Sunday, August 31, 2008

This Van Was Rockin' When Kali Came a' Knockin'

Me: You should like me to what!?
Universe: mumblemumblemumble
Me: Excuse me?!
Universe: schprat.
Me: Okay, lemme get this straight. You want me to inject testosterone, cease menstruating, sprout random body hair while possibly losing pieces of my thick and luxurious mane? Is that right? Hack off my boobies, grow a weiner and STOP SHAVING MY LEGS???
Universe: Michelangelo

I have felt, at times, like Noah and Ark, like “oh, really! That’s your divine purpose for me? This ludicrous, over-the-top, nose-thumb of my reality!? What’s up with that?” But God knows this little human won’t mind being the butt of some cosmic joke if I get to look hot doing it.

My narcissism is my greatest narcotic. For all I know I can snort dried lion sperm* for the rest of my days and never look truly dude-ish to the outside world, but my interior view shall ever now keep me safe and warm. Thank god for this protective membrane of delusion because when I do see myself as I am, my brains feel like they’ve been trash-compacted.

I’m not sure why the dictum** from the heavens came when it did. Was I feeling safe? Was my path clearer? I was in a relationship with someone I adored, but she was soon to leave me. I was going to begin college, which terrified me. Things were completely unstable – my jobs, my housing – but they held the promise and hope of becoming stable in the near future. As “luck” would have it, all of those things became wildly unpredictable, as unstable as some mutant sci-fi atom threatening to split. And then came the aftershocks, of losing David and nearly losing Keith.

For my friend M, it was when the Universe completely cleared his plate. Typically, this comes in the form of a personal Katrina, meaning, he lost everything dear to him, his job, his longtime partner, his sister. The space of absolute grief has its own laws and dimensions. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not the world the rest of us walk in: it’s a between-the-veil place. If you’re present to it you can perhaps get the gift it offers, which is the gift of liberation. Being atomically smashed by loss means

  • You’ve got nothing left to lose.
  • You appreciate, on a molecular level, the temporal nature of anything.
  • Carpe diem, and whatnot.
You can begin to co-create a life for yourself around no-one else’s (perceived) needs but yours and thing that made you. You see the futility and ludicrousness of living in anything but your true nature; you begin get glimmers of what is really important, has been all along – that all we have is each other and everything and that all we have is transient, impermanent, dynamic, ever-changing, lives and blooms and sweetens and crumbles.

To have that distillate nectar of grief placed on your tongue is, like a hit of pure Owsleyan LSD, to be given carte-blanche to travel anywhere you want to go.

M’s therapist said to him “well, you’re free now. What is it you’d really like to do, that you’ve put aside, hidden, from yourself and everyone else? You can do that now.”

To which M replied, eventually having his breasts and uterus surgically removed, giving himself testosterone injections, losing his hair, growing a beard. He walks with a zen calm and meaning now I suspect he never had before.

I look forward to that place. I still feel grief-distracted; I’m still grieving, not the least of which is this “old” me, the one that the rest of the world still sees, the one with boobs and the unmistakable softness of middle-aged woman. But I’m willing stay the course, because I get to see the outcome, in guys like M and others, who literally stand straighter (not having to hide their chesticles), live larger, expanding in their own consciousness because they are growing, unfettered, into their true nature. Why wait for the natural hand of Great Disaster? Why not just do it now?

*thanks, Joshie!

**not a term for what trannies have in their panties.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Aint I a Woman?

Okay, so seriously. No, really. Think about this. What is it that makes you the gender you are? What made me a girl for all those difficult years, and then a woman, and now a…what? I started with the “requisite” arsenal of biological determination, the vulva (as far as I know anyway – - now we’re finding all kinds of things out about what we’re all born with, and what happened -and still does I’m sure- to parts that didn’t conform to social standards of gender). Women in particular get riled about genital mutilation in Africa and other countries, and we should, right? But what about the infants in the supreme country of the U S of A, whose genitals were lopped off, medically mutated, whose genital presentation was “different,” for whom doctors decided their gender because the doctors weren’t comfortable with the infants’ tiny danglers? Hold me closer Tiny Dangler. It blows my mind that children were forced into a genital decision, had to endure repeated and horrible surgeries to correct blocked urethras, remove nascent ovaries or testes, sculpt whatever they had into something that “looked like” the sex the medical industry and their parents felt might be “comfortable” for them. I understand that we were all capitulating to social pressure, that parents didn’t want their kids to endure the teasing, ostracizing, perhaps even violence that can come from being “different.”

I know women whose vaginas can’t be penetrated, have atrophied, were surgically removed, who have little or no breasts. Are they still women? I have seen men whose junk mine is beginning to rival, with tiny D battery pokers and wee little labial nutsacks. Are they less than men?

Some transpeople posit that what’s beneath the skirt or kilt makes neither the man nor woman. Science now can argue that the brain is the seat, rather than your seat being the seat, of your gender. So what is it that’s in the brain that distinguishes us?

Two of my closest friends here in tiny D battery Carrboro are chicks. When I get close to people, I begin to blur out gender- like I don’t think of Jessica and Judith as chicks – they’re just THEM. Sure, they have cute hair and wear girly things, but I know dudes that do that. If I asked Jessica what she thought made her a woman she would likely respond with “Did you know a human being grew in my uterus and then sprang out of my vagina?!” – a stunning visual she is fond of sharing for any circumstance, much less the deconstruction of gender.

