Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Please Sir, I Want More

Like many a dyke, both former and still yet, who came out of New York City in the early 90’s, I was deeply steeped in the S/m (see, I even know how you properly write it, not S&M like straights do, like it’s a root-beer or a grocery store) Body Modification scene. It was just what you did, if you were a dyke of a certain kind (edgy) living in NYC or one of its kazillion neighborhoods, which, if you were a dyke was probably Dyke I mean Park Slope in Brooklyn.

We all did it; we dressed in leather, we beat each other, we had sex parties in dungeons, we frequented clubs at night and in the wee sexy hours. Most of us were bald, and all of us were pierced and tattooed. We play pierced and were suspended with meat hooks; we poured wax in each others ears and on backs; we equestrian or corset trained. Maybe the music scene sucked – I can’t really recall why we were so busy with all this. It took a lot of time and effort, it really did; there were no "capades" in our sex. For something we called "playing," it was very serious business indeed, even and especially if you were an Adult Baby.*

I’ve been holding up shooting testosterone to an old lit candle, and scrutinizing it through this lens of body modification/Sm. I cannot help but notice that to transition is to undertake an extreme form of body mod, and for some must, I insist, must, transect some pretty intense fetishes. There’s a whole (old) school out there that posits that transsexuals are mere fetishists; that to transition to another gender is the ultimate in paraphilia. Transwomen are men with a female fetish, or a vagina fetish, or a femininity fetish, or all of the above. Those of us who know transwomen who are not stereotypically feminine, who have found themselves, finally, in transitioning, understand what a crock of shit this is. Nonetheless, as a sex-positive pervert, genderqueer transsomething with an enquiring mind, I will speculate all the same.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just old age; my desire for a lot of props and pain has ebbed considerably. To live this life unadulterated means being exposed to a lot of emotional pain, both internally and ex. Living as trans means, for me anyway, existing with a fairly consistent thrum of emotional rawness as my brain and body mutate in unimagined ways. These mutations challenge my very sanity sometimes, as I watch my face expand and grow heavy, my torso square, my moods darken then elate. So who needs a flogger?

Is transitioning some next-level body mod? Shit, I’ve done all the tattooing, the piercing, the cutting – I would’ve gotten into corset training except it was too girl. I’ve heard that people shoot T into their nethers to enlarge them – women, I’m talking about here – as a form of body mod. Is this just the next, natural evolution for a guy like me, a guy who found at one point, some peace and even spirituality in the specialized endurance rituals of sadomasochism?

I find the whole idea exhausting. I’m thinking maybe I needed all that hardcore sex to get out of my head, to escape this body that betrayed me. I still catch myself thinking, when I see my tattooed arms, that I wouldn’t have needed to do all that if I’d been born a boy.

But I wasn’t, and I’m not.

What’s your freak trip? What’s its meaning for you, and what does it semaphore? Do you have one? C’mon, you know you do. I can share with you that transitioning does not give me a sexual thrill, some gender frisson, but I’ll also share with you that certain formal actions I regard as definitively male do. Butch dykes know what I’m talking about, like when their ladies tell them to take out the garbage. Strict gender interpretations can be highly sexualized, especially for those of us for whom they were remote, or even forbidden.

Is altering one’s gender a form of body mod? I reckon it is. Will there be a magazine devoted to it, like for piercings or goth girls? Hell, there probably is. But now we’re talking the commodification of sexuality, which must, in this Capitalist kingdom, bleed into gender as well. You know, as a tattooist, it used to gall me that people went out and got a full sleeve, all at once. A sleeve, where I come from, was something you acquired over time that had meaning and personal symbolism - it wasn’t a fucking fashion statement. Somehow, although God knows trannies make it look fucking hot, I don’t think we’ll be seeing all the kids doing it.

*a teendom of being forced to wear sanitary bricks, which are just period diapers, told me this particular perv wasn't for me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Restoration Hardware, or Look, I Changed the Knobs!

I was at Subway Mike’s the other day for a little lunch-time sammy. I had on my painter’s garb, and a baseball-type cap (my famous Ben Sherman Boiled Wool cap which a dog ate later) over my testosterone altered face. And my big ol’boobs. It really fucked with the counter help: they could not wrap their brains around what they were seeing. I was in Raleigh, which just doesn’t have the level of gender-ambivalent zaniness as my tranny-comfortable neck o’the woods.

“Uh, Sir” - and then he drops his head down to do what I call “the scan,” the assessment of what sex I might possibly be, how can he safely identify me, because as a sandwich guy it’s critical that he make a gender-appropriate meal – oop, now he’s seen ‘em and changed his mind - “Ma’am, what kind of bread do you want?”

Poor dude. We do that, though, we’re required to identify each other by gender, even if all we’re doing is creating a personalized version of a mass-produced hoagie. I like “Sir” and “Madam” myself; I always feel very Reformation when I use it, like I should have on silk breeches and a flounced shirt ‘neath a waistcoat. Nonetheless, it’s indisputably weird*, that we should feel the need to do this, in our every interaction.

