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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Somebody That I Used to Know Redux

A while back I swiped a post title from Gotye’s song, “Somebody That I Used To Know” to talk about somebody’s that I used to know. A little awkward now since one of them since friended me on Facebook. Well, I’ve said it before, this is the year of awkward, so no biggie. I’m going to risk some further awkwardness and push along the same lines, even though there is a chance (not sure how good of one, but still) they are right now penning me a beautifully supportive missive that will arrive mere moments after I post.

Before I go into that, I do want to be clear about something. I really, truly have nothing to complain about. The support I have received far exceeded the rosiest of my expectations in every regard. Many of those I was dead certain would right me off as an aberration and abomination have displayed a level of understanding and love that shames me for any doubts I ever had. I know this has not been the experience of most trans, and although I will likely never be in the !% of wealth, I am for certain in the currency of friendship. Even so, I am going to go on about this one person, because I was happy with the mental conversation I had with him and wanted to share that at least.

To give you some background, I worked with him for about 8 years and we did a number of projects together. Aside from that, we established what I thought was a close friendship. We’d afternoon walks to chat about this and that, and went out to lunch about every other week. He used his truck to help me pick up stuff from Lowes, and was my go-to guy when it came to home repair knowledge. I encouraged his forward thinking on how to move the company forward, reviewed his presentations and advocated whenever I had the opportunity. When he was laid off a year or so back, I used the best of my writing ability in recommendations, one of which he credited for getting him his next position. We often met up at the grocery store and always made follow up plans. When I officially came out this summer, I sent him both a long personal letter as well as a copy of my ‘Friends and Family’ letter that got me so many positive responses. Silence.

The other day he saw fit to write my ex and asked how she is doing. She sent a very nice and very honest reply that she shared with me. He wrote her back along the lines of “I don’t understand the psychology behind what Mike is doing (even though she identified me as Michelle), and I can’t find it in me to forgive him”. Yeah, I wasn’t totally thrilled by that, and I’m not even talking about the ‘Mike’ and ‘him’ part. Not understanding, fine, even though my letter explained it well enough for everyone else who received it, but also included both references for further information, as well as a very open invitation to ask me absolutely anything. But “forgive me”? Seriously? I clearly didn’t understand that his perception of my gender was the critical lynch pin that held our friendship together. Something he so dearly counted on as one of the pillars of his existence.

I naturally began to imagine the inevitable face to face, or even email to email. I can’t help it, I do that when I’m upset about something. It was easy to conceptualize his perspective (accuracy highly questionable of course); his rigidity about certain things is well known to me. “You represented yourself as male, made decisions as if you were, and therefore you are obligated then to continue on and suck up any namby-pamby feelings you might have otherwise, because that is your responsibility.” Yeah, I had heard his opinions enough to understand his position that ‘personal responsibility’ trumps any unfortunate circumstance. After all, if he managed to achieve some success as a white male from an upper middle class stable family, and paid for education background. Anyone else’s failure to do so was a clear choice on their part. If and when we meet up, and we will because Buffalo is just not that big, I imagine he is going to say something along the lines of, “You deliberately deceived me and everyone else, and chose this incomprehensible path without any regard for your family and friends.” To be clear, this may be my own circumstantial guilt speaking as well.

I want to tell him that he took no time to attempt to understand. I want to tell him that this is not at all about him; a friend at work said he had no stake in this and so had no right to any feelings about it, so why can’t he understand that as well? I want to ask him why he couldn’t even be bothered to ask me. I want to put him in my shoes and ask him, realistically, if he (a portly man) were told to run a marathon or lose absolutely everything, how long he could truly run before it just wasn’t possible to do so anymore, no matter what the consequences. If it’s all truly a choice, shouldn’t he be able to keep going? I want to tell him that in a world of no good option, I chose to stop, lose and live over running to death; a path where everyone loses. I want to tell him I’m disappointed that the package the friendship came in is more important than the quality of the content.

I doubt I’ll say much of this at all. For one, not many people have the patience to stand silently under a barrage of poignant and meaningful questions. I’m also really not that eloquent in person. Chances are, when I see him at the grocery store he’ll simply pretend not to notice me and engage in passive aggressive silent shunning.

I have nothing to complain about. I’m truly blessed by the overwhelming generosity of spirit I’ve been showered with. I love all the family and friends who knew me before and stayed, and I love all those I met after who have also become so important in my life. Still, I’m human and all too capable of irrational or invalid feelings of disappointment. No one really loves a lack of resolution either, even if it comes in the form of a ‘piss off and die’ message spray painted on the side of my dog (actually I’d be pretty heartened with that; she’s really fast and it would show a sincere effort). It will happen though. His prized ladder is still in my garage.

