Dear reader. Thank you for being here. I write not of anything universal or insightful, but instead of my own struggles with life. Writing helps me put the pieces together–all the more so, attempting to write clearly. This is a diary of sorts. It is “public” in the sense that it can be anonymous and thereby private at the same time. I was told once that to write a blog, that you needed to have one person in person as your reader. I have done that, but have found that who that person is has changed over time. And that is a reflection of the issues and struggles I face, the joys I feel, the impressions I wish to leave…
We all struggle in different ways, so I am especially grateful for you fellow travellers, who have lent your ears. If some of these words, these experiences, these opinions, lessons, or even recipes make you smile or help you deal with something in your own life, so much the better. Here goes.
I got stuck in various places as an infant from emotional overload, and I have been protecting and compensating ever since. In part, I am a baby. That is a supposed hallmark of narcissism, only I am not sure what they mean is what I mean—but gosh, wouldn’t that be interesting to know…
The usual “drama” of attachment and attunement in my life—the bond of love that forms when a baby suckles with his mother, is nourished, emotionally grounded, learns to relax into the rise and fall of breath and its sound and warmth like a boat on the swell of the ocean—sounds pretty luscious no? Well, that never happened for me. Years of dysfunction in my relationship with my mother were forged in the absence of these moments. But as an adult, I can understand—as a child I could not. As an adult I understand that she was going through a divorce, that her husband, my father, was horrible to her—that he was abusive, at times violent, verbally cruel, physically domineering, and that he cheated on her. But as a child I grew up in rebellion to her, fighting her.
Her response? To try to connect to me as a baby, to get towards the bond that we lost or never had. She understood it instinctually. And I needed it too, but it was too late. Instead, I rebelled against it and her, because even though I knew I needed the comfort that could only come from her, I knew I couldn’t get it there, because there was also pain, and frustration. This dynamic morphed into one of her desire to control me, every aspect of me, to treat me like a puppet, to suffocate me—I used to imagine myself with my arms and legs cut off. This dynamic also morphed into some “strange” bedtime rituals and an infantilisation of me: being tucked in at night with a pacifier at the age of 5, being encouraged to keep my baby blanket until it had completely disintegrated when I was 13. There were the nightmares, horrible, horrible dreams that had me waking up screaming in terror, sometimes so much overload that I couldn’t squeak out a sound.
There was a tacit understanding that she knew I had diapers in my closet and it didn’t bother her, [but the presence of a ballerina outfit in the same place had led her to tell me, “I don’t want you to be a fag.” I just figured she overlooked the diapers at the time because it was too awful to contemplate—but now I realise she probably thought that was something I would grow out of one day].
And for all these years I have identified my dysfunctional dynamic with my mother as the root cause of so many issues—certainly fetishes, perhaps BDSM, though I know I was born trans.
One of my therapists is a lifelong specialist in attachment and attunement therapy, rebirthing, and she has been wonderful at helping me open up doors to long forgotten memories and instances of emotional trauma lodged deep in my guts. In a way, all of my therapists appear to be working together, I guess through me, though it is a bit taboo to have more than one. I rather like it. It is really assuring to get not just a second opinion, but a third and a fourth! And for big things, sometimes from the entire extended network.
With her I resurfaced memories of being locked in the closet as punishment, and remembering how cruel I felt it was of my mother to do that, knowing, as she did, that I was afraid of the dark. Others have come too, and in the end I understand through our work together why food is so central to my being, eating it, socialising at table, but more importantly, showing love to people in my life through the food I cook for them.
I went to someone in Mexico who was called a kinesiologist. This doctor proceeded to tape vials all over my body, then left me alone for a while, came back and pronounced me cured. The friend who recommended him reassured me that whatever he had done had worked, though I can’t help but wonder—he seemed like a quack to me. Still, it was an adventure. Nevertheless, when given the chance to see another kinesiologist, you might think I would have hesitated, but no, I plunged right in. And boy, am I glad I did.
What do they do? Well, the diagnostics process was the same. This consisted in both cases of asking you to use your muscles to resist the force applied by the doctor while he is talking to you about issues, trying to find out what’s wrong and where. I felt I had a pretty good idea of what was behind all these issues of mine…isn’t it always a boy’s relationship with his mother? Ladies, I wonder if it is for you too, until puberty perhaps, and then Daddy issues come to the fore?
