I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the ideas of pride and shame recently. I’m not going to talk too much about pride in this post. But shame is something that’s become much clear in myself and my history.
In a discussion with a friend recently I was talking about how we as people think of pride backwards. She asked me if I took pride in being trans. I wasn’t able to fully answer at the time, but now I think I can much better. I don’t take pride in being trans because I didn’t do anything to be trans. This is just part of who I am, just like I don’t take any pride in being Caucasian or American. These aren’t things I did, there is no pride to take in them. But there’s two things related to it. The first is I do take pride in the efforts I’m making to bring my gender expression with my gender identity. This is something I can take pride in as it’s me working towards an important goal.
The other is something people think is the opposite of pride: Shame. I would love to say I don’t feel shame about being trans. Intellectually I don’t, because I know there’s nothing to be ashamed of in being trans. But that only goes so far. Emotionally my whole life I’ve been shown just how wrong society thinks I am. No one can stand up to that on their own, and so most of my life I’ve felt ashamed of who I really am. “Boys don’t act that way” “Boys don’t cry” “Man up!” are all things I’ve heard in my life, and I suspect many other trans women have had to endure because we’re taught to feel shame in expressing our true selves.
I mentioned in an earlier post I took to the goth culture as a teen, mostly because it didn’t put the same pressure on me to conform to an identity I never felt. This isn’t to say there weren’t still gender roles, but they were different than the ones I had grown up with, and definitely more blended. But even with that being the case, the old shame wasn’t just washed away, and it still is to some degree. I have a lot of shame in my self I’m working on now and trying to rid myself of. As long as it’s there, I’m not going to be able to fully accept myself.
One of the biggest areas of shame I still deal with to this day is being Pan/Bisexual. From a very early age the bible was used by my parents to teach me and my siblings about how to live life. My first real experience with the idea of someone being not straight is a relative of mine my family was talking about how being gay was wrong. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time and had no real understanding of him or what being gay really was. But I could quote the bible and knew the scriptures that said it was wrong. I was praised and felt so proud, but looking back I feel a different shame, because I can still recall the sadness in his eyes when he looked at this little child parroting things they had no clue about. Of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is one of the few I actually wish I could take back.
That mentality would stick with me for years after, the idea of being anything but straight being wrong. It would be over a decade before I would admit to being attracted to men. I pushed down that attraction for a very long time, and still have some issues with it. Even when I admitted it, I kept my attraction to a purely sexual attraction. I wouldn’t consider the idea of really dating a man. I have been attracted to a handful of men in my life, in a more than sexual way, but would never have acted on it out of shame. I was wrong for feeling that attraction (though funnily enough once I am much farther into transition it’ll be my attraction to women many will think I should feel shame about.)
So moving forward I intend to work on the things I’ve felt shame for, and accept myself much more. Not just about being a woman, but about my attractions, about my wants and my desires. It’s time i figure out all the things that make me happy and take charge of them.