I have a tendency to look at the same things from different perspectives to try to understand them better. I write to heal. Putting things on paper helps me grow past them, makes them more real. I can tackle problems when they are paper but not always when they are just in my mind. This is another look at my past but it is specifically a look at how two different minds formed within me. This is the story of “boy-mode” and “girl-mode” how split in my mind. In addition, why that split prevented me from being one happy person afterword, and how I’m now subsequently healing.
I don’t think many people can read this and not think “You’re crazy.” Even writing it and then rereading it I thought that for a moment. I have no better way to explain what happened inside my head and heart. Where I sit today I am completely sure that every decision I have made thus far has been the correct one. By sharing myself like this I make myself vulnerable to criticism and doubt. People who won’t believe, people who won’t see what I saw. People who won’t understand what I say. Such is life. Now, but not before, I can handle whatever gets thrown at me. I know my path is now correct. 29 years of doubt has lead me to this road, it’s absolutely the right road for me.
“Sticks and stones my break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It is a nursery rhyme. That nursery rhyme is to teach a kid that words should not be hurtful even when bullied. I call bullshit. Bullying and some of the things said to me when I was younger are still hurtful as many as 20 years later. I have long forgotten the pain of punches, sticks, or stones. Those words still carve out parts of my heart. The idea of that nursery rhyme is to give the child enough strength to ignore the words. It does not work like that. Bullying cuts deep into the soul not just the body. Bullying installs lifelong doubts into the bullied. Bullying makes people hide what they believe care about and their true emotion. Nothing is worse than that. No matter how much physical pain I went through in life it did not compare to even a week of bullying. That nursery rhyme is nothing but a lie to keep children feeling safe. I suggest we rewrite it: “Physical pain subsides over time, but mental pain is forever.”
Each scar I have on my body is a reminder of a time that physical pain persisted in my life and is now gone. It is easy to see physical pain; it is easy to see physical pain heal over sometimes leaving a permanent reminder, sometimes not. Even when mental pain heals, there will be a reminder that can always bring you right back to feeling the pain. Healing mental pain requires a person to grow out of it. Even then, the new traits you have are always reminders and links to that original pain which always has a chance of coming forward again. To take that thing said about them and use it to grow into something more powerful as a result. That nursery rhyme teaches a child ignore the criticism of bullies. From experience: That is not possible. Those words help define that person no matter how hard the child tries to repress or ignore.
It is impossible to ignore because so much of your definition as a person comes from society. Many parts of your identity are things society places on you instead of it letting you define. Have you ever asked someone to write a description of you and seen the outcome not match at all what is in your mind? Have you ever heard someone talk about you and have the reaction “that isn’t how I see myself?” Until recently, that has happened to me every day. Whenever you are going to a social gathering, you have to be prepared to answer a very specific question: “What do you do for a living?” A.K.A., “What’s your place in society?” This question has always angered me. It is the question asked first upon meeting someone new and carries with it a need to fit yourself into society. I think we start with “What do you enjoy as a hobby?” Let people start defining themselves. At least that is what I intend to do.
Someone asked me the other day if being transgender was nurture or nature. The idea if it was something I was born with or if it was someone that I grew into though the actions of people around me. I adamantly believe it can be either, or both. The mind is the most powerful organ in your body. The mind can cause things to happen that are unimaginable. The mind can deny things exist or concoct stories to explain things that do not need explanation. That does not mean you have a problem, it is just how your mind has grown. Society and the people around you greatly affect your mind. For me, I believe I had the potential to be happy as either gender. However, the actions of others around me, particularly the bulling I received, I can now no longer be happy as a man. This is not the way most transgender people think about it, which makes me a queer among queers. In fact, most transgender refuse to show this kind of “doubt” because people who do not believe or do not support transgenderism use this kind of comment to deny hormones or the other supports needed to the person. The LBGTQ+ community will say that you are absolutely born with it.
