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Category Archives: Growing Up Trans

Outsiders: When Trans Don’t Feel In There Like Swim Wear

DariaEver feel like a total outsider? No, no, I’m not talking about Pony Boy, Dallas, and a pre-Miyagi Daniel-san and their good time crew. I did grow up loving that movie, even though I better identified with Cherry. At least the Outsiders weren’t really so isolated that they couldn’t hold their own in a stormy night rumble or seduce the two Corey’s into a vampiric lifestyle. There is a chance I’m mixing up boy gang movies here, but they are all pretty much the same anyway, so no biggie.

I went to my son’s kindergarten performance in a sweltering auditorium, and after each of the 900 children read their line and a dozen songs were sung, they ended with a slide presentation. As an aside, I was happy to see that the school systems have continued the tradition of only hiring teachers who cannot successfully operate audio-visual equipment. In my day it was the old reel-to-reel, followed in later years by a chorus of students shouting, “You have to press TV/VCR!” at befuddled instructors. As I scanned the slides for my boy, I saw so many fresh young faces mugging for the camera, often with arms around each other, and so very comfortable. Remembering myself at that age, I was hoping to see my son doing the same.

It always seemed like everyone else was part of the gang, happy to be there, or fit in the right skin. The black and white yearbooks in middle and high school showed the same kinds of pictures I saw in the slides. In the few I was actually in, it was usually the back of my head, my shoe, or a distant profile that the camera picked up; confirmation that I was there, but not really there. I was well aware that I was an enrolled student and showed up most of the time, but in terms of student society, I always felt like an extra. Fortunately, as time went on I managed to attract other weirdoes and as a conglomerate, the feelings of isolation somewhat passed. Not that they really knew me, but still.

I think the trans existence is one of being on the outside, and often both before and after transition. Before we come to terms with our reality, many of us, no matter what efforts we muster, never really manage to feel like one of the gang. When you think about it, it’s hard not to feel this way. After all, when the boys are whistling at a girl going by and remarking about her generous assets, and you are wondering where she got those really cute shoes, it’s apparent there is some kind of disconnect. You even suspect that not a one of them is planning to burn the midnight oil to get that paper done while wearing a dress.

As we transition, a whole lot of us go into this with high hopes that we will blend into and be accepted by female society. The problem, as we come to find, is that even if all goes very well and we are in there like swim wear, it doesn’t quite erase the feeling of being different. Now, having only been full time for almost a year now, I’m still holding out hope that some of this feeling will wash away over time, especially if I succeed in my efforts to become more passable. In the mean time, feeling like one of the girls only comes as close as feeling like you are being tolerated as a latecomer to the club. Someone who got that ‘way too close to the event’ invitation and is filled with deep and warranted suspicion that they were on the B or C list and got tapped because so many others pulled a no show. “Well, we are pre-paid for so many and better I guess to have fucking Michelle come then let it go to waste.”

Before I break you all down into inconsolable transition despair, there is a light side to this. For starters, in our younger days, pretty much everyone feels this way, cis and trans alike. Well, except perhaps for the cheerleaders and football players, though to be honest, you would think they would be high on the list. Anyone who really liked high school and thinks of it as the best time of their life, were probably so reviled by the greater student body that even today candles are lit in gloomy Catholic churches with whispered prayers for their doom. The rest of us just dealt with varying degrees of healthy self hatred.

In truth, everyone starts on the outside, looking in through the windows of an imaginary house and dreaming of how nice it would be to be invited in. Growing up is much about learning to be comfortable in one’s own space. For the trans, this just takes longer, especially with the whole second puberty thrown in there to really muddy up the waters. Eventually, we are in where we need to be.

The Sureality of Being Trans. Really, For Real.

Really for RealIt may just be me, nutty old Michelle and her crazy ideas again, but being transgender seems to lend a certain plasticity to the whole notion of “reality”. I am actually kind of wondering if it really is just me, so please feel free to speak up on the subject, or alternatively, call the men in the white suits and big net to haul me away in a cartoon van. That’s OK by the way, so long as I get to run the asylum. My point, however, is that it occurs to me that a lack of clarity and strong sense of fluidity about something so basic as gender may make a person somewhat fluid about the nature of existence as well. Put your existential hats on girls and boys, time to take a ride.

I started thinking about this after someone at work campaigned, quite successfully, to be the go to person on an effort I was managing. I promised her that she would get right of first refusal on this, which wasn’t hard because in my experience someone begging for the opportunity to do work that others might find unreasonably difficult makes choosing them a no brainer. When I said yes, she asked, “Really for real?”. I must have given a look because she explained, “If you say really for real, I’ll know it’s true.” I complied without hesitation. It occurred to me after that simply by stating my intention, I codified a reality for her she could take to the bank where without there would have been a nagging sense of uncertainty. I liked that because it felt like I carved out a pocket of reality, gave it a rule unique to that environment only, and obeyed it as much as I do gravity. The whole thing was entirely a fabrication, made up, and even after I took shit for it later, refused to reconsider.

