The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “Cross-Dressing”

Bacha Posh

first published Nov 26, 2014

bacha posh

 

Ba

I was born a girl but my parents thought better of it. A boy would be much more useful, so that’s what I became. They dressed me like a boy, called me by a boy ‘s name, and tasked me with boy’s work. I knew I wasn’t a boy but I liked the game. I had so much more freedom than the girls! I could go to school! I could learn to read! I could work and earn money to help my family.  I could play with my friends in the streets without adult supervision. I did not have to wear layers of hot clothing in the summer to hide myself.

I was happy and grateful to my parents that they were wise enough to choose this for me when I could not choose for myself.

I was a happy child living an uncomplicated existence.

And then I had my first blood.

My parents seemed to be expecting this but I had no suspicion that big changes were on the horizon for me. They informed me that it was time to give up my boyish ways and take my place in the world as a woman.

We would move to a new part of the city where we were not known, and I would present myself to all I met as a girl.

In a year or two, they would find me a husband. I would spend the rest of my life covered and subservient to men.

I wanted nothing to do with it!  I screamed and cried and argued but there was no moving them. They knew things which I was too young to understand.

For many days, I would not eat or leave the house. I was willful, something which was never repressed in me like other girls. I would not obey! It was my life!  I could not, would not, live under a veil!

Slowly, however, I began to realize that I could no longer hide my differences.  I could not play bare-chested with my friends any longer. The boys voices were growing deeper. They were sprouting hair on their faces. My changes were in the opposite direction. The very quality of my skin betrayed me, even covered as I often was, in dust and mud.

I didn’t know what to do. My parents were of no use. To them, hiding my gender was simply the practical thing to do at one time,  and now it was time to put those childish things aside.  If they had any idea of my deep emotional turmoil, of my sense of being lost without an identity, of my confusion and pain, they gave no clue. I was becoming an adult and I had to accept my responsibilities along with reality.

But they were still left with a problem that they had not foreseen and which was never going to go away.   I might be forced under the veil,  but I would never succeed at being subservient.

This was not merely a trait that would lead to an unhappy marriage, but a train which might get me killed.   I did not recognize this threat in the beginning. It was not until I watched a young woman, not much older than I was,  being stoned to death for an offense which hardly seemed like an offense to me.  I would have done the same in her position.  And that would have been me on the receiving end of those stones.

I allowed my mother to show me how to be more feminine.   She tried to teach me basic womanly chores, but honestly, I had no interest and I wasn’t very good at them.

Clearly, I was going to make a terrible wife.   What man would have me?

I was caught between one gender and another, and nothing could save me.

For the first time, I envied all the girls my own age.  They knew their place in the world.  They had never tasted freedom and so did not miss it.  Their world was much smaller than mine. They were, like goats in a pen.  They were happy in those confines with all the other goats.  I, however, could not stop longing for what lay beyond.

One day,  when I had long stopped worrying about being forced to marry (my parents hadn’t spoken of it in a long time and I thought they had given up on the notion,  as I had dearly wished),  my mother told me they had found me a young man from a good family.   They thought he would do fine.

I felt betrayed.  Terrified.   Angry.  How could they force me? I would rather live alone all my life!

Of course, that wasn’t possible.  My parents were not rich.  When they died, I would have no one to take care of me.  I could not earn a living as a woman.  I would be alone and destitute, at the mercy of a cruel world.

So,  I met him.  And his family.   With mine,  we all sat down to a meal.

The boy was small and sweet and shy like a girl.  He moved his hands gracefully when he spoke.  He had gone to school, too,  and like me, liked to read. (That meant there would be books in the house – a good thing!) . He was not  aggressive in any way.  He seemed kind. And as confused by his feelings as I was by mine.

I liked him immediately. I recognized in him a kindred spirit — someone who didn’t fit.

Later I told my parents that if I had to marry, then let it be him.  He later told me that he’d told his parents the same.

Once again,  my parents chose best for me when I could not choose for myself.

