Envisioning your future self

Genevieve is a MtF transsexual from an abusive family. As best I can tell, her parents were always abusive, but the abuse ramped up after she came out as trans. To add to the poison, her status as trans became the new justification for why it was "her fault" they were abusive.

She internalized all this hatred and turned it into self hatred. It came out in myriad ways that just kept setting her up for failure.

During the course of the relationship, she would send me links to pictures of beautiful women she hoped to someday look like. They were generally pale-skinned blondes or brunettes with curly hair and button noses.

Genevieve had dark skin, straight black hair and a large nose. She had no hope of ever looking like any of these women. No amount of hair styling magic or cosmetic surgery was ever going to get her there.

One day I talked to her about that and suggested she try to find some role models she actually had some hope of looking like. I told her "There are dark haired women with strong facial features that the world sees as beautiful, like Cher and Liv Tyler. Why not aspire to look like one of them?"

This is not a problem peculiar to transsexuals. Anyone who is not a "classic beauty" can struggle with this and many, many people have.

In fact, some of the beautiful people of the world have also struggled with it. If I recall correctly, Kim Basinger was teased in school in an ugly way and called derogatory names by classmates concerning her looks.

Barbara Streisand has a large nose and interviews indicate she doesn't see herself as beautiful. It took her a long time to get comfortable in her skin and find a good look for herself. I really enjoyed her movie The Mirror Has Two Faces and recommend it if you are struggling with such issues.

While not unique to the transsexual community, this issue is especially problematic for transsexuals. In addition to feeling ugly, this mismatch between their physical characteristics and their concept of what a woman (or man) "should" look like may actively interfere with them passing.

Among other things, this is a very real safety issue. It helps make trans individuals targets of harassment and violence.

While looks are not unimportant, they also aren't everything. Envisioning your future self is about more than just appearances.

Genevieve also kept setting herself up for failure with other role models she admired. She was apparently twice exceptional -- bright and probably ADHD -- but she kept aspiring to be like people who were "perfect."

So she also looked for career role models that she had no real hope of being like. When I tried to tell her she should find role models more like her, she eventually reflected that back to me as roughly "You told me to go find broken people and fuck ups as role models."

I was trying to say something more like "Birds learn to fly by watching other birds fly, not by watching fish swim and feeling inadequate because they aren't a fish and won't ever swim as well as a fish." But she couldn't hear that.

She couldn't see her various traits in neutral terms. She had a long list of traits that she hated and saw in purely negative terms.

She also could not accept me being nice to her. She actively tried to hurt me, alienate me and prove that I couldn't accept her. When I told her she couldn't treat me that way, she stopped speaking to me and the relationship ended.

If you've been treated terribly, you will have trust issues. In other words, you will have bigger-than-average challenges in figuring out who to trust and how to have healthy relationships.

Been there, done that. Got the T-shirt.

I have been successful in recovering from childhood sexual abuse in part because I don't expect decent people to be perfect. This seems to be different from what most people do.

People who have been traumatized seem to look for perfect people as the solution to their problem. Since there are no perfect people, they end up perpetually disappointed, which helps keep them stuck.

Don't expect people who are trying to help you to be perfect. But also don't heap abuse upon them to actively drive them away because you can't accept having anyone be nice to you.

A better approach is to start a journal, talk to a therapist, do some reading and generally try to sort your baggage. You will get more support in life if you don't go around biting every hand that tries to feed you.

It's okay to say "No thank you" sometimes. You don't have to actively hurt people to decline offers that you don't feel will actually help you. Expect it to be an uneven process where not all offers of aid are equally useful.

If you don't have massive amounts of abuse and other baggage to deal with on top of being trans, this process doesn't necessarily have to be just horrible. The book "Mom, I need to be a girl" tells the story of a MtF youth who had remarkably good support.

But society seems to be really bad about hanging its crap on people over anything related to sex and this seems to hit the LGBTQ crowd harder than average. So the odds are good you probably are dealing with some heavy negativity through no fault of your own.

It can be left behind. There are people who succeed.

Nothing takes the past away
Like the future
Nothing makes the darkness go
Like the light
- Madonna, the ultimate chameleon