I hold myself in contempt. Admitting that might free me from it. Possibly, it is because I am trans.
You know how it is. You work hard to make a man of yourself, trying to live up to an ideal. It is a good ideal, it just does not fit you. It is something to admire, and you hurt because you do not fit it. You do not consider your gifts, but instead compare yourself to the ideal, and find yourself wanting.
And, that contempt follows society’s views. Women should be a certain way, but that is less than men’s way, less than the go-getting, active, energetic male: it is supportive, decorative. Women should not be like men, not assertive (bossy) or leaders (aggressive). And I should not be like women should be, anyway.
So when I transitioned I still held myself in contempt. In the Quaker course Gifts and Discoveries we were to imagine ourselves as Legion, the man possessed by many devils (who were cast out into the pigs) looking into the eyes of Jesus, and I ran from the room and curled up into a ball. Beck put her hand on my back, and eventually I felt cared for and could uncurl, and express how that made me feel.
Admitting this is liberating. I am this person, that I hold in contempt. That contempt is not proportionate. I am this person, and have to look on this person, rather than averting my eyes from one who is contemptible; to see, and to love. My contempt stops me from seeing myself clearly- from my pain, I turn my eye.
I am not alone in contempt. Bonhoeffer wrote,
Who am I? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.
I don’t know where he was with that. I have noted it before: I wrote 18 months ago, I have had utter contempt for myself, and curing that has taken all my intelligence, courage, and energy. I am closer to recovery than ever before. That contempt for myself has been my burden, and when I stagger under it, that becomes evidence to justify the contempt. It always feels like I go round and round the same stuff, again and again, yet each time I go higher or deeper.
I am this person whom I hold in contempt. The contempt is not justified- if someone expressed such contempt for these qualities in another person I would rebuke them. You cannot dismiss someone like that. So I am capable of seeing value in my own qualities in another, though this is also a Christian thing- do not judge others. We judge ourselves, as miserable sinners. There is no health in us.
I am this person. I must see what I most despise, and come to respect, value, love it. That way is liberation. I have been saying to myself, “I am the one whom I hold in contempt”, and finding it reassuring- I am that person, and I cease to deny it. I don’t need to assert, “I am not contemptible”, for that means deciding what “I” am, and my old sense of what is contemptible might get in the way- “I am not that”. Instead I think, “I am this”. So I don’t need to “free myself” from the contempt just yet, only sit with it. What will happen will be OK.