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Category Archives: Anacdotal

OK, So I Was a B About the Tree…

Witch on WheelsYes, I know, I know, I know. It’s been about ten years since my last post. I hit a wall a while back after I assumed that I covered every major topic I could possibly think of. I have about a dozen or so posts still in the half-completed state, mainly because I was either really reaching to make it trans related, or the topic was covered to death and I didn’t have anything new to add. Plus I have been slowly cranking on the book that will likely see publication only after J. Edgar Hoover rises from the grave to crush us all beneath his massive Christian Louboutin’s. Good times for all to be sure.

Today I’d like to talk about a pretty big change in myself I’ve come to notice over the past few months. No, I’m not talking about the Zetti’s pizza induced two or three stone of extra weight I now carry. Sorry, I know you have to look that up, but I’m not about to go and advertise, am I? Nope, something much different. Seems old Michelle went and grew herself a pair. Not in the “they seem to have come back, Dr. McGinn!”, thank goodness, but in the mental way. Who’d have thunk it?

For the vast majority of my life, I’ve been what you would call a “people pleaser”. Not that I was so wonderful at succeeding all the time, but boy did I try, even when there was no sane reason to do so. At work this is a very good thing because most bosses like see a healthy brown color when deciding who to give the big raise to or mark for promotion. In every other area of life, it simply means getting the rotten end of any deal. Generally, in any situation I could screw myself over just to ensure people often of no consequence in my life, or even reprehensible, might like me for the supreme benefit I was providing them. Contractors, doctors, veterinarians, waiters and waitresses, mortgage brokers, car salesmen, and all manner of affiliated scum all thought dealing with me was just the cat’s ass.

A few years back we needed a new roof and called the biggest name in town, Rott and Son (or Rotten Son, as I think of them) and we joked about how this guy, who asked us up front if we were getting any other quotes (to which we answered no) was going to slide a jaw dropping sum scribbled on a folded piece of paper across to us. We told him this, thinking it was funny, to which he laughed and did exactly that. Thirty-three THOUSAND dollars for some plywood, tar paper and shingles. Our house isn’t even very big. He was very nice though, so we signed and filled out the complex loan paperwork with interest rates that would have equaled a total value of about $50K paid, nearly half the value of the place. For a roof. I did say he was nice and we wanted him to like us? Fortunately pushing the loan through would have required some tricky business with name substitution on the deed, and my laziness overcame my desire to make him deliriously happy. The roofer we eventually got cost less than a third of that with full tear off and torch down rubber on the flat part to boot.

I was a little worried that my GRS/ GCS/ GAS would serve to make me even more of a well scuffed carpet beneath the muddy hobnailed boots of people I pay to do things. Not even close. As Phil Dunphy, the Count Chockula looking dude from ‘Modern Family’ once said, “Looks like this kitty has claws.” I think that sounds a little nicer than what people are really thinking, which is that I’ve gone and become a real bitch on wheels. When Tivo rolled out a software update that suddenly disallowed Netflix to work on my now antiquated CRT TV (look, I want a new one, but I can’t lift the old one out of the way anymore), I got on the horn and negotiated a rock bottom monthly rate in perpetuity. When my neighbor’s tree guy smooshed half my blackberry bush, I marched back there and gave the foreman an earful. When that wasn’t to my satisfaction, I left nasty messages on their phone service and website. I was about to go apeshit on them on Angie’s List when the owner himself came over, offered to fix everything and gave me a hundred bucks cash just to make me happy. Gotta say, I’m not hating this.

I had to think about it a bit before it came to me. Why did the total lack of testosterone suddenly turn me into a confident, non-green She-Hulk when it came to dealing with people? The truth is that I get stared at every day, everywhere I go. My ability to care in the slightest went up in smoke. I used to be filled with existential angst that people would look at me and judge, and it wasn’t even really the real me when I was doing so as a dude. Now for sure they do look at me in judgement, but their thoughts just don’t mean a thing. I am me now, the real me, and even when I leave the house looking like Benny Hill in drag (most days), I have the confidence in knowing I am interfacing with the world as my own true self.

Note: Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, just because I no longer walk around with “sucker” stenciled on to my forehead doesn’t mean I’m any less polite or nice to people. I also tip waiters and waitresses at least 20% unless there is clear evidence they sneezed on my chimichongas. This note probably wasn’t necessary, but even if I don’t care if you like me or not, It’d still be real peachy if you did.

