The act of playing yourself can be loosely defined as working against your conscious intentions. It’s what you do when you think you’re serving your own interests but are actually betraying them—often through significant effort, often in a spectacularly public way.
A post on the NewYorker web site made me stop in my tracks today. Am I playing myself with thoughts of transition? Or am I playing myself with the notion that I can avoid transition?
They are opposites, and yet either could be true.
The first idea is that I only think I want/need to come out and transition — that it’s the best possible course for me, and even the only possible course — but that I would quickly discover it to be a life-devastating mistake.
I’ve said before that my spouse is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of me being trans. Coming out could potentially lead to her deciding to move on, a move I cannot bear to contemplate because our marriage is otherwise amazing. If she felt that she had to leave, it would, in turn, have potentially catastrophic consequences for our young sons, and our collective finances. I am already significantly under-employed, and making a living would not become easier after coming out, that’s for sure.
Because of her job, which has a public component, she could also be greatly harmed by my coming out. Even if the harm was offset by an outpouring of support for her (a distinct possibility) and the vilification of me and my decision (also possible), the stress alone could become debilitating for her. We often observe the great difficulty that various friends, who are single parents, have in the routine tasks of life. We often feel deeply grateful for having each other as traveling companions on life’s road. I cannot bear the thought of going life alone again.
Divorce, fractured parenting, and a doubling of the household expenses could lead to some very dark places. I could easily realize in short order that I had played myself. Getting what I (thought I) wanted, could turn out to be nightmarish.
On the other hand, the strategy I’ve developed over the past couple of years could be just as fraught with peril in the long term. I have tried hard to avoid the subject altogether, to spare her the agony I know she feels when she thinks about it, and place strict limits on my own considerations about transition. As I’ve written, I’ve concluded that it may be best for all concerned if I simply give up the idea.
The good that this strategy would do for my family seems obvious. But it’s easy to imagine a darker side.
It could easily place too much stress on me, and lead to deep regrets which manifest themselves as anger and bitterness (at worst) or simply sadness and grief (at best). What if not becoming the best person I could be means spending the remainder of my life longing for something, and growing ever more detached, forlorn, isolated? I see potential signs of these things within myself already. What if my intended path leads to anxiety or depression (if it hasn’t already)? These would certainly have a spillover effect on everyone around me.
I could easily get to a point where I realize that this approach, which I’ve thought for a while is in my and everyone’s best interest, turns out to lead to a different type of marital downfall, stresses with my children, and financial hardships? What if one of the reasons I am underemployed and sort of misanthropic is that I find it so hard to deal with people because of the constant need to hide this gigantic portion of myself?
Will I get to a point where I think that not transitioning amounted to playing myself?
There are no answers here. It’s potentially a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t situation. It may be a choice between two bad choices. And yet, it’s possible that either will work, at least to some degree. There is no way to make this decision, and the idea of “playing yourself” only brings that fact into stark relief.
It is Schrödinger’s Cat played out in real life. Both outcomes exist in potential, only one can become real. And there’s no way to know whether the cat is dead or alive until you open the box.