Judith is a beautiful woman. Clearly feminine in presentation. She also has more balls than most of the guys I know. I call her “the hot knife through my buttery opacity” because she GETS TO IT. She doesn’t exhibit what I think of as a female brain thing – that 360 degrees of processing everyone’s feelings, scanning energetically, particularly as relates to one’s own. She’s a fucking mental ninja. If my thinking is an inefficient, in-the-red beauty salon, she would be Tabitha from Shear Genius, dressed like a John Galliano version of Pinhead in Hellraiser. There would be some serious remodeling happening, is what I’m saying to you.

During the opening of an NA meeting their literature reads “you are an addict when you say you are.”* Am I simply the gender I say I am? What on god’s green earth makes me think I’m not a woman? I used to see my masculinity as intrinsic to my sexuality, that my soi-disant “masculine” behaviors were a parcel of my attraction to women; they didn’t seem to exist outside of my perhaps fetishized urges for chivalry, obeisance. But if that were true, the parameters of lesbianism would be sufficient for the likes of me. And they are not. Lesbianism does not explain why, at age 3, I was obsessed with shaving my face (see adorable photo at right). Lesbianism doesn’t fully explain why I was creating moustaches to stick on under my nose, pretending to don a suit, and jauntily strolling ala Dick Van Dyke** in Mary Poppins, replete with boater and cane***; appreciates but does not enlighten as to why wearing dresses of any era makes me break out in cold sweat; and finally, lesbianism does not begin to understand the isolation and even panic I have experienced, in a room full of “other women.” I don’t fit in, y’all!

I’ll end on this happy, uplifting note. My fat is finally migrating. The body looks markedly (to me, who gets to see me nakedy) different than it did 4 months ago. I only wish the lard was tinted, so I could see exactly where it was traveling to. Given the fact that the testosterone has yet to make a substantive difference where it COUNTS, meaning my ALGEBRA CLASS, I’m inclined to believe it’s all making its gloppity hijira to my brain.

*to which everyone in my homegroup in Austin would respond “YOU ARE!”

**DICK. Van. DYKE. Snicker!

***Lesbianism certainly doesn't explain this behavior and I cannot think for the life of me WHAT DOES. I can only share that in my mind's eye, I'm not only male, I'm exceedingly dapper.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Greasy and Few Are the Moments We Two Can Share

I neither fully comprehend what I'm doing, nor understand why I’m compelled to do it. At the end of the day I ask myself "Do you want to take testosterone?" and the answer is (nearly) always "yes." Sometimes that answer is only superficially about being a "man." I’m not sure I want to be a “man.” Whatever that is.

I don’t know what I am anymore.

I feel like transition really is that: this place of movement, evolution. How can I know where evolution will take me? Will I have the same amount of arms, even? Maybe I’ll be a spider!

I feel like I just don’t get to know – like it’s totally in some greater Consciousness’ hands. This is so humbling. You have this sense of being your own architect – this may explain why people get so entangled in plastic surgeries – that you can somehow manufacture this creature you dream for yourself. But when you’re doing it with chemistry, with hormones, there’s no telling what will happen! Who can predict how it will affect the body, much less the mind!? My brain already feels both more stripped down, and more souped-up. I’ve never been more horned up yet less inclined to date someone, although that may have more to do with having charred oneself radically on a flaming pile of love in recent memory. I’ve never had more confidence, felt more integrated, yet conversely felt so pixeled and insecure.

Let me remind you about adolescence. Remember adolescence? Remember your skin and hair being too oily, your body too large in some places, too small in critical others? Travel back with me to that place of stunning self-absorption, not a pleasurable narcissism, but the neurotic’s microscopic examination of every flawed detail, literally every outlandish and outsized pore and whatever’s impacted in it; consider the social steam-cooking, your acutely felt knowledge that you do not fit in, never will; you are a leering, disgusting, oversexed, and be-zitted social spectacle whom assuredly everyone sees highlighted against the backdrop of its own constant and slumping failure, who stinks and sweats and stutters and forgets everything it has ever known or been in this new, this horrid, this tragic incarnation.

It’s not that bad. But it was, and the present holds a heat, an ember of that time. I do feel a bit like Seth Brundel in the final quarter of The Fly. The testosterone has taken me, like an ill-intentioned hypnotist, to places where, if the mind is hazy, the body recalls all too well. I have a fear of public speaking I haven’t experienced since High School, when I was convinced I was there solely for the nasty and brutish entertainments of the popular. This phenomenon is almost completely corporal, a physical response. As an actual real-time adult, I can walk through that mental-ated gauntlet, force myself to commit to speaking aloud in public, but it is highly unpleasant - please note that I am a performer and I am now terrified to perform.

I smell. There, I said it. I smell different and I smell bad. I am beginning to smell like a guy. EVERYWHERE. I take comfort, refuge even, in my fantasy that whoever falls in love with me will love my smell. It has to be that way, right?! I am terrified of losing my hair prematurely, meaning, before the rest of me looks like a dude. Please God, let me get facial hair before I lose head hair!