Hellooo Nurse! … GRS continued…

NurseOK, before I continue on my thrilling tale of my surgical experience, I need to set the record straight. It seems some think that I had some kind of unusual terrible experience. This is not at all what I’m trying to say. I don’t do a lot of whiney “oh heavens, cry for me” type posts, and when I do, you will know about it. You’ll bawl like a kid who dropped his chocolate twisty cone into a pile of dog poop. At least with vanilla you can pick the gross bits off if you like. I am, however, trying to set realistic expectations so no one has a mental picture of the bandages coming off and pretty little butterflies fluttering out of there. As for the title of this post, your geek cred is hereby revoked if you don’t remember the Animaniacs.

Last we left off, I awoke from surgery with a terrible sore throat and lots of well wishers calling me. I love them all dearly, but was praying for some kind of disaster to take out the cell towers and let me suck tiny ice chips in peace. For the first 2 days I was not allowed to even sit up, so had to find ways to entertain myself. I figured out the exact timing on the morphine pump and tried to hit it the very second it turned back on. If I jumped the gun, I got a heartbreaking ‘ur-uh’ sound, but practice got me good enough to hit that sweet ‘bleep’ every time. Three times in a row, and it would put me to sleep for up to 20 minutes. After 48 hours of this, I was incredibly tired. There was a TV, but it was one of those LCD dealies that only works right when you are looking right at it. Laying on my back, I could only look up and to the left, making all the images a negative view. I can’t believe fucking ‘Charmed’ is still on like 3 times a day.

Many people describe waking up for surgery and saying it was the happiest they ever felt. I love the idea of that, but I have to be honest here; it wasn’t the happiest I ever felt. I was much happier the day my son was born, the day I got married, and really even the time two bags of cheddar and sour cream Ruffles fell from the vending machine. I was very happy it was done, and felt a sense of calm relief, but in terms of feeling different, it was impossible to tell yet. For all I knew it was just a big gag and someone worked me over with a crowbar for a bit, then packed the area with a shitload of ice and bandages. Besides, I always looked at this operation as a means to achieve future happiness, rather than being the answer to all my prayers in and of itself. It’s like new car elation. At the beginning it seems very exciting, but eventually the thrill of going to work and home wears off. It’s the potential of taking that epic road trip or Wallyworld vacation that makes it all worthwhile.

On Thursday I experienced vast improvements. I was finally given food in the form of the ‘not so clear’ liquid diet. Hot tea, milk, juice, weird tasting “vanilla” ice cream, and something just plain nasty labeled ‘strained cream soup’ that I think was meant for toddlers as it tasted like a mixture of paste and boogers. Ironically, after all my aching and griping, I was no longer hungry. They also took me off of my sweet, sweet morphine pump and replaced it with stupid Vicodin. I was finally allowed to sit up and hate ‘Charmed’ from a better view. Best of all, my mom and aunt finally arrived after being lost in the wilds of Pennsyltucky for many hours, fastidiously following the directions of a malevolently erroneous GPS that they borrowed from my sister. I warned her not to use it to scrape ice off her boots, but whatever.

The nurse gave me fair warning early on that they were expecting me to attempt getting out of bed and standing later on that day. I made myself ready. Prior experience with nursing staff taught me that once a doctor, even one that didn’t see you in person, decided you were ready for something, it was going to happen. The easy way is to do whatever is necessary to comply and maintain a friendly, positive relationship with the staff. The hard way is to listen to your body and offer complaint or resistance and invite irascible prodding with escalating urgency. I took the easy way, and even though it felt like I was straddling red hot iron saw horse. I grit my teeth, rolled over, and stood on shaky feet. “Do you think you can take a few steps for me?” You bet your ass I can! My call button was always answered immediately when that damn machine started its beeping again. This is definitely going on the list of hints and tips I’m putting together. Work with the nurses and life is sweet.

I received a trans visitor not long after my first walk. Cynthia popped in to say hello and it took me a day and a half to figure out that she wasn’t a patient, even though she probably told me. I was super impressed that she was in real person clothes and walking around unassisted. I later found that her wife was the one who was Dr. McGinn’s other patient of the week. There is something very heartwarming in encountering one of your own in challenging situations, though I felt terrible that her wife was having a harder time getting up and probably getting a bit more of the pissed off nurse routine that I was so much trying to avoid. I got a little something that maybe there was some underlying irritation that I was zipping up and down the corridor like some fancy pants show off, but even so, she could not have been sweeter.

