I can only say that I am continually shocked by the outpouring of empathy and emotion accompanying my experience in the closet. Reading every single one of your comments has been of great help to me, though I'm not sure how to respond. I figured I should at least paint some small portrait of my life as it's unfolded in the years since my original post.
I have not changed. But I have bent. This past winter has unarguably been the hardest time of my life. In my decision not to tell my parents what and who I was, I damned us to a perpetual limbo that stretched us all until we had no choice but to snap. Think of the things I had to live, the experiences I kept hidden in an attempt to 'have my cake and eat it too'. My first love. Her eyes, her smile, the way she moved. She wasn't the perfect girl...but she was a perfect girl. The day she left me. Falling to my knees and knowing heartbreak. Feeling something crack in my chest and knowing it would never be the same. Ever. Again. Tubing with my friends down the Ottertail...laughing at them and their antics, feeling the sunshine on my face, shotgunning beers and making new friends for no other reason than we were both there and we were all people. The happiest time in my memory. Attempting to drive an overindulged friend back from the club and wrecking the car because I was in no shape to be behind the wheel. To sit across the dinnertable and look these people in the face and tell them NONE of that...to again speak only of school, of work, and the dogs. They had so many questions, my father, my mother...and I had no answers. I couldn't say. I couldn't tell them what they didn't want to know, and I couldn't even tell them that. Of course that wasn't an answer. Hearing your baby bird tell you they'd been 'somewhere' doing 'stuff' with 'people' you've never met. I understand what they thought. They thought drugs, and crime, and they watched horrible movies in their heads that I could only protest to a certain extent, because only the truth would bring an end to the reel. My mother cracked first. Her complaints on my privacy and secrecy soon devolved into wretched, anguished screams of 'liar' and 'stranger', 'I don't know you' and 'get out of my house'. I could do nothing. I could say nothing. I stood in her kitchen and took it, white-faced and alone, sick and ashamed and wishing I could change. Begging God in his divine wisdom to CHANGE ME. Do you have any idea what that feels like. I haven't spoken to my mother in a year. A year. A year. Every morning I woke up and looked at her picture in the mobile above my bed and I couldn't believe it was happening until one day I woke and realized I couldn't believe it had gone on for so LONG. What if I never see her again? She always used Beautiful by Estee Lauder, and she wears mom jeans like they're going out of style, and she's taking my sisters out to dinner every Friday at Famous Dave's just like she always has. She's living and breathing somewhere in the same city I am, somewhere just out of reach. And I wonder if she misses me. I wonder if she regrets me.
My father now, with whom I have shared more but never been as close, has begun to notice. I left his home at an early age, thinking distance would grant us tolerance, so I understand why it's taken so long...but my terror is visible to even him. When he remarks on my privacy, I blanche. When he asks me what's wrong, I freeze. Who is that on the background of my phone? Who am I having dinner with, that I can't see him tonight? He "met my sister's boyfriend", followed by a queer silence and a killing unspoken question. Will I hear him scream? Will he accuse me of being so heartless, so cold, like a psychopath--devoid of emotion, lying on command, telling him what he wants to hear because I don't respect him. And I don't love him. THAT'S NOT TRUE. But...what do I do? I cannot. Will not. Tell him the truth. I can't imagine what will happen, I only know, in the hazy distant ether, the smog of fear that shimmers in the distance above my future, that it will be worse than this. I don't know how, but like a child, I am afraid. Maybe I'm afraid of my sisters. They know. Of course they know. They're smart, cagey, observant, curious and determined. They've been through my phone, they've found me online, they see the clothes on my bedroom floor and they talk with the friends we both grew up with. And though we continue to love each other...they are not kind. I sit silently at family gatherings and endure their backhanded comments and stinging, leading questions, and wonder if it would be better not to there at all. Then I remember this Christmas, when I had nowhere to go. My roommates were gone, the TV consoled me, and I drank to excess in a way I never hope to again. I sat on the couch and cried, alone with my pride, watching falling snow and White Christmas. Because I had nowhere else to go. And I wonder...is this my choice? Is this what I'm afraid of? More than anything, I wish I had a Juliet. I wish I had one true love to comfort me, and make me understand what I'm leaving and what it is I'll gain. But girls are c*nts, and I play them like cards, because we all have an agenda and there's no point in getting hurt over and over again. Is this what I'm sacrificing my family for? A strong body in a dark club, someone moaning my name, an adolescent delight in sexual ex
I think I've successfully transmuted the pain of exertion to an acceptable form of penitence, though the 'marks' it leaves are bittersweet at best. I'm growing f*cking MUSCLES. I guess it wouldn't be so bad if I weren't 6' in the first place, but the change in perception is striking. I am now not only taller than the majority of the population and a fairly type-A personality, I have become covertly aggressive in the stamp of athleticism my arms and legs exhibit. A friendly mammy-type woman at my new job asked me if I felt 'strong'. I couldn't sense any defensiveness, and I traditionally don't consider myself as such, so I answered that I didn't know. She rattled off into stories about how her sons were strong, and what good boys they were, and what sports they played. I didn't know how to respond, so I hedged. Oh! People now consider it an ice-breaker to ask me what sports I play. Lol? The most common guesses are soccer and basketball, but the only correct answer is stress. Went to the 90's the other night in a t-shirt and boyfriend jeans; sort of a social experiment, if you will. Wanted to see how the other half lived. I realized quite suddenly that I can transform myself into another man's treasure. I don't want to sound like a d*bag, and I'm not suddenly some lesbian Casanova; I'll always be the same clumsy, goofy, happy-go-lucky Ellie...but tall, outgoing, assertive, masculine is like a beacon in certain settings. A girlbar, for one. Punk rock switches, stocky little butches, sassy black femmes--a smile goes a long, long way. I'm still some peoples' perfect nightmare, but these girls just eat it up. It's seductive to know it's that easy, and in the end, I probably just cross-dress for the attention, (I have essentially become my own type, and I still don't know how the heck to make it work with my type NOW) but...dancing with my friends and I feel a half-hearted tug on my belt; she has clearly snuck in, no way she's 18, delightfully awkward but I can't blame her because I was in that place for a looooong time. "UM R U SINGLE?" I swear to you, she said it just like that. She shouted in chatspeak. I answered yes and she disappeared back into the crowd before she had even a chance to hear my 'sort of'. Never saw her again, but it's for the best. In many ways, this masculinity thing is a lot easier...but in many ways, it's a lot harder. Guys actively hit on me now, visibly confused by my pretty face and valleygirl voice, though it always has a tinge of challenge in it. My male bosses treat me like any second I'll draw myself to my full height and shout; "Wait a second, rule of thumb?!" Women are quicker to approach me with questions and better about acquiescing if I simply don't have the answer. They're also quicker to begin a diplomatic investigation into my sexual identity.
