Pride Month is always an interesting time for me. The commercialization of pride and queer identity isn’t exactly great to see, even if it shows how far we’ve come to broader acceptance. (Even if the big companies are just playing at being ‘woke brands’. Bleh.) But it’s nice to see so many people around me, in various communities, come out. Being proud of their queerness, their identity. Being supportive allies, too. There’s always an outpouring of resources for learning about queer history (usually queer history in the USA), and I’ll never turn down more knowledge.
Every time Pride rolls around, or ‘Coming Out Day’ or similar events, I wonder if I should come out. Speak my truth or whatever. Step out of the closet.
‘What a pain,’ I always think.
Closets and Boxes
When I was younger, I was out of the closet. I was obnoxious about it, because teenagers are naturally obnoxious about everything they do, but I was out. I was figuring out who I was and striving for it.
As I grew older, slowly, things changed. Most people who knew me online pre-2014 knew I was a trans man, that I used male pronouns, and that ‘Aine Llewellyn’ was my Pagan name but friends called me by a more ‘fitting’ masculine name. But, slowly, I decided that being trans was too much of a hassle. It wasn’t like I would ever be able to go on T or get top surgery, with how awful the medical system is in the USA, and I was never going to ‘pass’ effectively. I liked feminine things, liked cute and soft aesthetics. Besides, it’s not like I hated being a woman. (Right?) People only acknowledged me as a man out of misplaced pity, I figured.
It would be less of a hassle to box all those feelings up.
They were too much of a bother.
Nobody enjoys being a woman, I told myself. So my frustration (despair) was natural. Being a woman sucks. That’s all it was. (Right?)
The box of who I was, who I wanted to be, kept popping open. What I stuffed in wasn’t inert, neutered, like I hoped it would be. It rattled around and sprouted twisting vines. They curled up around my throat and strangled me until I could cut them off and shove them back in that box, tape it back shut, kick it all aside.
It’s not like I hated my body. My body was just…my body.
(Once, when I was a teenager and weighed all of 100lbs, maybe a bit more when soaking wet, I stood in front of a mirror and realized how wide my hips were. ‘Huh,’ I thought, framing my jeans with my hands, ‘these really look like a girl’s hips.’
A moment later I realized, ‘Oh. These are…mine. This is what I look like. This is what I’ve grown into.’)
My body is just an object my mind doesn’t get along with. That’s all. That’s normal. It’s fine.
There was no guarantee, even if by some miracle I could transition, that I would like my body. It would just be a pain to be out and open about my gender identity.
It would just be a bother to everyone around me.
My mental health wasn’t the greatest. Denying who you are usually does take a toll. I could build up little towers to excuse why I felt so awful and why I wasn’t really trans and how everything was really fine, I just needed to stop being such a baby about it, but I was self-aware enough to know they were towers built of sand. They were little shields I stacked up in my mind to try not to think about what I was really feeling, the knowledge I had already unpacked and that wouldn’t go easily back into a box.
Like Pandora, except at the bottom what’s left is just ‘Surprise! You’re a boy!’ I was so angry that I’d ever opened the damn thing. Maybe I wouldn’t be happy, if I had never found a word for who I was, but at least I would be unknowing of where my unhappiness grew from.
It would be troublesome, to be who I really was, so I just needed to suck it up and suffer like everyone else. Eventually I would adjust, right? Eventually it would all be fine.
‘I can live like this,’ I kept telling myself.
‘How long am I going to have to live like this?’ I wondered.
Recently, within the past year, I came out. Reclaimed the label of ‘trans’ for myself. Stopped taping up the battered box in my mind and…started letting the truth of who I was out. Bought binders, started wearing them. Called up doctors, started making appointments. Going on T, top surgery, transitioning – it’s not all a fanciful dream. I’ve got people around me who are supportive of my identity. I’m not alone in stumbling through these gender issues. I’ve got…support.
When the binders came in and I began wearing them, I thought, ‘Oh.’
The fog around me lifted. I could stand to look in the mirror again.
I felt so much better.
Even wearing the binder, I felt like I could breathe easier.
Names and Identities
Truthfully, I’ve considered changing my name. My public Pagan name. ‘Aine’, as much as I like it, doesn’t fit right anymore. And even with the restrictions my spirits have on names I can use, I was able to find a masculine name that fit. Found it quickly, even. A name that works in more ways that I could have anticipated.
…but it would be a pain, wouldn’t it. It would be a bother. It would be troublesome.
I have an article in an anthology that is coming out, under my name as ‘Aine Llewellyn’. This blog’s URL is ‘ainellewellyn’. ‘Aine Llewellyn’ is my ‘brand’ (ugh).
It would be a bother to other people, asking them to use a different name.
Changing my name, especially to something obviously masculine, would cause problems for people in my life, so…
As I contemplated names, as I contemplated moving forward with transitioning (how blisteringly happy it made me, how hopeful, how good) and how I was going to have to prove to a bunch of cis people that I’m Definitely For Sure A Man Please Please Believe Me Oh Gods, the fog rolled back in.
I shouldn’t make too much trouble for others. I shouldn’t cause problems for those in my life, force them into awkward positions because of my gender identity. I shouldn’t ask for too much.
(Wouldn’t it be more manly to take up space? To demand it? But maybe I’ve gotten too adjusted to living as a…woman…to ever be a proper man.)
What a Pain
If I were honest about what my job is – not writing for Patheos, ha!, but what I’m really paid ‘to do’, what I’m paid ‘for’ – would I feel better or worse? More or less capable of changing? More or less confident in my selfhood, my personhood, my future? Or would I still drift in the caterpillar soup of my life?
Being out, being true, pursuing the true self…fighting for it, for recognition, for respect…for dignity, just a slice of dignity. A sliver. I wonder if I can do it. Or if I’ll just decide it’s too much of a pain.
Even when it’s less painful than living in the closet, with a box of my own writhing emotions wrapping around me.