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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Duality

Let's play a thought game. 

Imagine you wake up in the morning after a rough, sleepless night. You stumble into the bathroom feeling like nothing more than deep-fried shit in a skillet, and you look in the mirror.  Now, what you see isn't likely to be pretty, but it's still recognizably you, isn't it? If you're a man, you have stubble. If you're a woman, you need makeup. Regardless of how messy you are, you still look like you.

Now let's try it again. 

You stumble into the bathroom, and you look in the mirror... and something alien is looking back at you. Maybe you changed race during the night. Maybe you switched genders. Maybe you are covered in blue fur.  Regardless, that thing you see in the mirror is not you... and yet, you're stuck inside of it. It moves in symmetry with your thoughts. It encases you, traps you, imprisons you.  How horrified would you be to see this thing? To be this thing?

Worse, how terrible would it be to see this thing, this prison of flesh, every time you looked in a reflective surface?  How awful to know that people who see you see it instead? How utterly discouraging to have well-meaning friends and relatives tell you "Honestly, sweetie, you look fine. I don't see anything bestial or reversed about you.  You just have low self-esteem."

How long before you start thinking of that body as just a mechanism of flesh that the real you -- the you stuck behind that thing's eyes -- operates? You don't go to the doctor, you go to the flesh mechanic.  You don't eat food, you consume fuel.

How long until this utterly warps your sense of self until you can't stand to be yourself any more?

This is my life. 

Weirdly, I was fine growing up. I had a mostly normal childhood, and while I can look at certain events and, with hindsight, see how they shaped the insecurities or neuroses I have today, none of them seem especially crippling. Besides, no one gets out of childhood unscathed.

Adolescence, though. Puberty. The change of life from child to adult, and along with the hormones that changed and twisted my body came the intense narcissism of paying close attention to those changes, along with the certainty that everyone else could see my multitudinous flaws as easily as I could. Couple that with typical teenage desires of wanting a lover, wanting to fit in, wanting to be socially accepted by a population that was not only equally self-absorbed, but also cruel in the way that only hierarchies based on social dominance can be...

Let's just say that I remember all too well looking at my naked body after a shower, and suddenly needing to vomit. I sickened myself because I wasn't myself... I was this thing. Worse, my body actually hadn't changed all that much, but still it was loathsome to me in a manner that I can't really describe. It looked like me -- sort of -- but I felt as detached from it, and sickened by it, as I would feel by looking at the carcass of a dead animal by the side of the road.

Corrupt meat. 

Who would you be if you never saw yourself? If the only way to judge your appearance was based on the reactions of others, and not your twisted sense of self judging your reflection in the mirror? I daresay it would be different from how you perceive yourself now. I say this, because for 10 years I have been trying to live my life this way.

God bless the Internet. Online, people judge you by the quality of your output, and not by appearance. They get to know your soul before they let the prejudices of the eyes and the flesh influence their judgement. It was on the internet that I finally found not just acceptance, but solace:  people liked me for me, and they weren't looking at me or judging me. I was safe. I had found my armor, my mask, my perfect little seashell, and I polished its interior until, shining like a mirror, I could fool myself into thinking my social prison was boundless and infinite.

A mirrored cage is still a cage. 

Thus I toiled, happy in my self-induced solitude, until I stumbled upon the world of the gunblogs. All it took was for me to say "Hey, I like shooting too!" and suddenly I was one of you. It didn't matter what I looked like or who I wanted to have sex with; I was part of the Tribe of the Gun. That I could write well only made me popular, but it didn't make me any more likable.

And that's when I noticed the walls of my cage were keeping me from meeting people who wanted to meet me, and that made me ache in ways I thought were no longer possible. I had rediscovered loneliness.

Slowly... very, very slowly... I started to come out of my shell. I decided to take a chance on people who seemed like good sorts, expecting that every time I made myself vulnerable that I would be hurt beyond my capacity to recover.

