Valentine’s Day is here – the traditional day to talk about love, right? Except today’s also my birthday, so I’m going to talk about self love. I’ve fallen in love twice in the last six months. Once with my enboifriend and once with myself – which was far more of a surprise, to be honest. As were my new pronouns.
Content note for suicidal ideation, mental illness, and self-hatred.
Loving myself is hard.
Loving myself means that I have to forgive myself. It means I have to be kind to myself and it means I have to look after myself. Loving myself means I have to be myself, even when that’s hard.
I have depression, and my mental illness makes it hard to love myself. My anxiety makes me doubt myself until I’m too scared to open my mouth or leave my bed. Small mistakes will throw me into a shame spiral that can lead to intrusive thoughts about suicide. My mental illness tells me that I’m pathetic, lazy, weak, and selfish. It tells me that I’ll only end up hurting the people I love, because I am an awful person.
I know that’s not true.
I’m not a perfect person, of course. I have moments when I’m egotistical, petty, mean, and selfish. I have said hateful things and acted without thinking in ways that hurt people I care about. The difference is that those things do not define me. I can sometimes be sarcastic and mean, but that doesn’t mean I’m an awful person. I can be manipulative and jealous, but that doesn’t mean I’m an awful person either. It means I’m a human person, with flaws.
I’m a person with flaws, who fucks up and has to apologise. I need to work on becoming a better person, of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to hate myself right now. I can hate the things I do, sometimes, and the things I say, but that’s different to hating myself. I am not an awful person, and I need to stop treating myself like I am, because that doesn’t make me a better person, it just makes me hate myself.
Loving myself means acknowledging that I am more than my actions. That doesn’t absolve me of them, of course, but it does mean that I don’t have to hold on to them, clutching them to me tightly like a piece of glass I’m holding even though it makes me bleed. Letting go, and telling myself that I will work on being a better person even though I’m not berating myself for the things I have done, is hard.
I have grown a lot in the last few years, and not just since I started sex blogging. I am proud of my growth: I have become a braver, stronger person, one who understands that ze still has a lot to learn. And I want to keep learning and growing until I’m a person who doesn’t wake up every morning feeling sick with guilt. I’m never going to be perfect but I can be better, and even just being on that journey has let me fall in love with myself for the first time.
Loving myself is hard, but I have reached a point where I can forgive myself when I fuck up. I still pull my hair and curl my toes and squeeze my eyes shut as I whisper I want to die, I want to die over and over again, but I also make a point of telling myself that I love myself. Saying the words out loud is both scary and powerful.
A little like saying my new pronouns out loud.
I didn’t need to fall in love with myself to realise that I’m not cis, but it’s helped. Learning to forgive myself has made me realise that I can change how I see myself. I always thought that questioning my gender would be this huge, uprooting, earth-shattering thing, but it was actually far more subtle. A gentle curiosity that led me to look at myself in a different way. A way that feels more right.
I could live the rest of my life as a cis woman and it wouldn’t feel wrong. In fact, I might keep exploring my gender and decide that I am cisgender, and that would be ok. For now, though, I am trans. I’m embracing my gender feels, because thinking about myself as genderqueer, genderfluid, or transmasculine makes me feel different.
It makes me feel stronger. Lighter, cleaner. It feels far more right than cis, right now, and my new pronouns feel more right than she and her. Ze and hir don’t fit quite right, but they’re more right. Hi, I’m Quinn Rhodes, my pronouns are ze/hir. I’ve practiced standing in front of the mirror saying it, and decided that the fact the words feel a little too big – like a knitted jumper with long arms I can pull down over my hands – doesn’t mean that they’re not right. They’re right enough. Not forever, but for right now.
I have so much imposter syndrome about it, of course, but it is a very trans experience to worry that I’m not trans enough. It feels scary to share it too, not because I’m afraid of not being accepted but because this almost feels too right, too good, to really be real. It makes my soul sing.
I don’t know why it’s easier to love myself with my new pronouns, but it really is.
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Quinn Rhodes (he/him) is a queer, trans, disabled sex writer with vaginismus. He’s a slut and a sex nerd who writes about his adventures in trying to fuck without fucking up. Quinn can usually be found wearing stomp-on-the-patriarchy boots while falling in love every time he fucks.