The Filter (Part 3) – Learning to Fly
As I write all these posts, I realize how far I’ve come. Yet there is much further to go. Writing up that last section was difficult to say the least. I claim I’m on the path to healing now, but I thought that many years ago also. After those darkest days, the light started returning to my life, but it took a while to do so. I know this is the second post this weekend but it has been a weekend of introspection for me. Once I wrote Part 2, I started thinking about part 3. I started thinking about how far I have come since then.
Without a doubt, my darkest days were already behind me, but I was still depressed. I still felt disconnected and like I did not fit in society. From the second half of junior year though the entirety of senior year I was trying to find where I could put femininity into my life to make myself happy. I had dug myself a hole from which I now needed to climb out. I was about to graduate high school and found myself headed to flight school. I could not find anywhere to be the person I wanted to be. I found myself struggling to escape again. This time I picked up smoking: both cigarettes and marijuana. I still lost myself in video games, and still struggled with school. However, I had lost the feeling that my life had no meaning. I loved flying. I loved flying first as a passenger but then in high school I joined Civil Air Patrol and actually got a chance to pilot small planes. I ended up leaving CAP because I was losing my identity but I had fallen in love with flying. In that moment, I had left all of my problems behind, on the ground. I had decided to be a pilot. I was going to build a career above my problems…
The last year and a half of high school I could not get over with quickly enough. I did everything I could to rush though it and make time go faster. My goal was to move on and forget as quickly as possible. I did not care much about schooling; my first choice of University had already accepted me. I just wanted to get it all done. When I was done, I proudly declared I would never be coming back to my high school again. I chose not to walk in the graduation ceremony, but I got my diploma and looked forward to flight school and college. The summer before college, I started flight lessons and the University I was to attend. It was amazing. I looked forward to it every day. I was becoming skilled at something and I was flying above my problems. I did not even have a problem with the 4-hour train ride back home…
I was still smoking cigarettes and playing video games to escape all the times I was not thinking about flying, studying about flying or actually flying. At least I had found some happiness. I still was not able to find a way to be feminine, but at least I could escape the bad feelings in socially acceptable ways. At the time, I did not realize that I actually wanted to be as feminine as I did. I knew I was not a competitive muscle bound man… However, I did not realize what was actually going on inside… Another shock was on the way.
As my first year in college started, all the other flight students came to the school. I was just starting to feel comfortable in what I was planning to do with my life and all of a sudden, the people that had given me trouble for many years surrounded me. Masculine people that are very competitive and will do anything to outshine their “comrades” were the majority of the flight program. In fact, I think I was the only one in the group that was not a masculine, competitive, jock like man. Every class I had I was surrounded by these people. I very quickly saw that I had no hope of fitting in with these men. I tried to make friends with them but it never worked, we shared nothing. They liked women as objects and liked to boast about accomplishments or compare skills. I had no interest in any of that. We were learning to pilot but they were telling stories of how awesome they were at flying and how much they were going to be better than I was. I still shudder to think of those days. I very quickly regressed into depression and lost myself in board games. The school had found a way to block all internet video gaming. Do not get me wrong I found friends in college just not from the flight program. They hailed from other sections of the school like the Criminal Justice, Education, and Psychology programs. I would hang out with anyone except the competitive flight men. As November and December came around, I slipped further and further into depression again. It never got as bad as it did before but I stopped going to classes, and ended up just hanging out with friends in the afternoons and evenings and sleeping during the day when everyone else was going to the classes, they were supposed to attend. I chose not to attend my classes because I could not fit in or even stand the people that were in my classes.
I learned a little bit more about what I was not but was also able to start poking holes in my own masculinity. I started connecting on a different level with some of the women with whom I was hanging out. I started sharing pieces of my life with them, and they shared pieces with me. I came out as gay instead of bi realizing that I had no real physical attraction to women. Although if I had no physical attraction to women why did I want to be so close to them? Did I want them to be my best friends? While I had thought about the idea of a ‘sex change’ way back as early as the first year of high school this was the first time it was actually given credence in my mind. This was the first moment in my life that I took a moment to consider that I was born into the wrong body. I quickly wrote it off as not something that I can actually change. I should have told someone, anyone, about my thoughts. I wrote them off instead and vowed to be the best man I could. At this point, I was an Eagle Scout after all. How can a woman be an Eagle Scout? At this point large cracks were starting to form in the wall I had constructed to both keep people out and keep my real feelings trapped inside me.
Since I was now failing my classes, and my parents found out, I was withdrawn at the end of the semester from the Flight program and transferred into Computer Science. Computers seemed to be the natural move because I was good at them and had an interest. I didn’t really see a future where I had a career anymore. Computers were not going to keep my mind occupied enough to keep me away from my problems. I already had a base knowledge of programming. In addition, I was taking mainly general education classes at this point. They were not very engaging and I quickly slipped back into depression and not going to classes. I changed majors, but nothing really changed.
At this point, I was starting thinking about going straight into the workforce, but that was never an option for me. I always expected to like work better than school anyway. I started thinking about things like going into the military and doing whatever I could do to avoid more school.
I am not exactly sure, when it happened. I don’t know if it was first semester or second but there was one particularly beautiful moment at my university. There was one evening where the whole group that I hung out with went to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The group was very adamant about one of the boys cross-dressing… Since I had the most feminine build, I was the one. One of the girls dressed me up in what amounted to her catholic schoolgirl uniform. When I looked in the mirror, I was both elated and mortified. To see myself in that outfit immediately crumbled the wall of me being a man. For one night, the filter naturally went away. It was a night where I could say and do the things I really wanted to say and do. It was the most free I had ever felt in my life. I had now cross-dressed in public for the first and only time. My hair was short and my voice was deep. I was clearly a man in girls’ clothing. For one night, it was an amazing moment but I also looked in the mirror and shuttered. I was clearly still a man. I liked that the filter came down, and I felt more comfortable… However, everyone still saw me as a boy; that made me uncomfortable. I did not quite put together what it all meant at the time. These are the puzzle pieces that let me fill in the picture, once I had a structure.
My time away at that particular University was one of beauty; however, I did not realize it at the time. Once I was again failing my classes I withdrew from the university entirely and headed back to live with my mom. There was a lot of progress I made in this one year, but at the same time, I made so little progress. In retrospect, that entire year now makes sense. Cracks in the wall and the filter I had put up were starting to form. However, that was 2004-2005… Now we are in 2014-2015. It would take another 10 years to piece together the meaning of those events. I spent a good deal of time trying to ignore and repress these little hints.
In the end, ten years later, I did learn to fly. However, not in the way I went to college to learn. I learned not to fly a plane, but to fly my own spirit. I learned to fly my true emotions. I learned to fly my own flag. It was these events, which started me down a path of spreading my own wings. Learning to fly was amazing. I threw myself at the ground repeatedly during my life. Just in the last year or so, I missed.
Continue to Part 4.