With Valentine’s Day, or Single Awareness Day, just around the bend, the media is saturated with prompts to purchase this, that and the other thing for your significant other in an effort to demonstrate how much you care about them.
I am not the staunchest proponent of celebrating this day of “love”, as I believe that demonstrating your love for those about whom you care, should be done 365 and in some instances, 366 days out of the year. But the topic of love is one on which I have been thinking for months, and I believe that this is an opportune time to share this post with you.
I never used to think that I was deserving of love; so much so that whenever a friend or someone I was seeing told me that they loved me, I questioned them as to why. I was searching for the magic formula, the unique combination of qualities and characteristics I possessed that deemed me “lovable”, for I did not see anything in myself that was worthy of such.
These feelings of unworthiness, of inadequacy, had their roots in my childhood. Growing up I was constantly bombarded by the opinions of others which stated that neither I, nor my endeavours were ever good enough. My father especially had a hand in that, because no matter the excellent results of my pursuits, academic and otherwise, they were never good enough; and on the off chance that they were, it was never my doing, but God’s.
Religion also had quite a bit to do with it. Not unlike many Jamaican LGBT individuals, I struggled to reconcile my gender identity and my sexuality with what was my faith. My father was a pastor and my mother a devout Christian, so it was inevitable that I be raised in the church. My experiences were not entirely horrible; I bonded with members of the congregation and some of them are quite dear to my heart to this day. But it was the interpretation of the Bible and the subsequent sermons on anything which “ran contrary to the will of God” that left me psychologically scarred.
Within the Jamaican context, we are taught that anyone who lives a lifestyle that does not conform to our extremely strict heteronormative and pious structure, will be condemned to the fiery furnaces of hell. Therefore, anyone who is transgender or gender non-conforming, anyone who loves differently, whether they be gay, lesbian or bisexual, will share the same blistering fate.
I could not fathom how my supposed creator would allow me to experience feelings that, if not ignored, would set me on the path of inevitable eternal damnation. It simply did not make sense to me that I should be punished for feelings over which I had no control. How was I to be expected to change to whom I am attracted, or identify with a gender that is as foreign to me as the attraction I was “supposed” to have?
I made many futile attempts to eradicate my attraction to women; and in doing so, ruined more relationships than I care to count and hurt more persons than I wish to recall. Striving to curtail, if not eliminate altogether, my emotional capacity to care for others, I forced myself to be alone; thinking that by isolating myself I was ridding myself of temptation. I sought to find the answers within myself for why I was the way I was and how I could change and begin to walk upright with god.
There was nothing I feared more than being turned away from the pearly gates, and if my desires were caused by demons, then I was determined to get them expelled. However, despite my years of ardent supplication, he simply refused to answer my prayers and make me “normal”.
Eventually, I concluded that no such god could exist. It was contradictory to be a kind and merciful god who would intentionally fashion his creation to ultimately, despite even their best efforts, fail the test of life. Besides, if we are not meant to experience our lives and emotions wholly and fully, then we are but pawns in a very cruel game.
I opted instead to believe that I was created just the way I was meant to be; and that me being transgender would play a crucial role in my life’s purpose. I decided that being in possession of such a complex identity was a gift, and that having a transgender experience moulded me into a stronger, more empathetic being.
I ceased to believe that my existence and my residence in a female body was a mistake; and while it might be rather uncomfortable, there is more to it than I have currently grasped. Most importantly, however, I accepted that being transgender was no reason for me NOT to love myself; or for anyone else to love me, for that matter.
It took me a very long time to wrap my mind around the concept that simply because I exist, I am deserving of love. Deserving of love in whichever way, shape or form I desire it in my life. Deserving of a person who would love me solely for the person I am and the qualities I embody; not because, or in spite of my transgender identity.
There are a few things that helped me along the way to accept that being transgender does not render me any less of a human or any less deserving of love. One of them is a blog post that may be found here and the other I have embedded below.
It seems that Cupid will eventually shoot us all and that he even has rainbow arrows; but first, you must love yourself.
P.S I am still raising funds to attend the Black Trans Advocacy Conference in April 2016. I am asking kindly for any donation you can afford. See the donation page here. Thank you and thanks for reading!