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Questioning Caitlyn?

CaitlynEverybody’s talkin’ at me; I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’. Just driving around in Jon Voigt’s car. ~ George Costanza (paraphrased)

The internet is now aflutter. Caitlyn Jenner, looking suspiciously like Jessica Lange, hit the cover of Vanity Fair, and the public just can’t seem to get enough. Many fans of Jenner, fans of the Kardashians, and folks who are fans of neither think this is awesome and praise her for her bravery. Many activists think this is a train wreck, and many others are simply tired of hearing about it already. I’m not a fan of Jenner, the Kardashians, and while not so much an activist as an educator, I think this is a pistachio hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and a cherry. Kool Whip, not that homemade crap. Surprised? Let’s talk about that for a minute.

To give my activist friends their due, I freely admit that the whole rigmarole is exploitative, an exercise in showmanship, and carries forward the archetypal pervasive myth of the boy who gets wheeled through the swinging door of the OR and emerges hours later a stunning woman. It’s true, this is exactly what happened here. Last we saw Caitlyn she was sitting with Diane Sawyer still looking kind of butch, and now just over a month later, which is hardly anything in real life transition time, she’s outshining the spotlights on the magazine rack. With her magazine cover caliber rack nonetheless.

She’s making something often monstrously hard, prohibitively expensive, and soul crushingly depressing look fresh and easy as a summer’s eve. I can see why many who have worked, sacrificed, and made so many tiny forward steps while drowning in a sea of failure and regret might hate her, maybe just a tiny little bit. She’s privileged. She’s white. She’s rich. She’s famous. I don’t care. That’s her life, not mine, not that of anyone I know, so I leave her to it. What I do care about is that people are talking. More importantly, people are asking questions.

Just yesterday a friend asked me, “Is it OK to start calling her ‘she’ now? Is that right?” Some of you reading this just face-palmed. The woman who asked, however, is both big hearted and brilliant. I’m also the first trans person she met, and has treated me from the get go with great respect and genuine interest in my life, non-trans elements included. I was thrilled she asked so I could tell her. I did a Trans 101 seminar about a month back, and during my Q&A, the organizer who contacted me and put the whole thing together admitted, “When I wrote you I wasn’t sure whether to address you as Ms. or Mr.” I was ecstatic that she said something.

Questions and statements like these are gifts I receive nearly every day. I call them gifts because it means the people asking are genuinely interested. People sitting in a seminar are generally being talked at. I know when I’m being talked at I’m usually either a million miles away, or I’ve taken umbrage and tuning them out while I craft my devastatingly clever response. I think it’s the same for everyone. When I ask a question, it’s because I really want to know. I think that is the same for everyone as well. It’s also because I, and I assume we, don’t know. It could be plastered on a billboard in front of my eyes, but it’s still entirely possible, or even probable, that I don’t know anyway. If it’s not a part of my direct experience, my interest is low, and my eyes glaze over as I concentrate on things that are relevant to me.

It doesn’t matter that I’m not a super fan of the Kardashians or Caitlyn. Frankly I wasn’t completely sure who they were, why they are famous, or even that Jenner was a part of their whole shtick. Millions, however, are. Millions invite Caitlyn into their living rooms and bedrooms every week on the tube or in the gossip rags. Caitlyn is part of their cultural experience. They care if she gets into a car accident. They care if she’s spotted getting a Venti Chowdertino from Starbucks. They care if she undergoes gender transition. They are paying attention, and they will ask questions. Startling obvious questions sometimes, but so telling about how far the trans experience has permeated or failed to seep to the core of our cultural consciousness. How sweet it is.

At the heart of it, it doesn’t matter that she’s white, privileged, wealthy, famous, has it comparatively easy in respect to the rest of us, and might even be coming out in this way for all the wrong reasons. It does matter that people are talking about it, asking those questions, broadening their awareness, and gaining the ability to identify with her as a person. I work very hard to achieve that same thing every day; people in my life, people who come to my seminars, anyone who reads my words. In one swoop, flashy, gaudy, and misleading as it may be, she captured the interest of millions, and the questions are flowing. Every one of them is gold, and represents one less person I and every other trans have to talk at.

