The First Step, Part II

Well, my mother finally got the letter.  Her reaction was kind of a mixed bag.  Some of it made me hopeful (including the fact that she used my preferred name in the salutation), some of it not so much.  She appears to ignore or simply choose not to deal with some of the issues that i brought up in my letter, but there was a lot in there, so maybe that’s coming…  She also seemed more offended by the timing of the letter than anything else, which is odd, but not something that I could really do much about, because I put it in the mail for the very purpose of not allowing myself to wait for the “right time” and never finding one, and therefore never delivering it.  Unfortunately, it just happened to arrive the day after a big reception and tribute concert for her upcoming retirement, so it soured that experience for her.

She also has urged me in the letter and verbally to possibly resign from my school district and find a new professional direction.  She thinks that coming out publicly while working here will only end badly, with scandal.  i’ve done a lot of thinking on this subject, and i think my plan now is to teach one more school year (my Provisional Certification will last one more year) and transfer my academic program from the Master of Arts in Teaching to a Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education.  Not only will this allow me to work with students and keep up the aspects of teaching that have mattered most to me, but it will also qualify me to do so at the more generally accepting University level.

Also, when i get my driving privileges back, i’ll be able to get myself out of town more often and away from places where i am likely to run into people who would have professional consequences if they were to see me being more myself.  i’ll be able to escape the trapped feelings that i’ve had for most of this school year more often and release that pressure.  Between those two things, i think i’ll be able to manage things better, although a significant part of me still wants to just drop all the facades, come out publicly, deal with whatever scandal comes out, and at least set some kind of precedent in this area, rather than hiding for another whole year.  Because i shouldn’t have to.

Anyway, in the interest of fairness and equal representation, the full text of her response letter is below…

Dear Raiyne,

I am responding to your letter in sections, trying to untangle the sometimes discreet issues that you have woven together.

They are:

  • My love for you
  • Your disclosure to me about your gender
  • Your career path
  • Your financial responsibility
  • Your curious timing
  • Our relationship
  1. I love you unconditionally. Always have. Always will. “A mother’s love knows no bounds” is truly true. I’ll be loving you-always. The love and desire for the happiness-and yes- success of your children overshadows the urgency of almost anything else. You have no idea the pain it causes me to EVER see you suffer. And that you have been tormented for so long is heartbreaking to me too. An example that bears repeating is that each time you have had a seizure, the fear and hope for your well-being is devastating. I have so wished that I could take the seizure disorder away from you. I would gladly suffer it myself instead for you, but it doesn’t work that way. I mean it. Read these words again. No buts.
  1. I accept you for who you are. I don’t understand it, but I will make it my mission to educate myself about transgender to be able to better relate to you. You will need to be patient with me, and I am guessing your father, too, as the whole name thing is something that you have been contemplating for a long time, but for us this whole thing is brand new. We are human and it will take some time.
  1. Teaching public school in Southwest Missouri may not be for you. One of my concerns is the potential of career suicide if you handle this in certain ways. Even if you intend to leave education, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, I would not come out while I was employed with. You have until May 31 to resign without penalty. I suggest that you do so. This district remains in at least the last century in many ways. I would like to think I have made a difference in that area, but they may just humor me. Coming out at work will not end well. This area is not ready for that lesson. It would not be worth the pain and suffering, in my opinion. I agree, I think the parents would be the worst, but many of the staff would not be far behind. I don’t want to see you go through that misery. You don’t deserve that. If you’re intending to start over, start over. From what you’re saying, you will not be able to stay licensed after next school year anyway. And it doesn’t sound like you have that desire either. If you intend to quit, please submit a written resignation now so they have time to find someone. The district has been very good to you. But if you wish to stay, I suggest that you consider this: if I were mentally struggling with something that did not directly relate to my position, I would not see the relevance in sharing and making it public. Your private life is just that. I do not want to see you suffer for a cause that this area is not going to progress on yet. In time… things are changing in the world.Tolerance: Ignorance is hard to tolerate; so is narrow-mindedness. But should tolerance encompass these viewpoints? Or not? I struggle with that sometimes. It is hard to tolerate, but I believe those others considered ignorant and narrow-minded have the same rights too. If we profess tolerance, the respect cannot be based on judging their validity.
  2. When I say you need to grow up, it is about financial and work responsibility. I have seen you put less into the job this year than I would have predicted and it has troubled me greatly. This is because I know you could distinguish yourself, get a good reference, and move on to a place or position that you would find more suitable. As an administrator in this district and your mother, I tried to spark your enthusiasm and interest.

Financially, I am most shocked by the reality that you are once again on the hook for a great deal of money that will result in no benefit (credits) to you, but you have to pay anyway. I am pleased to hear that you are making progress and I believe you.

When I say you need to grow up, it is that basic attention to what I consider adult responsibility that I am referencing. Money isn’t everything, but I don’t know how to get along in this world without it. This has nothing to do with gender or my oppressiveness. It is a fact.

  1. The timing of your letter shows me a selfishness which saddens me. I am ending my career and this week have been honored for making a difference, in my life where there has been rarely been an hour that I have not questioned whether I made a difference at all. This insecurity may surprise you, maybe not. Last night was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that it would have been nice to absorb. Tonight, after returning from rehearsal, I would have loved to read all the facebook comments and have my moment.
    You chose that very time to bring my world crashing down around me with indictments of me that shame me. Your dad says that it bordered on cruel.
  1. If you have kept this torturous secret for such a long time, you might have allowed me to have my moment before you chose to unload this on me. But it feels like another person’s feelings do not enter into this equation. When this is all said and done, I hope you will be able to just for a moment reflect on how the timing of this letter affected another human being—your mother. I tell you this for your reflection in general. The examined life, reflected on for how to make it better, is very worthwhile.

