Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Connect the Dots

Recently, after participating in panel discussion about gender and sexuality for high school students, a young woman, maybe 16-years old, hesitantly approached and thanked me for sharing my story.  I was touched by her compliment, and I could sense she wanted to say more.  With her friends by her side, she confided in me, that she recently came out to her family,
but was still in need of some positive reinforcement.  I was honored that she felt comfortable sharing something so private with me. I did my best to reassure her, that it gets better.  I can’t imagine myself 30 years earlier, as a confused teenager, having the courage and strength to do anything like this student just displayed. I know times have changed, but maybe I was never as bold as I pretended to be.  

As my next birthday quickly approaches, I’ve been thinking about how old I will be.  I even took the RealAge survey online promoted by Dr. Oz, trying to reassure myself that age is not the number of years you’ve lived, but how you live your life. The concept of self-identity is important to me, especially as I try come to terms with my past.  Last week as I visited with one of my brothers and his family, he mentioned a quote by Steve Jobs he admires. The phrase starts, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” During the panel discussion, several students asked me about events from my past, like high school and relationships.  I responded honestly, with some regrets, but shared that I’m optimistic about what the future holds for me.   While I know my life would be considerably different if I were a teenager today versus 30 years ago, I wouldn’t exchange my life with anyone else’s and I can’t imagine not being trans.  

“You can’t go home again,” are the indomitable words of Thomas Wolff, and while I’ve tried not to relive my youth, I know I can learn about myself looking in the review mirror.  While the dots that connect make some sense, I don’t always like what I see.  It’s unnerving to think that for 40 years I was acting like someone else, while my true identity was locked in the closet.  If this is actually the case, how many of my relationships are based on false pretenses?  As I come out to my old friends and try to reconnect, I feel added pressure that I have to justify, not only to them but to myself, that’s it’s really me. I’ve been here all along.   

I also feel sad, that I didn’t live in a time where I could be have been Gia on the outside. If I had, there might have been serious repercussions, but I’ll never know.  I can only imagine about what might have happened: shock therapy, conversion therapy, praying the gay away, abandonment, abuse, isolation, drugs, AIDS, suicide, or maybe nothing? Perhaps I’d be a survivor, living as strong healthy woman in Maine.  Wait, I am, I think.   

What did I miss out on anyways: sleepovers, adolescent angst, giggling, periods, shopping at the mall, my sweet sixteen, making other girls jealous, teasing boys, prom dresses, bladder infections, yeast infections, pregnancy scares, the pill, and the “I hate you mom” tantrum.  And that’s just a start. These days, it can be awkward when I’m around other women, as they expect me to have the lifetime of female experiences they’ve had.  I just haven’t.  On the outside I’m a middle age woman, but on the inside I have the experience and hormones of a teenager.  I know I’m a fast learner, but the nuances I’ve missed, add up over time.  It’s an ongoing challenge to live up to unobtainable standards. For me everyday is like Freaky Friday, and I don’t look anything like Barbara Harris or Jamie Lee Curtis.  By the way, the survey results revealed I’m turning 42 next week.

“You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future…[and] down the road…give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.”  -Steve Jobs