This blog posting consist of two short reflections. They have not really been built out, but could form the basis for longer reflections later.
This is a difficult post for me, but it is important that I write a little bit more on this topic. As a trans person, who identifies as a trans woman, my relationship to my body is complicated. Since starting with my transition it has become much better, and I started to learn to love my trans body and most importantly affirm it. But I think our relationships to our bodies, are very different from say the relationship our partners have with our bodies. Relationships break up because of this, because of this discordance.
Before I transitioned my body was a personal battleground for me as a person. (This does not mean that trans bodies stop being battlegrounds after they transition, not at all. Trans bodies will always be battlegrounds where societies fight their battles. Trans bodies are societal battlegrounds.) But where my body was a struggle point for me, my partner loved my body. My partner was attracted to it. So, when I started to transition and my body started to change, I encountered two very different (intimate) experiences. For the first-time my own love and acceptance for my body grew, and at the same time my partner’s distance (in some cases disgust) to it grew by the day. I can’t be angry about this, but I am trying to make sense of this. Is it merely because my partner is not attracted to women? Or, because something on a deeper level changed?
This started to make me think of my body as a narrative (-s). My transition enabled me to start to read my body, to bring concordance to me as an ensemble of various narratives. Before my transition, my body, my identity, were in constant confrontation with one another, there were so many different discordant meanings and narratives. Now, my body still has many different meanings, but there is in some way concordance. Maybe this refer in some extent to concordant discordance or discordant concordance, phrases used by Paul Ricoeur in a completely different context (to read more about this, see the following or this text) . When I must transpose this to my partner’s experience, my transition meant a destruction of my partner’s narrative of me, a destruction of the narrative my partner built around me, more specifically my body.
Julie Beth – Life Changing Decisions:
Watching Arrival made me very emotional. It is a beautiful film with an impactful story line. On a deeper level the film’s ability to remind you of decisions, far reaching decisions, you have made in the past, adds an existential dimension to the film. Everyone has made such decisions; for example, deciding to have a child (as the main character in the film did), deciding to tell someone you love them and so forth. These are life changing decisions. What makes these decisions different from other decisions, is that you can sometimes envision what will be (or could be) the outcome, and even if the outcome could be negative you decide to stand steadfast and make the decision.
In the film the main character can, through the gift of the language of the aliens, experience time differently, specifically in a non-linear way. Through this “gift”, she can see that her daughter will have a life ending disease and that she will die at a young age. Knowing this, she still decides to have the child. We do not have this “gift”, and when I refer to the ability to envision a certain amount of possibilities – I am not referring to this. Our life changing decisions are sometimes embedded within a fog of clues, left by the people and the society we interact with. Maybe this cloud is like the alien’s symbols, just before it is formed, a cloud of ink.
When I was watching the film, it reminded me of my decision to transition. It specifically reminded me of two things. One, that my partner at the time can decide that they can’t continue living with me and continue down this road. Secondly, most probably not being able to have children. And the latter brings me back to the title of this short reflection, “Julie Beth”. My partner and I spoke about having children, and we played with names. If the child was a girl she would be called Julie Beth and if it was a boy we will call him Max. When I decided to transition, I thought a lot about “our” children; I could almost see their faces in front of me. As I continued with my transition, their presence disappeared, and so did my partner. What I therefore envisioned, happened.
The question that I want to ask, is why do we then continue with these decisions, where we can imagine what the future possibly holds for us. And this is the crux of these decisions, you can’t not make such a decision. That is why these types of decisions are existential questions, they call forth a response – whether you like it or not. It is to a certain extent a life & death question, in the sense that you choose between different future life scenarios. Unlike the main character in the film, we don’t have the gift of seeing the future, we merely read the clues that is left behind in the mist that surrounds our lives. And based on this we decide, and even if we decide not to follow a different life trajectory, one is still deciding. One is deciding to accept the possible future scenarios of the current life constellation one finds oneself in, even if it means unhappiness, and possibly death.
For me, what I saw, when I made my decision, is that if I stayed and decided not to transition, I would be deeply unhappy … and, more far reaching, possibly experience death in myself, but also to die physically.
In the face of death, I decided against death.