An Idiot Abroad and the Lady Boys

I found a new favorite show this week called ‘An Idiot Abroad: Bucket List’. The whole premise is that Ricky Gervais and some other guy send the same poor fool out on worldwide adventures to fulfill common items on people’s bucket lists. The funny part is that the guy has no desire to do any of these things, and Ricky takes special measures to ensure even an innocuous sounding item, like swimming with the dolphins, results in a bad time for him. It’s pretty hilarious, as the idiot himself is quietly serious and complains considerably about his little side assignment like being roped into Mongolian honor wrestling in traditional garb, or being buried alive by a suspicious looking shaman in the Siberian wilderness.

On the last episode, when he was in Thailand to swim with dolphins, Ricky sent him to spend some time with the lady boys. “Oh, here we go.” My expectations of how the poorly misnamed Thai trans would be portrayed was pretty low. Generally speaking, having someone sent to spend time with you because it would be hysterical doesn’t speak well how you are perceived by them. I saw what happened when they dumped him in a segregated Chinese village specifically for little people, whom they still referred to as ‘dwarfs’. It also didn’t bode well that the very title of the show designated this guy as an idiot, and none of his actions or opinions prior to this really swayed the viewer away from it.

As a side discussion, I’m sure not a whole lot of us care for the term ‘lady-boy’ to begin with. The very implication is that this is someone of the male gender who remained as such, and had the descriptive term ‘lady’ slapped in front to designate “him” as a particular kind of male. This becomes especially infuriating when it remains after the person has already had SRS or GRS, or whatever we are calling it this week. Not that this really matters since being mentally female equals being female, but bottom surgery is a powerful enough statement to even convince the bureaucracy that enforces government documentation. To me the term seems like a way of marketing these individuals to the type who take a fancy to the trans.

It wasn’t as super bad a depiction as I thought it was going to be, although it strayed in typical territory. They took him for a manicure and pedicure of course, because trans people naturally spend all their time in nail salons, something I have done twice now in my life (fine, I do like pedicures, but it’s only so I can wear sandals in the summer and not look all gross buckets). Next of course they are dying to give him a makeover. This part kind of annoyed me because I think it plays right into the fear that insecure masculine men have that we are out to make them more girly. Ugh, as if! Personally, I can’t think of anything more onerous than trying to slap makeup on some hairy faced dude and picking out an outfit for him on top of it. I can barely dress and do my own face without looking like a hooker or the old lady from ‘Hee-Haw’.

The idiot took it all as well as he does anything with lots of complaining followed by him waxing philosophical. He ruminates on whether he would care if his long time girlfriend “used to be a bloke” and decided he didn’t care as long as the parts he cared about were there to “do the job”. Oh, they are going to fight when she catches this episode. Then he went on to say one of the good parts would be knowing “it was really a bloke” and so he would no longer have to carry all the grocery bags or buy flowers. “Really a bloke”? That’s just great. Then again, I suppose that might be the ultimate straight male fantasy to have a best bud to watch the game with, not worry about being sensitive, and still bend over the coffee table for a quickie without feeling gay. It’s probably also the gay male fantasy also, you know, without that last part about not feeling gay.

Well, the title of the show did designate him as an idiot and they did deliver. In abundance when it came to this issue. It did serve as a reminder though that a great many people do still look at us as if we are “really” a man or woman, but in disguise for some reason. At least this idiot had the “bollocks” to come clean on it.

Tranny Chasers

A few months ago at one of my Spectrum meetings, a young trans man said he heard there are certain people attracted specifically to trans folks. The reaction in the room was one of immediate revulsion. “Oh. Ugh. Tranny chasers. You really want to keep away from them!” The facial expressions of the other attendees immediate confirmed the statement. I give our young friend a huge amount of credit for asking, but he accepted the answer and never asked, “OK, why?” It took a while to rattle through my cobwebs, but yeah, why?

I’m reasonably certain they don’t use the term to describe themselves, but we in the trans community do. It’s a way to slap an unfavorable label on a class of people who displease us, ironically working in a term many trans people don’t care for at all. I think the topic is worth a bit of exploration.

First off, what is a tranny chaser anyway? To quote some giant of psychology whose name escapes me, “if it exists out there, someone has a hard on for it.” Peccadillo, paraphilia, fetish, or desired demographic; people have them in spades for everything from shoes to weeping sores to handlebar mustaches. Most of the reading I did about these back in the 90’s indicated these often became imprinted in early childhood, and as I can only assume no new information was gathered since I stopped paying attention, I can only hold that remains the likely answer. A desire for trans people, however, seems harder to explain than a yen for redheads or truck-bumper rubber testicles. Mystery for the ages or not, they exist and they want us.

The overall impression I get is that the real turn on is the parts we may have that are contrary to our self perception. Cover your eyes for a second if you are sensitive to language, but it’s ‘chicks with dicks’ I’m talking about. There are a lot of armchair theorists who would advance that they are merely people with homosexual tendencies who are unready to admit it, and so dabble with a safe gateway gender before taking the plunge. I don’t think so. I think their overall preference is exactly for transgendered people and it stays there.

