My recent medical trauma has changed me in many ways. None of them are visible from the outside ,but they’re still there. Things such as the pandemic. I was a hermit during the first year-and-a-half due to the intense fear of COVID-19. Not that I went out much in the first place, but I scaled back to only going to the pharmacy once a month. I was so hyper-aware of the fact that COVID was rampaging through the country and I gave it too much thought. I mean, yes, it’s a bad thing, but it’s not the only thing. I can give myself some grace before the vax because it was terrible.
Once the vax was a thing and I got both, I eased up a bit. By a bit I mean I went to Cubs twice (in a month) and my brother and I picked up lunch from the local Thai restaurant once. So it wasn’t as if I had gone wild, but it was three times more than in the last month (I also went to the pharmacy).
Then, I ended up in the hospital because of non-COVID-related pneumonia (followed by two cardiac arrests and a stroke) and suddenly, COVID was wiped from my mind. Partly it was because I was drugged to the gills and not thinking about anything much, really. But also, everyone around me had masks on but I didn’t have to wear one except when I was being transferred from room to room. And, given everything that happened to me, COVID got shoved to the backburner.
Now that I’m out of the hospital, I am still much less concerned about COVID than I was before. Granted, I’m doubly vaxxed so that’s one reason–which is valid. But it’s also that I got some perspective. COVID sucks and is really a strain on our society. However, it’s not going anywhere. We had a chance to eradicate it, but we didn’t. My brain doc agrees that we’ve moved from pandemic to endemic and the best we can hope for now is that it’ll be like the flu. I still mask up when I go out and I’ve been out more than I have in the past (in part because of my doctors appointments) and I sometimes forget my mask–probably because I didn’t go out much before the hospital.
One big thing that was weighing on my mind before the hospital was my gender identity. I have never felt comfortable with the label ‘woman’, though it didn’t reach the level of dysphoria. It wasn’t ‘man in a woman’s body’ kind of feeling–it was…let me see if I can explain this. It’s going to take some time as is my wont and it goes back several decades.
When I was a young girl, I used to pray that God would turn me into a boy because I was told over and over again that I was behaving badly for a girl. I wasn’t supposed to climb trees or play rough with the boys. My mom made me dresses, which I hated (and still do), and I never liked dolls. Ever. Loved stuffed animals, but not dolls. Hated them. My fondest memory of a doll was when I hacked off a Barbie’s hair and put shoe polish on it, trying to make it black.
I have never liked traditional ‘feminine’ things. I didn’t dream of getting married or having kids. I DID get crushes on boys–and then on girls as well much later on, but that was more about a physical attraction than a romantic one. I did buy into the idea that I needed to have a man in order to be a real woman (whatever the fuck that meant) and I suffered a lot of heartache for going down that particularly treacherous road.
To put it bluntly, I sucked at relationships. I didn’t have any good role models for it growing up and I took to heart all the toxic messages from both my cultures. The putative most important man in my life, my father, told me bluntly when I was sixteen before I had a boyfriend that the way to get one was to raise my voice an octave or two (I have a VERY deep voice), allow a boy to beat me in a sport, and to ask for his advice on something (like cars). I am proud to this day that my response was, “If that’s what it takes to get a boyfriend, I’d rather be single all my life.” Which I still hold to, but it cut me to the core that this was the consistent message I got in my teen years.
My mom once said in frustration that not all tradition was bad after I said something negative about some tradition. My retort was that it wasn’t automatically good, either, just because it was a tradition. I realized sometime in my thirties that my mother felt my entire life was a repudiation of her. She also spent all my thirties urging me to get pregnant. She would say she was just extolling the joys of motherhood to me, but it was more than that. From the time I turned 25 until I turned 40, almost every conversation we had, she brought up me having children in it. She used every argument from my grandmother would love to be a great-grandmother before she died to I could adopt a black child to match my black cats (only half-kidding, by the way), to I could compromise on no children and having children by having one child (which is not a compromise!) to crying to my brother about the special bond between a mother and daughter when the daughter has children (not that she would know because her mother had no interest in me or my brother). I never wanted children, but I nearly gave in once just to shut her the FUCK up. Fortunately, I came to my senses and realized that that would be a terrible reason to have children. She also said that what I wanted didn’t matter because it was my womanly duty to have children.
Once I turned forty, her focus switched over to me getting married to a man. Specifically a man. So that said man would take care of me when I was old and frail. Which was insulting in and of itself, but outright laughable coming from her given her own situation with my father. She wears herself to the bone doing everything for him and he couldn’t handle it for the three months she needed help after shoulder surgery. So, yeah, her using that as a reason for me to get married was bitterly hilarious to me.
I never cared about clothes, makeup, or hair, either. or rather, I never cared about what was fashionable. I had my own style and it was firmly in the kooky eccentric territory when I was in my twenties. Nowadays it’s more sweats and sweatshirts territory, but I do have my kooky glasses! And my funky hairstyles. My favorite is the Chun-Li buns, but it’s hard to sleep on them.
I’m oppositional in nature and it’s hard to know if it’s a disorder or not. I mean, yes I’m against a lot of things, but I have good reason for it. And is it a bad thing that I’m against rigidity in gender identity? I don’t think so!
Anyway, I got used to being told in overt and covert ways that I wasn’t a real woman. I wasn’t a real woman because I liked video games. I wasn’t a real woman because I didn’t care about makeup, clothes, marriage, or having children. The last one really made some women (specifically women) upset when I said I didn’t want kids. This was in my twenties. I want to emphasize that I never brought it up. Ever. It was only when women would ask me that I would say I didn’t want them. Naively, I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal because it just affected me and no one else. The reactions I got ranged from condescension (you’ll change your mind) to skepticism (how can you be sure you don’t want them) to anger (you must think I’m bad for wanting them). It reached the point where I really did not want to talk about it and I’m discouraged that thirty years later, it doesn’t seem to have gotten much better.
A few months before my medical trauma, I was meditating gender because of the question of pronouns. I didn’t want to put them in my Twitter profile (or anywhere else) because I don’t like any of the pronouns. It’s similar to my sexuality–I say I’m bi because it’s the one that is the least offensive/foreign to me. That’s the same with ‘she’. It’s the least-bad of the options for me personally. But I don’t feel any affinity for it and during that musing time, I didn’t use it for myself. I didn’t care–much–if someone else used it for me, even though it didn’t feel applicable. I was talking about it with my brother, who, while he’s a great guy in many ways, does not have the highest EQ. He said, “You just want to be called Minna” (and not any pronoun) which nailed it on the head. Just as I want to say I’m sexual rather than put a label on it, I want to be called Minna, rather than be defined by a pronoun.
One thing I realized about myself was that I’m apathetic about so many things. Religion (rather than an atheist or even agnostic), sexuality, and now gender. This is solely in terms of me–I just don’t care to think about it past a certain point.
Before the hospital, I really didn’t want to use she. I don’t like them, either, and he is completely out of the question. I accepted it with a grimace if someone else called me ‘she’, but I never used it for myself. Now, after medical trauma, I have softened on it. I’m still not calling myself ‘she’ on a regular basis, but I’m not wincing when someone else does it, either.
I have much more to say on this subject so I’m wrapping this up now. I’ll pick it up in tomorrow’s post. See you then!