I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of months thinking about identities. I know this sounds like it’s going to descend rapidly into incomprehensible, murky, introspection, but bear with me. There is a point.
When I first started feeling able to be honest about my sexuality, and the fact that I’m kinky as all hell, I felt like I was completely re-inventing myself. A lot of things came bubbling up to the surface, all at once, and a lot of things had to be moved into the background to make room for them. For every new thing I was trying to express in my day to day presentation of myself, I had to leave something out, or so it felt at the time. It wasn’t that my focus had shifted on to different things, so much, it was just that I felt that certain aspects of myself contradicted others, and I was so used to having my reality denied (to having my assertions about my feelings, needs, and beliefs disbelieved, for whatever reason) that I felt I needed to back up these new claims by presenting a cohesive front, preferably one which tallied with an established stereotype.
When I first realised that I was attracted to men, I was so afraid of being contradicted, of having my credentials rejected, even, that I seized upon the first identity I could find which featured same-sex attraction, and adopted it wholesale. As it happened, the identity did not suit me well, not least because it did not feature opposite-sex attraction (bisexuality was not very widely accepted in that social group.) When I first realised I had submissive tendencies, I chose an identity which did not allow for expression of my dominant side. I spent many years oscillating between identities which fed only some parts of me, and forced me to starve others. This very sense of starvation only increased the devotion with which I attempted to conform to the next ready-made identity. Eventually, I reached a crisis point where I realised what I was doing, had a bit of a melt-down, and changed my approach.
The thing which made the difference, the thing which brought me to this breaking point, was cross-dressing, about which I will have another post later this week. In the past, during the times when I have felt able to express that side of myself at all, I have typically done it to the exclusion of everything else, and then left it behind entirely in a binge/purge kind of pattern. Realising that it was something that I would always need some of the time, but never need all of the time, led me to see a lot of things more clearly. There are very few positive models of cross-dressing men in the public perception, and it was this choice between subscribing to a view of myself which I found unpleasant, and knew to be inaccurate, and denying a part of myself which I needed to be able to express, that forced me to actually look at myself, and create a self-image which fitted what was there, rather than continuing to try to fit myself to a series of images which simply did not fit. This was not the first thing in which I started to allow myself to desire what came naturally, rather than that which I believed I ought to desire, but it was certainly one of the hardest to face.
Since then, it has seemed like I am far better equipped to deal with unexpected desires and aversions, and that I feel far less pressure to conform to my internal model of myself when it fails to accurately represent the person I actually am. It feels, frankly, like a terrible pressure which had been present for my entire life is slowly being released, and this is making it easier for me to move, breathe, and speak. I don’t mean to say that everything has been sweetness and light, in fact (because I have spent so long not allowing myself to feel any ‘negative’ emotions at all) there have been a lot of stormy patches, but there has been none of the yawning terror that I have so long associated with a crisis of identity, or with an inability to reconcile my needs with what I believe that my needs ought to be.
But it goes further than sexuality and kink. Last year, when I was working in a manual job and doing nothing else, I found it hard to keep myself drawing, writing, and making music. Over the first half of the winter, when I was working so hard to arrange treatment for my disability (there will be another post on this soon, too) I found it very hard to keep myself doing anything at all, because my overwhelming identity was as a disabled person. Over the past couple of months, while I have been reconstructing myself as a writer, among other things mostly related to the direct use of my brain, I have been resisting doing any kind of manual work at all.
There is a general opinion that one ought to settle into the hobbies, the talents, and even the kinks which will be your main interests for the rest of your life – Shona refers to it as ‘choosing your dance’ after the idea that, once you have decided the kind of music you like to dance to, you are never supposed to change it. I find that, at least for me, continually shifting the focus within myself is the best way to keep myself fulfilled, and that the longer I manage to keep juggling all my different skills, interests and desires, the more I am able to keep at one time.
So, bring on the weekly obsessions, and the skills you start learning for a couple of months, and then put down only to pick them up again ten years later. I have heard a lot of people call this kind of behaviour childish, or half-hearted, or indecisive. I believe that nothing can be further from the truth – once you have learned something, it stays learned. Saying that you have to work at every skill you start learning until you master it completely is a certain way to drain the fun out of everything, ever. The more you keep your brain, and your heart, and indeed your groin, flexible, the longer they will keep working for, and the more joy you will get out of each of them.