We were married and remained so until we were both old.  We did not have children, which was satisfactory for both of us.  He enjoyed doing much of the womanly work.  He cooked better than I did.   He had a way of making the house a nice place to live.

Because he was so easy, and because he was soft in his dealings with me, I did not mind doing the things that wives are expected to do.   There was no point in rebelling against him.  We were both on the same side; in the same boat.

There was not much passion in our marriage, but we had an abundance of tenderness.  We had friendship and mutual respect.  We understood each other in a ways that others never had.

We put on our proper faces to the world,  but at home we could both be ourselves. There, we were equals.  The roles the world put upon us had no place there.

For both of us,  it was the best marriage we could have ever hoped for.  He died first, and I missed him terribly.  But, at least he left me with enough money to live comfortably as I grew old.

It’s funny how things work out. For many years, it seemed certain I’d ever wed. But in the end, compared to all the women I knew in my life, I had the happiest marriage.

 

______

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.

 

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An Oyster, Ostracized

originally published oct 15, 2014

(this story seems particularly apt these days,  given how the current political situation has torn families and even marriages asunder.)

oyster with pearl

 Cha

The pain of my family haunted me all my life.   My parents and siblings were not particularly evil people, but they were small and callous, jealous and petty, insecure and often mean.  The toxic dynamics in my  childhood shaped me as an adult – my needs, desires, fears, insecurities, my ways of interacting with the world.

When friends or acquaintances make us unhappy,  we are free to sever those ties. Family, for better or worse, is forever.  I withdrew as much as possible from mine, but there were inevitably situations where interaction was unavoidable.  Family is genetically and biologically intertwined.

I dreaded the occasions when I had to spend time with them. I always left their company licking my wounds, feeling once again, like a rejected, unwanted child.

No one in my family understood my choices.  At best, I was tolerated but never embraced. I was unwelcome and unaccepted not because of anything I had done, but simply because of who I was and what I believed. My feelings were never taken seriously. My siblings’ own families later learned to mock and mistreat me the same way.

It wasn’t until much later in my adulthood,  when I met other outsiders like myself, that I eventually found love. Because it had taken me so long to find it, I treasured it.  I savored the feeling of being embraced and accepted for exactly who I was.

Even so,  it took me most of my life to shed the pain of being shut out of my family.  I clung to my anger  because it made my pain righteous.  I refused  to let it go until I had from them an apology; an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.  I wanted them to accept responsibility for the misery they had caused me.

Finally,  I understood I would never have that from any of them.  My only release was in forgiveness.

That was the lesson I was born to learn.

We travel and are reborn, again and again, with the same group of souls. But sharing the same journey does not mean we will receive love or understanding from each other.   Some share our paths specifically to aggrieve us, or for us to aggrieve them.  The same soul may take the form of a different kind of  nemesis in each lifetime.

From irritants, an oyster can make a pearl.

The hardest kind of forgiveness is for those who don’t believe they need to be forgiven.

______

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.

 

 

The Cripple

Originally posted June 17, 2014

suffering frieze on blg

Til

Til

The pain was so deep and wide, for so long, I could barely think about anything else. I could not spare any compassion or sympathy for others. I could not learn any lessons except whatever things I might do to ease my suffering even slightly. With drugs, I was in a fog, could not think rational thoughts. I could barely move, but at least I didn’t have to think about the pain.

I did try to avoid them in the beginning. I wanted to be in the world, even if it meant filtering everything through my wincing torment. But eventually, I just wanted the pain to stop, and if that meant perceiving the world through a narcotic haze, well, so be it.  I could not sit comfortably. Walking was torture, even the few steps to and from my bed to the bathroom.

Before I was born,  I chose this body. I know this. But when I put myself into this life, the suffering was abstract. In the reality, in the forgetting, it was a torment which made me curse my existence.

__

 Some thoughts:

Even after months of receiving/writing these narratives, I am still wondering: it is possible to receive such stories from the dead (even if, in my own case, it turns out not to be so) or am I irrational to think such a thing is even possible?  

