I read a wonderful post today and it reminded me of something I too often forget in the hurry-scurry of every day life.
I have spoken before of being a child and having dressed for the first time, standing in front of mirror and looking to see who was looking back at me. If there is one thing I remember from then it was the feeling of finally seeing myself for the first time, not some circus mirror reflection, but me. Really and truly me. At the time the fact I didn’t have a ‘girls body’ wasn’t an issue, I thought a little work her, a little work there and I could become who and what I was suppose to be…
Ah, the innocence of the mind of a ten year old.
At the time I didn’t think it was strange to see a girl where a boy should have been. I just saw myself… male, female, neither was really an issue. Yes, I would love to see my hair longer and “down there” would be so much better if it looked like it did after getting things out of the way… still, all just minor things which would resolve themselves in time I was sure…
There was so much I didn’t couldn’t understand then. How my parents, classmates, teachers, society its self would work in concert to make me no longer feel normal, right within myself, at peace with my reflection to feeling as if everything I knew to be true was a lie. As if I couldn’t trust myself or my feelings.
I couldn’t trust the girl in mirror.
You see, it didn’t matter to them how I felt or what I saw looking back at me. I had things which labeled me a “boy” and there was an “M” on everything which identified me to the world and so I was expected to act in a certain manner, to like certain things. To be rough and tumble and love to get dirty, and fight and cuss and… and… on and on and on…
All because everyone else expected me to “be a man” to live up to some ideal which never made sense to me.
Yet not once did anyone think to talk to me…
To ask me what I wanted…
To understand how I saw myself…
To understand me.
I looked at my Father and I knew he was a man. I never gave it any thought but I knew I didn’t want to be like him. To have to shave every day, to have hair on my arms, legs, and chest… the very thought was gross.
I was ten years old and I wanted to never see myself as I saw him…
I wasn’t like him.
Yet with time I buried these thoughts and feelings. I tried to conform to what was expected of me. At some point I quit going to look in the mirror. I quit putting a towel on my head as hair. I quit dressing in anything but the clothes my parents bought for me. I quit trying on powders and perfumes. I didn’t look at my mothers makeup wishing she would teach me how to use it… or be allowed into conversations instead of being shushed out of the room to, “go play.”
I buried everything I didn’t see or hear from the males around me.
It was all conflict and conforming. Be one of the in crowd or be an outsider, forever alone… No one wants to be an outsider. Everyone wants to fit in… even if it never felt right. Felt as if I was killing something inside just to get along.
Day after day, conversation after conversation I changed. Not into who I was or wanted to be but into a parrot, repeating back what everyone wanted to hear until their voices became my voice and I forgot who I was.
I forgot to look for the girl in the mirror…
I tried to get into different things, manly things. Sports, physical activities, smoking, drinking… so many things…. Yet none of them ever felt right, never felt true… It was all just a act. A production and no matter how much I told myself I was fitting in… I see now I truly was still an outsider.
I said before, we can convince ourselves any lie is the truth if we try hard enough.. and wow, did I try.
I finally reached a point where the lie became the truth. When I drank enough of societies Kool-Aide I could no longer see the girl in the mirror. She was still there, I had just dirtied up the glass enough so she was reduced to a formless shadow…
Living a lie day in and day out, trying to rebuild yourself as something your not, not because it is your choice but because you have been beaten and torn down to the point you don’t know what else to do has its own cost to pay. Low self esteem, lack of confidence, depression and thoughts of suicide are just a few. There is a constant battle going on in your head between the voice inside and the ones outside. There is so much confusion and dissatisfaction with what you have become because you know, somewhere deep down inside, it is all a lie.
I do wonder, is this what a gay person feels when they have tried to live a straight life? Hiding in the closet afraid to come out into the light? Especially if you live in an oppressive home where everything you do and think and feel is labeled as bad, evil, demonic… Where you never dare breath a single breath of defiance in fear of the repercussions?
How long have others lived such lives, pretending to be something they can never really be?
For me the thoughts, emotions, hopes and dreams were never very far from the surface. There was, more than once, a moment… just a flash, of the girl waiting for me in the mirror. She knew the truth and so did I , even in those months and years when I tired to blind myself, when I refused to listen.
The problem I find now is in deprogramming myself. To be able to look past all of the outside influences to see the truth inside myself. Before I came out I battled with societies vision of who I was suppose to be. What I was suppose to like, what I was to think and feel… How many times I told myself it was okay to think these thoughts, to feel these emotions, to see myself in a way which stood in direct opposition to what I had been told.
It was okay to be myself… even if the entire world insisted I was wrong because to do anything less was killing me.
I still fight with this. I still look in the mirror and tell myself I can’t trust myself.
The world sees me one way and if I don’t agree, it will break me. It will strip me of everything and leave me naked and alone… and no one wants to be alone in this world. The thought is terrifying. It is chilling, nauseating, and my mind wants to refuse to accept it. There is a part of me which wants to give in, to accept the lies and sink back into the obscurity of conforming. To just be like everyone else…. except, I’m not like them. I never was. To do such a thing is to reduce myself to the angry, depressed, self hating, self loathing creature I had become.
That’s not who I am, not who I want to be and thinking of becoming such is crushing.
So every day is a battle of wills, between who I was and who I dream of being. Of the world around me and of the girl looking back at me through the glass asking, “Is today the day you accept me? When you embrace me and set me free?”