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Over a year ago (nearly two years, I think) I began engaging in simple meditation. No chanting because I wouldn’t know what to chant, no music because I wouldn’t know what music would help (although I later began to play sounds of rain because nostalgia), no words or rituals. I just sat cross legged, staring at the wall (although, I would bow before and after because it helped to have a beginning and an end to the practice). It’s probably worth mentioning that I appropriated a few things from some other cultures that I had no business appropriating. I didn’t know this was problematic at the time, but I learned to know better and put away all the extra things that I was not a part of, but continued the practice.

At first it seemed difficult and fruitless, but over time it became easier and eventually I began to see things in a different light. I thought I saw things as they really were, and there was this really strong sense of euphoria when I realized I could abandon the things that made me unhappy and I didn’t have to live in the past. I could be myself and actually understand what that meant. I began to feel whole again. Nature brought me contentment—I know it sounds silly, but I could feel the life around me when I went for walks in the trees. I felt like a real living, breathing part of the world; connected to everything in a way that I hadn’t felt since I was a child.

I went days, months, almost a whole year without a panic attack and laughed every day. I was getting better, this was really happening and I could scarcely believe it.

Then something happened. A few things happened, actually, around the same time and any one of them could have been the thing that did it—but it shattered my illusions of peace and contentment. I was wrong. I hadn’t been dealing with pain, I hadn’t been enlightened, and I wasn’t putting mind over matter. It was just another technique to lie to myself and stifle the memories. I went back and read the things I had written at during that timespan and realized how nonsensical it all was. I was just making things up as I went with no rhyme or reason so that I didn’t have to listen to myself. I still consider doing a massive clean-out of most of my old entries, but I think it’s useful to remember where I came from. (I still meditate, but for different reasons.)

The panic set back in again, worse than before and with no warning signs, the connection I felt had been severed and I felt more separated from other people than ever before. Things got so bad that I began feeling suicidal again for the first time since I was a teenager. I could feel my instinct to keep myself alive get slowly drowned out by the desire to disappear. Then something else happened.

I told a friend about my traumatic experiences as a child and teenager. They took me out for a beer. I went home feeling a little better.

Nothing is easy.

Reach out.

Was “living like a boy,” difficult because I didn’t fit the unfair expectations put on men to conform to a social norm? Yes.
Was that the fault of women and/or feminism? LOLNO

Lemme explain.

 

I’m not an expert in gender studies, and I’m about to expound on the “difficulties” of living like a man in a man’s world. I understand that the world is hugely and disproportionately slanted towards male privilege. I understand that. I can only speak from my experience and even though that experience has never been that of identifying as male, it still comes from the experience of other people seeing me as such. So, although I still am the recipient of male privilege, the lens through which the world has largely seen me is that of a man who doesn’t quite fit.

(It is also worth noting that other female-identified trans people are almost never the recipients of male privilege. I only came out relatively recently and just started hormones this year, and I never really changed the way I dress that much. So in all likelihood, you wouldn’t be able to tell I was female identified just by looking at me. Hopefully that is subject to some change, but I digress.)

ANYWAYS

I have always found more comfort and encouragement in the company of other women throughout my journey. Yes, even though, as I mentioned before, I have never identified as a man I do understand what it means to live in the world as one. Yes, I understand that men who are soft, submissive, effeminate, etc are hurt, ostracized, taken advantage of, and less likely to seek help. But guess what? It’s still, by and large, men who are responsible for that. It’s still the patriarchy that enforces these roles. 

I see a lot of arguments where people get upset and shout, “But men have it hard, too! Their test scores are lower, they have a higher suicide rate, etc etc. be a humanist, not a feminist!”

But look, feminists ARE humanists, OK? You think feminists came up with the idea of the macho bullshit man-child? The impossibly suave, whisky swilling, Mad Man in charge? Prince Charming? All these impossible roles and stereotypes are almost without exception invented by MEN. The patriarchy doesn’t only try to tell women what they want and what they should be, it also goes after men. It’s bullshit both ways.