A lot of trans people are seriously creeped out by this. Why is that? Let’s be honest for a moment; a great number of us don’t exactly have a lot of prospects. Some gay trans women have luck in the lesbian community, and a few straight trans women have very sketchy successes with straight men if they are reasonably passable. Trans men of either orientation appear moderately more desirable, possibly because trans men often end up being fairly awesome dudes. Some trans people like other trans people of either gender and others don’t. In any case, finding romantic happiness is an order of magnitude more difficult than in the cisgender world. Shouldn’t we then be happy that an apparent plethora of dudes love us exactly the way we are? Why do we say, “ick”?

The fundamental reason behind it is that the very thing they are attracted to is what we often most hate about ourselves. In a gathering of trans women who have not had bottom surgery yet, almost no one ever exclaims that they are going to “rock out with their cock out” over the weekend. Great, now I’m going to be tempted to say that sometime just to see everyone get all awkward and uncomfortable. No one does this because women shafted with male genitalia (really try not to take that the wrong way), are not super excited about it, and often loath the idea of anyone taking too great an interest down there.

I think the cis women out there can understand. If you have, say a giant hairy mole on your inner thigh (and let’s be honest, it’s really along the same lines as what I’m talking about) and you are mortally embarrassed about, how flattered are you that some dude is salivating over you because of it? It’s not really that big of a turn on, is it? The truth is, it probably creeps you out even more than someone who wants to smell your shoes. Guys, I’m not so sure get the problem. If I understand things correctly, in the same situation we might expect to hear, “Dude, this hairy taco shaped mole on my ass is getting me so much pussy!” Come on, it’s at least a little true.

OK, I don’t consider tranny chasers bad people, or necessarily weird people, or harmful. I don’t believe they can help their attraction and I don’t judge them for it. I’m tolerant of almost anything that goes on between consenting adult humans. I hope they find what they are looking for, but they’d have better luck satisfying a lust for bacon cheeseburgers in Israel. And in case you found this by googling keywords, um, thanks, but no.

“Legitimate” Rape and Warped World Views

Nothing really screws a politician over than being caught on tape saying what they really think ab out something. Whatever spin or damage control actions Todd Akin takes now are pretty transparent half-assed explanations to mitigate the hits he took for admitting his own crushing ignorance on what should really be a very pressing human issue. I’m not going to go on and on about his bullshit opinions, but focus on what really allowed him to think this way to begin with. It’s called “Just World Hypothesis” and it’s one of the scariest things out there.

The idea really boils down to the notion that legitimately bad things don’t happen to legitimately good people. If they do, it’s either a ‘blessing in disguise’ or maybe they weren’t such good people after all. In this context, old King Combover probably feels very justified in his opinions. After all, god, or whoever is in charge of enforcing this just world policy would never let a virtuous woman suffer the after effects of a horrendously violent crime by sticking her with an offspring who shares half his DNA, right? A well designed woman would have a handy override switch to keep something like that from happening, and if it failed for some reason, well, she probably really wanted it to begin with.

There are a lot of reasons that such a philosophy is scary. Sure, in a just world the asshole rapist still has free will, but the victim would clearly suffer no more than a few minutes of uncomfortable intrusion in an area she probably would have enjoyed in slightly different circumstances. Child sex abuse survivors are probably not nearly as prevalent as the liberal media reports, and those few who are real likely learned a valuable lesson and will go on to live happy productive lives. Ethnic cleansing and genocide only happen to populations who willfully rejected the right god. Crime never pays. The good guys always win (generally the guys who did choose the right god or course). Oh, and women are never born with penises, so clearly the whole trans thing is nothing more than a grab for attention or a skeevy scheme to gain access to watch real women pee.

I know, it seems like it should be really, really easy to knock this whole notion clear into orbit, because seriously, every single human out there thinks of themselves as a good person, and who hasn’t had tremendously shitty things happen to them? Some days all you need to do is wake up. The problem is that it has a faith based fail safe that appears so much more effective than the Todd Akin version of the female body. In the faith based paradigm it’s very simple. Bad people who willingly choose to do bad go to hell, and those who are good and chose the right god, go to heaven, which makes the crap they suffered seem like nothing at all. They even get the added bonus of watching those who harmed them be tortured for all eternity. I mean what good person wouldn’t want access to trillions and trillions of years of unspeakable suffering? It’s not such a great reward unless you get some agonized wailing to go with it. Makes perfect sense, even though most people can’t endure the pure joyous laughter of small children without breaking after two hours.

It’s fine in and of itself if that’s what people really believe. That is never going to change given the panoply of stuff out there that seems positively goofy to all non-believers who likely believe in something equally wacky, only different. It’s not so fine when people tasked with the responsibility of leadership attempt to set policy on the basis of their beliefs even when they conflict with the readily apparent common good, not to mention common sense. If global climate change seems firmly pegged to our industrial habits, it is incumbent upon them to attempt remedy rather than fall back on a biblical promise to Noah that the earth would never be made uninhabitable again. Leading by one’s conscience is only admirable when that conscience is urging one to consider that their belief paradigm might actually be way wrong.

