“You’re so much more than those two labels,” a mentor of mine commented when I shared a post from Elliott in Recovery on my Facebook.
I spent much of my life attempting to avoid labeling myself, trying to simply exist and be. But through Elliott in Recovery I branded myself as a transgender alcoholic, a man born as a woman with a drinking and drug problem.
Yes, I am more than those two labels. But at the same time, those labels help to make up who I am.
What does identifying as a transgender alcoholic mean to me?
It means I’ve found myself among two marginalized groups of people. Misunderstanding and a general lack of knowledge surround gender-nonconforming folks. A refusal to learn about our experiences continues to pervade much of society. Blind dismissal runs rampant.
Increasing amounts of medical research and a surge in media attention brought recognition to the struggles of alcoholics and addicts. Society better understands the impact of alcoholism and addiction on millions of Americans. Still, stigmas continue to penetrate the lives of substance-dependent individuals.
My identity as a transgender alcoholic means lots of questions. Questions about alcoholism, questions about addiction, questions about being transgender. I almost always have little problem with explaining my experience to those who ask with sincerity. I am the only transgender person that many of my friends and acquaintances know.
My identity as a transgender alcoholic sometimes means frustration. There are days I don’t want to play 20 questions. People can find the answers to many of the questions they ask with a quick Google search. I never want to talk with you about what’s in my pants or my plans for the space between my legs.
My identity as a transgender alcoholic often means anxiety, caused by those who refuse to understand or accept who I am. It is difficult to co-exist with people who deny the existence of my true self. While I should not determine my worth based on someone’s acceptance of me, knowledge of this fact does not always make it easier.
If I’m not careful, I find myself stuck in these feelings of frustration and anxiety. I permit their hijack of my emotional state for extended periods of time. And that is a dangerous place for this transgender alcoholic to exist.
How do I combat the emotional hijack?
Courtesy of the alcoholic label, a friend introduced me to an indescribable new way of living. I received the opportunity to look inwards at my own behavior rather than outwards at the actions of others. With the help of another alcoholic, I got down to the causes of why I am where I am today.
I learned to take responsibility for the choices I made that led me to my present situation. I know that my identity is not a choice but how I conduct myself in light of it is. This raw and honest self-reflection is an opportunity many of my trans brothers and sisters do not receive.
Through this new way of life, I practice the cultivation of patience to tolerate intolerance in order to live a peaceful life. Although I do not condone bigotry and ignorance, accepting the state of things provides inner peace. But I am nowhere close to perfect in this practice.
Also, I still don’t know where the line between acceptance and push back should be. Prolonged emotional turmoil will lead me back to the bottle. At the same time, blindly accepting ignorance will not help the progression of society.
I struggle knowing that not everyone will like me but it is a fact of life. There will always be people who dislike you, regardless of who you are. I’m sure I could find someone who disagrees with Mother Teresa. And she’s a thousand times kinder a person than any of us will ever be.
What about identifying as a transgender alcoholic in recovery?
My identity as a transgender alcoholic in recovery means I received an opportunity to grow stronger. I can think of no better cross of labels. Being transgender is difficult because many still disagree with my “lifestyle.” However, with the spiritual program of action, I learn on a daily basis how do cultivate my self-worth from within.
This is something I have to work at daily. On the days I don’t acknowledge self-worth from within, I suffer. But through practice, I will no longer seek external validation from strangers. I will validate myself.
My identity as a transgender alcoholic in recovery means I have the chance for a new life. A life where I am no longer a slave to drugs or alcohol. A life where I am able to be my true self.
As a transgender alcoholic in recovery, I built a community in which I am respected, supported, and loved. One that asks nothing of me. One that wants to see me happy, joyous, and free, just the way I am.