So, guys, instead of getting uppity and b’awwwing at women about how hard it is for you to fill all these roles, how about you direct it towards where it’s actually coming from.

Don’t let men tell you what to do. 

I’ll just start off by saying that this whole entry is purely inspired by this article. I swear I made sex noises when I read it. I read it and then read it again, and then I went to talk about–but wait, no, I want to read it again, okay now I’m ready to write, no I’m going to read that article again. Oh god, don’t stop, keep going. That article made sweet, sweet love to my conscience. Facts are not things that take sides. Facts are not your political views. Facts are not your precious fucking identity. They might support some of your arguments but they do not–they cannot–depend on your morality. They might sit well with your agenda, and if they do, then that generally sits well with me. Of course, I believe it works the other way, too: your morality would be very finicky and fragile indeed if you only believed in cold, hard facts and nothing else as your moral compass.

I’d love to write about how you should deal with people on an individual level and never, ever, ever deal with somebody on the basis of what group they come from, but that would make me a hypocrite. That, and it’s much better addressed in the above article so just read it instead.

Still, it got me thinking about divisiveness: people seem really open to the idea of getting along–this is the future, after all–but it always seems to be the other person’s  fault that we can’t do it, and most efforts to join hands degenerate into something only slightly more subtle than a shit slinging contest. People are angry, and they have every reason to be, “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention,” seems to be the rallying cry of EVERY GROUP ON THE PLANET. Leftists, right-wingers, anarchists, politicians, conservatives, queers,  everybody–and while that’s probably technically true (there is, after all, a lot happening where the logical–maybe even the humane–reaction would be anger), I take issue with the attitude of the statement. It’s not the anger part that gets me, so much as the manipulative manner in which it’s presented.

I’m sure a lot of you have heard the quote from Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” It’s a cliché, but it’s a good one. Still, it seems to me that getting angry is one thing, clinging to it is another, and encouraging others to cling to it… it’s just not the side I want to be on.

See, the screwed up thing is that everybody seems to think that the other group is getting what they want and that everything is going to hell because of it. Everybody thinks we’re all screwed forever while their supposed opponents are running wild. So where are the other guys? Where are these horrible, happy people that are ruining everything just so they can carry on with their wicked ways (and I swear to god almighty, if anybody mentions the 1% I will personally come to your house and release my pent-up projectile vomit on your face). I mean, somebody is pulling the strings, because somebody always is, and I have little doubt that it’s a group of people. I have even less doubt that they’re the type of people I wouldn’t trust as far I could throw them.

After all:

“The world is full of motherfuckers. Prepare and act accordingly.” –Henry Rollins

I get mad, same as anybody else. I’m not above it. I know that I get carried away with it, too. I know that I say ridiculous things in conversation without thinking, just like all those reactionaries that have me fuming on a daily basis. Is that the problem? Is it as simple as the fact that too many people talk without thinking? Or maybe that they think too much? Maybe we hear a purported fact and think, “how does this fit in with my morals, how must I interpret it to keep my political/religious identity intact, and who’s fault is it if it doesn’t fit?” and then we just get angry because thinking is hard? (Not trying to insult people. When it comes to this stuff, thinking is genuinely hard.)

I’m in no way trying to say you should quell your outrage when your morals are tested. I’m not saying that anger isn’t useful. I’m not trying to imply that some truths are subjective. I’m not even trying to say that you should stay neutral. Christ, I don’t really know what I’m trying to say. There’s been a sentence rolling around in my brain for the past two years and I haven’t been able to quite pin it down and say it yet. Just one sentence. It has to do with facts in relation to morals but every time I try to sort it out, the thought goes everywhere and just gets away from me. It’s something like, “facts are always worth knowing, but often not important.”

Again, that’s not it, but I think it’s close. For somebody who claims to be honest with themselves, I don’t know my own brain too well.