Please do not do to me what you accuse me of: You do not know my heart and intentions. You, as we all do, interpret them through your own lens, and sometimes, as you know from experience, that can be mistaken. You had intertwined your great resentment of me into all of the issues, but I have tried to separate them. If you know me at all, you know that I have an urgency to see everyone be the best that they can be. Perhaps to you, success has seemed more important in my eyes than happiness. But that is not true. I believe that lack of success can be a great barrier to happiness. And if I could help remove that barrier, maybe I could assist you on a road to more happiness. You may not like that or agree with it, but it is true for me.

You say that I often ask one question too many. Perhaps you don’t remember that the last time a chain of lies was discovered, you asked us to press and ask more; you said it would help you try to be more honest and forthcoming. Did I misunderstand?

You don’t know me at all if you think that I “use emotions as a tool to discredit and dismiss the feelings of others.” I think most people who know me would say that I do quite the opposite and seek to understand. I have never and will never dismiss your feelings. And you cannot presume that I “never gave it a second thought.” That is the projection that you accuse me of.  I am very sorry you feel that way.

I am also very sorry if I have failed you in all these ways and probably many more.

I am hurt beyond measure, but this is not about me and I will get over it and hope to grow from it.

Words like lip service, violate boundaries, pry, invade, not your business, condescending attitude are not words spoken in love. I truly do not understand how you think I “completely disregard my self-destructing son.”  The pain this makes me feel is two-fold. I have attended to “stuff “with you so as not to invade your privacy in your very private life. I can help you with work, but feel helpless and without knowledge and tools when I don’t even get to know what is troubling you, so I opt for the pragmatic help.

I/we have helped and helped and helped and offered more rejected help. I want you healthy more than anything.

In conclusion and most importantly: How can I help you? Do you really feel that you are internally self-destructing? If we can’t help, can we help you find someone who can???

I love you. Re-read number 1 and 2 and repeat.

Love,

Mom

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, Emotion, Gender, Gender Fluid, LGBT, Transgender | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First Step

So i know i keep saying i’ll do better at keeping this thing updated and all of those repeated protestations of scheduling and such, but i think a big part of the problem has been that i needed to write something else.  i have needed to write something else for months, perhaps years–something that has been floating in a few different pieces in my brain for various lengths of time.  Anyway, i think it’s been part of what has been clogging up my writing process for so long, and i’ve finally done something about it.  i’ve written it.

Essentially, the form this took was a ten-and-a-half-page long novella of a letter to my mother.  i needed to clear the air on a few different things with her that have been in our history for many years.  i have also been increasingly torn up by the necessity of living a double life out of fear for what might happen to me professionally if i were to be outed by someone else.  So instead of waiting for someone else to do it to me, i’ve decided to come out myself and see what happens (and that way be prepared and not get completely flat-footed if i have to remake certain aspects of my life in order to live my truth).  This letter was Step 1 in that process.  i have since printed it and sent it via conventional mail, so it is now out of my hands.  It is done, and the trepidation i feel about the eventual reaction is increasingly outstripped by the feeling of freedom and release for having finally done what needed to be done.  i will post the full text of the letter below with proper names obscured.

Dear Mom,

Please read this letter in its entirety before taking any action.  I was prepared to never have this conversation with you.  I had pretty much convinced myself that both of our lives would be easier if I could just hold out and keep it to myself long enough.  You would retire, you and Dad would move out of state, the necessity of constant up close and personal interaction would fade, and I would be free to be more fully myself in your absence.  During the holiday times, when we would inevitably come together in person, I would be able to put the mask back on, if just for the few days that we were in each other’s company.  That way we could maintain a peaceful relationship without the awkward tension of what I’m going to tell you in this letter ever being a problem.

However, events, deep-seated emotions, depression, and a lot of serious thought over the past couple of months have necessitated that I rethink this position.  I will need to do something about the situation in which I have found myself much sooner than I had anticipated even a few short months ago.  As a result, there’s pretty much no way to avoid you hearing about this anyway once I pull the trigger on what I feel I need to do.  This process is going to result in a lot of unspoken emotions and baggage coming to the surface, so I’m writing this letter instead of confronting the issue in person because I have difficulty dealing directly with uncomfortable issues with you in person.

Before I go any further, please understand that I know that everything you do in regards to me and our relationship comes from a place of love.  I know that you want to help me, and that you do truly love me.  Because of our history, including things that are out of my control entirely and things that I could have handled better at the time, your love has been colored by fear, worry, and disappointment.  Moreover, it seems to me that your fears, worries, and disappointments have become so powerful that they have taken control of your emotional reactions and have taken you to a place where you have become overzealous.  You invade privacy, you violate boundaries, and you often ask that one question too many that pushes you from the realm of curious inquiry into intimidating inquisition.  Even though you have the best of intentions at heart, the level of invasiveness makes it difficult for me to be honest with you.  You push and you push and you push, and I retreat into a shell of silence and lies, because I know that if I give you the wrong answer it’s just going to become another incident.  I feel cornered and my fear and anxiety take over.  It’s a fight or flight response, and as we both know, I’ve never been much for fighting, so I instinctively choose flight.

That’s why this letter is addressed specifically to you and not to both you and Dad.  I feel more comfortable around Dad.  I feel like I could tell Dad almost literally any possible thing, and he would accept me and try to help me move on.  He would probably need some time to process emotionally in some (or even many cases), but after taking that time he would be there for me without character judgement to support me in whatever direction I decided I needed to go.  The problem is that if I tell Dad anything, it generally comes back to you, and I don’t feel that safety with you.  You pay lip service to the idea of supporting me no matter what, and I think you think you really mean it, but your actions have not borne that out historically.  Instead of focusing on how to make the future right, your focus is on the transgressions that have taken place in the present and the past.  This has become such a driving force for you that it gives the impression that nothing is ever truly forgiven in your world.  Literally everything I’ve ever done wrong is fodder for the failure hit parade that seems to always get dragged out every time something goes wrong.  You never seem to move on, and that doesn’t allow me to move on.

