Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Saw Khloe in the hall today, and we sat in a lounge talking while she ate lunch. I showed her my Boston pictures, and she didn’t run screaming from the room, which was a good thing.

A graduate student came in to get lunch and to lie down on the couch, but Khloe and I just shifted into talking generally about things, being careful to avoid touching on anything particular.

Or so I thought.

Tonight, Miles and Khloe called me to say that another grad student had told Miles that he had been told by the couch-resting student that Dr. Bailey and Khloe were having a very strange personal conversation that seemed to touch on the performance of gender, drag, sex changes, and that sort of thing, and she was speculating that Dr. Bailey was having a sex change.

“I protest,” said I to Miles on the phone. “I don’t do drag.” 🙂

In all seriousness, I said, I figure there’s no point in writing her and saying “forget what you heard” because that will simply confirm her suspicions. Miles and I talked about the full disclosure with the truth hidden in plain sight, as in Poe’s “The Purloined Letter”), which would go thusly: “It’s not professional to talk about personal conversations you have overheard. And even if you were to talk, you ought to understand what you think you heard before speculating. Dr. Bailey certainly doesn’t do drag, but he and Khloe are definitely interested in gender as performance, in how we construct our identities through our dress, our mannerisms, and our language, and he would be happy to share his research thoughts with you any time, if you’re interested.”

I don’t know if that will keep things burning slower rather than faster, but whatever happens, it’s all going to happen in a few months, anyway.

I’ll be at school tomorrow and I’ll see if grad students eye me suspiciously (or, I should say, more suspiciously than normal).

I’ve been having an awfully hard time of things lately, crying at night, descending into bad places, and not recognizing all the good things I’ve got. I have my health, my family, my job, my intellect, my friends. I work in an industry (education) where I am virtually assured of tolerance and perhaps even happy acceptance. I feel like I’m on an adventure where I get to do everything I ever dreamed of doing, and am able to do everything I need to do to stay sane and healthy.

There is another part of me, probably unrelated to transsexual issues, that weighs on me. I am afraid of letting people down, of being rejected, of being seen as a failure. I’ve always been like this, and I think it must have to do with my role in my family as the golden child. For all my family’s faults, and there were many, they could always count on me to achieve good things, things worth bragging about at the drugstore, holiday gatherings, and country club soirees.

It’s not that I don’t want to do good things, but I feel obligated to not screw up, to uphold some sort of undefined standard for several generations of my family, most of whom are dead. That familial expectation has evidently been burned into my synapses; although I’m aware of it and understand it intellectually, I seem to be helpless to resist it emotionally, and am thus tossed into the ring to fight without gloves or training against an invisible opponent who left the building years ago.

I grieve, but I am not always sure of the object of that grief. I grieve for my dead parents. I grieve for my masculine self, who is disappearing. I grieve for my children’s innocence. I grieve for the happy little child I was at one time — she’s buried under decades of sadness and I only give her a slim chance of surviving. I grieve for my wife, who is losing her husband.

I also grieve for my golden child status — I cling to it somewhere, somehow, even though I feel it harms me. And I grieve without an object of grief — and this formless sadness is hard to deal with. This is definitely the hour of lead, as Dickinson puts it, and I have to find a way to both outlive it and also somehow get to “letting go.”