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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Past oddities

I remember a time in my twenties when I was going up Fleet Street reading a book and walked straight into a lamppost. Actually this has not been the only time such a thing has happened to me by any means, but this was the time I thought to myself - 'Ah, that's the sort of person I am', accompanied by a vague mental image of professor branestawm. And that may have led me to not focus too much on whether elements in my lifestyle were evidential of underlying oddities since I've always seen myself as overbalanced toward a life of ideas. Additionally I was quite aware of having a lot of privileges - race, class, money, gender,etc -  that I didn't mind using to make sure I was always working at something I've wanted to and to lead my life relatively free of a fair number of conventions. That something I justified to myself by trying to support communities I found myself in and to sabotage the roots of privilege as I saw them. How far that was true and how much a cover for simple self-indulgence, others can judge.
At this point perhaps I should give my relationship history. I have the feeling that most trans people lead relatively conventional relationship lives, excepting young transitioners, and presume that that comes from the trans condition being an overriding factor. Or people living other lives on the internet.
Myself I have not led a particularly conventional relationship life. It started off reasonably enough, a couple of brief girlfriends around 17 and then living together, marrying and being divorced by a woman, having helped produce my only child, all in a decade or so.But one or two odd things. It was an open marriage for the last few years, for one thing. And my emotional relationships with friends were more substantial than usual, in a non-sexual way. Through and after this I was also part of a sort of extended family scene with my best male friend at it's centre : a network of mutual friendship mediated by my friend, myself and 2 or 3 other people, including a small music circle, building people, esalen grads and others. That was a strong force in the next few years, though I had a number of short terms things. I've never really had or wanted some sort of one night stand. There is one real oddity I had in that I wasn't jealous ( as in not really knowing the emotion rather than simply not feeling too much of it). That always caused problems. I'd several times had a story from her that a girlfriend had slept with someone else,and responded normally with mild curiosity. Not a productive thing to do. And then there were the nights of endlessly discussing one girlfriends boyfriends sexual dysfunction and possible therapy which did get a bit boring, though he was a nice guy as I recall.
Anyway my 30's and early forties were taken up with brief and often very sexual things, friends close enough to verge on the romantic, a second marriage to a lovely woman who I still talk to, and another decade long relationship. The first few years of that were great, the last horrible and not really I think with any fault there. My best friend, who I'd been a major care giver for, suicided during a situation that was already highly stressful for me and my girlfriend who was also living with him and others in a shared house. She went back to europe, I followed going also to the foreign wing of the extended family.I hurt, I mourned and started to drink far too much as some sort of numbing. That's up to the same point of time as my last post.
A couple of further things. Since my 20's there'd also been a significant romantic thing with a woman who I tended to see at entirely the wrong times over a 20 year period - one or other of us being otherwise engaged. Don't think it ever destabilised anything, though can never be sure.
Hope none of this sounds like I saw myself as anything studlike. I've always tried to have a full measure of equality and sharing in relationships, be a general supporter of feminist issues within them etc, partly out of sheer distaste at striking a more primally male posture.
Friendships could often freight more emotionally than relationships and possibly I did always have somewhat more close female friends than male.
Does any of this really make for a secret trans history ? Really not sure because though I can see it as odd, it could be odd for all sorts of other reasons.
To end, another moment of self realisation, this time sans lamppost and sans the clarity of that other thought. It came during a time when I was socialising a lot in sf fandom and would go to the large monthly meetings. It came to me as I was sitting with a group of people who often spent these events at the same table with me. There was a woman who built large metal scuptures. Another who was going through her prime as a domina,( for some reason I've known a large number of dominas as friends) The third was a lesbian feminist taking a phd as part of her academic career, with whom I had a close relationship, emotionally,intellectually and stylistically (goth at the time). And it came to me that this was the kind of person I was, the sort to sit and talk and be comfortable in this kind of company.
Odd maybe.


  1. Although the particulars of some of my experiences are different from yours, this post particularly resonates for me. I think it's because, as I'm reading it, it's not so much that your relationships were unusual as you saw the roles of sexuality and friendship a bit differently than other people do. I can especially relate to what you say about not wanting one-night stands and not being jealous.

    It's really odd and interesting (and sometimes painful) that sometimes we portray ourselves as having the same desires as other people, yet some of our desires are different--or, more precisely, we don't necessarily want the same things as other people want. That is why, as you say, our friendships can be even more frieghted than our love relationships.

  2. I should probably return to this theme at some time.
    In some ways I'm probably understating the extent of how my social relationships varied from social norms. When I was in my early twenties I remeber apologising to all my friends for thinking of them as friends - structuring instead of giving a more absolute primacy to the underlying changing relationship. In terms of sexuality, friendship and love relationships, I'd say that arguably I've been in love maybe 10 times, relationships that were stable over a period of time and in some way reciprocated. Two were with men and had no sexual component and three with women that hardly involved sex at all.
    I suppose the puzzle as far as I'm concerned is that these characteristics were also part of the counter culture in that new social relationships, different forms of living together, were experiments of value. From my present perspective I can see other factors, but probably there's some kind of mixture.
    Very much agree with your second paragraph. The variation in emotional maps over history would seem to indicate far less uniformity than socialization agencies would have us believe.Possibly not accidental that we both are in places where a large number of possible types of meetings surround us.

  3. Great post. I've been thinking about past relationships and social circles a lot lately. In my case, I had to sort of weed through what was really me, what was me trying too hard and what was expected of me (I was dating gay men at the time and there was a level of sexual tolerance I was supposed to adhere to). It is nice when you have those moments among friends where you can think out loud or to yourself, "This is me. These are the kinds of people I want to remember." In this case, remembering can be extremely constructive.

  4. Indeed constructive in some unexpected ways. At the time I suppose the last moment of self realisation in the post was something where I took the main thing as being a feeling at home with the world's outsiders whereas now it's more deriving comfort for a momentary comradely community with women.
    Luckily for me, I don't think that post adolescence I've had to go through much of self definition by how far I fitted a social group - maybe things like involvement with new age communities but little of great importance. By comparison yours sound much more difficult. Presumably , though, the experiences you refer to have that equally precious quality - those moments when you know 'This isn't me. These are not the kind of people I'd like to remember'.

  5. Hey Sophie, I love this post. I recently read a book called the Amnesiac, and in a blog style of way this reminded me of it. Even though on it's face it appeared like a recantation of days past and what moved you, these kind of accounts often have this element of the familiar mixed with an undercurrent of dissociation. Thanks, it kind of made my day...

  6. 'I do not very certainly know,but mistily I seem to see drowned there the loves and the desires and the adventures I had when I wore another body than this'. Cabell,'Figures of earth'.
    More, I suppose though, a constant looking into the past and discovering large swathes of sheer stupidity. I wouldn't recant the feelings though, just my interpretation of the underlying reasons for them.
    There's also an element of reclaiming my past. Whether or not I'm being truthful in this sort of reinterpretation, it at least has the virtue of preserving glimmers of real relevance in my past.