I said “I’d like wheat and ‘sir’ is fine.”

What’s funny is I had met a transguy there for lunch, and I thought “you have NO IDEA what’s going on right now, you poor saps. You’ve got a store chockablock full of miniature pants-pickle sporters.” It just seemed really transgressive, if you’ll pardon the pun. (I imagine trans-people cringing at terms like “miniature pants-pickle” but I shan’t apologize Sir. Nay, I shall persist well past this adolescence, mark my words. Verily!)

My lunch date is the butchest guy ever, and when he says things like “when I was a lesbian I…” I just crack up in his face. It’s too funny to think of this dude as a dyke. “Asshole” he says, affectionately. He watched the trananigans go down at Mike’s. He shared this story about a woman he’d introduced me to. After I’d departed she asked him “Is Sam a man or a woman?”

“Why do you ask?” he wanted to know. That’s his standard, for that sort of question. He says it’s not judgemental; he’s trying to discover what it is that challenges their perception.

“Well, she seemed like a guy but she had breasts.”

Testosterone has altered the landscape of my face. It’s heavier towards the jaw-line, fuller. My Portland buddy says his face got “puffy” when he started T. “It’s angled out since then” he says – he’s been on T for at least 6 years – “but the first two years it just seemed puffy.” Great. This has greatly contributed to my haircut dilemma. I have to find something for this new, puffy face. “Squarer” is how my Raleigh companion puts it.

My titties, on the other hand? Not puffier. The fat shifts with the hormones; they’re less…composed, I’d say. Like if they were sculpture (and believe me they are. Stunning.) it would be as if they’d been in a warehouse for too long, and whatever they’d been composed of had begun to shift, deconstruct. And then you’ve got the muscular enhancement of hormone therapy, so my pecs are undeniably larger. This has the effect of sort of jutting out your fat-sacks. Like putting a loose bag of jello on really firm temperfoam. Sorry, that’s the best I can do.

Anybooby, that’s all I got. I careen back and forth, to and fro, on this gendered jour-nay, as you well know. When I’m with my guys, I’m a bro. I get my tranny on. When I’m alone, or feeling lonely, I get ascared. I’m learning, day by day, to let just let all that be. I can be a lesbian today, and a man tomorrow, or a betweener in the morning and boi in the afternoon. Or nothing at all, ever. Oh, and it is a gherkin in my pocket, and I am very glad to see you, very glad indeed.

*dispute with me, Madam, if you can!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Terrifying, Not Good At All, Ship Lollipop

I’ve spent the past 48 hours wanting to be a dyke again. Imagine, just for a minute, that you’ve spent the last 9 months in therapy, telling everyone what a big old MAN you are, jabbing your now hairy hams with lion jizz. Settle into that for a minute. Let it wash over you. Feel how welcoming, how warm, to finally be allowed, by one’s self, by science, to evolve into your own. Own it. Love it. Express it. Make sure everyone on earth knows about it. Now change your mind.

It’s fucked up, is what I’m saying to you, and I need you to know. I need you to feel my pain, my confusion, my personal torment. It’s not all that big a deal, actually, but imagine you’re me and how fun this is! I woke this morning with my heart hammering in my gullet, along with all the stomach juices anxiety could summon from my guts at 5 a.m. There’s a piece of my ego that believes it’s dying and IT DOESN’T WISH TO.

I’m powerless over this transition, and all its attendant drama, the second-guessing, the doubt, the depression, the ecstasy, the furriness, and the lack of same. I have absolutely no control over any aspect of this, except I can always change my mind. As far as the process is concerned, I can only let it happen and do my utmost to not attach to any of it. It’s very Buddhist that way. My feelings around it change ALL THE TIME. By nature I am terrified of the unknown, and by nature I mean by my virtue of my humanity. By the fact that I’m in a skin sack with a tangle of urgent CNS notifications and ambitions, which may or may not be fiction telling me to do this and do that and feel this and feel that, exclamation point!

What about this Gender Identity Disorder, anyway? What a peculiar thing! How many disorders that one can identify in the DSM IV say as much about society in toto as they do about the individual? Lets see: anorexia comes to mind. Just as much a disease of our culture as a personal pathology. Really, you could deconstruct nearly every mental illness diagnosis and lay a broader cultural template over it – bipolar, agoraphobia, borderline, any metastasized neurosis, right? Does my dysmorphia come from my mind, or does it come from living in a culture that forces people into an idealized gender binary? Yes, I say, yes to all that! And does the influx of DES, estrogens, and other hormones, in our food, our water, our plastics, our medications affect the bicameral brain, especially in utero? How could it not?

What is in my brain that I struggle so? What is the identity that wants to emerge?* I think always, it wants the lovable one. It wants the one that will bring it love and comfort and acceptance, and it grapples with this idea that the one it thinks will bring about this peace is the one capable of rendering me most alien.

