Processing a Generational Pain

By Fløren Kyteler (they/them/their or xey/xem/xeir)

I believe I am feeling a “generational” pain for the first time. I have never had much of a personal tie to my ancestry. I’ve gone the vast majority of my life a bit apart from everyone around me, and my family is no exception. I also have a mind that looks forward. Move ahead. It has its helpful & harmful qualities, but certainly did not lend itself to looking at my heritage. 

     I believe I am feeling the generational pain of women. I’m genderfluid, and I do not always identify with womanhood. However, I find that my ties to the gender are most often felt when it’s to do with how our world treats us. Sexism. I was assigned female at birth (AFAB), & that is how the world views me. Female. Woman. And whatever “woman” means to the person I’m interacting with, that’s how they treat me. And what “woman” has meant to generations past, and how those people, those assigned female at birth, were treated back then. 

     I was recently reminded that AFABs couldn’t open a bank account until the 1970s in the United States. Not without the husband’s ok. Unmarried ‘women’ were shit out of luck. Before the 1960s they couldn’t have accounts at all. Before that? Before that, before that, before that…we all know the history of women’s rights in our eurocentric, patriarchal, theistic hellscape society. 

     What got me feeling this wave of what I truly can only describe as “generational pain” was thinking about how, throughout history, women have demanded jewelry as tokens of affection. And. That wasn’t for sentimental reasons. It’s because AFABs have never had a way to legally HAVE MONEY. So. They would accumulate jewels. Anniversaries? Jewelry. Yes. Pay me for putting up with your dreadful ass for another year. Also birthdays. Jewels. Christmas. Jewels. Oh, husband? Did you royally fuck up? You better get me royal quality jewels. Immediately. 

     It was security. It was a way of letting the AFAB have freedom that society would not give them. Had I been born in Victorian England, I imagine I would have amassed enough jewelry in my teens & early twenties to disappear to a big gay retreat in the woods & live out my cottagecore dreams with my favorite people who also have their reasons to run away from polite society. 

     As it happens, I was born in America in the late 80s. And with my gender, sexual, & relationship identity being what they are, I find myself, well, quite all over the place. Not identifying with a majority of societal expectations of gender, I actively socialized myself as a “boy” as much as I could. I just…wanted to have all the qualities everyone seemed to like so much in boys. That everyone seemed to think made boys “better” than girls. I wanted to be the best!

     I have worked hard my whole life. I have little to show for it. I absolutely believe, had I been assigned male at birth, I would have a lot more to show for my hard work. But that’s not the case. All my plans have fallen through. None of my dreams came true. I am not successful. I get by. Which is more than a lot of people can say. I have enough privilege that I can work hard & get by. Some people don’t have that.

     I think a lot of people base my misfortune on gender non-conformity. I know I do, at times. How much of what I’ve done was a “mistake” because I had a vagina while making the decision? The decision to not get married. To be childless. To pursue acting. To move to New York. To move back to Kentucky. To try to settle down. How much does me having a vagina, color each person’s perception of how I’ve handled each of those things? It’s different from one person to the next, obviously. But. There’s an overall, societal, cultural mindset. And how we treat people affects who they are, in both long & short term affects. I think of it as PTSD, but on a spectrum. Every experience we all go through, affects us in SOME way. It can be minuscule or profound. It’s a spectrum. Then each experience stacks on top of each other, which is why some things just affect others in such different ways. 

     THIS is my strongest tie to womanhood. The shared prejudice. In this, I am a woman. It is the only feminine space I am able to occupy confidently. How society has treated me. Us. There is a constant need to “overcome” in order to be successful. And I mean success in a broad sense. Happy. Contented. 

     I don’t like jewels. I don’t like fancy things, in general, really. I could never wrap my head around caring for expensive things. It have me anxiety, so I figured “cheap” things were better for me. I did not demand jewelry from men. Why would I? I have a job. I pay my bills. Let’s go DO something! Memories! Not expensive gifts! I want something sentimental, not material. And I thought that made me…better? Just less superficial? I don’t even know.

     Well. I’ve worked non-stop since I was 18. Yes, there were stints of unemployment, but I was always working on getting the next gig. There were times I went without food. Without medical attention. I didn’t do a lot of things the way I was “supposed” to do them. I didn’t go to college, but I did go to acting school in New York City. I didn’t get married, but I am polyamorous & queer af. I didn’t have a kid, but I definitely spend more money on my pets than myself. I didn’t get a house, but hey I might be able to save up to get an RV eventually…

     …except that house thing. I did end up getting a house. 