Friday came and they were ready to give me the boot, and in grand hospital tradition, at some undisclosed time. I truly doubt our military keeps the timing of critical operations under wraps half so well as hospitals. Could be this morning, could be after lunch, could be tonight, tomorrow, next month, or never. Who really knows? I was given my first solid breakfast and devoured it. I’d say the bacon was the best I’d ever had, but I say that about every piece of bacon I cram in my pie hole. At the specified time, my mom and aunt were ready and waiting. A few hours later, I managed to get myself dressed and was wheeled down, along with my humongous suitcase (Really? You aren’t going to move that yourself. No. ~ Dr. McGinn), to my aunt’s car. Several acrobatic moves later, I was seated uncomfortably in the passenger seat on my donut pillow and off to the bed and breakfast.

Coming soon, or when I get around to it: Why a donut pillow does jack shit on a bumpy road; the worst night; I cry; and why a B&B is a gorgeous and insanely ill advised place to try to recover in.

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.

A Smear of Trans Blood on the Glass Ceiling

glass-ceilingMy forehead is still trickling a bit of blood and the bruising hasn’t quite subsided all the way just yet. I should have seen it coming, but didn’t. I mean really, I’ve talked about it, written about it, and joked about it and still ambled on in my merry way until I smacked right into that invisible barrier head first and fell to my knees. In my defense, it was a lot closer than I had expected it to be, and someone had cleaned it so perfectly that I never even got a glare of reflection. Some sticky fingerprints or dead birds laying around it would have been nice. That way one might think twice before making a great leap of faith and end up crumpled on the floor ashamed and just a little bit broken. Should I not have expected that being trans? Let’s talk about that a little bit.

I’ll be flat out honest here. I have no idea whatsoever if my gender identity was much or at all a factor in what happened. It could just have easily occurred if I went for the position as ‘Michael’ and I would have been just as surprised and crushed. I have no reason to think it because the company has been great and very supportive of my transition and I do not feel like I have been discriminated against in any way, shape or form. At the same time no one really knows what lurks in the hearts of others, and I was reasonably (no, paranoid) sure that some members of the interview panel are a little uncomfortable in my presence. These are things I will never really know, but it does make me wonder.

I decided to do some intense research on the subject and posed a half-assed question on the Association of Transgender Professionals Facebook page. If anyone would know about glass ceilings and career stagnation, it was this mighty collective of transgender corporate acumen. The overall theme of the responses was “Consider yourself lucky you have a job”, “Get used to the view, you aren’t going any higher”, and “Have you considered an exciting career in fast paced over-the-phone sales?”. Ugh. Fuck that. Not just the last one; all of it.

As trans people, many, if not most of us, sustain significant blows to our sense of self-worth simply as a function of our existence. Even aware of this, I consistently rate myself far lower than my peers and superiors  rate me in any type of feedback and often feel unworthy even when there is no justification for it. I’m sure this is also one of the factors that contribute to the high suicide rate. While some consider this putting on an air of victimization, in reality it has more to do with feeling wrong in one’s own skin for years and decades, followed by the ubiquitous stares and awkwardness that follow transition. Even the most robust of egos is not immune to such a Chinese water torture of subtle but persistent pounding. Knowing this, however, begs the question; are we unintentionally limiting ourselves, or worse, shooting ourselves in the foot?

While there is no doubt whatsoever that being trans carries with it negative connotations in the minds of others who have the power to limit or empower our success, I have to wonder if we are often complicit in steadily boosting them up while that ceiling is being installed. Is it not then possible that with confidence and conviction in our own intelligence, skill, experience, and talent that are completely exclusive of our trans state of being, we can overcome the innate obstacles external perceptions bring? I’m not going to lie to you here; I really like this idea. Yes, it bites that misinformation and prejudice persist regarding who and what we are, but so many other demographics, different in superficial characteristics alone, have managed to push past being entrapped by complacent acceptance of other’s opinions.

I am still sore and bleeding. I do still feel the tilt of the world that is making it difficult to feel steady on my feet. I’m also getting up and dusting myself off, just a wee bit smarter than the day before. I lost that round and it hurt, but I’m not close to being done fighting. Whether I decide to make another great leap up where I’m standing at this moment, or choose to shift to the side, pick another target and move so quickly they never see me coming, I’m not giving up. I will never accept that this is the best I’m ever going to do when I know I can do more. The shackles of my own making are coming off; they are doing me no good. I will not yield.

