Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mmmmm! Tastes Like Squid!

Tranny morsels:

A couple weeks back I was feeling particularly low and dark. I pulled into the parking lot at school before I could choose to slam into the metal barrier fencing on 147 and made my first “lifeline” call. “Jessica,” I began with no small amount of gravitas, “I want to die. I just don’t want to do this today.” Jessica knows the personal torment of living less than successfully as an artist, and sugar-coats nothing. “Hang on,” she said, and put her two year old on the phone. “Say something to Uncle Sam, Gussie!”

Then, over the bleak cell reception came the small happy voice. “Hi Tranny!” Gus said, with that unique personal triumph of having cracked both his mother and me up into small pieces. And the world was right again, all ‘round.

I don’t have a small child I can train like a mynah to say “Grandma’s got false teeth!” or “Hi Tranny!” That’s probably a good thing. I would get any child of mine to say all kinds of crazy inappropriate shit. You’d think it would be enough that I do it all the time myself – “my ass is sweating RIGHT NOW! Whatever’s in my pants is giving me angina! Angina! I’ve got angina and a vagina! Weren’t they the backup singers for Tony Orlando and Dawn?” I have to pat my own hand and say “seriously, stop already.”

I dragged both Jessica and Judith (my het BFFs) and a crew of lesbonians to Local 506 to see Athens Boys Choir. Everyone I love must endure total tranny submersion. Fortunately, my besties go along agreeably to whatever freak show I can summon. We all bopped to “Tranny Got Pack,” and shimmied our entire arms to “I like you but I love your Jazz Hands.” I’m delighted to discover other men find their transition deliciously weird and hilarious. You have to laugh, at your wildly erratic voice, moods, surging libido, the balls-out (as it were) awkwardness of morphing gender in public. If you don’t, you’ll wind up playing Twister with the guardrail on Highway 40. There’s enough violence at transpeople without inflicting it on yourself.

I liked being in a club with a bunch of transguys. I liked seeing where everyone was at. I’ve been on testosterone since May and I don’t have a beard and I still get my period. The change this body has manifested is significant, but it’s distinctly my own. There were a couple guys there I tranny-stalk. I see’em at cafes, Whole Foods, places where trannies congregate. It’s the freakin’ trans Serengeti out here, I’ll tell you what. On any given day you can sight at least one transguy within 4 blocks of my house. But these two in particular – I’ve watched them visibly swell and stretch to fit their masculinity over the last six months. I nearly clapped my hands with glee when I discovered observable side-burns on one. I should have a Peterson’s Trans-Guide, where I can find silhouettes and determine regional differences. A side-burn sighting! Where’s my list? Check! And then I text all my club members excitedly, because you have to have a club if you’re some sort of lay scientist. If you see some riled up, vaguely mannish person squatting behind the organic plumquats, peering from betwixt the Lacinato Kale and the Rainbow Chard, that’s me on the transguy prowl.

It’s Thanksgiving. I subscribe to this online horoscope, and I don’t know why because it’s always kind of a buzz-harsher. It always says stuff like “you dream big and are very creative but don’t give in to sloppy planning like you always do.” Anyway, today it said things will be fantastic if I’m really grateful. That’s what I mean, it’s a very Christian, dogmatic horoscope, very judgey. I always feel sufficiently cowed after reading it. But I will pay heed, and be (abashedly) grateful today.

I’m grateful I have a bunch of friends who are complete weirdos, or at least, completely comfortable being around me, who is a weirdo, the least of which weirdness is being a transguy. I’m thankful I ended up living in Trannytown, NC – I mean, who knew? I’m thankful for Obama, even as some of his recent decision-making makes me nervous.

I’m grateful for a biological family who has thus far pretty much ignored what for me is the most monumental decision I’ve ever made aside from the one to stop drinking and drugging (mostly because none of us want to actually answer any personal, possibly baffling, questions nor feel any sort of responsibility or anger for same, and for which I am truly grateful!); I’m glad you’re reading this because I think the deconstruction of social concepts of gender is a significant, relevant battle and on some level you must be interested too; I’m delighted my shoulders are broadening, thickening and that the fur on my cheeks is darkening even ‘though I’m the only one who knows this; I’m grateful for dogs and cats, and elephants and octopi. I dreamt I popped a live octopus in my mouth and ate it and I’m grateful that was just a dream. I think it’s possibly all a dream, this crazy play, so I’m thankful today I don’t have to take myself so seriously. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Forgive Me Monster For I Have Sinned

Kit Yan, transguy activist and poet, and the more masculine half of Good Asian Drivers, posted a spoken word response to HRC’s “Transgender Day of Remembrance” video that really got me thinking. For those of you who don’t know, HRC does not have a history of supporting its trans community, even though it calls itself a “GLBT” organization. A lot of gay rights groups add the “T” to their alphabet soup but apparently don’t really mean it. HRC is a big ass deal in gay politics but they’re the Abercrombie and Fitch of same in that they have always seemed to be more interested in a generic but compelling sexiness than in serving messier aspects of gender and sexuality. If you see a car with a blue and yellow “equal” sticker on it, that’s HRC. But please understand that sticker does not include me as equal.

