For the last two months or so, I had been dealing with social isolation, and therefore, social anxiety. I thought I had made some good friends at an archaeological field school I had attended over the summer- but the dynamics radically shifted once we were back in Norman. I stopped being the highly energetic, helpful person I was in Colorado, and became extremely shy and reclusive when I returned to Oklahoma. I let relationships slip away because I didn’t have the energy or personality to maintain them. I got a pair of new room mates, but I hide myself away from them as well, too shy to interact with them on more than an occasional basis.
One especially bad instance for me was an Anthropology Undergraduate Society meeting. It was the first time I had attended, since in all previous semesters I had been working while they were meeting. I was supposed to introduce myself to everyone. Instead, I froze, trying to hang out with the field-school members who were there. And I became excluded- probably not by any conscious effort on their behalf, but the circle of conversation was closed to me. Everyone was seated in front-facing desks, and there was nowhere for me to sit, so I was standing, looming over them. The facing had it so everyone’s back was toward me. Every time I tried to enter the conversation, my entry was too forceful, and it was awkward, out-of-place, and unsuccessful. I tried to run away, but I nerved myself to go back- but could only engage in more looming.
When I got home, for some reason it clicked in me. I was completely alone. I had no presence or impact on anyone in Norman, Oklahoma, hell, the world except for my few connections to my family and one online friend.
I was free.
I decided I was unequipped to deal with the social expectations and realities of being a man as I imagined myself as. I therefore needed to radically reinvent myself, become not the man I aspired to be, but the person. And that person, to me, is undeniably female.
I’ll get into my female role models in another post, as this is supposed to be a record of my first therapy session. And the events that followed.
I had gone to an archaeological conference and had almost crippling social anxiety attacks, to the point of almost going to the side of the road and crying. I suppose it was my last hurrah in masculinity- I cut quite the dashing figure, in my nice shirt and vest, even a tie, and I made a good impression on the scholarly representatives. But somehow I completely alienated all the field-school people who went with me. I began getting depressed, I suppose is the best word for it.
To the point that I even told my dad about how crushed I felt. I had been doing research into therapists in the area, but now I felt I needed help to even function socially. My gender took a back seat to the social issues. Dad agreed that it was perhaps time to get help, and signed me up with a counselor at the school program to see what I needed.
She was very accommodating, allowing me to share what I could. I emphasized that my social functioning was the most important thing to me at the moment, but she suggested I join a GLBT therapy group they were organizing. I agreed that it would be a good idea- both for me to figure out where I stood as a transgender person, and as practice for me to organize my social skills.
So today I attended my first meeting. There were two therapists, three gay men, and a lesbian woman, so I was definitely the odd one out. They greeted me with kindness, and curiosity. The conversation seemed to flow pretty well, but I am ashamed that I probably messed things up more, by wanting to jump in with contributions about me, and asking fewer questions. I guess it’s all a part of practicing and learning.
I was surprised by what they noticed about me- I tried to demonstrate my old, deep voice (which I use to sing Johnny Cash with ease,) and they said it seemed like I had had difficulty doing that, even though I had not had any official voice training. They also noted that I seemed very natural and comfortable, which I indeed felt. Point is, I guess I had made more progress than even I realized.
Now to probably the more important part of the story.
As I was writing this post, I was talking to my sister. I am uncertain whether she was fully in support of me changing my gender, or if she was dancing around the issue, but she told me to “just go out there and be you”. After that, I was talking to my dad, who had sent me a call. I was suddenly seized with a strong sense of guilt talking about the group. I decided it was “now or never,” and gave him a call.
His response was not helpful. As when I was suffering my social anxieties, his response was to pressure me to adjust my appearance to what is ‘normal.’ His preconceptions are really strong- he knew about SRS, but kept forgetting that I expressly told him that I was not attracted to men. He believed that liberal people at college were pulling me to make this decision, and that the group therapy would only ‘push me down the hill.’ He concluded by asking me, as a special favor, to ask my social therapist if there was an alternate group to help ‘push me back up.’
However, on the other hand, he did give me his support the only way he knew how, and I have to appreciate that. He said he would always love me, no matter what I did (although he hoped I will change my mind) and that he would always be there for me. So I still have him (very strongly, perhaps a little too much) in my life- now all I can do is try to do a long education about the truth of the matter, especially bringing him up to speed on why we need to change the world.