This never happened. I was accepted, with comforting arms, and told that I was still the person they knew me to be.

One by one, I was destroying my mirrors. 

Like any new experience, once I tried it and like it, I wanted more. Observing life from behind the safety of the keyboard seemed too limiting. I wanted to actively participate in life again. I started having dreams of meeting people, strangers, and having them applaud me just for being me.

For someone who hates her body, applause for just showing up is a hell of a drug, even if that applause is purely imaginary.

I knew I wanted to leave my shell behind, but I didn't know how until Squeaky's fundraiser failed to raise enough money. I was furious at my inability to make a difference until I realized that the mystery of my face was something that I could sell. Not only would it help her financially, but it would be the push I needed to finally break out of the rest of my shell -- my sense of honor, of duty, of obligation would not allow me to back out after making such a bold public proclamation.

"Do it?"

As you may have guessed, this post is the one where I reveal my face. Many of you are wondering when I'm going to put up my picture.

Well, to answer that question...




...you've already seen my face. I posted it yesterday.

I'm now going to pause to let you process that.





You have questions. I have answers. 

Many of you are no doubt baffled, shocked, horrified. I will attempt to explain as best I can. If your question isn't answered, please leave a comment below, and I will address your concern as soon as I can.

"What are you?"
I honestly don't know. This is what makes it so damnably hard to get a date -- if I open up immediately, I am put into the "weird sicko" category and shunned, and if I wait for someone to get to know me, I am accused of "keeping secrets" and "springing it on them".  Online dating isn't any easier, because I cannot figure out what to put on the profile -- am I a gay woman with a penis, or a straight man who wishes he could be Eddie Izzard?

"No, I meant what's the term for this condition?"
Well, a while back I mentioned I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In my case it manifests as "My thoughts and emotions are female, but I have a male body."   This is not quite the same thing as being transgender, in that those folks are Gender Dysphoric.  The pithy term for what I am is "genderqueer."

"I don't get it."
TL;DR:  Boy parts, girl brain.  I'm not fully transgender because, even though I hate my body, I don't hate it so much that I want to cut it to pieces or kill myself. Besides, my sexual orientation does match my plumbing, so it seems a waste to remove it, and I'm not at all fond of the notion of having a procedure done that would completely sterilize me.  Also, the ability to pee anywhere is nice.

That said, if I could have a fully-functioning female body, I would take it. It's the choppy-uppy that bothers me, not the thought of having a vagina.

"How did you realize you are what you are?"
Hoo boy. That is a long answer to a simple question, and this is already a big-ass post. I'll address it later, if you don't mind.

"What's your real name?"
Now that's an interesting question. As far as I'm concerned, Erin is my real name, because I've been answering to it online for about 10 years now. Most of my friends call me Erin, my readers know me as Erin... the name on my birth certificate belongs to the meat mech that I drive, and has as much meaning as knowing the Jaeger in Pacific Rim is named "Gipsy Danger".

"Why the beard?"
Three reasons:
  1. I hate looking at my face in the mirror. The beard covers most of the awful with hair. Trust me, I look so much worse clean-shaven. I mean, even my parents agree I look better this way. 
  2. Shaving sucks. I think both men and women can agree on this. 
  3. It's camouflage and a mask. "Why no, I am not a fucking faggot, and you have no reason to kick my ass in a drunken rage in order to prove your manhood. I am a normal human being. Please drive through."

"Whose voice sang the songs for Tier 1?"
That's all me, baby. I don't use any software for it -- people just think I'm female on the phone. I have a naturally high voice (I sing tenor) and maybe one in a hundred think I'm male when they listen to me.  What's funny, though, is that if you meet me in person and THEN talk to me on the phone, you'll swear I have a male voice and cannot understand why anyone would think otherwise.  Isn't that weird?  Humans are such visual creatures that what they see influences their other perceptions.

