I don’t typically spend a whole lot of time being nostalgic. Every so often, it’s fun to reminisce about the past and such, but I mostly try to live in the present while glancing to the future. My past is full all kinds of ups and downs and, for the most part, I think it’s best to keep it all in the past. Usually.
Last night was a somewhat rare departure from this, I spent much of the night with a friend of mine taking a trip down memory lane. This particular friend happens to be my oldest friend and was one of the first people I ever told I was trans, sometime around 15 years ago. He’s been there for me through a lot and we’ve experienced a lot together. These days we don’t get to see each other as much as either of us would like, but life just sometimes gets in the way.
We spent a particularly long time talking about a single year back when we were in college, from the start of my first year through to the end of the following summer. This happened to be an incredibly all over the place period of time for me. I won’t get into any specifics, but it’s easily in the top five most memorable periods of my life. We’ve got some pretty wild stories.
The thing about this particular year span of my life, though, is it highlights one thing about my past really, really well, I was a pretty shitty person and did and said some really shitty things. I wasn’t the shittiest, and in terms of most of humanity, was probably still a relatively decent person, but I didn’t always treat others with respect, I had little regard for personal space, and I did and said offensive things that most people would have preferred not to experience. It didn’t take last night’s reminiscing to realize or understand this for the first time, but it became an in-depth reminder of all the things I did and the way I used to act. I’ve spent more than a little time lately thinking about many of these things and I’ve becoming increasingly haunted by them. The more I think about it, the harder it is for me to reconcile the person I used to be with who I am now. I’m not proud of the way I used to act.
To be fair to past-me, never was anything I did out of malice or with the intent to hurt or upset anyone. That was never my goal and I was never that kind of a person. I only ever aimed to be funny and include everyone in the joke. In hindsight, my actions and, often, my words did not fall in line with these intentions. I hurt and upset people. I did things that can’t be taken back. To my recollection, I never did anything that would have caused any sort of lasting harm to anyone, but I created more than my fair share of uncomfortable situations and ruined days, I’m sure.
It would be easy for me to take an apologist’s point of view and defend my behavior. Being a very closeted trans person, I lived with a pretty fair amount of self-loathing. I really did hate myself much of the time. I wasn’t happy with who I was and didn’t have much confidence that anyone else actually liked me either. I did things to entertain and make others laugh as a way to gain approval from others and feel as though people actually liked me. This was how I fit in. I didn’t really know who I was and I was in search of an answer to that, but I always wore this obnoxious persona.
However, the reality is that none of this excuses my past behavior. What I said and did was not okay and there is no way to justify it. It was simply wrong. I wish I could take it all back and treat others better, the way I treat them now and the way I knew I should have treated them even back then. But I can’t, nothing can be undone. Even if it could be undone and I could be take it all back, I don’t deserve that. These are things I should have to live with and remember from time to time. It’s my punishment for being shitty. I need to take ownership for the things I did and said and the harm those actions may have caused.
If these things were to be undone and taken away, what would I have to learn by looking back? Would I really understand how much it actually matters how we treat others? While it may make me slightly hypocritical when I speak out against the shitty behavior of others and I advocate for very simply respecting others and treating everyone like the human being that they are, it also gives me the perspective how and why people may not.
As I’ve progressed through my transition over the last year and a half, I’ve grown a lot more as a person than I ever expected to be. On one hand, it’s been incredibly amazing to find out and get to know the real me and who that person actually is. I think she’s pretty awesome. She’s thoughtful and caring and is a much nicer and more respectful person. She actually thinks about how her words and actions affect others. I like her and I’m really glad to be her. The flip side, however, is it becomes harder and harder to reconcile my past self and actions with that. The way I was before bothers me more and more with each day. I think about it more often and I become horrified and embarrassed.
I knew transition would help me grow a lot as a person and figure out who I am, but I think the me from a few years ago would barely recognize who I am now. This is a good thing. I’ve grown in ways beyond how I expected to, I see things much differently than I used to and I understand much more what it really means to treat people with respect. I understand and am aware of oppression and bigotry many levels above what I used to.
Most people think transition is just about being able to wear women’s clothing or “present” as a woman (or man, for trans men), but it’s so much more than that. The mental and emotional changes and the personal growth are unbelievable. In many ways, I think this is so much more important than the physical changes.
I don’t know where this leaves me now, but I do know past-me spent a lot of time sucking. I don’t think I suck anymore. I think I’m a much better person now and, most importantly, I don’t hate myself anymore. I don’t have a reason to hate who I am now.