I wish to be a woman because I know it. I also love it. I love women. I love being a woman with women. I guess I’m missing that a little, or rather, I’m standing on the shoreline, wistfully watching that unmistakable ingress, access to other females, float away on a really fabulous all-girl party barge. It could even be nostalgia for something I never actually had. Have I ever had ingress to women? Yes, I guess, with certain others, dykes like me. Will I, as a transguy, find that place again? Anything’s possible.

I feel like what a sentient dinosaur might have felt like, knowing its time was nigh, understanding the inevitability of its extinction, feeling like a scrapbook turned flipbook, watching its personal history pass on a cartoon landscape with longing and regret. It might also be animated about the future, excited by the prospect of something new, something perhaps greater, richer, better adapted to trudge this green-gray plain. It, and I can’t imagine what’s next, and we’re a little scared, even though we can both rip people’s heads off with our teeth in a heartbeat.

I’m glad you’re with me. I need you just now. I forget sometimes that this is just human amplified, that you’ve been through some measure of this, maybe not as weird, but something. I think popping a kid out of your uterus must be kind of like this. I’m just saying. Anyway, I trust you’ll take my hand, boy, girl, man or woman, and walk with me, at least part way, to the tar pit.

*and could it somehow involve a cape please?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Straw Dogs and Pants Stuffins

It’s always interesting to note who considers what masculine or feminine. I spent some time with a chick that thinks of some of her stronger, more boldface personality traits as masculine. She told me she sees herself as “competent” for starters. Now, this is classically butch-femme as far as I’m concerned. “Competence,” “ambition,” things of that ilk from what’s commonly referred to as “a pushy broad” (okay, you adorable kids today don’t say “pushy broad,” but me with my penchant for lost slang has this, and "brassy" stuck in his head just now) are the hallmarks of a whip-smart femme. Butch dykes are suckers for this shit. So is this guy. I love an aggressive, ambitious woman. I shall lean back in my seat and go for the ride. I am not in the least bit intimidated by smarts and savvy in a woman: I’m in awe. I should be intimidated because I’m a total Type B+ personality and can while away the hours just pondering laundry while aforementioned whipper-cracker will have conquered three boardrooms and written her curriculum vitae in the same amount of time. I will, however have cooked her a decent dinner, so there you go.

The bedroom’s another story. I guess it’s all about motivation, really, isn’t it?

Anyway, so another day the same woman says she’s the man in our relationship. We’re just friends, mind you, and being the man, I agree. I’m thinking “she’s thinking she’s dominating me, being the dude, but I’m just doing the guy thing and agreeing with the girl to make life smoother!” Funny, that. Those of us who have been in relationships know you just take the back seat sometimes. I don’t think anyone would call me passive, but maybe it looks that way, and even and especially women regard passivity as feminine. Hmmmn. Is any of this actually true or am I extrapolating out of my ass?

We discussed the male tendency to yammer on about themselves in conversation. It’s the thing that drives me most crazy about certain men: they clearly have no interest in anything but holding forth. Their interest in you is mainly as a) a bobble-headed accessory or b) a sycophantic yes-man. But women do a version of this, too. Hence the stereotype of the silent guy, drifting internal while his lady cohort gushes an effusive fount of the day’s triviata. This is all bullshit of sorts, but I’m putting it out there for your consideration, nonetheless.

I saw a documentary about gay Muslims yesterday. I live in a liberal ghetto in what has become a southern battleground state, so I can’t really speak to anything resembling the cloistered, oppressive religious orthodoxy presented in this film, although I imagine there are parts of this same state that can. It takes place mostly in Muslim countries, or France, where the gay people had fled to. When I see the pain of literal isolation, torture and imprisonment these men and women endure, I naturally think of my own. Which is mostly interior and made up.

I was swept in the tide of solidarity for my people, who have suffered torments I cannot even fathom. Regarding my transition, I remarked that as a gay person I always felt okay; I never suffered from persecution (which is different than being persecuted, which I have been. I’ve been yelled at and chased and ostracized for being a homo, but it never stuck on me). “For the first time in my life, I feel unsafe!” I intoned for my companion as I drifted into the welcoming arms of gendered exclusionary politics. “That’s the testosterone talking, Honey!” she laughed, “A side effect of that hormone is paranoia! Women don’t go patrolling their borders looking for interlopers. How can you feel unsafe now when you look like a dyke?”

Shut up. I do too feel unsafe. Okay, fine. It is a rather interesting outcome of hormone therapy: I do feel more insecure, even paranoid. I’ve commented on my new(ish) predilection for some serious brooding, some isolatory depression. But my penchant for self-aggrandizing drama, even if I have to align myself with someone else’s, is old news. Now I see why some gay people get all righteous and hand-wringy about their oppression when they’re white dudes living in gay meccas with good jobs and more privilege than they know what to do with. Whatever oppression this kind of bloke has experienced barely mitigates his sweet crib, his bank-making career, the entitlement only those of us born to the upper middle class experience and rarely question. Interesting that being on T gives me a yen to be martyred. This could explain a lot, historically.