Happy Maddy’s Day! or Trans Father’s Day

balloonTo all my trans brothers and sisters who are also parents, I’d like to wish you all a happy Maddy’s Day! Yes, I’m more than well aware that most people in this country tend to cling to the traditional ‘Father’s Day’ moniker, and we all just going to have to be OK with that for now. The likelihood of ever achieving a majority is looking pretty grim, which is probably for the best to be honest. I thought it would be a good time to talk about the whole ‘Maddy’ thing, because seriously, when would be better? Steak and Blowjob day? By the way, I just heard of this and apparently it’s a real thing. C’mon, say it with me…ugh.

“So, for any of you who have kids, what exactly do they call you anyway?” I brought it up at a Spectrum meeting a while back looking for some good ideas. I got a lot of blank stares, though one volunteered that her kids called her ‘dad’ in private and by her first name in public. My son had just turned 4 at the time, so that wasn’t going to work. ‘Mom’ was pretty much irrevocably attached solely to the woman who carried and breast fed him, as it should be. We tried ‘Poppy’ for a while, but it failed to stick. In the mean time, loud, head-turning calls of “Dad!” continued to plague me in crowded places.

The term ‘Maddy’ was coined by Jenny Boylan’s kids who cleverly put together ‘Mommy + Daddy = Maddy’. Apparently it was either that or ‘Dommy’ which really seems to send the wrong kind of message, especially when uttered by wee folk who are begging to watch fucking ‘Caillou’ for some insane reason. I was grateful to have something else to try and for whatever reason, Maddy stuck after a solid half year of constant encouragement. Well, sort of.

I’ve been talking a lot about this lately, so I’ll leave my recent stories where they are told best. I will add though that this year the ‘dad’ thing came back with a real resurgence. Where he felt comfortable making me things that said ‘Maddy’ in pre-school, in kindergarten there has been a back slide. It does make me smile though. He made me a booklet that is androgynous for the most part, though the pictures are female. It’s a little odd seeing a pre-printed handout titled “This is my dad” with a hand drawn picture of me with long hair and a skirt. In one of the fill in forms, under another pre-printed, “I like it when my dad wears his…”, he wrote in “dresses”. What makes me laugh is the notion that it was probably hanging on the classroom wall and eliciting more than one quizzical expression. It’s all good and I’m grateful for all of it, including the big ‘mug of beer’ shaped balloon with “Happy Father’s Day!” printed on it that Gramma helped him buy.

Speaking of which, my heart goes out today to so many trans folk out there who won’t be able to see their children today as a direct result of their honest gender identity. When I ramble on about the challenges my 5 year old brings, I try to always keep in mind that I would far rather have to navigate them than not. If you are in the latter situation, I’m so sorry and I pray that given time and a slowly building global understanding, the situation will vastly improve for you if it can. The price we pay for being ourselves varies from person to person, but there is no doubt that some pay much more dearly than others.

Happy Maddy’s day to all, whether you will celebrate today or are just hoping for a future improvement that allows celebration in the future. Either way, you brought new life into the world with hope and promise for the potential it might have. No matter what else, at least that will always be true.

Unleashed, The Boys of War

FightI was watching my son playing with another boy and it took all of 10 seconds before they were engaged in a battle of some sort. I was immediately concerned, but took a moment to reflect on what I knew about boys having lived among them for so long like Jane Goodall, but hairier. Yeah, I concluded within a few moments, this is pretty damn typical. So what’s with that anyway?

As  a child, even though I gravitated to the bookish types, the nerd herd if you will, there was still a standing social rule that some sort of fighting was expected in nearly every encounter. Even if you were wearing your nice church pants, some light shoving was bound to occur, risk of grass stains a given. I’ll be perfectly honest here. I did participate, but just like President Clinton, I didn’t really enjoy it. Wrestling, boxing, playing war with guns that didn’t shoot anything and the inevitable “I got you!…No you didn’t!” squabbles. Sometimes it was simulated through action figures, sometimes it was snow ball or water balloon fights, and sometimes it was just trying to hit your tennis doubles partner in the back of the head with your serve. Violence always had a role in all play.

