I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
— Bene Gesserit litany against fear
So a week ago I’m standing outside a bar in NW Portland, about as scared as I’ve ever been in my life. (See prior entries for scale.) Inside there’s a meetup group, a whole gaggle of lesbians from the Internet who have gotten together to get drunk and talk. I desperately wish to make more friends. But I’m terrified of going in there, introducing myself, and sitting down for a drink. It doesn’t help that I don’t see any other trans girls in there. I look like a boy in a dress. I know I can’t back down. I will feel like shit if I do.
I trade some panicked text messages with my ex, and she convinces me to step up and take my chances. I do. It is painful. And awkward. Terrible, really. But eventually I feel not so self-conscious. The whisky helps a lot with that. Some nice women from Seattle make an effort to make me feel safe and included. I spend a pleasant, but no more than that, two hours in their company. It’s too far out of my zone to be truly comfortable. At the end I go home, drained and shaken and glad I went.
I feel like shit for the next three days. Tired, withdrawn, nervous. You can’t do this stuff for free.
I’m looking for another group to go to, to do this again. And again, and again. As many times as it takes until I can do it without needing someone to reassure me. As many times as it takes until I can do it with grace.
Since I started wearing skirts in public, I have become a connoisseur of strange looks from straight people. Here are my favorites.
The Silent Walleye
The “I’m Not Staring”
The “I’m Confused”
The Eager Ally
The Abrupt Silence
The Nervous Smile
2011 was the worst year I’ve ever had. It seems cliche and self-pitying to recap the reasons why. For the past week I’ve been wrestling with how to write my year end roundup, to meet my obligation to be touching and profound at the turn of the year. Fuck it, I can’t. I’m just so tired. Tired of everything. Tired of the titantic struggles that marked my last three years: get into grad school, get a Master’s, survive being homeless, transition.
So this next year is one of modest ambitions. No big picture shit. No major life achivements. The goal of 2012 is to clean up the wreckage. I’ve finished tying off the bloody stump of my academic ambitions, and settled into a comfortably dead end job. Now I’m giong to learn how to keep my apartment clean. Learn how to cook at home five nights a week. Change my name. Get some new clothes. Little things. I don’t think I could survive another string of failures like the one I had between 2009 and 2011.
I need to be healthy, and to be healthy I need to get my life under control. I want that to be second nature. In my darker moments, I wonder if it ever can be. There are people who work here at the call center who have been doing this for ten or fifteen years. I’m scared of ending up like them. I’m terrified to think that even that might be too much to dream of.
Despite it all, I still harbor a great deal of ambition. I want to go places, and do things. I want to be someone who matters to the world. Even just a small part of it. I want to be more than a drone on the help line. But those are dreams for next year. First I have to conquer being a drone.
One of my clearest memories of San Francisco is the last time I saw the city from a good vantage point. This was after my expulsion from Thrillhouse. I’d landed on a friend’s couch in Oakland, and caught a ride back to the city with her on her commute. (By the way, Liz, if you’re reading this, thank you.) She couldn’t drop me at my destination because she had a tight timeline to get to work, so she drove me to her office and I walked from there into downtown. She works for a publisher that lives up on a hill in the south part of the city, and as you walk down the road from their offices you’ll crest the hill, which drops off so sharply you can see over the roofs and across San Francisco. I began the long walk downwards. The plan had been to catch a bus, but I ended up walking the whole way to the library, where I was going to return some books for the last time. In just a few short months I’d learned to navigate the Mission and its surrounding districts almost as well as any town I’d been in. Looking back on it, I don’t think I realized I’d probably never be coming back, and yet I ended up taking this long, solitary walk through the southern half of the city, as if I were saying goodbye. In San Francisco I was scared, helpless, and dependent upon the goodwill of others, but there was something about that time that made me feel awake, like my life was finally starting. Some taste of risk made it real. It is not my home there, and never was, but I will always love San Francisco for the rare, painful sense of being alive.
Since I moved back to Portland and started working again, I’ve lost that. Now I’ve got enough money to eat and buy an occasional book and not feel guilty about it at all. I have a sense of security that has been so long departed from me that I scarce know what to do with it. I have a work week, and the weeks tick by smoothly. I look down, I look up, another month is gone. But not this month. Because this month, I start making bad decisions again. This month it gets scary again. This month is Transgender Awareness Month.
And this month I come out at work.