Maybe I should start a crusade or something. A genderqueer battalion. It’s always been my fantasy to be in some ass-kicking gay gang. I loved the Pink Panthers, those men and women who would patrol NYC at night keeping the streets safe from gay-bashers. I think a crowd of transsexuals fueled with righteous indignation would be awesome and hella scary.

Before I went to sleep last night, I remembered how nice it is to feel my breasts brush the breasts of my lover, and how, after surgery, I’ll never get to do that again. It made me very sad. That’s for real, and it’s mine, and there are diversions aplenty, things and people and ideas to distract me from my genuine, if hormonally enhanced, grief and loss and pain. So I’ll leave you with that; I’ve got to go to Home Depot for some trip wire and detonators. You never know who might break in.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Samson Agonistes

Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m not transitioning quite RIGHT. I suspect people think “Well why doesn’t he do this or that to make himself look more like a man?” Like why are my tits all out and my hair thusly (shakes mane)?

I particularly feel this from a couple of my (incredibly butch) transmen friends. They get to bear witness to the worst of my neurosis, my hand-wringing, my wretched self-loathing, as I clutch the hem of their cargo pants and whine about people not seeing me for who I am. I’m always bitching about the boobs. “They’ve got to go,” K says, not for the first time. “I know, they make me miserable.” I reply, over the mam shelf. Then he says “And your hair…”

Okay, that’s where I draw the line. On my scalp. He knows it, too. He knows he’ll get nothing but truculent resistance from me here. My hair is not good right now, I’m waaay overdue for a cut, which I hate, but I’ve got an appointment with Amy-Jae next week - but that’s not what he means. He thinks my hair is too dykey, too femme. I’m touchy about the hair. Last time I got it cut, Amy-Jae was out-of-town, and I’d been listening to all my guy friends go “the hair, the hair” as if it held some secret ingress into tranny evolution, so I went to see Gwen at Syd’s, the best hair place in Chapel Hill. I told her “Man me up, but make it cool, ‘kay?” She did a great job. It was very male and very short. I definitely got “Sirred” more than I did before, with my longer, rocker do. But I hated it. It was not pretty. It was too manly. I met my friend M for coffee soon afterwards, and he said “hey! You cut your hair! It’s definitely more…BOY.”

K tells me: “When I wanted to pass as a guy, I got a flattop.” I almost threw up in my mouth. He saw my revulsion, my gurgle, and shrugged, “I’m just saying…” “Look, that’s fine for you, but I’m not THAT GUY. The guy I am wouldn’t wear that!” He looked at me with great transguy empathy and patience, and not a little pity, and replied “I didn’t get my ears pierced until much later. I had to become the guy I was.” What he meant was, he had to really butch out, really man himself down, before he could add any flourishes. I dug in my heels. “This is what I’m comfortable with, Dude. I can’t make it go any faster.”

He gets that, that it’s an organic process. I’m where I’m at. I want to look like a regular guy but I can’t stand looking less than attractive. I’d rather look like a Sam. Which is what I am, by the way. As a guy, I’m part lesbian, part DIY tough guy, with a wide swath of mother, uncle and flamer. Everything I know about femininity I learned from gay men. It occurred to me, less than a decade ago, that nellie guys weren’t born with particular hand gestures and styles of speaking – they learned that stuff by modeling women. Recognizing that it was too late for watching women and modeling their behaviors, that that had been outside of my comfort-zone as a child, I figured I could just observe queens and see how they did it. Every wave of the hand, anything resembling female in my speech, I got from faggy gay men. And when I do “feminine” gestures, they’re not even nuanced and “real” like my gay men friends’ are; they’re totally OTT and clearly fag. I think of myself as that straight guy whose sexuality is like a pair of corduroy slippers: comfortable, practical enough to wear burgundy silk pajama pants with. Inotherwords I’m that straight* guy who will kiss a man on the mouth in public.

My hair appointment is a week away. I reckon I’ll wear a hat until then. I found this fantastic Ben Sherman boiled wool chapeau on the ground at school – that’ll serve as my weeklong wig. What a drama. My hair wants to come out all gray and silvered too, and I’m tempted to cease the dye. That would definitely push me in the masculine camp, although my friend Felipe insists that my gray makes me look washed out. I guess we can’t have that, can we? You have to trust a gay man with gray hair on these things.

My own hair is like a Bravo Reality series. Even I don’t know how it will go until I sit in the chair. I make all kinds of pronouncements, commitments, before I go, about how I’m gonna have her just shear it off, down to ½ inch all over, and I feel very good about my decision, but when I sit in her chair I’m just as surprised as anyone by what comes out of my face. I had no idea I’d say to Gwen “Man me out.” No idea.

