I want to follow-up on something that I said in my intro post: the healthy dose of apathy.
Less euphemistically, this is about not giving one single fuck about what anyone else thinks of me. I’ve been working really hard at that lately, and I think it’s affecting how I interact with men in a pretty substantially different way from how I interact with women.
Historically, I’ve been very bad at maintaining my own identity. When I was a kid, my mom joked about me being a parrot, because my perfect pitch recall made me eerily good at mimicking others’ voices. Pre-pubescent girls can’t generally pitch their voices low enough to accurately capture John Cleese, it’s true. But as I grew older, I started to feel like a parrot all the time. I got really proficient at subconsciously noticing not just what people wanted from me, but who they wanted me to be–and then immediately, seamlessly becoming that person. I wanted approval from others so desperately that I didn’t even notice it happening. It felt safe, because it was easy and it won me friends, but it also made me feel like a fraud.
As I began talking to therapists about my gender, I mentioned the way my comfort zone seemed to be wearing a series of Exactly My Kind of Girl costumes, and while each of them did kind of fixate on the “girl” part of that phrase, they at least helped me name it as a problem. Now, I’m noticing some clear trends about how it happens, and about why I do it.
Here’s how it goes: I meet a new person. The quiet voice inside me says, “Gee, Elizabeth, he’s a fucking nerd, I bet he’d love it if you made a joke about Bukowski,“ which is a pretty normal thing for your inner voice to say when you’re befriending people as a student in an English department. What’s less normal, though, is that after I say something about not liking Ham on Rye because I’m a vegetarian and he laughs and smiles at me, the inner voice says, “Good, you’ve scored ten points, now you’d better keep scoring or no one will ever care about you ever again,“ and I immediately go home and read every novel, poem, and memoir that came out of the Beat movement even though I previously hated Bukowski, so that I can crack enough one liners to keep him interested and thereby allay the impending dawn of my inevitable social ostracism once one single man isn’t into me.
Because that’s the thing–it’s always men. I never had this problem around women, when I was trans or before. I never felt like there were points to score at all. That realization was the big one, the one that made me realize that my transness was in some way rooted in giving way too many shits about how people perceived me. Now that I’ve had that realization, I’m no longer grasping for whatever social capital I can get dudes to throw down to me. Instead, I’m turning my focus to the female community I had to cut away from myself to function as a trans man.
Probably the most intense emotion I’ve been feeling since I admitted that I wanted to detransition is this intense, fathomless love for women. It’s not necessarily specific to women I know–it’s women as a class, as well as individual women. Even when I don’t like a woman, I love her. It’s a combination of solidarity and compassion and empathy and big ol’ gay-ass lesbianism, and it’s so remarkably healing that I can’t get over it. It’s given me something to fill the space left now that the field where I was growing my flying fucks to give about men’s opinions is lying fallow. It’s not even that I’m angry at dudes. It’s just that I honestly do not give one shit about them when there’s a woman in the room. I’m replanting my field with fucks to give about women, about their lives and choices and opinions, and there isn’t so much space for men anymore.
Now, the quiet voice is saying, “I wonder what she’s about. Gee, Elizabeth, you should ask her.“