There are two essays which I read quite early in my transition which, at the time, didn’t mean a great deal to me. This was mostly because both pieces seemed to me to be expressing, above all, rage and defiance and anger – none of which I was feeling. I still don’t really feel those emotions but I think I begin to understand the essays a little better these days.
I seem to be going through a time of completely lacking in self-confidence: in myself, my identity, and in how I view society (and vice versa). My perception of myself as a monster completely rules me at the moment – I wonder if it may be a common feeling amongst some transsexual people; certainly, both these essays use the analogy in ways with which I can empathise.
The two pieces that I’ve been revisiting in search of inspiration and maybe some comfort and solace are:
- My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix — Performing Transgender Rage by Susan Stryker (link here)
- the seam of skin and scales by Little Light (link here)
I’ve recently been starting to come to terms with the fact that, even though I still don’t feel that rage which both mention (or maybe I’m just in denial), perhaps they have a point: as Susan Stryker says, “I find a deep affinity between myself as a transsexual woman and the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”. Equally, in the words of Little Light – and this is such a strong, affirmative statement, “My monstrousness is not a place of shame. It is a strength. It is the power to say I am mine…”
The term “monster” refers to a being that is a gross exception to the norms of some ecosystem.
Certainly, that’s the way I’ve been thinking of myself for some little while now: a ‘gross exception’. I just don’t know how to deal with that. But I am sure that it’s not about feeling depressed. And I am sure that it’s not about regret: it wasn’t possible for me to have carried on living that life, ‘his’ life – and there is no point in looking back. And although in my everyday existence nothing much has changed, there is now a constant awareness in the back of my mind that, at least now my body looks and feels closer to the way I’ve always thought it should. And surely that’s a good thing, something positive? So where has this sense of being unacceptably different – ‘monstrous’ – come from? Is it because I’ve been so extensively surgically modified – or ‘mutilated’, as some people would have it?
I’m experiencing an intense feeling of isolation, a sense of aloneness that I’m finding as hard to bear as I am to describe. It’s not ‘loneliness’, somehow it’s… ‘bigger’ than that. More a sense of distance; of feeling so far from everybody. It’s not a bad feeling, necessarily – just a sense that I don’t fit in anywhere. Having spent most of my life as a loner, this really shouldn’t be a problem. And yet, and yet…
“Like the monster, I am too often perceived as less than fully human due to the means of my embodiment; like the monster’s as well, my exclusion from human community fuels a deep and abiding rage in me that I, like the monster, direct against the conditions in which I must struggle to exist.”
The feelings of dislocation are strong, these days. Nothing matters and yet everything matters. It doesn’t matter when I get called names in the street, because those ignorant people don’t know the first thing about me – and of course it matters, because it bloody well hurts to have to hear those comments. It doesn’t matter that I life such an isolated life – and of course it matters, because I feel so damned lonely.
More than anything else, this feeling is about being part of humanity whilst not being part of humanity. I’m not a ‘man’, and yet I don’t feel especially ‘womanly’ – not that I can even define what I mean by that. And yet, I’d still like to consider myself to be a member of the human race. But the way I see my fellow humans has begun to change, my sense of place is changing, but I feel no connection. And, of course, the word ‘monster’ has connotations of a being who is somehow less than human – there is such a negative preconception attached to the word.
Monster: [noun] 1. A large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature. [ORIGIN: Latin – monstrum – ‘divine portent or warning, monster’, from monere ‘warn’]
But I’m not a monster. I’m just not. I’m just an ordinary mortal human, trying to make sense of the things I’ve been through, and continue to go through, and still make some kind of a life – and what wouldn’t I give for just a little peace, a small taste of happiness? And who is there who is so damned perfect that they are truly in a position to judge me as a monster? Let them stand up and be counted; let me see their purity of being. Here, at last, perhaps I can feel the beginnings of that ‘transgender rage’.
“Upon learning its history and experiencing the rejection of all to whom it reached out for companionship, the creature’s life takes a dark turn. “My feelings were those of rage and revenge,” the monster declares. Like the monster, the longer I live in these conditions, the more rage I harbor.”
But still I cannot find that fire within me. I feel beaten, scared to truly become myself. And although my failings begin to anger me, for some reason, I am unable to let go. Rage must have a focus if it isn’t to become another mindless tirade against the world. Nihilism starts to become an attractive possibility – but to what purpose? To live up to the expectations of the mindless majority? For the perverse pleasure in wanton (self-)destruction? What a waste of a life that would be.
But when there can be no belonging, when acceptance is not on offer and understanding doesn’t even exist – what then?
Later edit: Just as I’m finishing writing this, I spot this article at Pam’s House Blend, about a trans woman being beaten and given a fractured skull by a policeman, and then treated as a second-class citizen by a nurse.
Why do I feel that it’s me who’s the monster?
©2008 Helen G