I know, people like elect the faithful because they feel they are getting a guarantee of morality. After all, such individuals have never before betrayed either personal or public trust, right? Too few stop to consider that more faithfully stalwart a person is, the more likely they are to trump any empirically validated concept with the word, direct or indirectly conveyed, from their own highly specific deity. This seems like a dicey gamble to me since there isn’t a whole lot of agreement out there. Christians alone have hundreds of different sects, so if was at all clear what Jesus really wanted, I would think there would only be one.

The point of this little rant is to urge some caution when voting whether you are liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, or allegedly independent. The horse you might be backing just may view the world as a magical place where fairies swoop in and somehow tweak a woman’s physiology to retroactively withdraw ovulation in the event of rape. I can’t see where that can be good for anyone.

Shade the Changing Woman

With the exception of the last couple of years, all of my life I waffled between coming close to my identity as female, and running from it (or barring that, weighing it down with concrete shoes and pushing it into the Buffalo harbor). The coming close times are the ones that got some extra heavy Luca Brasi inspired footwear, and even today they continue to surprise me by bubbling to the surface now and again. I just remembered one, and thought it would make a good tale, or at least something you can pretend to be engrossed in because it’s your turn to take out the garbage.

I think we already established my cred as a geek girl, right? Seriously, for real, real. Not a buxom hottie at the San Diego Comic Con either in the slutty Manga outfit, but the mousy waif chick with glasses and pimples inexplicably trying to pull off She Hulk for some reason. That level of geek. Yes, my wardrobe does scream ‘Dr Amy Farrah Fowler’. Anyway, I suddenly remembered an incident from college, during a time I was working the worst job I ever had; counter chump at a comic book store. Ironic, as it had been my dream job for 8 years prior, but in reality, drove me from my illustrated escape faster than the sauerkraut eating champ in a hot elevator.

One night I took home as pay (I was often paid in comics instead of cash) a run of ‘Shade the Changing Man’ issues 21 through 35, a ridiculous sounding title with surreal psychedelic covers. My housemates were less than pleased, as the phone had already been shut off again and the good folks at Verizon had little tolerance for being mailed shitty no-name funny books in lieu of checks. I was happy though, and decided to start reading through the stack to “warm up” for cracking (for the first time) the psychology text for my exam the following morning. As per my usual custom of the time, I also cracked open a 40 of Old English 800 to keep my study session lively. In hindsight, it’s pretty amazing I lived though my early 20’s, not to mention graduated.

It turned out to be a good series, leading me to rationalize “just one more issue” before I began my studies. I got as far as issue 27 before I really got pulled into the story. I think we all know that up until then I was just procrastinating. The new story arc was titled ‘Shade the Changing Woman’. If I remember correctly, and we are talking 20 years ago now, the title character somehow ended up inhabiting the body of a woman for a while, kind of ‘Quantum Leap’ style, only totally different. All of a sudden, Shade was Naomi and attempting to deal with different clothes, breasts, having people interact with him as a her, and whatnot. Yep, it certainly had my attention.

As ‘Naomi’, Shade was guided by his two female friends, Kathy and Lenny, who had a mix of discomfort and delight respectively in teaching him the ropes. Looking back, Shade as Naomi got way too freaked out by men staring at her breasts and attempting to pick her up, but it was a good yarn. Coming across this hit me pretty hard. Really, really hard. The story resonated with me in a lot of ways I wasn’t able to think about yet. I ended up reading those two issues over and over again until about 4 AM. I finally fell into a cliché feverishly dream haunted sleep with my psych book tucked uncomfortably under my pillow, unopened.

I woke up in the worst way when my alarm went off 3 hours later. Well, almost the worst way. No one dumped a bucket of ice water on me, and morning reveille wasn’t calling me outside to sing the fricking Air Force song in the freezing wee hours, but I did have the flu. The stupid comic book taxed my inner defensive wall to the max and I could barely get out of bed. The stack of ‘Shades’ was on the floor, and I really didn’t want to look at it. I shoved the whole pile under the bed, where it remained until I moved out, and called my professor and convinced him I wasn’t just hamming it up over the phone. My real ‘sick’ voice unfortunately sounds way more fake than my fake ‘sick’ voice.

I’m sure there are lots of other similar bodies still weighed down where I left them at the foot of the pier, even though there is no good reason for them to stay there. The triggers that so often send me into a tizzy of denial and repression have lost their power and are now just curious relics of a misunderstood past like old mix tapes at the bottom of a storage box, copied with heated passion for someone who’s name you can’t even remember how to spell. I think I’ll dig them up and read them again, and hopefully this time have a good smile and laugh.

