To be broken is to have been intact at some point, and I have no memory of being whole. I have memories of brief periods of time when I felt put together, but never have I not felt flawed. Maybe it’s a universal human condition; maybe it’s not. I can’t tell from my perspective.

A therapist once told me I experience a different reality than most people and her explanation of why resides in a blind spot of mine. It is as seemingly inaccessible to me as feeing unbroken.

I used to think that being trans was my major flaw, that its jagged edges were what kept me from fitting in. I poured so much energy into sanding those edges down to help me fit into the world, little was left to pull the dysphoric shards from my body, and that happened almost too late.

It turns out the pain of dysphoria prevented me from recognizing even deeper pains because my survival strategy of compartmentalizing psychic pain away was a catch-all mechanism and not a specific response. It just seemed specific because my gender dysphoria was so acute and consuming, like late-stage cancer ravening a body.

Post-transition I’ve been able to demobilize my compartmentalization and mix the contents of each recess with the broader whole and it turns out the whole is a goddamn mess. It’s messy because of the sewage poured into my head when people thought I was a guy. Maybe for a guy that stuff is nourishment but for a trans woman it was waterboarding.

I don’t get the benefit of the doubt because I’m a woman. I don’t get respect because I’m a woman. I don’t get second, or third, or fourth chances because I’m a woman. I don’t get slack because I’m a woman. I don’t get to be heard because I’m a woman.

All the stuff I heard about hard work, and applying myself, and speaking up, and being assertive was so wound around white male entitlement and privilege I’m still untangling it. The preparation I had to be a woman in a man’s world? Zilch. And the two combined have made the task of putting my broken self back together feel like I bought a life on discount at IKEA only to find parts from different lives jammed haphazardly in the box along with instructions I can’t read and pages obviously missing.

But it is a life, and for all its fucked-up-ness it is still better than the one I had before. I also still have hope I can become whole. I just hope I can find all the pieces.

©Heather Coldstream

I’m on Twitter @cistotrans

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2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition


About cistotrans

A Seattle-area trans woman seeking a happy spot to stay at along the path of transition.
This entry was posted in gender transition, LGBT, mental health, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Broken

  1. Beautifully expressed, Heather. x


  2. Connie says:

    Gosh, you were asking for directions the other day, and now you’re attempting to read the assembly instructions! More progress! 🙂

    Another male trait is a compulsion to fix things. Emotions and feelings are not fixable through logic and analysis, however. Our individual feelings are valid and real. In Clare Flourish’s blog today, she discussed the writings of poet, Audre Lord, who said, “…. I think therefore I am;… I feel therefore I can be free.” I rather like that (even if only put in my own context).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Elene says:

    The metaphor of a mixed-up box from IKEA is brilliant, Heather.
    And yes, everybody does feel flawed, usually more flawed than they really are. You’ve been dealt a particularly tricky version of that, with other people making it more difficult than it had to be, but yes, it’s universal. Another reason we all need to be gentle with each other.

    Liked by 1 person

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