 Although I continue to resist facile, mystical explanations, I find the notions of communicating with the dead, of life after death, reincarnation, and metaphysics to be fascinating.   There is so much evidence “proving” this point of view, that as a spiritual belief, life after death actually seems more logical and reasonable than the notion of bleak eternal nothingness. In fact, while there is plenty of evidence and documentation of reincarnation dating back millennia, (ancient religious traditions, stories of previous lives with corroborated details, studies, books, past life regression, etc.), there is not a shred of evidence to prove bleak eternal nothingness (BEN).

 Those in the BEN camp often mock spiritual believers, holding themselves intellectually above them. As logical, scientific human beings, they believe only what can be confirmed by evidence. To them, anyone who believes otherwise is a fool. And yet – and here’s the delicious irony — it’s actually the BENnys whose theological beliefs are based faith alone. There is no evidence (and never can be) of their doctrine, because the negative cannot be proven. Without proof, their own beliefs are simply a matter of what feels right to them. Thus, they have no “moral right” to point fingers at the “gullibility” of the other camp..

 The more I read about these subjects, the more fascinated I become. Evidence of the spiritual realm is so overwhelming, even if 99% of what has been written can be debunked by known science, the remaining 1% still forms a huge heap of corroborative evidence.

 I have fallen down the rabbit hole, and the deeper I go, the less I want to come out.

 I do not think I’m a crackpot or a nut job, but I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, depending on whether you agree with me or not. But if not, please reread the previous paragraphs!

 

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Dress Up

originally posted June 8, 2014

closet-photo-730x285

Pa

I can still smell the sweet, musty scent of old perfume clinging to her elegant clothes; the tickley feeling of her long fur coat brushing against my face;  the smooth skin of her fine, leather high-heel shoes lined up neatly in the shoe rack.

My mother’s closet. It was the place I hid when I needed to feel safe.

When I was very young, and my parents fought, downstairs, I would run up to their room and slip into my secret fortress, pulling the door closed behind me.  I kept a flashlight hidden in the back. Sometimes, I turned it on. Sometimes, I sat in the dark. When I was in grade school, and the kids at school bullied me or called me names, when I felt myself weird and disconnected, that’s where I ran.   It was my secure, perfect little world, where every color,  smell, and texture was familiar and reminded me of unconditional love.

It was a finite place yet it contained infinite peace. The sounds of the world outside were muffled by tightly packed garments of silk, linen and wool. If my parents were shouting, I couldn’t make out the words. If I fell asleep, when I woke up, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. I might have been sleeping for an hour or for years, and this too seemed mystical and magical to me, because there was always the possibility that I’d been asleep so long that when I emerged, everything would be completely different.

When I got a bit older that pleasure was no longer available to me. It was OK for a small boy to hide in the closet, but not at all appropriate for a thirteen year old. Which is not to say I outgrew the need or desire for it. I was just more afraid of being humiliated, especially by my father.

In order to recreate that feeling as best I could, I would sneak one of my mother’s silk shirts or casual dresses — something with her scent on it — or perhaps a pair of her shoes, and I would keep them near my bed. At night, I would pull them beside me, and they helped me fall asleep.

One day, when I was about 14, I put on her shirt, just to feel it against my skin, and I become sexually aroused.   This confused me and made me feel ashamed and yet, it excited me in such a primal way.

As I said, I never outgrew the need for the closet so I found another way to hide in it: by wearing women’s clothing.

There was so much shame involved in this practice, it colored everything else I did in my life. I hid this deep, important part of myself from everyone, including my wife. I lived in fear that my humiliation would be discovered. The mocking voices of my childhood classmates accusing me of being strange never left my head. I had to admit to myself,  they were obviously right. I was weird.

I tried so hard to control my need, but the more I resisted the more obsessed and stressed I became. The more stressed I became, the more I needed it. It was a cycle I could never break.   And every time I went back to it, after being “good” for a while, I was filled both with relief and a deep-sense of self-loathing.

This was the core of my life. The rest of it doesn’t matter. Not my job nor my family nor any hobby or interest. They existed outside of me. I played my roles well and nobody ever suspected — I hid myself that perfectly.