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Why Labeling People “Privileged” Isn’t Helping

PrivilegeBack in October I tabled a Trans Health Initiative conference here in Buffalo. It was a great day and we actually appeared to have more cisgender folks there than trans for a change. This was fantastic because first hand, in person exposure to a trans person is the very best way to create understanding and a desire to be supportive. Usually anyway, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The keynote speaker was CeCe McDonald, and I was pretty excited we got her to come on down to Western New York and spread an inspirational message.

For the most part, her talk was very good, and I was glad I was there to see it. Her message was one of struggle, overcoming overwhelming adversity, and her personal courage. From my vantage point at the Spectrum table I could see that she was resonating with the audience and was overjoyed that she was reaching the cis folks as well. Then she went into privilege and one by one, I could see her losing them. From there she transitioned into white trans privilege and she started to even lose some of the trans folk. Nothing she said about this was the least bit untrue by the way, but nevertheless, the message was building up the very walls she so effectively knocked down moments before.

We speak of white privilege, male privilege, socio-economic privilege, cis privilege and so on. These are all true things, do really exist every day in the real world, and do impact everyone on the basis of whether or not they have these things. There is no denying it. Privilege exists and it has the power to profoundly impact, through opportunity or repression, what a person might achieve in this life. I can see very clearly what a huge advantage I had living as a white male and how far I have fallen as a white transgender woman. I can also see that where I am now is a far, far more advantageous position than if I was a black transgender woman who came from impoverished circumstances. There is no comparison. Here’s the thing though. People, particularly American people, absolutely despise the notion that they have been granted huge competitive advantages simply through the accident of birth.

American culture is funny that way. We admire and celebrate achievement, fame, and fortune. We hate the idea of these things, however, though any means other than overcoming great obstacles. We believe in the underdog, and nearly all of us secretly believes that we fall into that category. We are a nation who worships rugged individual achievement and abhors the concept of aristocratic entitlement by birth. One of our favorite pastimes is comparing how hard we had it growing up, and the guy who brags about his posh school or family’s wealth is generally labeled a complete schmuck. We all know this is true here. Accusations of advantage are overwhelmingly met with defensiveness. Understanding this about our culture, does it really seem like a smart strategy to start shaming the very people we want to support us?

I will reiterate again; privilege does exist, it is pervasive, and it has a huge impact. We can agree on this amongst ourselves and know that it is true. Some of us can also agree that not all trans begin the race at the same starting point, and that many of our sisters and brothers have many more hurdles to clear before even approaching the much cushier spot we drew. If you can, and want to use the knowledge to make a difference, great. If you can’t and the idea makes you pissy and contentious, just try not to think about it. When it comes to the cisgender population, it’s far better that we stop continuously pointing this out.

I can feel many of  you bristling from here. It’s OK. What I’m proposing sounds akin to staying silent in the face of racism, sexism, or any other ‘ism’ out there. I can also hear someone loading up the “… and there was no one left to say anything when they came  for me” quote. We need to recognize, however, that this isn’t about them, it’s about us. Calling out privilege will not take it away nor bestow it on the trans community, but it will create divisions. It’s not about being right, but being heard, recognized,  and embraced as equals. Emphasizing differences in a “j’accuse!” kind of way puts up walls and dulls the edge of empathy. It’s also good to remember that for all the privilege we assume someone enjoys, they may be facing their own struggles that we have no conception of.

Our true inroad to the hearts of the cis folk is our humanity. It is by living our lives, working, and struggling against inequity are the best tools to gain sympathy, solidarity, and general acceptance. Simply harping on how we are owed on the basis of cis advantage and cis privilege brings none of those things. Those capable of the self-awareness it requires to own their advantages and have clarity about the inequity are can understand this without our pointing it out. Those who are not can easily move from positions of support or even ambivalence to adverse, and that is not good for anyone. We get farther and faster fighting the good fight and inspiring the cheers of those who support us than railing against them for their comfortable seats outside the ring.

Trans and Faith: A Needless Dispute

MIS SmileI recently flew to St Louis to be in the wedding of my oldest friend, and wasn’t completely sure what to expect. The venue was a conservative denomination of Presbyterian, and although I had received nothing but unconditional loving support from my friend (whom I consider my brother), the notion that some of the congregants might have some feeling about yours truly up at the altar did come to mind. After all, our demographic does have some history with religious intolerance. The experience got me thinking about the problem of faith for so many trans people, as well as the problem that many people of faith have with the very concept of transgender. Let’s talk about that for a minute, shall we?

