Several years ago I had Ms. H. read the then latest draft of my memoir. What more might she want, I had asked.
“I think you need more joy.”
Her answer didn’t surprise me as I knew what she would say. I, too, have wanted to write about the joys of transitioning and living as a transsexual man.
But when I imagined how the words will fit on the page, how I could best describe this joy, a part of said, “Everyone will feel sorry for a guy without a penis.”
I seemed to have constructed a transsexual narrative in which I found the whole thing very hard and difficult and not anything I would ever recommend to anyone.
Why did you do this then seems like a reasonable question. Why do anything so painful and shame-filled seems like another good question.
The only answer I could give: Because I needed and wanted to. I still want to, every day I rub the testosterone into my skin. I still want to.
Internalized Transphobia = Shame
This wanting hasn’t had much joy. After years of deliberation – having a pervasive and all-consuming brood, actually – I have, until recently, possessed a pervasive and all-consuming sense of internalized transphobia.
That’s just a fancy way of saying my body makes me feel ashamed and makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.
My sense of intense shame at being a transsexual has made me a lifelong devotee of self-remorse and personal contempt. (Hello, internalized transphobia!)
I hated my body as a female, despised menstruation and couldn’t wait to become a man.
As a man, I thought all would be well, except then I hated myself and my body. I didn’t, and don’t, have a penis. (Entre nous: If by some goddess-like intervention I could have both a penis and my current consciousness, I would do it. In a heart beat. Now tell me where I should turn in my real transsexual card.)
Memoirist as Archeologist and What is Underneath
The process of writing memoir feels like doing the work of an archeologist. More often than not, I write for myself. Obsessions can lead to revelations.
Once the words find there way to the page, free, the excavation begins. I’ve been writing and digging for a few years now through the layers of shame. The bedrock finally (I think!) revealed itself to me recently.
Beneath the shame of intense hatred of myself for being transsexual, I find joy and a kind of serene acceptance of myself and my body.
My self-hate smothered my self-love, or so I thought. Who knew self-love can hold its’ breath forever, waiting for me to release it?
This body has worked so very hard to protect me, to heal me, to save me from myself. This body has done everything I’ve asked of it and more. This body – my body – loves me.
Can I love my body back? International acceptance of trans human rights won’t make me less shame filled. It will make me less afraid to be among other humans in the world, but my well of internalized transphobia must be dismantled by me, and me alone.
Can I love my body back and share the joys of being transsexual? Of looking in the mirror and liking – for the most part on most days – what I see reflected back at me?
Can I love my body back and be a proud,not an arrogant, transsexual?
Can I love my body back and accept, finally and truly, the joy that lives underneath shame?
Doing so has been, and will continue to be, the most terrifying and rewarding work of my life.
And now to get it all on the page.