When something is that ubiquitous, it gets pretty hard to avoid. This is especially true in the somewhat gender segregated 70’s and 80’s when scheduling play with someone of the opposite gender was just considered weird and looked down upon. In the rare times I did get to play with the girls, usually via my sister or cousin, it was a much nicer time and the games seemed more complex, interesting, and entirely bereft of the salty dogs of war. Most of the time I was stuck with the boys and said dogs were in abundance. I did everything I could to avoid anger based physical confrontation, but simply standing at the bus stop or playing a game of Monopoly somehow erupted into a battle royale. Once in high school I had the opportunity to introduce my two best friends to each other at an art show I was in. After they wrestled it out on the hot asphalt in the parking lot they became closer to each other than either was to me. I hate to think about what life would have been like if I hung with the popular crowd.

Although I lacked understanding of this particular gender specific more, I managed to fake it just well enough to avoid being targeted for yet more. I made it through my year on the basketball team without incurring one foul, but only one basket as well. I joined the Scouts, and strategically spent my time with my dad looking at tress and shit while the rest of them played something called ‘Commando’, crashing through the woods and whooping war cries. When it came time to man up and join the military, I picked the Air Force, electronics backshop, arguably the least likely segment of the military to see combat. Rumor had it if they ever passed out M-16s to our shop, they would come loaded with only one bullet because the outlook was that grim. I attributed this to the DoD wanting to save the State Department huge headaches in negotiating the repatriation of decidedly replaceable personnel.

I never knew if this was ingrained in the male psyche, which I apparently never had, or was culturally learned. When I play with my son with his toys, no matter how hard I try to invent a clever little story with “the guys” (his collective name for action figures), his reaction is to take whichever one he is holding and smash it into mine, or more accurately, my fingers. The go-to move is to have them fight; my cutesy antics of no interest in comparison. So is combat endemic to the male spirit?

I’m very curious to see some commentary on this one, especially from trans women and men. Do trans women as children in a male environment fall happily into line with this, or were you simply trying to get by? Do trans men also have this irresistible urge to flavor any play with a nice dose of war? Speak freely with the knowledge that whatever you say, I’m sure not going to hit you.

Still Casting “Michael’s” Shadow

ShadowI never really had the words for it before, but at times I am aware that everywhere I go that is familiar, I still cast Michael’s shadow. I hadn’t conceptualized it really before coming across the idea in Jenny Boylan’s new book, Stuck In the Middle With You. She is apparently very earth conscious and chooses to repurpose old song titles rather than stick them in some landfill to take up premium space needed for all those fricking little ‘K’ cups of coffee. Anyway, I liked the notion and decided to do some repurposing myself rather than endanger miners who would otherwise trudge deep into the bowels of the earth to retrieve shiny new ideas.

I think the overall notion, for those of us who aren’t so quick on our toes, is that no matter what changes you make, the shadow you cast is going to be the same for everyone who knew the old version. The reason it came up was in a discussion of why trans people may be best served by skipping town to a new city to start over once transition is initiated. I’m not going to lie, the concept is very attractive. Let’s talk about this for a bit, shall we?

The shadow casting is pretty much inevitable. People who knew me well as Michael probably still think of me that way for the most part, and view me now as some strange alteration of the goofy, eccentric, good time Charlie they spent so many years getting to know. Suddenly there is a goofy, eccentric, good time Charlene in his place. What the hell man? It’s like installing Window’s 8 on your PC. Yeah, sure, it’s probably better than Vista and the same damn thing under the hood, but what’s with all the extra little app accessories? And where the fuck did the ‘Start’ button go? This new you is great and all, but we were really used to the old one, so if you could be more like that please, it would be really super.

The group I manage and I went for lunch a bit back and we took a little extra time to play some darts as time permitted. While I encourage people to speak freely, sometimes it takes a little extra effort and a different environment to really have everyone loosen up. On this occasion, one of them admitted that they missed ‘Mike’ sometimes. I should have been offended, but wasn’t because I’ve always assumed this kind of sentiment can’t be avoided. Besides, not anything I haven’t heard on the home front more than once. I pushed back a little and said I was still the exact same person, just in a slightly different package. “Yeah… kind of.”

Is it better then to run, run away? A few decades ago, 9 out 10 psychiatrists would agree that yes, it is much better and routinely recommended it. They went so far as to urge parents to essentially fake the death of the transitioning parent because this would be easier on the children. Holy shit, can you believe this? Can you imagine believing you lost a parent at a young age only to find out years and years later that your beloved mommy is now a guy named Chuck out on the west coast? We think some of the challenges we face now are difficult but it seems we don’t know the half of it.