I Was Summer Scum

This is going to be a huge shocker, but I never really felt like one of the guys. No, seriously! There were plenty of times though when I gave it my best shot. I may not have pulled it off flawlessly, but I sure as hell tried to rise to the occasion. Some of you might guess the military, or my 4 years at an all-boy’s school, or even the Boy Scouts. Nah, not even close! The toughest environment came summers during college, when I had a gig for which my official title was Summer Scum.

I grew up in a suburb of Buffalo called Kenmore, and as many suburbs, nepotism may not have been the order of the day, but it sure did help. I got the job through my dad, and it was widely regarded as a political plum. So wide, that the first question asked of me on my first day was, “so who do you know to get this?”. Kind of sad when the best plum in town is a ‘summer scum’ gig, but it also paid the princely sum of $5.50 an hour; a 72% raise from my Denny’s stint in the dishroom. The point of the position was to keep a crew of lads on hand to fill in for the unionized regulars at the Department of Public Works, as well as do the shitty jobs they didn’t want to, like cut grass and walk the main avenues every morning picking up litter. There was one unwritten policy: we don’t hire chicks.

I did my very best to fit in, but it wasn’t easy. I dressed the part in my dad’s old Vietnam era fatigues and combat boots, but I think it was recognized early that I wasn’t quite one of the boys. I never fit well with all male environments having zero interest in sports, at a loss for coming up with crude jokes (mainly sexual in nature), never invented largely fictitious female conquests dripping with lascivious detail, or busting balls at every opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, it was all good natured (I think), but I was way out of my element. Anyway, they apparently knew this because they stuck me with Howard most of the time cutting lawns and picking up discarded Mike’s Subs wrappers with mayo schmeared on the outside so it got all over my hands. Howard liked to impart his wisdom on me as he pulled on an unfiltered Pall Mall before retching up a loogies that looked like a fried egg. “If you ever find yourself fucking a sheep, always pull your pants over your boots so they don’t fill up with shit.” I’m not making that up.

When I wasn’t with Howard, or his replacement Sam, I often got stuck on the back of a garbage truck or ‘packer’ as they called them. Holy shit was this a terrible assignment! I wanted to fit in though, so I worked my tail off to prove I belonged. If there was anything in the world that was going to wash the inner taint of femininity out of me, it was being sprayed with hot maggoty garbage juice, which happened a lot more than one would think. Heat exhaustion and muscle spasms from all the running and lifting didn’t hurt either. I hustled it though and got accepted as one of them, albeit a weird quiet one, on the value of hard work. I even picked up a nickname of dubious charm. ‘Meaty-Muff’, based off a comment engendered from the way I ate my Tina’s burrito. At least it was better than the guy known as ‘Jizballs’. Yeah, none of my proudest moments were found here.

While, surprisingly, it wasn’t the worst job I ever had, it also wasn’t exactly what I was going to school for. Well, maybe it was given my double major in English and Psychology, but still. My last summer after graduation was to be my last; a temporary placeholder until I could find a real job that never involved rooting through the trash behind Village Books and News to add to the impressive porn collection they kept in the basement. Yeah, that wasn’t weird, a bunch of sweaty garbage sauced men reading not so gently used Hustlers together in a dank hideaway. For some reason though, I had it in my head to stay.

Remaining there ultimately didn’t work out. There was only so much budget for summer scum, and no full time positions open, so I was tossed out on my keister, which was much for the best. Within a few months, and for years after, I wondered what on earth I was thinking wanting to sign up for a life of dodging liquefied dog poop as it sprayed from the back of a packer, or worse, dumping heavy cans of moldering Thanksgiving garbage in the cold November rain? Seriously, who wants that? Not me! In truth, I was running hard from myself, and I found what I conceived to be the most male environment I could find. There is just nothing pretty or feminine about honey dipping a backed up sanitary sewer on a hot August morning. I was accepted there, and no one had any cause to think I was different.

It’s no secret that so many of us do this. We seek what we perceive to be extreme forms of male pursuits in hopes that just enough of it rubs off to make us feel comfortable. We try to blend and assimilate and be one of them because that’s what we look like and it would just be so much easier than any alternative. Like anyone trying to melt into something truly foreign, no matter what kind of mighty effort is spent, we will always speak with an accent, because there is simply no living breathing cure for being born.

They Are All Going to Laugh At You

Adam Sandler did a great bit by this title in which he played a bizarrely inappropriate and neurotic mom who continuously warns her kids that everyone is going to laugh at them. It got annoying quick, but mainly because he used that voice he does for female characters that sounds like a billy goat who just got a wedgie. Kind of like mine, now that I think about it. Good thing I’m getting some help. As an aside on things to laugh about, I’m looking forward to the first search that pairs ‘transgender + billy goat’ and brings a new reader. You think I jest, but in terms of inexplicable search parings, it’s nothing more than hum-drum run of the mill.

