Personal life update: It’s been a really busy week for me. I moved out of the flat I was staying in this week. And let me tell you, that was an exhausting process. It’s no wonder moving ranks so highly on most lists of Most Stressful Things Ever. I know I’ve done more moving than I’d like. And I’m pretty sure I still have a few more to go. One of the things that really jarred me was going through so much evidence of who people had wanted me to be – pieces of my “old life” that still lingered in cupboards and the back of shelves. It brought out a lot of really conflicted feelings, and I’ll talk more about that in the weeks to come.
Besides for that, there are some potentially really exciting opportunities on the horizon. And my book is well on track for a May release – I can hardly wait!
And… I’m in love. With an amazing, beautiful, smart, kind woman. So although this post is about tears, I’m fortunate to say that right now, I have many reasons to smile.
I cry. A lot. I cry in movies, I cry while reading books, sometimes I cry in the grocery store. I definitely cry when I sit down to think.
It’s something I’ve become more accustomed to, over time. I remember many, many years that I did not cry. Not one single tear.
Not that I was especially short of reasons to cry. My youth – both my early childhood and my adolescence – was a puzzling and trying time. I learned self-sufficiency, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. And then I maintained it. And eventually I forgot that there was any other way.
So, it became habitual, to process my feelings on my own. I didn’t have a support structure – I didn’t even know what a support structure was. I was spending a lot of energy keeping the peace at home and trying not to step out of place. I didn’t have much left over for myself. And my relationships with friends and family were hardly close enough for me to feel comfortable pouring my feelings out.
I also remember being scared of my feelings. Not wanting to let the floodgates open for fear of what might come out, after it had all been pent up for so long. As most kids do, I learned by example. No one talked about their emotions at home – it simply wasn’t the done thing. That kind of environment hardly felt like a safe space, and in retrospect I have no doubt that it wasn’t. Acknowledging my feelings would have been a sign of weakness, and the way I was brought up, to show weakness was not just unacceptable, but incompatible with survival. The feelings were there – of that there was no doubt. Anger and sadness and loneliness and hopelessness and more anger. Bucketloads of the stuff. But I could only acknowledge them in very limited quantities, and under very controlled circumstances. And I never allowed myself to cry.
And now I cry at everything. Literally everything. Ok well not literally everything, but literally almost everything. It’s been this way for a while. Yeah, it did kinda coincide with the hormones. But it coincided with a lot of other stuff too.
Transition is hard.
It turns your whole entire life upside down. It’s violent, and dramatic, and it’s a rollercoaster. And it doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Just going through that in and of itself is enough to make anyone tearful.
But it’s not just that it’s chaotic and difficult – it’s also liberating, when it allows us to express ourselves in ways we were never permitted to, and it allows us to experience things so much more fully, being present in the moment instead of being impaired by dysphoria.
There were a lot of dramatic changes that happened in my life, related to my transition. I made my decision to live openly and honestly instead of hiding in shadows. I resolved to acknowledge my own feelings, to stop running away and sweeping things under the rug. I found that, for the first time, I could embrace the full range of human experience that I am subject to, and to start letting people in rather than pushing them away.
Emotionality, especially when it occurs in women, is often written off as “hormonal”. “Oh, is it that time of the month?” All of these excuses, and all of these (inaccurate) stereotypes are designed to silence us and invalidate our feelings.
It portrays us as being weak because we’re subject to our feelings, and suggests that those same feelings are whimsical, less-than-real, and that they’re mere products of hormonal surges. Know what this reminds me of, to an extent? Yeah, gaslighting. And we can become so habituated to it that we start doing it to ourselves – “Oh I’m just emotional, don’t mind me”. As if it’s some kind of flaw.
Estrogen does a lot of things for me. It softens my skin, it encourages my breasts to grow, it changes the places where my body stores fat. It gives me a feeling of peacefulness, and it sets me at ease. But for all these things, it doesn’t change who I am.
My emotions, my capacity to feel – it’s part of my identity. And those emotions are real. Sure, there are nights where I am a weepy, tear-stained mess, and I don’t enjoy them. But it’s that capacity for feeling that allows me to be empathic, to understand, to relate. It’s who I am, it’s not a side-effect of medication. Hiding them away, denying them, and ignoring them – those were the side-effects of my dysphoria.
I won’t pretend that I enjoy those nights where I struggle to stop crying. Nights I can’t even curl up on the couch and watch a TV show without being triggered by everything. Nights I need to tightly clutch a pillow to my breast so that I can bury my tear-streaked face in it. Nights where the tears stop and start, stop and start, stop and start. Nights when I can cry and cry and still feel I haven’t let it all out.
And it is hard, not to have regret. Not to wonder how things might have turned out differently, if I made the right decisions at all the crucial moments. And it is hard, not to wonder what some of my relationships actually meant, especially the ones that ended while I was still deeply closeted. And it is hard, not to fixate on whether or not there really is some realistic hope to be found amongst all the despair.
But life is hard. Not just mine, but yours too. And the next person’s. And the one after that. I have reasons for crying, but so do we all. And it’s been a process to understand that those feelings are real, and valid, and that it’s okay to have them – in fact, that it’s a good thing to have them.
The tears hurt, sometimes. But the tears are honest, always. And I know how to appreciate that honesty, because it was something that was lacking in my life for so long, and it’s something I’m grateful to have now. And I refuse to blame that on the estrogen.