Today things are different, and it is very possible for families to move and start fresh without having to traumatize little Willard by telling him daddy is going to die, or nipped out for a pack of smokes and never returned. Under the auspices of that paradigm, doesn’t it seem attractive to move on out to Sheboygan and interact daily with people who never knew you any other way? It is attractive. Very attractive. No more accidental “Mike’s” in awkward, crowded places. No more old stories, or far worse, pictures popping up all the time from the old days. I’m certainly familiar with all of this. I get called “Mike” or have male pronouns accidentally used often enough, and the company has at least 3 different banners up around the building extolling the employee base where I’ve been immortalized with a bald head and whiskers. I could complain, but I find it kind of amusing to be honest.

This one doesn’t have a clear answer that I’m going to try to convince you with. It really depends on you and where you are in your life. If it makes sense and is way more comfortable to move on out, then by all means do that. If what you have built locally is important enough or you feel a tie to your area and opportunity exists to thrive, then that is just fine as well. Remember, you transitioned because you were so inexpressibly uncomfortable with your gender expression. It only makes sense to be where you are most comfortable as well. There will be challenges either way, and it’s up to you to see which ones are those most worth taking on.

For the time being, I’m fine casting my old shadow, even when it means an uncomfortable moment here and there, or even being outed to a confused group of visiting Germans. My friendships, family, and the value I hold in regards to where I am remains the same, even if my shadow casts a bumpier profile. If the time comes to move, I’ll enjoy the benefits of starting fresh and be OK with that. As the old saying goes, wherever I go, there I am, shadow and all.

So, Where’s Your Dad? … She’s Right There

Trans Dad“So where’s your dad, anyway?” The question was asked by a young child who was playing with my son on the trampoline. I was sitting about 10 feet away to keep an eye on things. The other boy was a couple of years older, and my personal childhood experience taught me that older boys were not always hesitant to exercise power by virtue of age and strength. I may not be able to always protect him from this, but I’m sure as hell not letting anything happen on my watch.

My son pointed to me and told the other boy, “right over there!” The little thug was unable to make the connection between the homely woman sitting on the deck and my son’s dad and soon the matter was dropped. Yes, I do realize this was probably a teachable moment, but I was caught off guard and found that words had left me. If the situation persisted, I would have outed myself, but it died within moments and I had the opportunity to ponder this sufficiently to create a new blog post.

As many of you may know, transitioning genders and being a parent to a young child at the same time can be just a little bit challenging. The hardest part is attempting to create an environment of stability and safety for the little ones to give them the best chance to learn, grow and reach their real potential. This can be difficult considering the crushing need for social conformity in child, tween, and teen culture. “But everyone has the new iPod Dingleberry, so I HAVE to have one! They are only $999.95!” The problem is that you can’t just go and get a new dad by maxing out your credit card.

The fortunate side of this is that old ‘Mama, Papa, and Baby’ expected dynamic has been significantly altered over the past few years. Thank goodness for that anyway. Even mainstream TV is now reflecting “The New Normal” (why, just why could that show not have been better?), and there is no longer an assumption that someone has differently gendered parents. Ten years ago, those little family stickers people now put on their cars to let strangers know how many people they can expect to take out at one time with a good ‘Dukes of Hazard’ maneuver, would have been preset parents with optional kids and pets. Now you can get them individually and mix and match males and females to create the set you want. The best version I saw depicted a child without a head. “What a peaceful household that must be.” I thought.

At the same time, “The New Normal” in no way means even slightly common. While gay couple families often know many others of their kind, to their straight friends, they are labeled distinctively. “Knuckles and Barney will be there, you know, our gay friends, so I’m sure they will bring a fabulous appetizer.” When you go across the tracks to Trans Town, chances are you are the only one straight and cis people know, including friends of friends, and one or two degrees of separation beyond that. As of right now, and arguably into the foreseeable future, our status as “normal” is really more like “acknowledged outlier” that is sporadically considered acceptable. The vast majority of American families can still buy the old timey rear window stickers with thoughtless abandon, head or no head.

To bring this around full circle, in the near future I’m faced with attending a ‘Donuts for Dads’ thingie at my son’s school next month. At ‘Muffins for Moms’, it was explained (I think with the idea that the information would be trickled back to me) that in spite of the very clear naming convention, these events were for any beloved caregiver of the child. Even so, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the only one there in a skirt. This doesn’t bother me because experience tells me that the dads are more afraid of me than I am of them. Really, it’s about my son and his comfort.