     I was in New York, depressed. Working, but not enough to live there. Lonely. All my best friends were back home, and just living in NYC has it’s own kind of PTSD associated with it building relationships just seemed…impossible. And I acted in more projects back home. I affected more people back home. And that’s where the people I love are. And my best friend was having a bad time. She told me so. I didn’t know what to do when she told me how bad it was, but I did know I cared about her more than anything else in the world. And I was failing. I did not become famous. I did got become rich. I wasn’t even “getting by” at that point. I was going further & further into debt. I could go back home, be with my best friend, the person I loved most in the world, and we could figure things out together. I would move back to Louisville. I’d work on movies down there & help my friend.

     That didn’t end up happening. My, now former, best friend and I had a huge falling out. I lost a lot of the connection I had here. But. I found new ones. I met a man. We fell in love. We were happy. For a time. For a time, it was everything I could have ever hoped for in that type of relationship. He’s everything “society” could have ever wanted for me. Tall, dark, & handsome lawyer. But. He was also everything I wanted. Yes, he had all those outward qualities that made him perfect to everyone else, but he was so understanding and open. For all my non-conformity, he just…loved me. It was like the biggest middle finger to everyone else. “Look! I can still be myself and win your game!” I wasn’t a successful actor, but I was working in a theatre. And I’d met the love of my life. Yes, we had a non-monogamous relationship. There was lots of love there with lots of people. But I’d found my person. My one I could count on. And we got a house together. 

     If you couldn’t tell from all the past tense verbiage in that last paragraph, the relationship between myself and that man did not last. Understanding and open. That was the difference with him. The thing that set him apart from everyone else I’d ever met. And something happened where we couldn’t be open with each other anymore. It was my own mental health. He had to be much more measured in our interactions. It had to happen…it likely saved my life. But…when that openness was gone, understanding went with it, I think. He stopped being in love with me. I don’t know the reasons why. Or maybe I do & refuse to accept them or something. Nevertheless, I am in pain. Personal pain. This is not the generational pain I’ve mentioned before. This personal pain is unique to me. It’s all my own experiences coloring my reaction to losing my person. It’s the emotional safety I’d never felt before, gone. It’s all the trauma from the past, resurfacing. It’s the mental illness getting “confirmation” of my worst nightmares. Every insecurity is real, not imagined. It’s losing all the things I’d hoped we get to do together, but never will. It’s all the things I never got to learn about him. Because I thought I’d “have time.” It’s like my world is collapsing because everything that was my stability before is gone. Like…they were my pillars to hold up my concept of reality. What I thought was true, wasn’t. He wasn’t in love with me for quite some time. But. We were polyamorous. He met someone, and now thinks he is monogamous. With her.

     I want him to have what he wants. But my god, that still fucking hurts. And I have a meltdown every time I have contact with him. We have a house together. We have bills together. We did buy a duplex, so we have our own apartments. But even when he just texts me to ask if I’ve seen a package he’s expecting…..just tears. Fetal position, in bed. For hours. It’s just…the thought of him just…existing, having a whole full life…with none of it being in love with me…when I am in love with him all the time…it’s sad. It’s depressing. And pathetic. I wish I didn’t feel this way. I wish I could control it. I would have so much of my life back if I didn’t have these meltdowns every time I had to come into contact with him. 

     I wish he would just leave. I’d rent out his unit. I’d give him the extra money. It wouldn’t stop him from getting another house. Or renting, if he wanted to do that. If I could find an apartment, I would. I’d rent out my unit…but I need to not have roommates because of the mental illness. And I need to be able to bring my pets. And have space for my dog to go outside….

If I could buy him out of the mortgage, I would…but I’m a failed actor. Working retail. And with the way my mental health recovery is going, I am unsure of my ability to take on a higher paying position, say, at an office. I’ve gotten some wild jobs before. I have the experience to get a better job. But right now…? My mind just can’t take pressure right now. At least with this retail job, expectations are low. And it pays more than the theatre gig I had before. I work less, and am paid more. In retail. Just goes to show how little the arts pay…

     I digress. I am realistically stuck in this house. Which fucking works for me because I love my little apartment. He is the one that doesn’t love me anymore. He can leave. But. He refuses to have his name on a property he doesn’t live in. So. It’s either sell or we stick it out here together. 

