Transcending incredible amounts of pain since 1993
Pain exists to report trouble. Removing trouble removes pain. Life has been much easier for me since learning that back in 1993.
In late 1993, I scratched out four diagrams on a piece of paper. It fleshed out some ideas about responding to pain. Ideas I struggled with earlier that year.
Earlier in 1993, I faced down the pain of coming out as transgender. Mounting pain of widespread rejection melted into peace after
1. I learned to accept myself with support from other transgender folk, and after
2. I received a special gift of deeply meaningful unconditional love from someone very close to me.
By late 1993, I had new reasons to reflect on responding to pain. I was falsely accused of sexual misconduct. Not only painful, that was always my worst fear.
Responding to pain
That paper sketched out four regressing stages:
Stimulation of a need
Full resolution of a need
Partial resolution of a need
Routinization of partial resolution
Follow me now as I walk you through the pattern of pain I learned to resolve, twice.
1. When it starts to hurt
“Mom, I, I need to tell you something.” The words fumbled out my mouth at the sight of her long face. “I don’t know how to say this,” I started. Then blurted out nervously, “I’m transgender.”
My need for my mother’s acceptance was steeply stimulated. Remember, this is early 1993. Rejection was almost certain.
At that moment when desperately needing her acceptance of my undisclosed identity, my need for her love shifted from “nonfocal” to “prefocal.”
2. Back to full relief
While she didn’t hug me for sharing such wonderful news, neither did she kick me out in the cold. Our relationship rebuilt on a firmer foundation, with steadier roots.
In short order, my uneasiness melted back to sense of ease. My need for her love shot up high into my painful awareness.
Then climbed back down to a “defocal” phase. Then returned fully to “nonfocal” with her assured affections.
3. Only partial
Others were less open. Around them, I walked on pins and needles. My need for acceptance enjoyed only a partial resolution.
At least they didn’t violently reject me. But the tension left an indelible stamp on our relations. I kept to myself. And mourned the loss of that social capital.
4. Mounting pain
While still skating on thin ice of few social supports, I was suddenly accused of sexual misconduct by someone I never met. Already enduring a level of pain, it dumped more pain on me.
At least I wasn’t instantly killed, as I had feared for a moment. But I lost my freedom, my good name, my career, and countless other things.
Layer upon layer of mounting pain
By late 1993, you can add wrongful conviction to false accusation. The faith-based conviction fed off the popular stereotype of LGBTQ peoples as child recruiting predators.
Already in pain when starting the trial, my lawyer added a layer when having me read the law book: “No corroborating evidence is necessary for a conviction of criminal sexual misconduct.” Damn, I thought to myself, this is all just a show trial!
It was. A month later, sentencing added another layer of pain. Because I took it to trial, I was subjected to the maximum available sentence: 15 to 30 years!
As if that’s not enough, I as an openly feminine identifying transgender person, I was sent to a men’s prison. Layer upon layer of pain became my routine for years.
Applies to both pain and desire
Ironically, this all began from my spiritual compulsion to express my feminine side. For days, I comfortably existed in my birth ascribed masculine mode. Then…
Instead of easing that natural desire, I repressed it. Like most of my generation. I stuffed that thing way down. That diagram can go up or down, toward relieving pain and toward relieving desire. Toward homeostatic balance.
1. Stimulated desire for crossgender expression
Eventually, repressed natural desire exploded with painful urgency. Compelling me to find someplace in private, alone, out of anyone’s view.
To outsiders, this was indulging sexual deviance. Evidence of perversion. A sign of lacking discipline. For years, I wasn’t so sure myself. I internalized their shame.
2. “Crossdressing” episode fully resolves tension
In private, I eased the tension by privately dressing up as a woman. At that moment, the tension released. My craving to “dress up” was resolved. I could go back to my birth ascribed gender more comfortably.
Contrary to popular misconception at the time, I had no interest in sex with others at this time. I’m actually asexual. Demisexual, to be specific.
Without first developing a deep emotional bond, I experience no sexual attraction to others. The false accusation and wrongful conviction sit diametrically opposed to reality. In case that mattered to anyone.
3. Internalized shame undercuts full resolution
After owning the fact of being transgender, I enjoyed a full return to peace. Prior to 1992, publicly reinforced shame kept me from returning to full peace. Back then, I cried and hid in shame.
Back then, the pleasure of easing that tension distracted me from the mounting pain. That just added to the confusion. I misinterpreted it as a substitute for something else. That proved painfully backwards.
4. Reversing historical pain
The more I resisted, the more I repressed, the more I ran from it, the more it chased me. Nature, I’ve learned, does that.
Prior to 1992, I vacillated between long episodes of “faithful masculine mode” and brief moments of letting out my cooped-up femininity. By early 1993, I learned to find balance. No more swinging to extremes. No more avoiding nature, No more missing peace, and meaningful love.
Resolving needs removes pain
As I was learning to embrace pain, others seemed glad to give it. The more I took responsibility for my life, the more others acted irresponsibly toward me. All legal.
Just as I’m compelled to responsibly transcend divisive gender norms, I am spiritually compelled to responsibly transcend judicial divisive norms. I’m compelled to resolve needs over serving laws.
I’m spiritually compelled to resolve needs to remove pain. While others rely on divisive categories to offer relief from their routinized pain.
I’m spiritually compelled to pursue the high mark of justice: to resolve needs on all sides. While others rely on the low mark of justice: to relieve pain for winning side.
Removed pain unleashes peace and love
Just before wrapping up the maximum sentence (innocent prisoners are ineligible for parole, another baked-in pain), I learned to embrace pain on another spiritual level. I learned organic pain is not bad—however unpleasant—but the trouble such pain reports.
Today, I can honestly say I am liberated from the debilitating grip of pain, and of blinding desire. Sure, I’m still a wrongly convicted person. Sure, exoneration remains out of reach.
But nothing can steal my peace or rob my love. Not if I honor nature’s role for pain to fully resolve needs. From resolved needs flow plenty of peace, and liberating love.
Steph Turner is the founder of Value Relating, offering a viable alternative to stigmatizing psychotherapy, by inviting clients to speak their truth to power. Check how well you know the criminal justice system with this short quiz. Join us in finding a solution to wrongful convictions. Discover how you can embrace pain and integrate its overlooked purpose in your own life.