As no religious demographic exists that fails to produce trans folk, waters can become challenging to horrendously difficult to navigate depending on the prevalent belief structure. Some faiths are very tolerant and welcoming, while others are downright sadistic in their treatment of the non-conforming. At the same time, trans folk are faced with attempting to reconcile their religious identity with their gender identity and often find themselves unable. Both cisgender and transgender people of faith find themselves wondering what kind of God would inflict someone with such a burden in life, especially if it flies in the face of cherished theology and dogma. The gap is too wide to ignore, and oftentimes the results are horrifying. Leelah Alcorn comes to mind.

In regards to religion, sacred documents and scripture are notoriously unclear how to handle our population, leaving the field open to wild interpretation. Many attempts have been made to shoehorn us into instruction on the treatment of eunuchs or homosexuals, with neither being a particularly good fit. While some genderqueer folk do consider themselves to be neither gender none of us identify as eunuchs regardless of pre, post, or non-surgical status. I do not consider myself a castrated man, I consider myself a woman. While we often align ourselves with the homosexual population for mutual interest, our numbers are equitable to the cisgender population in sexual orientation. Still, many religious entities find it impossible to leave this unclassified and unspoken and ultimately make some ruling rather than let the issue simply be. This sometimes works in our favor, and sometimes not, but in neither case does it intrinsically change our gender identities, but only make them more or less easy to come to terms with.

The secondary problem, and one that goes hand in hand with lack of citation in sacred writings, is an inability to classify what exactly causes the transgender condition. Theories abound ranging from pre-natal hormone wash, multiple souls, genetics, karmic punishment, nurture, sexuality, mental illness, lifestyle desires, and demonic possession. I even had gluten allergy proposed to me a few months back. Some theories are more credible than others obviously. Lacking clear and comprehensible evidence that transgender is a medical condition, psychological condition, lifestyle choice, or divine intervention, religious entities are left to pick one that best matches their particular belief system and provide guidance accordingly. Problems arise when the belief structure fails to match the first hand understanding of the trans person. Calling it a lifestyle choice, for example, when the trans person would gladly choose anything but, creates a crisis of faith. The religion may consider the trans person to be obstinate and willfully disobedient, while the trans person is left in crisis with a rapidly eroding certainty that their faith was well placed.

The answers that trans people come to are varied. A few are fortunate enough to belong to a belief system that embraces their identity. Some eschew faith all together and rely solely on observable, testable, and repeatable science to explain all aspects of the universe, denying even the possibility of a God or spirituality. Others attempt to find a variation of their original faith, or a different one all together, that is more accepting. A tiny handful attempt to stick it out and effect a change in understanding; how their existence is not incompatible with the core tenets of their religion. These, of course, are the ones who survive the process. Far too many, cast out by an inflexible system that includes their family and support network, see no other option than to take their own life and end the disparity once and for all.

It seems that at the core of this is the old duel between science and faith. The scientific process produces more evidence every year that ‘transgender’ is a real, verified, and enduring condition of existence for a certain percentage of the population. Some, but not all, religious belief systems cannot account for this in their cosmology and thereby view it as a willful rejection of God-given identity at birth. Man of science, woman of faith, the two shall forevermore be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I don’t really see why the two should be considered incompatible at all if looked at correctly. It’s only when we try to dissect one with the knife of the other do problems start to pop up.

As it’s the biggest tool in my box, I’ll reach in there and pull out an analogy. If one is a detective, he or she will examine each mystery in a precise and methodical way. Looking for clues, developing theories, testing them, weighing the results against existing knowledge, and eliminating the alternatives, a detective will drive to a conclusion that holds up in court. If one is an artist, however, the endless quest is to reflect the unquantifiable nature of the world and capture the emotional essence. If a crime is committed, the detective is most valuable. If creativity designed to produce an emotional response is desired, the artist is the best choice. Just as an abstract painter would be disastrous in working a crime scene, the analytic skills of the detective are fairly useless at the Louvre unless the Mona Lisa is stolen again. It’s not a perfect analogy, but represents what happens when the mind is used to quantify the heart, or the heart is used to puzzle something logistically tricky out.