Some guys were telling me how the way they looked at women changed. That they had heretofore seen women as sexy and hot, but hadn’t actually wanted to rub their greasy horny eyeballs up and down’em and drown in the jiggly fuck parts, which they now found themselves doing. I think I may look at women less, actually. I think I gave myself carte-blanche, as a dyke, to check women out. I find myself trying to be respectful. I look, I’m a lookie-lookerson, but I’m too self-conscious (a-do-le-scence! Give me an “A!”) and therefore cannot enjoy it. I’m totally experiencing the joyless shame of puberty! Good times!

Also, men are broody. Women are moody; men are broody. I’ve got a minor brood thing that wants to happen. It used to look like female depression, but now it’s like dark, moody guy. I hang out with men a lot now, deliberately, and I can tell you: they have a depression that’s tonally unique to men. Women are dark chocolate; men are bitter. We’re 85% cacao depression. Women often find this darkness sexy and compelling, which means it's culturally marketable so many men don't feel it's a liability . It’s a suck-ass place to be – I can’t articulate this exactly but it’s the place where men feel their victimhood. I wish I could say more about it but it may mean visiting that place and IT’S AWFUL.

I’m told that when women break up with men, it’s done. They’re good that way. Men, on the other hand, as the joke goes, will call late at night and say things like “You stupid bitch I hate you! Come back, Baby, please (sounds of sobbing)!” I fear I may be that guy. That’s mortifying, but possibly true. I’ll leave a little room for doubt so you don’t think I’m a total loser. And right now, what you think of me is painfully important.

That, Ladles and Gentlespoons, is the worst of all of puberty’s great charms and allure: the delusion that others’ opinions of me define me. It is taking all the strong will of this grownup to wrest the wheel from the boy who is determined to drive into the cafeteria assessments of his “peers.” Once in a while, the boy wins, and there we are, the two of us, covered in Shepard’s Pie (it’s Friday’s lunch!) and overcooked peas. As we sit, in our parents’ now smoking and battered Toyota Corolla, bloodied and benzoil-peroxided, amidst the screaming chaos of wounded high-school cliques and claques, we panic: “Are they laughing at my hair?”


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"You're Way Too Beautiful Girl - You Had Me Suicidal"

I’m at the Whole Foods in Durham this place is lousy with transpeople. Crawlin. People like me, too: ‘tweeners. We read dyke but only we know how we see ourselves, our interior view. For instance who would know that right now I envision me the post-modern American Rake, a graying George Clooney, comic like John Stewart, with the alpha ne’er-do-well bonhomie of Mr. Bradley Pitt.*.

Oop- see, chick across from me just stood up. Dyke, not trans. No way she’s going for guy, but the incipient moustache threw me off. It’s a tough tell, but the shoes are a dead giveaway: flat-soled, unsexy, narrow black 80’s style office-wear. No self-respecting transman would be caught dead in those. I mean, we’re clearly capable of the same bad taste and delusional thinking every other joe is, but these particular breed of brogans belong only to lesbians or older moms at the workplace. They're the elastic waistband jeans of footwear.

I foresee a future where “sir” and “ma’am” cease to exist. It’s becoming less and less comfortable, especially for “normies,” to gender-qualify everything. I got “sir” then “ma’am” from my school’s automotive instructor today, who was clearly both comfortable and capable of switching gears, as it were. His is the kind of classroom that gender neutral people possibly frequent, if they can be said to frequent anything. I was also “ma’amed” Monday in my Women’s Studies **class by the instructor, which was at first contextually disheartening. I wanted to be especially offended, but then recognized second wave feminism’s (my professor is from the 60’s) struggle with strong gender i.d. You know, the second wave worked very hard to include all varieties of lesbian and often had to accelerate above dyke-baiting conservatives, both within and without the movement. So I feel like a “ma’am” from this quarter is an open-armed, albeit misguided, embrace of my dyketitude.***

I’m reminded of those men and women who insist on telling me how pretty I am. Why are they telling me this? There's often real force behind it. Recently a guy remarked, apropos of absolutely nothing, “You’re a good woman, Sam.” “I’m a good man!” I countered cheekily. He shook his head “No, no.” That was not acceptable, even though I said it. I was defining myself. And these women that tell me how pretty I am: does it make them feel better somehow? Like now they’ve complimented the big hairy dyke who’s clearly uncomfortable with her femininity, and they believe this to be some warm-hearted missile that detonates dykey recesses of latent desire to be beautiful? Or do they displace their own discomfort with my androgyny, my blurry gender presentation by shoving it into their “beauty” template? Please! Call me handsome! You would be correct, Sir!

I have got to live in my own delusion, the one where I’m handsome and not pretty. By delusion, I mean I need to block out my true silhouette, the one that looks soft and hippy and breasticated; for my interior survival I must define myself as stocky, yes, but muscularly so. I need to believe men see me as their equal, when I know they often do not. It’s too heartbreaking sometimes, to skate the interstices. Some people love it; they live radically in a gender neutrality. I’m afraid not a little of my stance is about power, after all. Getting “ma’amed” today is feeling a little bit like kryptonite; it’s the outer Delilah to my inner Samson. Interestingly, it’s having gotten my hair cut off that’s getting me “Sirs.”

*Anyone who actually knows me is likely choking on a raucous gumball of their own spit, disbelief, and hilarity just now.

