What is Underneath Shame
Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013
I had asked Ms. H., after reading the latest draft of my memoir, what more she might want. ”I think you need more joy.”
Right. More joy.
Even as I asked her, I knew what she would say. I, too, want to write about the joys of transitioning and living as a transsexual man. But when I imagine how the words will fit on the page, how I can best describe this joy, a part of me wants to say, “Just don’t fucking transition! It’s too hard.”
Up close, there isn’t much joy. I seem to have constructed a transsexual narrative in which the whole thing is very hard and difficult and not anything I would ever recommend to anyone. Why did you do this then? is the next question. Because I needed and wanted to. I still want to, every day I rub the testosterone into my skin, I still want to.
Internalized Transphobia = Shame
This wanting, though, doesn’t have joy. I realized after much deliberation – having a mood, actually – I possess a pervasive and all-consuming sense of internalized transphobia.
That’s just a fancy way of saying I am ashamed of my body. If shame says there is something wrong with me, then I have been a lifelong devotee of self-remorse and personal contempt. I was ashamed of my body as a female, despised menstruation and could not wait to become a man. As a man, and let’s be honest, I’m ashamed I don’t have a penis. (Quiet as it’s kept, I’d sign up for a penis in a do-over type situation, as I long as I could retain my current consciousness.
Memoirist as Archeologist and What is Underneath
The words I’ve written to date I’ve carried around with me for years. Now they are out, on the page, free. The excavation begins.
I’ve avoided stating in public I’m ashamed of my body. Those stupid, stupid live and internet trolls will say, “well then why did you transition?” As if body shame is somehow reserved for transsexuals; as if transsexuals must never express fear or confusion or regret even as we become who we’ve always wanted to be. I did not transition to continue to live in isolation, living a lie.
The shame, even as I write these words, feels shallower than what is underneath (funny that!). As a self-respecting, angry and politically aware transsexual, I struggle to hammer through the shame to find the vein of joy.
Joy is for hippie losers! If I express my joy, what will happen to my shame? If I let go of my shame, will I have to live in the present, now and here, in this body?
This body. This body has worked so very hard to protect me, to heal me, to save me from myself. This body has done everything I’ve asked it and more. This body – my body – loves me.
Perhaps I can return the feeling and accept the joy underneath the shame.
Perhaps I can share this joy. Surely doing so will be the most terrifying and rewarding work of my life.