I Am Such An Introvert

The first time I took the Myers-Briggs test, I was young and English really was my second language in that I had to reread some of the questions… But my then Jungian (a distinction they made back then, which was kind of fun because I learned to write down my dreams) therapist said I was definitely an I, very much an N, but the other traits were not too clear. As a matter of fact, I had answered as I thought I should, a bit in the way I lived back then, which was living as others want me to… Several years later, with a larger English vocabulary and a better knowledge of myself, I took the test and came out definitely INFP, still with a 100% Introvert.

Today I’m not sure I would test any different, but my friend once remarked I had been outgoing and cheerful during a bike ride, and that would be a demonstration I’m not such an introvert as I claimed. But I didn’t feel it that way, I still wanted a quiet night after that bike ride. And I didn’t socialize much at the lunch stop, I remarked. I think my friend imagined an introvert is automatically antisocial and brooding. I do have social anxiety, especially with people I don’t know, but above all with people who act like the adults of my childhood (I only recently figured I’m now older than many people I see as “adults”). They seem to expect something from me that I never can deliver.

We introverts often share stories of difficult relationships with parents, of course. It makes sense that we came to this world feeling parents and adults didn’t invite our self-expression. For me as a potentially trans person (it took decades to figure that out), they expected something I couldn’t deliver, and they appreciated peace and quiet otherwise. Yet many of my siblings are introverts, even though they wouldn’t want to be recognized as such. There’s a societal expectation that being an introvert is a major flaw. For me, however, it is an integral part of my personality, and it somehow explains why it took me so long to recognize where on the gender spectrum I feel I can rest comfortably.

I have also learned not to sound like I complain about how adults interacted with me when I was a child. Perhaps that is making everything more difficult now, that coming out as transgender I feel that my friends and siblings want an explanation, but then they will challenge it, not intentionally but sometimes sending me into the spiral of lost self-esteem.

I am not unhappy about being introverted. I must say I found great help from a single book called The Introvert Advantage, and sharing it with introvert friends. I found other books sounded like they had been written to fix us, or make us join a union of introverts (so unlikely!), as opposed to just understand how we can be happy navigating within a world that favors extroversion. But I have questioned whether I became more introverted after the first few years of my life.

It would make sense to me now. If not outgoing, I wanted to dance, but that was frowned upon. I tried to touch the piano, but was told not to. I held my little brother with apparent care in a photo. But there was the period when life was just very difficult, and it seemed to define how I operated thereafter as a quiet child trying to bring only good results from school, never really bothering my parents for advice. Once I had found Computer Science as the greatest place to be quiet while being creative and productive (and I should be grateful that I felt protected by a small group of friends, and an advisor who just let me run with my ideas), life went on without gender nor sex… Things got complicated later when people wanted me to be “normal,” but that’s another story. Let’s just say that I was saved a few times by knowing how to deal quietly with chaos (but yes, there were really hard moments I’m not going to share).

It makes sense that not being able to express my gender early in life made me more of an introvert. But I like being an introvert, even though it feels like I would have fully transitioned many years ago had I been less so. Let’s just live as best as we can with what we have!

 

The Hurdles are Higher for us Introverts

Somehow I know I have made progress in many ways, but then it’s amazing how hurdles swing in my mind after crossing them. And in a sense it is to be expected that going over a hurdle will make it swing a bit, even if the runner doesn’t touch it.

Last night’s hurdle was a meeting filled with people I didn’t know (my university alumni), but also a group where I am known (even by a name badge) in my male name. Earlier in the week, as I anticipated the event, I imagined I could wear a skirt, and that would be really OK. But finally I settled for an elegant mix of women’s pants with cute socks, one of my favorite women’s top over which I wore a super-elegant silk jacket from a men’s suit I had 30 years ago. Oh, and a fancy hat, which in the words of the friend who made the hat, is not very gender-specific. Let’s say an androgynous look in a rather strictly binary environment.

The first hurdle is that I’m a true introvert, and such social occasions can be really draining. Lately I’ve been wondering if I became an introvert in the same process of growing up in an environment where my gender expression wasn’t welcome, or if that was inevitable anyway. Judging from my siblings, I would say the latter, and I would even add that it came from my dad’s side. Anyway, for us introverts, a social event can be draining. I like to go with a friend who would keep the rest of the world happy in conversation, or if also an introvert, stand by the edge of the party and observe while drinking.

It went well for the first half of it: there was someone who knew me and wanted to talk, and then they had a panel. After the panel, little groups started forming, and that’s when I started to panic. I should just have looked for the organizers and said goodbye right then, but I thought I might as well try to say one little thing or two about my days in our computer science department. Big mistake. There are nerds who monopolize the discourse, and even sometimes they have a sidekick nerd to talk over your own discrete comment. So you realize you might as well withdraw, and finally just go home. The thing is, I can’t see how beneficial to me it would be to participate in those “discussions.”

Was there any difference due to my looks? I would say none. I will always be a unicorn.  The feeling today is just the same as with any such event: there’s more loneliness in social settings like those than in solitude.

So today I was back to my usual, I went to a class, but I felt drained, in the way I often do after feeling exposed socially. I need to be with friends who will recharge my gender batteries! In a way, they are the replacement of the interaction I didn’t have as a child. They help me figure things out, and also they seem to keep me afloat when I seem to be sinking in the impossibility of reaching the next level in building my gender web.  They seem to preserve my self-esteem, and that’s very precious…