As a child all of reality seemed extremely malleable to me. Having moments of understanding that I was a girl will do this to a person, especially as the doom of puberty approaches. I devoured everything I could get on fantasy poking into the “real” world, attempted magic, levitation through yoga, and even to control the weather through extreme concentration on cloud banks. In spite of some minor successes easily attributable to random chance, I became reasonably certain I was barking up the wrong tree. It was fairly disheartening, even though I retained the ability to vector my mind off to an alternate reality at any given moment through complex dissociation. My dismay, coupled by the incontrovertible yet nonsensical understanding that I wasn’t the gender I was presenting, led me in another direction.

By midway through college I had abandoned religion all together, stopped reading comic books, and considered myself a burgeoning hardcore skeptic. If the world could be codified in hard, fast, and inflexible terms, “really for real”, there would be a sense or pattern I could always bank on. I could walk through the woods of the Pacific northwest with no fear of encountering bigfoot. I could swim the Loch Ness without a single concern about Nessie biting my feet off. God, fairies, ghosts, and devils were all figments of the imagination; the stuff of children and adults who insisted on living in Neverland. I could also not, in any logical sense, be a girl. I buried it all in the same landfill along with psychics, UFOs, and anything unexplained.

The real piss of this was that the whole girl thing kept digging its way out and started walking around, proud as punch, on the surface. Heavy machinery and miles thick capstones of lead and concrete worked for a bit, but only that. The other stuff stayed buried where it was, but I was forced to rethink reality once again, and concluded that there was a certain liquidity to my gender. I was clearly both at once, sometimes the pool tilting and the contents gathering to one end or another. I thought this made me more of a complete person and went with it for as long as I could. Of course this was doomed as well.

Flashing forward to nearly the present, as this story is waxing kind of long, I came to find that the pool really only had that one end, and a funhouse mirror that made things seem otherwise. Appearances aside, the male side was the fabrication all along, like a mall Easter Bunny on the job too long and forgetting that it was just a suit. Early on in the old ‘gender assessment’ process, I told Dr. M that the whole thing was really a pretty big mindfuck. He liked that enough to write it down, even though I didn’t think it was really all that clever. It came as no big surprise when one of the creators of “The Matrix” came out as transgender.

Going through transition, reality once again has taken on the elasticity and malleable qualities it had when I was a child. The existence of a higher power and afterlife are back to unknowns instead of a hard no. Maybe some people did have a tenuous mental connection to things unknown and not all were malicious hucksters attempting to bilk the credulous by providing false hope. Perhaps the qualitative evidence of transexualism is more than sufficient to declare it a firm part of objective reality while the quantitative evidence slowly trickled in.

Just as the actions I took after accepting “really for real” as a truism validated it, so do my actions and those of people like me validate the reality of transexualism. Declarations of falsehood on either count change nothing whatsoever. Honestly, it’s nice to have this back.

As a final note of clarity, so none of this is misconstrued, I am in no way making the case that being transgender is a contrived condition, or exists only in the subjective minds of certain people. The intent was to explore the effect that being transgender has on their perception of the world all together; if it sways anyone other than myself to or from a ‘2+2=4’ outlook to a more flexible “sometimes ‘Y’ is a vowel, sometimes not” one. Questioning your sense of what is remains highly recommended.

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.

Badly Reasoned: Why The CO Transgirl Should Not Be Segregated

Coy

Yes, I’m still on the damn bathroom issue. Apparently, I just need to get it out of my system before I get back to my usual level of humor, that pun excluded of course. Go ahead, groan, now let’s move on people. In my last post I referred to the trans girl, Coy, in Colorado who had been using the girl’s room, but then banned and asked to use separate but unequal facilities in a compassionate attempt to make her feel like a mutant freak. Apparently 6 is the right age to really drill home how much she should be crying bitter tears for the affront of being born different. Now, I actually heard a great deal of what sounded like well considered rational by the opposition. Let’s take a moment to dissect that, shall we?

The most prevalent point of contention is that no one wants their daughters exposed to the sight of a male penis in the bathroom. I’ll be honest; this gave me pause as well for a moment before I could gather my thoughts. My first thought was that unless she took to peeing in the sink for some reason, are exposed genitals really a common site in any bathroom? Having grown up in bathrooms that contain urinals, I have to say that this was not a common thing at all. In fact, even looking could earn the naturally curious quite a beating. Boy culture is vehemently opposed to this. I’m not sure if this really carried over to the locker room because I generally changed huddled in a corner and got out, but still. Does the same apply to girl culture?

The answer I got was not so much. Girl culture, which I was unfortunately not raised in, is less prudish about bodies and the implications of letting other girls see them in female segregated spaces. So there is a chance that girls in the same bathroom as Coy may at some point see what she has down there. I can feel the indignant outrage from here. Let’s think about that for just a second though.

