The world has had no shortage of people claiming to be god. I’m pretty sure one of them sits but a stone throw away from my cubicle at work and is ready to present a strong case filled with self-aggrandizing ravings; if you are interested, I’ll introduce you to Brian. You can curse me for it later. In my early 20’s, a time farther away than I care to admit, I became aware of Meher Baba, an Indian mystic who died in the late 60’s, who in my limited philosophy, made about the best case I had heard. This probably doesn’t ring a bell, which to me was the seed of doubt. My conception of the almighty is that he or she would make a bigger splash when touching down on our big ball of mud.
The reason I bring him up isn’t religion, but a concept I was introduced to that bears retelling to the trans world. Baba’s teaching (he was vehemently against founding a religion, although a group called Sufism Reoriented sprang up to carry on the message) was an amalgamation of the overall Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Buddhist-Hindu-Farsi umbrella. Like Manichaeism, only different. Reincarnation figures big, with the end goal to shed our illusory identities and rejoin with the over-soul, or god, of whom we are part of anyway, but just are not aware. One of the analogies was as if the over-soul were the ocean, our existences are bubbles that formed within a wave, believing briefly to be something unique and independently different, until such occurred that they dissolved back into the ocean they were to begin with. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go much deeper than that. One of the things preventing us from realizing this and attaining the eternal bliss of godhood, are sanskaras, or impressions.
Sanskaras, in Baba’s teaching (borrowed from the Hindu tradition), are the impressions we accumulate lifetime after lifetime, that wind around our souls. Over many lifetimes, these build up like a plaque and become our identity. The path to god then is to unwind these impressions back. From there the philosophy gets somewhat esoteric, but the concept strikes me as relevant to transgendered people and the impressions we must overcome and unwind to drill down to our gender identities. By now you probably see where I’m going with this.
Born in a package that the world perceived as male, anatomically correct and everything, it was impressed upon me from the start and onward that I was this. Males are this, and as I was “male”, I therefore would also be this. Having nothing but my own deep thoughts to counter with, I got with the program and bedecked myself with those male mode impressions until they became second nature, no matter how uncomfortable they might be. Fortunately I was raised to be chivalrous and protective of women; it could have been worse. On the flip side I felt the need to adopt an interest in sports, cars, action movies and other subjects I found crushingly boring, but received social cues that I was expected to be knowledgeable about. Now I’m attempting to undo all of that and it’s not so easy.
Some impressions are easy to shed while others are hopelessly tangled. Back in the Air Force I bought my first used car, and all the men in the shop immediately wanted to come out and look at it, even though it was cold outside. I understood this was something men did, and still see groups of guys in parking lots, standing around, gazing at cars. That one is easy. I never got it, and still don’t, so I just no longer pretend.
Some are mixed. As a purportedly heterosexual male, I was expected to gawk when an attractive woman walked by. I understand women do not gawk so obviously, but at the same time end up staring because I want to see what she’s wearing to decide if it’s something that might look good on me. This is an impression I need to unwind, modify, and wind back in the right direction. It’s ok to glance to see what she is wearing, but cisgender women hardly ever do the bug eyed stare.
Some impressions I have to learn to drop, even if they were well meant in guy land. When traveling with a female companion, as a rule I would open the car door for her, wait for her to get in, and close the door behind her. This is a really good move for a dude. Doing at as a woman, however, just comes across as weird and makes people uncomfortable. Unfortunately there are hundreds of these impressions trans people must drop, modify, and add in order to fit in with the correct gender mores. Thankfully I was never into snapping bra straps, audibly passing gas, or ‘shot gunning’ beers. I might have a lot farther to go.
Baba was probably right – chances are I would be a lot happier and come closer to achieving bliss if I could just shed all impressions. I’m too excited to learn the ones that rightfully belong to me; it’s just been too long living the wrong way. Maybe in another life. If we are all just god in a cosmic drama of let’s pretend, I’ve got nothing but time.