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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Under the Radar

I’ve always been doing it really, but ever since I came to admit to myself that I am a trans woman, I’ve considered myself flying under the radar in the male world. Being in the world, but not of the world, as the Zen inclined would phrase it. Flying under, incognito, in disguise, and undeclared, I have been accepted by the demographic as one of their own, albeit an outlier on account of my quirky nature and disdain for piling on anyone other than “us”. It’s becoming less sustainable.

Estimates vary and I’ve seen quite a few numbers reported by various sources that put the incidence rate of transsexual type transgender people at a population of 1 in anywhere from 10 to 40 thousand. Regardless of the huge margin of error, that isn’t a very big population however you look at it. Experience seems to validate that as of all the people I have come out to, a very rare few have ever even encountered someone like me. I know I hadn’t. I can see now why I always lose at gambling; my luck manifests in other arenas.

Last Friday I was hunched in my cube preparing a report when  the endless chitter-chatter I’m exposed to erupted yet again amongst my direct reports. Mind you, other than HR, no one at work is aware of my true blue identity.  It’s not easy, but until the current massive layoff is complete, I’m laying low. I start catching snippets of the conversation and freeze up.

“Holy shit, remember Roy* who used to work in Dept X? Get this, Lew got a call last night from someone calling herself Penny. It was Roy!”

Now what are the chances of that happening? The funny thing is, I always wondered about “Roy”, whom the others used to call ‘Boobies’ due to ill concealed breasts under thin tee shirts. I wondered more when “Roy” grew very long hair, and sported a very androgynous appearance. At the time I was still in a losing battle to convince myself I was really male and not ready to think too much about it, but was still disappointed when “Roy” was let go in a previous layoff.

I froze when I heard the conversation begin. I know I have looming before me the task of letting my staff know they are actually working for a woman who will be appearing as such in the near future. As usual my face flushed and I pretended to be very busy as I got the inside scoop of what they really thought about someone who is transgendered.

As expected, they were having some fun with it, and not always in a very nice way. They immediately began scouring the internet for images of ‘Penny’ and debated as to whether they wanted to look or not due to ‘Penny’ being “really a dude”. There was considerably speculation as to what “he” would do with “his” penis once it was cut off. The idea that “he” was probably wearing women’s underwear at work was apparently “gross”.

I really wondered if this was my time to stand and educate; to defend my trans sister from the cruel barbs of ignorance. I didn’t. I just wasn’t ready for the speculation about why the front of my own sweater was beginning to swell (and far more rapidly than my endo indicated it would, not that there is anything wrong with that).

So yes, I remained under the radar and took it all in. It wasn’t easy. At least now when the clouds part sometime within the next couple of months and I fly above, I know the lay of the land. Forewarned is forearmed, and I know what work I have cut out for myself. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it.

*Not her real male mode name.

Rooms

I’ve always dreamed of rooms. Not living rooms or parlors and pantries, or even dining rooms laden with a bonanza of savory goodness and heavenly sweetness, even though I do love to eat. I’ve always dreamed of secret rooms, lost and nonsensical, off the blueprints and counterpane to any logistical coordinate placement. On waking, I could never quite grasp why they shouldn’t be there, but they weren’t. Unlike all my other dreams, these always stayed with me, even now.

I was only six when I dreamed of the zipper room. In my parents front closet, at the foot of the stairs, inside and on the left there was a hanging garment bag. It wasn’t really a garment bag, but only had the edge of one and the zipper. It was affixed to the wall. When I opened it, it led to a whole different room. A big one; well lit by unseen sources, and round. The floor was round too, and it was inhabited by balls; the inflatable kind, but so large as to accommodate one entering them and rolling about the unlikely floor. It was so real that I looked for it for years, trying every trick I knew gleaned from adventurous moppets on TV. It was the same closet I saw myself in for the first time six years later; her eyes the same, but the rest, just more right.

There were more over the years. Some in my house, some in houses invented in the dreams. My favorites were the old Victorian houses on Elmwood. Towering labyrinthine structures in my morphean mind. I loved to explore, and always, one more room than the architect imagined. Waiting, furnished, lit, and utterly unknown. Someone must have put it there, but how? I didn’t know what it meant. I looked for corroboration in real time in my explorations about the city.