The other key difference between you and Dad is that Dad says he just wants to see me happy, but you say that you just want to see me successful, and what you really mean is that you just want to see me successful according to your personal, limited definition of what success looks like—a definition with which I often find myself disagreeing.  This can furthermore be seen in the fact that you ask me if I’m taking care of business and pry and prod and poke at me over that.  When you ask me how I’m feeling and I give you a throwaway answer, you rarely pry, prod, or poke at that.  I’m not saying that I want you to; I would really rather you never pried, prodded, or poked at all.

What I’m saying is that your focus is on my success, whatever the emotional cost to me might be.  You place the practical concerns over the emotional ones, even when the emotional concerns often have a profound effect on the practical ones.  This is why you are able to worry about <sister>’s emotional state but completely disregard your internally self-destructing son.  You have accepted <sister>’s practical and material success as a given (and for good reason, as there is pretty much no possible way she won’t be successful, at this point, and I am just as proud of her for that as you are), so that allows you to worry that she’s having emotional difficulties and “burning out.”

Well, you know what?  I’ve been burning out for most of this year, but you haven’t seemed to notice or give a damn about that.  You may say that <sister> has bigger concerns and larger problems, and that may be true.  You may say that I should just suck it up and take care of my practical responsibilities regardless of my emotional state—it’s something you seem to be fairly adept at.  I’m not cut from the same cloth as you.  My emotional state is all-consuming, and while I may have learned how to conceal it after years of bullying by peers in elementary and junior high school, it is not in my personal make-up to be able to be able to engage in such emotional subduction for extended periods of time.  I cannot function when I cannot feel, and it always catches up with me.  You may see this as weakness, but in an odd way, I actually see it as a strength.

But now I’ve gone on an extended tangent and lost the original thrust of this letter (although some of that is material I’ll probably come back to later), so I’m going to try to get it back on topic.  By now you’ve figured out that I’ve been lying to you again.  The truth is that on some level I don’t think I’ve ever stopped lying.  There has almost always been something that I have felt the need to keep shrouded from you.  I’ve explained my basic reasons for it above, but it generally comes down to the simple fact that you almost always ask at least one question too many.  You take me out of my comfort zone, into an area where I don’t want to share everything, and where it frankly becomes not your business anymore.  They say that you should never ask a question you don’t want the answer to, so maybe it’s time I give you exactly what you want.  Time to open up completely and let it all come tumbling out.  Maybe if I clear the air between us, we can start to rebuild whatever relationship we have left.

Let’s start with the most recent stuff.  You already know that I’m not as on top of my finances as I’ve said.  Well, the truth of the matter is that I’m not as on top of my academics as I’ve said, either.  I’ve basically let everything slide with my Master’s Degree this semester.  I told you that I turned in that big paper, the MoPTA, that I told you I need to write.  I actually haven’t written a single word on it.  My student teaching observations did get done, but only because my observer came here and found me and did the observations.  To be completely and totally honest, I’ve been completely rethinking public K-12 education as a career.  This is mainly because I’ve also spent the entirety of this past school year (and the summer before it) rebuilding my entire sense of self.  The result of this has been a boiling cauldron of stress and anxiety and depression that have permeated almost my entire existence for the majority of the last nine or ten months.

The reason for all of this stress, anxiety, and depression while working to reconstruct my entire understanding of my own existence is because I came to a realization over the summer.  Mom, I’m Transgender.  To be more specific, I am Gender Fluid, a non-binary gender identity that is neither wholly male nor wholly female.  Basically, if you think of gender as a continuum between being entirely male and entirely female, I kind of float around in the middle ground in terms of my internal gender identity.  And I’ve never really felt entirely comfortable identifying as a man, to tell the truth.  But I also didn’t feel like I was entirely a woman either, so even though I had had thoughts that I might be Trans from time to time, it never really presented itself seriously until recently, when I was reading and discovered that there was such a thing as non-binary Transgender identities.  Suddenly everything clicked.  It felt like coming home.  In the time since then, I’ve been attending meetings of a couple of Transgender support groups that meet in Springfield (I’ve been getting rides to and from with other group members since my driving privileges went by the board).  So that’s another lie that I’ve been telling you, because that’s what I’ve been doing most Sundays.  I haven’t been going to Freethinker events every week.

So why did it cause such stress and anxiety?  The simple answer is my job.  I’m Trans, and that sort of thing isn’t the most accepted thing around here, to put it mildly.  I’ve heard of other Trans people who have lost jobs, careers, friendships, even been disowned by family simply for being Transgender.  These concepts have made it so that I feel like I have to live in fear, putting on a mask and hiding my true self and constantly being wary about betraying too much, being outed, and losing everything.  To be perfectly frank, I’m not that scared of how my students would react.  Young people are increasingly more and more accepting of people in the LGBT community as time goes by.  I’m not even that directly worried about colleagues or administration.  What scares me the most is the potential (and probable) caterwauling uproar that would be raised by parents if my true identity were to be made public.

So I hide myself away, only allowing the real me to come out when I am alone or among friends who know of my gender identity.  It has come to the point that I am not myself more than I am myself, and I have found myself pulling away from the idea of staying in education if this is really the life that I will continue to live in this career.  I won’t survive it.  So I’ve made a decision.  Instead of continuing to run and hide, I’m going to meet this challenge head on.  If being Trans is going to lose me my job as a teacher, then so be it.  I’m done hiding.  I plan to come out publicly, to own myself and finally live my truth.  If I lose my job as a result, I am in a position where I could switch gears academically and move into a more accepting field.  If I do not, then it will fill me with a newfound sense of enthusiasm for this career field, and I will be all the better for it.  Either way, living in this world of uncertainty is eating me from the inside out, and I need to make a change.  I have sent an e-mail the professor in charge of my MoPTA, who is also one of the main professors in charge of the MAT program itself, explaining this situation and why I have fallen behind in my classwork.  I have yet to hear back from him, but his response will also help me to determine where to go with this in the future.