"Do you do X, Y, or Z?"
Probably. I'd prefer to keep the more salacious bits of my life off the internet. I will say that everything I do is legal. As to questions of morality, that's between me and my God. He gets to judge me; you don't. 

"So you've been lying to us all this time?"
Nope. I said from the very beginning of this blog that I had my reasons for not showing my face, and never once did I ever say "When I was a little girl" or anything like that.  I just picked a female name, presented myself as such, and everyone accepted that as truth... because it is true, in every sense except biological. And if you're hung up on my biology, I think that's your problem and not mine. 


"How dare you lead us on, making us think you're a woman blah blah woof woof wharrgarbl?"
Excuse me, but are we dating?  No?  Then it's no business of yours what's in my pants, and I don't need to tell you. 

"You disgust me."
That's nice. I'm glad you have an opinion. 

"I'm gonna..."
No, you aren't, because 1) I am a concealed carrier, and 2) there are lots of people in the gunblog community to whom I've already come out (notably Oleg), and they support me 100%. You'll see their posts about me popping up after this. Go on, start some shit, I dare you. 

"I have a question that hasn't been answered. May I ask it?"
Of course!  I encourage questions. Just keep in mind that I may decide not to answer them for personal reasons, but that doesn't mean I think any less of you for asking them.  Unless you're a jerk in how you ask. In that case, I am totally judging you. 

"So how should we treat you?"
The way you always have. Treat me like a female, because that's how I feel. I realize that this will be awkward if you ever meet me, and I accept that. I understand that it's difficult to think "girl" when your eyes are saying "boy."  I get that. You don't need to be perfect, you just need to try. Cool?

To conclude:

Aren't you glad Squeaky talked me out of the bikini/cheesecake pics?  I TOLD YOU that you wouldn't want to see that. I was right, wasn't I?

Also, I know lots of folks are going to reply with "You're very brave."  I'm going to try to accept this compliment as gracefully as I can, because I know you mean it. I don't feel very brave, though, as a brave person would have just announced what she was to the world.

Tell you what, though:  you can tell me how brave I am by donating to Squeaky's Surgical Fund. I'd really like for her to make it to $5,000 before the end of the month.

A big THANK YOU in advance to everyone who has supported me and made this possible. I owe you more than you realize. Special thanks in particular to those who have made posts of support on their own blogs:

Brigid
Squeaky Wheel
Jennifer
Evyl Robot Michael
Shelby (A Girl and Her Gun)
Linoge
Sean Sorrentino
The Jack
Lokidude
Roberta X
Kevin Baker
Phlegmmy
McThag
Larry
Claire  (Newly added to each other's blogroll!)
Gay Cynic
Thirdpower
American Mercenary
Nicki
Chris
Garand Gal
Laura
Spike
MSgt B
Da Tinman
Firehand


Kisses,
Erin Palette

23 comments:

  1. Bravo, Bravo. Proud to know you Miss.

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  2. <3 You ARE brave, and don't let anyone tell you any differently. Bravissima!

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  3. Erin, you are UTTERLY FANTASTIC, and I'm so very glad you came into my world! (Or let me into yours, take your pick.) Behind you 100%, and my carry gun holds 30 rounds, so let 'em come, you hit 'em high, I'll hit 'em low, and we'll teach the haters what kind of trees make shingles!

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  4. The only thing about you that has ever bothered me was your predilection for MLP. I've not heard or seen anything to make me change my mind. Well I am starting to get used to the MLP thing. Stay strong.

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  5. Evyl Robot MichaelAugust 29, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    I'm proud of you Erin!

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  6. Erin, my daughter had anorexia and her description is similar to yours. I did not say it is the same, but sounded similar. I wish you well and think there is a beautiful life to live for you. There, I said it. A beautiful LIFE FOR YOU, not a beautiful face or figure or hair.. or who the hell knows what glamorous image is being sold to us today.

    Thank you for being weak and strong.

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  7. Well done...good for you. I'd be proud to hit the range with you anytime. God bless.