**The deliciousness of taking this course now was too savory to resist!

***In my instructor’s defense, it was freakin MONDAY morning, and virtually everyone in that class is female, even the guys. I’m sure I don’t know what I mean by that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Remove the Spoon From the Mug, and Your Eye Won't Hurt When You Drink Your Tea.

A couple weeks ago I’d sent what I was referring to as a “tranny care package” to my parents. It contained a well-thought out, open letter, one for each parent, that began "you might want to sit down for this...", and two books I have found inordinately helpful in coming to terms with the meaning of my transition – “The Riddle of Gender” and “Becoming a Visible Man.”

I’ve had to “come out” as a lot of things – lesbian, heroin addict, tattooed person, recovering person, god lover* - to the degree that I suspect my family sometimes feels like I’m the spinning and spun-out 6 year old with a broom handle, jacked up on cake and ice-cream, and they’re the helpless and dangling piñata at my insane party.

Mind you, none of this has been particularly “fun” for me either. I have occasionally wished I was actually swinging the broom handle. It has sometimes felt like it would be easier to "destroy" the family than to live with their anger, bewilderment, their lack of approval. I have heard, from other people, that their sister’s/parent’s/partner’s evolution from sex-to-sex was a like a death. “He killed my sister.” I was told by the woman whose brother is a good friend of mine.

This gave me pause. Then I had the natural thought: well my family shouldn’t find it difficult to have “Samantha” die a natural death! “Samantha” was often a morbidly unhappy child, who, following Ronald Reagan’s “Trickle down” theory of emotional economics, took her pain and rage out on her younger brother in ways that continue to evoke horror and mortification in me, Sam. “Samantha” stole everything she could get her hands on, for dope and coke, all while maintaining the middle-class drug addict’s bizarre sense of entitlement by demanding “loans” and “gifts.” She spent a good deal of her twenties and thirties, and, oh dear, even some of her forties, in institutions and jails.

Maybe my family will recognize a fresh start, a new relative, a new being in their midst! Sam is way more chill than that unhappy woman, driven by a thousand inner demons. Sam has inner demons, but there’s only about seven now. I can, and do, wholeheartedly thank Samantha for having done ALL THE WORK. She did the hard, hard stuff, every way a human can, and she made it here, burning down the submerged wreckage, so I could finally emerge, growing tiny limbs from her tadpole swimming frantically and oft upstream in the murky white water of Manhattan streets and alleys, D.C. projects, Austin slums.

My family will never get that. They’ve got to deal with the death of their daughter and sister. That’s got to be a mixed bag, for them. It has been for me, despite my recent embrace of transitioning. It has been hard, and may continue to be so. When I heard from my brother that my parents had received the package (and I still hadn’t heard from them, or him) my inner man sank to his knees. I woke up this morning thinking “why can’t I just be a woman?”

Because I just can’t. Because having been given the gift of sobriety, of a new lease, of another day above ground, I no longer have the option of ingratitude, of insincerity, of inauthenticity. I’ve been through too much to be anything but myself, whatever that looks like. My personality would like to say “I’ve earned it!” but in truth, it was given to me, this life and this appreciation for it. To have come out of a construct like that, a life that I experienced as nearly unremitting pain and suffering, into a life full of love, and support, and juicy humanity? The only thing I have to offer that sweet life is me. Thank you for giving me the strength to do that.

*my parents are “secular humanists” – which is atheism for people who are invested in social justice. Throwing a love of the Divine into my own personal chex-mix was, perhaps for them, as palatable as cigarette-butt flavored soft-serve.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Three Feet Tall, No Teeth, With a Flat Head.

I’ve been listening to my friends agonize about their male partners this week and there’s a deafeningly consistent theme. These men and women do not feel as though they’re being listened to – they do not have a voice in the relationship. Now I know their partners, and I can say that unilaterally they’re good guys. They’re kind, compassionate with others, attentive to their children, and while none of them might identify as such, I would say they were all feminists. I don’t doubt that they regard their significant other as their equal, in most regards. (and therein lies the crux of the biscuit, as Mr. Zappa used to intone.)

Nonetheless, and I’ve witnessed this phenomenon, there’s always this place where these guys are hearing-impaired. It’s like you have to check the bars on your men to see if you’re getting reception. “Hello, I have an opinion, a thought, and it’s valid and impo…!” Shit, they can’t hear me here. You’re looking at a human who has checked out entirely, stonewalling behind the channel changer, his dinner, his simple conviction in the overweening rightness of his always correct idea.

Was I that way with my previous girlfriends? Probably. When I have an opinion, and I often do, I’m quite convinced it’s the best one, even though I’ll change it in a heartbeat given new information.* I’m a touch overbearing. A soupçon, really, a smidge. Okay, I’m totally sure I’ve been that asshole guy who's not only right - you’re not even a part of his landscape right now that your lips are moving.

I remember, once upon a time a hundred years ago today, being completely revolted by my nearly natural quiescence with this guy I was schtupping. I mean, we were just doing it. I was a lesbian, f’crissake, and me backing up on his penis just meant we were having friendly sexy times. But I remember one afternoon he went out with the boys, and left me at home. And they were my boys. My two best friends. The hierarchy, however, was clear. It was like they all knew somehow that I was fucking Scotty, and it knocked me down in the pecking order. Scotty should’ve been at the bottom – the three of us were older, had shot more dope than him, but no, I had a vagina** and so it didn’t much matter how much dope I’d shot, or that I’d taught at least one of them how to shoot themselves up, and how to cop: I was the bitch on the bottom, and I knew it, I swallowed that wholesale, I said nary a word.