I am writing this letter primarily to inform you of this particular fact.  I am working on the beginnings of my social transition.  I have yet to determine if I will undergo any sort of physical transition, but I have no plans to do so any time in the very near future.  However, as part of my social transition, I have chosen a new first name by which I would like to be addressed: Raiyne.  I know this will be a difficult adjustment for you; you’ve known me as <legal name> for all of my life—you even gave me the name in the first place—and I understand.  Choosing this name was an incredibly long, very detailed, and extremely personally meaningful process that I will spare you from having to read over right now, but it is a name that I feel more closely reflects the person I am.  Also, please use the non-gender-specific pronouns “they, them, their, etc.” when referring to me in the third person from now on.  I know that this is a lot to take in and learn on such short notice, but if you can work toward making this transition with me and addressing me by my preferred name and pronouns, it will make me feel loved, accepted, and respected.

Now, before you try to explain it away or find a way to dismiss it, let me tell you that I’ve thought through just about every possible objection there is to this, and they all pretty much fail out of hand.  I’m not delusional, and this is not a recent development—I can remember specific instances going back to my childhood where I danced on the continuum between male and female to one degree or another.  Hell, one of the reasons I got bullied in school was because I acted in ways unbefitting their idea of male children.  So when I got a little older and started internalizing gender roles a bit more, I pushed all of my non-male feelings down and acted as male as I possibly could, even turning up my nose at things that might be considered “girly” even when I might possibly enjoy them.

Furthermore, this is not the product of anxiety, depression, or any other mental disorder.  I know this, because I first started really looking into this at one of the times that I have been most satisfied with my life in a long time; I had just gotten officially accepted into the MAT program, my provisional certification had gone through, and I’d just gotten a new job as an actual classroom teacher.  Things were good.  But they weren’t really, because I still hadn’t confronted this aspect of my identity.

I am also not just doing this for attention or to feel “special.”  There are plenty of other ways I could go about doing that with much less wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Why would I willingly choose to out myself with an identity that experiences one of the highest rates of suicide and murder out of any subgroup of humanity in this country?  Why would I willingly potentially throw away my entire career as it has stood heretofore just for the cheap and fleeting thrill of being the momentary center of attention?  No.  This is me, and it’s not going away.

Finally, please don’t simply dismiss this out of hand because it doesn’t jive with your vision of what I “should be.”  You did that years ago when I told you that I was bisexual.  You asked me how I knew and if I had ever had a male partner.  I was uncomfortable and a little bit offended that you felt the need to ask that question in order for me to “legitimize” my sexual orientation, so at the time I lied and told you no.  It seemed like the safe answer at the time, and that thought seemed like it was confirmed years later when you reacted to the fact that I was having sex with <The Woman> with such scorn and disapprobation, but in the long run it has been a mistake, because it allowed you to dismiss and ignore the fact of my bisexuality.

So here’s the truth.  I’ve had sex.  I’ve had sex with more than just <The Woman>.  I’ve had sex with multiple different partners of various genders over the years, and even sometimes with multiple partners at the same time.  I’m not ashamed of it, and I have only hidden it from you because I know that our sexual mores do not see eye to eye.  For me, sex can be the most intimate sharing of self that is possible between individual human beings, but it can also be a fun way to pass a few hours and achieve a healthy physical release; it’s all in what the individuals involved are looking for, and it’s on those individuals to openly communicate those desires and needs.  That being said, I haven’t been stupid about it.  I have always used protection, and I get myself STD tested periodically (still no STDs, by the way).  I do everything in my power to be conscious of and minimize the potential risks.

You tell me that you want me to grow up.  You tell me that I need to be an adult and take care of business.  Well this is what it’s going to start looking like for me.  My adulthood may not conform to your vision of what adulthood should be, but the good news for both of us is that it doesn’t have to.  My adulthood is whatever I define it to be, as it is for every other individual on the planet.  Do I have things I need to work on with myself still?  Absolutely, and I like to think that even though I still backslide on them from time to time I am continuing to make progress.  For example, I have not once been overdrawn in my bank account in the five years since I came back to Branson from Columbia.  Not.  Once.  I have maintained a credit card responsibly, keeping it below the limit and paying it down to zero almost every month since becoming a teacher and paying more than the minimum due every single month since even before then.  I am making progress, and treating me like every mistake is a sign that I have made no progress whatsoever is unfair and disrespectful.

Moreover, it is true that I engage in recreation more than you think I should.  I go and have “playtime” as you like to sneeringly call it in your attempts to further infantilize my lifestyle.  Well consider this.  During my “playtime,” I have made lasting and incredibly close friendships.  I have developed a “family of choice” that often feels closer and more loving than my blood relations.  Between my weekly D&D nights, Pub Quiz, and the Freethinkers and support groups that I have been attending, I have created an overlapping and strong support network that I know values me and accepts me for whoever I am while also taking an opportunity for much needed stress relief and relaxation.  Simply put, my “playtime” has literally saved my life.  That is not hyperbole.

I hope that you have read this letter in its entirety.  I know you are probably feeling very hurt, and likely quite offended, by much of what I have said here.  I also know that you have a tendency to focus on the emotions you are feeling and use them as a tool to discredit and dismiss the feelings of others.  The last time we had a difficult conversation in person like this and I spoke the truth and tried to express how intimidated and emotionally unsafe you make me feel, your response was that you were hurt and offended, as if the mere fact that you felt that way automatically made me wrong.  You then dismissed everything I said and never gave it a second thought.  I urge you in this case not to do that.  Your hurt feelings are valid.  I have kept much from you and kept you from knowing the real me for many years.  However, your hurt feelings do not make my hurt feelings any less valid.