When attempting to explain aspects of our physical universe, it makes much more sense to utilize the scientific tools we have to ferret out the answers. Using ancient documents, not so much. At the same time, mankind’s attempts to commune with a higher power, spiritually comfort one another, or find hope against all logic, faith is truly best. Each has its function and place, and reliance on only one for all things seems to be a recipe for failure half the time. Using faith to determine the age of the earth, the evolution of species, or whether Noah’s flood really happened or not is missing the point as these things truly don’t matter in a spiritual quest. Likewise, science is a poor tool for determining the nature of God, quantifying enlightenment, or nailing down the afterlife. Each is best in its own sphere, and left there, the constant animosity becomes irrelevant.

As being transgender almost certainly has a root cause in the physical world, it belongs to the realm of science to answer how and why. In the meantime I think it would make sense for faith based institutions to withhold judgment in this arena and welcome existing and new adherents who can contribute to the congregation and be simultaneously helped by the simple acceptance. Trans people could be relieved of the anxiety and guilt they may feel due to shaky interpretations of what God in any setting has been very unclear about. An embracing acceptance of what simply is seems much more in line with the tenets of love and compassion that run through all faiths.

Finally, I think it’s a mistake to assume one must be either a detective or an artist. A detective may use their finely honed logic to pick through meticulous detail and solve the mystery, then come home, get out the canvas and paint something both beautifully inspiring and wholly unrecognizable. It is the reconciliation of each aspect of our being as not incompatible but complimentary, that brings the best peace and greatest good.

Fosters Guy

FostersRemember when not too long ago I said I was going to move on to other things and write about those here? Yeah, yeah, that’s all going to happen, but give me a minute. Jeesh! As my son used to say at 2, “Don’ pooosh me!” For the record, we never did in the literal sense and were gratified that he was able to use the phrase in the correct cultural context. We are proud and all, but wish he would have stopped once he got to the ‘F’ word and other little horrifying utterances when grandma is around. Great, now you got me all off topic.

Today I want to gush about one of my new favorite shows out there. “The Fosters”. It’s airs on ABC Family one of the nights of the week. I’m never really sure since we filter everything through Tivo and constantly surprised by the weather as a result. Don’t tell me who the Oscar winners were, not to mention who got kicked off the island in ‘Survivor’, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, or even ‘Lost’. I love ‘The Fosters’ for a number of reasons, all of which are worth mentioning, but mainly because they recently introduced a trans character and managed to do it way better than ‘Glee’. Just in case you tend to shy away from ABC Family because you think it’s going to be all ‘Walton’s’ or worse, ‘Family’, it’s a lot more progressive than I originally assumed. Once I determined that they featured ‘Kyle XY’, the first genetically engineered super being who is clearly gay, I was willing to give them a shot.

‘The Fosters’ is about a lesbian couple, the Fosters, who have one biological child, two adopted children (who are biological brother and sister), and for whatever contrived reason I can’t remember, end up fostering a girl and boy, who are also biological brother and sister. That the fostering couple is named the Fosters is clearly intended to double justify the name of the show in a clever little unsubtle way. Now in the second season, after undergoing the appropriate amount of drama, the fostered girl ends up in a group home for wicked girls. Sorry, I forgot it’s not the 1940’s anymore, and they did replace a paddle wielding Miss Hannigan type with Rosie O’Donnell, who is arguably a teensy bit nicer.

In the home for wicked girls exists a trans man, and to my gratified amazement, he’s treated like a trans man. Not a butch girl, not a confused rebellious chick, and not a scheming meemie out to fool everyone. He says he’s a dude, dresses like one, and acts with conviction and in accordance with his gender identity. While not allowed any privacy or accommodation, the subject of pronouns comes up more than once and reinforced positively by Miss Hannigan. Sorry… Rosie. On a field trip, they even portrayed a bathroom issue where the young trans man is blocked from entering a men’s room at a zoo. The scene is poignant and the outraged humiliation one generally feels when being denied access to facilities is well portrayed.