These men, these husbands and partners to my friends? They’ll listen to another man. They’ve got aaaaallllll the tiiiiiiiime in the world for another dude. They’re practically glassy-eyed with Bambi love for another man’s idea.

I’m creating a checklist. Some male-biased behaviors are cultural, but I’m concerned that some are enhanced hormonally, and I don’t want to be any more of a dick than I already am. In fact, now that I’m in the dick camp, I’d like to take the opportunity to pare down my dick, as it were. I’m not alone in the trans-community in wanting to bring something else to the gender-banquet; we see having been socialized as female as a distinct advantage for our sex.

Where does this come from, this “your lips are moving, Little Lady, but I sure caint hear you,” sometimes passive, sometimes balls-out hostile cock-block of women’s opinions and feelings? I want to punch men just writing about this. In fact, maybe I will, now that I’m not crying and stuff, maybe I’ll just go punch somebody. What’s that you say? You smell a stereotype? Who’s talking? There’s no one here but me.

*As long as that information’s source isn’t YOU.

**I still have one! I’m delighted that vagina has made it into mainstream language, albeit mildly infantilized, like “va-jay-jay.” It’s nice the people are invoking vagina. Just remember kids: vagina is on the INSIDE. VULVA is on the outside. I shouldn’t even have to tell you that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thus Spake the Uber-Dude.

Wow. I was in the North Carolina Department of Licenses, and I got scared. I was out of context. I was there with my over-long cutoff jeans, famous argyle polo, fabulous Kenneth Cole Unlisted leather sneaks and my unmistakable androgyny and I, for a moment, became terror-stricken. There was no one there of my socio-economic class and no one of my gender - whatever the hell those things are when one has been raised, nay, inculcated distinctly middle class but has not actually been middle class except in aesthetic and personal habit since leaving the parental nest, and one feels distinctly, nay, freakishly middle-sexed, standing uncomfortably albeit fashionably in the center of the DMV in Chapel Hill North Carolina.

I experienced the fear that I might be assaulted for being an outsider.

Here’s the thing: I have come to a new assimilation, a recent acquiescence, to my manlitude. I have really struggled with this transition. I did not care for it, no not at all, and I did not, for a time, wish to do it. Now I own it. I want it.*

This palimpsest of identities, this Rosie O’Donnell craft corner of identity decoupage: who am I? Artist, rocker, lesbian, heroin addict, performance artist, activist, writer, bon-vivant, alcoholic, mystic, body-builder, vegetarian, mentally ill, musician….all tried on, with greater and lesser degrees of comfort, most ultimately discarded, with greater and lesser degrees of success, and now Transgendered, which means what exactly?

These things tell me everything and nothing about who and what I am.

Nonetheless, those things, I fear, may speak harshly to the fears of others, particularly the tranny identity. What am I so afraid of? I never got too much crap as a dyke, or at least, I never attached much to it. I’ve been chased, by drunken men, by drunk men in cars, for being with another woman. Honestly, that’s more about being a woman than anything else. My perceived lesbianism was a threat to someone’s mistaken identity as heterosexual man-god, rightful owner of all things woman. I’ve been raped and I’ve been beaten. Same thing, same source of rage: this belief that if one is contained in one’s identity (male, ruler of all things), the world (oneself) is manageable and secure. Doesn’t ever happen, that security. Challenges to human ego structures start wars, dude, and on a personal level wreak just as much havoc, I’ve observed.

But why am I scared? I’ve already been chased, I’ve been assaulted. As a woman. The “worst” has already happened, for me. In fact, I have never been better equipped to defend myself than I am now. My street-level experiences taught me some things about other people and how to handle them, and that’s all I’ll say about that. So where does the fear of the threat of violence originate?

I think I’d just gotten to a level of comfort with my outlier-ness. Like with the tattoos, f’rinstance. That set me apart, for a while, but in recent years, in recent cities (like Austin) ‘tweren’t no thing at all to be tattooed. Likewise dyke. Nothin much to see there, anymore. It’s not about how others perceive me, it’s that I’m tired of feeling like an outsider. No, more honestly, I’m scared of being perceived as an outsider. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’m just TIRED. I’m exhausted by my own Herculean efforts to support my own Herculean ego structures. I’m afraid that I’ve just entered into one more rebellious realm, where my ego gets to thumb its tattooed gender-variant nose at the status quo.

My own ego, my mind, wants me always to feel apart from, lonely, isolated, misunderstood. This way it can avoid the pains of relationships, of interactions with other humans – the pains of betrayal and abandonment are the things it fears most. I think my fear is about being perceived as an outsider, but it’s me that set myself up that way. My true, deepest fear is of being alone, unlovable. Sometimes I’m scared that I’ve set myself apart for good with this one, this tranny notion. But the truth shines a warm hard light on that lie, and dissolves it into dust motes in its beam. By speaking and living my truth, whatever the fuck that is, I have never experienced more support, more love, and more liberation than I’m living RIGHT NOW.

