Vulnerability

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.”

DAMMIT!!!!

Just off the top of my head I can apply this line of thinking to many things in my current life:

  • Exercise/diet/weight
  • top surgery
  • coming out
  • relationships
  • 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.

cowardly lion

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13 thoughts on “Vulnerability

  1. There is a lot in this post that could have come straight from my head.
    It is very difficult to hold both the truth of living as butch (as you have done and to some extent still do) and being a transgender man, and moving the balance slowly from one towards the other. But you are one and the same person, and will still be exactly the same person as you continue with T and start tackling the other issues on your list. My “before and after” pictures are so close, except that I can see how much more comfortable I am now (weight and top surgery).
    How people choose to respond to our identity has (in a weird way) nothing to do with us – and everything to do with them and their confronting their prejudices and beliefs. It was hard for us, it is hard for them, but hopefully we are irresistible friends/partners.
    For the record, it was losing weight that pushed top surgery to the top of my list – losing the belly fat made me look bustier and I couldn’t stand it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yep, it’s a hard lesson to learn that people’s reactions are none of our business and have nothing to do with us. I do try to remember this but it still hurts when people are negative. I can so see how losing weight made you chest dysphoria worse. Right now my belly sort of hides my chest to some degree, especially if I where a dark colored loose shirt. I’d like to think I’m an irresistible friend/partner. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “If you’re not willing to lose everything to transition…” This line hit deep with me because it’s absolutely true. The extent of stress on me before coming out felt like the world on my shoulders until I took the load off and learned to not give a damn about others opinions and be happy. Their opinions don’t pay bills.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I know how heavy that weight can be too. Occasionally it gets too much for me and I have to come out to someone or do something to make me feel like I’m moving forward. I’m glad you were able to get over the hump of worrying more about other people’s opinions than what was right for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for writing this. Not only did I just share the passage about vulnerability with someone I love deeply who is struggling with that very thing but also the part about shame hit home. I feel that deep and old shame and wonder from time to time at its origins. It is so deep -rootlessly deep it seems. The closer I get to its core the more painful it is. Then I pop out to here and now and let myself feel the wonder of who I am and how it feels to feel and be more whole. More me. I want to let go of the shame forever and live in the now so that I too can do those things I avoid out of fear of vulnerability shame and being fully uninhibitedly myself. Oh the angst of the back and forth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad this spoke to you and hope it helped someone else. I think this is a pretty big issue in a universal kind of way for humanity. We’re inundated with shame as we grow up to keep us in line and within society’s rulebook. It’s great that you can step out of it occasionally and celebrate how good it feels to be you now.

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  4. What holds me back is not so much shame as fear of the loss you mention – not everything and everybody, but my one anchor in life – B. I have the courage (I believe, as it has not been tested) to lose everybody else in my life (there are so few in any case!), but losing her will mean losing everything. As Jamie says, responding to our coming out has to do with other people’s prejudices and beliefs. If Candace and the people closest to you, accept the trans Shawn, will it not give your more courage to expand the circle of people to come out to? All the best, bro.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I used to fear the loss because I thought I might lose everything. These days I’m feeling more secure in that but it’s still in the back of my mind. So shame is still at the root of why I stay hidden. You pose an interesting question at the end here. I will have to give that some thought.

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  5. I also feel ashamed like a liar caught with a lie. I know I lived the truth I had back then, but the truth has changed. It doesn’t make me feel any less than a liar though…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally get that. I make myself feel better by reminding myself that I just did not have the information to tell my exact truth for much of my life. I know that I didn’t lie and that I wasn’t lied to. I was uneducated and so was my society. Now we know the truth so it’s time to start speaking that truth. Knowing doesn’t make it easier though but I hope you can give yourself a break and see it for what it is. Not a lie but a misunderstanding. If we were taught a “fact” in school and further research discovered that this fact was flawed and actually something different than what we originally thought, would there be a reason to see that as a lie or something shameful? No. I grew up being taught that Pluto was a planet and now apparently it isn’t a planet. Does Pluto feel shame for no longer being categorized as a planet? I sure hope not.

      Liked by 1 person

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