What I think I enjoyed most about this character is that they went with a trans man for a change. I’ll be honest, as a trans woman I’m often gratified at seeing my own up on the screen, either being portrayed with heart and elegance or being butchered. I’m also very well aware that trans women have more of a ‘freak factor’ that makes more interesting TV and is probably the reason we are seeing an increasing number of iterations. It’s time our brothers got a little more time in the sun, and it pleased me to no end that they got the main issues and characterization down very well. Well true, someone in a home for wicked girls usually doesn’t have the wherewithal to sneak out and obtain a huge dose of black market injectable testosterone and OD on it, it is an ABC Family drama, so some dramatic license is expected.

I really hope they keep the character. He is the most accurate trans man I’ve seen since ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, and it’s such a boost to Tribe Trans when the media somehow goes and gets is right for a change. The show is worth watching anyway, so long as they don’t cancel it on a cliff hanger like they did with ‘Kyle XY’, which in spite of including a “girlfriend”, was shaping up to be the best gay melodrama since ‘Queer As Folk’.

Ride’s Not Over Yet

CometOK, my last post was really all about schilling for a worthy endeavor, but the spike in my traffic reminded me that I seem to have maintained a readership in spite of going silent for a few months. Huh. Well, that’s a surprise. Here I thought everyone was here for the jokes or seeing what crazy way ol’ Michelle managed to publically humiliate herself this week. Therein lies the rub. The huge cascade of interesting things that had been happening to me for almost two straight years has finally become a trickle of molasses in January. Or this year, I guess March. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Not the weather; I haven’t gotten that pathetic just yet.

Somehow, in spite of my best efforts to remain in Neverland (the good one, not the one with the evil Peter Pan from ‘Once Upon a Time’ who is somehow related to 43 other fables), I went and kind of grew up. Ugh. I hate even saying the words! A few years ago, before I took my first Estrodial or Spiro, before I ventured out in daylight to anywhere but Belles or Spectrum meetings, a post-operative trans woman said to the table of transsexuals and cross-dressers, “It’s feels good to be in the right body, but it’s also depressing.” I asked her what she meant and she just held it out as a certainty without really explaining. Because of that, I chalked it up to bullshit. I mean who can’t explain their own experiences? Apparently she couldn’t, but it didn’t make it any less true.

The early days of self-discovery are so exciting. You don’t know what’s going to happen, what you are going to be doing, what the consequences will be, and what you will be at the end of it. Every single day is a roller coaster of exhilaration of crossing a new inch stone and mortal terror of discovery and repercussions. Every tiny step of it is something you just could not have imagined a few years, or even a few months prior. A trip to the grocery store becomes a major achievement, not to mention hitting the Allentown Art Festival or Taste of Buffalo, surrounded by thousands, some of whom you are bound to know, and wondering if you will be recognized, outed and have your secret self thrust into the spotlight of harsh judgment or warming embrace. Every outfit is a dare, a new expression of your personality. Every intervention: hormones, electrolysis, laser and surgery becomes a new high, a new heady plateau in rarified atmosphere, closer to the golden glow of achieving the nirvana of self-realization. Scraped, bloody, humiliated, and filled with the holy spirit of feminine righteousness, we clamber to the peak. I am woman, hear me roar.

That was all really freaking awesome and all, but after enough roaring to necessitate a trip to the corner for some Ludens, the rest of life has to go and continue. Because I was lucky enough to keep my job through transition, and living situation, it’s basically the same life I’m continuing from before transition, except with more hassles. I still have to get my little guy to school every day and pick him up, do the grocery shopping, write the same performance reviews, and attend the same staff meetings. I still take out the garbage every Wednesday, snow blow the driveway, mow the lawn, and help my mom with her taxes. The difference is that it now takes me longer to get ready for work, I’m still dilating three times a day, and the supply list of shit I need every day is considerably longer. It’s all very routine, mundane, and not worth of being mentioned, even though I just filled your eyes with it all and made you wonder if you should just unsubscribe to this already. Seriously, don’t though. I’ll know, and make it a point to write some knockout material just to piss you off.

I miss the excitement. The uncertainty. Doing things that could radically change my future and lead to dizzying heights and soul crushing lows. This is a good thing. I lived through transition and the world didn’t end. It didn’t break me, or even really come close. OK, yeah, I had some dreary, weepy days in there over the past year, but I’m going to conveniently blame hormones on that, evidence or none. I had a little rest, and now it’s time to climb some new mountains.