HRC has persistently supported bills that exclude protection for transpeople. There’s a political strategy behind it – you want to pass the best bill you can, with the most protection for the most people, but that often means leaving people out, people whom senators and representatives find challenging. I worked in gay politics and I worked on a bill that excluded trans. This was in Texas, and I have mixed feelings about it, frankly. On the one hand, I was as clueless and transphobic as a homo can be which spoke to a prevailing current of ignorance and apathy. On the other hand, maybe the bill that did pass was a wedge in a door.

But I digress. My political work lies somewhere else, and here is where it is. Kit spoke eloquently about how transpeople aren’t “good looking” enough for the HRC to absorb and assimilate, like the gay Borgs they can be. Trans makes people really uncomfortable, and that, in part I believe, is because it can look so AWKWARD. Trans can translate to ill at ease, but it’s also deliciously wabi-sabi. Male bodies transitioning to women are especially confronting. People are like “why doesn’t he make that look better? Why does he even bother?!” It’s almost impossible for Americans to let people have their process. And by “Americans” I surely mean me.

Adolescence is awkward and ugly too. Epicene boys, once angelic and faunlike, coarsen and thicken, become graceless sporters of random and unrestricted pubic hair, can be a veritable fairground for facial eruptions. The public humiliation of puberty is compounded by the open knowledge that your outsides are merely mirroring your interior. I didn’t understand trans in 2000; the women I knew personally were painfully mentally ill, tortured by their dysmorphia, clawing with newly-grown nails to create a cubby-hole they could tuck into and feel safe and secure. They were precisely the kind of transperson that I’ve heard made fun of: tons of makeup, inappropriate clothing choices atop a physicality that wanted to burst through same. Ever did their scalp lose tresses; ever their chins, despite electrolysis, push dark thick beard to the fore; always their bones and bodies betrayal, thin hipped and broad-shouldered, overly large mitts and feet, the voice and its external punctuate, the adam’s apple, on and on to be ignored, or dealt with or reckoned or despaired or surrendered.

And here am I, with my saddle-bags, with my breasts, my belly and my hips, looking for all the world like a mannish woman, and feeling like something else entirely. And now, finally, I find my compassion.

My friends began to transition. Now it wasn’t just some outliers I could take under my maternal wing while clucking to myself about what a good, open-minded mother hen I was. My friends weren’t ill, nor were they monstrous. But the idea was! Monstrous to change one’s sex! How could they!? I vaguely recall going through this same evolution with bisexuals, feeling at first abandoned and betrayed, wanting to shame them even for “leaving” even though they never actually left. It’s hard for me to stay mad at an idea, particularly when the idea never really dovetailed with reality, which was just some friends falling in love. This impacted me how?

Bisexuals are monsters. Obese people are monsters. Disabled people. Transgendered people. There’s a chaos, entangled limbs, in these. We’re confronting, even and especially to ourselves. We’re all monstrous, aren’t we? Even so-called beautiful people are monstrous somewhere, sometimes.

Monsters are gorgeous. Wabi-sabi is beautiful. How lucky we are to bear witness to such an extraordinary flowering! Look, it’s too full of light to almost contemplate – that’s why people often want to strike it down, smuffocate it. Let’s not cover our love light under a bushel, my siblings, let’s fucking blast that hate with the shine god gave us. HRC knows better, that’s the shame of it. I’m not buying into anybody’s idea of beauty but God’s. Can I get a witness?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner!

I drove through the early-onset darkness to a small house in the Carolina woods last night. It took me ten minutes to drive three blocks from my apartment but a mere half mile later I was sailing through serpentine country back-roads, doing the high-beam dance and dodging deer.

My friend L had invited me to dinner to make up for the fact that I had stood him up Sunday. That’s the kind of gentleman he is. I’ll get to last Sunday in a minute, because that’s a spectacular story in its own right.