As far as the boobs go, it’s a dilemma. I have paid, thus far, nearly $100 for a variety of compression garments, all of whom do their job fairly well. Unfortunately, I have a herniated disc in C-5 that they compress as well, which makes wearing these undershirts like being a cat who has been spun in an office chair, been forced to navigate a heavily boxed maze and this after having had its whiskers cut. I have no sense of balance and I feel like I’ve been slammed into walls. Every week or so, I try them on again, having had the magical thought “oh Sam, it couldn’t have been THAT BAD,” only to be shocked, each time, by how awful it actually is. I’m making (another) mission to Target today; I hope to find some sort of jog bra that’ll flatten Mount Samthamanjaro.

Well, another day, another tranny dollar donated to a failing economy in the hopes of being the next piece in my personal evolutionary symphony. Meantime (I just typed “mantime”) I’m scrutinizing every hair on my body. I think there are new hairs on my hands. God I hope so. How weird that I’m looking forward to becoming more apelike. What kind of evolution is that! Please Jesus, do what you will with my body, devolve me into this primitive species, but Jesus? Do not let me vote for John McCain.

*I’m also sooo that straight guy that will have sex with other men. You know who you are. (Call me, ‘kay!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Today’s been interesting, if by “interesting” one means “painful as a dying tooth in need of a root canal that occasionally brings one to tears of wretchedness and frustration.”

My friend K says his early experience of testosterone was one of being “de-feminized.” He points out that he has since re-integrated a lot of feminine qualities, but initially that was T’s primary brain effect. I agree, that by degrees, nuanced female – let’s call them overlays, like one of those mylar human organ diagrams – are being lifted. One can sense them, traces of female disappearing like those old wax drawing boards, the ones with the sheet and the stylus, where you’d draw and lift the page…RIP!…the drawing would vanish with that satisfying sound and tension.

Even as I am systemically stripped of feminine complexities, even as I am distilled to a more masculine essence, the lavender and rose petal notes evaporating in the stronger whiff of pine tar and bicycle grease, I can still be made to cry.

Women’s Studies class was one hellish personal torment after another today. I don’t remember ever feeling as gay (or trans-)bashed as I can in that class. It’s the context. I expected to feel safe there; it was presented to me by the instructor as a class devoted to critical thinking, to deconstruction of ideologies, intact and ancient hegemonies, mores. Sadly, I have yet to hear much resembling a critical thought from certain quarters. Most of us seem firmly committed to whatever ideas we came in with. I hope this is not true for me, but I suspect I am just as resolute about some things as every other student.

There’s gay-bashing in this class all the time. Comments are made, about short hair, about dress – today’s will perhaps read as fairly innocuous: “I work at Chuck E. Cheese and one time this girl – she was about 11 – she came in and she was dressed just like a little boy and I called her a boy but she told me she was a girl. I just felt sorry for her!”

That’s fairly typical of the shit people think is okay to say in a college level (albeit community college) classroom dedicated to examining sexism in contemporary American culture. So we’re not talking about high-resonance brain function here. And frankly, this kind of obdurate ignorance doesn’t usually bother me in a personal sense – my reaction of anger and despair is generally for Humanity At Large. I don’t take it personally that people are fearful and hateful, in other words, I just get weltschmerz.

So why would an hour and fifteen minutes of that breed of “insight” render me weeping suicidally in my (sexy granny) Honda, stabbing number after number of men and women on my A-Team in the hopes someone would answer and talk me off the ledge?

The night before, a woman with an exotic name and manifold charms asked me if it was difficult, socially, to be betwixt and between genders as I am right now. “Sexually, you mean,” I replied, “more than socially.” She averred. I get asked a variation of this question not infrequently by well-meaning friends. I think they mean to color their curiosity, or even their repulsion, with sympathy for my “plight.” No-one’s had the balls (as it were) to ask “who will find you attractive?” but that is sometimes what is meant. One friend, a trans-Yenta-in-training, framed it much more kindly, “Who do you see yourself dating? Lesbians? Straight women? Gay men?” So it was like, now I have a choice.

When people ask me how I’m doing socially, or who will date me, what I hear is “You are freakish and hideous. It is likely you have doomed yourself to a sad, unyielding loneliness as bespeaks your inherent unlovability, by turning yourself into an even bigger circus event than you already were.” I have to then, at least in that Hellish Big Top, trot out the (now shopworn) list of women who have found me attractive since I began transitioning, who I’ve dated, whom I’ve turned down. I have to tell anyone who will listen “Hey! My last two partners were straight!” – meaning, “Look! Women see through the physical packaging to the succulent Sam center!”

Hearing these young women in class talk about girls who dress as boys with disgust and pity, on the heels of my inflamed self-loathing, was too much. One thing not mentioned in the tranny handbook was how injecting hormones was going to unearth some deeply buried mother-lode of the fear of unlovability. No one told me how acutely painful it would be to have attractive, brilliant, single straight women and gay men consistently view me as a short butch dyke, therefore successfully editing me out of their date-o-sphere. Now I remember why, as a short butch dyke, I never was interested in heterosexual women or gay men. I like to be attracted to people who will find me attractive. I don’t want to feel shitty about my attractions, and I’m kind of lazy too; I don’t really want to have to work at it either.