Generally speaking, people who have a difference they may have some feelings of shame around generally don’t go flaunting it. I think many or most children by school age already have an understanding that boys and girls are different down there and that Coy and other trans children know they don’t have the typical parts. Even without parental guidance and instruction not to do this, the general childhood impetus to not advertise what is going to mark them as different and possibly made fun of is most likely going to stop her from doing so.

Let’s go back for a moment to the general knowledge that boys and girls of school age understand there is a difference between boys and girls. Through childhood curiosity, siblings, cousins, friends, and daycare, most opposite gender children have seen each other without pants on at some time or another. We don’t like this thought because the idea borders on the uncomfortably sexual, although at this age, it certainly is not. The point being, chances are that if one or more of the girls managed to spy a trans girl’s penis, it likely would not be a first time thing for them.

Now I’ll vector off to the left and point out that approximately 1% of the population is born with an intersex condition. This may or may not include genitalia that are not markedly male or female. Sometimes this is corrected at birth and sometimes not. The point is that there is no debate concerning intersex condition children using the restroom of the gender they have been assigned, even if their genitalia can’t immediately back that up. The reason this is never mentioned is because both now and in the past, the prevailing notion has always been that whatever someone has in their pants is their business alone. That being the case, the only reason I feel there is outrage over Coy and other trans children is that trans is a big news item right now.

This is by no means the first time in history that trans children and even children who were not trans were raised in a gender other than that they were assigned at birth. The difference is that now the general public has some idea of what transgender is, or the very least has an uninformed opinion about it. Twenty years ago, assuming Coy’s parents were as progressive as they are now, she could have been raised female and no one but her doctor would have really known the difference publically.

The final issue I’ll address is the one forward thinking people like to bring up. So what happens when Coy hits puberty? Well, there are several things that can happen. There is always the chance that Coy ends up feeling more comfortable as a boy, because this does occasionally happen with children initially identified as trans. If that happens, problem solved but for her socialization into male culture, which I imagine will be very hard. If she maintains her gender is female, the common practice has been to begin hormone blocking treatments which would prevent her from experiencing male puberty. Between both this and the socialization in girl culture, it is extremely unlikely that she will suddenly become a manifest threat to the other girls. Even if she is gay, it is highly doubtful that she would act any different than any other young lesbian, a demographic not known for committing assaults in the girls room.

The overall problem I see here is that the Victorian remnants of prudishness have managed to persist in a manner that allows us to project our notions of sexuality on to children who simply don’t have this yet. I agree, however, that female segregated spaces are important and should be kept as safe as possible. Little Coy is not the risk. She’s just a girl born in a way she clearly doesn’t care for, who wants to feel as normal and as accepted by her peers as possible. Her being welcome in the bathroom should be based on the same standards as any child; good behavior is the expectation. Disallowing her with the understanding that she meets that criteria is simply wrong.

Expiration Date: When Swallowing Is No Longer An Option

timesup-600x441

The fuse is lit, the snooze is broken, the point of no return is half a mile back, and the expiration date draws nigh. I think more than a few trans people are aware already of what I’m talking about. That point of time, now on the visible horizon and approaching rapidly, where we will lose the ability to function in accordance with our natal genders. It’s a pretty freaky time to be sure, and one that is different for every one of us. Some reach it through slow deterioration, or needful embrace, or even a sudden flash of overwhelming insight and clarity. How does this happen and why is it so different for everyone? I think we need to talk about this. And yes, I did title it like that just to lure you in.

It’s clear that the need for transition is different for everyone in regards to when and how it comes about. Some understand at a very early age and the knowledge wears them down glacially until every option is exhausted. Others understand at an early age and have the courage and conviction to go against everything they were raised to believe about themselves and insist on their identity before their first school bus ride. Others have no idea why they feel different and why they are plagued with physical manifestations of their own inherent wrongness. There are hundreds of variations, but for most of us they all converge on that one point where continuing life means transition no matter what the cost.

My own story is a mixture of the above. I knew young, but worked very hard to make sure to keep that knowledge well below the surface where I couldn’t even see it but for a few terrifying instances when it broke the surface. My goal, if it was coherent enough to be stated in words, was to make it though this life without ever truly acknowledging it or anyone ever knowing. I was really kidding myself with that one, but I went strong for a really long time on it. It wasn’t really until two years ago that my own expiration date appeared over the horizon, making 2011 a really shitty year.

Before that much of my life was filled with manufactured obsessions. Little habits I would take off to focus my mind on anything but my own feelings. As a child, I started collecting comic books and put the whole of my mind into the project; a massive collection that still plagues me terribly every time I have to move. I swapped out every so often to keep it fresh with a new one every year toward the end – book collecting, cooking, obsessive eBay, creating and interring time capsules (there is an art to this), getting every design of funky colorful socks (3 large drawers full), running, and finally blogging.

