I’ve been percolating on this topic for a while, and I finally feel like I can now feel the rough outline of it in my own life. As usual, it leads to more questions for me, not answers.
As a child, my desire to be female centered around the social role that it represented. Specifically, it was anti-male responsibility. The thought of growing up and supporting a family or being the “strong one” just did not appeal to me.
At the time, gay and lesbian couples were completely invisible so there was no alternative template for me to compare or contrast against. I often wonder if that would have influenced my thinking at the time, but I digress.
Staying home, taking care of the house, and even raising kids seemed like the way to go. Mix in how I saw women working together most of the time instead of the incessant competition that men, even those who were friends, exhibited, and I couldn’t understand why being male was elevated in the culture. I saw the female responsibility sphere, and I wished I could live that life.
That stage was all about desire and fantasy, as I had no conception at that age that it was possible to transition or even transgress social roles, no matter your gender. I was left with a general, wordless yearning that had no fixed focus. It was diffuse and etherial.
During adolescence, the desire and fantasy kicked up a few notches as I began to crossdress. I imagined myself as physically female – beautiful, sexy, and desirable. The female social role desire faded and its place was taken by strong desires to have a female body and enjoy as female sexual role. The desires and fantasies were clear and overwhelming at times.
As adolescence raged, it drove confusion deep into me. I couldn’t understand how I could simultaneously sexually desire and want to be the girls and women that I found attractive. Also, the female social role idealization of childhood was partly smashed as I learned and saw firsthand how hard the domestic or working woman lifestyles really were. I still envied the camaraderie of women that I saw while despising the pecking and jockeying of the boys.
Yet out of all of this, a feeling to be female and feminine took root in me at some point and rides along to this day, and I still can’t figure out if it’s a fantasy, desire, need or compulsion because the intensity varies over time. This is what feeds my confusion, doubt, and fear.
The desires and fantasies are easier for me to identify now. They’re the longing pull in a yawning emptiness that cries for fulfillment when I notice things in women, be they emotions, carriage, clothes, body, jewelry, or some undefinable aura or gestalt that just calls to me, and leaves me feeling hopeless, inadequate and stuck in an impossible life. They’re the impossible, “if only’s”: “If only I looked like that…”, “If only I could have that style…”, “If only I didn’t have this big frame…”, “If only, if only, if only…”
They are gut reactions rooted in poor self-esteem. I counter them with the, “I like’s”: “I like my…eyes/legs/hair…”, “I like her top, but that style isn’t me…”, “I like how this top looks on me…”
The needs and compulsions are harder to separate and I continue to work on discerning between them. This work has taken me to areas that are oftentimes uncomfortable for me and those closest to me. I search in areas of desire and fantasy for the kernels of needs or compulsions.
In trying to find myself, I look to others. I’ve met many online and several in person, individually and in groups. All their stories spread before me like light through a prism and emit from whimsical fantasy to dire need, and I discover that I absorb across the spectrum.
I feel desire. I fantasize. I need. I feel compelled.
These have turned out to be observations, not answers.
The reality is that the reality is messy. My life is beautifully hard and wickedly easy all at the same time.
The reality is that I have desires, fantasies, needs and compulsions and that they do not negate each other or de-legitimize or call into question my other feelings.
I’m just going to have to keep keeping on with feeling crazy sometimes until I don’t.