Thursday, October 22, 2015

10-22-2015 Entry: Gender Transition and the Second Adolescence


Good morning my darling readers! I hope you are doing well and that life is treating you kindly. Overall things are going pretty good for me. If you read my last entry then you know I’m not real happy with my mother and things between her and I are not in a good place.

Perhaps the universe (or God/Goddess) has a sense of humor because in addition to going through a second puberty via Hormone Replacement Therapy, I’m also somewhat going through a second adolescence, which is really weird to me (even if this is actually somewhat common in transitioning adults). It’s very strange this far into adulthood to be this hormonal, with my body changing, my personality becoming more and more individualized as time goes on at the same time that I'm having struggles with my family/parent not accepting me.

In less than two weeks I will be turning 30, I have a professional job, I recently bought a house, I’m on my second newly purchased car, I’ve written two novels, garnered thousands of readers around the world, and am pursuing a master’s degree, yet I’m feeling more and more like I’m living the life of a 15 year old. Arguing with my mother over who I’m going to be and struggling to have her recognize that I can make my own decisions??? It feels like some Freaky Friday nonsense.

In many ways, though, this is like going through a true adolescence for the first time. When I grew up under the tyrannical rule of my mother (I chose those words specifically, in true 15 year old fashion) I never really rebelled against her. I never really sought to create a true identity for myself. Sure, I became reserved and pulled away from her like most adolescents do, but it wasn’t so I could become my own person, it was because I was depressed as fuck and so confused about who I was or what that “feeling” I had about myself meant.

I’ve said time and again that I never understood that I was really, actually, (mostly) a girl inside. It never dawned on me that that was even a possibility, even if things inside wanted us to be a girl. We wanted to be a female and felt that we were one stuck in a male body, but we didn’t understand what that really meant. It was too big, too hard, too scary, and honestly too weird to process, not when there was so much pressure all around us to conform to the expectations of others (home, school, friends, peers, society etc.).

So, we never rebelled, we never pushed back, we never fought for independence, and we never really formulated a true, solid identity. We just did what we were told. The consequences were always so quick and harsh when we stepped out of line that it never seemed worth it to really risk pissing my mother off. Maybe it’s because she’s a cop, maybe it’s something inside of her, or maybe it was the way she grew up, but in many ways my mother was somewhat like a “benevolent” dictator. It was her way or the highway, and when you made her happy, she was kind and generous. When you pissed her off, she was stubborn, fierce, and honestly a little scary.

She HAD to be in control, she HAD to be the authority, and her rule was NEVER to be questioned. Her favorite saying to us when we grew up was “Don’t you talk back to me!”

We never really thought about those words, but looking back on them how could we not see how authoritarian they were? Don’t you talk back to me! Don’t you contradict me! Don’t act like you know better than I do! I am your mother (ruler) and you will do as I say!

And we didn’t, for the most part, talk back to her. we didn’t contradict her, at least not blatantly or visibly (we did get pretty good at being deceptive as a necessity for freedom) because if we did, the consequences were always harsh. Now, she never physically abused us, but we definitely got our ass spanked as a child. She did strike us one time (when we were talking back) but it was only ever that one time. (Emma is almost judging Robert right now for his desire to rationalize away the incident).

No, physical punishment was rarely her go-to after we were a child. Her method of securing stable rule over her kingdom was a very harsh and often prolonged suffering via grounding. Oh, that thing that makes you happy? Well it’s gone until you remember that what I say goes! I think two weeks will do it!

What? Two weeks!

Make it three weeks then! /crazy eyes daring me to test her, followed by me angrily submitting and stomping off to my room.

And that’s how my teenage years went, except, oh wait, I had a super authoritarian step-dad too! One that also required strict compliance to all rules and regulations (whether spelled out or in his crazy head). In many ways, I lived in a minimum security prison for a home (where I learned my flair for drama, of course).

If I was on good behavior, they’d let me have a little taste of freedom. If I messed up, it was solitary confinement followed by a period of very close observation. (Did I mention that my mom used to work at a prison? Might be relevant to remember).

So, overall, I didn’t have much room for individual exploration. The most room I ever really got was my exploration of religion (which fell into the “good behavior” category, except for when that religion was Wicca/witchcraft. Oh, I can still see the look of horror on her face when I told her I wanted to investigate witchcraft).