I know I’ve brought this up before, but I think the trans community, not everyone but enough, takes itself waaay too seriously sometimes. I’m not thinking this is such a great thing, and in truth, I’m diametrically opposed to this, or would be if I knew what ‘diametrically’ meant. Look, it sounded kind of cool and sciency, so I went for it. I’m going to get even more technical and state that this seems like heap bad juju to me.

Before you all go paint me as the Uncle Tom (or more appropriately I guess Mrs Uncle Tom since she was never mentioned) of the trans population, I’m going somewhere with this. I’m not saying you are going to like it, but get to the end before filling your shotguns with rock salt. They, not all of them, but a few, are going to laugh at you (and me for that matter) and we have to be OK with that. It’s not right, and often hurtful, but until we master the monumental task of educating the world population and attaining dignity through knowledge sharing, it’s an inevitable thing. In the mean time, we can choose to be laughed with or laughed at.

Culturally speaking, western culture (probably others, but western for sure) finds gender bending to be a hilarious thing. I don’t know the reason why, but Hollywood always manages to capture the taste of the lowest common denominator and cater to it. Hence, we end up with a lot of shitty movies, with a few good ones thrown in for good measure, and TV shows that center around some zany circumstance where men have to pretend to be women. Regardless of the fact that our lives don’t resemble any of this, the effect is felt from time to time.

We know it’s wrong and it does make us angry. It’s not terribly different than the old 1940’s era Warner Brothers cartoons and the hideous depiction of African and Asian minorities. OK, not quite that bad, but we often feel the same about it. The natural human response is to indignantly tell people off. This is a terrible idea. With the exception of truly horrific tragedy at the root, people generally don’t react with a lot of sympathy when told off with great indignation. If they were laughing to begin with, this is likely to make them laugh more and generate a sense of helpless fury. I certainly don’t want to feel helplessly furious and don’t want anyone else to either.

Instead our best path forward is to learn to laugh at ourselves a bit. I’m not saying to slap on some zany tights and implausibly oversize mary-janes and adopt the guise of Tranny the Clown or anything. I am saying that in a culture where dressing as the opposite gender is the epitome of hilarity, it behooves us to acknowledge the inherent humor in our transition predicament. It’s an awkward time for us and it’s just something people are going to notice, especially if they knew us “before”. The awkwardness is uncomfortable for us of course, but also for them, as I’ve droned on about so many times. Naturally awkwardness is rated as being even funnier than gender issues, compounding the issue. All we need to do is develop a propensity for slipping on banana peels and we’d be triple threats.

When we can recognize this and laugh at ourselves for it, we make ourselves human to those who laugh because we are hitting their cultural humor buttons as they figure out what to make of what they are seeing. There is dignity and strength in bemused public self reflection, and that is what we really want people to see, isn’t it? By recognizing that our transitions are an unavoidable source of amusement, accepting it, and validating the awkward discomfort of society, we highlight our inclusion as members and not bizarre outsiders. Becoming a big ball of pissiness does none of this. It takes strength to laugh at oneself and everyone knows that, and it’s so much better than crying.

The Future’s So Dark, I’m a Fool To Wear Shades

My whole concept of the future sense of things was always fuzzier than a peach in an Ewok costume, and it’s gotten much worse. I have no idea if any of this is even remotely trans related, but just in case it is, I thought I’d go into it for a bit to feel you all out and see if I strike a chord of similarity with anyone. The more we collectively learn about the condition of our existence the better for us and the better for those who come after.

Now my sense of the past is rock solid. I can recall the very tiniest of minutia of past events, conversations, and life in general. Well, for the most part. If said recall involves proper names or numbers of any kind, my mind goes blank and I fill in something inappropriate. And all this time my friends and family probably thought my propensity for using horribly exaggerated figures and cutsie or insulting nicknames for people was my quirky little way of being clever instead of covering for the fact that I have no idea.

The future, however, has always been a very vague concept; like I said, kind of fuzzy, foggy or downright non-existent. It’s had a few major effects so far, the first of which is turning me into a horrible procrastinator. If I don’t have to do it right this very second, it immediately gets shunted into a category of things of which there is a high probability I will never have to do them. Tomorrow is just a figment of imagination. A farcical entity in which to dump unpleasant tasks. Naturally, one of the other effects is that I tend to get surprised a lot. “Holy shit, is that today? Dammit! How the hell did that happen?” Let’s just say I’ve learned how to wrap a gift and drive stick shift at the same time. I get around this at work by keeping a rigorous schedule in Outlook, which I have set up to send me frequent urgent reminders constantly, and I found it much better than Post-It notes which don’t say jack shit, even if you highlight them or draw little cartoon stars around the urgent message. With hormones, it’s getting worse.

OK, not worse in the procrastination way. That’s started out as bad as it can be and still allow me to function as a human. Kept the status quo there, so that’s good. The big picture stuff is now hazy though as well. Like Buffalo snow squall lack of visibility where you are driving blind until you go under an overpass and for . 3 seconds and spot the slow moving Buick you were about to slam into. Yeah, I can deal, but it starts to feel uncomfortably dangerous as well.