Let’s try this again:

I don’t know if you recall, but some time ago there were several studies of whether or not being homosexual was genetic/inborn. Now, they are trying to figure out whether or not being transgender is genetic. The usual rhetoric gets thrown around: some people find it dehumanizing (I’m tentatively inclined to agree), some want to know if there’s a “cure,” or “treatment,” and then there are those like me: those that don’t care whether it is or not. Are they trying to figure out whether or not it’s a fact? What does it matter? Are they trying to prove the “born this way,” argument?  Are we trying to settle some kind of natural law debate or some other bullshit? WHAT IS IT?

Alternatively, facts have a bearing on my day to day actions for no apparent philosophical reason. Like climate change and environmental damage. They are things–we know that now. They are real. Yet, I’m not going to have children to dump a ruined planet into their hands, I don’t believe in an afterlife (much less one where the outcome is based on who I was nice to/who I slept with/what worship house I went to) and when you get down to it, I find no philosophical justification for a moral structure at all let alone one grounded in how I treat the planet. Even if I leave the planet in a sorry state, I’m dead so what the fuck do I care? So why do I not eat things from factory farmed animals? Why do I try to be as environmentally conscious as I can? When I’m face with the fact that we’re strangling planet Earth, I do it even though I can’t justify it.

Ultimately, I think it’s because my friends can, and they’re smarter than me.

“Be realistic! Can’t you just, for one second, be realistic?
What that actually means is, ‘See reality my way OR DIE!'”
Dylan Moran

There’s a certain brand of pessimism that I can’t stand and I see it everywhere. I’m probably just as guilty of it as the next person but I’m going to rant about it anyway. It’s the kind of pessimism that hears something like this:

“Do what you want. Follow your dreams. Do what you love.”

And feels the urge to interject with something like this:

“I hope you like flipping burgers for the rest of your life”

As if all dreamers are idiots! As if chasing your dream is a fools errand and those that follow their hearts desire have no common sense! Fuck. That. Noise. You know why? Because I doubt anybody ever got what they wanted with that attitude. Of course there will be some bumps along the way. As the old adage goes, “Nothing worth having is easy to get.”  If you lose hope, you lose the game. While I’m at it–what the hell is wrong with us that hope seems a childish and unproductive thing?

Here’s what I think is going on: people know that living life how you want doesn’t always lead to happiness and therefore behave as though it never does. People know that the instant gratification crazed parts of our brains don’t always lead us to the right place and so behave as though that part of them is trying to sabotage their lives (it really isn’t, I promise). Of course you have to keep it under control but it took me twenty years to realize that it isn’t evil or deceitful. In fact, it’ll make ya feel good if you let it.

But when I say, “Do what you want,” there are those that say, “That’s not always a good idea.”
OF COURSE IT ISN’T BUT YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT, YOU STEAMING, PESSIMISTIC TOILET.
If you’re so damn smart and introspective then you should be able to read between the lines and know that I’m not advocating rampant hedonism or complete disregard for the rest of human-kind. Why does everything have to be taken at face value? Why do these people insist on dealing in absolutes all the time? No, I’m NOT being unreasonable. No, I’m NOT assuming you’re a mind reader.

That’s the cool thing about being human. We can see things objectively. Our ability to switch in and out of the lizard brain is why we’re so advanced as a species (relatively speaking).

I’m going to say the same thing two different ways and you tell me which one you think is better (don’t actually tell me, because I won’t answer):

Be yourself and do what makes you happy.
OR
Be yourself but only when circumstances permit it.

That’s not how it works?

It works how I SAY IT WORKS

That’s Me In the Corner

Losing my religion was like sitting in a boat on the shore, watching the tide go out. I knew I had all the equipment, intelligence, and education to do it just like everybody else, but something wasn’t sticking. I couldn’t go with the flow because something didn’t make sense on a fundamental level. I think that’s why I’m pretty annoying to talk to if you’re a religious person. The only reality I know is mine, and in my reality it’s impossible to put any stock in religion so everybody must be kidding themselves just like I did (which is, of course, a stupid thing to assume). As such, I adopt a patronizing “come off it,” attitude that doesn’t help anybody get anywhere.

But I don’t want to talk about my predisposition to annoy people. I want to talk about what it felt like to get to this point.