My entire life was all about what and how and when I could do it again; about balancing my need with my terror at being unmasked as a pervert. My entire life was a lie. I hid the most important part of myself from everyone and in doing so, sacrificed any hope that anyone would love me for who I truly was.

My life was a never-ending cycle of self-loathing, fear, determination to change, failure, collapse.   I suppose the only way to have broken that cycle was to accept myself as I was, for who I was.   It didn’t matter if nobody else loved me; more important, I needed to accept myself as the imperfect being I was. This is something, I never managed to do. Perhaps if I’d been brave enough to share my secret, I might have found acceptance, but I could not. The shame was too deep. It was a part of my DNA.

It was a secret I took to my grave.

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

Bacha Posh

 

first published Nov 26, 2014

bacha posh

 

Ba

I was born a girl but my parents thought better of it. A boy would be much more useful, so that’s what I became. They dressed me like a boy, called me by a boy ‘s name, and tasked me with boy’s work. I knew I wasn’t a boy but I liked the game. I had so much more freedom than the girls! I could go to school! I could learn to read! I could work and earn money to help my family.  I could play with my friends in the streets without adult supervision. I did not have to wear layers of hot clothing in the summer to hide myself.

I was happy and grateful to my parents that they were wise enough to choose this for me when I could not choose for myself.

I was a happy child living an uncomplicated existence.

And then I had my first blood.

My parents seemed to be expecting this but I had no suspicion that big changes were on the horizon for me. They informed me that it was time to give up my boyish ways and take my place in the world as a woman.

We would move to a new part of the city where we were not known, and I would present myself to all I met as a girl.

In a year or two, they would find me a husband. I would spend the rest of my life covered and subservient to men.

I wanted nothing to do with it!  I screamed and cried and argued but there was no moving them. They knew things which I was too young to understand.

For many days, I would not eat or leave the house. I was willful, something which was never repressed in me like other girls. I would not obey! It was my life!  I could not, would not, live under a veil!

Slowly, however, I began to realize that I could no longer hide my differences.  I could not play bare-chested with my friends any longer. The boys voices were growing deeper. They were sprouting hair on their faces. My changes were in the opposite direction. The very quality of my skin betrayed me, even covered as I often was, in dust and mud.

I didn’t know what to do. My parents were of no use. To them, hiding my gender was simply the practical thing to do at one time,  and now it was time to put those childish things aside.  If they had any idea of my deep emotional turmoil, of my sense of being lost without an identity, of my confusion and pain, they gave no clue. I was becoming an adult and I had to accept my responsibilities along with reality.

But they were still left with a problem that they had not foreseen and which was never going to go away.   I might be forced under the veil,  but I would never succeed at being subservient.

This was not merely a trait that would lead to an unhappy marriage, but a train which might get me killed.   I did not recognize this threat in the beginning. It was not until I watched a young woman, not much older than I was,  being stoned to death for an offense which hardly seemed like an offense to me.  I would have done the same in her position.  And that would have been me on the receiving end of those stones.

I allowed my mother to show me how to be more feminine.   She tried to teach me basic womanly chores, but honestly, I had no interest and I wasn’t very good at them.

Clearly, I was going to make a terrible wife.   What man would have me?

I was caught between one gender and another, and nothing could save me.

For the first time, I envied all the girls my own age.  They knew their place in the world.  They had never tasted freedom and so did not miss it.  Their world was much smaller than mine. They were, like goats in a pen.  They were happy in those confines with all the other goats.  I, however, could not stop longing for what lay beyond.

One day,  when I had long stopped worrying about being forced to marry (my parents hadn’t spoken of it in a long time and I thought they had given up on the notion,  as I had dearly wished),  my mother told me they had found me a young man from a good family.   They thought he would do fine.

I felt betrayed.  Terrified.   Angry.  How could they force me? I would rather live alone all my life!

Of course, that wasn’t possible.  My parents were not rich.  When they died, I would have no one to take care of me.  I could not earn a living as a woman.  I would be alone and destitute, at the mercy of a cruel world.

