The Tipping Point on My Journey to Trans Awareness
"Any child of narcissists, addicts, or rage junkies is an expert at de-escalation."
I was talking to my friend, Steve, last night and made the sarcastic quip, "Oh, yeah, I'm a shrinking violet."
He'd complimented me that I command a room. I was pleasantly surprised. Living as the woman I am lets me be me. If I don't hold back, it's because I've no reason to stifle myself.
I wasn't always that way.
Posing as a dude was 50-plus years of survival. Except I thought I was horrible at it. Those shocked at my transition will tell you that I was, at least in attitude and outlook, a man's man. Yet, I was pretending, lest someone—especially me—discovered I wasn't.
In her Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing, Lauren Hough notes that "men grab crotches, boobs, ass, anything else they feel like grabbing to show you they can. It's humiliating enough without your breaking down and proving their point." Though I loathed such behavior, I had to maintain a manly façade.
From 1993-95, I was Mayor of Krum, Texas. One of my enemies manly berated me at a council meeting. I was a quark's breadth from tears. My eyes welled, the back of my throat lumped with anguish. I felt like a child. There he was, at a civic event, grabbing me by the pussy because he could. I felt powerless and robbed of my dignity.
I stifled it. I had to command the room by denying who I really was. For a lifetime.
Lauren Hough encapsulates my first 50 years:
I'd spent my childhood and most of my young adult life building layers of filters to avoid punishment and humiliation and pain and rejection, a constant effort to be a little less of who I was because I'd been taught who I was was wrong.
The other day I looked in the mirror and saw the woman I've always been. Though years since my transition, I'm only now pleasantly amazed at who I really am. Why did it take so long? As Hough notes, I had to "pull off each filter, one at a time, and discover who was underneath. I couldn't even begin until I felt safe enough."
Even now, after the so-called "2014 Trans Tipping Point," the world isn't a safe place to do that. For five decades, I'd so internalized the death-sentence of doing it I had no clue I was trans. My tipping point came at a Texas dirt-bar where I felt at-home, thinking I'd earned that acceptance by successfully posing as a man. I was a child of my narcissistic addiction to that façade at the price of an ever-simmering rage. I was never a tough guy—the chink in the armor that would dissolve my manly front into so much weeping. It was killing me.
Here's an amazing thing about human beings—we're no good at not surviving. We're built for life. A self-consumptive tragedy, suicide seems to the self-harmer like the only option to an existence that blocks truly living. De-escalator that I was, I never entertained suicide. But I neatly carried it out, in a different way. I killed the man I'd masqueraded as. One night at my dirt-bar, a Boomer band inflicted itself on us, playing for free, before paid acts took stage. So, of course, they played too loud. Being the man I had to be, I switched places with my mayoral-days enemy and told them that. This was my bar, where I wanted to socialize with friends without hollering. The lead singer, despite being a decade older than me, postured into the mic, "If it's too loud, you're too old." Ageism on top of calling me a pussy! This aggression would not go unchecked.
I felt at-home enough in my bar that I not only didn't de-escalate but pressed the issue. I waited till after the set, when he was telling the bartenders his band should play there more often. They looked over his shoulder at me, rolling their eyes, asking (in my addled mind) for someone to put this charlatan in his place. I berated him in front of them for forcing his band into our bar and insulting us, its patrons, by not turning down the music. He walked out sheepishly, and I congratulated myself for succeeding where for so long I'd posed. Later, as the paid bands moved in, the lead singer's wife berated me, then spit into my beard. I was backing up from her when the lead singer sucker-punched me. I pulled him down to the ground but never landed a blow, as the bartenders broke us up.
In the scuffle, his glasses and mine tumbled off, and I mistakenly donned his pair. Not till after did I realize his specs were the same model as mine, with a different prescription. For a short time, I saw the world through his eyes, not realizing my vision was off. The next day involved making statements to the police, one of whom was a friend, who refuted the lead singer's account of the event by telling the investigating officer that I was the last person who could ever pick or win a fight.
My façade was stripped bare in my defense. I sheepishly reclaimed my glasses from the police station, giving them the lead-singer's pair. Yet, I saw, if then only in anguish, I couldn't be the man I thought I had to be. For 50 years, I'd killed myself to be what I could never be. A dude. A grabber. A manly man.
That in itself didn't make me trans. Men at home with their gender don't have to play an abominable stereotype (though many do). I had thought it my only option.
Though I still had no idea I was trans, losing that façade was a key step towards my later journey to being who I really am.