*Manfirmations, I tell you what. This crazy new-age technology WORKS.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Food, Glorious Food! Hot Sausage and Mustard!

Oh, for heaven’s sake, IT’S BACK. I have two pimples and my stupid period. The organism is determined to survive – if my uterus were in a plane crash in the Andes, it would eat my liver, of that I’m absolutely convinced.

Notes from the field:

As I took my constitutional yesterday * I noticed I had new relationship with my gut. I was letting it hang over my waistband, on purpose. When I was a woman, my belly was a pooch, the signature of the curvaceous or Standard American Overweight breed of broad. I was not a little mortified by its insistence on hurling itself over my jeans’ top. Now, it’s a gut, and I’m free to let it fly. I almost want a Big Mac to celebrate. (I think I just threw up in my mouth.) Seriously, I have a wholly new sense of my torso, if you disregard the boobs, and guys are notoriously able to compartmentalize, particularly when it comes to their own body image. A lot of beginner transguys like their belly because it masks the boob shelf. I just feel like I earned this gut: hey, I paid a lot of money and ate a lot of delicious meals to look like this.

M and I traveled to Greensboro last night for my first Triad Gender Association meeting. It’s run by Drew, who also created and moderates Tarheel Transmen, a local listserve, and his amazing wife, who is MTF. There were a ton of women, and the three of us guys, so we retired to the smoking room so they could talk about us.** It feels amazing to be with a group of people who know exactly who and what you are. To not have to listen to people trip over my pronoun, to be experienced as a man, was a sweet sweet homecoming. My friends do their best, but 80% of them don't get it. They don’t see me as a man, and they cannot understand the importance of that vision, to me. Hell, I don’t think I even knew, I’d repressed it for so long. Here, my gender was not only understood, it was welcomed by women. “Here come some men!” a woman squealed from the mosquito-ridden southern porch as we debarked from the Jeep. Hallelujah.

I’d made some calls to this guy last week about my van, which had blown a head gasket. He can put a junked engine in it and fix it, something I’m unwilling to do. On the phone, my voice is deliciously deep and I’m Sam. When he came to my house, he looked at the car title, looked at me and asked “where’s ‘Samantha’ because she’s the one gonna have to sign this.” Internally I raised my fist and pulled down hard: FINALLY!!! I could’ve kissed him on the lips, but that would’ve created something waaaay messier than a blown head gasket.

I find myself withdrawing from friends and acquaintances whom I feel are “not trying.” It’s possibly not fair, but it is true. Mostly everyone I know does their best, against the tide of their own discomforts – some even embracing the exoticism, remarking to their lesbian friends “You can take the back seat: we’ve upgraded to tranny.” It’s hilarious, to be someone’s exotic; now I look forward to being eroticized as an FTM. Go ahead, find me sexy as a type, a genre! Why do people take issue with that? Don’t we all have a little sumpin-sumpin we ineluctably desire, gravitate towards? Black men, big girls, moustaches, androgynes, leather-wearers, large noses, stiletto heels, Italians! I’m just grateful in that smorgasbord, I made it to the table. Hell, I can’t wait for someone to make a meal of me. I’m a delectable tranny morsel.

*Homeboy can EAT SOME FOOD, YO. My metabolism is jacked and my appetite with it, so in an effort to not put on any fat I’m exercising more. When I’m skinny my body is pretty boyish so I keep telling myself to drop the weight. I could do it now, right!? Easy! But I’ll be damned if I can’t stop stuffing Coconut Milk Ice-cream and Veggie Chips into my gaping man maw. I'll stop today, when I finish the pint.

**this incredible conceit, this egotism I’ve had, always? You can't convince me it doesn't look RIGHT on a DUDE.

Friday, August 8, 2008

It's Not the Men In My Life That Counts - It's the Life In My Men

The Menses has gone missing. Finally. I have had cramps all week long – as reflective (self absorbed, neurotic) as I am, I got a little paranoid it was the onset of polycystic fibroids, which have been said to afflict the FTM on testosterone. I do not miss my period. One of the best things about being a heroin addict, and I’m sure you’ll agree, was not having it.

So I’ve had these interesting responses to my little tranny-blog here, from some friends of the lesbianic persuasion. There’s a lot of crossover, bleed, if you will, between dyke and trans, when your flavor of dyke is tomboy or butch and your flavor of tranny is straight dude. Those of us who grew up feeling frantically itchy in dresses, who did not envision the skort as a reasonable athletic solution, who spent our girlhood in creeks, up trees, loving the crack of the ball against the bat; we who pined for girls, whose jealousy towards our boy friends’ manifest destiny towards same and towards everything else too drove us to tears of frustration and weltsmerz, who never, ever, really felt comfortable in a female body – well? We’ve got a lot in common, the dyke and the transguy.

When does the velvet tip, as it were? At what point does the dyke cry “Enough! I shall be a woman no more!” and ascend the treacherous Mount T? *

Christ, like I know.

