I Fail at Support Groups

From time to time I think about going to a support group and from time to time I have, only to discover that I really don’t like the environment at support groups. Now that I’m in a different city, I find myself wondering if the support groups here are different than the support groups where I used to live and there is that part of me that wants to hear about the issues that other trans women are going through. In part for solidarity, in part to offer what support I can and in part because when I hear about what others are going through, it often minimizes what I am…I think it could be worse.

Which seems awful, really. Is it awful to feel better because things could be worse?

I’ve never been able to do go to those groups more than once or twice a year, meaning I’ve been to very few of them. Too few to make any real connections with any of the people there. I’ve made stronger connections to other trans people online, but very few of those have continued beyond casual Facebook connections. I was close with a small group of women for a time, but after my surgery, we lost touch…or maybe it was just me.

I’m not especially good at maintaining relationships beyond those that are very nearby. I’m actually fairly rotten at it and more so with trans people. But there are times when I feel like I need that connection, need to talk with someone who has been through what I have. I’m just not terribly interested in the politics. Support groups have their politics and in some ways, being where I am, I don’t really fit into the group structure in any meaningful way. Plus, I rarely socialize at bars or coffee afterward. So in a room full of people often on the outside of things, I am an outsider.

So I go looking for a connection and find nothing like one and so I don’t return and just go back to a life without a meaningful connection to another trans person.

Do I need that?

Sometimes I think I do…I’m just way too shitty at making meaningful connections to forge one and hold on to it.

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Transfictional

Yesterday, I read this post at laurustina and it struck me, reading about her daughter’s “boy suit”… it struck me that this metaphor that she was writing about so beautifully, this very apt descriptor of her daughter’s experience and her experience in coming to terms with her daughter was, for me, not a metaphor that I used, but one of the many fictions that I have created over the course of my life to deal in some measure with being trans.

When I was going through puberty, I hoped that the zipper would show itself. I constructed an alternate history of me, an alternate science fiction world that I was born into where I had been born a girl, body and brain. But I was born dying of a rare disease, something akin to what the “boy in the bubble” suffered from, but worse because there was no way I was going to survive. My parents lost their first child, a girl, hours after she was born, so they were desperate because they were going to lose me as well. My father, having done government work in his time as an engineer, had a friend who had spoken to him of a top secret project and that friend came through. They could save me, place me in a containment suit. The only problem was that they only had the one suit and it was for a boy. My parents had to choose between having a dead daughter or a living son and they chose to keep me alive, hoping that one day a cure could be found to allow them to remove me from the suit. In the meantime, no one could ever know, including me.

Somewhere along the line, however, I figured it out. I knew there was no way that the body that I saw on the outside matched who I was on the inside. But I couldn’t tell them I knew because it would break their hearts to know how much their daughter suffered inside her containment suit. At the same time, I hoped…wished, that the zipper would reveal itself, the release in whatever form it was that I could undo the catch simply peel the whole thingĀ  away.

It was a good fiction for a while. It served me as many would, an escape in some measure, a focus of wishing that if wishes were possible and mine were to be granted, this would be the one.

Most of my constructed fictions, fantasies and escapes…most of them allowed me in some measure to continue forward in my life as a woman accepted by those around me as a woman even though they once knew me as a man. That they would see that I had been transformed through no fault of my own and be sympathetic and loving as I struggled through a period of adaptation into a life of happiness.

If constructing fictions is my art, then you could say my life imitated my art in many ways. Serendipitous I assure you.

I’ve read a decent amount of what is essentially transformational wish fulfillment fiction online. There are story sites devoted to this kind of work and it amused me, fascinated me and saddened me by degrees to see the kinds of constructs people created to deal with this. Some, such as a wretched series about a mall wizard who transforms men into mindless bimbo sex toys, baffled me. I am unsure what the purpose of these stories are except that they amount to either very oversexualized fantasy wish fulfillment or toxic revenge fantasies meant to punish men for bad behavior. Most had a kind of pornographic element to them. I don’t judge others for what they need, but these were not for me. Others, the more science fiction driven stories dealing with body-swapping machines and the like intrigued me simply because they fed into my constructed fictions. There would occasionally be a story about a boy suit…

There are many commonalities in the trans experience and it only stands to reason that we share many metaphors, consciously or un, stories that help us to get to sleep at night, fictional constructs, like an interior Second Life, where we can create worlds to live in as an escape, a way to stay sane by degrees knowing that when all else fails, at the very least, we can project into this fiction and exist there for a time.

A final note.

As I began and moved through my transition, the fictions fell away. I no longer needed another world to live in because in accepting myself and being myself, in being accepted as myself, I no longer needed to imagine an alternative to the life I have. I no longer needed to cast away the skin I lived in because it was as it should be.