Ancestors and Personal Trauma
Going Home Again
I moved back to my ancestral motherland this year, after I had vowed never to return here. My move came on on May 1st, which is the pagan holiday Beltane. From that point forward, I started to reconnect with the more loving memories I had with ancestors that weren’t in my immediate family. Before this return home, I had only remembered the bad trauma and troubling experiences I had here when I was young growing up.
First, a little background about me. I was born in the early 1940’s. My first recollection was that I was a girl, but my sex indicated something very “different”. Back then, biology and societal norms dictated that I was to be raised as a boy. As the oldest child of a deacon in the local Baptist Church, my father wanted a boy for his firstborn.
Before the age of five when I wanted to play with dolls and girl toys instead of boy toys, my father would discipline me rather harshly. Damnit, you’re a boy Brian (my given name). Around the same time, my father had the doctor who delivered me inject me quite frequently with testosterone. That resulted in a fair amount of trauma as well. It also resulted in severe mood swings when the dose first kicked in and before the next dose ebbed. A lot.
Every time I got “caught” playing with my younger sister’s dolls, there would be spankings when I was really young. As I got older, the punishment turned to beatings as I got older as I donned my sister’s clothes from time to time. It quickly became evident that I had to be very careful with what I did. But in my heart, I knew I wasn’t a boy. I started “building walls” around myself to protect the little girl inside. Much later, I came to realize that this mechanism of self-protection was a sort of Astral Projection for me to deal with the trauma.
As I got a little older, I had a few problems with a great-uncle. This started when I was around eight-years-old or so. When I went outside to play he would follow me out, pull me aside from my siblings, and “talk” to me. More than once, he fondled my crotch and told me not to say anything to anyone. Back then, I thought I had no recourse so I kept quiet. Who would believe me over an adult relative?
All of this left me with really bad memories and very personal trauma. Whom could I turn to? There was no-one I could trust at the time, except my fathers mother, whose brother was that abusive great uncle. I thought it best to just leave it be and stay away from everyone. Instead of playing with my siblings much, I hung around the neighboring farm kids. At the same time, I pretty much withdrew into myself.
Safety in Nature
My real “escape” was to go outdoors and commune with my nature Spirits. At around age nine, I became entranced by the power of Luna. I had started to understand that a much higher power was involved in my Spiritual life. It definitely wasn’t in the Baptist church. Being by myself outdoors, even in the winter, was my means of survival from any abuse, whether verbal or physical.
By the time I entered high school, I really didn’t have a girlfriend as such. Because of that, I started getting called queer. While I didn’t have anything against same sex relationships as far back as I can remember. But I wasn’t into boys. Though I hung out with my male friends, again mostly my farm friends but I didn’t want any type of sexual relationships with them. It got so bad that I further withdrew into my “safe” place, inside the mental walls that I had erected around me.
When I grew up in the 1940’s and 50’s, the word transgender wasn’t used like it is today. As a result, I had no word for my identity. The trauma, isolation and lack of a way to understand myself contributed to my suicidal ideation. These thoughts set in as I began going through puberty. Who would possibly want to be with somebody like me? My sexual preference did not favor boys. In some ways I really didn’t even like me or my body.
One saving grace came when I was fifteen and moved in with my grandparents. My father had taken a job as a defense contractor with General Electric. As a result, my parents moved around a lot. They were going to move from our home to California that December. With three other siblings, the car would have been really crowded for such a long trip. My mother talked my father into letting me stay with his parents. That way, I could help them around the house as they were getting up there in age. It worked really well for me then. In fact, it may have even saved my life.
The Other Side of Trauma
But did my trauma end there? Not really. It subsided from time to time. I joined the military after high school to become more “manly”. I did well there, and for the most part I was fine. However, I ended up with some fairly mild PTSD when I went overseas to the South China Sea area in the mid-1960’s, but that was to be expected with the war in Vietnam escalating.
The PTSD kicked in somewhat when I returned to the United States. Most people who had been against the war didn’t treat returning soldiers well. To make matters worse, my gender dysphoria would kick in occasionally, even though I tried to suppress it. Also, thoughts of suicide would percolate from time to time.
I thought, what would be the sense of living if I couldn’t live the way I needed to: as a woman. Finally, in the early 2000’s, well after my parents had crossed over, I received gender identity therapy from a really good PhD psychologist. In my mind, part of the trauma died with my father.
But had the trauma actually gone away? Not entirely. However, thoughts of suicide were lessening. About three and a half years ago, I finally was able to complete gender reassignment surgery. Thoughts of suicide completely disappeared that day. Now the only trauma I experience is basically when I get “triggered” over something that reminds me of all that I have been through. Or like I was told by a very good shaman friend of mine, any remaining trauma will all be over when you cross over yourself. So Mote It Be!
A Side Note…
Many years later, when reading a book called Between XX and XY, I hadn’t known that medically, I was Intersex. From the book: “Every year in the United States, more than two thousand children are born with an intersex condition or disorder of sex development. What makes someone a boy or a girl? Is it external genitalia, chromosomes, DNA, environment, or some combination of these factors? Not even doctors or scientists are entirely clear. What is clear is that sex is not an either-or proposition: not girl/boy, XX/XY, switching between two poles like an on-off switch on a radio. Rather, sex is like the bass and treble knobs on that radio.