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Apr 27 17 1:05 PM

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For almost 8 months I've been going back and forth trying to pin down what exactly my sexual preference and gender identity are. I've done extensive research on the subject, attended individual counseling with a therapist who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues, attended transgender support groups in my area and started a journal. And while all of that's been extremely helpful in coming to understand myself, I'm very much lost when it comes to the concept of genuine self-expression. To try and answer the question of how to express myself going forward, I've looked to my childhood to try and first answer the question of what caused me to crossdream in the first place. 

After having a conversation with a friend at my universty's LGBTQ+ center, they made the observation that my defining personality trait up until this point has largely centered around my desire to please other people and make them feel as if I wasn't wasting their time. And they were right. All of my life has essentially been me trying to perform to the expectations of my parents and society. Even my choice to become an engineer centered around this desire to prove that I was worth other peoples' time. The reason I work so hard and do what I do is because in my mind, I have nothing else of value to offer. I'm a bland person whose sole purpose in life is to gain the acceptance of other people by acting as they do and helping them in any way that I can. It's this lack of personality and ultimate lack of self-worth that I feel was the trigger for my crossdreaming. Although I was too naive to realize it a few months ago, I think a part of me inherently desires the freedom that femininity and being a girl seems to posess. Even today, when I crossdream, I don't imagine myself becoming a girl through transition so much as just magically becoming someone else. Someone who's free from expectation.

I think many of my issues with self worth and coming to terms with all of this largely center around my father's influence during childhood. However, in understanding this influence, I think it's valuable for me to first look at what infuenced my father's childhood. My biological grandfather died when my father was only 4 years old. In addition, he was the youngest of 8 siblings and grew up on a dairy farm in northern Vermont. In spite of being mechanically minded, he never really excelled in school and lashed out physically against other students. Eventually his relationship with my grandmother become so strained that he was kicked out of the house and forced to live in a mobile home for his last two years of high school. During that time, he worked 2 jobs and struggled to keep himself fed and the lights on. Not really seeing many other options, he joined the army at 17 hoping to find some direction and a steady paycheck. After being deployed during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he left the military to raise me and support my mother. I think for him, being a father and having a son was his shot at righting the wrongs of his own life. Rather than growing up without a father figure, he would be there to guide me to becoming a young man. Rather than struggling in school, I would excell academically and be the first person in my family to go to college. Rather than living paycheck to paycheck and worrying about where I was going to lay my head, he would make sure that I was always safe and never went hungry.

And while all of those seem like great things, the harsh reality of the situation was that I always felt that I could never measure up to what he wanted and what he experienced. Any time that I desired something outside of what was considered my father's view for my future, I was reminded of the above story and was washed in a sea of guilt and humility. I wanted my father's approval so badly, and the only way that I was going to get it was by being what he thought was the perfect son. I did everything that he wanted me to do, but even as I write this, I still feel shame. I feel shame over the fact that I'm never going to be the son that he wants me to be. And I feel shame from not being true to myself, whatever that means.

Going back to the issue of crossdreaming and transition, I feel shame from both because I know that they're against that ideal view. My father's extremely conservative and consistently rails against the transgender community. His Facebook page consists almost entirely of posts about how the men of this generation are "weak" and how "men" (e.g. - transgender women) should not be abe to use the ladies room. If I were to tell him about any of this, I honestly have no idea how he'd react, but I can guarantee that it's definitely not going to be a supportive conversation. I'm 20 years old now, going on 21 this August and I have no idea what I'm going to do going forward. I could continue to go along the path that my father expects of me. He would be happy that I turned out the way he wanted, but I'd continue to feel empty and alone. Conversely, I could come out to my parents, but in doing so I'd more than likely lose the respect and support of my father. All that he wanted for me would be gone in an instant, and he'd probably feel like he failed in raising a son. It's a classic situation of damned if I do, damned if I don't. No matter which way you slice it, I'll always have to live with that feeling of not measuring up for the rest of my life. Always trying to achieve something that's just never going to happen... 
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#1 [url]

Apr 28 17 8:27 AM

MJ, I totally get what you are saying. I came to the same conclusion about the expectations on me.

http://bobbi-dare.crossdreamlife.lefora.com/bloggy/post/pid/32#.WQNmHdLyuUk

My father however emphasized the responsibility of being the man of the house and did not even think about the feminized male. I did get a chance to ask him about what he would think however - I asked him one day about if one of his friends all of a sudden one day told him they were trans. His answer was interesting - he simply said that he had no context around that - he'd never thought about it before. I did not feel comfortable pushing it any farther that day. Unfortunately my father was dying of cancer at that time and I did not have the opportunity to bring up the subject again before his death.

As to the causes of your crossdreaming - you could be looking at a chicken and egg thing. Are you eager to please people because to are trans or are you trans because you are eager to please? I am highly emotionally sensitive as well and that has made an impact on my decisions but I do not see that as a cause/effect of my gender identity.