To that end, I have a request.  Please take my words to heart.  Re-read this letter as many times as you need to, and do not call me or try to get into contact with me right away.  Allow your emotions to cool a bit so that you can really interface with what I have told you in this letter.  When you feel ready, if you want to have a conversation in person about this, I will be willing on a couple of conditions.  First, come to the conversation with an open mind and free of judgement.  Take me as I am, because that is all that I can be.  Second, do not try to rationalize or dismiss me.  Speak with me as a fellow adult and not as a child to be corrected.  If you come to the conversation with a dismissive or condescending attitude, I will leave the room.

Finally, if you decide that the hurt is too much and that you can no longer bear to have me as family, I will understand.  It will hurt like hell, but I will understand.  You have often used the words “I know you hate me” during difficult conversations as a way to disarm my replies, but please know that that cannot be further from the truth.  If I truly hated you, I would be able to dismiss your rejections and criticisms out of hand, rather than being emotionally derailed by them for hours at a time.  I can’t do that, so if this ends our relationship, it will hurt me more than you know, but I will understand.  If you no longer wish to have me along on the Alaska cruise, I will also understand, and will work to repay you for the ticket.  I hope that we can move on from this and rebuild, but I will understand if we cannot.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I’m truly sorry for the hurt that I have caused you.  I love you, Mom.

Posted in Anxiety, Bisexuality, Depression, Emotion, Gender, Gender Fluid, LGBT, Transgender | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Other People’s Work: “Why I’m Angry: An Anti-Theist’s 78 Reasons”

[Author’s Note: i promise i’ll start posting original content on here again soon.  (i know, you’ve heard this before from me…)]

This is a well-put-together list that very much jives with my own feelings on many of the subjects addressed.  It makes a nice companion to Greta Christina’s excellent book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, as well.  I encourage all of my readers to go check out both Greta’s book and this blog entry (as well as the rest of barrierbreaker’s material).

“Why I’m Angry: An Anti-Theist’s 78 Reasons”

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Other People’s Work: “7 Ways To Show Love To Someone With Anxiety/Depression”

comingout3x:

So much this! Thank you for writing this!

Originally posted on Be Brave, and Talk:

The hardest people to love are the ones who need it most.

In honour of Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas for showing love to friends and family members with anxiety/ depression:

1.) Give Compliments:

Chances are, someone who suffers from anxiety/depression also struggles with self esteem. Help her challenge her feelings of self loathing by giving her sincere, specific compliments. Being specific is really important, because it will make her more likely to remember what you said later. It will also make her more likely to believe you. For example, instead of saying, “You’re a good mom,” you could say something more meaningful: “You are so patient with your children. I love how you encourage them to keep trying. They are so lucky to have you.”
One thoughtful, genuine compliment has more power than 10 careless comments that feel like flattery. Put your heart into what you say.

2.)…

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It’s Not Quite Dead (Name) Yet…

[Author’s Note: So apparently a month between posts was too short, and i decided to go for a month and a half this time…  Seriously, though, i really do intend to make an effort to post more regularly on here.  i’ve just had a lot of stress and, to be perfectly honest, major depression lately, and (as tends to happen when i get really depressed) everything got jammed up in my brain.  On top of that, i’ve been working on staying ahead of myself this semester with both work school and class school, and not quite succeeding at that.  And in my leisure time i’ve been trying to create my own campaign setting for 5th Edition D&D.  i could try to use any or all of that as an excuse for my lack of sitting down and writing on this blog, but the fact remains that i’ve had six consecutive days off from work (last weekend plus four snow days), and i’ve spent most of that time mindlessly playing World of Warcraft or watching my backlog of episodes on Hulu.  The truth is that i really have no excuse; i just can’t seem to motivate myself to really do anything productive (or even semi-productive, like writing on this blog), and every time i feel like i’m starting to crack the shell of this massive mental block, it re-solidifies before i press the advantage.  Anyway, i’ll probably follow this up soon with a news update from the past month and a half.  Right now, i’ve got something that’s been sticking in my brain for a little while, and i’m going to try to use that to get some writing momentum built up…]

Many of my readers already know this, but for those who might not, here’s a quick background for what i’m about to write.  Among the Transgender community, names can be a tenuous subject.  It’s a part of the process for many Trans individuals to discard their given name and choose or create a new one that better reflects their actual self.  Their chosen name then becomes their real name for all practical purposes (and all purposes whatsoever, if and when they legally change it), and the old given name of the wrong gender is generally referred to as their “dead name.”  The term also has a verb usage–when someone dead names you, it refers to them calling you by your dead name instead of your chosen real name.  This becomes a serious issue, especially in the case of family members or others who outright refuse to refer to a person by their real name and insist on continuously dead naming them.  To say that this is considered to be quite insensitive would be an exercise in extreme understatement.

An extra layer of complication is often added in cases such as mine.  i am not out publicly, mostly for professional reasons, as i have explained in previous posts.  Because my public persona is still living under my old given name, i am actually addressed by it more often than i am by my chosen name.  i work five days a week, and my old name is pretty much all i get during that time (along with being called “Mr. ______” and “sir” by students, which doesn’t really help).  Even much of my leisure activity during the week is dominated by my old name.  Most of the crowd at the various structured leisure activities i attend on a weekly basis are not aware of my chosen name at all.  i only really get my chosen name on anything approaching a consistent basis on Sundays, when i go to my support groups.