OK, an aside. I’m not talking about this blog, which I am just a little bit obsessive about, but my old one. When my last old friend moved from the Buffalo area, we set up a multi-author blog to capture all the old ‘glory days’ stories. For me this wound up being over 500 pages of autobiographical material, less the female side of course. At the time I felt like I was revisiting my life and codifying it firmly in my memory, an unconscious attempt to hold on to my created identity. What it really did was allow me to shed the skin of my life by turning poignant personal events in stories. It wasn’t a bad thing as it allowed me to let go of old feelings, grudges, heartaches, fears and whatnot. It is, by the way, still out there. I’m not going to link to it, but if you are for some reason interested, industrious, and very clever, you might find it, but it’s not so easy. I don’t think I used my full name at any time (the male one).

The point is that no matter what we do to stave it off, it appears that we reach a point in our lives where the inevitable simply happens. We run out of energy, mental tricks, avenues to pursue, and the fear of the consequences becomes a shadow of the former bogeyman it was. I think we all know nothing could have changed that time either. My ex often wonders she hadn’t dug so hard, it would have stayed buried. I don’t think so because it was already on its way up when she started. We have both pondered what would have happened if my dad hadn’t gotten sick and passed away. It was already rising though before he felt the first twinge in his gut. Is there anything that could have delayed things more? Anything is possible, but I truly don’t think so. I had already been twisting and turning in my body for a few years, completely unable to get comfortable. It may have taken me a little longer to figure out why, but not much.

Are Pre-Out Trans People the Worst Roomates? (Or Was It Just Me?)

Sheldon

I want to come clean about the fact that I was an abysmally shitty roommate. No, really! Let me start this by saying that I’m on the step of my 12 step male recovery program that has me taking ownership of my behavior and making amends. I’ve covered my ?spouse? (new term – ‘paraspouse’ didn’t fly) recently, and now I want to move on to those who bore my imprisoned wrath for simply existing in my space and disallowing me to be myself. Don’t worry, nothing terrible and hopefully if any of them should read this, they will get a nice chuckle, or come and burn my house down. Seriously though, I made Sheldon Cooper look absolutely delightful in comparison.

My first roommate ever was Paul in my freshman and sophomore year of college before we were discouraged from continued dorm residence after blowing up a toilet. Story for another day. Anyway, Paul is the only one who I don’t have to apologize to because I was too scared to fuck with him. Early in our freshman year I dropped a napkin on his side of the room (yes, we had tape a la Brady Bunch) and refused to pick it up. He felt the appropriate response was to wait for me to leave for classes and work, cancel his intended schedule, and focus on taking apart every single thing on my side of the room and reassembling it into a giant sculpture. Bed, desk, wardrobe, dresser, night table, everything. He even took every single little bulb out of my 10 strands of 100 count blinking Christmas lights. I decided not to screw with him at all after that, no matter how irritable I became.

The next two years I had a house with Paul and two other guys, Aaron and Jason. Jason we couldn’t stand for other reasons not trans related. At least there I had my own room with a door that locked, giving me some relief. Aaron and I had no stomach for Jason because he constantly did things like piss on the toilet seat, leave the burners of the stove on and take off for class, leave his keys in the door overnight (it was a really bad neighborhood), and create a gigantic mess wherever he went. We responded to this by piling all the household breakables in his room during parties (when he was of town), moving his entire room to the basement, or locking him in his room. Again, here I don’t feel I have to make amends because living in constant fear of burning to death, being murdered in my sleep, or stepping on a plate of cold lasagna he inexplicably left on the floor will do things to a person.

As Aaron and I made a good team, we decided to get a place together. This worked great at first, but my overwhelming desire to have him not be there got the better of me over time. To make it worse, he constantly had his gamer geek friends over while I smoldered sullenly in the living room wishing they would all die, or at least one of them would move out of their parent’s basement and provide a new venue for pretending to be elves or smurfs or whatever on a Saturday night. I subscribed Aaron to 17 Magazine as ‘Erin’, which offended him on two levels. One that they thought he was a girl, and the other that they kept sending him a bill. He’d call and cancel, to which I would write them as ‘Erin’ and claim my asshole brother kept canceling my subscription just to be mean, making Aaron’s efforts useless. Eventually it stopped coming after he refused to pay; disappointing because I loved reading them after rescuing them from the recycling. It probably dinged his credit some (not as much as abandoning the lease in the dead of night), so I will make amends by sending him some Mighty Taco next time it occurs to me. After he caught me, I went to ground and abandoned all efforts.

