Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Socially Distant

We're 6 weeks into all the "social distancing" that is meant to flatten the curve and blunt the spread of Coronavirus.  Each of us is finding our own way to cope with the isolation that is needed to pull this off.

I don't find social distancing difficult.  I've actually felt socially distant for years in some very real ways.  I'd argue that being trans and having to hide a significant portion of ourselves builds some very effective distancing techniques which, learned as children and used through adulthood, become almost second nature.  I actually find it harder to overcome those - even to this day - than the opposite.  My world is  a relatively small, self-enclosed one so being social can be more of a challenge than the inverse. 

The hardest part for me in any of this is the physical barrrier between me and my mom.  I'm not going to wallow in self-pity over the disruption in my every day life because I've actually got it pretty good.  I've got a job.  I've got a paycheck.  I can pay my bills.  I'm not drifting aimlessly like some of my friends who don't have those things and don't know when they'll get them are having to do.  But it's the physical distancing that robs me of time with my almost 91-year-old mom that bothers me most.  That's time we can't get back.

I think about life "after" this.  I can see some dark times ahead as people begin to emerge from isolation with the spectre of a second wave, or of contaminating one another.  This next phase will either be too fast or too slow depending on who you ask.  I was talking with a friend yesterday who's measuring coming out based on when there's a vaccine available.  In all honestly, I'm not willing to wait that long to re-engage with the world. 

I've argued in the past that Gender is a purely social construct.  It provides a set of roles and expectations for people based on their physical sex, and is the most visible and enduring outward expression of it.  I've sometimes wondered if people who are trans in one culture would be trans in another, where gender is expressed in significantly different ways.  Regardless, I find the lack of social interraction to be an interesting study in gender expression.

Typically speaking, I still enjoy doing my makeup in the morning.  My entire ritual from getting in the shower to walking out the door can take upwards of an hour if I take my time, which I strive to do as it's MY time of the day.  However, much of that isn't happening right now.  I suppose I could do it just for the fun of it or to keep some consistency but for the moment my world is confined to my bedroom, my kitchen, my living room, and my office.  I guess I'm at a place where I don't need to express my gender to myself. 

I've been struck by some of what I'm seeing on Facebook.  It reinforces to the nth degree the thanks I feel that it didn't exist during my transition.  My transition was the single-most personal thing I've ever done.  It was something I needed to do for me, and wasn't open fodder for judgement, input from people who didn't have skin in the game, or uninvited guidance.  I didn't need external validation (or criticism) to tell me what to do. And I knew that, at the end of the day, the deeper lesson I needed to learn was to (a) to trust my gut and (b) to be able to filter out noise from others (both positive and negative).

If I were to psychoanalyze myself - that's part of the root of my social distance.  It's a good thing and a bad thing - kind of like fire.  I think it protects me but it also continues to keep me from allowing most people to get too close.  If that's not the definition of Social Distance, I don't know what is.

The reason that this is so pertinent right now is that today is the anniversary of the day I called off my transition.  It's a long story and this day, in 1998, played a key role in so many things.  In my journal I wrote something that I still believe to this day:  "I think jumping in feet first into deep waters and trying to swim has shown me things I could not have learned any other way. I'm just glad to get out of the pool before drowning."

Little did I know that I'd be headed back into the deep end again less than two months later.  But that time, there would be no turning back.