Sufficed to say, we are working this because the issue isn’t going to go away on its own. Believe me, if I thought this was possible, I would employ my usual tactic of doing nothing and hoping the universe manages to tidy up the mess once it is realized that I’m not getting off my fat ass anytime soon. At present, my son’s feeling is that he is excited to have me come, but is nervous that the other kids are going to think he has two moms, which I’m fairly certain is already the case. Is it too much to ask that some lesbian couples move into the school district? This isn’t Mississippi you know.

We will navigate our way though this and the next 150 instances. At the end of the day though, I’m sure he wants to be like the rest of the kids around him. In this, he simply won’t be, but then again, no one else fits the norm in every category either. The best I can do is to help him find comfort in his existence by demonstrating pride and resilience in the truth of our existence, no matter how off center from the never trodden path of absolute normalcy. As we sit there with all the kids and their dads, at least there will be donuts, and we will focus on those and not the hole.

Trans Writer’s Block… Like That’s a Real Thing

Writers-blockSome of you may have noticed that my frequency of posting has gotten, well, a little lackadaisical of late. All right, fine, it doesn’t appear that anyone really noticed at all, or worse, was relieved not to have my little thoughts show up every fricking time they opened their email. Yes, I know it was you and believe you me, I will remember. Silly little half-assed threat aside, I thought I’d talk about that for a minute because, why not?

More specifically, it’s becoming more and more of a bitch to think up new things to write about every couple of days or so. For a while I felt like I hit the mother lode of material; a rich vein that ran so deep I was bound to go through several gross of canaries before the whole thing petered out and I repurposed the site to focus on schmaltzy ‘Good Morning America’ fan fiction. Now here I am writing about having nothing to write about with at least a gross and a half of Sam’s Club canaries in my garage all alive and happy as shit. That’s OK, great writers push through these blocks, good writers take a hiatus and kick around backwater Slovenia for a while, and writers like me sit here and write about the fucking writers block and hope that it ignites something.

I used to think that I could take any idea and spin it into a trans issue and crank out a page or two of reasonably priced claptrap. Now, as it sit here waiting for my tea to cool enough to swallow my morning hormones, I look around the room just waiting to be inspired. Presently the most interesting thing is the cat, who is in process of devouring a decorative ribbon that will eventually be yorked up on my bedspread or dangle out her anus until one of us has the gumption to hold her down and yank it out as she screams in rage (or, yech, elation). Surely something there can be repurposed into an analogy of the transition process, right? Dammit. Nothing.

Don’t get too excited now; this is not a “hanging things up” post. I hate to take the wind out of your sails, but I’m not going to let you get all full of hope that you will finally get to submit your kinky little story about George Stephanopoulos and Ginger Zee in some ’50 Shades of Grey’ scenario. What it does mean is that I need to get out a lot more and have some shitty awkward experiences so I can put them up here and let you have some vicarious fun. When I start my downstairs electrolysis, it should be good for a real corker.

Here’s the deal. When I started doing this, I did absolutely no research on who was doing what in the blog world when it came to trans stuff. I learned of some excellent projects when other bloggers found me, and I was satisfied that we were plowing some new fields here with our scribbling. Now that I’m way more plugged into the trans writing world and get updates, I’m seeing that whatever subject I tackle has usually been done before, and to death at that. New items in the news are also well devoured and digested long before I get around to putting my little spin on things. This of course leaves me with 20 or so half completed posts in my in-work queue of which I have nothing new or clever to add. The taste in my mouth for this is way too similar to the time my German host (I was an exchange student back in the rockin’ 80’s) gave me bread with schmear on it I assumed was butter, but turned out to be lard. Horrible, horrible crap.

Give up though? Oh, hell no! I’m going to learn to eat that fat shit and love it. So, that’s kind of it for today. Looking back across the barren wasteland of this ill conceived post, I pretty much stated that I have nothing to write about, am bereft of ideas, don’t think I’m really adding anything, but going to keep doing what I was doing to begin with. At the very least I’ll get to add to my super-size collection of down votes on Reddit, where I seem to be a real fly in some people’s ointment and inspire personal messages to please, please, please go away and die already. You can expect no less from someone who kept an untrainable, house crapping dog purely out of spite. Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.

