Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Crying Alone

On the night after the surgery, my hospital roommate (call her “Kate”) phoned her mother. Kate had been in significant pain all day. Whereas I was fortunate enough to merely have the motion sickness-esque nausea and headache that usually accompany my forays into anesthesia, she hurt terribly. And as time went on, the pain worsened.

Pain medication provided temporary relief but only fleetingly. And, of course, that's cause for even more distress: the gradually dawning knowledge that modern medicine can only do so much to save you from the mysteriously individual agonies of the body.

So, in unrelenting pain, no end in sight, she did what many of us would do: she called her mommy.

She did not ask for much, after their brief salutations and Kate's preface regarding her pain. She said, merely, “Tell me a story.”

And though I can only hear Kate's side of the conversation, I can make a good guess what happened.

“I don't know any stories,” her mother replies.
“Surely daddy or Uncle Tommy's done something funny recently,” Kate says, almost begging.
The subtext is clear. And Kate, uninhibited by pain, gingerly jumps to it: “Don't you love me anymore?”
“I don't even know who you are. You murdered my child. How can I love you?”
Kate, sincerely, pleading, “I didn't murder your child, mama. I'm right here. I'm still your child.”
“You aren't my child.”
“I may sound different and look different, but I'm still your child, mama.”
“You aren't my child. You promised me, you promised me that you would never go this far. You promised me. And here you've gone and made yourself into some kind of freak. You promised me.”
“Mama, I didn't know what I was saying! I didn't know it would mean that much to you, I was just trying to make it easier on you and I didn't really know what I wanted and I'm sorry mama.”
“You promised me.”
“Mama, I'm sorry. I love you, ok mama? No matter what happens, I'm still going to love you. And I just need you to love me, that's all. Right now, I just need you to love me.”
“Alright. Bye, mama.”

Kate was so calm. She wasn't angry, she wasn't hurt. She wasn't crying. At least that she showed, of course.

I was, though. And, tear-stained from across the room in the darkness, I choked out “That was so terrible.”

Kate made excuses for her mother. Said her mother is the “most selfish person I know.” Explained the gaps in the conversation I'd already guessed. Said “Daddy will take up for me, I know it.” And that was that.

So I cried for Kate. Cried the tears she couldn't, fueled the anger she didn't, felt the hurt she blocked. And I reaffirmed my commitment to keep working towards a world where this bullshit doesn't happen.


Later, though, I wondered: given Kate's obviously fraught relationship with her mother, why had she called her, of all people, that night?

I don't really know. It's not really my place to ask, and it's arguably not my place to tell the story.

But I wonder: who would I call?

The day I flew back, as a product of exhaustion and hormone fluctuations, I started sobbing for twenty minutes straight. There was no definite reason. I was just... overwhelmed. My mother was in the room when I started, and I tried to hide from her. She's great if there's a physical/medical problem, but, as mentioned, she has her own significant barriers to trust and intimacy. I did call a friend who has talked me out of killing myself an embarrassing number of times and can at least roll with the punches, even if  she lacks the emotional vulnerability to be comforting. But when she didn't pick up? No one. I cried alone, just as I went to Montreal alone, just as I've done most of the hardest parts of my suffering and changing alone.

In other words, I don't have anyone I can call who can make me feel better. Not a single person who will be able to make me feel understood and loved and safe and cared for.

The reasons are legion, of course. I don't need to revisit my childhood here, but it doesn't take an expert in object relations to tell you that alcoholism, abuse, paranoia, and deadened stoicism don't foster trust and openness in a child (or her parents, for that matter).

But being trans, pre-transition... how can you be truly intimate with someone? Intimacy is all about knowing someone better and better, but when you haven't transitioned the person someone else is getting to know isn't you. Not really. Not in the way that matters most. My first and only long-term relationship was with one of the sweetest, most affectionate people I know. But whenever she touched me, it was as if she was blocked by stone. The person she was trying to reach, the person she was attracted to, the person she loved was not who I really was. And that's an obstacle no one can surmount.

It's not just being trans, of course. It's anything that makes you feel like you need to keep essential parts of yourself hidden from others. I sometimes, in my pettier moments, start to roll my eyes at LGB people getting so torn up about being closeted because, you know, at least the world sees them as who they are even if they don't recognize who they love, right? But it's the same fundamental thing: hiding part of yourself makes it harder for others to get close to you. The bigger the hidden part, the more distance between you.

This certainly isn't the case for all trans people. But I wonder: now that my active transition is nearing its end (vagina dynamics aside, I mainly have to get electrolysis finished, and the rest will just be dilations/HRT for the rest of my life) and I'm finally reaching a point of relative emotional stability for the first time in my life, will I be able to get closer to others? Will I find myself in five, ten years in some emotional turmoil and be able to call someone who I know will help me feel comforted and loved on some essential level?

I don't know. But I think there's more reason now than ever to hope I will.

No comments:

Post a Comment