I only know a handful of transguys,* and the handful I got is pretty variegated – gay, straight, slim, big, hirsute, not – and here’s the thing: they’re all GUYS. There’s no mistaking the signature; they’re dudes. I’m not simply remarking on their appearance, which again varies from extremely dowdy butch man to metro homo; I’m talking about their presence, their energy. I scrabble to uncover the dyke, the woman, in our conversations and in their physicality, because I’m looking for a plangent point of intersection, a place I can connect myself to them, but I’m hardscrabbling in a dustbowl. There may have been fecund female ground there at one point, but it’s pretty dry there now. My own presentation, for all my internal masculinity, my thickening face and deepening voice, is still dyke. These men are my big brothers – they are teaching me how not to drown, or at least, how not to flounder, in this crazy whorl of pseudo-adolescence.

If transguy were a Ben and Jerry’s flavor, what would we be? Chocolate chunk and Speedstick?

It’s nice, to slog to the shore and be met by a trans-brother. Dude wants to know, is eager to uncover what’s changed for you, how it’s going, the details and nuances of which only someone taking hormones can be familiar with. Or interested in. His girlfriend, listening to our enthusiastic recollection of our first hair growth, yawned theatrically. “This is fascinating,” she pronounced while lying on the floor. And it is, if you’re me. L had a goatee in his first three months. Me? I’ll be lucky to rock that in three years. Having chin hairs as a chick is apparently no indicator of manly sproutage. My Portland buddy A sighs and says “remember how I had such a good moustache as a dyke? I thought I’d have facial hair in no time! It’s taken me years to grow this sketchy shit!”

So Sunday I basically party crashed this pre-Thanksgiving semi-formal dinner. My friend Holly, thinking she was inviting me to some open house, piggy-backed me on her invite. When we got there, it was a bit awkward, for me at least. Crammed in the kitchen, along with a perfectly golden brown turkey, several equally golden pies, marshmallow yams, green bean casserole, and an overeater’s wet dream’s worth of heaps of stuffing, were about 10 straight women, all between the ages of 25 and early 30’s. I felt like a dirty boot in a closet full of Jimmy Choo. Picture this, if you will, a houseful of clean (even in sweats) young career women, in pastel colors and light makeup, mocking each other’s taste in men, when in walks Tranny, stomping around in all black with tattooed knucks. It’s a testament to everyone’s social skills that we all adapted to the tectonic shift.

I sat at the beautifully, traditionally decorated holiday table, with forkfuls of food I never eat, amidst a bevy of lovely, smart, unilaterally funny ladies. Only a couple of the women there know I’m transitioning; what its meaning is to them I cannot say, except that I’m confident it doesn’t mean they see me as a guy. So I was privy to a lot of conversation I don’t normally get to hear, much less participate in, about men and about dating men. It was both riveting and nauseating. I was reminded of the time when I’d been prematurely allowed to sit at the Grown-ups table one Thanksgiving, only to discover that the “adults” were appallingly immature.

Here’s some advice to women who are interested in things like “integrity.” Allowing a man to buy you dinner implies interest on your part. You can just be checking this interest out; that’s okay. But encouraging someone to buy you dinner just so you get a meal and some attention is gross. I don’t take women to dine unless I have some confidence that they like me, that a relationship of some sort is possible, but I had to learn that the hard way. It still feels like an expensive gamble most of the time, but it does give me pleasure – the same pleasure I imagine someone at the Craps table experiences, palms sweaty, acid in gullet. Listening to these ladies was often terrible insight into the minds of women, albeit very young ones. I certainly did not want to hear that they factored out short men or stout men; I was kind of counting on women’s fabled capacity to overlook stature (!) and even status and gravitate towards wit, kindness, character and personality: things I got in spades.

Oh well. I guess it’s quid pro quo, tit for tat as it were. Women feel it’s okay to “take advantage” of a dude I think because they have to endure things like being stared at, having their body parts commented on, being used for sex, being emotional surrogates, and on and on. Fair enough. Maybe I’m not guilty of those things, but when you sign on to be a guy, it’s not just a sausage that’s in the package. There’s a raft of guilt-by-association, millennia of bad behavior. I’m reduced to my white liberal culpability again.

We all got along. We all had a great time. That’s pretty cool, right there. Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. What I want to remember today is that despite the death and violence my brothers and sisters have endured, I do have love and support, if not understanding. And frankly, I’ve rarely been understood anyway, so I’ll “settle” for love. Right back atcha.

