Core of conflict

Some days I can’t help but wonder, “Does it ever get any simpler?”

Not all days. But some of them.

The struggle is something that’s difficult to properly articulate – I suppose that’s always the case when you’re dealing with mixed feelings and not unequivocal ones, shades of gray rather than black or white, spectra instead of binaries.

The central theme, the nature of the conflict?

I suppose it comes down to trying to understand how peace can coexist with violence, calmness with turbulence, self-love with self-loathing.

At first glance, it doesn’t make sense, does it? One wants to think that these dichotomous entities can’t be present in the same space at the same time. That the existence of one, by definition, must preclude or override the existence of the other.

We all experience conflict in our lives. We all have our own murky waters through which to wade. Maybe the ideas that I’m expressing resonate with you on some level, even if the context in which they do is different.

geralt / Pixabay

For me, a lot of this strife centers around my identity. My complex identity, with its multitudinous facets. I can’t, of course, ever hope to break it down completely into its fundamental parts – I’m sure none of us could. Though I can pick out a few aspects that are especially prominent, or aspects which tend to be less common amongst others – aspects that cause me to “stick out”, as it were.

Trans woman.
Queer trans woman.
Demisexual queer trans woman.
Feminist demisexual queer trans woman.
Jew-iiiish feminist demisexual queer trans woman.
Jew-iiiish feminist demisexual queer trans woman with a bunch of baggage.

It’s a mouthful. Now I’m not comparing it to anyone else’s, because that doesn’t achieve anything – we all have our own mouthfuls.

But I’m only licensed to speak about mine.

In earlier days, when I was still trying to find some concrete notion of who and what I was, much of that conflict was internal. I had these ideas, these preconceptions about myself – things that I assumed to be true. They came from a variety of different sources, but over the years, I’d internalised them. I took it for granted that I was cis, for example – because I didn’t really know what trans was, or that it was something that I might be. I took it for granted that I was straight and male and that my worldview was what it was.

I didn’t choose any of these things. At that stage, there had never been a point where I actually sat down and interrogated any of these ideas, or subjected them to any sort of scrutiny. I just went along with all of it, because they were things that I had been told my entire life.

Yeah. I was a bad scientist. It’s embarrassing, but it’s true (like so much of what I share with you in this blog).

As time went on, I became very aware of these conflicts. I had to – it was a time when I needed to introspect, and I needed to turn a critical eye on all of those assumptions, even if doing so was something to which I was unaccustomed.

This didn’t happen overnight, of course. It’s a process – one that’s time-consuming, challenging, and often overwhelming. There are still bits and pieces that I struggle with, too. Is it even reasonable to think that there wouldn’t be?

But I did move a lot closer to resolution, on the whole. I ironed out my own sense of self, the ethical framework within which I live my life, the priorities and ideas that define my philosophy.

I even reached a point where I was relatively comfortable with who I am. The trans thing. The queer thing. The body stuff. The realisation that this is what my life looks like, and that there are sequelae to that fact that I just need to accept.

What struck me was this – as I became more comfortable with myself, the world became more uncomfortable with me.

Because I was a woman who embraced her femininity, and found strength therein instead of weakness.
Because I was trans, but I refused to paint myself as unworthy because of it.
Because I was queer, and I insisted on challenging the status quo.
Because I was demisexual, and feminist, and Jew-iiish, and I openly acknowledged that I was scarred, and I owned all of that instead of feeling shame because of it.

Maybe there is something scary or intimidating, or at least surprising, about being confronted with all that. I suppose I could understand that, on some level. After all, it flies in the face of so much of that conditioning that we’re all subject to.

It took me by surprise, initially, when I realised that some people found me intimidating. Because it’s not the way I see myself; I know that the truth is that I’m a pussycat. I know that my own insecurities are still very real, and that there is so much of which I’m afraid. I know that in many ways I still haven’t recovered from my own conditioning, that led me to regard myself as meek and ineffectual and just generally worthless.

