The Art of the Retcon and the Erasure of the Past

Do you know the word, retcon? It’s the short form for Retroactive Continuity. It’s employed in fictions where previously established facts are surreptitiously changed to reflect the current situation. It is most common in comic books and science fiction and is sometimes necessary, but also a little bit of a cheat. People who know what happened before are keenly aware of the change and, in these days of nitpicking for lack of a better thing to do, nits are most definitely picked, especially here on the interwebz.

I often find myself retconning (the verb form of the word…I can do this) my life to some degree. There are times when I am relating a story from into history back and the proper name would have been the name I used then or the proper gender for the story would have been the one that I was known for and, yet, I find myself making those little edits to reflect the current continuity. Is it a a small fiction? Sure. But it hurts no one and I do it with a wink and a smile.

The other day a show poster in my classroom fell off of the wall (my classroom has a gallery of posters from every show I have directed in my time there). The poster had a cartoon drawing  of me in the before time. I had a similarly drawn cartoon of me in my current incarnation on the cabinet behind my desk. As the poster was down, I took the opportunity to “correct” it. There was no need for the older representation of me to linger there. I let the artist know of the edit and she heartily approved.

The fact is, while I remember my life before through the things I did and the people I have known and loved, I am having a harder and harder time actively remembering what it was like to be that person or act as that person. The physical reality of it has passed beyond the point of recollection. What I look like now…how I feel now is my reality. The reality of the before time in history back is gone when it comes to the way I perceive myself. So it seems only natural in some measure that my brain has begun to rewrite my memories…to retroactively create a timeline where who I am now is who I have always been and, yes, this is an imperfect process as no amount of editing will ever change my relationships with my spouse and children (nor would I want to).

But it’s still strange to see old images of myself. I know that was me, but it doesn’t seem like me. It’s not the person I am now and I know everyone changes over time, but these changes are much greater and I imagine I have a much more keen sense of erasure that someone who has not gone through this kind of transition.

It makes me think of those who are deep stealth, who have erased their pasts rather completely. I wonder if they have experienced a more profound sense of erasure to the point that while they recognize that there was a before time, they no longer have any evidence to support it and, as a result, it hardly seems real anymore. I wonder if that is why they often take some measure of affront at the idea that we are, in some sense, always trans. If they have retconned their pasts to the point that even their trans experience is barely recallable. I can understand how that might happen.

My life as it is now is still relatively short in comparison to that other life I lived. In the years to come, I wonder how foreign that previous experience will become. How little will I recognize what it was to have lived as I did?

 

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