So,  I met him.  And his family.   With mine,  we all sat down to a meal.

The boy was small and sweet and shy like a girl.  He moved his hands gracefully when he spoke.  He had gone to school, too,  and like me, liked to read. (That meant there would be books in the house – a good thing!) . He was not  aggressive in any way.  He seemed kind. And as confused by his feelings as I was by mine.

I liked him immediately. I recognized in him a kindred spirit — someone who didn’t fit.

Later I told my parents that if I had to marry, then let it be him.  He later told me that he’d told his parents the same.

Once again,  my parents chose best for me when I could not choose for myself.

We were married and remained so until we were both old.  We did not have children, which was satisfactory for both of us.  He enjoyed doing much of the womanly work.  He cooked better than I did.   He had a way of making the house a nice place to live.

Because he was so easy, and because he was soft in his dealings with me, I did not mind doing the things that wives are expected to do.   There was no point in rebelling against him.  We were both on the same side; in the same boat.

There was not much passion in our marriage, but we had an abundance of tenderness.  We had friendship and mutual respect.  We understood each other in a ways that others never had.

We put on our proper faces to the world,  but at home we could both be ourselves. There, we were equals.  The roles the world put upon us had no place there.

For both of us,  it was the best marriage we could have ever hoped for.  He died first, and I missed him terribly.  But, at least he left me with enough money to live comfortably as I grew old.

It’s funny how things work out. For many years, it seemed certain I’d ever wed. But in the end, compared to all the women I knew in my life, I had the happiest marriage.

 

—–

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days.  Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward.  Would greatly appreciate sharing on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)  Thanks!

An Oyster, Ostracized

originally published oct 15, 2014

oyster with pearl

 Cha

The pain of my family haunted me all my life.   My parents and siblings were not particularly evil people, but they were small and callous, jealous and petty, insecure and often mean.  The toxic dynamics in my  childhood shaped me as an adult – my needs, desires, fears, insecurities, my ways of interacting with the world.

When friends or acquaintances make us unhappy,  we are free to sever those ties. Family, for better or worse, is forever.  I withdrew as much as possible from mine, but there were inevitably situations where interaction was unavoidable.  Family is genetically and biologically intertwined.

I dreaded the occasions when I had to spend time with them. I always left their company licking my wounds, feeling once again, like a rejected, unwanted child.

No one in my family understood my choices.  At best, I was tolerated but never embraced. I was unwelcome and unaccepted not because of anything I had done, but simply because of who I was and what I believed. My feelings were never taken seriously. My siblings’ own families later learned to mock and mistreat me the same way.

It wasn’t until much later in my adulthood,  when I met other outsiders like myself, that I eventually found love. Because it had taken me so long to find it, I treasured it.  I savored the feeling of being embraced and accepted for exactly who I was.

Even so,  it took me most of my life to shed the pain of being shut out of my family.  I clung to my anger  because it made my pain righteous.  I refused  to let it go until I had from them an apology; an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.  I wanted them to accept responsibility for the misery they had caused me.

Finally,  I understood I would never have that from any of them.  My only release was in forgiveness.

That was the lesson I was born to learn.

We travel and are reborn, again and again, with the same group of souls. But sharing the same journey does not mean we will receive love or understanding from each other.   Some share our paths specifically to aggrieve us, or for us to aggrieve them.  The same soul may take the form of a different kind of  nemesis in each lifetime.

From irritants, an oyster can make a pearl.

The hardest kind of forgiveness is for those who don’t believe they need to be forgiven.

****

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

 

The Cripple

first posted June 17, 2014

suffering frieze on blg

 Ti

The pain was so deep and wide, for so long, I could barely think about anything else. I could not spare any compassion or sympathy for others. I could not learn any lessons except whatever things I might do to ease my suffering even slightly. With drugs, I was in a haze, couldn’t think rational thoughts, could barely move, but at least I didn’t have to think about the pain. I did try to avoid them in the beginning. I wanted to be in the world, even if it meant filtering everything through my wincing torment. But eventually, I just wanted the pain to stop, and if that meant perceiving the world through a narcotic haze, well, so be it. I could not sit comfortably. Walking was torture, even the few steps to and from my bed to the bathroom.