As a result, my chosen name often still feels a little odd to my ear.  i definitely prefer it, but it isn’t the name i usually am addressed by by any stretch of the imagination.  So my “dead name” really isn’t dead yet, and i haven’t gotten to a point, either professionally or emotionally, where i feel offended by having it used by others.  They don’t know any better, so how can i fault them?  (Beyond the fact that they tacitly prop up a societal structure that makes me live in fear of revealing myself fully to the world, that is…)  i’m just… used to it, and i can’t really consider my given name a dead name.  Not yet…  Maybe not really ever, if i stay in public education…

This makes for an interesting mental state for me, where i don’t even feel hurt when someone who should know better accidentally refers to me by my old name (it happens… not often, but everyone makes mistakes now and then… especially the ones that knew me by my old name before my chosen name).  i don’t feel justified considering the old name a dead name when it is still the name that i am called by for at least 80% of my day-to-day life.  Would i like that to change?  Yes.  Do i see that as happening in the near future?  No, probably not.

So what is the best way to proceed with this?  In a perfect world, i would be able to explain to everyone with whom i have contact that my old name is no longer my preferred form of address.  i could also comfortably introduce myself to new people using my new name.  Unfortunately, it is not a perfect world, and the constraints i have placed on myself for professional reasons (while admittedly at least somewhat arbitrary and mostly self-imposed) still apply to my situation and are unlikely to change soon, if at all.  So i guess i just have to grin and bear it for the time being, which, since i haven’t been able to have the chance to truly acclimate to the old name being dead, won’t be too absolutely horrible, i guess…

It’s just yet another reason for me to wish i was in a more understanding geographical region than here in the buckle of the Bible Belt…

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Quickies: News Update 1/7/15 – UPDATED

Well, i had my neurologist appointment yesterday morning, and it was pretty good.  To begin with, the doctor said that my breakthrough seizure was probably at least partly due to my medication change, and my feeling fine since is more than likely a good sign.  he was also able to allay many of my parents’ fears about me living alone, and as of last night i am back to staying at the house that i am housesitting.

i also read some more information about the high degree of co-morbidity of epilepsy and depression.  It’s apparently over 50%, and can be really severe in some cases.  It also has a tendency to present in somewhat unique ways when it comes to epileptic individuals, including periods of less-depressed mood, or even euphoria, when external events are not so bad–and this gives my “unclassified bipolar” diagnosis from a few years back new context.  It isn’t necessarily that i have a  unique form of bipolar disorder that makes me fluctuate between manic and depressive phases rapidly (sometimes multiple times during a given day).  It’s more that the combination of epilepsy and depression create this unique state of affairs in my mind.

In other news, i have, of course, gone back to work at the school, and i am still feeling ambivalent at best about teaching.  i feel like my motivation and energy in the classroom are really suffering from this, but i can’t seem to shake this existential crisis in which i’ve found myself.  i have, however, been toying with another alternative to the ones that i had been thinking about…  i’m sorely tempted to just say “Fuck it all,” drop all of my pretenses, come out publicly, and let the professional chips fall where they may.

This temptation is even stronger since a conversation that i had with a student toward the end of the school day yesterday.  As i was roaming around the room keeping an eye on my seventh hour class, i overheard the word “Transgender” in a conversation.  When i asked what they were talking about, the student revealed to me that she had a cousin in kindergarten in my district who is a Trans girl.  She also told me that the school district is accepting her as a girl and accommodating her needs.  This was a reassuring thing to hear, especially after my principal essentially told me to watch my back in becoming the faculty advisor for the Gay-Straight Alliance that a student is working to form at the high school.

So i still don’t know what to do or think about my life right now, but there’s definitely a part of me that would love to just be myself and let whatever happens happen.  At the very least, it would ease some of this knotted up tension that feels like it’s killing me from the inside out…

UPDATE: 5:00 PM

Well, so much for that bit of positivity.  This afternoon i had another breakthrough seizure.  This one happened in front of students during my seventh hour class.  Luckily, my students reacted very well and sympathetically.  A couple went to get help from the office and the teacher across the hall, and another one who happens to be a first responder helped get me into a safe position and kept an eye on me until the seizure passed.

The upshot, however, is that i’m back to being stuck at my parents’ house, at least for the time being, and my neurologist doesn’t think i should go back to work until he’s had a chance to see me once again.  To that end, i have another appointment scheduled for Friday at 11:00 AM.  Hopefully the doctor will clear me to live alone again, because this really fucking sucks.

…shit.

Posted in LGBT, Life, Personality, Psychology, Quickies | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Not a Great Way To Start a New Year

[Author’s Note: Well, i’ve done it again… i’ve gone basically a full month without posting yet again, completely failing at posting with anything approaching regularity.  Maybe i need to make that one of my New Year’s Goals (i won’t say “Resolution,” because that would clearly doom it to failure, and we writers are “a superstitious and cowardly lot…”).  Alright, i hereby make it a goal to post at least one thing a week, with additional “Quickies” as they occur to me.  Let’s see how long that lasts…  Anyway, i’ve been having a lot of feelings lately, and things have been a bit eventful in my life, so there’s a lot of stuff rattling around in my head once again.  i’m not sure if some of it is worth writing about, because a lot of it seems “whiny-boo-hoo-cry-me-a-river-people-have-worse-problems-than-you” to me, but the fact is that these things are really bringing me down right now, and i need to get them out of my head and onto a “page.”  This one, like the last one, has taken a number of days to complete.  i have such trouble getting all of this out even in writing, because there’s just so much emotion, so many thoughts, so much mental clutter, that it’s like it clogs up my brain, creating a sort of mental logjam that stops up the flow of everything, and toward the end i really kind of went into a mental spiral.  Trigger Warning: Suicide/Suicidal Ideation (again)]

Well, Happy New Year, i guess…  December wasn’t a great month, and to be honest, January hasn’t started off all that well, either.  Though one of the few positives that has come out of the time since my last post is that i have finally settled on a new non-binary name for myself.  i will probably miss “simon” a bit… it was one of the first pseudonyms i ever used, as well as one of my first RPG character names, and i will probably continue to use the name for characters in my writing.  But i am now Raiyne, and though i am not changing it publicly or professionally, i feel like Raiyne is my name now more than the one that most people know me by (though i’m still a little bit in the getting used to answering to it phase).  As nice (and as big) a step as the whole settling on a name thing was, though, the majority of the past month really hasn’t been wonderful for me.