In my mind are now two completely separate ways of thinking. As a young child, I had only one. I was a happy young boy and had no idea of the differences between gender and enjoyed boys toys and activities as well as girls toys. To me, I was just me. Everyone assumed I was going to grow up to be a man, so did I. I saw myself in a career as a fireman, an astronaut, a train engineer, and some of the other cliché things boys want to be when they grew up. However, I also saw myself as a nurse, a policewoman, a singer, a princess, and someone of the other cliché things girls want to be when they grow up. In retrospect, in those days, I felt like both genders. In those days, children of both genders played together and had fun together. People said I had the potential to be anything I wanted to be, they meant it in terms of career. For all my life, as long as I can remember the differences (because there are some) between boys and girls has always been a huge topic in my mind that I gave much thought. However, I never applied that thinking to myself. I never thought about what I was, I assumed what everyone else did. What’s more interesting to me is that in those days… I was happy with that. End of story.
When children started self-segregating by gender, I wanted to stay with both groups. I did not feel comfortable picking one. That was the first time the question entered my mind… “Are you a boy or a girl?” I answered it the only way I knew how. “I have a penis, I’m a boy.” Therefore, I self-segregated too. I was happy, but a part of me died in that time. All of a sudden, I no longer spoke of my want to be a nurse, or a policewoman, or a singer. It was somehow no longer appropriate. I could no longer be whatever I wanted. I had made a choice. Society required me to make this choice. It was the society of children, but it was still society. However, the pain was minimal. It was more a longing. It was more as if I missed and was now mourning this part of me. I wanted to talk to the girls again. I wanted to be friends with them again. I had always created connections that were more emotional with them. I missed that. However, I was happy with the choice I had made. I was okay with growing up to become a man. I saw a future there; I saw the potential to be happy. I already knew I was going to have a smaller build then most men. I already knew I was going to be physically different. I was always small, skinny, had soft skin and other traits that were classically more feminine, but… I had one piece that made me a man, regardless of all the other traits. The trump card determined to which half of the population I belonged.
At this point, I had begun repressing the thoughts that would not fit into my new boys’ only society. I found myself thinking them from time to time and looking off into space. This is when I started losing some concentration at school. Someone would say something to me and I would pop back into reality to continue doing whatever it was I was doing. At this point in my life, I had begun to self-segregate my mind. I had begun to split my mind into two halves, not realizing it would take many years before I was whole again. In fact I’m still not. At that point, in my life I went by and responded to “Joey” which in some ways could be a gender-neutral name. It was short for Joseph, but I never thought of myself as Joseph. I was “Joey.”
However, my mind now had a toggle switch between two minds. Both made me happy at that time, but the second mind had all the thoughts and feelings that I would experience when I hung out with girls as a younger kid. That mind never had a voice, but it always had a soul. The other mind was from when I hung out with boys. That mind had my voice, however I never felt complete, and it did not have a soul. Joey, was always both, I always went back and forth between them constantly toggling back and forth and being a happy person. I never expressed anything from “girl-mode” but I felt it and girl-mode grew within me. Everything girl-mode experienced came from the inside, it came from my true desires and wants. At the same time, boy-mode was growing just by the nature of interacting with the outside society. All of boy-mode’s motivations and desires came from the outside. The expectations of society and the people around me defined who boy-mode was. Both parts of my mind were processing growth. However, girl-mode never had a voice. She was the reality when I stared of into space and became stuck in my own mind. Boy-mode was never self-motivated, he would only do things when told and only ever did the minimum required to complete a task. As time went on girl-mode came up less and less. I started losing touch with her. I was starting to become comfortable with boy-mode alone. That was the story through fifth grade.
