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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Tolerated, Accepted or Supported?

SupportWhen announcing a huge ass decision such as undergoing gender transition, many people around you will declare in loud voices that they totally support you. Many of them, as you will come to discover, are filthy disgusting liars, which honestly, is kind of what they think of you. The topic for today is the difference between being supported, being accepted, and being tolerated. As I’m sure you have guessed by now, they are not at all the same thing. They are, however, better than being disparaged, abhorred, or killed, so we are really talking positives here, as thin as some of them may seem.

Many of the people who come out to say they support you in fact only tolerate you. There are two types of tolerance really – by choice, or enforced. Enforced tolerance is the kind you may expect to see at work. Because they are without options that won’t land them in the HR office hearing about what a huge dick they are being, they continue working with you, though may be visibly unhappy about it. This type also can apply to family. If the acknowledged head of the family is favorable to your transition, almost everyone else feels the need to toe the line, siblings often being the exception. By the way, I’ve noticed that negative reactions from siblings are very common and always wondered why. Either way, they stand to win, and you if you have siblings, you know good and damn well that there is a hierarchy there. If you were the golden child, your siblings should be ecstatic about your fall from grace and be bending backwards to assist you. If you were the black sheep, this only cements their standing. This should be really good news for them regardless.

The other kind of tolerance is by choice and generally occurs when they have no skin in the game. Your transition doesn’t really affect them in any appreciable way and they don’t have any strong prejudices about it. These are people who aren’t going to decline social engagements because they hear you are going to be there, but they also aren’t going to invite you to anything either. This will apply to the vast majority of people who know you. It is wise to understand who these people are, because they are certainly the ones who don’t want to hear the gory details of your electrolysis, breast growth, or GRS, especially if male. One might be tempted to amp up the tragic nature of transition, but this is a big mistake. Chances are, they view what you are doing is a lifestyle decision and any whining can quickly turn tolerance into scorn.

Better than being tolerated is being accepted. Generally this applies to friends, family, and other individuals who do actually have skin in the game. At some point they had to make a decision as whether the personal feeling they have about this is a deal breaker in the relationship. They can either walk away or come to the decision that they can accept what is going on here, even if they feel you were a deceitful scumbag for most of your life. The biggest mistake people tend to make in regards to people who accept them is that they are willing to help you. Most of the time, they are not. They can understand that you needed to do something here, but they certainly aren’t very excited to be a part of it. It is also worthwhile to note that people who accept you probably also resent you at the same time. They still like you as you, but are less than thrilled to lose a poker buddy, romantic partner, or heir to the family name.

The rarest class is those who support you. Often times, these are folks with a lot of skin in the game of you and are willing to put their money where their mouth is and step in and help. These folks are willing hear your stories, may come to your support meetings, or even help facilitate aspects of your transition. If you are smart, you will do whatever is necessary to keep such people in your life because they are pure gold in terms of helping you to feel all right about yourself. Transition is a horribly selfish process and many of us suffer from more than a little guilt about the perceived wake of destruction left in your path to happiness. There is a good chance that supporters were caught in that wave and probably have some feelings about it as their lives were irrevocably changed and in some cases temporarily ruined. Accepting that responsibility is a good idea because as crappy as it feels sometimes, they payback is well worth it.

Transition is a high risk venture, and everyone who doesn’t oppose you should be appreciated whether they stand on the sidelines, decide you are the world’s greatest asshole but their asshole, or are willing to travel hundreds of miles just to drive you from the hospital to a GRS recovery location. It may not be all you were hoping for, but be grateful for what and who you have.

Trans Fatalism and Bradley Manning

FatalismWas everyone here aware that US Army soldier Bradley Manning, the person who made Wikileaks a household name (prior to this I assumed it was some sort of ‘golden showers’ thing and kept my distance) may be transgender? No one tells me anything. Seriously, we could be marked for extermination, packed into trains, and I’d think we were all just going for ice cream until someone elbowed me in the ribs and clued me in. Regardless, it came as a surprise to me. Kind of.

Here’s the part where I go off on a tangent for a spell, so feel free to skip ahead to the main point if you are one of those baffling people who reads the last page of a book first. So, before getting to my point, I want to say that this is not so good for the trans. It’s hard enough for us to regain the trust of those around us, and society in general, after skulking around for so many years as the wrong gender without significant acts of high treason, or at least the perception thereof. “First you lured me in with the pretense that you were a man, and next thing I know you’ll be priority mailing the Mrs Field’s cookie recipe to Kim Jong Un!’ Don’t laugh; with delicious gooey cookies in supply, he can keep that poor population in line for the next few decades. Seriously though, ‘trans = traitor’ is just not the kind of two and two that does us a whole lot of good.

