10 April 2009

My Life as a Giant Twitching Insect

"He told himself again that it was impossible to stay in bed and that the most sensible course was to risk everything for the smallest hope of getting away from it."
Kafka's Metamorphosis*

I'm going a bit mad, having been in bed for about a week when not in class, and yet again I find that Kafka has something to say about my particular malady. I over-identify with Gregor Samsa for too many reasons to count. In sum, we both have bodies that do horrible things to us without our consent; we lose control over the way we're perceived because of our bodies; the people closest to us regard us as disgusting monsters. Welcome to my transsexual childhood, basically. Since the tender age of ten, I've had the language to describe gender dysphoria: it's Kafkaesque. It's like turning into a giant cockroach. It's like watching your mother sob when she looks at your fucking monstrous body. Kafka may as well have been writing about my puberty, I feel.

I'm re-reading The Metamorphosis for my humanities course just now, and am taken aback at how much I still feel like Gregor. In terms of my dysphoria, this isn't surprising. (Hint to the cis: it doesn't get better.) I'm reading disability into his transformation now, projecting like no one's business. Lo and behold, that first morning -- those first sickening steps in a new body -- has lasted a year by now. I still don't quite know how to get out of bed without injuring my lower parts, as it were. I still can't quite accept that anything has changed; after all, "if they took it calmly, then he had no reason either to be upset, and could really get to the station for the eight o'clock train if he hurried." Gregor does not let his massive physical transformation mean anything in isolation; it is when it is first exposed in company that he realizes the weight of what has transpired.

Samsa had it easy. He changed all at once; he didn't have the pleasure of feeling his body metamorphose around him through time, now bent, now swollen, now stiff, now fused. His adjustment period was finite. He didn't wake up yesterday from a nap unable to breathe and realize that now it's in his lungs, that this really is systemic, isn't it, that any organ could be next. Doctors and Gregor had nothing, ultimately, to do with one another; I can only map my new body with medical assistance. In short, fuck you, Gregor.

All that aside, I've got a new answer to the ubiquitous "what's it like?" question: Kafkaesque. If there's anything more sickening than watching your body change without your consent, I sincerely hope it never happens to me.

*My edition is Kafka, Franz, 1883-1924. The Complete Stories. Edited by Nahum N. Glatzer. Schoken Books, Inc, 1971. The Metamorphosis in this edition was translated by Willa and Edwin Muir.

1 comment:

  1. Like you, I read a shit ton of trans things into Kafka. I read it when I was much younger (before the thought of transitioning had occurred to me at all) and found it oddly painful. I can totally see the disability parallel, and I am so sorry you have to read this right now. Mostly this post is incredibly sad, and I'm not sure I have any actual advice. I think this triggering disability stuff for you is understandable, and I am here with tea and massages and whatever else you need.