The most elaborate were underground. How apropos! Cyclopean staircases stretching down into the abyss, but lit and decorous. Engineering masterpieces dwarfing the scope of the pyramids and with no apparent purpose, but here they were. Grey, silent, undetected, always in my own backyard beneath just the smallest shovelful of dirt. I dug, for those and anything else that might be coldly awaiting discovery. Why should such be in a Kenmore backyard; reclaimed swamp with thick taupe clay of exhausting silica? Unfound I left tribute. Parts of me, the false me, then the real me, but the earth gods remained unmoved. Sealed containers of clothing, notes, pictures and more dot the subterranean landscape of everywhere I have ever lived. Tributes to the rooms that couldn’t be.

In my third decade I owned my own house for once. I learned every inch, every pipe, wire and passage. It wasn’t hard, the place just isn’t that big. No secret passages, but more time for that later. I dreamed of this house as well. Rounding the front from the back, I found the patio. Inset, covered and furnished in clean white chairs and table. A cozy nook, comfortable for rainy days and sunny alike. Always to be just right no matter what the state of things. I didn’t know how everyone missed it, even the realtor. It makes the house the house and a home. If I were to draw the plans even now, it would be there. I know just where it goes. When I look in daylight, it should still be there, but isn’t. It doesn’t make sense. How could it be right and not be there?

Now, now I’m claiming my identity. Who I saw in the mirror at twelve was right, in my sisters dress, my mother’s makeup, hair just so, but me. I knew her then, but shut the door; the door that led to my first dream room. If you can’t see it, it isn’t there. Shut for a moment, a day, a week or even a year, but no lock fits. I tried a lot of them, and it always comes back open. No ogre inside. Just me. I’m here, I be, I am. I don’t dream of rooms anymore.

Batgirl

“No, I want to be Batgirl!”, Jason lunged at me, knocking my hulking 3 foot 10, 45 pound figure to the floor. The runt, nearly an inch shorter, was making a case with his scrappy pugilistic ability, thrashing me about the goldenrod carpet. My mother managed to intercede before he managed to tumble me into the rug burn inducing bare patch our orange tabby, Punkin, had been systematically enlarging.

We had been watching The Electric Company on the old black and white set with rabbit ears and the severely underfunded live action Spiderman segment came on. It’s a sad thing, by the way, when the tens of dollars spent on production are so misused as to have even a four year old questioning whether that is the real Spiderman or not. The cartoon version came across more plausible. Straining to hear over the CRTs hum that exceeded that of the fridge, we remained captivated through the 45 second “story”, watching a doofus in something akin to a boxed Halloween costume net a bad guy through the thick snow on the screen. I think it was essential to be five and under to have enjoyed TV back in the mid 70’s.

When the commercial break came on and I ascertained it was not my favorite, the one that ended with, “Ancient Chinese secret, eh?” we were compelled to continue the theme of superhero adventures.  Instead of a commercial it was PBS’s own Mike and Goldie imploring us to donate to the cause, so we had some time to play. At that age the last sensory input of even marginal interest becomes the prime directive in determining the theme of follow on fantasy reenactments. Spiderman was no good being of solitary nature and would require one of us to play the dipshit bad guy who managed to get defeated by that clown. The Batman Family offered more possibilities.

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that no one in their right mind wants to be Robin. The only two logical choices of course were Batman and Batgirl; poor Alfred not even a blip on the radar due to his decrepit age and penchant for tea drinking. Ordinarily this would prove to be a point of conflict for two little boys, and it did, just not in the way anyone would have expected. To me it was a foregone conclusion that I would of course be Batgirl. I mean, why wouldn’t I be? Jason apparently had the same rational. He often was mistaken as a girl to begin with, so I would think he would have jumped at the opportunity to take the more masculine character.

My mother separated us and explained patiently that we were boys and so we didn’t want to be Batgirl. Either Jason understood the rational or was cowed enough by foreign parenting that he capitulated immediately. I was not so convinced. This boy/ girl stuff was not very clear to me to begin with, and I was dead sure I did in fact want to be Batgirl. My stance was met with the typical gender imprinting looks and words of disapproval, so I reluctantly dropped my case.