Understanding The Temptation of Bringing a Guy Along to the Mechanic

mechanic-01My identity as a female recently got another shot of validation. Not exactly the good kind either to be perfectly honest. At the end of last year I had my car inspected and found out the cost to bring it up to code was a little over 3 times what the car was worth. Well, after 11 years and not one single breakdown, the shoe was going to drop eventually. Having heard enough horror stories about trips to the mechanic from other women, I decided to try to cut them out of the picture as much as possible, so I went looking for a good lease. New car every 3 years sounded pretty nice to me.

The car leasing experience was fantastic. I was treated like a real person by the salesman and even managed to negotiate without once being talked down to or bullshit, and I was happy with the deal I walked out with. The thing with a lease is that you really have to keep up on the oil changes and not just wait for the angry red light on the dash to come on, so I scheduled an appointment at the 3 month mark. To celebrate the deal, my salesman gave me a coupon for the first oil change on the house, which I’m pretty sure he probably gives to everyone and hands them out to dismayed children on Halloween. My experience with the oil change… not so fantastic.

Going for an oil change in dude mode is not even an experience that registers as a thing. Sure, you get a half hearted song and dance that you really should consider changing the coolant or something else pricey, but you look him in the eye and say, “Just the oil, Mr. Lube, if that is even your real name; just the oil. And fill up the goddamn washer fluid this time!” I didn’t realize this could be any different until my mother-in-law complained how she hates going for an oil change because it costs her over $500 every time. I thought she must have diamond pin in the shape of a sucker pinned to her blouse every time she walked in there. No, they simply gave her the old song and dance, and when she hesitated even for a second, the balls to the wall pitch was rolled out and she found herself writing a hefty check for muffler fluid replacement.

I thought about this as I rolled in there and resolved to be the kind of chick who knew for sure that mufflers didn’t have fluid, if my car even had one anyway. I wasn’t really sure, and not about to get under there and check. Walking up the counter, I waited through the inevitable awkward stare and let them know everything wrong with my brand new precious. “Um, the oil needs changing, the trunk button won’t open the trunk, the remote starter starts the car, but won’t turn on the heat making it pretty useless, and every time I turn off the car, my iPod shuffle goes back to the beginning of the playlist and doesn’t shuffle or anything.” He smirked at me and said don’t worry, I could sit pretty in the waiting room while they did manly things. He didn’t say that last part, but oh, it was implied.

After a while, I was called back to the much dirtier part of the operation. Coming through, one of the mechanics held the door and gave me a, “There you go, little lady.” Nice. He was all of maybe 2 years older than me, but I let it go. They took the usual tack of making you feel stupid first in the run down. “Well miss, the trunk works just fine, you just gotta hold down the button for a full 2 seconds.” It worked like a charm, because I felt really fricking stupid. Next they sold me a cable that would fix my iPod problem that cost $60, nearly $20 more than I bought the iPod itself for. Next they told me the oil change went well, with no complications, brining my hopes back up. “About that remote start…”

I stood there surrounded by 3 mechanics and the manager, including the asshole who called me ‘little lady’, as they explained that the remote start feature wasn’t supposed to turn on the heat at all. “Well, I read the manual and it said that if I left the heat and defrost on when I turned off the car, the remote start would turn them on. The whole reason I got it was so that I wouldn’t have to brush off the car anymore, which I hate.” Living in Buffalo and doing this 274 times a year got kind of old. They chuckled at my bosomy foolishness. Oh, no, no, no! The remote start was only so that when I did get in the car and turned on the heat, it would be warm right away! I seemed a marginal benefit at best, but outsized, outnumbered, and apparently outwitted, I capitulated and even thanked them.

After stalking back to my car in humiliation, I found that the ‘special’ cable they sold me wasn’t even for an iPod, as they left it on the seat and didn’t bother hooking it up for me. I had to slink back to counter and received a refund, though it seemed implied that the mix up was based solely on the fact that I failed to properly communicate the problem to them. To make matters even worse, I had to go back a second time because I didn’t know if the garage door was going to open for me automatically, or if I kept going I was going to hit it with the car.

When I got home I jumped on line and found out that the remote starter was supposed to turn on the damn heat and that it was occasionally wired wrong when installed which causes my problem. Fixing it is time consuming and expensive for the dealer. Fuck. It looks like I need to work up the nerve and go back there. An no, no I’m not going to bring a guy along with me.

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