Starter PSA. This is no longer my main platform for interaction with the furry community. Please follow me on SoFurry if you want regular (non-journal) content. (Journals are cross-posted here since I know not all of you have an account over there at this point.)
I've had a rough couple months, and though I plan to journal about that at some stage, that's not the focus for today. Today, I need to talk, vent, and (maybe) cry about what we do to ourselves in the name of normality. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm going to try to frame out what I've done (to myself) and what it's cost. I'm a little scared to find out how much it's hurt me, and even more scared about what I can and can't do to fix that, but I guess we'll see as this moves forward. (Stream of consciousness writing, activate!)
I'm terrified of putting my pictures online. I'm terrified of someone linking my real name to my furry identity (Zeta Syanthis). I'm terrified of someone linking my furry identity to the secondary accounts I use for adult material. I'm terrified of an employer finding those links and deciding that maybe I'm a liability rather than an asset and firing me or maybe just hiring the next engineer instead. I'm scared that I don't know what my body is doing some days, and terrified that I'll never be able to be sexually happy, because my brain demands things I physically cannot do. I'm terrified of society's judgment in all of this, and of the harm many would visit upon me simply for being something they choose to fear rather than understand. I'm scared of the monsters in the dark, my own destructive kinks that even I don't understand or want, and some days I hate myself for them, because they're just as wrong as all the rest of me.
Every day, I struggle with the judgment of other people, and even worse, with my own internal judgment of myself. The cost of this on my own mental health is staggering. "What if they don't think I'm working hard enough?", "What if they hate me for being who I am?", and "What if my parents fully disown me when I legally change my name?" This is stuff that is utterly caustic, and has been a leaking vat of toxic waste in my heart for years now. I'm working with a (fantastic) therapist on this, but it feels like a lot of this stuff is coming to a head recently, and I'm a bit overwhelmed. (Background: I've set a deadline for myself to finally start HRT by the end of October for my own sake, and it's forcing me to deal with some of these issues as intended.)
So... let's talk about identity. My name is Zeta. It's what my friends call me, what Dakota calls me, and what I identify with in a way that "Mark" will never be. The name itself was an outgrowth of a several things, and just like me, it changed from its initial forms to what it is today. It's traveled the journey with me, and I can't just pick another one. That's not how this works. :P However, it also has a problem... It was originally intended as an internet pseudonym. There's a lot of things associated with it that would instantly become more-or-less public due to Google if I were to change my name. (Zeta Syanthis is crazy unique and 100% googleable!)
Even if I was okay with all that information becoming public (and I'm not sure that I am - some folks would really squick at the fact that my 'sona is a hermaphrodite), there's the consideration of my secondary furry identities. Before I joined the fandom proper and actually started going to meets, I was a lurker for more than 12 years, and active in various role-play chats on and off during that time. There are secondary accounts spread around various sites that aren't immediately linked back to this identity (I've been somewhat careful), but it's inevitable that there are enough that someone could find them if they were really looking. (Given how trans folk are targeted online, I *have* to assume I may be at some point in the future.)
Now, though I have no adult art of Zeta right now even on those accounts, I'd really like to be able to get some of it and have it online. I certainly have enough favorites that are viewable on those to be damning as is. I really, really want to be free and open with my sexuality, but I work in very professional circles, and it might also mean I become unemployed (or even unemployable). (On top of that, I really wish I could journal about some NSFW things that I am not handling all that well, and that just adds to the pressure.)
Basically, ideal me has my own name and identity, is proud of who and what I am, and secure in my own sexuality and kinks... Easy, right? (Cue alarmingly hysterical giggling and crying.) I know it's going to be a hell of a fight to get there, so much so that I've been paralyzed into indecision for a while now. Meanwhile, my anxiety has been skyrocketing, and I've been falling apart under the pressure. That can't continue, and so I'm going to have to start working on this. I'm working with a therapist, but I need all the support and advice you guys can muster to get through this.
So, let's talk about costs...
(I have to be real about this. There are going to be costs here, and ones that I have to acknowledge and accept rather than just fear all the time.)
1. My Parents
I haven't talked to my parents in 3 months. The last time we spoke over the phone was on Mother's day, and my mom said some very hurtful things to me. Our relationship had been going downhill for a while despite my attempts to repair it, but I finally realized that the level of negativity coming back in every conversation (not just about furry / transgender issues) was actively harming me the more I exposed myself to it. I (peaceably) broke contact for a while that day, which hurt a lot, but I think it's given me some space to heal... ... but...
I don't exactly want them out of my life, and they honestly haven't done anything so horrible as to be excluded from it. They didn't take my coming out of the closet re: transgender very well, though, and have basically refused to acknowledge it. My mom has explicitly told me that I am not to wear female clothing if I travel home for holidays, however, and she refuses to not use the term 'cross-dresser' at this point, which is not exactly helpful. They are both older and fairly conservative, though. I didn't realistically expect them to be happy or supportive about this day one and knew it'd take a while for them to come around.
That said, when (because if I'm honest, this isn't an if) I go for a name change, I think I'll lose them ... probably permanently. Both are older, and I don't know that their health will last the years it'll take for them to come around, especially if I change my middle and last names (which I do not like) too.
1b. My Brother
I've not written a lot about my brother here, but he could have his own series of journals. Honestly, I could be doing better in supporting him, but I don't even know how at this point. (He has some serious mental health issues that are not being treated right now as far as I know.) Going to have to let this one lie until I figure out some of the other ones, I think.
1c. My Sisters
My sisters are both about 20 years older than I am. They're very close to my mom, but really really understanding. I'm not in regular communication with them like I should be, but I *think* they'll be supportive. The close link to my mom may cause some issues though.
1d. Extended Family
I'm not very close to my extended family either right now, but that's due to some of the emotional shut-in-ness I've had over the past few years. I think that if I reach out to some of them, I may get some support, but that's going to take a few years. Some might be really upset that I hurt my parents with all this though, so I honestly don't know.
2. Employment / Co-workers
I'm still really shaken up by my first firing a few weeks ago. That said, my new manager (as well as a few others in the management chain) are aware of my plans to transition, because I brought it up in the interviews. (At the time, I wasn't sure I wanted the job, so I was pretty open/aggressive in my questioning of them too.) My transitioning isn't a problem for them, and they've actually gone out of their way to be supportive, but we'll find out how well my co-workers handle it once they become aware. Obviously, that could go just about any way, depending on their own viewpoints. The good news is that I'm edging on desperately needed in my role right now, so my employment is reasonably secure regardless of much of anything else at the moment.
Back to the naming / Google issue. Ideally, I would combine my multiple accounts (forcing the separation is both time-consuming and really reinforces my insecurities about it), but I'm not sure how to handle the fact that you could Google me and find adult material relatively easily. (Requiring FA/SoFurry logins helps, but won't really stop anyone who's curious.) Whether it's art of my 'sona (I already have one tasteful nude), favorites with kinks, or even a discussion of mental instability / sexuality like this post, it's a problem. In theory, folks wouldn't really care, but I'm sure some will. Any future employers doing background checks certainly will, and I have no idea what to do about that.
Basically, I have a really fractured identity right now that's seriously messing me up, and I have *got* to start working on that. Only problem is that I don't know what to do. Name change is probably a year away at least, but that's the biggest hurdle as far as I am concerned right now. I can't go on HRT and be "Mark", and I can't just change the name I've gone by for that many years. What does do?