Giving up Control

Today I realized an important component in my coming out journey that I haven’t talked about a lot here – giving up control.

Growing up I was very much a control freak. I liked to be the most knowledgeable person in the room. I was obsessively clean about my own space to the point that my mom could come into my room and move one object and I would know the moment I walked in. I abused my authority as the oldest child to control my siblings unfortunately. I also had my entire life planned out, both long term and short term.

I know where that behavior came from. It was a way to reclaim a sense of my own control in a life that was controlled by others and was also pretty chaotic. My parents were very controlling of us in many ways with lots of rules and that was made worse by being in a fundamentalist cult that taught that as a moral imperative. They were also low-key hoarders and our house was always messy even if that was often hidden behind closed doors.

My first attempt to stop being controlling as an adult went horribly wrong. I tried to give up control by giving it to my ex-spouse who abused that authority and emotionally abused me. But in that relationship I learned pretty quickly that the only way to survive was to give up the idea that I could control anything in my life.

The only sure thing in life is that there will always be unexpected things that you can’t plan for. And oftentimes those can be good things if you are open to them. Like a casual dating partner turning into a wonderfully supportive spouse once you get the courage to leave your abuser.

But that mindset about giving up control was also key to being able to come out as trans. Especially as a trans woman, it can be a shock to go from a position where you are subtly and sometimes overtly given societal power to a situation where you are suddenly one of the most marginalized and powerless. And if I hadn’t primed myself to be powerless, it would have been pretty freaky.

I think a lot of us are finding ourselves feeling powerless right now during this pandemic. Everything is chaotic and out of control and very few people (in the US) have planned for something like this. And that vulnerability and constant vigilance can bring out a lot of trauma responses from people who have been abused.

Being treated as a man when you know deep down that you aren’t is absolutely a form of trauma. Especially in a culture where toxic masculinity runs rampant. And that abuse becomes more clear when you come out and aren’t supported, whether by the people close to you or by society at large.

So if you are finding yourself in some very dark emotional places right now, please have patience with yourself. We can’t control this but that’s ok. It is only in giving up control that we can find peace and acceptance of the world around us. That is a journey that I am still on but telling myself that on a regular basis definitely helps so I hope it helps you too.

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