Five years ago, I think I had a great 5 year plan going; big picture stuff as opposed to the day to day. Looking ahead from 2007, I would have described 2012 to have me happily married, possibly with another child, another promotion at work, a sound financial plan, and some really cool renovations done on the house. Normal guy shit, I guess, but then again I’ve never really known for sure. As you can see, it didn’t quite turn out that way. I never imagined I would be deciding what to wear to work right now; it simply would have been khaki’s and my Tuesday shirt. Nice and easy. Now it’s not so easy, and chances are I’ll be kind of late because whatever I think I’m going to be quickly putting on, will be taken off with high pitched grunts of frustration because it makes me look like shit. This is the very least of it.

Since I’ve announced my big change, friends, family, co-workers, and miscellaneous busy-bodies like to pepper me with hard questions. What are you going to do? Are you keeping the house or selling it? Where do you think you will live? What are my spouse and son going to do? Are you ever going to attempt another relationship? What are your long term plans? What are you doing this weekend? Thursday night? I have absolutely no fricking idea about any of it. Not even a shadow of a clue. Toss a coin, shake up a novelty Magic 8 Ball, or have me perform a deep thought analysis and the chances the answer will be right is equal across the board. Vegas won’t take odds on it and that tall hatted little mobster dude from Bugs Bunny cartoons won’t either.

So, my future is very vague; a painted over window into a place that doesn’t even exist in my mind anymore. The good part about this is that I don’t even care. Not even a little bit. I’m happy being me in the here and now, and the wonderful thing is, when that gets old and stale, a new here and now will be here, whatever that looks like. Why fret over a chimerical future that keeps getting pushed forward anyway? Of course if I ever change jobs, I’m totally going to blow the old “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question. I’ll cross that bridge when it’s time, and if it even exists.

Is It Something I Said?

“All right then sir, we have you booked for 2:30 to have your bangs trimmed.” That was the last bit of communication to come over the phone about a month or so ago when I decided my hair would look much better with thicker bangs. I’m sure you caught the “sir” in there; I know I sure did. Honestly, when in the world has a dude ever booked an appointment for himself, identified multiple times as ‘Michelle”, to have his bangs done? Do guys even have bangs, like ever? I think you see the problem. In spite of the nature of the call, and enthusiastic identification as female, I was read right over the phone. Naturally I thought I was using my girliest voice.

It’s not good when one’s girliest voice makes people wonder if that’s Ron Perlman standing behind them. No one likes being mistaken for Ron Perlman, especially when they identify as female. My real problem is that I actually think I am doing a female voice because that is the way it sounds to me. Not so much, however, when it’s played back on tape. Dear lord do I hate that! Sure, fooling myself works wonders for allowing me to actually speak to people, but that doesn’t buy me a whole lot in terms of passing as female. Like I don’t have enough strikes against me in that department. Yeah, it was time to woman up and do something about that.

My ex, who has an amazingly talented singing voice and superior vocal control, attempted to give me some pointers. This was frustrating. Very frustrating. It kind of went along the same lines as when I attempt to talk her through something highly technical over the phone with a bad connection, and both of us are eating extra crunchy chips. While I totally trusted everything she had to say on the subject was rock solid accurate, I also had little to no idea what any of it meant. My initial efforts sounded like the love child of Minnie Mouse and Goofy. Not so good. It didn’t take long to give this up, which was probably for the best. It’s not like this process has been super easy on our living situation to begin with.

I tried taking the next easier route and did some Googling. Ah the web, where anything you want is absolutely free, unless of course you want it to be accurate, and then it costs. I found plenty of sales pitches for computer based modules, modules on CD, DVD instruction, and even VHS and Betamax instruction. I’m not sure why these are still being sold, but whatever, it wasn’t what I was looking for. Learning conversational Tagalog using the Rosetta Stone seemed more simplistic. That teach yourself shit never really works for me, because as with everything else, I usually zone out and stop paying attention in less than a minute. Know your own drawbacks, right? Even the guys who work for me know to covey the relevant point in 20 seconds of less or face glazed eyes. I digress, and probably lost everyone out there who has my own attention span. Serves me right!

No, I was going to need professional intervention and took the roundabout way of looking for it. “Say, anyone else going to vocal therapy?” No answer, as typical anytime I reach out of the local trans community here. With a notable exception or two, I get the impression there are not a lot of writers among us. I was finally directed to an actual medical intervention option. I liked the sound of that, because it carried hope that my insurance would cover it. Sweet. I gave them a call and immediately found that I needed a prescription. Seriously, a prescription. For vocal training. Yes fine, I’ll call back when I have one. Jeesh. Luckily I had my endo appointment that week and she was very happy to run one off for me. I’ve come to notice that doctors get really excited when you dramatically increase your health and fitness levels when under their care, and they can be soooo accommodating after! Glad I started with her when I was a big hot mess.

