Loneliness & Community
Field Notes In/On Transition
Loneliness and Community
Been trying to figure out what and how to get myself blogging my transition more often than my current once a month. Maybe if I sat down and wrote more blogs? Seems likely the answer is self evident. Maybe so, maybe.
Anyhoo, if you have been following along, you will know that most of my time has been spent recently fretting and fussing as I sort of blindly applied for jobs that I may or may not have been good for. It is like fishing, sometimes you hit a good spot, but mostly not. Well, that’s how I remember fishing, from when I was a kid and last fished. I really have no doubt that most of my difficulties are of my own devising. That's the depressing part. I am not much of a planner. Pretty much everything I do I do because it is time to do it. I always did my schoolwork (if I did it) at the last minute. I got decent grades, but never great grades. This never bothered me much except when I failed, which thankfully wasn’t very often.
I’m really good a first drafts of things. Interestingly though, certain pursuits like writing a poem, I can’t only do one draft. Most of my poems go through dozens of revisions, dozens. Once I decide to do prose though, I kind of have to blurt it all out in one go (that maybe months of writing, but with very little revision). This is not to say that I am not working to change this need to move on to something else once that story has worked its way from my brain through my fingers, onto paper, or increasingly: the keyboard, screen, hard drive and cloud.
This is why I feel like the four decent first drafts of four different novels I have been making infinitesimal edits on for the last year or two, these things may all be finished at the same time, at some very indefinite date in the future.
Why is it so hard for me to plan things out? It’s not like I don’t make plans or outlines, lists of things to do. I do that. But when it comes time to create, I just do it. I tend to forget my outlines, my plans....Whether that creation is a mandated report at a job, or a dystopian sci fi story. The thing is I always do these things at the last possible minute, and maybe even finish on time if there is a deadline, but lateness is something I don’t do often anymore. More often I don’t do anything.
I am always saving market deadline links for story or poem contests, or magazines, publishers who are reading at certain times. I almost never make those self imposed deadlines. Mostly I think, because by the time the deadlines come around, I have forgotten and am working on something else.
So, what am I getting to exactly? That I definitely need more structure in my life, in my days. Having a job makes this easier, at least for me, than being unemployed. My discipline is not good. I need some deadlines that mean something to me. The ones I collect online and put neatly in folders in my browser, are obviously, not that important to me.
Recently, having no idea about how to get a new job, or whether I even want one, I reached out to a local provincially funded work placement, training placement organization through WorkBC, called Open Door. I have had a few intake type appointments, doing some tests, form filling out, handing in a version of my resume. All in order for them to help me find something reasonably suitable either employment or education wise, but it seems with a bent more to employment.
I saw, on Monday, a vocational counsellor who recommended that I work with my worker to craft a resume and cover letter or two or three for some positions that might be Unemployment top up, extension type gigs. 3-4 months working with a film festival? I think that is completely something I can do. Three of the job descriptions are things I can do, have done, and/or want to learn to do. The Vocational Counsellor had placed people with this festival in previous years, and seems to think that I have a good chance to land one of the jobs.
This was definitely good news to me. I haven’t applied yet, and there is absolutely no such thing as a guarantee on anything in this world, so I am being cautious in my optimism. I posted vaguely about it on Facebook, and got such a congratulatory response, that now I feel pressure to actually get one of the jobs. The fest, though may not think I am as good a fit, I am trying to be positive, and not get ahead of myself. There isn’t even a guarantee that the company I am dealing with will be doing the placements yet, so.... Cautious optimism, I repeat.
Since these jobs are all only a few months, I will/would still have to figure out how to find some way to pay the bills when the gig is over. The counsellor told me that I can still be using their service then, and maybe find another temp gig, or a local shop, or something if school is not for me. So far I do not feel like they feel I am someone who should do the self employment program. This kind of irks me, but I have only had a few appointments. Just now, I had my worker call me, in fact, to ask if he had mentioned some week long workshop to me. He hadn’t, but I am interested and open to anything that can help me find work, or make my “own work” pay. I have a meeting with him at 9:00 am tomorrow, and I will find out about that, and hopefully move forward on applying to this film festival.
You can always improve your resume, or cover letter skills, so I am hoping to get some good tips then too, or maybe from the workshop, if that’s what it is about.
So wasn’t this piece titled Loneliness and Community, Josie?
In my roundabout manner, what I am getting to, is that I feel a lot better about my chances of finding employment, or getting into a retraining/training course, and I am not feeling as lonely in my search for whatever the hell it is I am looking for. The place I have been going to, is very much a community space. I have been there maybe four times and I have already seen how open, friendly and very much a part of the community that surrounds it.
I have also as I have mentioned in previous blogs, been expanding my community by joining a choir, meeting new interesting, diverse folks whose only real commonality is a love of singing and being a self identified Femme. The choir has a lot of online and real life discussions about the content and presentation of our choral joy.
It is such a thoughtful intelligent group that I am humbled to be included, and have met so many people who enjoy more than anything, singing together as a group. I am not one to shy away from the spotlight, but I didn’t bother auditioning for any solos in the choir. For once I don’t want it to be about me, not even for one line of song, but rather have my voice ring alongside everyone else’s hopefully in key and on time.
For me, going to choir is actually a struggle, it is something I am doing to push my boundaries, to force myself to meet and interact with new people. I have gone to a bunch of choir events, and even held a sectional rehearsal at my house. This kind of participation in community is not something that comes easy to me anymore, or really never did. I am proud to be able to feel included in this choir, as so often in the past, even when I was included, my frail ego lies to me and says I am not.
