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.