My next roommate was poor Jim in the Air Force. I arrived to my first duty station in a bad mood to begin with because I had by then realized that joining the military failed to cure me. It was made worse when I found I would have a roommate (bunk beds and all) after my recruiter promised me that could never, ever happen. I was not pleased. I feel bad for Jim because he was a nice guy and I really tried my best to make sure he hated life. We worked opposite shifts, which helped some, but I began by always falling asleep stretched out on his couch so he would have nowhere to sit when he got home from work. When that wasn’t enough, I took a page from Aaron and insisted on having huge groups of people over when I knew he wanted to sleep. He was a southerner and I was banking correctly on the fact that he was too polite to tell everyone to get the hell out.

What I actually feel I have to make amends for, however, is something different. My irritation with his presence was being exacerbated by the fact that nothing seemed to bother him. Not what I mentioned, or my other little petty torments such as a manufactured obsession to tape every episode of programs he was disinterested in, which effectively blocked him from ever watching TV. I was sitting there stewing one evening when the girl he had been pursuing called. He wasn’t there, I was in a mood, and improvised.

You know I’m really glad you and Jim seem to be hitting it off.

Oh, thanks…

Cause, you know, a lot of women have a problem with his prosthetic ass and all.

Uh, what? No… come on, really? How would you even know?

He takes it off when he goes to take a shower and just leaves it sitting there on his bed. It’s got fake hair and everything. Kind of freaks me out.

Uh, just tell him I called.

Later that evening I got to listen to him frantically explain that he doesn’t have anything so ludicrously unlikely as a prosthetic ass. I don’t think he succeeded because I never heard about her again. A few weeks later he petitioned for and got his own room. I can’t say that is why, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt. In any event, I do feel bad about it, and if I ever manage to track him down, I’m totally going to treat him to whatever he wants at the nearest Friendly’s.

Final thought on the matter, just in case you are wondering, I pulled none of this crap on my ?spouse?. However clever I thought I was, she effectively destroyed me in every battle for household dominance hands down, and left me with zero impetus to engage in crafty little passive-aggressive maneuvers to get space. Well, that and I both wanted her there by choice and age has a way of putting new perspective on things.

Revisionist History: The Trans Desire To Make It All Add Up

back-to-the-future

We all make mistakes when we begin to transition or at least become aware of our identity. It’s impossible not to really; after so many decades of doing our best to make the social programming of one gender fit for us, albeit unsuccessfully, trying to catch up is a real bear. I’m no stranger to this at all, and have managed to step in it every six ways to Sunday, whatever that means. From flubbing social mores to making ridiculous fashion faux pas, I have plenty of stories, and I have no doubt that more are just waiting to be born. So many, many more… Today though I want to talk about the nearly overwhelming urge to engage in revisionist history.

Revisionist history, insofar as it pertains to us, is reaching a certain life vantage point and looking back at the past as a path that almost knowingly brought us right here, right now. It’s oh, so easy to immediately go from having the perspective of personal history of ‘Mike’ to suddenly have the personal history of ‘Michelle pretending to be Mike’. So easy, but so wrong. It starts with statements like, “I have known I was really a girl since I was 4 or even younger”. From there every defining life moment is now painted with a broad trans brush that explains every action, every idiosyncrasy, and every relationship. It feels really good to do this, but I’m not so sure it’s quite as accurate as all that.

I think we do this because it is enormously validating. Every single bit of evidence we can bring forward, no matter how farfetched, reinforces our core identities to both ourselves, and those who we share them with. It’s a mountain of irrefutable proof that I’m not just making this up, or had a fancy whim one day and decided to change genders. It’s a laundry list of symptoms to show the doctor that treatment is needed urgently and without further delay. We are who we say we are, and have always been; the signs were all there, you just had to know how to look.

We, or at least I, tell lots of stories centered around the experience of being really a girl, but thrust into boy culture and the problems I had dealing with it. This is all true, but with the caveat that the vast majority of time I was completely unaware of why I was having these difficulties. Truth – I only liked camping with the Boy Scouts if my dad went along because I didn’t want to be stuck alone with all the boys. The temptation is to tweak that statement to something like – I only liked camping with the Boy Scouts if my dad went along because honestly, what girl would feel safe with that pack of animals by herself? The difference was that at that time I didn’t understand my real gender as a reason and really just chalked it up to a vague and hard to pin down feeling of discomfort and uneasiness I couldn’t really explain. I think it is very easy to couch many other such situations and happenings the same way.

While I do honestly think that many things from my past can be pegged tightly to the trans condition without reservation, there may be others where I really have no idea. I confessed a while back that there was a period in my youth that I liked to sit in a rabbit cage. It is beautifully symbolic in the light of transition to liken it to the reality of being trapped in my own body. I really don’t know why I did it, and so it can conceivably have been simply that I was a weird kid in addition to my trans-ness. Instead of running away from fist fights because I was a girl, maybe I was just a wuss? Um, yeah, on that one I have to go with the girl things because, you know?

