I finished reading Janet Mock’s book, Redefining Realness, a few weeks ago, and as I lay in bed afterwards reviewing it in my mind, memories of my own childhood drifted in and out. My own experiences and circumstances were nowhere near as grim as hers but there were common threads for me, especially around the heart-pounding moments of disclosure and the compartmentalization often required to move through life as trans.
This got me to thinking about how I’ve added layers of armor around myself since I was a child that I’m now working to dismantle.
From the outside, it’s opaque and is an outward projection of me to the world. Not so many years ago, it was very masculine in appearance, if not in behavior. On the inside, it’s been a house of magic mirrors, where I often see my ideal self, except when I catch a reflection of a reflection and quickly move another mirror into place to hide what I don’t want to see.
I think part of what some of my cis significant others have reacted so strongly to is that they perceived my armor as something I’ve worn primarily as a mask, to hide something, as opposed to something that protects me.
Absent the lived experience of being trans, it takes time for them to process (if they ever figure it out) that my armor has been for my protection and that while it does conceal part of me, I really don’t want to wear it. They just don’t understand the emotional and physical risks we face by our very existence.
So as I slowly take my armor off and shatter the narcissistic mirrors, I shiver in my exposure. Partly from delight at being released and partly from the fear of exposure.