Despite feeling like I would like to don my flannel cowboy pajamas and hide under the covers with a flashlight and some David Sedaris in lieu of Archie Comics, I’m jutting out my jaw and sallying forth. Not so you’ll sock it, with your hetero-normative fist, but so I’ll be strong in my commitment as The World’s Sexiest Hybrid. I recognize you got to be tough to be with me. I’m the best (and worst) of both genders. That’s a lot to take on. Instead of being the world’s Big Ol’ Tranny PiƱata for you to slug and bash, I’m gonna hurl my delicious candy at you. So stick that in your fear pipe and suck it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Humping On the Parking Meter, Leaning On the Parking Meter

I wish this tranny thing was tidy, but it’s just not.

All week long I’ve had these niggling* feelings, these nagging thoughts: are you sure you’re doing the right thing, Sam?

Something kept bubbling up from some viscous internal stream of unconsciousness; I kept catching myself, in the mirror, or simply in my own mind, questioning the need and motivation for such a dramatic change. “What am I doing? Is this some sort of emotional reaction to the intense, nay, devastating events that have occurred these past 9 months?”

Okay, fair enough. Let’s take a look at that. It was suggested to me recently, as I trotted out an abridged resume of what brought me to North Carolina (my participation in what I not unfondly refer to as “The Cult”) that I had rather a high tolerance for some sturm und drang. It would be awfully jejune of me to deny a history of big decisions and abrupt about-faces, particularly when I think about having uprooted my family (cats, partner, home we were buying) to go on some lunatic zealot crusade. For those unfamiliar with my history, let it suffice to say I was a member of a spiritual community who uprooted their crazy kingdom to move from Austin to Chapel Hill, and that I was deeply committed to the lifestyle of said group, which revolved around (for me) service, yoga, meditation and following the guidance of one man. Fairly benign, exceptin’ fer that last part, about the man.

Anyway, I have no regrets about being with this group, nor was it a “bad” idea to move here, but at the time - and here’s the thing – at the time it seemed like the thing I ought to do forever.

Then, some months after I moved here, I met a woman, left my partner, and fell hard in love. Like in a major way. Like, never felt that way before kind of thing. And this woman, who swore up and down that she loved me like I loved her, eventually dropped me like a hot, poop-covered, unpleasant to behold, rock. Turns out she had some other things going on and I missed that. And I had believed she was the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with. How am I supposed to trust myself and my decision-making capacity on the heels of these kinds of balls-out flawed choices?

So now you have a taste (gnarly) of why I might question my own judgement, why one might find oneself striking a handsome pose before the looking-glass, only to find it needs some serious Windexing, possibly even re-leading. I don’t feel right in the haid, y’all, I just don’t. And second-guessing oneself is a tragicomic occupation at best, a clown’s big-shoed pursuit of an acid-laced butterfly.

I looked at myself baldly, in the face, in the mildly warped medicine cabinet mirror, the very one that was installed in these duplexes in the 70’s, and asked: “Is this what you want to do?”

I liked the face I saw; it was my Sam face, the one I’ve always known. It doesn’t look different since I started T, although there are (a very few) new whiskers ‘neath my chin. My voice has been startling me a little – it’s deeper and I really can no longer sing successfully. I’ll be able to sing again when the nodes are done doing their nodey thing, but right now it’s pretty awful. There will be no going back from this. Is this what I want? I was saddened to leave this Sam behind. But I took my measure, even as I was afraid to do so, afraid of what might be revealed to me. The truth is, I see myself as a man. It is crazy-making, to live in a body that doesn’t correspond with reality, and to be so conscious of it. It is taking me to Crazy Town – not a far ride, as my friend Jessica might add.

As I walked down the cramped, 70’s duplex stairwell, I felt the body I think I live in. It definitely does not have these breasts. To cease injecting the T, to return to something softer and hippier, something more middle-aged lady, makes me feel the crazy. Without a doubt, I am male in my mind.

How many people live like that, and just deal? Like being homosexual: how many gay people live an unexamined straight life and just suck it up? I’ve been sucking it up for over 4 decades, my friend. It’s a huge decision, and good for me to look it square in the face and challenge it. I do not care to do so. Actually, I would rather someone did the thinking for me, but that never seems to happen.

Here’s an idea someone “gave” to me, a thought of someone else’s that I will indeed appropriate and integrate, and that is that I am finally coming into my being. I am evolving into the Thing That Is Me. How awesome, how powerful is that!? I’m going to embrace this sea-change; it’s not a mal-de-mer, it’s a glorious ocean, it’s Patti Smith’s Sea of Possibility. For this new season of trannyness, I am championing the change. I am embracing my power. What a tremendous gift I’ve been given! As I tell myself, in my daily manfirmation: “I am a lucky, lucky man.”

