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The Transgendered and The Ex-Amish

My spouse/ sister and I just finished watching a 10 part documentary on National Geographic called ‘Amish – Out of Order’. If you ever wondered how interesting my day to day life is, the fact that I managed to watch a 10 hour educational documentary in just under a week and call it “the exciting part”, should give you a good window into my harum-scarum action packed adventures. We watched because it focused on the fabulous Mose Gingerich; slow talking reality TV superstar from the long defunct ‘Amish in the City’. We love Mose, and I was glad to see he’s doing well and is now the undisputed Zen master of the ex-Amish community. In that 10 hours with lots and lots of recaps, I had time to do some slow thinking of my own.

Something Mose kept reiterating was that the ex-Amish are people who don’t really fit into either world – The Amish, or the English. The “English”, is the Amish catch all for anyone is who is not Amish. Not that they are unique in this at all; a small population coming up with a catchy moniker for the vast majority of “outsiders”. Jews and the goyim; Evangelicals and the damned; Trans and the Cisgenders. The list goes on. Anyway, that last one I mentioned kind of rings a bell, doesn’t it? While true, our mission is to go from a life in one gender to a more accurate life in the other, ideally without anyone being the wiser, in reality we are slipping out of a cisgender identity into a trans one. OK, it’s not a perfect analogy, so don’t get all fussy britches on me; I’m going somewhere with this.

I, like many other trans folk, like to idealize my transition. I like to think of myself as having always been a woman, albeit a fugly one with poorly designed plumbing leading people, like you know, me, to overlook this basic fact, but a woman nevertheless. In less optimistic moments, I get flashes of despair over the fact that I can’t ever be never a “man”. I looked like one, was socialized as one, became a husband and a father, and this past is irrefutable no matter what my present might be. I know I’ve talked about this before, if you were paying attention, ahem. Just as the ex-Amish will forever feel just a tiny bit out of place in the English world due to their upbringing, so are we, at least just a little bit.

Hold on just a minute; I can feel your indignation from here, and I will be gracious enough to allow that maybe you are different and embraced immediately into your true gender seamlessly and phased through every obstacle like some insubstantial wraith. I wish! For most of us, just as many of the ex-Amish can honestly say that they never really bought into the whole ‘plain folk’ schtick, they were still stuck there for some amount of time, and so were we as “men” and “women”. Unless you transitioned at 3, you had years of experience as the other gender, and for most of us, really defining shit like puberty, sex, relationships, and parenthood.

My whole point is that it’s OK to acknowledge this and work with it. The ex-Amish, while now living English lives, with English jobs, and English relationships, all surrounded by the English who didn’t even know they were designated English to begin with, still find community in each other for that common past only they can understand. This is a good thing. It doesn’t make them non-English, but allows the shared experiences and how much is sucked to be Amish with other people who get it. This is good for us too. As much as it feels right to hang with the cis women and find acceptance, only other trans women can relate to formative year horrors like classroom wood, even if we don’t talk much about such things.

Some resist joining trans groups because they feel there is a stigma in admitting their former lives, or like to go all Lone Ranger about it, but honestly I think they are missing out on the community support that shared understanding brings. I really liked that the ex-Amish were able to do this and it was inspiring what it brought them all. Even more inspiring was Mose himself, who after 9 years of fully inserting himself into a true blue English existence, stuck around to help those who came after to adjust to what is a better way of life for them. It made me immensely grateful for the transwomen who although fully passable in every sense of the word, remained to help and guide. It’s a good thing to blaze a trail through the wilderness, but truly great to remain in the middle of it just to wave forward the successive band of neophytes stumbling forward with wild looks on shaky heels. I don’t usually do this, name names that is, but thank you Patti, Ari, Tina, Caroline, and many more. The best I can aspire to is to follow your example.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

9 responses »

  1. okay, i’m 4 months late coming to this post, but i’ve only just found you and am catching up.
    Haven’t we both run into the women who swear they never lived with any kind of pleasure as anything else on Pe… and haven’t we done our best to avoid them, their posts sometimes burning with the “no christian like a convert” zealotry (i can make words up, too) of the self absorbed and self righteous.
    May the goddess protect us from those that cannot (read will not) remember with joy that first little league homerun, the prom date with the hottest girl in middle school, the successful takedown of that guy who harassed us at the Steak and Shake. It wasn’t all misery and anguish. It was growing up, granted with an extra frisson of confusion, but still…

    (why do you seem to write the way i think… in plain language and (oftentimes) with tongue firmly planted in cheek?)
    (smiley thing goes here)

  2. Sisters, Brothers and friends – I’m soooo sorry I’m behind on comments. I thought I would catch up tonight, but sick. Promise to try tomorrow. 🙂 Love you all!

  3. Michelle thanks for yet another interesting comparison. Emotional life experiences, for those of us that understand what your saying and for those around us that can’t or won’t get it.
    I really see more clearly somethings that I didn’t before sense the meaning of what I felt and seen I myself has been clarified through, Medical and Therapeutic means. Unfortunately to my surprise I found that sex and fear governs people more than I ever could have imagined. A closed society, Amish, I think in many way is born of this and other fears, sad to think that as a species we haven’t evolved past this.
    There is so much that we should understand, like its hard to live if we live in fear of dying, we have little control over anything so I say try, try hard not to wast your time worrying about these things. I many ways, ” As in man kind in general, ” have invented ways of hating, killing, just making ourselves miserable and lonely. I would love to find a Transgender support group where I live that isn’t a pick up, I’m looking for sex type of thing, support it self would be nice, I went to one for months and didn’t get shit out of it, I got more from Pinkessence and people like you Michelle. I just want to know the real person behind the fear and the sex that seem so important to so many. I’m not saying this about everybody but most. I just want whats real and I think so would the Ex-Amish and others like them for the most part. I hope this made sense to everyone:)

    • Yes actually, it did! Very well said sister. Yes, I agree, so much of the hardship comes from fear, and really a fear of the different. It’s a hard thing to overcome, and the whole reason we still refuse to refute mom’s meatloaf, even though it’s made of sawdust and ground up roadkill. I’m sorry you couldn’t find a good group to belong to in your area that is focused on the right thing. I’m just going to put it out there though – the best groups are started by people seeking to fill a need that they are getting, because chances are, they are hardly the only one. 🙂

      Love, Michelle

  4. Interesting take on something that I appreciate, but have struggled to find my own thoughts on. I like the idea of being there for the next intrepid travelers, and also acknowledging those who were there for us.

    I have to say that it is a good thing that you pointed out early in the post that you were going somewhere with those thoughts. I was getting lost there for a minute. Also, your social life must rock. 10 hours of documentary in under a week? Yikes!



    • I paint a pretty picture of “a life less ordinary”, don’t I? 🙂 Yeah, the thoughts on this didn’t come easy for me either, but glad I was able to pull it together at the end at least! (or so I hope). I hope I can be there for the next batch as well, but right now simply setting a course for the end of the week, and with any luck, a 25 hour special on non-volcanic rock formation. 🙂

      Love, Michelle

  5. Stop spamming your blog on /r/transgender already!

    • While nothing moves me with such emotion as anonymous potshots and vague griping, I’m encouraged by your comment and inspired to submit even more to Reddit.

      “Compliment my actions and I well may repeat them;
      Criticize, and I’ll live by them.” ~ Me


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