I thought I worked at 11 am today, but really I’ll work at 4. The restaurant I work at is less than a half a block away from St. Pats, where I went to church as a kid. It’s a lovely day here- a lot cooler than it’s been in awhile. You know when it’s sunny and cool, that kind of bright crisp feeling of fall? The leaves are green, but you can tell it’s the end of summer. That’s how it is in Cleveland right now.
So I went to 11 o’clock mass. I didn’t take communion. St. Pat’s is a really special church. I know a lot of ex-Catholics had terrible childhood experiences in the church, but I grew up in this little pocket of liberal Catholics on the west side of Cleveland. Lots and lots of hippies trying to find a balanced adulthood and a way to raise their kids. The “choir” at St. Pat’s always has tie-dyed shirts on. The men all have these graying ponytails.
(As an aside, the choir tries their best, but the Catholic missal music that came out of the sixties and seventies is uniquely terrible. It’s so terrible it comes back around and becomes lovable again. One of my very favorite parts of attending Catholic mass is watching a group of people try valiantly to make “Let us Come to the Water” sound good.)
When I was little my mom would often start crying in mass. I was so embarrassed when she’d do that. In retrospect, geez of course she was crying, she was carrying huge burdens. She had all her childhood trauma to process without really any help, and she was financially carrying the family, and she was a new nurse (and nurses are total bullies to new nurses) and she had these insane standards of what being a “good person” meant in this world. And our home life was just a tornado of stress. My mom needed a lot of help she didn’t get. If I had to do what my mom did I’d need to cry every day.
She did it! She kept us all alive! Me and my siblings are truly the weirdest bunch of kids, but none of us are on heroin either, which in Ohio at this moment in history is a real accomplishment.
So I mean, of course I cried in mass today. Father Mark is still the priest there, and he’s a great guy, gentle and serious, and it’s a real special thing to get to go to a mass with the priest you had growing up. And the inside of St. Pat’s is beautiful. It’s not a modern looking church at all. It’s all stained glass and ornate statues and high vaulted ceilings.
Of course the reading today was the prodigal son. It had to be, right? I feel like I’m in recovery in a big way, but it’s been hard for me to put my finger on what exactly I’m recovering from. It was extra super duper clear today. It’s just been the different flavors of narcissism. Every thing that’s made me miserable has been about my narcissism. In my last post I asked why I kept falling for scams- relationships that weren’t real, life goals that aren’t real. I think it’s always been because I wanted to think I was special. I wanted to date special people to show I was special, I wanted to get famous as a comedian to show I was special, I wanted to have a special relationship to gender because I was special. I think even when I’ve had to cry about the behavior of the men around me, one upsetting aspect has been realizing their friendship with me had no affect on their consciousness of the results of the behavior. I want being friends with me to mean something about the kind of man you become! Wouldn’t you know, being friends with me is not some feminist magic. Reality is not as ego-boosting as I would like.
But I need to make this clear- just because narcissism is what these pursuits have been about for me doesn’t mean that’s wha they are for you. I don’t think every standup comedian is a narcissist, although a lot are. I don’t think everyone who wants to date the people I wanted to date is a narcissist. I don’t think transitioning is always about narcissism. But I am telling you in my life my narcissism has caused me a lot of misery and it did use those paths to make me miserable. Probably it could’ve used any path.
Last week I went through the gambit of emotions in being upset about that guy who I found out sexually assaulted that female comic. I did the numbing out thing, I did the sadness thing, I did the rage thing. Notably, I did NOT have an episode of dysphoria, although I was a real stone cold bitch to some dudes trying to flirt with me at the restaurant. There were lady social duties I just could not muster the will to perform. But I didn’t fantasize about not having a female body, and that’s actually pretty rad.
I’m also happy with the speed with which that whole emotional process resolved itself. By Thursday I felt able to connect with the gratitude I use as my touchstone for whether I’m grounded. Like yes, I spent a lot of time in my life with a pack of dudes who are really lost, in terms of their ability to connect with others and in terms of how much they disdain women. It sucks that a lot of my youth went to a social group like that. On the other hand, that’s not where I’m at now. Because of detransition I have lots of access to incredible women and men with energy and vision for a world where sex stereotypes don’t define and destroy us. It’s true I usually can’t protect women from that narcissistic male sexual violence so many of us get hurt by. But hey, when people tell me a sexual assault happened to them, I get to give them the validation and help I didn’t get. That’s a real special blessing, to get to play that role.
Gratitude is a funny thing, because often the duty to be grateful is used to shut down people talking about the reality of their lives. And yet it is powerful to find what you can be grateful for in your life. I have so many blessings in my life. Other detransitioned women, the other people I’ve met through detransition activism, the people I work with, my parents, my apartment, my city, my yoga studio, and then all those sources of strength I got when I was a little girl. Even the opportunities I’ve been given to see the harm male violence against women does in people’s lives have been like controlled forest fires- the amount of lasting damage it’s done in my life has been kind of ideal. Enough for me to have the insight about how terrible it can be, and yet largely I’ve been able to come through healthy and capable.
I don’t know where I’m going to go spiritually. I know making sense of life spiritually is becoming more and more of a pressing need. I think especially in my relationships with men. It’s becoming clearer to me I want a partner in life who is very intentional in his self-awareness and his behavior, and I think he would need to be at a level that you really only get to if you’re putting a lot of work into your spiritual life. I want him to be as serious about using the role of “man” in this world to create good situations for other people as I am serious about using the role of “woman” to do that. I want him to be over himself in a pretty hardcore way. I’d ideally like to respect him so much on the being over himself front that when he tells me “hey you need to get over yourself” there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s not just stuck in some worldview where women never get to have any fun or self-regard. I’d like him to be so intentional with his words that I can always take his feedback seriously.
Hmm, I don’t know, we’ll see who crosses my path. If I end up a nun that would be a thrilling turn of events. But if I met a real blessing of a dude to have some babies with that would be quite the story too. Or if neither happened and I ended up running an equine therapy practice for dysphoric young women. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? Horse-riding and target practice and group therapy and yoga, off in the woods?
I guess all I’m saying is the way the hard stuff and the beautiful stuff twines weaves together in life is really something. The way the good and the bad, the light and the heavy, can live so near to each other. Makes me tear up in a good way.