*not a rascist word

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Don't Know How To Love Him

I was recently reading the former Pat, now Patrick Califia’s comment about joining the male species; he states he never much liked men. That’s not true for me - I like men a lot. It has taken some work on my part, however, to get there. Interestingly (or not) I occasionally get accused of not liking men, of in fact hating men. It’s always men I don’t like who accuse me of that. It’s as if they cannot bear to be disliked personally, and so must displace my very specific disgust to the rather more inclusive shoulders of menkind. A less agreeable piece of my personality is that I don’t suffer fools gladly, and I do feel that men who call adult women “girls” are fools. Especially do not call me a girl: I will despise you for it.

A fair proportion of the transguys I hang with were man-bivilant, or even separatists as lesbians. It’s a peculiar stance, to feel this compulsion to become this thing that challenges you at every turn, that nearly insists on making itself look…well…stupid and ugly. The better of us will do this thoughtfully, will examine and question the meaning of masculinity both within our own framework and globally. It’s mortifying to do so, though, because time after time, under this scrutiny, I expose myself as one of those despicable fools. Who wants to know that about themselves? F’rinstance:

During my women’s studies class today we were challenged to find a piece of magazine advertising that denigrated woman, and then one that empowered. My unwitting classmates exposed a Victoria’s Secret-type campaign as sexist and demoralizing because it showed only the torso (sans cabeza) of a seriously slender young woman in a (frankly fantastic) bra and thong, inviting the reader to conjecture something about this apparel mitigating “bad hair days.” Clearly not about “bad hair,” this campaign, with its unsubtle appeal to both the erotic and the insecure. So I’m looking at this ad, nodding in accord with the rest of my classmates, but here’s what’s going on inside my brain:

“I’d like to tap that just about…NOW. That shit is ON FIRE.”

To my credit, this torso could’ve had forty more pounds on it. It could’ve had pubic hair curling upwards from all seams. It could’ve displayed mammoth mams or none a’tall. I’m an equal-opportunity scumbag.

My most recent male love affair was with my friend David Clay. He did not suffer fools gladly either, male or female, and his outspokenness did not leave him popular. I remember David trying to explain to an acquaintance that not all cultures place quite the value on the bosom that ours does. I watched as steam curled from the ears of the man David was attempting to school that breast fetishism is cultural, learned behavior, and that other countries find little or nothing sexual at all about a woman’s breasts. It is hard to believe, in the context of our boobicentric inculcation, that other people find American titty-hankerin’ downright infantile. Something burst, neurochemically, in our acquaintance’s brain as he tried to assimilate this information. How could a world without big booby love exist, and more importantly, would you want it to?

I tell myself I can align myself with masculinity because I do so with eyes open. I allow myself my fetishes (non-boobular, but perhaps equivalently un-feminist) because I’ve explored the meaning of them, and I appreciate their purpose in the material hegemony. Oh, yawn. I suppose that’s true. But at the end of the day, I really just want a fantastic ass at the end of two glorious stems like every other man-jerk in America.

My Women Studies friend Vanessa and I were mildly exasperated today by our oft-appointed role as Homo-Queer Diplomat. I mean, I guess we choose to be Queer Ambassadors, Lezzie Liaisons…one can either be kind and take the opportunity to educate, or one can be a big gayhomosexual snarkhole. Most time we opt for the highest. But it does get tiresome, because people are at where they’re at, and on occasion we’d like to be met where we are, instead of having to slide our queer ass down the mountainside to pull you out of your stank morass of stupendous simple-mindedness. I’m sorry, what I meant to say was: Jesus God, what is homosexuality threatening, exactly!? Dear me, I do digress. In the context of this class, my own frustration is with people’s often willful, nearly obstreperous insistence that all life should resemble theirs, as if they were God itself contemplating their own rib - but these youngsters will always opt for the barbecue sauce.

It is sentiments like these that get me the “angry man-hating dyke” moniker. I promise promise PROMISE you I don’t hate men. My intolerance, my anger is for stupid humans in general. I’m old, and I’ve had to be nice to people A LOT. As Philo of Alexandria said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” It’s really true, we all are. And we’re wherever we’re at, with whatever. Nonetheless, I’m not going to cut too many people slack anymore, especially with the man-hating/women-hating stuff. I’ve yet to be tagged a man-hater by a man I wasn’t convinced didn’t hate women. Some men mistake multiple marriages for “loving women.” I always want to say to guys like that “if you really loved women, you’d stop marrying them!” but what are you going to do?