In the last year my life has shifted not that comfortably for me at times. I have found my fourth year of Transition much more difficult than previous years in many ways. From losing my job, having to move, learn to live more frugally, to watching my closest friends go through huge changes in their lives as well. I knew I wasn’t alone in going through hard times, but it often felt like it to me.
As someone who has spent most of their life living in denial and shame at who they were at their core, I have never let myself become truly intimate with any one person. Sure I have always had close friends who I shared deep issues, with, including my gender dysphoria. But no matter how supportive people were in those twenty years or so of my being out, dysphoric, confused, closeted. I never believed that I was worthy of their empathy. I tried to be part of so many ‘scenes’ over the years ... in hindsight, at the time, it was just me trying to be like, and be worthy of the people I was spending time with. I always felt like a fraud, an impostor. Because I was an impostor, I wasn’t yet able to be Josie, to be me. I always held back.
I always (and I mean every single time ever) picked a much to late in the relationship moment to tell someone if I ‘liked’ them. Again in hindsight this may have been something I did on purpose, only telling people of my feelings when I KNEW they would reject me. Thus all my loves have been unrequited. No one’s fault but my own, this. People tell me daily not to dwell on the past, not to have regrets. I do not see this as possible.
I think people who say they have no regrets are lying to themselves at the bare minimum. Willful obtuseness, my archenemy, and the thing I use to beat my ego senseless many days of the week. I loathe it in others almost as much as I do in myself. I kept myself at the fringes of the theatre folk, the writers, the film makers, who I spent my youth with. I did some things, some projects, enough to be noticed occasionally, but never enough to be singled out, to be ‘one of the inner circle.’
Not that any of my friends or cliques would have called themselves an inner circle. But even when I was standing in the middle of those circles, I saw myself as outside them. Everyone else got to date each other, work at each other’s old jobs, etc. the white noise of my gender dysphoria covered me in a haze of not feeling worthy of love, or respect from peers. I have spent my life deflecting praise and denying that anyone could be in love with me. I don’t love me, how could anyone else?
This is the one area of my life where I feel the most deficient and like a failure, Love, dating, mating, whatever it is that you want to call those intimate relationships between folks who are ‘more than friends.’ I have been blessed in my life, I really do feel, and always have, even if I can’t say so very often, with having small core groups of friends that are really good friends, we listen to each other, and mostly argue pretty amiably when we disagree. We have true affection for each other. Love maybe. But very much the fun loving platonic kind.
A few years before I started transition I cut myself off completely from that idea that your friend who you are ‘attracted’ to, is necessarily attracted to you, in a that more than friends kind of way. Being constantly defeated by the so called friend zone has pretty much withered my heart. I have had the odd flirtation over those years, but not once have I ‘fallen’ for someone, or even had a crush on someone. When you have spent pretty much your entire life moving from one doomed crush to another, eventually, it seems pointless to have hope. The other person has to ‘like’ you.
Transitioning has until recently made this non-interest in finding love a physical thing as well. As my anti-androgen, and Estrogen have restructured my libido, giving it a well deserved rest for the first few years of transition. I have had the odd ache for some closeness, cuddling, being able to be held, that kind of thing, but the idea of any sort of sex sends me into a bit of a dysphoric haze of self loathing. I talked a lot about these feelings last year on my blog, and on facebook, around Valentine's Day, which last year made me feel even more inadequate than it usually does. Have you ever had a Valentine's Day date? I have not. Not once. I have eaten lots of heart shaped chocolate though.
People had some great responses on facebook to my self pity: pointing out that I have really only been myself a couple of years, give it time etc. Valid point of view. But I am trying to also reconcile my existence pre-transition as being something more than a ghost. Don’t compare yourself to others? Laudable. Let me know when you can do that all the time. But, I did, and do compare myself to others, especially in this regard. I have so much jealousy to let go of. And knowing this is a step, but you can’t change everything about how you deal, overnight.
This year, two of the close friends who have been the most important in my life in regards to being my pals early on in transition, my coffee klatch, they have themselves found new loves, one of them moved away to be with hers, and is the happiest I have ever seen her. The other is contemplating co-habitation... It is joyous for me, and makes me feel warm and fuzzy that both my friends have found new love, and new life.
I have to admit though that I am jealous of something that I tell myself isn’t possible for me. As cliched as it might be given/despite my own history of dating queer, I would give almost anything to have a cisgendered man find me an attractive woman, and actually tell me that I am beautiful, to want to be my lover, or to have a chance to love me.
Is it wrong to want to have someone love you at the same time as you love them? Whiny? Maybe. If you have ever even once experienced being in love with someone who loved you at the same time, you have no idea what I really mean here. I am 48 years old, many of my peers are grandparents. 48 year old heavy set semi passable Trans women do not have a large dating pool. I have dated fetishists, and they do what they do in shame. I do not want to be some fetishists dirty secret. This is my faintest hope.
I don’t want to feel this way. I want to have hope that there is someone who could love me. I want to feel like I could get a job, or sell my art, all these things that I rant about.
So far the only things I have done that give me any glimmers of hope are the things that I have been doing to build community, spending time at choir, and choir events, going to the odd trans/queer events, or get togethers. I feel that I have also been slowly building community with other trans* folks as well as my choir, the Trans* community is looser and I find a bit tougher to wedge yourself into. This year though I have spent a lot of great meals and evenings hanging out with many of the local Trans folks and feel more and more like I am part of that community.
So community building it is. One thing I can do, is keep spending time doing these things like choir, and various Trans* outings, perhaps if I get working, get back to being someone who is seen at art events around town. I may not have ever been someone who made it to every show, but I used to go to open mics, bands, openings slightly more often than I do now, which is almost never. Community does not find you, you find community. Maybe if I get out more I could even meet some person who sees me as someone they could love. As always my optimism is very cautious.