Sixth grade I abruptly transferred schools my social circle abruptly changed I was trying to integrate with an already existent social circle. I became the new kid, and kids are mean, especially to new kids. The bullying began with “You throw like a girl.” I panicked. They knew about girl-mode! How did they know? I pushed her further down into me. She became my shame. Yet I still had feminine qualities, and the insults still came. “You must be gay.” “You’re going to marry a man.” “You’re weak.” They most popular one was to use gay as an insult. This was before I knew about homosexuality or sex in general. I had no idea that gay did not mean anything close to what it really means. To me, I was too much of a girl and needed to be more of a man. I pushed girl-mode further and further away, deeper inside of me until it is almost as if she did not exist. At the same time I was pushing away my soul, I was pushing away any kind of self-motivation, self-esteem, or self-confidence. In the changing room for gym where I already felt uncomfortable, they made fun of me because I wore briefs. That changed the next week. Boxers it is, even though I hate them. I did everything I could to get rid of even the slightest bit of femininity. I even changed my name. I started going by “Joe” It was the end of an era. It was the end of when I accepted myself as even a moderately complete person. I was now a shell, a nothingness just floating though life. Girl-mode vanished though willpower and anger. She stopped growing and we lost touch. She contained my soul.
Living without girl-mode was hard for me. She was always the part of me that would give me relief from depression, sadness, anger, frustration, and she was no longer there for me. At this point in my life, I had turned my back on her, and she in turn turned her back on me. I was convinced that I would be a man. I would marry a woman and live a good life. However, I was convinced that I would never have kids. Even though people said, I would be a great father I did not see that in myself. In fact, I saw no positive qualities in myself at all. Since Boy-mode comprised of what society said about me, and all that my society ever said about me was negative it was impossible to build any kind of self-esteem or self-confidence. I had bad grades and my peers bullied me to no end. Then people said more things that were negative. It became a downward spiral. Subsequently I had to start asking myself if every thought I had every action I did was acceptable for me to do. It had to pass two tests: not get me bullied, and be something that would help me fit in. If it passed I could do, or think it.
Seventh and Eighth grade passed in the same manner. Although as time went on girl-mode would pop into my head occasionally to say something like “No! You’re going to experience the wrong puberty!” Each time she popped up, I would immediately repress her. If she came out, people would bully again. I was just starting to fit in more and people were starting to stop making fun of me. Why would I ruin that by listening to her? She got smarter as time went on though. She slowly “infected” boy-mode.
When the beginning of high school rolled around sex was starting to become a topic and friends around me were starting to talk about people to whom they were attracted. I followed the crowd and started talking about girls and trying to like girls. Deep down I knew I was attracted to men. I hid it. I repressed it. I said nothing. No! I refused. That was a girl thing. Girls liked boys and boys liked girls. I am a boy so I like girls. Nevertheless, I still liked them, and the internet was my friend. Then, computers betrayed me. A nosy friend of mine had found a bit of browsing history and confronted me about it. Turned out he liked boys too. I came out (as bisexual) to my social circle at the end of ninth grade year. Girl mode had stabbed me in the back. They were about to bully me again, I just moved passed it…. I waited, and waited, but no bullying came, no insults came. Wait it was okay? Girl mode had found her way back into my life. With that, she declared war. It was clear to her that she could not exist with boy mode being the one on the outside. Only one was going to survive on the outside, and almost 15 years later… She has almost won.
It was a long war. It was a war just like any fraught with casualties, pain, strife, and anger. A war happened inside me between what amounts to two different people. Neither of them was me, yet they were both me. I never realized what was going on at the time. To finally figure out what happened I had to spend a couple months looking back as a neutral third party. It is as that neutral third party that I describe the Great War of Jo(e).
Phase 1: For many years, She tried to push femininity and emotion back into his life. At first, it was though pure force. It was constant reminders of all the pain He experienced at the hands of others defining who He was. He rejected it not listening. The easiest way to reject it was denial. Denial lead to depression and for a while He thought the easiest way to silence the din was to end it all. That is when I was almost a causality of my own war. She realized She needed a different route; She never wanted to have that be the end of the war.
Phase 2: She took a different route and started telling Him that he was not interested in girls as a mate. Quietly, slowly, He gave into this idea and came out as gay. This was the second time modifying sexual orientation gave her a route into His mind. She sat and waited until He was comfortable with that.