     It’s been months. I tried to be “cool” about everything. Tried to be his friend. I want to be happy for his happiness. I want him to feel all the joy in the world, and share in that with him. I love him. That’s what I want for him.

     But I can’t. I may want & understand those things on every intellectual & conscious level…but my emotions. My unconscious. My shadow. It’s all pain. Real & deep & debilitating pain. It’s the disconnect. I just feel it so acutely. I wish I could shut it off. This would all be so much easier to deal with. If I could. Just. Be. Happy.

     But I can’t. It’s been months. I’ve limited contact as much as possible given our situation. We’re writing notes & sticking them on each other’s doors, for gods’ sake. I hate all of it. And I don’t know what else to do. The pain is so intense. I’ve called into work because I can’t stop crying. I know I can’t live like this. I started considering transferring work & potentially living with my parents. It’s basically swapping one pain for another…but at least I might be able to bear a different kind of pain…

     But he came to me with an idea. He could rewrite the deed, making two separate ones for each unit. Basically making our apartments condos. Then he could sell his unit, pay down the mortgage to something much smaller so that I could afford to refinance the loan in only my name. Then I would still own my little apartment, and he would have no legal responsibility at all toward the house. It caught me off guard, and I don’t like the idea of selling part of my house, but…I could stay. I could keep my home. That’s the one thing I can still keep. My home. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was the best compromise. He would have no obligation to anything. And he would leave. That’s the most important thing for my health right now. I can start recovering. I was so excited we could agree on this. A huge burden was lifted…but the pain was there too. A more tangible confirmation of the end of the relationship. It was a lot. I told everyone. I was able to talk to some about it, process my feelings.

     The next day, today, I went on a mortgage calculator to get an idea of how much his unit would need to sell for, to pay down the loan enough for me to be able to “afford” it, by credit standards. 

     I couldn’t get it to work. I couldn’t get any of them to work.

     I was on my phone, so I got out my laptop to use the desktop versions of the links. Turns out, I wouldn’t qualify for a loan. I made some adjustments, erring on the side of generous for my income & expenses rather than the side of caution. That brought me to qualifying for 1/7 of the value of the whole house…certainly not enough to cover whatever would be left after what my ex could sell his unit for.

     I let him know. I want to keep his (and mine) expectations realistic. I just…don’t have a lot to work with. It doesn’t matter that I work full time & pay my cut of the mortgage every time, on time. And I told him that it doesn’t even come down to the numbers. I can use The Numbers to prove I can afford my half of the house. It’s not even about numbers to them. I don’t even fit their formula in the first place.

     I don’t even fit their formula. 

     I don’t have any jewels. What worth do I have to them without the say of the man who’s claimed me? All my efforts, all my work, the money I have to give them don’t mean anything. I don’t “deserve” this property. It’s not that I don’t work hard enough. I do. It’s not that I can’t afford it. I can. But I don’t even fit in their formula. The only way it worked before was having my ex beside me the whole way. Now. Without him. The reality of my situation has pulled into a more complete focus.

     I don’t have any jewels. 

     I could have played by societal standards, and gotten married. But I didn’t. I don’t believe in it. And I’m not trying to trap anyone to me…but I am legally entitled to nothing. Legally, he is the primary account holder. He can “actually” afford things. You know. Based on their criteria. But if I’d married him, I’d be entitled to half. But that’s…so fucked. I don’t want to do things in that way. I don’t want to take from him. I just…don’t want to lose any more of my world. I’ve already lost so much. 

     I hate how much he was “my world.” But he was. Ugh. I hate it. But wish I could also have it back? 

     I don’t have any jewels to cash in. Not literally. Not figuratively. When I was loved by him, he gave me such emotional security, I could love all those around me with little fear. Now, without it, I don’t have any safety. Every small hurt is felt. And I am mentally ill. Animosity toward me might be real or imagined. I admit that. But it is felt. And it wears me down. My house, my apartment. My little haven that is all mine. I could be myself for the first time. But now. It’s not so certain. How long will this be my home? How long can I withstand the pain of him above me at all times? Move in with my parents? Sell the place? Rent and lie about pets, deposits, whatever? I have no security. No freedom. I’m at the mercy of so much I can’t control. And I know so many people think I deserve this. What do I know, maybe I do. If only I’d done this or that. Maybe this other thing a little differently. Surely if I’d done those things, everything would have worked out. Maybe I’d still be in New York. Maybe I’d be rich & famous. Maybe I’d still be in a loving relationship. Or maybe I’d even be a secretary with a husband & two kids. Basically, what I’m saying is, I didn’t do those things. I’m still me, and if the ideal person you have in your head of what I should have been to you deserves to live in peace, then the me that I actually am, that exists for real, here & now, deserves to live in peace too.