Yes, I was permitted to continue my searching for the answer to the question that plagued my mind day in and day out: “There is something wrong with me, but what is it?” but little else was done outside of expectations. I was a “good kid” for my mother and step-father. I never skipped school. I got decent grades most of the time. I did my chores. I didn’t commit any crimes, that I was caught for, at least. >;)

I didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd. I didn’t party or do (many) drugs. I didn’t get anyone pregnant (my mom thought I was a virgin like 4 years after I’d had sex, so she wasn’t even worried, apparently) and I mostly did everything I was told to do.

But you know what the problem with being the “good kid” was?  I never allowed myself to really severe the proverbial umbilical cord. Sure, I went away to college, I moved across the country after college, and I got married, but I was never really that separated from my mother. Adolescence is about learning to separate from your parents and become your own person; it’s the stairway to true adulthood. I didn’t do that. I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to be a whole, complete, individual person, not when half of me was locked away in a prison of shame and fear.

So, guess what! That’s what I’m getting to do now! /feigns excitement.

The only problem is that I’ve been the “good kid” for so long, that suddenly becoming the rebellious, talking back, fuck-you-I’m-doing-what-I-want, independent person is REALLY hard; not only for me, but for my mother as well. I’m certain she is feeling rather like a deposed ruler over a people that have finally had enough and have driven her out of the castle.

“It’s like you are erasing me.” Those were her words, and how telling they were! Who is she if she’s not my mother (the ruler in control)? Who is she when her identity can no longer be upheld and validated by her child’s life? What is a queen or king without a kingdom to rule?

This has been a long time coming. This adolescent rebellion and eventual separation had to happen. It always does, otherwise it becomes a dysfunction. In order to become a true self, a true, solid, stable identity, I have to stand on my own, which means I have to cut off her control over my life.

But what does that cutting off look like? How do I cut the proverbial umbilical cord off without cutting the relationship off completely? How do I be stern, unbending, and determined without being cold and hostile? Cold and hostile is the easy route (aka the 15 year old's route). I could be a complete asshole in response to my mother’s child-like tantrum over me changing my name (which was really just the trigger for her to pour out all the issues she's had with this transition as a whole), and might even feel valid in that response, but wouldn’t that be an over-correction?

Can you see how this second adolescence is so strange? I’m almost 30 years old. I’ve gone through and experienced so much. I have lived and learned so much over these thirty years and yet I’m placed in the shoes of a teenager. It’s almost like I’m time travelling into my own past, except I get to take the place of my former self with my full knowledge, experience and understanding. (not to mention all the knowledge I’m obtaining in grad school about the stages of development)

This time, however, I have to talk back, I have to assert my point of view, and I will not be punished for standing my ground. This is my decision, my choice, and my life. I get to say what it looks like. I get to be the adult in my life. I love my mother, but she is not the boss of me, not anymore. Her rule is over, and a new (fabulous) queen has taken the throne. Her name is Emma, and she really is a benevolent leader. The future of this kingdom looks amazingly bright and beautiful. There will be singing, and dancing, and frolicking. The rules are mostly cast aside and freedom is the song of the day. But what to do with the old queen?

We can’t execute her (i.e. cut off the relationship) without becoming that cold dictator ourselves. We can’t imprison her (i.e. the silent treatment) without becoming that authoritarian who punishes bad behavior. But we must make sure she cannot steal the throne back. We truly must make a grown-up decision about how to handle a very complex and volatile situation.
Too often when we face our family we fall into the same dysfunctional dynamics we’ve developed over the years and growth cannot occur. This happens with her and I all the time, but it can't happen if we are going to change the situation. We have to set a new dynamic, one that is more equal in its distribution of power but what does that dynamic look like? When and where do we begin to construct it? How do we cope with the other person’s attempts to undermine and destroy that new dynamic?

My mother will not go down willingly, this much I’m certain of. All the years living under her rule has shown me how stubborn she is when she wants to be in control, but I must break her of the stubbornness in a way that doesn’t also break her spirit. I do not want her to be defeated and filled with shame. A 15 year old might want that, but this 30 year old adult knows better. A compromise has to be made, but where to begin?

Sadly, we do not have the answer now. We’ve recently adopted the mantra that “Patience is the greatest virtue... and the will to act is the second greatest virtue,” so that is what me must do. We must be patient until it is time to act, and then we must have the will to do so when the time comes.

So, I guess stay posted. I’m certain this has only just begun.

-Emma

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