The truth is that looking back on things as they actually happened in no way detracts from our identities. I personally had enough moments of clarity in realizing what I was and reacted in such a typical manner that there has been no doubt in my mind since my most recent coming out to myself a little over 2 years ago. Many of my experiences were probably not trans related at all, even though they seem like they might have been or because I want them to be. Others may or may not be and impossible to tell. Other still were without question. At the end of the day, our histories are only that and not much more. We are who we are right now, no matter what winding path we took to get there, and that is really all that matters now, isn’t it?

Are You There God? It’s Me, Michelle. WTF?

AreYouThereGod1

I just saw on CNN that the greatest writer for tweens who ever lived (no, not the Twilight woman), the iconic Ms Judy Blume, is finally having one of her epic novels adapted for the big screen. Relax, it’s not the one you probably think if you were born within 10 years of me. Yes, I am talking about ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’. No, it’s ‘Tiger Eyes’ which came out long after I graduated to SE Hinton  and the rest of her good time crew. At least it isn’t one of the fucking ‘Fudge’ books, of which there are 152 or thereabouts, the most recent of which is ‘Fudge In His Depends’.

The reason I bring this up is because I know, and don’t lie to me here, that I’m not the only one bummed that it wasn’t ‘Margaret’. I swear by all that’s holy, if I don’t get at least one “I loved that book too!” comment, I’m totally going to lose it. So not cool to make me feel like a jackass freak here on my own blog. So yes, there is my big admission. At the age of 10 or so, I considered it the best book I had ever read.

Going back a few years, my sister received a box set of Judy Blume classics. It included ‘Margaret’, ‘Blubber’, ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’, and ‘Shelia the Great’. She actually read them first for a change and laughed so much I felt the need to check them out even though in my opinion I had totally outgrown such childish literature. I think I read ‘Blubber’ first and was incensed at the cruelty of the characters. You don’t see a lot of first person narratives where they are such a royal B, but she gets her comeuppance in the end. I also read ‘4th Grade Nothing’ and ‘Shelia’, but held off on Margaret at first. I can’t specifically remember if I was told I shouldn’t read it because it was inappropriate for me, or it was simply suggested, or it was in my own head that this was definitely not something I should be gushing over on the living room couch. Within a few months my sister lost complete interest and the box set ended up in the basement. I snagged ‘Margaret’ up to my room and hid the box set, so the empty slot wouldn’t be noted.

I kept it hidden in the wooden microscope case in my big pile of crap, where I also hid a few articles of clothing. Every chance I got where I thought I would not be disturbed, I took it out and read it. Up to that point, I don’t think I ever identified so closely to a literary character. I very much wanted to live Margaret’s life. I wanted dress up and go to a party where exciting things might happen. I wanted to increase my bust. I even wanted to put a napkin on a belt, even though I wasn’t completely sure what they were even talking about. I also knew I would never, ever get to do any of those things. When you think about it, the whole thing is a huge tease to a trans tween  right on the cusp of an incredibly shitty puberty process that would have zero overlap to Margaret’s.

Sometimes though, the vicarious experience is enough to help. Most tweens will never meet a sparkly old vampire who clearly has a fake ID but doesn’t make himself 21 for some reason and still has to take algebra tests. Most will never be whisked away to a magical academy where young children are made to fight ancient, unspeakable evil. Nor will they get yanked into some wrinkling of time business or fly on the back of big furry Bichon Frise looking dragon. And I was never going to wear a pretty dress to a party, watch my chest fill out, or worry about belting on a sanitary napkin when the flowering of my womanhood came about. It was OK though; these things allowed us to go to sleep at night with warm thoughts of what might have been.

I reread it until it was dog eared and the spine began to separate. Then my parents announced a worrisome plan to have my sister and I switch rooms, just to keep things interesting. This put me in a minor panic because I knew that in spite of promised oversight, they were just as likely to just go and do it one day when we were at school. Lord only knew what I had squirreled away in there that I really didn’t need anyone stumbling across. Clothing went back into the Am Vets bag, my sisters cast off magazines were disposed of late at night, and Margaret was reinserted into the box set after being smuggled down under my shirt. I was right to worry, by the way. We came home after a weekend at my grandmothers to find the room swap fully executed. By then the first threat of stubble began appearing on my face, and my voice began to break. Margaret stayed in the basement.