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#2 [url]

Apr 28 17 3:59 PM

MJ,

You're experience sounds so much like mine, but at 61 I've got four more decades on you! I think there are a couple of important points to make. The first is that it's generally believed/understood now that we are born transgender (i.e., crossdreamer or whatever). It's not something that arose because of parents or environment. Thus, attempts at "fixing" ones gender feelings and dysphoria inevitably backfires and exacerbates depression, shame, and anxiety. Like being gay, blond, or blue-eyed, it's not your fault nor is it anything you can do about. It's one of the cards you were dealt.

But the shame is very real for sure. Some may have arose because of your father (and your mother), siblings, and so forth. And/or maybe you internalized it from what you read and heard about on the TV, from friends, etc. Unsurprisingly, that shame (which means "I am bad") leads to much self-concern, fear, and sadness. It's hard to deal with too, especially on one's own. Shame cannot stand the light of day, meaning that talking to others about your feelings helps a lot. No, not your father, especially if he's going to reject you for it. Maybe a therapist would be the best place to start although it sounds like you've already done this a lot. Good for you!

Regarding your need to please people, here again, hard to say where it comes from. I definitely have it too, big time. Even when I'm changing lanes while driving I consciously think about how other drivers will feel about me. I also have a heck of a time standing up for myself in my career. I am an engineer, too (EE) and spent my career in sales and marketing. I tried so hard to please my customers as well as my company! Very hard to please everyone.

Regarding transition, what I'm trying to do now is to slowly stretch my boundaries, to see how I feel when more fully dressed (e.g., make-up, hair, accessories), and how it feels to interact as a female. Maybe then I'll discover that it's not for me, or maybe only some times "when needed." The transgender umbrella is wide and covers a wide variety of how people feel. The important thing to realize and accept is that your feelings are 100% valid, real, and deserving of being treated as the good person you are.

How does all this stack up against the "ideal view?" I'd ask, who's ideal? We can already see from your writing that your father's is far from ideal. But anyway, who has the right to establish an ideal view? I remember well how the gays and lesbians fought for their rights and presence in the 60s, 70s, and through today. Now we are happy to see that learning that one is gay or lesbian is, in most cases, no big deal. It just is what it is. Today, transgender is in a similar early state to where we were with homosexuality. Unfortunately it's more subtle, there are fewer of us, and it feels like the risks of being open about ourselves are not worth the downsides. But I'll tell you, it's amazing how much trans has come out of the closet. Look at Good Housekeeping on line and search for 'transgender.' You'll be amazed at what you see! Here's a classic women's magazine that has wonderful articles. And almost daily in the New York Times and other major publications we see the same thing.

I know all this is hard to accept, I get that. Keep your mind open, keep exploring, and keep posting here and elsewhere.

Emma

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#3 [url]

May 1 17 4:59 PM

Thanks for the replies Bobbi and Emma. I've been especially on edge since final exams are this week and I'm going home right after. It was hard enough to keep all of this hidden over spring break. And even after doing my best to keep a lid on things, my mother and her fiancé still caught on to the fact that something was 'off' about me. Looking at what you both said, I know you're right. I keep on trying to come up with reasons why I'm one way or another when the reality should simply be that I am what I am. It's just that every time that I look in the mirror and tell myself that I'm really just gay or that I'm transgender, I can't come to grips with either. I instantly start to think that I'm 'broken' or 'defective' and that this is something that I either have to hide or conform to what's considered to be 'normal'. But as Emma pointed out, there's really no such thing.

The best way I could describe my situation is that I feel like I'm trapped. The only caveat is that it's a trap of my own making. My parents and society may have played their parts in conditioning me, but the reality of the situation is that I always had the choice to accept it or not. Growing up, it may have been a 'survival technique' to go with the flow, but as puberty rolled around, I just accepted my situation and denied that anything was different. I didn't want to accept that part of myself and I didn't want to face the possibility of rejection. But now that I've walked so far down the path and I look back at what I've done and who I've become, I'm left to question which parts are genuine and which parts are fake. Do I really like the types of music that I listen to or do I like it because that's what I was told to like? Do I really like video games or is it just another escape so that I don't have to deal with rejection and ridicule for being the 'real' me? Did I ever like girls, or was that just some kind of cover so that I could continue to be viewed as 'normal' instead of 'defective'? Am I really a girl or is all of this just another escape so that I don't have to deal with being gay or liking certain feminine things?

The classic saying is if you never try then you never know, but I'm so scared to take a chance because I don't want to give people the wrong impression or the wrong answer. I don't want to come out to my parents as gay only to find out a year down the road that it would've been better for me to come out as transgender. I know that it's stupid, but I just feel like I've wasted so much time already pretending to be someone that I'm not and pretending to like things that I don't. I feel like I have to come out before I start to explore things because if I don't I'm essentially lying to my family and friends. But the best way for me to know for sure whether or not I'm just gay or transgender would be through exploration. The whole thing gives me a headache...

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