Am I still going to maintain this blog and share my experiences? In the words of Tina Fey in one of her minor roles, “you betcha!” What I can add to the body of knowledge regarding transition is probably more limited, though I’ll still write trans posts. I’ll also be vectoring into other areas as I see fit, and promise to try to keep up the funny schtick as much as possible. All the transition knowledge I have to share is conveniently accessible if you access the ‘Topics’ tab up at the top where you can find my blathering on almost any topic, or will once I get around to updating the damn thing. Ride’s not over yet.

PS – The picture, in case are wondering, is in homage to one of the greatest trans blogs ever written, “I Hate Roller Coasters”, by my sister, Becky Kent. This one’s for you sis. 🙂

PPS – Um, just so we are clear, Becky is still with us and doing incredibly well. Her blog is gone, hence the homage, but seriously, she’s fine and if I can ever convince her to do a guest post, I’ll prove it.

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.

Clothes Really Don’t Make the Woman

Badly DressedI really used to look like an idiot. I’m not talking about back when I looked male (or more accurately, more male than I do now), but when I first started out in my transition. What brought this to mind was something a friend said about an acquaintance of hers. “It takes her 4 hours to get ready just to go to the grocery store! Then she’s the only one there who looks like they just came from a formal ball and she wonders why people stare.” I laughed at first, but then thought about it and concluded, yeah, that was so me not really all that long ago. My friend was able to admit the same about herself, so I began thinking that this would be a great topic to write about and maybe have a few laughs.

The very first time I ventured out past the backyard and into public was a Buffalo Belles meeting. I wore a black mini with white embroidery, a chiffon lace black top, and large hole pattern tights you would expect to see at Hot Topic. Oh, and heels of course. I accessorized with a big beaded necklace and enough Cover Girl to fill in every pore to the top and finish it with a half inch of powder. I was pretty happy with the way I looked. When I arrived, I felt like I fit right in. I did actually, but this was mainly because the majority of the membership consisted of cross-dressers, most of whom had only dressed for meetings at the super-duper secret location. If anything I was way underdressed for sitting in a dimly lit, well curtained room. It really kind of set the tone for the months to come.

For some reason, I, and probably you if you are trans, completely failed to open my eyes and look at what the women around me were wearing in day to day life. Somehow I was blind to the fact that the other women at Wegman’s or the Eden Corn Festival did not look like they stepped off the set of ‘Heathers’ or out of a 1996 Delia’s catalog. Unfortunately, both the aforementioned sources were great inspirations for me, though two decades removed from the present and my current age. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with having a little panache and a unique sense of style, but neither are things that are really going to help one blend in. I think it’s OK if you are a cross-dresser to look like you are in costume, in private anyway, but when making permanent life changes picking an outfit from Spencer’s is probably not the best of ideas.

For the longest time I simply didn’t get it. I mean I waited three long decades and change to finally express my gender, so why not go whole hog with it? Why not find the prettiest, frilliest, fluffiest, patent, sequined, ruffled, baby-doll, girliest thing in the whole wide world and just wear that from sun up to sun down? Fuck pants. Pants are for men. So are shoes with less than a 4 inch heel, shirts that can’t be used as distress flags, and hosiery that doesn’t have Hello Kitty on it. Thankfully, my spouse wasn’t feeling overly vindictive, and was kind enough to stop me before heading into the world looking like a deranged old Shirley Temple or Pollyanna. Bless you if you get my references without having to look them up on Wikipedia.

I think of it as the curse of trans adolescence. Not necessarily dressing age inappropriate as we’ve discussed before, but putting way too much time and energy into nipping out for more onions and Grilled Bear flavored Doritos. It’s wearing heels when you know you will be walking on gravel. It’s wearing a skirt you didn’t realize rides up past your crotch when you sit because you only tried it on standing up. It’s wearing pantyhose when the situation doesn’t absolutely demand it. It’s all those little things that cause the world to stop for a moment, stare, and wonder, “wait, what the hell am I looking at there anyway?” It’s a painful anxious time, and I could not be happier that it’s over. Well, for the most part. I still get the occasional, “Um, you aren’t seriously wearing that to work, are you?” It’s a process.

The great lesson learned is that clothes do not make the woman. You are the same you whether dressed to the nines or slogging around in old jeans and a tee shirt, except in the latter most people won’t give you a second glance. Well, until you open your mouth and give your best Gary Busey impression, but that is another story.

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