Saturday, 28 July 2012

Self-acceptance

It's an interesting subject, self-acceptance, by which I mean coming to terms with something about yourself, and then making the necessary adjustments. It could be anything. You might for instance suddenly discover that:

# You were extremely talented in some way, and that you could base a wonderful new career on it. This might easily lift you away from home, family and friends if the opportunities to exploit this new career involved a new location, or constant worldwide travel.

# You were in fact an adopted child, and not the natural child of your parents. This would upset your entire self-view. And getting to meet your natural parents, and all of your other brothers and sisters, could easily become an obsession.

# You were gay or lesbian. I don't need to elaborate on the impact of that.

# You were suffering from an incurable disease that must kill you within five years. Assuming you could overcome the initial shock, this would completely rejig your priorities, and sharply refocus your endeavours in the short time ahead.

For trans people, it's the realisation that they are not what they thought they were, with all that implies. The probable upheaval to their lives is daunting and frightening. It could alienate parents, split families, kill a career, and mark the trans person down as abnormal and different for the rest of their life. Worse: impoverishment, loneliness, lies, abuse and danger might come their way. It's no wonder that self-acceptance might be difficult for many trans people. Who would want to embrace transness if it meant disaster?

Well, of course, nobody does embrace it: it embraces you, an irresistible thing about yourself that drives you into another world, plunges you into the cold water, sink or swim. More than once, I've heard trans friends say that others have called them 'brave' for 'doing' what they had to. It certainly might take courage and fortitude to out oneself, or appear in public in strange clothes, but I'd say it's mostly the courage of a soldier caught up in a battle: he has to push forward, and fight well and fiercely, because if he doesn't he will die. As simple as that.

A lot of non-trans people seem to think that it's all an easy, deliberate choice: a way of turning one's life around, a selfish self-indulgence, a method of resolving personality issues, a response to a mid-life crisis, a mental breakdown, a perverse desire for a better sex life, a ploy to free oneself from an unwanted relationship, even an escape from boredom. This is all either mistaken or crass. They do not see the lack of choice in this. How there is no other course to take. And that, if there is any decision, it is what to do at the moment of realisation - how slow or fast to proceed, how best to break the news, who to approach for help, where to live.

Everyone else has the luxury of choice: how they react, whether they will support you or turn their face away from you, whether they will spit on you or give you a happy hug.

It's no crime to understand what gender you should be, and then adapt to that knowledge. Perhaps some trans people recoil from their self-realisation because of the stigma that will come their way, the embarrassment, the criminalisation. That's understandable, but of course it doesn't get rid of the inner urge to be the proper person. You can't fight that forever. It can't be debated away with rational arguments. It's not something you can be talked out of, any more than it's something you can be talked into. It's a feeling that you're not right as you are, and that you must act or be lost.

Did I have a period of doubt, in which a perception of 'wrong gender' had dawned, but felt like a forbidden type of thinking, something to be shrugged off? No. I had instant conviction. Instant self-acceptance. Instant (though fearful) acknowledgement of the likely consequences. That's down to my nature. Others with different natures will have approached the thing differently, perhaps in a more drawn-out fashion lasting many years. Some will have recognised that they were misfits in their assigned gender from their earliest memories, and may have fought a lifelong battle with themselves. The end is the same for all. Eventually we submit to The Process, and emerge transformed. If we survive, that is. Some don't make it.

I do wonder what would have happened to me if I'd closed my mind to my 'eureka moment', if I'd carried on as if the thought of being a woman was a wild mistake, best thrust into a box and the key thrown away. I think the strain of living a lie would have corroded me, embittered me, and made me a horrible person, less than human. A life wasted.

1 comment:

  1. Doesn't bear thinking about does it Lucy? Whatever we do in life we can be sure of finding opposition from some quarters, even more so if we are transgendered. If we listened to others or worried about what they would say we wouldn't do anything. For some this is sadly the way for them. At all costs we need to maintain self-confidence and acceptance of ourselves. For too long in my early years I was bullied which led me to be even more timid than I was and it was one of the main causes I think that kept me in the closet for so long. Thankfully all that changed but it was down to myself, no-one else could influence me once I began to see myself as having just as much right to be myself as anyone else. Once that hurdle had been overcome the rest was as easy as it could have been considering the attitude of those who seem to think what they think matters to me.

    Shirley Anne x

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