10 Fun Little Ways to Avoid Transition

Sandheads

As a rabid procrastinator by nature (I know, I resolved to discontinue this practice in my New Year’s resolutions along with that other stuff I haven’t touched yet. Go on, throw it in my face. I’m not afraid to cry you know. Jerk.), I applied my philosophy that tomorrow doesn’t really exist to recognizing my gender identity. It’s not such an easy thing to do, but one does find ways when truly motivated walk in circles around an issue that is much better once confronted. Be that as it may. Today’s list is therefore dedicated to ways one employs to avoid admitting they are trans and doing something about it. Some apply to me, and some don’t, and remember, I only do these little lists when I’m in a tongue in cheek mood, so reader beware. And so…

1. Join the Scouts: A great way to surround yourself with wholesome young men with nary a hint of homosexuality around is to join the scouts. Well, so the handbook indicates with the Rockwell painting of strong boys and men in the wilderness in crisp ironed uniforms and not a minority even on the horizon. Yeah, even at 11 I thought that was weird, but signed up anyway. Aside from learning knots only useful for hardcore bondage enthusiasts, I also learned what it looks like when you cross ‘Lord of the Flies’ with ‘The Hunger Games’. It was pretty clear, I was just never going to get boy culture.

2. Join the Team: Nothing in the world so manly as running around with a bunch of other boys, getting good and sweaty with a lot of ass slapping camaraderie, showering together, and whipping each other with towels to make one appreciate having testicles. I suppose if I had been a latent homosexual man, this would have been super, but I’m reasonably sure any woman, cis or trans, would find this deplorable, as did I. Plus it didn’t help that I generally warmed the bleachers next to the cheerleaders, and had season record of total points scored of 2.

3. Grow a Beard: Any latent ideas that you might be just a tiny bit feminine seem easily conquered simply by putting down the old razor for a while. Looking in the mirror each morning it’s easy to see yourself transformed by the various stages of beard-dom: recently unemployed, rescued hostage, terrorist, Uncle Jesse, and finally mountain man. The added bonus to growing a beard is that you have zero temptation to dress how you would really like because nothing is more ridiculous than a person with a douche-bag beard in a dress. Eventually, however, the Gillette ads get the better of you and the heartbreaking shaving routine begins again.

4. Join the Marines: If anyone can make a real man out of you, it’s definitely the Marines. Semper Fi and all that jazz (they never add that last part, but should). How on earth can being sent to Parris Island to be broken down, built back up, have a second penis installed (the one for fighting, not for fun), and be put on a ship with men in white sailor suits to compare yourself against fail to make a no-shit man out of you? Actually I don’t know, possibly very well, but I joined the Air Force and that failed miserably, but at least I didn’t end up with a neck the size of a Sam’s Club size jar of mayo as a result.

5. Join a Biker Gang: I never tried this myself, but a good friend did, and never a more feminine woman trans woman have I met. While wearing more dead cow than a leather daddy and scooting around with a big hot machine between your legs intimidating people has its charm, it may not be right for you if you find yourself constantly resisting the urge to paint it pink to match your nails. Where we all live in fear of discovery, it somehow seems much worse to have to fret about your little secret coming out in a dingy bar surrounded by angry, beer guzzling Haystacks Muldoon look-a-likes. She said they were much sweeter than one might think, but still.

6. Be a Stud-Muffin: Yes, I did resurrect that term from the late 80’s. I’ll be perfectly honest; this was never going to happen for me. Some latent trans women are able to capitalize on what they were born with and parlay that into an endless stream of promiscuity that allowed society to label them as real studs instead of the usual labels for their true gender such as ‘slut’ and ‘whore’. Unfortunately constant contact with body parts one secretly envies for themselves in no way alleviates this condition in the slightest and leaves former partners wondering if they had a faux-mosexual experience or not.

7. Get Married: “Son, there is nothing like the love of a good woman to set you straight.” Wonderful advice if you have a son instead of a secret daughter. Anyway, we buy it hook, line, and sinker. Whatever feelings I may have had in past were nothing more than the idle musings of a lonely soul and will be burned away forever in the fire of endless love, companionship, and perhaps even fatherhood. Oh, it works for a while, but before long you realize that the itch of wrongness is back beneath your skin, but now with someone essentially up your ass 24/7.  Any attempt to utilize ‘Freaky Friday’ type methodology such as wishing on stars, seeking out bottle trapped genies, or futzing around with creepy old electromechanical coin operated wizards will not only fail, but likely initiate the mother of all fights.

8. Develop Wacky Distractions: Nothing you do may ever make you feel like a man for more than a few months, so the in-between time needs to be filled. Personally, I went with somewhat manufactured obsessions. Comic book collecting, obsessive eBaying, time capsule construction and internment, finding new and useless ways to categorize my digital library of 8000 songs, finding and reading books about Siberia, and blogging (not this one, my old blog). Having a good obsession is an excellent tool for procrastinating what appears to be an exceedingly unpleasant task.

9. Chow Down/ Go Diet Crazy: If you aren’t comfortable in your body, it seems like a good idea to start playing around with what you have and see if you can’t make your accommodations more bearable. I started with food and lots of it. Very hard to feel too bad while in the process of cramming a huge cheese steak hoagie with a side of loaded fries down your gullet every night. Close to 100 lbs later, it finally dawned on me that I was actually more uncomfortable arriving out of breath and soaked with sweat just walking up a flight of stairs to my bosses office. I went in the wrong direction! So, I focused everything I had (see obsession) into taking it off by meticulously calculating everything I stuck in my mouth. I got in the best shape I’ve ever been in, with a growing sense of unease that I was still totally uncomfortable.

