I was recently conversing with someone who self-identified as a cross-dresser rather than transsexual (I still prefer the umbrella term transgendered for the latter, but want my point to be clear) and much of what they were saying was eerily similar to thought processes I had some time ago when still struggling. It was very tempting to hit her with a grand revelation regarding her true self and sit back smugly as she mentally transformed in front of me, awash with gratitude for plucking the scales from her eyes. I made it a rule to do nothing of the kind and simply let her talk and listened. I wish C had done the same for me.
I’ve been slowly sharing some anecdotes regarding my personal journey here, and going to skip ahead a few years for the sake of making this point. I like how Homer Simpson begins tales from the past, so I’m going to begin the same way. You just can’t top that level of exaggerated style. It was the early aughts; a more innocent time before America dreamed of having a minority president and a tea party was still regarded as being something pleasant. The country was awash with the heady victory of vanquishing the Y2K juggernaut and I was riding the wave of optimism to take the next step in my journey of self discovery. Utilizing the ingenuity of new fangled web crawlers, I had discovered the presence of a local transgendered organization, the Buffalo Belles. Eagerly, I filled out the membership application, signed the check and walked it down to the mailbox in anticipation of a quick reply within the next 4 to 6 weeks.
Each day I arrived home and checked my mailbox and my caller ID. I assumed of course they likely had posh business offices downtown and would show up on my call box under the organizational name. My wait was rewarded, and I did receive a personal phone call when I happened to be home. An interview was required to vette me as acceptable for membership and we set up a time in my apartment. I dressed in the ‘Heathers’ style I was rocking at the time and slipped into my most enormous fake breasts. I waited anxiously for C to arrive, and she did, right on schedule.
I don’t remember much about the interview. I was pretty nervous but still tried to act natural and told at least a boiled down version of my life story. C disclosed early on that she was not a cross-dresser, but a transitioned woman. I’m reasonably certain I asked more than my share of inappropriate questions, and she was a very good sport about it. The concept of living that way, out there in broad daylight and all, seemed terrifying to me. At this point I had only ever taken brief walks in the wee morning hours or used the Halloween free pass to full advantage. I was also bewildered. She had been married and had children. She didn’t resemble Dr Frank in any way, shape or form. Somehow she was able to refrain from belting out half familiar show tunes.
My abilities as a chameleon extended to hiding extreme social discomfort, so I can’t blame her for getting the impression that I was casually relaxed when inwardly I was freaking out a little bit. She finally laid it on me. “I don’t think you are ready to hear this, but I really don’t think you are a cross-dresser, gigantic breasts aside, but transsexual like I am.” I agreed with the first statement. I was not ready to hear that. Not one tiny bit. I covered by giving her a wan, condescending smile, and begged to differ. She didn’t stick around to debate the matter, approved me for membership, and left.
Once she was gone, I changed back to male mode. Her words bothered me more than I felt they should. Over the next few weeks, anytime I even touched on the notion that her assessment could possibly be true, my mind drew up bleak and terrifying images of a future swallowed in pain and despair. My inner drama queen was rampant, a real bitch on wheels. Ultimately, I rejected the assessment as far too inconvenient to possibly be true. I packed away my wardrobe to the basement. I never ventured out to a Belles meeting. I threw myself into career, friends and family. By the time my membership expired, I was already exploring on-line dating and had constructed a vision of the future where I was a solid, dependable family man, and nothing more. C’s visit was regulated back to a subconscious whimsy that when surfaced was pushed back down with detached indifference. I lost a decade that way.
Right in her assessment, but oh so wrong for speaking it to me! What if she said nothing and simply approved my membership? What if I showed to meetings and met others, some like me, some not? What if I was able to gradually draw my own conclusions born of self-discovery in an environment populated by friends who would understand and support me? What if, what if, what if. It does no good dwelling on it. It didn’t happen that way, so the only thing worth focusing on is what did happen.
Now, over 10 years later in C’s position, I’m talking to someone who could be me. Desperate for opportunities to let her inner woman fly free, but cowed by the incalculable price we all pay for being ourselves instead of who so many want us to be. If she is she, then she she’ll be. Dammit, I hate when I come up with these cutesy tongue twisters. Yes, or no, it’s not for me to say, and I hope everyone else can give her the space she needs to make these discoveries on her own terms. So many of us are anxious to validate ourselves by uncovering our likeness in others, whether it is truly there or not. Don’t read me wrong, I have that too, but bowing out. I think it might be the kinder path.