My body was deformed by my own choosing. I know this. But when I chose, the suffering was abstract. In the reality, in the forgetting, it was a torment which made me curse my life.

_________

 My thoughts:

Even after months of receiving/writing these narratives, I am still wondering: it is possible to receive such stories from the dead (even if, in my own case, it turns out not to be so) or am I irrational to think such a thing is even possible?  

 Although I continue to resist facile, mystical explanations, I find the notions of communicating with the dead, of life after death, reincarnation, and metaphysics to be fascinating.   There is so much evidence “proving” this point of view, that as a spiritual belief, life after death actually seems more logical and reasonable than the notion of bleak eternal nothingness. In fact, while there is plenty of evidence and documentation of reincarnation dating back millennia, (ancient religious traditions, stories of previous lives with corroborated details, studies, books, past life regression, etc.), there is not a shred of evidence to prove bleak eternal nothingness (BEN).

 Those in the BEN camp often mock spiritual believers, holding themselves intellectually above them. As logical, scientific human beings, they believe only what can be confirmed by evidence. To them, anyone who believes otherwise is a fool. And yet – and here’s the delicious irony — it’s actually the BENnys whose theological beliefs are based faith alone. There is no evidence (and never can be) of their doctrine, because the negative cannot be proven. Without proof, their own beliefs are simply a matter of what feels right to them. Thus, they have no “moral right” to point fingers at the “gullibility” of the other camp..

 The more I read about these subjects, the more fascinated I become. Evidence of the spiritual realm is so overwhelming, even if 99% of what has been written can be debunked by known science, the remaining 1% still forms a huge heap of corroborative evidence.

 I have fallen down the rabbit hole, and the deeper I go, the less I want to come out.

 I do not think I’m a crackpot or a nut job, but I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, depending on whether you agree with me or not. But if not, please reread the previous paragraphs!

Dress Up

originally posted June 8, 2014

closet-photo-730x285

 

Pa

I can still smell the sweet, musty scent of old perfume clinging to her elegant clothes; the tickley feeling of her long fur coat brushing against my face; her fine, leather high-heel shoes lined up neatly in the shoe rack. My mother’s closet. It was the place I hid when I needed to feel safe. When I was very young, and my parents fought, downstairs, I would run up to my parents’ room and slip into the closet, pulling the door closed behind me.  I kept a flashlight hidden in the back. Sometimes, I turned it on. Sometimes, I sat in the dark. When I was in grade school, and the kids at school bullied me or called me names, when I felt myself weird and disconnected, that’s where I ran.   It was my secure, perfect little world, where every color and smell and texture was familiar and reminded me of unconditional love.

It was a finite place yet it contained infinite peace. The sounds of the world outside were muffled by tightly packed garments of silk, linen and wool. If my parents were shouting, I couldn’t make out the words. If I fell asleep, when I woke up, I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. I might have been sleeping for an hour or for years, and this too seemed mystical and magical to me, because there was always the possibility that I’d been asleep so long that when I emerged, everything would be completely different.

When I got a bit older, of course, that pleasure was no longer available to me. It was OK for a small boy to hide in the closet, but not at all appropriate for a thirteen year old. Which is not to say I outgrew the need or desire for it. I was just more afraid of being humiliated, especially by my father.

In order to recreate that feeling as best I could, I would sneak one of my mother’s silk shirts or casual dresses — something with her scent on it — or perhaps a pair of her shoes, and I would keep them near my bed. At night, I would pull them beside me, and they helped me fall asleep.

One day, when I was about 14, I put on her shirt, just to feel it against my skin, and I become sexually aroused.   This confused me and made me feel ashamed and yet, excited me in such a primal way.

As I said, I never outgrew the need for the closet so I found another way to hide in it: by wearing women’s clothing.