By the time this little eye opening revelation was over, so was the interlude. Apparently Goldie’s impassioned pleas balanced by Mike’s good natured charm convinced enough disrupted parents to pay up and get the kids back to their stories. Jennifer of the Jungle was now on and I happened to find her nutty escapades with the big gorilla pretty captivating. It didn’t hurt that she made the unlikely combination of pith helmet, Tarzan dress and pantyhose really come together and work, even while waving around that giant net.

I wish I could report that the next time the PBS mafia came on another fight broke out about who got to be Jennifer and who got stuck being the gorilla, but even then I was a quick study. I “got” it.

Embrace the Awkward

As 2012 dawns new, now with less than 12 months left  to hear about that stupid Mayan calandar thing, I made a new resolution. Last year’s was a real hum dinger; admit you are a woman already. I managed to keep it and if I had only tacked on, “and gain 30 pounds of lard”, the year would have been a blowout success. This year I decided to keep it a little lighter. “Embrace the Awkward”.

Sure, generally speaking, thoughts of ‘awkward’ bring feeling of painful inner discomfort, embarrassment, and a fervent wish to escape to a situation a little less worrisome. For those of us going through transition, this kind of thing happens all the time, especially when presenting yourself to people for the first time. Just last week I picked up my son at daycare for the first time after coming out to them. Usually there are about 2 teachers left in the building at that time, but on this day there were about 15, most of whom were clustered around the front entrance and had never been told by their mothers that it is impolite to stare. “He looks … nice”, said one to my wife, who I brought along for moral support. Awkward. On the way out my son shouted at the top of his lungs, “Look! My dad looks like a girl!”, repeatedly. More awkward.

A few days later we had a small soiree at the house to introduce some old friends from out of town to Michelle. For the most part it was a lovely time, except for my interactions with Dan, an old friend of 20 years.  Dan defines awkward splendidly. He once cleared an entire family filled room at the Original House of Pancakes  through detailed descriptions of his favorite scenes from Japanese torture porn in a classic Irish whisper. This time, however, it was simply having him call me ‘buddy’, ‘pal’, ‘brother’, ‘dude’, ‘man’, and of course ‘Mike’ all evening. It got tiresome correcting him in front of everyone. Twice he punched me in the arm as I walked by, again in front of everyone. All awkward.

I could go on and on with examples and I’m sure you can all relate. I was watching my favorite episode of ‘The Office’ the other day – ‘The Dinner Party’. From the video camera left up by accident in the bedroom to accusations of past dalliances, there wasn’t a scene in the episode that was not painful to watch. It occurred to me that this is what made it so funny. Cringe-worthy, but delightful. It got me thinking. Awkward is hilarious when it happens to someone else. Would it be such a stretch to find it funny when it happens to me? Just a small tweak in perception and situation that make me want to vomit could potentially be a real hoot. That sounds much better than the alternative. Embrace the awkward.

Transition is difficult at its best, but if I can take one aspect of it and make it less onerous, or maybe even fun, how great would that be?

“Work It?” Ignore It.

From the moment ABC announced the inclusion of “Work It” as a dreary mid-season replacement show, I have found myself inundated with calls to arms from various trans and quasi trans friendly organizations to condemn this abomination with either a stern signature on an online form, or Ugh. Seriously?worse, to make the onerous effort of writing my own pissy letter. This got me thinking. To be fair, any call to action often gets me thinking of ways to avoid having to do anything. In this rare instance, however, I think my reasoning may actually be sound, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

I already have the notion that this may not be the most popular stance, so I want to establish right away that I’m not writing this from the outside. I am a trans woman who isn’t exactly Miss Passable, and very aware of the challenges we face on a daily basis and the wealth of misinformation that exists. If I honestly and truly thought that a chintzy “Bosom Buddies” knockoff had even a modicum of perception changing firepower, I’d  already clicking the button to tell ABC’s president to go jump in a lake over this. I, however, do not and will now present the top ten reasons why. [Note: Not a guarantee of a full ten reasons, but a placeholder until the author runs out of things to say, after which she will likely fire this off without proper editing. Sorry.]

One. It’s whiney. I’m well aware we have the right and duty to protest inequality and defamation, but this should really be used in just the right setting. Getting riled up over a lackluster sit com premise is just going to come across as whiney. Whether we have the right to whine or not is irrelevant in this case. What we can expect from it, however, is the de rigueur trend of responding to all whining with snarky satire. I simply don’t think it enhances the trans community to come across as prickly wet sops, especially when we know for certain it means everyone who perceives themselves as clever is going to pile on and really try and give us something to cry about. Look at the Scientologists. If not for all the bitching most of us would still think they were simply scientists with a spelling problem. Now they have to deal with things like Xenu toilet paper. We can do better.