I’ve been spoiled and coddled somewhat when it comes to men. My closest male friends and mentors understand their privilege, don’t need to posture; they are also capable of calling me out on my own. So if I seem a little testy (ha! Little testes!) today, it’s because I am. I didn’t come to this man-thing chock-a-block full of studly unicorns and butch rainbows – I’m not sure I ordered this, but it is what’s on my plate. Sometimes it smells really delicious and fragrant, but sometimes it’s stinky socks and toe-cheese. That’s the human stew, y’all. Love it, leave it, but you gotta eat it. And no-one says you got to be nice when we’re all at the table, but it does make dinner go more smoothly.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hungry Like the (Big Stupid) Wolf

Jesus God, why are women so alluring!? How did I end up being such a straight guy!? Chicks are literally going to kill me, with their legs and their breasts and their amazing, genius way of draping fabric across their shoulders, their backs: how do they know how to do that? I have been socialized as a chick my entire life, ‘ceptin’ these past 9 months and I never figured out how to do any of that stuff, with any finesse whatsoever. Women are making things happen to this guy, this body - things neither it nor I could have anticipated…

I fired up the ol’ syringe this morning, god bless. Got to pump that cottonseed oil based man-sap in my meaty quads. I wish I could do it every day, but you might suggest to me it may be because I’m a recovering addict and an ex-needle junky. I think despite having a penchant for the stab of a syringe, it is just altogether fascinating, this ritual. Again, junky you’d say. Today’s androgyne anodyne has left me riled, in a particularly, poignantly physical way.

All day long I’ve been plagued by some errant siren call, by some comely lass bending to retrieve her pen, a conversation with a brilliant and stone fox, a wayward glance from an unconsciously hot mama; my very skin is like a plant in photosynthesis – it nearly lifts off my frame in the wake of a woman walking by my desk. It must follow the sun, and Juliet, today you are not the moon, although I am surely a lunatic.

I am mad for women. Mad. Women as a species, a breed, a genre craze me like ergot in old bread. I’m fucked, y’all. This interest, intrigue, this lust is not necessarily pants-specific either. This is what I’m saying to you. It’s a full-body thing. I feel the effects of the T like someone dosed me with iodine dye for an x-ray, only the “someone” is you and your exposed and painted toes or even your stupid flappy Chucks grazing my own industrial gray suede Reeboks. It’s just plain ridiculous. Why on earth are you wearing that skirt? Who told you that was okay? Do you have any idea what happens to other people (me) when you put your lipstick on in public? Please, don’t mind me; I’ll just be here in the corner in my little hormonal torpor, flapping my lips with my index finger, a dunce cap on my helium head and a smaller one for betwixt those heavier hammy thighs.

One of the things my therapist tossed at me early on was that sometimes transgender people’s sexuality shifts. Former dykes find themselves attracted to men. It’s not uncommon; I have a friend who was a dyke forever, but left his partner of five years to explore his burgeoning and surely disconcerting attraction to his own sex. The possibility of this scared me at first, but then I surrendered. If I’m going to dig guys, I’m going to dig guys. I’ve actually always dug guys – I just haven’t ever really fallen for one. I’ve come very close, but it’s never happened. And I have enjoyed the penis in the (fill-in-the-hole) to one degree or another, but ultimately, men have never made me sing. My body has just never gotten that chemical crazy hit from a dude that it gets when I’m hot for a woman. That could change over the next several years. Whatever. Love and desire are wonderful things, globally.

But for right here, right now – goddamn. When did you all get so fucking gorgeous? Where was I today – oh, Whole Foods – every single one of you was delicious in your very own unique way, whether it was your profile, the way your hair framed your cheek, that fantastic sweatshirt, your choice of pasta, the way you dug around your purse for your wallet – genius genius genius. Spring has sprung a leak and it’s bloody October. I shall just go for this ride. It’s quite extraordinary, and mostly pleasurable. I cannot thank you enough for glancing up at me, for calling me, for allowing me the unfathomably delicious indulgence of asking you out, taking you out, and then again and maybe again. You’ve got me by the ghost balls. Just this evening I was at a meeting, when a seriously under-dressed young woman stood up and walked across the room to attend to some arcane task. The climate changed. My internal parent was leaping up to cover her with something – some bibles? we were in a church – but my guy? Let me simply report what the man next to me said, and him a 40-something father of two: “when she walked by, my left eye started twitching.” Amen, Brother.

I’m going to let you in on the real Secret. Not that Oprah Secret shite; that’s all a dodge. Men have used their physical advantage and sheer blustery will to strong-arm the world into submission: why? Because the truth is we’re all pussy-whipped. The apocryphal “lock of hair?” that took down my namesake Samson? Those were some short and curlies. It doesn’t matter if it’s girl pussy or boy pussy: we’re screwed. We’ll follow that shit around until we lose sleep, forget to eat. All this other stuff, this stupid global dominance, we’ve had to create to distract both you and ourselves from the Truth, and the Truth is We Are Slaves. I’m telling you – some of us have to work extra hard just to keep our noses above this compelling, delicious sea of sexy humanity.

In the meantime, I shall be here, purposefully buried in my studies, writing and working and painting and having coffee with my pals. But believe me when I say I’m at the mercy of a molecular force, a gravitational pull, that I’m a loosely grouped pile of metal shards and you and your stupid girly ways are a super-conductor. Have mercy on a guy, ‘kay? Seriously, I have deeply meaningful manly stuff to do.