Sources in a handful of locations have confirmed that Nina Here Nor There is officially in stores. Being a published author has not completely altered my life. Oprah did not call. The New York Times did not refer to my memoir as the transgender “Eat, Pray, Love” nor dub my book “Bind, Pack, Bone,” and unfortunately, I didn’t even get laid this past week.
However, I was so busy that I did run out of time to make my bed one morning, and for a few days my kitchen turned into a disaster area–both rather extreme and hopefully short-lived changes in my personal domain. Oh, one more change–I keep having to address this question/joke from friends about whether I want to be famous.
My quick answer: No, I’m a writer, for fucks sake. My greatest passion is sitting at my computer alone in silence. Reaching out to another person, even a simple networking email to an acquaintance, requires deep breathing exercises. Using the telephone necessitates keeping a brown paper bag nearby, and luckily I have friends who can talk booksellers into getting my book up on a display, because I prefer to avoid talking in person.
Basically, I’m afraid of people, of leaving my house, and of the whole shebang called living. My friends find this surprising because I’m quite good at reading my writing–I can ride the adrenaline of performance–and as far as writers, or even the general public goes, I actually don’t come off as particularly socially awkward.
I have a trick to faking social comfort. About fifteen years ago, a therapist diagnosed me with “social phobia” (and somehow failed to see the irony in suggesting I attend a support group for this). I read a bit about social phobia, and I really related to the feeling that I was always sitting just outside of myself, watching. (I’m resting the urge to tie this to “gender dysphoria.”) I discovered that the best cure was to make friends with this watcher, let him provide his running commentary. I just wouldn’t respond to it.
While I don’t have any desire to be famous, I do find myself looking for outside sources to measure my merit. I check the number of fans on my Facebook page, Twitter followers, and views on my book trailer way more often than I should. I check to determine if my work is “successful.” I check because it’s something to do, and because trying to find out whether other people are interested in me and my work is a distraction to sitting with my own self, my own feelings of pride and judgment.
As much as I practice cultivating the sense from within that I am worthy, special, enough, the confirmations and pats on the back from others are easy, instant gratification, and could, if I let them, barrel me over as an illusion of being loved. So, I’ve started to really ask myself, what is rewarding, what is it that I want from my fifteen minutes, not of fame but of more attention than I, who thinks that six people at my birthday dinner constitutes a big crowd, am used to.
The answer, I think, goes back to the beginning, to being a writer, the part of my personality that has never been in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) but is perhaps my most deep-seated disease. The reason I spend so much time at my computer alone is really to feel less alone. My words are what I cast out from my loneliest place in the hope that I may connect with others.
Earlier this week, my friend came across this video on YouTube of a trans guy talking about the things he was looking forward to after top surgery. My friend had assumed I’d seen the video (I hadn’t) since it was made in 2010 and referenced a blog post I wrote in 2008. Actually, it did more than reference. This person actually goes through my pre-top surgery list, “25 Dreams About to Come True,” using it as a guide to share his own feelings.
Watching this video, I was amazed. I wrote that post long before I had any inkling that I’d ever have a published book. I’d simply started a blog, shared an experience, hit post, and my writing had, apparently, resonated with someone. Because confessional style videos are so intimate, like visual diaries, I was now watching this person on his computer reading my work. I could actually see him engaging with my words. For five minutes he interacted with my list, responding to numbers 24, 23, 21, 17, 16, 8, 4, 3, 1 as he shared his own hopes and dreams. We were having a real moment together, him hanging out with my words and capturing it on video.
And I thought to myself, this is it. This is everything.