Over my recent vacation I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It was an excellent read, full of great wisdom, inspiring and amusing real life stories of the author’s experiences while studying and researching vulnerability. It made me think a lot about my own fear of vulnerability and how afraid I am of speaking my truth around my gender and my life. And then, tonight, I was reading an article on avoidance by Olivia Bryant that had the following quote in it:
“If you avoid vulnerability, you commit to pretence and inauthenticity.”
And then the author asked me:
“Are you doing what you NEED to be doing?
ARE YOU SAYING WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID?”
Then the little voice in my head said “Shit! No, I’m not. Why won’t this stuff leave me the f@$& alone?”
And to drive her point even further through my thick head she said, “Our life is a result of the things we avoid and the things we commit to. As in, if you’re avoiding one thing, you’re committing to another.”
Just off the top of my head I can apply this line of thinking to many things in my current life:
- top surgery
- coming out
- professional life
- leisure time/hobbies
But the big thing for me right now is coming out. I so hate coming out. I hate the vulnerability of coming out. I much prefer to send an email than have a phone conversation or a face to face encounter (my least favorite mode of communication) when having to tell someone I’m trans. I’m a coward. I admit it. I’m full of shame and unworthiness. I’m really not ashamed of being trans. My shame is deep. Deep as my mother’s womb. I was raised to feel ashamed of myself and feel unworthy. Somehow it got inside me that manhood is something I’m unworthy of. I can’t muster the courage to speak the words, “I am a man” because I don’t feel worthy of what they mean. I feel ashamed to admit that I have always felt like I was not made right, that I’m really a male in a female body. It’s almost like I’m a bad person because all of these years I’ve known this about myself (not really known, but felt) and I’ve been deceiving everyone so now I have to come out and say it’s all been a big old lie that I was a girl/female/woman/lesbian. But I know I’m not bad because of this and it wasn’t a lie. It was the truth as we knew it but this is how it FEELS to me. And that’s part of my shame. I feel like I lied and that I’m bad and that I’m unworthy. Intellectually, I KNOW this isn’t true but I still can’t shake the underlying feelings. And this is why I avoid coming out. I feel unworthy and am ashamed to tell my truth because deep down I’m afraid someone’s going to say to me that I don’t DESERVE to claim manhood for myself. Because I don’t feel like I am deserving of it.
As I write this post it occurs to me that what I’m saying here is my most vulnerable truth of all. Much more vulnerable and close to the bone than being transgender and I’m ok with saying it here. Well, it does make me a little uneasy but I’m writing to a completely anonymous audience so the risk is minimal. Worst case is I get a couple lousy comments that I delete, but I feel pretty safe in this environment. My blog is a safe space so I let my armor down almost completely here. But in “real life” it’s different. The people in that world are not as open minded and caring as I might hope them to be. Part of the problem is that they might be caring and open minded but I won’t know until I test them with something big like this. And if they fail the test then what? I guess I’m down one friend. So what, right? I’ve heard it so many times but it’s so true and worth saying again, if you’re not willing to lose everything and everyone than you’re not ready for transition. Or something along those lines. Every time I’ve seen that or heard it I’ve had the same thought. What a crock! It shouldn’t have to be that way. But I think, if nothing else, if I have that mind set that I’ll be ok if everyone walked out of my life it helps give me courage. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. So far, my coming out has gone fairly smoothly and I really can’t complain. I haven’t lost anyone yet to my knowledge. But I still have not claimed “I am a man” either and lived that truth. As long as I keep pretending that nothing has changed and I’m still the same then everyone can just go on forgetting that I’m trans too.
So it’s more than coming out. It’s living out. Being out. Stepping out as ME. I watched as Caitlyn Jenner stepped out for the first time publicly as Cait and recognized the courage that took. Yes, I believe it did take courage. I think authenticity and truth takes courage. And I’m lacking in that department. I’m the Cowardly Lion looking for his courage. It takes courage to be vulnerable.