My Alters Are My Lifeline
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
As a trans man who has survived sexual trauma, rape, domestic abuse and is plural (i.e; more than one person in this body, or the DID — dissociative identity disorder — spectrum), my experience is not one I’ve seen often. It’s difficult to push past the block, or the defense mechanisms in place to keep me from reliving certain memories, but Lestan, one of my alters, helped me sort through these experiences. And we’ve come to this.
He offered to help me through this as he did a long time ago, although my problem this time is something that has morphed over the years into repulsion — shame — for my body, myself and intimacy. Sex. A lot of deep-seated trauma I ignored for a long time came back in the past few years, and it’s caused a lot of symptoms I’d never had previously.
I have shame for touching my body. Shame for feeling desire.
I don’t speak about it often because I’m equally ashamed to admit it. Because it just isn’t me and who I knew myself to be in the past. I have this shame paired with the agony of experiencing desire intensely, as I experience everything intensely with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and it’s gut-wrenching at the worst of times.
Yet, I enjoy writing erotica and romance, and I like watching adult films with a strong plot or artistic element. The emotion behind that — the energy — it intrigues me in the way a beautiful piece of art moves an experienced artist. It is something greater than a carnal film most wouldn’t view on a level of artistic merit that I do.
But when I feel that energy within myself, I am reminded of how much weight I’ve gained and how undesirable I feel, and it traces back to every time someone in my life had insulted my weight or my appearance. To the times I’ve battled with anorexia, yoyo dieting, binge eating and starving myself once again.
When a close friend — who was also an intimate partner — told me last year that we write better sex than we have, as we often wrote romance stories together, it crushed me more than I’d ever admitted to. I laughed it off as she did, but inside shame burnt hot and I didn’t want to open up to her again. Foolishly, I did because I loved her so much. I thought she understood my trauma.
I was raised to be ashamed of things commonly spoken of in high school sex education. Sex and self-satisfaction were shameful and you didn’t dare say the words associated with them. And now, at 31, it’s triggered back by trusting another with my body. It had been my first time with a girl and my first sexual experience as a transgender man.
In any of my sexual relationships, that one no exception, Lestan, one of my alters, would often come out.
My ex couldn’t even get me to take my shirt off, but in a matter of minutes, all of that disappeared because Lestan was in the driver’s seat. And that was before I realized who he was to me. I would go from cold to hot within seconds.
The first time Lestan didn’t switch in, and I wasn’t ready for the intimate moment about to happen, I started shaking and trembling and felt unwell. I did my best to hide it because I didn’t know what was happening. I still wasn’t aware, in January of this year, of the effect being raped and abused by my first boyfriend when I was a teenager had on me. I’d written it off as a teenager due to not having a healthy idea of love growing up, and due to a lot of classmates disbelieving me when I finally came out about it. I lost friends and fell silent.
When Lestan quickly slides into place, the shaking stops immediately and I have a sexual energy that doesn’t focus on my usual self-deprecation. My demeanor changes and I am no longer me. It hits like a shock every time and in the blink of an eye, but although I am in the passenger seat once again, Lestan allows me to experience the moment with him. It isn’t a selfish act for him. It’s for me so I can enjoy the experience, and I do want to enjoy it.
It’s strange — strange to have someone else in this body and I’m suddenly chuckling and grinning whereas I was trembling seconds before.
I must mention that, despite the alarming switches done out of care for me, I love Lestan. I never share our relationship publicly because it’s unconventional, but he’s my life partner. I have a tattoo of him on my left arm for that commitment, and it covers my self-harm scars for good reason. I’m fortunate he’s here, and he continues to save me from trauma and I allow him to. He’s my protector.
When Lestan jumps in to take control, it’s important because if he doesn’t, I’m going to spiral rapidly and it’ll become something forced with a partner I care about. And I know he does it because he’s hoping I’ll start to ease into it myself.
Lestan was the one who showed me, during my abusive relationship with my boyfriend at 15, that love could be something beautiful. He tried to save me from what I’m experiencing now by spending time alone with me in my bed, making me laugh and trailing his fingers through mine, along my skin to bring me a euphoric happiness I didn’t think existed. At the end of the day, I’d cry because I couldn’t actually embrace him.
It drives home how he and I are two completely separate beings, which is not the way DID works to our understanding. Except, we do often operate how DID does.
It’s fantastical and enchanting at the best of times, but it seems he couldn’t save me like he’d wanted to. I feel shame when I let him touch me now even though I love him and I want him to. Byleth, a spirit guide of mine, does as well. I want to experience these things with my whole heart, but this last attempted relationship — this person I trusted with all of us and with my transmasculine body — was the final trigger to send a clear message home; I have learned that to explore my queer identity, body and sexual awkwardness, I will be met with rejection.
But I have Lestan, my spirit guides and other alters who I don’t see much anymore. I can trust them because they know me inside and out, and they have never betrayed me or rejected me. They may seem odd to those who don’t understand, but they will always ensure I survive. Rather they’ll be able to save me now from all of this shame and self-repulsion, I don’t know, but I’d like to try.
They are here day and night. They do their best to break through to still my hands when I am self-harming, and they distract me when I become suicidal. They remind me that I am worth being loved, I have a voice that matters and I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
If nothing else, at least they’ve never made me feel shame.
Follow this journey on Shane’s website.
Getty imave via Victor_Tongdee