From what I read, Bradley did what they did (giving the benefit of the doubt here pronoun-wise) out of a sense of correcting what they saw as a great wrong, and did so with a sense of fatalism. Bradley allegedly contemplated a life in prison as a result of their actions prior to taking them. Unfortunately, that sense of fatalism is something endemic to the trans population. Now that I’m getting to the main subject, let’s talk about that for a minute. To be clear though, I’m not going to directly address suicide here. Trans suicide is a very serious topic that I don’t have the right background or experience to tackle without the risk of causing harm, so I won’t do it. I consider myself very fortunate for being part of an all too small subset that never contemplated this, but believe in showing the utmost compassion and empathy for those who have.

Fatalism, however, is another story. I think that prior to full self-awareness and willingness to address the problem, many trans often have a certain sense of doom when it comes to contemplating the rest of our lives. It springs from the dawning realization that these feelings just don’t seem to be going away, no matter what actions we take to try to correct or heal ourselves. In fact, they just keep getting worse, and the world becomes a bleak and scary place with the walls closing in with almost imperceptible slowness. This fatalism is really just the expression of a loss of hope, that everything is not going to turn out OK, and that hard work and perseverance aren’t going to mean a damn thing. It’s not necessarily true, but those of you reading this who are trans might be able to understand where I’m coming from.

The real piss of it is that launching oneself into transition doesn’t always cure this sense, and many of us turn into big negative Nellies as a result. The reason is that transition doesn’t cure all of one’s problems, just one, while introducing a big hoary host of others in the process. The loss of relationships, loss of regard of peers, loss of employment, loss of anonymity, and even lost of self-esteem are common, and generally weighed against the benefits of transition in the hopes that a clear winner will be made clear and tell us what to do. It also comes with the sudden realization that the completion of transition is not life’s endgame. I’ve just come to this one myself. While October is a huge milestone in my overall existence and the capstone of my transition, I have to start planning my life for after that time. It’s a strange feeling when the final barrier comes close enough to understand there are lots and lots of them after that. No worries; I’m ready. At least that will be behind me and I’ll be a bit wiser for it.

Back to Bradley. Bradley’s sense of fatalism brought them to a place where the consequence of action probably seemed vague and meaningless; just another possible bleak future in an already bleak existence. As a result, Bradley will probably spend most of the remainder of their life in prison and I find that very sad. Whether you consider Bradley a hero of villain for doing what they did is immaterial. Bradley will likely not have the opportunity to make other difficult roads we here are more familiar with, or at least not for a long time. Because of this, and so many others like Bradley, I think we are behooved to keep in mind that being transgender is not an insurmountable problem, and that transition in and of itself only solves so much, but pushing forward is like opening oysters. It’s going to be hard, you might get cut, you might find a pearl, and at the very least, you get to eat oysters.

Finally, I want to once again reiterate, especially to anyone who stumbles on here doing some shady research. Being transgender in no way, shape, or form predisposes someone to being more likely to commit acts of high treason, or really any type of activity that can be considered unethical according to government or industry standards. Seriously, most of us are trying to shake the whole ‘deceptive’ label all together and really didn’t need this sort of thing.

He Came To My House and Called Me Fat!

Fat Girl“Michelle, I just wanted to say that I have noticed that you have gotten fat since last time I saw you. Seriously, you should think about laying off on the hormone shots.” I’m not making this up. These were the exact words my father-in-law spoke to me first thing walking through my front door this past Saturday morning. I did not take it well. I tried with a glib little, “Thanks, just what every girl wants to hear”, but it didn’t stop him. I also advised I was under medical care, but he kept going on until I finally flat out told him we were not going to continue this conversation. Can you believe this? Oh, and this unkindness of words had rolled out of the gullet of a man who had lap band surgery 4 years ago but still looks exactly the same as the before shot. It’s not easy, but he really works at it.

One of the great Irish family mottos I concocted is, “Compliment my ways, and I just may continue. Criticize, and I’ll live by them.” My Irish up, we went to breakfast with everyone riding with me receiving the full effects of my hissy fit. Though I intended to have egg whites with tomato on the side to break my fast, I ordered the big feta and gyro meat omelet with home fries, toast, and ate half my son’s pancakes, glaring directly at the old man every time I took a bite. While I’m not usually of the mindset to cut off my nose to spite my face, he really pissed me off with this and as a result, I ate like a pig all weekend, even though I really truly do need to lose some weight before October. According to my spouse, none of what happened is exactly atypical of the female experience.

I’m pretty sure I’ve disclosed before that I went through a period of a few years where I was downright huge. It was during one of my hopeless periods where I could not get comfortable in my body and decided to screw it all, eat like a starving wildebeest and grow my beard in for good measure. Seriously, I got really big. The whole time I was really packing it on though, no one said a thing to me. Nothing. I was perceived as male and therefore it was perfectly acceptable as I approached middle age to suddenly adopt the appearance of Dom Deluise. Hell, who doesn’t like a jolly fat man? I’m pretty sure Santa’s been ranked in the top 10 of People’s Most Beautiful People of the Year for decades running now. I did take off all the weight 5 years ago to with some accolades, but no one was going to say I looked like shit back when standard size doorways presented a problem.