"Have you ever dated a guy taller than you?"
"Have you met Austin yet? I think you'd like him."
"Ugh, I keep picking duds. I just don't f*cking know. Why are guys so hard?"
And I just don't know what to say. I want to say yeah, and that that's why I'm staying away from them right now, and that don't worry there are better men out there (I'm used to it working when I'm 'girly')...but invariably I look down, and my body is plain in my view. My hands are big and rough from exposure, with an inappropriate amount of abrasions and callouses. The long muscles in my calves stand out with the slightest hint of movement, and my forearms, exposed by the rolled-up sleeves of my uniform, are becoming shadowed by pronounced veins and muscular definition. And I think, I'm sick of apologizing. My sexuality doesn't even enter into this; I'm sick of apologizing for myself. For my size, for my volume, now for the newfound strength and determination this winter has instilled in me. These women are looking for commonalities, for me to demur and bond with them, to return to femininity as a method of conformity. These women are soft, worried, malleable. I am growing stronger...emotionally, physically...publicly. I'm not sorry. People can mistake it for ignorant stupidity, apathy, immature arrogance, but all that really matters is that I refuse to adhere, to compromise myself to adhere to their vision of what Ellie the Girl should be. I have had enough unhappiness, and I'll endure quite a bit more, but I won't take it from anyone else. My family, always. They are my Kryptonite. They are God. I can't explain, and I don't know if I'll ever tell them the truth, but I know that if preserving myself means losing them, I will regret it forever and always be sorry. But I can't do it anymore. I can't live like that.
Midwinter I cracked, just a little, listening to the gramophone in my head replay my mother's agonized screams while both our hearts were breaking. I signed up for a medical study at the U for young people displaying signs of 'disturbance'; apathy for others, manipulative behavior, lack of emotion, social anxiety, sleeplessness, fear. I don't consider myself abnormal or particularly crazy, but I was and still am grieving the loss of one of the best parts of my LIFE, and her accusations read like a laundry list of the symptoms for the study. So I went. And I lasted exactly two weeks.
They prescribed me Seroquel, a powerful anti-psychotic used to treat schizophrenics and suicidal bipolars. It was like the light in my chest...went out. I went out. I didn't sing, or laugh. Or talk. I ate more than usual, and I slept, and I missed class, and work, and I didn't care. I didn't feel better. I didn't feel better about my mother, and I didn't stop worrying about my future, and I didn't want to be what everyone wanted me to be, even though at that point I probably was. I had been pharmaceutically lobotomized, and my mother would have been delighted. I didn't care. About anything. After I stopped going the facility was on my tail like a gangster movie carchase; I am unusually eloquent and detailed and I was almost exactly what they wanted to observe. I probably should have kept going, I mean, it's not like they were Umbrella Corp. They were testing a drug that will improve a lot of people's lives, and I was providing them with valuable information to that end. But, like I do, I failed to put the needs of others and goodwill toward my common man above my own desire to be myself. I don't know what to think. I don't know what to do, or who to be, or how to protect the ones I love. And I will lose them for it.
So at this point I guess I'm not quite sure what words of wisdom to offer. I don't know what help my experience could be, though I hope it will afford someone some perspective I was unable to gleen. I never came out to my friends and family, and as a result we grew distant and I eventually lost them anyway. I learned to accept my masculinity, mostly because I couldn't avoid it. I no longer care how people see me (in that regard) though the answer I sought for so long never really appeared; I just...one day...stopped caring. Wish I could tell you more. I don't want to make my sexuality the proverbial whipping boy for everything that's gone wrong thusfar, but I feel at the root of it is somehow my inability to accept my lot in life. But in doing the best I can, I have gained invaluable determination and iron in my spine that will last me through this and countless other hurdles in the future. I can leave you with only this: please don't worry. We'll all be okay.
Everything's going to be alright.