It Gets Better – even when it feels really bad
I have been rather quiet these last couple of months, except for on Facebook where I have been wittering my moods, thoughts and ideas, crazy and not-so-crazy, masking a period of turmoil and pain in my life. All this STUFF has been hard to even imagine writing about and I am acutely aware these days of the risk of self-disclosure – even though I am an ‘out’ trans man there are plenty of reasons to go stealth about many personal aspects. It is not just hard on me but it is also incredibly challenging for those I am around at times. My loved ones in many ways have their own self-identities themselves challenged by my gender transition. But it has been hard at times, for reasons that I will not go into detail about because I respect every single one of you and the process you yourselves are going through.
I was in some sort of school or community hall which had the buzz of an indoor market but no-one was selling anything. There were lots of people there, milling around chaotically, bumping into each other although keeping fairly calm. There were tables around with bags and stuff on them. On reflection it feels like it was some sort of community emergency shelter that I am in but it is not clear at all what is going on or why everyone is inside.I walk towards a table in front of me. Underneath it in the semi-dark is a slow-worm glistening and writhing in all its bronze and irridescent glory. Then the slow-worm begins to grow and grow, writhing like a snake on the spot until it grew dog-sized and grew a golden fur and it transformed into a dog. The poor dog was dragging her broken backlegs behind her – she reminded me of my old dog Thai (14 next month). Then the dog transformed into a completely mutilated an unidentifiable corpse which had no limbs, an unrecognisable face and with butchered cuts, wounds and sores all over the reddened carcass.It was grotesque.Suddenly everyone began to point and scream at this tormented creature in front of them. It was suddenly a demon, a horror story, a brutalised and bloody focus for everyone’s fear. A freak of anguished pitiful pain.Then I noticed a tiny quivering over its skin and looked and saw tears in its eyes. I suddenly became aware that it was still alive and felt an overwhelming compassion and empathic connection to this tortured being. Looking into her or his eye I could not tell if this being was human or animal, perhaps a pig. But as I desperately tried to plead with bystanders that s/he was alive, no-one would help me. They just screamed and recoiled in terror. I woke up in a terrible state, stricken with feeling I had been unable to save this poor being, human or non-human, it didn’t matter.
I lose myself for a few minutes while I gather together again the fragments of me that just fell off in this latest nocturnal existential crisis. It DOES get better. The worst is over again for now and, shitty as I feel, I know deep inside that I cannot go there. Yet. I don’t want to give up, roll over and show my vulnerable belly to the world in submission like a cowering dog. I do that when I’m playing but when I feel under intense threat now my impulse is to defend myself and without much thinking beforehand. Everything has changed since T-day nearly six months ago in that regard.
This is hard. I mean really HARD. Some things that happen in one’s life are not suitable for sharing publicly. Naturally I do not want to embarrass, distress or compromise my loved ones and I have been struggling to manage these sort of private/public boundary dilemmas that anyone writing a personal blog must deal with. I hope I am able to maintain a fundamental respect within all my personal relationships while being able to explore some of the deep and complex issues that arise when someone is transitioning gender and you love them.
I have been really struggling with this overwhelming feeling of STUCKNESS. I feel so powerless in the face of NHS bureaucracy. So insignificant, as one anguished tormented soul in a sea of millions who must also be near-drowning not swimming this side of the dawn of the Condem Big Society. I hate myself for being so pathetic. What sort of man takes this shit without cracking? What man am I if I cannot rise up and demand to be treated with dignity and respect? What man lies his head on his desk and sobs with animal wails when he cannot express just how desperate he feels to those he needs to help him? The sort of man like me who is 6 months into his puberty, with broadening shoulders, a broken voice with a nice deep resonance, hairy legs, arms and needs a facial shave regularly. The sort of man who feels like a man, smells like a man, sounds and looks like a man but who has two enormous breasts that say otherwise.
What do I have to do to be understood? I have flashes of incredible self-violence at times in the second-to-worst moments. In the worst moments I have flashes of suicidal ideation. I have to keep a faith, no matter how tenuous at times, that IT GETS BETTER.
It’s a phrase that we know well in the trans community and in the wider LGBT world too. IT GETS BETTER is a mantra we repeat to ourselves as share our stories between us and will each other along knowing full well we are all in our private hells at different points along our journeys. The recent coverage of LGBT youth suicides in the USA has provided a much-needed empathic response from significant people, within and without, the LGBT communities. As an older trans man I feel, as have many hundreds, maybe thousands of others, that I want to show how, despite how hard life gets, that we can live lives with joy and with self-acceptance and respect from others. Sometimes it is moment to moment, but believe me, it really does get better on the turn of a sixpence sometimes.
Just as I finish this for now my dad has, for the first time in over a year, corrected himself about his pronouns with me without being prompted. It’s possible he overheard me earlier today when I was trying to keep it together on the phone so it may just have got through a bit about quite how it makes me feel. That’s one of those sixpence moments, coming out of the blue like the universe bungs you a spark of joy to keep you going when the light is fading fast.
They DO happen …
When I am feeling a little stronger I will post my own It Gets Better YouTube video. In the meantime here is a link to the other wonderful videos and messages of support from the campaign to raise awareness about LGBTQI youth suicides.