first time I think I finally understand why. It is because I have been living this double life for as long as I can remember. It began as a child when I wasn’t permitted to be who I really was. I was constantly being put into a place of having to react to the desires and expectations of other at the expense of my own inherent nature.
I don’t want to blame my mother, because I honestly don’t think she knew any better, but I can’t help but notice the disservice she did for me by forcing boyish things onto me. Perhaps it was out of fear that she did it, and perhaps she wasn’t even aware of that fear. Perhaps a part of her saw how naturally I accepted the “girly” side to life and she was fearful that it was the lack of a father figure that had created that in me. Perhaps she was afraid that she’d monopolized too much of my upbringing and that her constant feminine presence had rubbed off onto me, so in an effort to “masculinize” me she forced me into things I didn’t want, like, or feel a proclivity towards (like football).
What she ended up doing, most likely without knowing, was give me a fear to be my natural self. By forcing me to be in a masculine sport such as football when I wasn’t masculine and didn’t feel any desire to be masculine, I was forced to step outside of myself and try to project something I wasn’t. Peewee football practice is really an exercise in psychology whereby older men project and foster masculinity in young boys. They teach young boys to be tough and strong, and to favor aggression over passivity (token masculine traits). Perhaps “favor” is too passive of a word; aggression was more than favored, it was demanded and constantly ingrained into us during practice. Any show of passivity was a sign of weakness and weakness had to be pounded out like imperfections are pounded out of steel.
Under such conditions it is no wonder that I developed a split sense of self. The part of me that felt completely alien and uncomfortable was the part that was praised and positively reinforced. The part that felt natural and comfortable was constantly chastised and negatively reinforced. This went on for years, especially in high school. Act too girly and you would be called a “fag” or a “homo.” Express your feelings or allow your gender to be more fluid and you’d get made fun of (I am even guilty of doing this to others, one of whom eventually came out as gay. Needless to say I felt horrid about how I’d treated this person).
 Thankfully for me I was never a small kid (I was 5’10” at the age of 12) so I was never beat up or physically intimidated, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t picked on or made fun of because of my more passive and feminine personality. Being forced to play football and other sports meant that I was constantly in the presence of teenage boys, and hyper-masculinized pubescent boys can be downright cruel to anyone who shows weakness or femininity.
Worse than school was when I left and went home where I would be confronted by my step father who had more than his own fair share of issues with gender identity. While he had the capacity to be kind, compassionate, and caring, my stepfather prided himself on his machismo (he was Hispanic) and was constantly policing anything that didn’t fit the strictly masculine gender role. Coupling this authoritarian gender personality with my mother’s previously mentioned “fear” about my natural femininity was a disaster for my pubescent self. The days of my mother’s somewhat passive tolerance about my naturally feminine nature ended as my step father took a keen interest in “toughening me up” and “teaching me how to be a man.”
I know that puberty is difficult for everyone, but with that kind of environment at school and at home, mine was riddled with depression and a sense of being lost. I gravitated from religion to religion as I tried to find myself, but it was a hopeless endeavor. I didn’t know at the time that it was hopeless, but looking back at it now it’s clear to see that what I was really searching for was this inner woman that was always there. I felt lost because I was pretending to be something I wasn’t, and as my masculine hormones started to develop I was moving increasingly far away from how I felt on the inside. I wasn’t acutely aware of this at that time but hindsight is always 20/20 and now I can easily see where my problem was. If I’d been able to act like the girl I was at school or home, I might have discovered my gender dysphoria sooner and could have made efforts to accept who and what I was without suffering years of depression and anxiety.
Anyway, I think I’ve drifted some from relating the events and developments over this past weekend. On Friday night I decided to paint my fingernails so that they matched my toenails. Although the paint job is dreadful, I’ve really enjoyed having purple fingernails. It feels appropriately “girly” to me and I’m filled with a deep happiness, as if a long awaited desire has been fulfilled. In fact, I am deeply sad that I have to remove the paint soon in order to hide my true self for the coming week of work. I wish I could just keep it on and not have anyone say or think anything at work, but my fear overwhelms me into hiding who I am again. I promise myself, however, that I will not continue to hide for long and after going to the mall yesterday with my fingernails painted for the whole world to see, I’m becoming more comfortable just being myself.
With that being said, shopping for women’s clothing can be very stressful and frightening. It’s stressful because I’m forced again and again to recognize how unfeminine I appear physically, and it is frightening because I am the only “guy” actively looking at women’s clothing. I can tell from the looks that the nearby women are giving me that I’m being judged and analyzed, probably not in the greatest of lights. I know I shouldn’t care what they think because this is my life, not theirs, but I can’t help but feel extremely self-conscious as I’m holding up a dress to myself next to a mirror. I wish I could have been brave enough to try some of the clothes I liked on, but I guess I’ll have to save that for a later entry.
Well I think that’s enough for now.

-Emma

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