     All that I’ve done has led me to having my house. Yes. It led my ex to having this house too. However. He has all the resources to get another house. I do not. All other things considered, if I leave this house, I’ll never be able to get another one again. My ex’s actual status in life doesn’t change, no matter what. Mine is in the balance. It’s the most life-changing time I have felt the weight of social pressures on me. If I can just keep my house, I will still have a chance at SOME sort of…ease? Just SOMEthing in my life will be secure, ya know? I will have my home. But if I have to leave…being subjected to a landlord that I’ll probably have to hide at least one pet from. That’s assuming I can find a place I can actually afford on my own. In all likelihood, I’d end up with roommates which add their own brand of stress. Or. Live with my parents? Again? When will this stop having to be an option for me? 

     It’s been months. It’s just getting worse. If I’m going to get better, I need to be away from him. Something else needs to happen. Because, I am not ok. This whole situation I’m in doesn’t make any goddamn sense. What the fuck is even happening anymore?

     I don’t have any jewels. And I’m stuck living in a world where my value is dependent on what I can pay into it. And I don’t want to participate in this system, but I don’t know how to get out. And the only reason I got so close to being ok is because I played into their rules by having a cishet passing relationship. I got this house, not because of how hard I have worked, the things I have learned or what I can contribute to anything. I got this house because of my association with a man who makes more money than I do. He just has all the power over my life, and he doesn’t even want it. I wish I could take it back. I hate this feeling of helplessness. Why can’t I just know he doesn’t love me & accept that? Why do I have to go through this pain like I don’t comprehend my surroundings. That’s what it feels like. Like the pain is so debilitating, it makes comprehending your surroundings impossible. Nothing feels real. So what do I do when the one I love is the trigger for this? Breaking up used to be so much simpler than this. Cutting off contact seems incorrect. It doesn’t seem possible, honestly…but I wonder how much of that is me just hoping he’ll fall in love with me all over again…but I can’t go thru that again. Him falling in…then out…of love with me. AGAIN. 

     Then I wonder what would have happened if I just not said anything. How much longer we would have existed like that. Would he have eventually fallen in love with me again? Is it just part of a relationship to endure the pain of being loved less at times? If that’s the case, I don’t know that I’m capable of that. That pain is too much for me to bear.

     And I also think about all the wives in monogamous marriages who do endure that pain. I don’t mean to imply all marriages are like that….but some are. That’s what a marriage to me would be like. Where there’s a husband, and I’m to be the wife. Only I’m not one of those that makes the choice to endure the pain. I could feel how much we’d lost the openness & understanding. And I said something. I could have just not. Said. Anything. How long would I have endured that though? Well. I couldn’t endure that pain after a year. That’s how long. That’s about how long he hasn’t “felt the same” about me. Apparently, one year of him not loving me before I couldn’t help but speak up.

     I wish I could cash out my jewels and escape. Run away. But I can’t. I live in post-millennial America, not Victorian England. All I have are a retail job, mental illness, and the good grace of a man that used to love me.

     And that’s the generational pain I feel in addition to my personal pain. When one of my greatest things of material value, MATERIAL VALUE, is “the good grace of a man that used to love me.” How many generations of people assigned female at birth have been in that situation? Particularly for gender & sexuality non-conforming folks. We’re the ones that always have to make the decision about how much of the mainstream world we can endure before we have to speak out & say, no. This isn’t right. Not for me. This doesn’t work for me. We can’t just fall in line because it’s not the truth of us. It’s not the truth of me, to not say anything. I felt the truth of less love between me & my ex, and I spoke up. A lot of the time it seems like I can’t not speak the truth of something. I can be challenged! I change my mind when appropriate information is presented! Then I speak that truth. I just…can’t keep to myself.

     Would keeping everything to myself make things easier? I would still have the thoughts, the pain, even if I didn’t speak of them. Perhaps I just haven’t learned how to discern when to speak & when not to. I always seem to be trapped in one extreme or the other. Outgoing & outspoken or isolated & quiet.

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Published by explorinfloren

Floren Kyteler (they/them/their or xey/xem/xeir) is a New York trained actor, experienced producer, and is a self-advocate of mental health & LGBT+ rights.

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