Well, I just went to the first appointment and my therapist is a real peach and shares my sense of humor. Apparently in my wretched attempts to sound more female, I actually sound more male than ever. Well, that’s just great. Now I’ll never speak publically again! It was OK though, she promised to help me make dramatic improvements. The best part is that she has equipment. Fancy equipment that only runs on a Window’s 95 machine for some reason. It lets me see my tone, pitch and inflections plotted against a red line that divides perceived male from perceived female. While I can’t hear the difference, the machine can, and I understand the difference of what my mouth feels like when I’m on the female side of the line. Sure, I’ll never have the melodious dulcet tones of a Diana Agron or even Bea Arthur (someone the therapist explained had a better voice than I did), but I also won’t have legions of Ron Perlman fans asking me for an autograph unless my reflection is worse than I think also.

What’s In a Name Anyway?

It seems like a while ago since I somehow managed to scribble a whole post about how I came up with the name “Michelle”. Kind of a no brainer, don’t you think? Anyway, this isn’t about that; even I have some limitations regarding what I’ll subject you to. Today let’s talk about the fun process of legally changing one’s name. Let’s say it’s been less fun than my trip to the DMV 18 years ago when my license and all identifying documentation was stolen in broad daylight stick up. Story for another time, but proving I was me was no picnic and in the end I got a ‘pity license’, something I’m sure has not happened since.

The experts advised me to lawyer up and get it done, but my sense of rugged self determination compounded with my loathing to pay someone to do something as simple as paperwork led me in the opposite direction. Besides, if I left it to someone else I would undoubtedly be “Michele” right now. Trust me, it already happens a lot more than you think. I turned to a friend who just completed her own and received some extraordinarily helpful information. As it turns out, NYS in a fit of enlightened generosity, saw fit to stick some Do It Yourself (DIY) forms on the internet. 1-2-3, easy peasy, I’d be absolved of the loathsome process of producing a male license and cracking wise about it being a bad hair day. Yay! Of course this would be a real sleeper if it all worked that way.

I filled out my forms, inserted the boilerplate reasoning circulating around and printed it out. On an off Friday I schlepped down to the County Clerk’s office to figure out what to do next. The instructions were not terribly clear. There were a few pointers my friend left out. Tip #1: try not to wear a shitload of metal jewelry when you are going somewhere with a metal detector. Tip #2: there are multiple County Clerk’s Offices in the same building, none of which are marked “Turn In Your Name Change Paperwork Here, Stupid”. Tip #3: carry an umbrella in your purse when parking a mile away. Ugh.

After waiting in the wrong line for a while, I was directed to the right one and waited there. I got to the clerk, or whatever they are called, and proudly produced my immaculately perfectly filled out forms, birth certificate and declared with a lofty flourish that yes, I indeed have them notarized. She pretended not to be impressed, but I think she was. She took it out on me by shuffling through my paperwork with exaggerated confusion. “No, no, no.. this doesn’t make any sense! This should be here, and I don’t even know what this is…” Eventually she concluded that I violated government inefficiency by using a double sided print setting to save on paper; an abominable affront to the old growth logging industry. I was sent packing over to the law library in a heavy downpour with my worthless notarized forms.

The law library has a desk set up for people just like me, with a large neon sign above that reads, “Fucked it up, didn’t ya?”. I waited once again behind other people who fucked up their own paperwork. When it was my turn, she was very helpful, set me up with a computer to redo my forms and print them out. She advised, however, that I’d have to have them re-notarized. Any bank would do. With my second print out, I asked someone else where I could find the nearest notary. “Oh, she’s a notary”, she said pointing to the very woman who advised me earlier to go find a bank. Nice. I waited in line again and got my stuff notarized (she seemed grumpy that I found her out), then headed back out into the rain.

After that it was smooth sailing. I waited in line and bought me an index number. I then hand carried my forms over to another line and waited to turn them in, just to have someone dump them in a basket on the desk. Two weeks later I received my forms in the mail, rubber stamped for approval for my two hundred some bucks. I then had to make another trip downtown, park, and wait in line to simply hand my approved forms to a woman who put them into a different basket. Only an hour and a half, plus parking, just to have them end up in a basket a scant 100 feet from where they were approved by the judge. Madness. Oh, it wasn’t over yet!

Originally, my friend advised some clever wording to avoid having to publish my name change to make it official. I included this on my original, misprinted form, but in the mean time someone caught wise and they removed the option. Bastards. This meant a trek from the County Clerk over to the Buffalo Law Journal so I could take out a personal ad no one would ever read for an additional $45, even though putting it on Craigslist would ensure wider distribution and free, but the judge seemed inclined to help out the old boys at the journal who probably needed the cash, since he specified them and only them. I know, I know, I was too weary to protest though and just wanted the thing done.

Now we are all caught up to the present, and I have the feeling Part II is coming shortly after I have to go to the DMV, explain things to the bank, as well as some additional inflexible organizations. Should be a hoot!

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