So no, R. T., it’s not a fact that you’re a transman. It’s a fact that you’re female. Self-identity is almost entirely subjective.
Even as I type, I can feel you reacting somewhere in the depths of my subconscious. How can I say such things about my own self? Am I a masochist?
Maybe. Or maybe I’ve learned a thing or two in this last year. The first is you were right on some points. First, yes, women are quite attractive. Men? Eh. Except Jacob. 🙂 Second, Yes, we did marry him, and we’re quite happy we did. But women are still sexy.
In fact, most of what you wrote is pretty accurate. Life before the wedding was straight up madness.
Really, I just wanted to chat about two points you didn’t really understand.
We got sick during massage school. It wasn’t “just stress”. Something broke, and I still don’t know what, but I’m working on it, for both our sakes.
You have no idea what it means to be a Daughter of God. Truth be told, I don’t either, but I finally started learning.
The mystery illness that walloped you upside the brain and ground any plans to a halt? Lab work is happening, and I’ve got the process as under control as it’s possible to have such trouble.
The Daughter of God thing? Well, that’s bigger. See, when you wrote your post, you wanted so badly to be visible. You wanted people to see and understand all the parts and pieces of you. Even followed it up with Realizing I’m Not Invisible a few months later.
Yesterday, I learned that no matter how badly you or I want it, parts of us will always be invisible in some situations. You can’t fight a crusade against the world. And the world will make its assumptions. I know, it can be frustrating.
Just remember, those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.
Really, though, the reason I say you didn’t understand then what it means to be a Daughter of God is this. You still clung to your identity as a transman. You clung to your identity as ONLY Raidon T. Phoenix. You tried to forget Tanith Rose.
When I moved to California, I still carried your idea of identity. Except that idea hurt. Every day, it hurt. So I gave it up.
In fact, I gave up the idea of identity entirely. And in doing so, I found the freedom to be ME. Not you. Not Tanith.
I found the freedom to be Raidon Tanith Rose Phoenix Taylor.
I still use masculine pronouns on social media. I strongly dislike the inundation with ads directed at women. I live in California and see enough bikinis to last a lifetime in the summer.
Not to mention the makeup ads are way too trippy.
I’m still getting our name legally changed. After all, we chose it together, and it’s part of us now.
If my ADHD muse had its way, this post would be about glowing squirrels riding monkeys into battle. As it is, we’re gonna talk about identity, because sometimes this little bugger has a funny way of GETTING IN THE WAY. Take it away Price Ea.
Now, I got to reading the comments, and plenty of them express the idea that, Oh, he’s just trying to say you can get rid of depression by thinking about it. I didn’t get that at all, especially since at one point he specifically states, “Before enlightenment, I was depressed. After enlightenment, still depressed, but it’s totally different now.”
What I took from that video is this. I am not my disorders, and I’m not my diagnoses. Certainly, these factors inform the way I live my life, the way my synapses fire, the way I see the world, but they are not me, any more than I am them. It’s a reminder I sorely needed.
Why would someone so epic 😉 need a reminder that I’m not my diagnoses?
Because believe it or not, I’ve got at least four on my plate right now, including ADHD, Major Depressive Disorder, Social Anxiety and Gender Dysphoria (i.e. the emotional baggage that came with growing up trans and closeted).
And I nearly gave up last week and filed for disability. No, I don’t believe everyone who’s on disability for mental illness has given up. Sometimes these issues have exactly that kind of debilitating effect on life. To those of you, I salute the courage it must’ve taken to swallow that much pride and say I need a way to survive and a conventional “accepted” income path can’t work for me. Mine aren’t quite there yet, but I started indulging what I consider a major thinking error.
I allowed the idea that maybe I AM my diagnosis.
I didn’t notice it until I watched this video, but it’s part of why I mistook my Grief for Depression. I’d begun allowing the belief, somewhere in the back of my mind, that I AM depressed, as if this Major Depression is who I am, is my being, is my existence.
Which is plain silly, and downright defeatist.
When I saw the video, I realized that’s what I was doing, and I changed course, as I’ve done more than a few times in my life. It was time to step up, and move on. Time to figure out what I could do, not what’s wrong with me.
So last week, I told you lovely readers about Jenny, and just how amazing she is. If you forgot or haven’t seen the story, go read about her ability to disprove the impossible and why she’s the reason I dare to dream crazy dreams now. That said, the first part of this may turn into a bit of a downer, as the last three days have been quite a struggle for me. It’s always fun when your own neurosis tries to sabotage your dreams. See right around the time we start truly going for what we want, that’s usually when the world, or the Fates, or the Devil, or whatever you want to call that oppositional force that picks up and starts pelting you with all it’s got starts hitting. Start going for more than one of those somethings at a time, and you’ve really got a fight on your hands. Add a few spoonfuls of situational change to the pot and it turned into three days of nagging irritability and a sincere desire to burst into tears at the slightest provocation. I finally pinned it down as a four day bout with depression, exacerbated by an actually migraine for the first time in two weeks (thank you, Rexburg thunderstorms.)
