I just finished re-reading Boylan’s I’m Looking Through You, and it’s brought up something that’s really been on my mind lately. From page 256 of the hardcover:
Shell looked thoughtful. “I don’t know, Jenny. About ninety percent of the time, you seem like the happiest person I know. And then, every once in a while, I”ll catch you looking out a window like that. I don’t get it. How come you’re so sad, if you’re happy?”
“I don’t know, Shell. I said. I mulled it over. “I get tired sometimes, of being different.”
I wiped my eyes. “It’s like, I went through this whole amazing change, and at last I feel content, at last I feel whole. But what about that kid I used ot be? What about all those memories? That’s the one thing they can’t give you in surgery: a new history.”
I’ve been having a really hard time with that: how do I reconcile who I am now, who I want to be, with who I was?
The weight of that history, of the twenty-plus years I was living as male, feels like it’s overwhelming the ten months I’ve been living full-time as Rebecca.
Already ten months? Only ten months?
It feels like I, Rebecca, am spending each and every day putting down bricks, building a wall to defend against this boy or this man that I never wanted to be. Who keeps peeking over, around, pushing the wall over, screaming for attention.
I don’t do it as often anymore, but I used to have conversations in my head between myself and Rebecca, who was not yet “myself.” I thought of this because it’s something Boylan talks about having done – albeit in a slightly different way – in I’m Looking Through You. (I’m curious if this is common among trans individuals, or just among angsty teenagers in general.)
My conversations would usually start when I was feeling particularly stupid, or sad, or masculine. She’d start, this Rebecca that I imagined myself as in some alternate universe, speaking to me across the barrier which separated our realities: “You’re never going to be happy if you keep on like this.”
“Stop it.” I had no interest in hearing about what I should be doing, particularly from myself.
“I’m serious – you need to get off your ass! Go find a therapist! A doctor! Hormones!”
“I don’t want to hear it. Please stop.” It was true; the possibility that I could be doing something seemed, and seems, so tremendously tragic. That my pain and suffering was my own damn fault.
“Because I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to sit here and be sad. Sit here and wish things were different. Sit here.”
“Then why don’t you just kill yourself?” This line was always particularly seductive. Why not kill myself? Clearly, nothing was ever going to change. Friends would be happy, family would be happy, I wouldn’t. Maybe for brief moments, sunlight shining through the clouds, but never for long.
“Just do it. Kill yourself, and it’ll be over. You’re never going to be me.”
“Go away.” And she would, for a time.
She always came back.
Now that I am Rebecca, that I’ve crossed the barrier between realities, I’m realizing that I want to have those conversations more than I ever did when they were a regular occurrence. The fact that I can’t yell at myself across ten, fifteen, twenty years of time is an ache I didn’t realize I had. Because she was fucking right, all along: I could have gotten off my ass and done something about who I was, who I was going to be. I could have gone through puberty, correctly, the first time instead of needing an awkward and painful do-over ten years later. Erased and rewritten two decades of photographs and memories and stories and friendships.
It feels petty and immature, but I don’t want to have played the male love interest on stage, had my picture taken with the boys’ group at prom, hurt loved ones during my transition, been groped by someone who thought I was in drag, had to tell the same coming out explanation over and over and over, had (and continue) to struggle to figure out clothing and makeup and dating ten years after everyone around me. I don’t want to be, as Boyaln said, different.
I’m sitting in the present, looking back at a past frozen and permanently set, as if in impenetrable crystal, furious at myself, grieving for myself, regretting myself.
I’m ready to not be different, please.