In an effort to answer that question I suppose I must first break down the core aspects of who I am as a person.
Let's start with activities, hobbies and leisure...
Activities, Hobbies and Leisure
So this is always a challenge for me because at times of great emotional upheaval and anxiety it becomes very difficult for me to distinguish between things I enjoy and things I have made a commitment to.
So here comes the list:
- Clarinet (Small group and Solo)
- Spending time with my friends*
- Philosophical discussion/debate
- Cooking (for others)
- Baking (for others)
- Working with others on mental health/well-being related challenges
Things I don't like or struggle with the additional anxiety it produces
This list could be huge but I'll keep it short and to the point. Listed here are what I've found to be difficult or just not pleasent over the last few months:
- Telephone Calls
- GP's sugeries
- Clothes shopping
- Talking about who I am
- Helping my friends
- Loving my friends
What do I think others think of me and who I am?
Here comes some potentially revealing information about my current state of mind. While I am going to try make this section easy to read for my friends and family (if they should ever venture here) by trimming some of the more irrational thoughts from the list I don't think it wise to remove the bulk of it.
I'd like to think that, in this stage of my life, many people consider me their friend. While I certainly try to uphold my own view on what a friend is and should be (that is definitely a whole different discussion) one thing I am acutely aware of is the difference between what I define as friendship and what others define as friendship.
While rationally, I can analyse the various relationships I have with people and assign them, using the scheme that I imagine other people use, as either friend or acquiantance this does not help me on a day to day basis.
For those who I imagine consider themselves my friends, either having been told by them directly or through 2nd hand information, I am this:
You may begin to wonder why all of the conditions (). Well I've tried to make those statements in a way that doesn't cause me undue emotional strain the result of this is that for each of the above statements/descriptors but more so the ones marked with a () are ones I have plenty more to say about.
The crux of the matter
So the title of this blog post is "What does trans-* mean to me?", that's a rather big question. As you have no doubt become aware (if not I'll state it explicitly now), all of the above character traits, descriptors, likes and dislikes contain no information about my gender. Until very recently (in the grand scheme of things) I have never really thought about what label, gender wise, was most comfortable to me. Now I am happy to admit that this might have been because it was, in some senses, so obvious... I'm 1.97m tall, built fairly stockilly and have never been able to grow my hair to any real length. I also recognise that many of my friends would argue that the above means nothing as to what gender you are...
So why did I start asking the question? Well the honest answer is, I was lonely. In my life so far, I've had 2 relationships, one lasted for 1.5 years, the other a little under 6 months. During both of these periods of admitted great personal development in my life, I felt more of a whole person than I had ever felt before or since. Sexually? I've never been able to 'perform' and ever since the awakening of the sexual side of myself I've never been able to orgasm without fantasy of being anyone else.
Admittedly this fantasy started off as escapism from the teenage me... I just wanted to be anyone else. As I became older it became escape into a woman that was the polar opposite of the person I was during the day time a.k.a dominant, body confident and sexually attractive. During my first relationship this caused huge challenges for me personally as I had never once admitted that these thoughts were in my mind, not even to myself. My second relationship changed things, we explored and tried to find what worked even if it wasn't her intention she helped me admit to myself that I'm more complex than the robot I had often wished myself to be.
Today? Well I still cannot orgasm without that fantasy but since my last relationship the image has become significantly clearer and static. She's a person like me, really shitty dad-esque jokes, loves badminton, submissive in bed and tall but not too tall. She has a wide social circle and mixes between groups of people with ease. I do wish I were her, now in a completely non-sexual way. Admittedly I'd like to know for certain what I would feel if I were her.
What does trans-* mean to me? The admission that I'm far more complicated than any binary labelling scheme can possibly capture... I am still working this all out in my head. The last week has been horrible because I've been slipping back and forth. I feel more comfortable as a person at home where I'm Liz than I do at work but being at home has its own challenges that make that difficult in a subtly different way. At work and with my family I'm Robert James - Young homeowner and doctoral research student... While I would wish it didn't change things to say "I'm Elizabeth James but just call me Liz - I'm a landlady and I'm doing my doctorate" it does.