Now, a while ago, I ran across a meme that I really loved. It exemplifies how I want to live my life.
Well, currently, this is what my storm looks like.
Move to the Salt Lake Valley at the end of July. Also, gather the funds for said move without an actionable plan for traditional employment. So, make YouTube videos, rely on Patreon, and hope people are kind enough to pitch in a few bucks on Go Fund Me if all else fails.
Adapt to brand new local Church leadership in two and a half months, since our local congregation got so large it necessitated a geographical split. This is never easy. Less so when my anxiety keeps reminding me of the horror stories I’ve heard with regard to trans folk in the LDS Church, though I’ve not experienced that since coming out, myself.
Figure out the logistics of training for a Half Iron Man – including pulling a racing wheel chair. Jenny and I are finally teaming up again.
Cope with the fact that, at this time, I’m not planning on any steps toward a physical transition, so the inevitable result of training will be an exceedingly fit female body, which will bring inevitable compliments.
Reconcile my co-dependent need to care for my family with the fact that my sister is an adult and capable of handling her own life at this point, thus does not need to continue staying with us and will be just fine in Idaho going to beauty school.
Add to this two other major projects that I’m passionate about, the novel manuscript I’m now behind on, and the two weeks I’ve basically spent just getting used to medication, and, well, hello depression, my old frenemy. So today, it’s back to a two mile walk…or a mental break down. I’m back, darling internetz after the vain attempt to get myself out from under this morning’s bout of brain fog through a nice, hot shower, which ended in a fit of mad bawling and the desire to throw every mirror in the house across the room. Yeah, THAT is the gender dysphoria side of being transgender. Well, I may not make it two miles today. I will work outs (At the very least, I’ll stretch, because I can’t help myself anymore. I get too sore if I don’t.)
But you know what I say to that nagging nothingness in the back of my skull that’s still trying to swallow me?
I love that movie, by the way. It’s more than a bit of a depression balm. As is Minecraft, which I will likely play after this for a while, before continuing a compilation project for my boss, finalizing the Patreon launch for my new YouTube series, Confessions of a Drow Bard – in case you ever wondered what this world looks like through the eyes of a crazed, neutral evil elf – and whatever else I end up getting or not getting done today.
What are your favorite tips for pulling out of a depressive funk? How do you tell anxiety to shove it? Let me know your favorite tips in the comments!
Shame is the power we give others over our lives, and lately, there’s a lot of it being flung at everyone. Who’s your candidate? Be ashamed. What’s your stance on this or that controversial issue? Be ashamed. In the title of my last post, I mentioned a Meme War, and I’m not kidding. We throw memes around on Facebook, Twitter, and even in our blogs without a single thought for who we may or may not be affecting, because it seems to mesh with our opinions at the time. Well, I’ve chosen a side in this War, finally. Hope. True, on occasion I post concerning controversy, and I’m not perfect, but with every Share, I now spend at least a moment hovered over that button. If there is controversy, I’ll mention it in my own words with the post itself.
Aside from that, I post Hope. I post Encouragement. There’s enough Shame and Doubt and Hate to go around, and yes, I’m looking at both sides of the “political spectrum.” We look at things in such black and white terms, and we feel so safe behind our computer screens; safe to stab others that may be invisible to us with words that scorch the very fabric of their souls. I know my words are harsh, and it’s because for several weeks, I lived it. People whose feeds I’d come to rely on for a dose of goodness or an uplifting thought got right into the trenches for or against toilets. Toilets, people. We have bigger problems. In the mean time, I’ll get to my point. Here are the X things I’ve learned so far after coming out to my local community (which happens to be somewhere between 95% and 98% LDS, by the way.)
1. Help comes where least expected.
I’m LDS – Mormon, as I mentioned before – so I had this idea that as soon as I told my bishop I was trans, I’d be disfellowshiped or worse. After all, Mormons hate anyone that’s part of the LGBT community, right? Anything to get us out of the Church. We don’t fit. We’re different. We can’t live up to the Church’s expectations. I’m sure you’ve all heard it before. So I had this image of all my connections and goals for continuing membership evaporating.
That didn’t happen. My bishop simply acknowledged that he would likely never understand exactly how being transgender feels, or how it affects my life, and extended the aid of Church resources in obtaining mental health care I had no way of paying for in order to pull me out of the suicidal pit that I was in. Those resources have been extended twice, and I am grateful such that words cannot express for it. Add to that my choice of a social transition led to my Relief Society President of the time helping pick out my now favorite blazer and black dress shirt, and I have difficulty seeing where this narrative of the Church hating outliers comes in.