I hit a wall. I just couldn’t deny, anymore, that I was really sad to be a woman. That I felt really oppressed. It’s hard to segregate this more personal gestalt from the global: if you’re remotely conscious you feel oppressed as a woman, right!? But my brand of suffocation was that I was in the wrong body. I never got over being seen as a girl, because internally I never thought I was one. It was a time of terrible sorrow, my surrender to this confinement. I overate and became hyper-sexual. One way I could conquer a male body was to sexually trap it. It was the only way I could feel powerful over it. That’s distinct from getting female sexual power by fucking men; there, your power lies in your femininity to some degree, your ability to use your wiley woman ways to get a man in bed.

For me, it was more like cannibalism. Like if I fuck this guy (eat his heart, brain) I will consume him and have his essence. But alas (a lass), I only ever felt betrayed again by this body that softened and bled when I longed for it to muscle and harden; no matter what I did in bed, nor how I got him there, it was always me that was consumed.

Lately I’ve thinking about making some sexy times with a man. I kind of want a last hurrah while I’m still marginally a “woman.” My hour for heterosexual hijinks is well-nigh, and even now I may have some ‘splainin’ to do once nekkid.** While the effects of testosterone can take up to two years to really manifest, the first things that change are the voice and the pants stuffing. But this desire to sleep with a man is largely intellectual, and that’s not really a hot place. And while I’m sure everyone would have a good time, why do that to myself and someone else when I don’t really “mean” it?

I don’t know that I’ve answered anyone’s questions, about me or themselves…I can state unequivocally that seeing the (tiny) patch of whiskers emerge on my chin makes me so happy. When I was a woman I was like “pluck that shit! If I’m in a coma, please pluck that! Why on earth would I want to sport 10 hairs on my chin?!!” As a dude I’m an adolescent boy; I know I’ll have to be talked out of not shaving my darkening upper-lip fuzz. My downstairs growth thrills me. The thickening shoulders, the appearance of new leg-hair makes me ever so happy.

When I fantasize about kissing a man, feeling that chin stubble against my face, embracing that denser, more powerful torso, I can only ever conclude that the man I most want to have sex with is me.

*that Prince song, “When Dykes Cry.”

** Of course, that would depend on the man – some are less observant than others, and some are just glad to get some.

much thanks to Kristy MacD, my new BFF, whom for some reason NO ONE SAW FIT TO INTRODUCE US WHEN SHE WAS HERE IN CHAPEL HILL and so we had to meet online.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Meet Ze Monster, or, Igor, would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?

I’ve always been drawn to the word “monster.” Me and some other genderqueers* used it in Austin when we created the first “Monster Pansy,” a drag-capade extravaganza for kings and assorted, um, assortments. Webster says a monster is “an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure,” or “one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character.”

A very dear friend asked me recently, and I believe this came from a Christian perspective because she’s Christian, if I thought God had made a mistake. I knew this to be a loaded question; the assumption that yes, God made a mistake and I was supposed to have been born a man, began to coagulate in the air between us. But the heaviness dispersed as I sucked an inbreath and connected with that consciousness that makes absolutely no mistakes. And then I got excited.

“I don’t think God made a mistake, AT ALL!” I can feel my eyes widening; I’m loving my friend's open inquiry, that we can have this discussion. “I think God absolutely meant for me to be born a woman, and to come to this transition at this time. Think about what people like me can bring to the experience of being the “opposite” sex. I feel like God is using trans people to undo all this horrific damage brought about by millennia of single-gendered spirituality. Even that stupid Dan Brown book – like it’s totally awakening in even mainstream consciousness that we’ve been missing the Divine Feminine!”

You can see I am a bit of freak when excited. Envision foam flecks if you like. I’m on a roll: “Who is the ultimate male role model? Who? Jesus! Compassionate, elastic, a true radical who wanted people to dump their wealth and go walk in the desert with him! He was too much for the hegemony! Think of this work he did! We totally lost THAT gorgeous male energy through the institutionalization of this religion. We subsumed the true Christ message in the desire to keep political power intact.” I really believe this. I believe we’ve created a metastasizing religious monster, if you will, that has nothing to do with divine spirit.

Now, as you’ve read, I’m learning hand over fist again that trannys are just like everyone else. We’re bigots, and republicans, and sailors, and book readers and we watch the same crap, listen to the same music, eat the same food and fuck** the same way (really!) as everyone else.

Nonetheless, there seem to be enough transgendered men and women who are hip to this, who intuit consciously that they have been blessed by having been born and socialized as “the other.” We appreciate that it is our job on the planet to upend these constricting social constructs. We have the opportunity to model an integration of gender, to raise gender to a higher experience. Even on the most mundane plane – and I recognize a man could figure this out but bear with me – I recall my heterosexual girlfriend expressing a deep fear, borne of her experience with men. “I’m afraid you expect sex from me” she said, sensing a demand that I hasten to add came from within and not without.

“Oh, I want sex all the time” I assented “but I never expect it.”

That, I believe, is a critical distinction. I understand, as a woman with not a little het experience***, what it’s like to feel that insistence from one’s partner. I know some guys feel pressured this way too, I get that I’m painting with broad (ha! “broad!”) strokes (double ha!) but her experience was that there was an expectation of sexual service from men. That’s too bad. That’s just a subtle, practical way a transgendered person can change the dynamic.

