Thursday afternoon at work an antsiness I had been feeling all day intensified into a need to get away from everyone, to be completely alone. I went for a walk and after a bit found an empty dark classroom auditorium. (It's vacation this week). I sat in the back row and tried to meditate, but I was feeling too agitated; then, exhausted, I napped for about an hour, undisturbed; then I woke again and thought, "I'm not done...I need to remember something," so I curled around the awful empty ache in my stomach, hugging my chest to my thighs, and let my mind go back, searching for the source...and remembered a backpacking trip my father took me on when I was about six.
I have thought and written about this trip before, in pre-revelation counseling, and I have always felt that something emotionally shattering happened during it, but I could never figure out what it was. Now I think I begin to understand.
Perhaps it goes something like this:
First of all, even before bringing gender into it, I was too young. He took me up into a huge empty dark place in the mountains when all I had ever known was the lights of home, and I was terrified. But he had singled me out for this trip - my brother, a year younger, had been deemed too little - so I understood that I was expected to be strong and brave, and I did my best to hide my fear. We ate dinner as the sky went dark, hung up our food because of the bears, and then it was time to sleep. When I was in my sleeping bag he told me he needed to go away from the tent for a little while and asked if I would be all right, and I said yes, and he went...and I thought I was going to die.
I waited and waited, and I heard noises, and then (I swear this is how I remember it) I looked out of the tent and saw a ghostly white figure moving in the dark, and I didn't know if it was my father returning or an emissary of death.
Then he was back.
I needed him to comfort me, to touch me, to hold me, but he did none of these things. He did not sense my terror..and I think perhaps in that moment I grasped at some fundamental level deeper than words that he could not see me. He could not see the girl I knew I was. He saw me as a boy, expected me and wanted me to be a boy.
And of course like any little girl I loved my Daddy with all my heart, and wanted more than anything to please him...so perhaps that was the moment I made up my mind to be a boy and then a man. For him. Because I loved him.
Or something like that. I am wary of pat psychological reconstructions. Still, there is a lot here which feels close to truth.
In the empty auditorium, as I worked my way through some version of the above, sobs wrenched out of me. Anger and pain and sorrow and guilt all mixed together were oozing out deep down, a black emotional sludge from long ago. It hurt hard.
But then later, washing my face, I looked in the mirror and thought, "I forgive him. And I forgive myself." Easy, just like that.
Who knows how much of this is accurate or lasting...but it does seem telling. I thought I was going to die that night in the mountains; and I thought I was going die again when my car's transmission failed on the highway, right around the time I reached the age he was when he died; and it was right after that I wrote in my journal, "I just want to be a girl."
Too tidy? Maybe. Maybe not.
Why didn't I die? I was supposed to die. Why am I alive?
I don't know. No reason. I just am.
So, now I'm going to do what I want.