Last week, I discussed a sense of disfigurement and its value as a typical human experience in maintaining social expectations within the environment. An episode of "The Twilight Zone" from 1960 served as a perfect example - Janet Tyler, a beautiful blonde woman, receives surgical treatment precisely because of the beauty we humans perceive.
We are meant to feel a sense of horror because we know Janet Tyler is the one beautiful character in the episode. Janet represents what we know a human should look like.
On the other hand, the nurses and surgeons - the angry-looking, porcine people in the episode - are...well...angry-looking, porcine people. We know beauty doesn't look like that. Beauty looks like Janet.
The reversal, of course, is what makes that episode of "The Twilight Zone" so effective. Unlike we the viewers, Janet believes the Angry Pig People define beauty, and she does not. She is one disfigured person against Angry Pig Society.
Janet agrees. Janet believes. Janet wants to transform into whatever will make her fit in, whatever does not mark her for life as an outsider, a horror.
As a transgender woman, I spent 52 years trying to accomplish what Janet does not. Like Janet, I never found beauty in my appearance or who I am. Unlike Janet, my world was not filled with Angry Pig People. It was filled with normal humans - people just like you.
I was a teenage horror
I imagine Janet's childhood was extremely different from mine. Janet was a horror from birth. But I - according to my family, my friends, and the casual observer - was not a horror.
On the contrary, my appearance growing up was decidedly normal. I was never a Cool Kid, but I was not at the bottom of the Nerd Brigade, either.
I was certainly a late bloomer - puberty did not begin until my teenage years, and significant changes occurred well into my Freshman year of college. In graduate school - finally - I blossomed and found my aesthetic. I dyed my long, curly, blonde hair blue-black: I was a goth.
In my early years, girls told me I was attractive. But I had no steady significant other until my Sophomore year in college - I was too shy and unsure of myself. I didn't lose my virginity until 19 or 20 years old, and then purely out of a young woman's pity.
In graduate school, however, I make no such equivocations. Both men and women loved me and wanted to have me.
I was no horror - not like Janet was. Or rather, as Janet was perceived by Angry Pig Society. No - everybody around me told me I was beautiful, just as we humans find Janet beautiful. It was only to my own eye that I appeared a horror.
Uncovering my own beauty
As a graduate student, I was alone in a strange culture (at least, small-town Georgia felt strange to this Southern California Girl). I was lonely. I was depressed. I experienced radical dissociative episodes and delusions I’ve written about elsewhere.
I needed an outlet for my hate, my pain, and my frustration. Lacking another suitable target, I harmed myself. I cut myself with razor blades and banged my head on the wall.
But it was also in graduate school that I found lasting peace in dressing in women's clothing and introducing myself as Selina.
Although I dressed up as early as junior high school, I had never attempted to socialize with other people. Selina was able to act as I wanted to act. Selina was able to talk the way I wanted to talk. Selina allowed me to be...myself.
Selina was me, and I am Selina. And as long as I was Selina on the outside as well as on the inside, I ceased to be a horror. To myself, anyway.
As Selina, I lost several friends from my social circle. That said, the social circle of chemistry graduate students is - well, to be as gentle as possible - not an extremely rowdy bunch. I stood out in the circle simply for being the least bit outgoing.
As Selina, however, I stood out all the more - but then as a horror.
From my horror to society's horror
As I found my beauty in Selina, I diverged entirely from Janet Tyler. Janet agreed with the Angry Pig People - she believed she was a horror.
Before I embraced Selina, I believed I was a horror and nobody understood me. Instead, I was told to be glad for my beauty - my raw, masculine beauty. My high cheekbones. My chiseled nose. The haughty, smoldering expression in my dark eyes through the mountain of blue-black hair.
I was a beautiful - no, handsome - man. Many would have killed for my looks. I attempted to kill myself because of my looks.
But as Selina, I was gorgeous. I was statuesque. My mountain of hair became a diaphanous aura tossed carelessly as Southern frat boy college students tossed money on bar tops for my signature drink: the Long Island Iced Tea.
That was the one drink potent enough to penetrate the alcohol tolerance I had built up through years of self-loathing. It was the one drink stiff enough to allow me to forget the risk of an almost certain beating - or worse - if the frat boy college students learned Selina's Little Secret.
In their eyes, of course, I was a horror. They simply didn't know it. They believed I was beautiful, as did I. But I was a horror for appearing as Janet Tyler in a world devoid of Angry Pig People.
Pretending only beauty exists
In the episode of "The Twilight Zone," Janet attempts to escape the hospital when the final sanctioned surgery fails. She is afraid of the treatment she will receive from Angry Pig Society as a known irreparable, irredeemable horror. Janet is forcibly sedated and - fortunately - only sent away to live out the rest of her life as a horror with her "own kind."
That is, to live her life with the tribe of outsiders. The band of horrors. The group so reviled, they lose their humanity - or Angry Pig Peopleness, as it were - to be segregated away.
Because certainly - don’t the normal, peace-loving, Angry Pig God-fearing Angry Pig People deserve a bit of quiet without horrors walking amongst them?
I understand Janet's anxiety. I know what the frat boys would have done to me in 1995. I know I am likely already on a watch list somewhere on the internet. A list that catalogs horrors such as I am - horrors who find our beauty in places other than where Angry Frat Boy Society does.
Because certainly - don't the normal, peace-loving, God-fearing humans deserve a bit of quiet without horrors walking amongst them?
The only solution is to dispel all horror
In my eyes, I am no longer a horror. I transitioned gender at 52, and while I believe I look pretty, I will never be mistaken for Janet Tyler. For one, my hair is longer. And purple.
But now I feel like I was supposed to feel when I was child. Now I feel as if I am normal. Now if somebody calls me beautiful, I do not instantly disagree. I am fortunate - I never had to live among Angry Pig People. I lived among what pass as normal humans. Only I saw my horror, and only I could dispel my horror.
But today, many see me the way we are intended to view the Angry Pig People in the episode of "The Twilight Zone." I am the strange one. I am the sinner. I am the transgressor. Well...maybe I don't mind that last - with "trans" in it.
My dream is for each of us to recognize that killing and segregating those we dislike or fear is no solution. By cleansing society of one scourge, another will only rise to take its place in the eyes of those performing the cleansing. There is always a scourge to cleanse.
We are all of us Angry Pig People. We are none of us Angry Pig People. Each of us struggles with our disfigurements. But some of us have lived lives fortunate enough the rest of society doesn't notice.