To begin with, i’ve been getting more comfortable in my role as a teacher, but the more comfortable i become, the less convinced i become that K-12 education is the right professional home for me.  The fact is that working in any educational job will necessitate a certain level of exposure to the public eye, but working in K-12 education is one of the most fishbowl careers in education.  Not only are the students and administrators watching you, but the parents are also heavily involved and very vocal about their views of you as a teacher and as a person.  The upshot of this is that i will probably never be able to be fully myself, i will never be able to fully pursue my desire for personal authenticity… for my outer life to honestly reflect my inner life, as long as i am working in public education at the K-12 level.  And honestly, the more i think about it, the more i wonder if it’s really where i want to spend the rest of my professional life.

But at the same time, i’m not sure what the best alternative would be.  My problem has always been that my interests range so widely that it is difficult to pick a direction and maintain it indefinitely without feeling that other aspects of myself are getting short changed by the decision.  If i stay in education, though, it is pretty clear that i will have to sooner or later get a more secure educational career, such as teaching at the college or university level.  Even then, though, is that something in which i will be satisfied?  i don’t know.  They say that your ideal career is the thing that you would do with your life if money were no object.  i’ve been doing a lot of thinking along those lines lately.  If i didn’t have to worry about supporting myself financially, what would i do?  There are a few possible answers to this question.

One thing i might do if i didn’t have to worry about financial health would be to stay in school and never come out.  Basically, i think i could live a very fulfilling existence stringing together degrees like paper dolls.  It would also allow me to pursue all of my various interests over the course of many years and truly live up to my Renaissance Person self-conception.  Without a regular income, however, there is basically no way i could keep taking classes indefinitely and paying tuition and student expenses.  i have enough trouble with that on my current salary as it is.

Another thing i might do if i didn’t have to worry about fiscal responsibility is to actually focus on my writing.  i’ve always dreamed of writing novels, and it would be really great to be able to afford to work from home full time as a novelist (ha ha ha), reading and writing and improving my craft as i tell the stories that are in my brain but tend to have trouble getting out because of all the stress in my current existence.  It would just really be nice if we had the sort of society that could actually support artistic endeavors like that, but unfortunately i live in the United States, where the profit motive drives everything, and simply being a living human being doesn’t mean shit.

And that’s another thing.  i’ve got a really strong drive inside me for activism (in several different sociopolitical areas).  As a public school teacher, i can’t do too much activism of any kind, really.  i want to be out there, promoting intersectionality issues, but i have to hide that part of myself in my current job, as well.  i’m sick of having to hide the better parts of myself because of the ignorance and intolerance of so much of the public, parents especially, who could, and likely would, clamor for my job loss if they caught wind of my true nature.  i want to actually do something to advance the social justice causes that i hold near and dear to my heart, and whose current states of affairs often make me want to just rage-quit the world.

All of these ideas make for nice, pie-in-the-sky thoughts, but in reality i cannot see how i would even start to accomplish any of them.  i am not independently wealthy, or able to ignore the financial issues that still plague me, the student loan debt that i may never get out from under entirely, or the fact that i will be essentially chained to a pill bottle by my epilepsy for the rest of my life, and if i’m going to be able to afford that, i will need some kind of employment with health insurance.  i feel like i may have painted myself into a corner here, and i don’t know what the right thing to do is.  It seems like no matter what change needs to be made, if i’m going to find the direction in which i need to go, i’m going to have to take some sort of “leap of faith,” stepping off into nothingness without a safety net to catch me if i fail.  And at this point i’ve made so many abortive attempts at starting the course of the rest of my life, that i don’t think i have any faith in myself left.

On top of that, i’ve had yet another breakthrough seizure.  This time it was on a full dose of my medications, too–i hadn’t missed a pill at all.  It was Christmas Eve, and i had gone to church with my family because it’s the one service i still allow them to drag me to out of sheer diplomacy.  Up in the choir loft, the temperature was oppressively hot that night, so that may have been part of what triggered it, combined with the stress of having to be around my emotionally taxing family, with whom i am not in the least bit out of the closet, and who misgender me and call me by the wrong name because they honestly don’t know the real me.  i will probably never let them see a completely unedited version of myself, because i truly believe that they would not understand, and it would be yet another thing that they would lash out against and be passive aggressive about and be ashamed of me for.  As much as i may wish i could tell them everything sometimes, i most likely never will, and a part of me is very comfortable with that concept.

The problem is that this new seizure hasn’t just set back the date of my return from February 5 to March 24.  It has also severely freaked out my parents about the entire concept of my living alone and independently, and they are essentially keeping me in their house, unable to return to the house that i’ve been housesitting for the past couple months, until i can get in to see my neurologist on Tuesday.  This means that i’ve been stuck in this stressful environment for much longer than i otherwise would have this holiday season.  My sister left town on the 30th, and if i could have, i would have gone back over to the other house on that day, but they’ve gone into total helicopter-parent mode, to the point that i have been asked to inform them every time i enter or exit the shower, so that they know i’m not drowning in an inch of water.

