I just got back “home” from my last year at my university. Admittedly, my initial feelings about coming back were very positive; I was so excited to see my little siblings, and the sign for my hometown literally brought a splitting grin to my face. Every square mile of this city is pregnant with wonderful, nostalgic memories.
That being said…
It didn’t take more than a few hours for the seemingly comforting walls of my parents’ house to become prison bars.
Something strange happens to my personality when I live with my family. It’s like I become a different person, or rather a half-person. When I’m away from home, I grow in leaps and bounds as a distinct, coherent, real human being, with hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes. When I come home, whole huge parts of my soul just shut down. My whole body goes into emergency mode. I’ve had two panic attacks already. I’ve only been here about 26 hours and I’m already sick in bed.
It seems like I revert back to how I was in high school. I turn into this horrible person: angsty, depressed, moody, insular, antisocial, lazy. I spend half my time trying to avoid the other people in my family because being in contact with them means interacting with them, and interacting means turning more and more into this soul-less monster.
When I climbed into my childhood bed last night, I had a very palpable flashback – almost like a mini post-traumatic stress episode – to those unhappy high school days when I’d lock myself in my room and be so scared: of myself, the world, my gender identity, my sexuality, God, everything. That bed is the unhappiest place on Earth for me, and I have to sleep in it for a whole week.
Another way I’m reverting back into my old high school self is I feel emotionally, physically, and socially exhausted all the time. I crashed real hard in the middle of the afternoon. I was comatose.
When I napped, I did so downstairs on our study couch. Apart from fleeing the horrors of my old bed, I was also standing guard over my three boxes of papers and binders which I was busy organizing. The papers are my summer research material – 1000’s of pages on transgender theory, feminist studies, Bible studies, theology, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and everything else under the Sun that is relevant to the kind of stuff I write about on this blog. Well, despite the fact that I was sleeping – more like hibernating – my Mom crept in and looked through my binders. She woke me up, saying: “I need to talk to you about your stuff in here. I’m not happy with this. I just saw a binder that says ‘Transgender Studies Reader.’ You can have a few hours to pack this stuff up, but then I want it out of the room.”
So I can’t even read about my own condition? What, should an autistic person not read about “autism studies”? Should a teenage boy not read about “teenage studies”? My parents are so unable to grasp reality that they even have to control what I read.
I feel like every move I make, every possession, every expression, is scrutinized.
The problem is I feel so guilty some days. I see seven large brown pairs of eyes staring me down with ignorant love, begging me to stay with them and be the half-dead person that fits into my family’s structure. There’s only room for half of me at home, and it’s the worst half. The better half of me is in agony. My family doesn’t love that half because they don’t understand it. What is distressing is that the robotic, play-acting, ‘brother’ half of me that is such an unhappy jerk, that struggles to even be around people without having a panic attack, even though it isn’t really me but only a small part of me – that angsty, unhappy, gender-conflicted teenager is who my family wants. And I want to give it to them because I am in love with my family. But as long as I live this half-life, shutting down the majority of who I am, I really don’t have any love to give. When I’m whole, when I’m all of me, when I’m this cool, bohemian, tomboyish transgender girl named Anna, I have so much love to give. When I’m this unhappy, repressed, antisocial faux-bro named Anthony, I have nothing to add to the family.
Maybe this conflict is all good. I’m leaving for St. Louis in a few weeks, and maybe this is God’s way of getting me ready to leave this all behind. I’ve been home hardly more than a day, and I already want to move out yesterday.
I love my family, but reality is what it is. There’s not even much of a choice here. My growth is stunted at home, and I need to go where I can actually become a human being and not a robot.
Despite what my parents think, I still don’t know where I’m going in life, but I at least know I’m going away. It’s not even a question.