Sometimes, though, I catch a glimpse of what people see when they look at me. The fearlessness, and the confidence, and the conviction, and the passion. For just that fraction of a second, I see myself through eyes that aren’t my own, and it takes me a moment to recognise that it’s me.

It’s not all awe and admiration, though. To a lot of people, I am a threat. I threaten the fundamental ideas that people cling to – those ideas that I myself used to cling to, and never thought to question. But being face-to-face with me makes it harder to keep from asking those questions. My existence threatens the stability of those faux foundations.

It manifests in a lot of different ways. By now you probably know that medicine and I had a nasty break-up. Because it couldn’t deal with that I was trans. It wasn’t the only nasty break-up I had because I was trans. I’ve been thrown away by friends, prospective employers, romantic partners, the list goes on… because I’m trans.

And it’s not speculation; I’ve been told so in as many words.

The irony is not lost on me. Through transition, and this path of self-discovery and growth and reflection, I’ve become a better person. I’m more empathic, more authentic, more accessible. I give more of myself. And there is more of myself to give of – my breadth of experiences, and emotions, and perspectives is so much bigger than it was.

In short, I’m able now to be a better friend, a better doctor, a better partner than I could ever have been. But I’m less acceptable, because of those fundamental truths of my identity.

Sometimes, that conflict and that irony can be especially cruel. For all the general “okayness” that I can muster around being trans, there’s one thing that I still struggle to really come to terms with.

Before transition, I never wanted to be a parent. A lot of people told me how good I’d be, but the whole idea left me really uneasy. Some of my excuses were rather blatant – like, “the world is overpopulated already”. Some of them had more authenticity to them; for example, I was scared of failing as a parent. I didn’t want to take the chance of ruining someone else’s childhood, when I recognised how difficult it had been for me to recover from mine.

As with so much in my life, my perspectives shifted when I transitioned. The actual source of that ill-at-ease feeling became incredibly obvious to me. Of course I’d had trouble seeing myself as a parent – because the role I was picturing was the wrong one. But to think of myself as a mother, instead – that didn’t feel out of place at all. And much of the doubt and insecurity subsided when I reached that point.

I felt like I had the self-awareness, and the understanding, and the willingness to always try to become better that would allow me to actually be a good parent. And the idea of raising kids in a way that would give them a good childhood, and enable them to become compassionate and generous human beings? I didn’t just feel like I could; I felt like I wanted to.

DanEvans / Pixabay

Of course, I can never bear children of my own. It tears at me, but it’s an immovable truth.

There are many infertile women in this world. Many infertile cis women, even.

There are other ways to have kids, too. Genetically related or not – it doesn’t even make that much of a difference, at the end.

If I do ever find a partner again, and learn to trust again, and find a way to take all those risks… well, maybe-just-maybe I could be that mom, and have that family.

The cruel irony in it is just that although so much of my trans experience and identity means I’d be better at it, it also makes it that much longer a shot.

And that’s a truth that applies to so many spheres of my life – there is so much that I’m better at (not least, my relationship with myself), but thefactors that led to that self-improvement are the same factors that act as barriers to opportunity.

skeeze / Pixabay

I suppose this is the real dichotomy at the center of it all – the coexistence I spoke of earlier. Peace and violence, calmness and turbulence, self-love and self-loathing. It’s not just an oscillation between two poles – it’s a contemporaneous, paradoxical occurrence, and it can be confusing and overwhelming.

This identity that I’m proud of, but also resentful of. The body that I both love and abhor. The determination and confidence that I can achieve great things, and the insecurity and doubt that tells me I never will. My capacity to be loved, and my misgivings over my own value.

That the better I become, the worse I get; sometimes in my own eyes, and sometimes in those of others.

Maybe that’s just the conflict I have to learn to live with.

But still, some days, I can’t help but wonder… “Does it ever get any simpler?”

IMG_20160512_235529My book, Always Anastacia, is available at booksellers across South Africa. If you don’t see it on shelves, ask your local bookstore. Also available worldwide through Amazon. And catch up on all the latest #AlwaysAnastacia news, including interviews, media appearances and extracts here. 

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