Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Losing My Religion

I was watching the Glee episode where Finn sings Losing My Religion. It's a cheesy show, to be sure, but somehow the episode captures just how terrifying it can be to lose something so big it's hard to measure.

I've said too much. I haven't said enough. I didn't feel scared when I was coming out; I felt like I was gaining a secret code rather than losing the selfhood I'd built up. Losing My Religion was the perfect song to revel in my secret/revealed feelings.

Consider this the hint of the century; consider this the hint that brought me to my knees.

Experiencing for the first time feelings strong enough to bring you to your knees was a gift, a discovery. I didn't imagine in the moment that I finally acknowledged — with relief, joy and sly smile — that I liked women, that it would eventually cut off a part of myself and truncate the relationships I'd formed. But of course it did. There was no predicting which people in my life would feel alienated by my new identity — or maybe it was I who suddenly felt alienated from them — but my friendships, my priorities and my social standing were all, eventually, changed.

Changing my gender feels more like losing a religion. That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight. Am I a dyke anymore, savoring that complexity, if I'm a man? Do I get to keep the people who love me as I am if I'm not the person they remember? What pronoun will we use to talk about our memories? Will I float off into some foreign realm of experience, losing the understanding that I share with my dyke friends?

Transitioning would mean coming out all over again, except this time I know what's coming. I'm frankly not sure I have the energy to go through it again.

There's no neat ending to this line of thought. I feel like I have to choose between trailblazing selfhood – the brave choices I admire in others — and the selfhood that comes from stability, which I've always envied: like a kind of religion.

I want to be seen as the man I know I am — a gentle, unaffected masculinity — but I also want to be recognized as code-shifting and self-made. That sly smile has gotten me through a lot over the last 15 years.

Life is bigger, it's bigger than you — and you are not me. The lengths that I would go to, the distance in your eyes.

Somehow it's easier, at least in our pop-driven, Hollywood-emulating culture, to imagine going to the lengths of gambling your self out of love for somebody else than doing it out of grief and frustration at the limits of selfhood.

What if all these fantasies come flaming aground?