In contrast, I lost a few friends throughout the process, one a part of the LGBT community, in fact. I don’t care to share details, but because I’ve continued to hold fast to my LDS Christian belief system through everything, we disagreed on quite a bit, and words like bigot and sexist became involved. I’ll leave it at that. Additionally, I joined at least one support group geared toward transgender members of the Church, and found myself in a heavy and negative environment that only hurt my well-being rather than helping.
I realize my experience is not the same as that of everyone in my position, but it is one that needs to be shared.
2. Impossible is an imagined limit.
At the risk of proving my darling husband right, and outing myself as a closet country fan…
I promised myself in high school that I would marry an LDS man in an LDS Temple. It’s kind of a thing for someone raised as a young woman in the Church. Even after uni, when I realized I really love looking at women, I decided that only changed one thing. I just wouldn’t necessarily be physically attracted to the man I married. A good thing, too, since he’s not generally attracted to the female physique. Even then, though, I never imagined I’d be going by masculine pronouns within a year of our marriage and looking into the paperwork for adding to my legal name. In fact, my first thought when I admitted that the word transgender fit my experiences was, “He’s going to leave. He’s fought so hard to live up to the standards of the LDS Church, and wants so badly to marry a woman, that he’s going to leave, and go find one.” We had been engaged just over four months when I finally told him. And he simply said the one thing I’d thought impossible. We’ll figure it out. And we have been.
3. Memes hurt. A lot.
Imagine for a moment everything about you was parsed down to two opposing points on a line. Both points defined strictly by one aspect of yourself. Let’s say it’s the color of your eyes, or the length of your pinky finger. Sound ridiculous? Sound like an absolute load of tripe? I promise, it is. That is also exactly what a meme is. Really. So in the words of a general authority of my faith, if a meme does any of the following, please apply this advice.
I ask this because I spent about two weeks ready to defenestrate my notebook computer after every visit to Facebook. My very existence had been reduced to nothing more than memes either for or against the use of a toilet. A TOILET! If that’s not full of —- I don’t know what is. Frankly, this whole toilet thing is a smoke-screen for larger political issues anyway. Hasn’t anyone ever seen the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Who started throwing rotten food and humiliating him? THE GUARDS. The authority figures in charge. Speaking of.
4. The Media doesn’t help. We won’t “understand” each other’s experiences.
Here’s what I mean by that. I’ve never in my life looked in a mirror and with confidence proclaimed, “I am a woman!” I know now this likely will not happen while I’m a mortal human being. On the other hand, ~99% of the population of at least this country has never in their lives looked in a mirror and wondered, “Why are those pieces there, those bits missing, and why doesn’t anyone realize they’ve got the wrong gender?” Not going to happen, really. So media tries to “help” and throws around words. Transgender. Gender Dysphoria. Respect the pronouns. Yet no one ever bothers defining these terms because, “It’s not my responsibility to educate you.”
Come on, people, we’re all in this thing called life together, and no one’s getting out alive. Let’s try to give each other a little hope for living in the mean time, and let’s help each other live in a way that doesn’t perpetuate a culture of shame. Stop shaming people for being different, and stop shaming people for not understanding differences. We don’t need that kind of negativity. At the end of the day, words are powerful, and simple.
Transgender – the experience of being a gender other than that of your physiology. Like I said in my previous post, I couldn’t understand why no one saw that I was a boy.
Gender Dysphoria – (Yes, they are different) – The mental and sometimes physical symptoms accompanying the stress of being transgender. In my case, the worst of it feels like I’m wearing a full body unitard made of the itchiest wool possible. It’s also damp, full of sand, (or fiberglass, depending on the day) and two sizes too small. It’s all I’m wearing, and there’s no way to take it off. Close your eyes and picture it for a moment. Other symptoms include episodes of depression and major anxiety.
Many of us choose a social or physical transition due to the severity of our Dysphoria symptoms, as they bring us the relief that allows us to live functional and productive lives. It’s not easy, but it’s not any easier to live in the abyss of a suicidal depression, wondering if you’ll still be alive for the love of your life to come home to or not.
Bottom line is, trans or not, we all need to stop living for the ideas of others. Stop letting shame rule us and govern our thoughts and our purpose. All that does is bring us deeper into the pits of fear that cripple our lives and ourselves, and stop us from living in such a way as to build up those around us and leave our own positive mark on the world, however small. And if you’re already in that pit, and you don’t see a way out? Take my friend Maria’s advice, and Do It Afraid. Sometimes, that’s what it takes. In fact, the greatest minds of this world had no idea they would land in the history books. They just did what they knew they had to do.
Now it’s time for me to stop rambling and let you share your wisdom. What have you learned from the most terrifying choices in your life? When have you stepped out afraid? Was there a time shame tried to stop you and you refused to let it? Share your strength in the comments, and together, we can strengthen each other.