There was so much shame involved in this, it colored everything else I did in my life. I hid this deep, important part of myself from everyone, including my wife. I lived in fear that my humiliation would be discovered. The mocking voices of my childhood classmates accusing me of being weird never left my head. Obviously, they were right. I was weird.

I tried so hard to control my need, but the more I resisted, the more obsessed and stressed I became. The more stressed I became, the more I needed it. It was a cycle I could never break.   And every time I went back to it, after being “good” for a while, I was filled both with relief and a deep-sense of self-loathing.

This was the core of my life. The rest of it doesn’t matter. Not my job nor my family nor any hobby or interest. They existed outside of me. I played my roles well and nobody ever suspected, I hid myself that perfectly.

My entire life was all about what and how and when I could do it again; about balancing my need with my terror at being unmasked as a pervert. My entire life was a lie. I hid the most important part of myself from everyone and in doing so, sacrificed any hope that anyone would love me for who I truly was.

My life was a never-ending cycle of self-loathing, fear, determination to change, failure, collapse.   I suppose the only way to have broken that cycle was to accept myself as I was, for who I was.   It didn’t matter if nobody else loved me; more important, I needed to love myself. This is something, I never managed to do. Perhaps if I’d been brave enough to share my secret, I could have found acceptance, but I could not. The shame was too deep. It was a part of my DNA.

It was a secret I took to my grave.

____

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Bacha Posh

bacha posh

 

Ba

I was born a girl but my parents thought better of it. A boy would be much more useful, so that’s what I became. They dressed me like a boy, called me by a boy ‘s name, and tasked me with boy’s work. I knew I wasn’t a boy but I liked the game. I had so much more freedom than the girls! I could go to school! I could learn to read! I could work and earn money to help my family.  I could play with my friends in the streets without adult supervision. I did not have to wear layers of hot clothing in the summer to hide myself.

I was happy and grateful to my parents that they were wise enough to choose this for me when I could not choose for myself.

I was a happy child living an uncomplicated existence.

And then I had my first blood.

My parents seemed to be expecting this but I had no suspicion that big changes were on the horizon for me. They informed me that it was time to give up my boyish ways and take my place in the world as a woman.

We would move to a new part of the city where we were not known, and I would present myself to all I met as a girl.

In a year or two, they would find me a husband. I would spend the rest of my life covered and subservient to men.

I wanted nothing to do with it!  I screamed and cried and argued but there was no moving them. They knew things which I was too young to understand.

For many days, I would not eat or leave the house. I was willful, something which was never repressed in me like other girls. I would not obey! It was my life!  I could not, would not, live under a veil!

Slowly, however, I began to realize that I could no longer hide my differences.  I could not play bare-chested with my friends any longer. The boys voices were growing deeper. They were sprouting hair on their faces. My changes were in the opposite direction. The very quality of my skin betrayed me, even covered as I often was, in dust and mud.

I didn’t know what to do. My parents were of no use. To them, hiding my gender was simply the practical thing to do at one time,  and now it was time to put those childish things aside.  If they had any idea of my deep emotional turmoil, of my sense of being lost without an identity, of my confusion and pain, they gave no clue. I was becoming an adult and I had to accept my responsibilities along with reality.

But they were still left with a problem that they had not foreseen and which was never going to go away.   I might be forced under the veil,  but I would never succeed at being subservient.

This was not merely a trait that would lead to an unhappy marriage, but a train which might get me killed.   I did not recognize this threat in the beginning. It was not until I watched a young woman, not much older than I was,  being stoned to death for an offense which hardly seemed like an offense to me.  I would have done the same in her position.  And that would have been me on the receiving end of those stones.

I allowed my mother to show me how to be more feminine.   She tried to teach me basic womanly chores, but honestly, I had no interest and I wasn’t very good at them.

Clearly, I was going to make a terrible wife.   What man would have me?

I was caught between one gender and another, and nothing could save me.

For the first time, I envied all the girls my own age.  They knew their place in the world.  They had never tasted freedom and so did not miss it.  Their world was much smaller than mine. They were, like goats in a pen.  They were happy in those confines with all the other goats.  I, however, could not stop longing for what lay beyond.

