The Defense Reflex

I think I’m a very easy going person. I don’t let too much get to me. But, I do have a history of being very aggressive in conversations when I know I’m right about something. In the past, this manifested itself in political debate. I was so confident in my opinion, I often could be mistaken for an attack dog. Politics was something I was very passionate about for many years. But, as I saw the Republican Party move past me, my interest waned. I had identified myself so close to politics, that I had lost connection with who I was. In some ways, the Republican Party’s move to the far right on social issues is one of the things that forced me to face myself for the first time. Someone recently asked me “Why do you want to live as a woman?” It’s not something I ordinarily would take offense at. But, since this person is an outspoken Christian, I immediately read too much into that sentence. I started to read into the meaning of the use of the word “why”. It appeared to me that he was substituting “why” for “choice”. I wrote a couple of sentences in response, then stopped myself and erased it. I realized my own bias was getting in the way. I felt defensive. I felt like I was under attack. From a simple word. Once I had erased what I had written, I sat back and thought about how to proceed. I didn’t want to go on the attack. As someone who’s own dry sense of humor has gotten her into trouble online before, I understand how words on a computer screen can be mistaken. You cannot hear the tone of a word or sentence in text. And the person I’m communicating with is someone I’m just getting reacquainted with after more than a decade absence from my life. How would it look if I had attacked his possibly innocent question?Over the summer, I came out to my family and friends. I’m out on Facebook and Twitter. I’m out to two people at work. I’ve achieved a level of personal acceptance this year I never thought I would reach. But, still in many ways, I feel vulnerable. Friends who have transitioned, have told me that if they experience any harassment by strangers, they have to just let it go. But, they often experience at least one relative who refuses to accept them. When speaking with them, there is a certain amount of laughing it off. But, behind the laugh, you can tell there is frustration and pain. It hurts when someone so close to you refuses to accept you for something you know at your core being is real. When my sister cut off communication with me this past April over my choice to transition eventually, I was hurt. My own sister, the person I have been closest to in my whole life, was rejecting me. I kept telling myself that she needs time. That I shouldn’t take what she was saying as hateful. But, after a little while it was hard to hold my tongue. I really do regret posting the email she sent me up to this blog. it didn’t do anybody any good. I felt like I had been kicked. I felt like she didn’t understand what I’ve been going through my entire life and didn’t want to understand. Her words hurt. So, I was hurtful back. When I come out to a friend, I’m scared. I fear they won’t accept me. If they don’t accept the real me, I feel sadness. If they approach me with genuine questions to better understand what I’m going through, I gladly, and calmly do what I can to answer their questions. But, whether they accept me or not, they are only friends. They might be good friends or acquaintances. But, they aren’t the same as family. Family is something else entirely.When I first came out to my mom, I couldn’t do it to her face. I had to sit on the other side of a wall. I deeply feared her rejection. My own father had left us before I was five years old. I didn’t want my other parent to walk out of my life. Knowing this about myself, has me thinking about how I react when I see rejection from family members. I tend to be reflexively defensive.I need to work on that.


About Frogtosser

A former sailor and pizza maker who is done hiding from the world and is now living life to it's fullest extent. I'm a single speed bicycle commuter who enjoys writing and photography. I'm a voracious reader. And a huge geek!
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