Now that more and more people have made the mental transition to me being female, it’s a whole different story. “Should you really be eating that?” Mind you, I never get this from women. Women in general don’t care what my body type is and really only notice my appearance when I make my frequent fashion faux pas. In the male world, however, my weight apparently matters. I have never really understood why, but I think it has something to do with sexual desirability, being good “breeding” material, or something to show off to other men. If this is the case, I’m pretty screwed in this area whether I’m fat of thin. My best efforts are never going to result in “sexy”, my breeding days are over and didn’t exactly fit the bill anyway, and it’s really unlikely than any man I dated (should I ever) would be proudly showing off pics of me in a bikini to his buddies. I’m reasonably sure most women, cis or trans, can probably relate to this. But still, apparently our weight is a thing.

In my more masculine days I really didn’t get the whole weight obsession that some women around me had. So what? I didn’t see why anyone cares. Yeah, I get it now. It’s ridiculous that I should care what anyone thinks, but I find myself caring anyway. I hate that I have succumbed to this, but my self esteem is at least a tiny bit tied to whether I shop in the Women’s section or the Misses. The real piss of it is that my hormone balance sent my metabolism into a nose dive, I no longer feel as invulnerable as I used to jogging in the wee morning hours (not a big fan of doing it in daylight with lookie-lous around), food tastes better, and every woman’s fitness mag has more articles on how to schmear my nails right than workout tips or healthy recipes.

It’s all OK though. I will adjust or learn not to care. I know that the male world calculates my worth as a woman based on my dress size above all else and actively judges me on it (not that they don’t have enough other areas to judge, of which they also actively partake in). I know one thing for sure though. Even if I manage to become a fitness machine (for myself and no one else), every time the old man comes around, I’m ordering desert and will eat it, bite by bite, staring directly into his eyes.

When ‘Two-Point-You’ Feels Like Windows 8

Windows 8Michelle is great and all, but boy, we sure do miss Mike sometimes. This doesn’t get said aloud all that often, but it’s pretty apparent when people are thinking it, right? Welcome to Windows 8, the new roll out years and years in the making at unimaginable cost, but yet so awkward and clunky, and no one really seems to know how to interface with it. I mean you. Anyone who is undergoing, or has undergone gender transition should know exactly what I’m talking about.

There is bound to be a radical perception shift between what people always thought you were, and what you actually are now. We tell everyone that we are the exact same person inside, but now the outside just matches the inside a bit more. Nothing more than that, right? Ugh, not even close. I didn’t understand that before, but I’m finding it manifesting often enough that I finally have to admit that it’s true. My looks have changed, but so has so much more and it is bound to color the relationships I have with others. Sometimes in good ways, but in others we can’t blame people for having liked the old us just a tiny bit more.

Two weeks ago I had my mid-year performance review with my boss, and although it was generally favorable, I found myself getting emotionally defensive about one minor detail, and then as I attempted to explain, the tears started. Fuck. I can’t tell you how much that truly, truly sucked. Moreso because I was stuck in another hour long meeting with him and 3 other people directly after while sitting in the same chair I humiliated myself in moments before. Ironically, back when I was going by Mike, I used to brag that as a man, no one at work had the power to make me cry. It was true at the time, but oh how the mighty have fallen. It also occurred to me that my boss was thinking the exact same thing. Mike would have taken some constructive feedback with a big smile, a thank you, and plan to put it into action. It’s OK, I laugh about it now.

While going from stoic to emotionally volatile has changed some perceptions, some of the changes have been very positive. Believe it or not, some people actually like Windows 8 and feel it’s getting a bum rap. My relationship with other woman has changed for the most part for the better. I’m now forming friendships that are no longer tainted by the specter of that annoying opposite gender, sexual tension thing that used to make it so difficult. It’s not that I don’t still treasure my guy friends (with whom, thankfully, that awkward sexual tension thing failed to manifest), but there is only so much interest I can feign in sports, Shark Week, or “inaccuracies” in the new Superman movie. It’s nice to be treated as a female friend with no concerns that it is anything but that.

Getting down to the brass tacks, it’s OK to admit to both ourselves and others that maybe we are not still the exact same person inside. While most of the characteristics we had before certainly remain the same, our expressions of them can undergo changes. Parts of our personalities, our interests, and how we interact with others are bound to transform. Maybe not so very much, but a little, and it’s enough to be noticeable. If we can be OK with this being true, it’s a little easier to come to terms with the fact that others are going to notice as well and that some might not be overjoyed.

In the beginning of all this, so many moons ago now, I took all perceived rejections hard. I assumed immediately that some of the cooling of relations had to do with inherent prejudice of what I am; a hardening toward the same person in different clothes. I’m sure there was some of that. I’m also sure there are some who just liked me as ‘Mike’ a little better. I am different, I have grown, my focus has changed, as have some aspects of my personality. Fortunately my sense of humor hasn’t, but it’s just not enough to maintain some of the more shallow friendships. All of this is OK though, because even if some preferred the old, I’m  so much happier and contented being who I am now, and that is going to have to be enough.

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