excerpts from THE SURRENDER by veronica scott esposito

I did not know where this was headed. I did not know if I wanted to be a woman, if I wanted to be a person in a man’s body who could look sexy in a dress, if I wanted to be something else. I only knew I was realizing desires I had held as long as I had ever held desires.

*

The first time I had worn panties I was not capable of comprehending transgression. I wore them purely based on sensation and compulsion, similar to the childish impulse to eat glue. What struck in my memory was not the first moment I pulled on the panties, what struck was being told “no” in a way I had never been told “no” before. It was an accented “no,” a “no” that said, this is wrong for a dangerous reason. This was my foundation. Cross dressing was a transgression of the highest order. Under no circumstances should I ever do this. I should never. Not for any reason imaginable.

*

I now associate my years of middle school with stomach pains whose origins I did not understand. During those years I often theorized that they might be some form of punishment for my frequent masturbation. On at least one occasion they were of such severity that I convinced my mother to bring me to the emergency room hospital because I felt that my appendix might be inflamed. I also recall instances where I attempted to make deals with what I imagined was the deity so that these pains might cease.

It was only long, long thereafter that I understood they had been signs of enormous, ongoing stress.

*

I at last managed to exit my bedroom and walk out into the hall. Each step I took was a step unlike any I had previously taken. Never before had I stepped in full awareness that at any moment another human being might find me dressed as a girl. I might be seen—like this.

*

This is not a path I could ever choose. I will only ever feel that I must tear away my falseness.

If there are any of our readymade ideas that will survive our extinction, I trust that truth stands the best chance.

*

I will put it far more plainly than I could in my youth: I wanted pretty things. I wanted to be a pretty thing. I wanted permission to feel prettiness down to my roots, in every facet of my life to which prettiness pertained. I wanted the freedom to make my body pretty and feminine at times of my choosing.

*

For all the many times I cross dressed in that apartment, I never believed they made me a cross dresser. I also knew that they made me a cross dresser.

What is the difference between performing actions and inhabiting them?

*

At several junctures in the years between our first conversation in 2002 and our departure for Latin America in 2006, I made efforts to converse with this woman on the subject of my ache. All of these efforts concluded in failure. My hope for each of these conversations was that they would bring about a situation where I could live openly in my own home. Yet none of them brought me remotely near that mark. The blame is mine. These conversations failed because I was not yet prepared to claim my freedom. I had hoped that she would give it to me.

*

I walked down the hall and into the bathroom, and I stared at myself in the mirror above the sink. In the mirror reflection I saw the bathroom of a dingy hostel deep within South America. I peered into my own reflected eyes. I do very much believe that this was the first time I ever looked into those pupils and wanted to know what was in there.

*

Quite possibly, if I do not get this right I will go to my grave believing that much of my life has been in error. So I do my very best to converse with this thing, to find out what it wants, and to become it.

*

No one ever performs well the first time they’ve seen a close up. I take the blame for my own first two failures, those first two people who did not react well to what I had to tell them. They are people who love me, and I think their love would have won out had I the wherewithal to make my case as well as Sabzian made his that afternoon on the bus. But I doubted myself, and within a moment my doubt infected them, and we joined in rejecting what I had made us examine. But not that third time. On that third time I spoke without doubt, and I have done so every single time since then.

*

When I looked into the mirror and felt confidence fill me I decided to take just one photo of myself. I did not need to shoot photo after photo, because on that evening I knew that I was perfect, and when I looked at that image it would be perfect. I saw a woman. I could find not a single thing wrong with her. I was beautiful.

*

I did not hope to one day enter into my true body. My true body has always been and always will be the only body that I will ever have, the one that I had begun inhabiting with my emergence onto this Earth. This is mine and not any other. What coaxed my belief were the ceaselessly fluctuating states that would always want to control this body.

*

So many hurdles crushed, and at last I was broken upon too large a task, choking on my endless aspiration.

The clock was ticking and I was late. There was no choice but to go. But I could not go.

“Surrender to your desires,” I whispered to myself. Again and again I whispered it. “Surrender to your desires.”

*

For a year and a half I have been gathering the facts in this book. In that time I have lost the capacity to remember how it once felt to be myself. I no longer know this fear that once ruled me. It is inconceivable to me that there ever existed a person so paralyzed to take even one step forward. That person is now impossible.

*

In 2015, the year in which things would no longer be as they once were, I was reading Silvina Ocampo, Can Xue, The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek, Joan Copjec’s book on Lacan and Foucault, Sarah Manguso, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine. I was most of all reading Thomas Bernhard’s autobiography.

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