This is an essay on identity that I have needed to write for a long time...
|Identity. What a loaded word. We change it like we change clothes - to fit the occasion. The identity that I am talking about, though, is that deep, enduring one. Who I really am. I am still working on my identity. I have a psychiatrist helping me with that process. I can tell you a few things about my identity right now, though.
First of all, I do not have to stay with the identity I was given. And I am not going to. Second of all, I am trying to figure out how to form an alternate "professional" identity. Third of all, I have many components to my identity - many facets - and each one must be addressed for me to to be a mentally healthy person with any possibility of happiness in my future. Fourth, my identity has meaning. My existence has meaning. My life matters.
So, on the note of not staying with the identity I was given. On the surface, and only on the surface, I am a five-foot, two-and-a-half-inch tall female, approximately 220 lbs, with strawberry blonde hair and grey eyes. I am masculinely built, very muscular, and walk with a limp from a military injury. Is that who I am? Not at all. The identity I was given, the superficial one, is that of a woman. That is not who I am. I am a man. I am a 124-lb man with short, spiked hair, a muscular build, and not a hair of excess fat anywhere to be found on my body. I am athletic, with a passion for racquetball and distance running, and am an excellent swimmer. Now that I am off the medicines that caused me to gain all of that weight, I can work toward my true identity. That is the superficial one.
I am sure by now that you, the reader, are thoroughly confused on the man vs. woman comments that I have made regarding my identity above. Biologically, I am a female. My identity, however, is that of a man. I am transgender. Before you stop reading out of disgust or religious judgment, let me explain something to you. Gender identity is different than sexual identity. Being transgender does not mean that you are homosexual. It means that you are, at your core, male or female. I happen to be male. And I also happen to be a Christian. Bear with me. I am attempting to educate as I explain this complicated issue of identity for everyone's sake. As I said, I am transgender. I feel most comfortable dressed in a nice pair of slacks, and a sharp-looking shirt and tie with a silver tie chain. I have short hair - a man's cut - spiked and well-groomed. I prefer two earrings - small silver loops - to match my silver size 8 wedding band. I enjoy the things that the typical man enjoys, and I think like a man. My reasoning is that of a man, as is my particular set of hobbies and my comfort zone regarding clothing, events, and identity. You can think that I am as weird as you like, but I do have a spouse. I am married, and I am married to a man. So, my superficial identity has gained me companionship in a societally-acceptable form. He is happy being married to me. The nice part is that he shares his clothes for important events and always seems to know exactly what to get me for gifts. We like the same things, fortunately.
Now, the difference between gender identity and sexual identity must be elucidated. Gender identity is that core male or female identity. Sexual identity is how you function sexually. Sexual identity uses those classifications of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual, among others. I am bisexual. Now, if you are a homosexual-hating religious figure, I urge you to stop and think for a moment. How could I not be? And do you really think that I am going to Hell for who God created me to be? I do not. Think what you like, but God created me this way, and He created me this way for a reason. I do not propose to know what that reason is, because I can tell you that the entire identity issue for me is a complex and confusing one, but I can tell you that God does know what He is doing. Think about that before you judge me. My actions are those of a heterosexual. I have never had any homosexual relations as far as what is societally-acceptable is concerned. All of my sexual encounters are with my husband in a male-female fashion, he acting as the male and I acting as the female. Does that mean that I will never express my full identity in other ways? No, and no one knows the future, but I can tell you that I am sexually committed to my husband, the person I married, for as long as we both shall live.
Societal identity, which is something that I mentioned already, is a tricky business as well. How do you present yourself to others? Well, I generally present my true identity. I dress in jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of boots or black Nike basketball shoes with a ball cap. I am often mistaken in the restroom for a man. I have gotten used to that. Many women find that offensive for various reasons, but I am the one who has to live with who I am, so I figure that they can learn to live with it as I have had to. An alternate "professional" identity is something I have yet to develop, though. I do believe that it will be along the lines of that sharp shirt-and-tie figure with the silver tie chain, a nice pair of slacks, and some boots or smart-looking dress shoes. I feel most confident, calm, and collected in that attire. I feel good when I am dressed that way, and I look good, too. Once I lose some of this weight, I will look even better. I will admit that I am afraid to develop this identity because I do still care what others think. A little bit. I have been judged harshly all my life for things that were not my fault, and so I have lost much of my concern over what people who do not know me think of me at a glance. I do still care, however, about those that I respect, and whom I hope will respect me, like my doctor. The nice thing about the people that I respect is that they are people who know me, love me for who I am, and already respect me. I only hope that I can make them proud with my true identity.
Most importantly, however, it is my utmost priority to be true to myself. I have to be me. And I am coming into my own that way. I am losing the fear of what others think and how others may judge me. I am becoming more confident in who I really am and who I should really be. I have had a rough start to life, but it does not have to continue that way. I should be able to be myself, to show my true identity, and to be happy with a future as myself. That is exactly what I plan to do. Help me do that. Help everyone around you do that. Let them be themselves. And be yourself. Be who you truly are. It is the only way to true mental health and happiness. Show your true identity and be true to it. It is a lifelong process. Make it an enjoyable one. Do not dread or fear it. Embrace it, look forward to it, and develop it. Be yourself. That is what I am doing. It does not mean that there will not be conflicts or problems or confusion, but that is all part of it. That is growth. And you need to grow. Everyone does. So do it. Everyone must find their own meaning, and for everyone that meaning is unique. No one can tell you what the right answer is. You have to find it for yourself. I have to find it for myself. No one can do it for me. They can help, but I have to do the work of forming my own identity. Sometimes I do not look forward to it. As a matter of fact, I have often been suicidal about my past and what it means for me. However, as was stated above, I do not have to stay with the identity I was given. I can and should forge my own. And that is exactly what I am going to do. I am in the process of doing it right now. There is always hope for the human spirit. I believe that, or I would not be alive. There are always choices, and they are ours to make. Do the right thing. Be yourself. Find meaning in that. And find your happiness.