I digress. The point is that the kinesiologist that I met didn’t see the relationship with my mother. He instead said that my core trauma came from my father, before my first birthday. And in the many decades of my life, in therapy, nobody had ever gone there. Why? Because my father was mostly absent from my life, already from the age of two I rarely saw him. But as soon as the doctor said it, I knew he was right. And I realised in that moment, something very deep was just set free.
My father was brutal towards my mother. Mostly verbally, but also physically. Not hitting her, but dominating her with his body, using his size and physical strength, man-handling her. I know what it felt like because he did the same to me as a little boy. I can still remember what it felt like to be transformed into a rag doll as he grabbed my arms, his powerful hands like vices on my biceps as he frog-marched me backwards through our apartment, lifted me thus, shook me and then hurled me onto my bed before slamming my door behind him. It was like this blue-black wall of energy—awesome and terrifying.
And the worst thing about that rage in him was how easy it was for it to appear. It took almost nothing for him to begin expressing himself with verbal and soul-destroying violence. The legacy of this has taken me a lifetime to expunge, and even now it is not completely gone, but I look at my siblings, and see how badly they are affected by this too, and how they have dealt with it (all in different ways—mostly negative), and continue to struggle with it, and not find a way out. I feel for his own trauma (and the source of it, which was his own relationship with his father), but I am disappointed that he never worked to rise above it. Superficially, my father was a success in his family—after all, he didn’t drink himself to death like one of his siblings, or perennially marry losers like the other. He was the only one who escaped his home town.
We explored this issue deeper in session, and I have subsequently taken the realisation to other therapists and explored it further. I worked it directly with the cranio-sacral therapist, and mused out loud about whether this lack of an acceptable male role model has imbued my sexuality with my misandry, my refusal to “be like other men”, refusal to flirt and engage with women as other men do, even to the point of me wondering if being trans was a reaction to feeling that men were awful. After all, these experiences began before conscious memory.
Interestingly, she felt not. A more common pattern, she noted, was that the male child of a father who abuses his wife is more likely to adopt those same practices with his own wife. She felt that my reaction was a function of already being non-binary…just as she feels that my own cross-gender experiences with my mother and clothing were possibly just as much co-created as my mother dressing me in gender “inappropriate clothing”…and oddly enough, even now, that doesn’t bother me, it never really bothered me, and I guess this is why—already when little, I didn’t care about being boy or girl, but I did like being around girls, pretty things, cute things, soft things, and horses, and cats. Okay, I also liked gorillas, but that was when I was five and I had some strange and burning desire to have a black rubber gorilla.
And so, what these therapists have helped me to uncover is that as a baby I saw my father mistreat my mother, and that was very distressing for me. And I couldn’t protect her. I was too young. I still remember being with her as she sobbed on her bed. And that’s why I retreat, go back to the one safe place, to a time before that happened, to a feeling of “little space”.
It wasn’t just when I was a baby, but his bullying and nasty behaviour towards her, towards all of us, continued all through my teen years, long after their separation and divorce. This left a different legacy. It certainly shaped what kind of man I didn’t want to be. It shaped my character in profound ways. And perhaps, it shaped how I relate to women. That there is a tacit apology for what is “male” on my lips.
And this shaped how I dated, how I found my way towards women I was attracted to, how I courted or sent out signals—what I call “the art of the submissive flirt.” I would never be forward, it didn’t feel right, aggression felt wrong. In a way, being submissive is my apology to women. Not just one, but all. I know that’s absurd, and the truth of it is that I don’t feel submissive to all women, just a few, the ones that I like and am attracted to. All the others are just normal.
And I remember too, how some women would explain to me how they liked certain aggressive things about men, and that troubled me, because part of me wanted to please, but another part didn’t dare do, or want to do. And I couldn’t understand why she/they would want such things, when they were so linked in my own mind with bad behaviour, toxic masculinity. But then I can also recall a conversation with a dominatrix about how some of her female clients come to her to work through intense trauma, and turn to submission in session as a way to reclaim agency. People are so fascinating and endlessly complex (at least the nice ones).
And here I am so many years later, having started to figure all this out, and realising that I just really like to cuddle. But for a person who grew up not letting people touch him, and who has denied touch, both giving and receiving, to people that have interfered with my sense of equilibrium by judging me or hurting me, that is quite the revelation.
The good news? Now that I am free, I can think of one or two women I have met in the past year or so who I’d like to cuddle with. Wish me luck.