Yes, she's strange and different...but not THAT different.

17 November 2010

Pour Your Heart Out: Fitting In

Do you ever feel pressure to do something or act a certain way to fit in?
That was the question posed by Shell at Things I Can't Say for this week's "Pour Your Heart Out" linky list at her place. Wow. That question was a total body blow for me - a major impact hit. How about "Yes - but only for most of my fucking life!" as an answer to that question? Here are some of the details of that answer:

We all learn very early on in our growing up that there are certain modes of behavior and ways to look and talk and act that are expected of us, based on nothing more than what our genitals look like. Even children raised by parents who strive to do so in a gender-neutral way are exposed to all the subtle yet overwhelming influences of society at large with regard to what's appropriate behavior or appearance for boys and girls. All these delineations are based on the fact that if the child has a penis, the child is masculine, a boy, and if the child has a vulva, the child is feminine, a girl. And that's usually not a problem because the child feels masculine or feminine and that feeling is congruent with their genitals and is not based on how they act or dress. Gender identity is established at almost the same time as identity itself. By the time a child is 3, he or she knows that they exist as an independent entity and also that they are a boy or a girl.

But every now and then, a child comes along who doesn't fit that "penis equals boy, vulva equals girl" equation. A child like me. I knew early on that I was different because I had a penis, but I was probably 8 or 9 before it started to really dawn on me that I wasn’t a girl. My friends were all girls, I didn’t like to do a lot of (but not all) “boy” things, and I had never thought of myself as anything but female. But I finally realized that people who had called me a boy were right and that my solitary imaginings – which included flying a personal rocket ship and growing up to be a beautiful woman like my mother - weren’t really going to come to be. I struggled with that realization and sadly came to understand that that’s just how the world operated and I was powerless to change it. No rocket ship, no breasts, no dresses for me. Then I hit puberty, sex reared its head and I realized that I was sexually attracted to both boys and girls. And I truly learned to lie. I lied about wanting to kiss boys, and I lied about the fact that “wanting to get into her pants” had another entirely different meaning for me. I lied to the world and mostly to myself for a long time about my being anything other than a red-blooded juvenile delinquent boy who chased girls. But deep down, I was just a girl putting on an act to fit in.

I’m now convinced that transgender people are the best liars because they have not only learned how to lie to themselves but also to make themselves believe it. Other people are easy to lie to once you master that. And so, I lived with the knowledge that what I was doing was simply succumbing to the pressures of my world to "be a man". When what I really felt like was a woman who was just butching it up. And all that time, the pressure to keep up the front and to lie and to BE someone that I wasn't mounted. Until finally, I just couldn't deal with the lying about who I really was and I couldn't continue the act. It was either stop lying or stop living. So I stopped lying. And I stopped acting and being someone I wasn't solely to fit in with everyone else's definition of who I was supposed to be.

Now, I'm me and I'm free and I'm an infinitely happier person. I can devote my energies to things that matter, like my kids or my health or my community or my friends, rather than putting my energy into maintaining a mask with every waking moment and worrying about whether or not the mask is slipping. And I've found that once I stopped trying so hard to fit into the wrong role, it was very easy to fit into the right one. Which is how I know it's the right one.

  • On 11/17/2010 4:43 PM, Blogger Shell said…

    Wow. Your experiences make mine look trivial.

  • On 11/17/2010 4:46 PM, Blogger Jami said…

    Nope. No such thing as "trivial" experiences. Some are tougher to get through than others, but if you make it then it becomes just another experience, another facet of who you are.

  • On 11/17/2010 11:34 PM, Blogger Sandra said…

    So true. I find that keeping up that mask is exhausting. Being authentic is so easy and...well, not exhausting.
    Too bad we don't learn this in our 20s...

  • On 11/18/2010 12:08 AM, Blogger Jami said…

    Hell, I would have settled for figuring this all out in my 40s! (If for no other reason than I would have been prettier.) I would have spent 20 years less on shit that didn't matter - like worrying about what people thought - and a lot more time on just enjoying myself. I'm a selfish hedonist like that.

  • On 11/19/2010 2:33 PM, Blogger Mothers' Hideaway said…

    Wow. I can't imagine how difficult it was for you to hide who you are. The best part of it all is that you are happy now and that, in the end, you found your true self. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • On 11/19/2010 2:51 PM, Blogger Jami said…

    Like a lot of bad shit that happens to us and around us in the world, we get acclimated to it so we don't consciously notice it on a day-to-day basis. But underneath, the stress of dealing with it continues to mount until finally it all boils over and we either do something about it or try to push it back below the surface again. That's how I lived for decades until finally I got tired of pushing it back down and slapping a band-aid over the place it erupted. So I stopped. And I started being honest.

  • On 11/25/2010 2:52 AM, Blogger MichaelBains said…

    I honestly rarely lie to myself. The problem is that I still don't, can't yet, trust myself. I mean what I think is best for me whilst thinking it, then find out that it was the exact opposite of what I should have done or said.

    Wearing some mask or another is how I was raised to behave, and even though I've rebelled against it almost all of my life, that very act of rebellion merely supplied me with countless other masks to wear, and has kept me from being whomever the actual "I" might be. I've obviously (I hope to those who know me well) tried at times to let that Me come out (no, not like that. =]) and lately have been forced by my untrustable mind to work harder than ever to bring it to the fore.

    Talk about HARD!

    I wouldn't trade places with you, Jami. Nor with anyone, though I've spent so much of my life fantasizing about doing precisely that. Living the rock star's life. The Hollywood actor's. A U.S. Senator's or President's. Even occasionally trading lives with some regular Joe I've met along the way, one who doesn't worry about all the things I do and has a beautiful loving wife and great family. Anything to be anyone better than me. Not just anyone, mind you. Better than me. Than I'll ever be capable of being because of my genes and how I've experience Life since before I was born.

    Believe it or not, I AM grateful for A Lot of things this T-Giving. My goal today is to actually FEEL that gratitude and be happy with who I am, even while working - exhaustingly, as usual - to be a better Me.

    Thank You and enjoy the Holiday. :)


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