Unfortunately in this world of fear (cue Disney “Small World” – “it’s a world of torture, a world of fear!”) I’ve observed that phenomenon of aligning oneself with the Other Side. Give a monster some power, a disguise, and the monster thinks it’s One of Them. In my overarching quest to “be comfortable in my own skin” I hope I never forget what skin I’m in. My hyper-vigilance, this need to deconstruct everything, to sift for prejudice, can remind me to stay humbled by this transition, to not drift into the warm, wet dream of white male privilege. It’s intoxicating and alluring and I want it badly, baldly sometimes, at the expense of who I really am. It’s bolstered by everything around us.

Today I got to give myself my shot. I’m a lucky, lucky man, and a lucky, lucky woman.

*The hilarious geniuses Mocha-Jean Herrup and Rachael Shannon.

**albeit BETTER.

***I like to think of myself now as “heteroflexible.”

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pickin' the Pear of the Big Pawpaw

I had trannyguy coffee with some of my elders yesterday. It’s remarkable to me how willing guys are, even guys who are “stealth*,” to share their experience, create a tribe. It does, on the other hand, seem like a manly thing to do: give a brother a leg up. I caught a ride with my friend and ringmaster M, a charismatic, bearded, hairy guy about my age, with the little potbelly most of us have by our 40s. I always search for the dyke in these guys, and in M I see it most tellingly in his eyes, which are deeply communicative, darkly lashed, and always seem to be sharing an in-joke. Women must have been, and probably still are, captivated by those eyes.

As we pull into the parking lot, M points out this beefy, hairy**, topless dude, puffing away in the sweltering Carolina sun on a bicycle. “That’s C” he says triumphantly, flashing those eyes. He knows I’m going to be blown away by the sight of this dude, who will be joining our trannyfest. C is a big bearded bear of a man. It never ceases to amaze me, to behold the transman who’s been on T for more than a couple years. You just would never know they’d been born women. Even the more delicately boned, lithe ones, like my friend Cole, emit some strong male spoor, some inexplicable energy, almost an odor, that surrounds them like dust motes in the sun when you smack a pillow.

Their transitions differ tremendously, C having transitioned in the deep South in 1990, and M on the eastern seaboard in the last several years. Their differences also speak to the nearly unnerving cultural awareness brought about by the internet and the pregnant guy. Listening to them rib and engage one another I feel like Mowgli in the Jungle Book, seated across from Bagheera and Baloo. Sometimes it’s Disney Jungle Book, like when C talks about how he had no male vocabulary, wasn’t assimilated that way: “I’as talkin’ ‘bout some woman, and these guys were like ‘did she have big breasts?’ and I shrugged and said 'I guess so, yup' and they were like ‘did you titty-fuck’er?!’ and I was like ‘what!?’ I had NO IDEA what they were talkin’bout!”

M and I nod sagely; we both know what “titty fuck” means. M proffers this profound wisdom: “when men ask you if you’ve done something, just say ‘yes!’” But the point being, most of us, as women, did not experience these kinds of conversations with one another.

But sometimes the conversation feels more Kipling, more darkly, terrifyingly jungle, like when C talks about working with people who are blatantly homophobic, right here, right now, who are hard-core rednecks vested in UNC; who, if they found out who and what he really is, might actually kill him. Certainly they would harm him. I’m moved that this guy, who feels his life and livelihood is on the line, would meet with someone like me out in public, who looks like a tattooed, butch dyke - which is threatening to people in its own way - to share his experience, strength and hope. That’s a beautiful man, right there.

There was a passing exchange between my new mentors about who was voting for whom, with a little eyeball volley that stated, Eastwood fashion, “we are not getting into this, Brother, and by the way, you are WRONG.” Later M and I process this. It blows our minds that C is Republican. We think of other things: it blows our minds that a transman can be a bigot. “Where does your compassion for ‘the other’ go!?” But C, I point out, had been amazed to learn there were gay transmen. Man on transman ak-shawn. So we each have our ideas about what a transguy ought to believe, how he should behave in the world.

Later I find myself, as I am wont to do around men, talking shite about the womenfolk. “They’re freakin landmines, Dude! I spend half my time with women thinking ‘what did I just say!’ because somehow now we’re in a fight.”

As M busts me for misogyny, I abashedly recall that the common denominator in all my relationships is me. It’s me that donned my big ol’ clown shoes to go stomping about the mine-laden front yards of people I knew to be deeply insecure and highly sensitive. With the male v.s. female thing, I fall prey, again and again, to my own deep insecurities which I then mask in patently stupid ideas about men and women and how they all (mis)behave.

I’ve been having this reoccurring thought, that if I had been born a boy, or had transitioned earlier, I might not have had to get tattooed. All I have ever been doing is trying to claim this thing, this form, as mine. What it looks like, how masculine, how feminine, how hairy, is out of my hands. I just want, like every other mook on the orb, to feel comfortable in my own skin. And, of course, look fucking FINE doing it.

*passing as a guy, not being out as trans.

** much discussion of body hair would ensue. C scrutinizes my forearms and says “so you shave your arm hair?” The men in my family have like 6 chest hairs, total. We’re seals. C hastened to reassure me that I could end up as hairy as my two new brothers in a year’s time. I’m really okay with not being quite so hirsute, if it means I keep my head hair.

I am deeply indebted to M, and to C, to Cole, to all the men in my life. You want to bust up your sick ideas about men, try transitioning. There are amazing men out there, everywhere.