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  8. As one previous commenter put it: "Verrry interestinggg...."

    Also, this part:

    "...you've already seen my face. I posted it yesterday.

    I'm now going to pause to let you process that."


    - made me laugh, right out loud, sittin' here at my li'l keyboard.


    How cool, to "show yourself" that way, you clever li'l debbil! And also, how truly valiant...


    A long, valiant life, and a merry one!


    Be well.

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  9. My brain just went, OOOOoohhhhh.... I had a suspicion from your voice recordings, but still didn't guess from your picture!

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  10. Ok, you've made a gutsy move here. Don't stop now.

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  11. Erin,
    Over the 6 months or so I've been lurking here, I always pictured you as a strong, brave, compassionate and beautiful person/pony. I'm glad to see I was right. I do have one small bone to pick though. Your "big reveal" wasn't when you posted the picture, it was when you offered to do something at great personal cost to yourself for a friend in need. Speaking as someone who doesn't really get the whole pony thing, you've proven YOUR friendship IS magic. I would be honored to call you my friend.
    (now if I can just get disqus to post this. grrrrrrr)

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  12. I wish I could up-vote this comment more than once.

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  13. If we're believers in individual freedom and individual responsibility, libertarians in other words, we have to be consistent. That includes supporting freedom to be who we believe we are and to have the relationships that bring fulfillment. Add my voice to the chorus of support.

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  14. Always, always, has this been one of my all time favorite blogs. I love your posts, your politics and you for being who you are. I had assumptions but as with all assumptions they make Asses out of us...so it looks like your not only an awesome blogger but you have a huge amount of courage, more so than most.


    Continue to be yourself, don't allow society and its conventions shape you, you shape society.


    If more folks like you where willing to stop being shadows of themselves, stop allowing culture and society shape their views we would all live in a far greater world.


    Be strong and know we have your back.


    ERIC!

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  15. Erin,

    I've been a "wallflower" here for quite a while, this is my first post. I can't imagine the courage it took to post this in a public environment - Bravo and well played!

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  16. Silly girl. We knew all along who you are. You're Erin.

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  17. Look at it this way, life may have dealt you a bum hand but things could be a lot worse ask John Merrick or many many other people who have to deal with a lot lot worse. Be thankful for what you have and as for dating there is a site for everyone under the sun's personal preference and you will find I'm sure you are not alone.

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  18. I'm late to the party, so everyone else has pretty much covered it. I can only add "Huzzah Erin! Good on ya!"

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  19. As Jane-Wayne might say, "A man-woman's gotta do what a man-woman's gotta do." - and there ain't too many things a person can't fix with $500 and a .30-06... It's hard enough making your way in the world, it's hard to find much happiness sometimes and often we get in our own way - I'm glad the Internet allows us to be ourselves and cut through the red tape. Anyhow I don't know nuthin' about bravery but there's *Class* - and you know when you're around it.

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  20. Sorry so late, been in computer limbo and am still playing catch up on blogs/comics/emails.


    Erin,
    I must disagree with the commentors here. I for one am disappointed in you.I feel a bit let on..



    I mean plumbing, meat mech, beard, whatevs; However I see no goth at all in that picture. I will admit I havent actively hung around a goth since I was in high school in the 90's doing LARP stuff, but I doubt the whole concept has done a 180.


    The Gamer Geek look with some Gunny flavor is obvious, so you could look like any of a dozen people I know. Goth (or its younger cousin Emo) however not so much.

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  21. Ha! Good one. I'm more goth in my attitudes and musical tastes than anything else.


    Besides, I live in Florida -- black clothes are lethal here!


    Still, I'll see if I can dig up some proper gothery for you. ;)

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  22. I am just down I4, and a FL native. I know about black.



    Leather bike gear is the same. The mesh armour may not look as cool but IS much cooler. I get to wear my black leather coat about 4 days per year.

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