One day,  when I had long stopped worrying about being forced to marry (my parents hadn’t spoken of it in a long time and I thought they had given up on the notion,  as I had dearly wished),  my mother told me they had found me a young man from a good family.   They thought he would do fine.

I felt betrayed.  Terrified.   Angry.  How could they force me? I would rather live alone all my life!

Of course, that wasn’t possible.  My parents were not rich.  When they died, I would have no one to take care of me.  I could not earn a living as a woman.  I would be alone and destitute, at the mercy of a cruel world.

So,  I met him.  And his family.   With mine,  we all sat down to a meal.

The boy was small and sweet and shy like a girl.  He moved his hands gracefully when he spoke.  He had gone to school, too,  and like me, liked to read. (That meant there would be books in the house – a good thing!) . He was not  aggressive in any way.  He seemed kind. And as confused by his feelings as I was by mine.

I liked him immediately. I recognized in him a kindred spirit — someone who didn’t fit.

Later I told my parents that if I had to marry, then let it be him.  He later told me that he’d told his parents the same.

Once again,  my parents chose best for me when I could not choose for myself.

We were married and remained so until we were both old.  We did not have children, which was satisfactory for both of us.  He enjoyed doing much of the womanly work.  He cooked better than I did.   He had a way of making the house a nice place to live.

Because he was so easy, and because he was soft in his dealings with me, I did not mind doing the things that wives are expected to do.   There was no point in rebelling against him.  We were both on the same side; in the same boat.

There was not much passion in our marriage, but we had an abundance of tenderness.  We had friendship and mutual respect.  We understood each other in a ways that others never had.

We put on our proper faces to the world,  but at home we could both be ourselves. There, we were equals.  The roles the world put upon us had no place there.

For both of us,  it was the best marriage we could have ever hoped for.  He died first, and I missed him terribly.  But, at least he left me with enough money to live comfortably as I grew old.

It’s funny how things work out. For many years, it seemed certain I’d ever wed. But in the end, compared to all the women I knew in my life, I had the happiest marriage.

An Oyster, Ostracized

oyster with pearl

 Cha

The pain of my family haunted me all my life.   My parents and siblings were not particularly evil people, but they were small and callous, jealous and petty, insecure and often mean.  The toxic dynamics in my  childhood shaped me as an adult – my needs, desires, fears, insecurities, my ways of interacting with the world.

When friends or acquaintances make us unhappy,  we are free to sever those ties. Family, for better or worse, is forever.  I withdrew as much as possible from mine, but there were inevitably situations where interaction was unavoidable.  Family is genetically and biologically intertwined.

I dreaded the occasions when I had to spend time with them. I always left their company licking my wounds, feeling once again, like a rejected, unwanted child.

No one in my family understood my choices.  At best, I was tolerated but never embraced. I was unwelcome and unaccepted not because of anything I had done, but simply because of who I was and what I believed. My feelings were never taken seriously. My siblings’ own families later learned to mock and mistreat me the same way.

It wasn’t until much later in my adulthood,  when I met other outsiders like myself, that I eventually found love. Because it had taken me so long to find it, I treasured it.  I savored the feeling of being embraced and accepted for exactly who I was.

Even so,  it took me most of my life to shed the pain of being shut out of my family.  I clung to my anger  because it made my pain righteous.  I refused  to let it go until I had from them an apology; an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.  I wanted them to accept responsibility for the misery they had caused me.

Finally,  I understood I would never have that from any of them.  My only release was in forgiveness.

That was the lesson I was born to learn.

We travel and are reborn, again and again, with the same group of souls. But sharing the same journey does not mean we will receive love or understanding from each other.   Some share our paths specifically to aggrieve us, or for us to aggrieve them.  The same soul may take the form of a different kind of  nemesis in each lifetime.

From irritants, an oyster can make a pearl.

The hardest kind of forgiveness is for those who don’t believe they need to be forgiven.

 

 

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