Two. We are guaranteeing more people are going to watch the show. By raising our ire, we are taking a long played out show concept that was likely to die on the table unnoticed and unclaimed and making it “controversial”. People would watch a prune juice commercial if they heard it was controversial, even if they have Tivo. On its own merit it would likely be abandoned by viewers for a show about people who use coupons or a resurgence of puppets making crank phone calls. Let people know a segment of the population is upset by it and an audience is grown overnight. If we really cause a stink, this half-assed time slot filler can become a cult sensation. I’m not saying this is right, but we all know it is true.

Three. ABC can give a hoot about our sensitivities. Right now it is the in thing for giant corporations to radiate socially conscious warm fuzzies. The reality, however, is that if an idea will bring in revenue, they will do it. If not, they won’t. Corporations assign a real dollar value to “Goodwill”. If the show brings in more advertising revenue than they lose in goodwill from the trans community, they are simply going to do it. No matter what the goodwill management representatives tell you, they would rush a show about boiling pandas to the air if they knew it was going to be profitable. See item two and understand there are a group of executives who could not be more delighted.

Four. So what? Yes, it theoretically can cause misperceptions about the trans community. Maybe. It’s a wacky sitcom, not a documentary. I don’t think there are a lot of people who will watch a Chaz Bono interview, then turn to this and get confused about which is the real deal. Those who do are probably beyond our reach to educate anyway. As ignorant as individuals can seem to be, I still think the vast majority of people wouldn’t expect to meet the equivalent of the “Big Bang Theory” cast  in a university physics department, and the same holds true here. Hard as it is to do sometimes, we have to give people some credit.

Five. It isn’t all about us. While we may not enjoy what we perceive to be a misrepresentation, people who identify as cross-dressers just may consider this to be a good thing. Many of us know cross-dressers and many of us even went through a period where that is what we thought we were. Putting myself in their shoes, I just might be delighted by a show that normalizes the concept of a heterosexual man wearing women’s clothes. I think the greatest fear amongst closeted cross-dressers is fear of exposure as a perverted freak. Putting the notion into the public consciousness that a man in women’s attire isn’t a game changing phenomenon probably couldn’t hurt.

Well, that isn’t quite ten, but I forgot the rest I thought up during my ride into work, but I think you get the point. Changing hearts and minds is the path forward to gaining acceptance, understanding, and most importantly rights in our society. I don’t think raising the flag of offense against the remake of a short lived sitcom from the early 80’s is going to do much in that regard, and more likely to do more harm than good. If we accept that the media is going to portray us incorrectly just as every other group is from time to time, we take away some of its power to hurt us.

I am interested in anyone who has a differing opinion by the way. After all, what good is an uncontested opinion?

By Way of Introduction

I briefly considered naming this the ‘T-Blog’, but it seemed far too likely that the right tone might not be set for what I’m trying to accomplish. True, it might be fun to suck in people looking to poke fun at aging social conservatives, but I don’t know, I think the majority of hits, if any, would come from folks searching for a certain testicle related activity I’m seriously unlikely to discuss here.

After spending countless hours gaining information on the lives of my transgendered sisters and brothers out there, I thought “Hey! I should do that too!”. Original, right? Well, so what. The way I see it, the more trans information and experience out there for someone to stumble across and better educate themselves, the better.

I kind of have a variety show format in mind for mine. Some personal experiences, thoughts, fiction, contributions (in the event there is actually a readership), reviews, and some humor. I thought about inserting whimsical pictures to illustrate my text, and I still may. The opening paragraph would have been a good place to start, but let’s get off on the right foot and see where things go. Probably no videos of me doing ‘The Humpty Dance’ in footie pajamas, but in the unlikely scenario I someday get a cool million hits and someone actually remembers and calls me on it, I’ll do it. I won’t be happy, but will keep my word.

For now I’ll keep the comments un-moderated unless things get out of hand; almost a guarantee. I just want to see how long it takes before the first Leviticus quote is thrown out there and someone calls me an abomination on my own blog. The nerve! In the mean time, hoping to hear from you soon.

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