I’ve been thinking of pre-transition me this week.
Writing Sunday’s post on how I didn’t feel alive before coming out made me remember what it was really like to live pretending to be someone I was not. Sure, it was sad. Yeah, it was lonely. However, I think I’d started to forget how draining it was.
It wasn’t just the constant reminders of the lie I was living, though those were difficult enough. I remember how even something as small as having to look at the little male icon on the bathroom door could leave me close to tears on a bad day.
What made those days bad was more than being in a difficult situation, it was also keeping myself secret all the time.
I wrote a silly little post a short while ago about a crush I have. It’s not a big deal at all; I just like someone. There’s no incredible passion for them, or anyone madly in love. So given how there are no strong feelings, surely keeping it to myself wouldn’t be too difficult?
Once I realised I liked them, I couldn’t go more than two weeks without wanting to tell someone. Then once I did, I wasn’t able to stop myself from talking about with another friend, and another, and another.
I decided I would also try telling the person, instead of doing my usual thing, where I secretly have a crush on them, then ruin the friendship with unreasonable expectations they aren’t even aware of.
I chose to tell them a week after. Except… I didn’t. I’m not saying the week passed and I couldn’t find the courage to say anything; rather, after just one day, I was having panic attacks at work because I couldn’t handle waiting to see how they’d react. I’m not exaggerating, either. I had genuine panic attacks, to the point I nearly started crying in the middle of a call.
So I went fuck it, and just told this person right after work. It was interesting. Right before telling them, I was having trouble breathing and I felt all jittery. The second after I said it, that all disappeared. I immediately felt normal again, all traces of my anxiety gone.
It was just one tiny little secret I’d been keeping for a very short time, having several people to talk about it with. And that little secret nearly made me crash and burn at work.
Thinking about it now, and remembering how it felt to live a lie before coming out, I just feel amazed. How in the world did I live for years with a much bigger secret, having absolutely no one to talk about it with?
I’ve written before about my experience telling others I’m trans, so I’ll just cover the basics.
I had made a new friend, and as I got to know her better, I trusted her more and more. Something she said one day, in fact, led me to trust her in a way that I had never trusted anyone else. That same day, as we were talking out in the grass waiting for a ride, I told her, all of a sudden.
I made a mess of it. I didn’t explain it properly, and we had to go before I could explain just what being transgender meant, or how I know I’m a woman.
This is where the problems began. She messaged me later that night and asked me a few questions, and while I did my best to answer them, there was plenty more I wanted to tell her, but didn’t to avoid overwhelming her.
Here she stopped talking to me for a few days. Natural, of course. When you’ve grown up having never met or even known of a transgender person, discovering a close friend identifies as a different gender can come as a huge shock.
This is where I made my second mistake. Instead of just waiting for her to process, I kept bugging her about how she was doing, desperately asking over and over if she still wanted to be friends. Then came my third mistake: I told them to not tell anyone at all.
The first two mistakes are easy to spot. Talking to someone about something complex will go better if you take the time to explain it properly, leaving less room for misunderstanding. It’s also obvious how getting horribly needy and not allowing someone room to understand will end badly in the long term.
The third mistake though, is more subtle.
See, just as I can’t understand how I went for years without talking to someone about myself, and in the same way I nearly went crazy waiting a day to tell a friend I liked them, it was unreasonable to talk about something this massive to someone without leaving someone for them to talk to.
This is a mistake I would make over and over. It’s counter-productive, too. With one exception, every single person I told not to tell anyone ended up babbling before a month had passed.
It’s not acceptable and I’m still a little annoyed that people did that, but I suppose it’s understandable: secrets weight you down, down down.
Living for years hiding who I am drained me partly because of that; because it is difficult to keep something for yourself. A weight shared is a weight halved, and it is madness to struggle with something so large all by yourself.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say today. I suppose that in itself is becoming a theme on this blog; I’ll start writing disjointed secions of stream-of-consciousness, barely connected to each other.
In that case, the connection tying all these sections is that it’s so, so hard to keep something to yourself, no matter how small or large, or even whether it’s a secret about you or someone else. Secrets can be awful, and can be nearly impossible to deal with by yourself, but must also be told carefully, as you don’t want someone to share that weight without good reason.
I’m tired; I’ll see you all again on Friday. Have a nice week.