10. Hit the Gym: Many manly men like to affirm their masculinity by donning tank tops and way too tight bike shorts and pumping iron at the local gym or California beaches. After all, what says ‘dude’ like ripped biceps and lycra covered bulges, right? It’s natural to lack confidence in this area, so setting up an expensive home gym to avoid the recurring cost of a gym membership seems like a good idea. You may even end up utilizing it until you look in the mirror and realize that bulging upper body musculature is totally, totally not you. Eventually this expensive equipment will be sold at a fraction of the value on Craigslist, but not before it takes up much needed space because your significant other likes the never to be exercised options it presents.

11. Go To Therapy: If anyone can get to the bottom of this general malaise, dysphoria, and body issue downward spiral you found yourself in, it’s a good therapist. You quickly discover that avoiding your gender identity becomes increasingly, ridiculously complicated when you are subjecting yourself answering deep, introspective questions that all seem to land in areas you have made every effort to avoid. Game over chica.

The Terror…Or What Trans Call Life Before Transition

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Have you ever noticed that any time you read a trans persons personal account of the time of their life prior to transition, the word ‘terrified’ pops up again and again? Yeah, me too, which stands to reason since I’m writing about it now. While I’m sure they exist, and that we will no doubt hear from them below, I have yet to talk to anyone who identifies as trans who doesn’t describe soul crushing, pants wetting, nightmarish cold sweat style fear regarding their condition. Let’s talk about that.

I’ll raise my hand and go first here, since I brought it up and everything. I was terrified about the very idea of someone suspecting I was different in the way I actually was, much less being caught. Yeah, the idea of being caught really took the cake as worry numero uno. Something like that would be smoking gun evidence of my innate femininity. Any excuse would be immediately burned though under the intense light of razor honed interrogation. I would be undone and probably die, or worse. Actually in that instance dying would have been the preferred outcome to being paraded through the streets in a torn dress while weathering the onslaught of spoiled vegetables hurled by disgusted Buffalonians. OK, fine, I had a little streak of drama, but I was pretty sure if it wasn’t that specifically, it would be just as heinous.

Nearly every nightmare I ever had pre-transition that wasn’t some tragedy befalling a loved one featured me being discovered. Spiders, monsters, aliens, serial killers, dread diseases, being lost, fired, deported, ha! None of these had any teeth as far as I was concerned. Keep ‘em coming so long as I don’t have that one again where I’m at church with my parents and suddenly realize I’m wearing a skirt and make up. I’d awaken with a scream of terror, bathed in sweat. “Sounds like you were having some bad dreams last night?” “Uh… yeah, someone was holding me down and sawing my legs off before making me eat them.” “Oh you poor thing! That must have been horrible!” Ha, I should be so lucky.

The funny thing is that now I’m living what used to be my darkest, most terrifying nightmare and it’s pretty freaking great. In the past I had highly realistic dreams about coming to work dressed, going to the mall, having my friends and family find out, and even being stared at like some kind of freak. What used to have me hyperventilating, clawing for a belt of Nyquil just to get back to sleep I now call any given Tuesday. So why? Why do so many, if not all, of us have this exact same story?

For one, I think it’s bred in the bone and bound in the flesh to have a desire to conform to our surroundings. True, many people rebel against this at some point, which explains the once proud proliferation of Hot Topic locations, allowing teens to both rebel and enrich a suit and tie corporate entity at the same time. I think it comes down to when we begin to discover ourselves. For those like me who understood we were different at age 4, the idea of rebelling was inconceivable. I said that in the Wallace Shawn ‘Princess Bride’ way, just so you know. Our “rebellion” was inherent to our nature, competing against our conformity urges while still in a stage of absolute powerlessness and dependence. I think this is bound to breed strong survival instincts for repression and deception while producing the terror and nightmares such an internal conflict is bound to foster.

The terror lasts long after there is any rational reason for it simply because it was instilled so early. Eventually, however, it has to be faced in some capacity; no one can live like that indefinitely. Many poor souls simply cannot take it and end things the most expedient way possible. Most of the rest of us finally come to the conclusion that we want to live, and to do so must face the terror head on and allow that any and all of the things we are most afraid of really may happen. For some they do, and others, only some of it. In the end though, we are far better off having left it behind.

I think the best thing we can do, those of us who have crossed the line and living more comfortably on the other side, is give our support to those who aren’t there yet. Much like the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign, telling our stories and validating that the terror is a real and prevalent thing, while highlighting not only the possibility of abandoning it with our childhoods, but how good it feels to be free and alive. To ironically quote malevolent bastard President Snow from ‘The Hunger Games’, “The only thing stronger than fear, is hope”.

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