I’ve always had a certainty about the uncertain. It depressed me for a long time until I embraced it. It started around the time I started to think for myself (relatively early age, but later than some) and only actually started to feel good recently. I think it all began with what I think is my earliest childhood memory, when I was studying ancient Egyptian history and I asked my mother, “How come we know that God is real, and Ra isn’t God?”

My mother replied swiftly and firmly, but with no hostility, “Because we know. Our hearts tell us the truth.”
And bless her, she does know. Her heart is truer than I could ever hope for mine to be.

But for me, that was all I needed. I knew then that certainty in any form was out of the question. This went beyond “best guess,” territory into spiritual self-knowledge. I had made the connection between the mind wanting to accept something as true and the heart knowing something to be true, even if I didn’t know that at the time.

I also picked up the mandolin and my singing suddenly got worse

I’m using hideously campy language here, but I don’t know any other way to describe it. I’ve been down the road of trying to philosophically justify what I believe to be right and wrong or of trying to justify God’s existence, but at the end of the day if it isn’t in your heart, it’s not true. Truth is a sphere of permutations–an ever shifting net of fuck–and the more you try and grab at logical absolutes to prove that your ethics are the right ethics, the more it will trip you up. The harder you cling to water, the more it spills from your hands; everybody is merely doing their best to cup it a little so they can have a drink.

So I was clinging at it for a long time until I finally told everybody I had stopped going to church when I was about seventeen, but that didn’t lift any weight from my shoulders. Everything up until that point had been akin to waking up but not wanting to get out of bed. For the following seven years I watched as people walked around me, spiritual holes full of whatever they had found that worked for them. I laughed off religious experiences, all the while angry at each jab a secularist would take at Christianity. I was extremely jealous that some people could accept God so easily and yet I spent my childhood nights crying because I couldn’t. This manifested itself in a tendency to rise to defend things I didn’t believe as a point of honour. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized I was wasting my time.

Late last year, it was coming out as transgender that really put things into perspective for me. Religion seemed to matter a lot less. Or at least, trying to believe in God was revealed to be the pointless task that it was. I don’t think anybody can “try to believe” in anything at all. Similarly, and hilariously typical of me, I couldn’t try to not be queer. My life had been spiralling out of control as a result of me putting on this facade and things almost instantly improved the day I accepted it (the drugs helped). Finally realizing the intoxication of just being oneself, I no longer felt like I was standing in a burning building, begging the people around me not to leave.

So now on I march. Not exactly a paragon of what a person should aspire to, but if I had one piece of advice to give that I really believed in with every bit of myself it would be this:
Everybody has their own song that plays in their head. The sooner you start dancing to yours, the better.

What I’ve Learned in One Year

Lust for result isn’t the same as striving for greatness.

Do something that connects your body to your mind. Simple exercise isn’t enough; do something that finely tunes the control you have over your body and you will find that your mind will follow. Dance, fight, swim, do sports.

Accepting fear is being unafraid. Facing pain is overcoming it.

It seems that it doesn’t matter how much I eat as long as it’s something good. I don’t think it’s possible to get obese by eating broccoli.

Give your time and strength to other people. It feels good.

I’m not defined by what I do, but I do need to be doing something.

Forget the past, but remember mistakes.

Get to know new people, but don’t forget old friends.

It’s okay to come home and hide for a day. Just don’t do it every day.

It’s okay to feel hurt. Even if you’re partially at fault, it’s bad to ignore those feelings. It’s also bad to hold on to them, which can happen if you ignore them.

It’s never too late to apologize.

People are way more awesome than I thought they were.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself on the spot. A little embarrassment can be good for you.

Alcohol is a massive depressant. Coffee is a panic inducer. All things in great moderation.

Trying new things means more than doing it once.

Before you give up on something, dedicate at least one solid hour to it.

When creating a piece of work, let yourself go. There are no bad ideas. More often than not you’ll create something great and even if it sucks, nobody has to see it. Write down words that rhyme, draw stick figures, put your fingers on the fretboard in weird patterns, jot down obscure ideas that make no sense. It’s how all great works began.

Running away only works if there’s something chasing you.