Phase 3: She then made him remember, not emotions, but facts. She made him remember that she existed. Not remember as “Her,” but as Her interests. He loved it. He latched onto being more feminine. After all, it made sense for a gay man to be feminine, right? This attached Him to Her, and the soul that was hiding underneath
Phase 4: She abruptly vanished. She gave Him enough time to realize that something was missing. She gave him enough time to realize that he was a shell of a person and needed something else.
Phase 5: She started taking over his mind randomly. Thinking about things in different ways then he allowed but He was so desperate to figure out what was wrong, he handed it over willingly.
Phase 6: Both halves were now back in concert with each other and processing problems together. That is when He started experiencing extreme anxiety and depression again. He escaped to work to try to monopolize the mind in a place where He was in control. Every thought She had was warming and fulfilling where as His mind was one of darkness.
Phase 7: She forced Him to sit down and confront everything from both perspectives. He realized that He was only a shell, and She held the real happiness. She came out as “real” shortly thereafter.
Phase 8: She changes the body in which They reside so that the rest of the world can see Her as She Sees Herself. Once this is complete I can relax and be at peace with myself again, like I was when I was a child.
I sit here today in the early hours of the morning on January 25, 2015, having been up all night writing and thinking. I denied her existence for so long. Why? Because I gave people, people who did not deserve it, the ability to tell me whom I should or should not be. Today I sit here I have acknowledged her existence I am in part her. However, I am still in part him. In my mind, I am letting girl-mode take over my thought time. The way she thinks and acts makes me happy and fulfilled. She can make me believe in myself. He represents depression, sadness, no self-confidence and nothing but negativity. Once my mind is back in her hands for good, I will bring the two parts back into one. However, there is one thing that is now clear to me. She is my soul. She is the face I need to bring out into the world. I am her, and she is me.
I know it sounds like I am crazy. I thought about that for a while too. The most common question I asked myself was, “how do you know this is a problem with your body not your mind?”, “How do you know that bullies haven’t just damaged “boy-mode” so much that you cannot see a future with him but it’s actually right for you?” I answer that this way after much work and thought. She is my soul. She is what I am. She is the definition of the person I want to be, she is me. He is what society and people around me told me to be. I am 100% sure that if I were born a girl, my mind would have still shattered like this upon being bullied and I would have had to put it together BUT I would have had the self confidence and self-esteem to put it back together. Because she has my soul.
Every time my mind changes back into boy-mode these days, it is painful. It reminds me of how blind, and soulless I was. Each time I have to admit that I am physically a man it brings me near to tears. Each time someone says “sir,” “him,” or “he” it forces my mind back into boy-mode. People in the Trans* community call them “Triggering Moments.” Some of the smallest things in my life cause triggering moments. In addition, I cause quite a few of these triggering moments myself. Each time, I have to struggle my way back out. It was so easy to give my mind over to him in the first place because of my physical gender. Everyone already saw me as a boy. Everyone already referred to me as him, he, etc. Now it is so hard to dig myself out each time I or someone else forces me back there. Society’s pressure is hard to fight. It is hard to convince myself that I have a soul; it is somewhere in there in the hands of a beautiful and powerful, and confident woman. I keep giving myself over to her, and society keeps pushing me back. I now have to change how society sees me.
In the end, I am still going to be a mix of both. I will have all my interests from boy-mode. Joe is not dying. I will combine them both into one whole again. Many years after they diverged, I am not choosing boy-mode or girl-mode. However, my soul is belongs to her. For me to be happy my mind has to belong to her as well. I am Jo. I already feel better. I am already feeling more like a person and less like a “thing” that just exists. As confidence grows and self-esteem grows, more and more you will hear me roar.
P.S. If you look carefully, you can hear in this post my mind going back and forth between boy-mode and girl-mode. I signified in some places from girl-mode and in some places from boy-mode. The sections where I represented girl mode were super happy to write, and the opposite when I represented boy-mode. I tried to edit out most of that but some still exists. I tried to write it in as much detached third person as possible for clarity.