On (Alternate) Realities

*Note* this post is in parts reflective, in parts analytical, and dwells in the abstract

Yesterday I canceled my subscription to the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game I play (Eorzea, I miss you already).


Partly because I want to do other things. I miss reading casually, new stuff, in the afternoon, in bed late into the night. I miss being fit, and doing fit person things, a casual jog, a quick walk after dinner. I miss eating well. I have been wanting to learn to cook new things, for years: Thai food, Mexican, Greek. I miss my real life friends. I miss having what feels like a real life. I have let the game consume all these things.

Partly because the appeal of alternate realities, alternate identities, alternate systems of effort and reward…I think I have let them color my real life more than I was aware.

Party because I want to stop believing that not-reality is superior to reality.

Rather than participate in an alternate reality as an attempt to attain what lived reality does not provide (gender congruence, financial stability, no fear of discrimination, direct recourse against it if it occurs, cisgender privilege and/or passing privilege, feelings of independence, of strength, of toughness, of forward motion, of control, of accomplishment, of esteem, of belonging), I want to take the energy I devote to the game and apply it to my real life again. I want to locate those things within it, and not need to jump into a proxyverse to get them. I want to get them in the life I wake up to instead of the life I log in to.

Here is my bias: waking reality is garbage, overall. We’re duped into trading our health, our youth, our time, our labor, our lives, for pittances that don’t provide what we are promised they will. Industrialized societies force humans to partake in sociopolitical systems that dehumanize, isolate, exhaust, and break us, as individuals, as groups. The few benefit at the expense of the many. We work and work and get nowhere and nothing changes. American life is a scam. Our species is destroying the biosphere in the name of cheap profit–we cannot live without a biosphere; profit is meaningless without a biosphere; yet on we march deeper into suffocating oblivion. The legal system, the stories we tell each other, the expectations we are taught about people, the language itself, our American culture has no room for trans people in it. We are fighting for room. We are making it, slowly. The constant fight sucks. It frustrates. It exhausts on top of all the other exhausting things.
 
Still, knowing all this, I also know I used to enjoy reality much more than I have in recent years. I want to believe I can do that again. Even in these apocalyptic times, I want to believe reality can sustain me, like it used to. Even with all the garbage.

I am not sure how this will happen. I keep thinking of that line from Rogue One, “rebellions are built on hope.” My rebellion here is returning a significant portion of my being to reality. My hope is that reality will not crush me and drive me away like it so often has. Or that if reality crushes me, I will become better from the experience of learning how I fall apart, and how I come back together, and how to remain coherent in all this disorienting madness.

Forgive me for being abstract and figurative. I suppose I am rather abstract and figurative.

Redistributing my realities means more than “I’m stopping playing video games for a while.”

Staying as deep and as long in game as I have means more than “I haven’t been the same person since my father died four years ago and I used video games to create some form of solace after, and I miss the person I was before.” More than “I get to be as close to cisgender as I will ever be, in-game, which consoles my gender dysphoria in a significant way.” More than “The small achievements I earn in-game convince my major depressive disorder to cool out.” More than “Social interaction from a relatively safe place at my keyboard behind my avatar in a world designed around cooperation and sharing helps my anxiety disorder avoid triggering.” More than “I get to be around affirming people in an affirming environment as long as I stay logged in.” More than “In-game realities have, for years, made more sense than out-of-game realities, so I stuck around.”

Leaving that behind means I am attempting to reclaim my lived experience from a force I consciously sacrificed much of it to in exchange for comfort.

This experience, then, will be necessarily discomforting. I hope the discomfort will be useful. I hope, after some time, I can learn to feel more like myself again, without the necessity of an avatar.
~Z
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Dysphoria

From Queer Voices. http://queer-voices.com/2015/10/dysphoria-bodily-mentally-socially/

The article categorizes three forms of gender dysphoria: Social, Mental, and Physical. Before hormones, I would get a lot of Physical dysphoria. Treating that is the reason I take hormones, which help immensely but not completely. Mental dysphoria I used to deal with more pre-transition as well, but it’s easier now that forces beyond myself (friends and sometimes family) are helping validate my gender (and that my physical form and my inner narratives are now more validating of it too).

Social dysphoria I still get all the time. I don’t pass as female as often as I pass as male, so people misgender me lots still, which causes its own sort of pain beyond social awkwardness.

I was in a bowling alley a few weeks ago watching two high-school-age women in the seats across from my team. They were being…I think the appropriate phrase is “TOTES ADORBS.” Sitting in each other’s laps. Hugging. Giggling and fawning at cute things on their phones. It was a display of proto-femininity I found difficult to ignore, partly because I have always wanted to express my femininity so easily in public, partly because I was envious of the acceptance and invisibility they received from their friends and passersby while behaving like…like themselves. Partly because I envied it so much it hurt to watch.

Watching the girls ended up killing the evening for me. My mood plummeted, I noticed I was tearing up when I gutterballed, I withdrew from conversation with the friends I was bowling with, and I started to despair, to feel lethargic, to want skip my turns or leave the alley completely.

But I didn’t say anything, because my friends were enjoying themselves, catching lucky strikes and telling Star Trek jokes. Later on, David spoke in the car: “That was fun.” Ben said, “AGREED,” doing his best Picard. I was sitting in the front passenger seat, nexus of car conversation, so I had to respond. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, or like I was sad because my scores were bad, or like I didn’t enjoy socializing (though that’s becoming increasingly true) since we hadn’t gone out much in the past few weeks. So I said yeah, it was fun, which was a lie, and therefore disrespectful of my friends.

Had I said it wasn’t, would that have seemed disrespectful too? I didn’t want to talk about why. I had told Ben earlier about my mood and the women. He said he could understand why social situations were hard for me. As much as I appreciated his words, I knew he couldn’t mean them fully.

Does the Buddha say Desire is the source of all suffering? Am I wrong to desire the type of easy outward public femininity the high schoolers were displaying? Am I a coward for avoiding the scorn such a display would invite? Whose lap would I sit in? Who would I take to http://www.cuteoverload.com to gush over images of baby polar bears and hedgehogs and hedgehogs again? To be honest, so much of these feels feel so instinctual it feels wrong to resist or interrogate or question them. How can one not desire what one is drawn to?

I bring this up to illustrate social dysphoria. Something as simple as encountering femininity in the world can trigger it.

I suppose I am lucky that I do have respite from the dysphorias. Hormones mitigate the physical dysphoria to the point of restoring function to my life. When I say “my life,” I mean the whole thing. Being alone is the easiest way I’ve encountered for mitigating the social dysphoria–the job I just received lets me work from home, and I love that. The mental dysphoria, feeling “trapped by gender confines,” interplays with all the others, but I don’t have to go through the crippling self-doubt that kept me from transitioning until two years ago anymore, at least.

Anyway, there is that. Thanks for reading.