This came to a head the other day, because (in a very unwise moment) i confided some of my feelings on this subject to my father.  For some reason i forgot that i can’t actually tell him anything in confidence, because he always goes and blabs to my mother.  The resulting one-sided conversation essentially consisted of my mother telling me what an immature human being i am (this is her standard refrain for anything i do that she doesn’t agree with; essentially, she’s created this comfortable overarching narrative that rationalizes all of her feelings and behaviors as being completely reasonable and any objections or choices i make that differ from her to be evidence of my enduring immaturity and unwillingness to become a grown up human being), bringing in all of the other things that i do that she considers “childish” (such as going and playing D&D during the week instead of being a professional automaton until the weekend like she is), and taking it incredibly personally that i would ever object to a single fucking thing she did from “a place of love.”

She also informed me that she wasn’t “holding me against my will,” and that i could go back over to the other place if i really wanted to, but that really wasn’t true, and i think deep down she probably realized it.  If i had decided to go back over there instead of toeing her line and staying until after my appointment, it would have just been more evidence and material for her to use in her passive aggressive emotionally manipulative bullshit that, even though i know that’s exactly what it is, still fucking kills me on the inside whenever she does it.

Amid all of this loveliness came the story of Leelah Alcorn (link is to a Daily Mail story, TW: Suicide, and the article itself doesn’t misgender Leelah, but quotes a person who does), and it hit me really hard, and it hit me pretty close to home.  To be fair, my family is nowhere near as extreme as Leelah’s.  If i were to come out to them, i doubt that they would completely cut me off from my friends, and they would definitely not try to make me go to reparative therapy, but i also know that they wouldn’t accept me for who i am (when i tried to come out to them as bi/pansexual, they asked me how i knew i was, and then pretty much dismissed the whole thing when i retreated into a lie, no longer feeling safe to talk to them, that i hadn’t done any actual experimentation).

What really hit close to home with Leelah’s story, though, was the manner in which she killed herself.  She jumped in front of a semi truck.  In my times when i have thought most seriously about suicide, including some of my recent episodes of ideation, this was one of the ways i thought about doing it… impulsively throwing myself in front of a large vehicle at the last possible second, so that the driver wouldn’t have time to react and brake.  Seeing that someone else chose this method really sent me into a bit of a tailspin for a couple of days.  Yet, on another level, knowing that my problems aren’t on nearly the same scale as hers were, it feels almost like i am disrespecting and dishonoring her memory to even think about comparing anything about my life with hers…

What with all of this coming together, i’ve been in a really bad place mentally and emotionally.  i’ve come close a couple of times to calling the Trans Lifeline, and a couple of times i’ve even toyed with the idea of having myself committed, at least for a little while, but i always manage to push these feelings down by focusing on something else for a while.  They never really go away, though.  They’re always there in some way or another in the background.  i think i’ve come through the worst of it, but the depression is still very much there.

All of this is despite the fact that i know that i don’t have it as bad as many others, even because of it in a strange, opposite day sort of way.  i know that my problems are not nearly as bad as so many people–my family of birth isn’t so far out there that they would actively try to damage me for who and what i am, i am the recipient of white privilege, ability privilege, even male privilege because i’m non-binary and mostly closeted–and others have cited this same concept as a way that they gained perspective and realized that their problems weren’t so bad after all.

It doesn’t seem to work that way for me, though.  Try as i might to recontextualize my emotions in this way, it never helps me feel any better.  And when i realize that i’m not feeling any better about my issues even though they don’t hold a candle to others, i hate myself, because i am clearly so incredibly selfish that i can’t see beyond my own comparatively petty concerns.  My family of birth may not be the most supportive people ever, but i still have the family of choice who i have referenced in earlier posts who i know love me and want nothing but my happiness and inner peace, but i somehow can’t make myself feel better because of it, because all i can see even with all of this is the negative side of my life and my own problems and depression.  And i feel like, if my problems aren’t on the same par with those of others, and i have these support systems that truly do exist, that i am unworthy of even toying with the concept of having the idea of suicidal thoughts… but that just makes me feel even worse still.

This is only intensified when i think about the fact that i am non-binary and living mostly in the closet.  As a non-binary person, i will most likely never be in a position where i can’t simply present as male and have cisgender passing privilege.  But a part of me rebels against this very idea on principle.  While it’s true that i benefit from presenting as male, is it really a privilege to have to hide?  Is it really a privilege to publicly deny my true nature in order to avoid personal and professional repercussions?  It may be practically indistinguishable from the outside, but on the inside it feels more like a cage than a privilege.  It feels like i am trapping myself inside the confines of my biological sex, like i am choosing to suppress my true self and hide in a prison of my own making because it is “safer.”  It feels like utter cowardice, and i would truly like nothing more than to shake off these self-imposed chains, chains that paradoxically empower me in society while destroying me emotionally.

i’m tired of hiding.  i’m tired of betraying myself in order to keep a career that i’m not even sure i belong in so that i can afford to keep myself healthy and at least somewhat independent.  i’m tired of compromising myself for practical expediency.  i hate it, and i hate myself for living in fear and cowardice and dishonesty.  i want it to stop, but i can’t quite live with the possible repercussions.  If i expose my true self to the public world, i make a jump into air with neither trapeze nor net.  i want to make that jump, but i am terrified of the fall.

i want to scream, but i’m afraid that if i let go of the reins of my emotional control i’ll never get them back.

i need help, but i don’t know how to ask for it.

i want to be free.  i want to feel safe.  i can’t currently have both, and it infuriates me.

And underneath it all, i know i have it good compared to so many other people, and i hate myself because i still feel so horrible about my own problems.

i know i’ve become more than a little redundant at this point, and my writing on this entry in general has not been up to my usual standard (it’s been downright shitty, to be honest), but i can’t quite seem to express the sheer magnitude of what i feel… the anger and the sorrow and the utter helplessness… like i’m drowning in my own emotional detritus, and i can’t find a way to honestly love myself for who i am.  i’m not a naturally violent person, but all i want to do right now is destroy something.

Fuck.  What am i going to do?

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