Reflection: The Cost of Conformity

It’s easy to conform.  What conforming is not is healthy.

As a middle-aged transwoman, I know about the toll of conforming.  I spent decades thinking that transition was not an option, and that I could conform to what was expected of me as a male-bodied person.  Predictably, this was as successful as using broken glass to perform open-heart surgery.

But… the act was easy.  The effect of sublimating and erasing my own identity had very real and tangible mental health impacts, but the act itself was easy.  And that is what I want to talk about.

For non-trans folks, conforming is how social roles are learned.  And, not to diminish the variety of human expression, non-trans folks are largely capable of conforming without undue effects.  They will put their own spin on that conforming action, but they largely conform without suffering undue mental pain or stress.

For trans folks, we indoctrinate ourselves that conforming is possible.  We hope and pray that if we can do just this one thing, conforming, that what we know to be true will go away and we will be “normal”.  We crave the elusive notion of “normal” like it is air to breathe, and we are often not capable of saying “I can’t” until after we break and shatter.  When it happens, when we break,we are told “Do it anyway freak”, or worse: “Stop being a girl.”  “Man up.”  “Sissy.”  The litany of phrases is extensive and ever-changing, and we adapt.  We go underground, and we hide.  We become great actors on the stage that is Conforming.

Conforming is an act of inertia.  The more we learn, the more it snowballs.  The more it snowballs, the harder it becomes to change the course of our existence.  We become shells, our true selves buried and hidden under layers of veneer and dirt.  Some of us forget who we are, and we become “normal” to the unseeing.  Some us choose another path, and we mourn the loss.

Inevitably, entropy wins the war over inertia.  We break and become as fragile as an autumn leaf.  When, not if, we break, our walk back from the abyss is fraught with peril.  We fight the battle to reclaim our true selves, and we fight the battle to undo the effects of years spent trying to be “normal”.  We fight the inertia of a greater system designed to reduce us to commodities, and place us within our assigned Male or Female box.  We are dehumanized, and we are abused.

When I met my current partner, she walked step-by-step and hand-in-hand with me as I unpacked my scars, began to heal, and reclaimed my identity.  She was the first one who showed true unbridled joy at me being my authentic self.  I am incredibly lucky to have her in my life.

Insomuch as an act is done to least of us, it is done to all of us.  That’s why we need to change the current paradigm, and why our struggle is only just beginning: we have to prevent future generations from experiencing the things I, and so many of my sisters, have survived.  As a society, we need to change the paradigm that allows for the existence of a culture in which an identity is prohibited by virtue of a social contract to which we did not consent.

We deserve love, and we deserve happiness.  We deserve the same things as those that conform, and we deserve them on our terms.

We deserve to be our authentic selves, and it is our destiny to own our own destinies.

3 thoughts on “Reflection: The Cost of Conformity”

  1. ((((((((((((((((hug)))))))))))))))) (i hope it’s ok to hug you) As soon as I read “I spent decades thinking that transition was not an option, and that I could conform to what was expected of me ” i began to cry, that is how i feel.Even at age 56 my feeling of needing to be me simply won’t go away………….sigh. You write soo beautifully.

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