*transguys melt in your mouth, and in your hand! (I’m not sure what I mean by that but it sure reads dirty).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Well I Don't Know Where They Come From But They Sure Do Come

K MacD asked me if my musical tastes were changing. “My friend Tom found he liked different music,” she noted. I had attributed my recent backslide into CLASSIC ROCK (THUD)* to the purchase of my sexy granny ’93 Honda Accord, which has a delightfully archaic tape deck, and no cd or alternate technologies. This has forced me to roam the radio – and we have good radio here – two decent college stations that play to my rather textbook collegiate taste in music: a nice shuffle of Wolf Parade, Bollywood, Wire, Belle and Sebastian, Coltrane, Hank Williams. You get my drift. For someone who never actually went to college I have extremely campus musical leanings.

So why do I find myself hovering between the Oldies and the RAWK stations, captivated by Badfinger and the Byrds, raspily crackeling (my T voice) with Ted Nugent and AC/DC? The former evokes a wistful nostalgia, to be sure. Those “soundtrack of your life” songs evince a time when manhood was still possible for me. I hadn’t fully surrendered to the reality of my body, which would soon betray me in a most spectacular way (if bleeding copiously for 10 days straight into an asbestos brick in your drawers could be called “spectacular”). Sure, I was getting sexy with the boys, but that’s because it felt good, not because I saw myself in any sort of context opposite or paired with them. I may as well have participated in their late night all-boy spankfests. I was still “playing the girl,” much as I did when we played house and someone else got to be “Daddy.”

The CLASSIC ROCK (THUD) station, on the other hand? Wasn’t I just mocking my best friend in Raleigh for that? Wasn’t that me, just three months ago, marveling at the antique clunk of Steppenwolf and Yes, the sodden 70’s sounds of which nearly tormented me like a mass of chigger bites as we built his porch? And now here I am, my favorite songs today are the primitively masculine yet inspired leaden classicism of “Bad Company,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” and “Cat Scratch Fever.”

Are Pantera and Poison in my future? If I find myself listening to Bruce Springsteen, you have my permission to yank away my keys, break into my home, and smash the bottle of testosterone cypionate with a femmie boot heel, whereupon I will relinquish my Mach 17 shaver like a disgraced knight. When I consider clunky, inelegant, manly music, The Boss always comes to mind. I can’t help but think “and you probably fuck like that.” What do I know, me who’s never had a dick? Maybe fucking is really hard when you’re attached to it nerve-wise.

Jaysus and Mary.

This last week has found me secure on my rock of manhood. I look at old pictures (from 8 months ago) and see a fading, former me (“you look like a lady!” exclaims Jessica). I have reached some nexus, some place from which I recognize I can never return, nor do I wish to. I feel detached from that lady of some months ago. I feel her gaze on me, Sam of the Future, hopeful, terrified, poised upon the alcoholic’s familiar tightrope: can’t go on the same, incapable of reckoning with an unseeable, and therefore alarming future. Some bell was tolling, and it had become so loud and insistent its very decibels threatened to unperch me, and I could not see a net, and I was becoming more and more unbalanced, holding on to a ludicrous frilled bumbershoot. You’re British when you’re on a tightrope.

So I fell. I’m still falling. Today it’s exhilarating. “Living on a Prayer” is playing as I drop, past me with bangs, me in a skirt, ooh, look! Me with makeup, must be the 80’s! Oh I tried to be with that guy as a girl – wow how’d that work out for ya! There I am, so sad that you set me apart because I was a girl, even though I played better, threw farther, I’m sad you exiled me first from your games, and then from your world. So I’m falling falling falling and it is delicious, tickling my stomach like the best ride at Coney Island, and I’m laughing and laughing and my voice is getting huskier and huskier, and soon, you’ll forget and you’ll call me “him” without any thought at all.

*why does the phrase “Classic Rock” always sound like there’s a hod of bricks being dumped at your feet?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Please Don't Read This

There was some discussion this morning about one of those “Abortion Trucks” that had parked itself across from a school in Durham. You know the ones I’m talking about – with the four foot high, gruesome human abattoir of fetus parts in a soupy blood stew. It was posited that the act of displaying such carnage might constitute violence in and of itself, by forcing people to look at it, whether they “wanted to” or not. “I don’t want to be forced to see random images of death and violence” was kind of the sentiment behind that.

So I’m driving home considering this idea, of being forced to contemplate the images of abortion, and then, by inference, being forced to contemplate the meaning of abortion. I wonder if it is a bad thing?* Sure, only those of us who peruse as a way of killing time (and inuring ourselves to violence and occasionally compassion) really want to look at that, and if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably considered abortion thoughtfully as much as you think you want. But what are we looking at? Shouldn’t we perhaps be made to look at images of death and violence, like wars for instance? Isn’t carnage a part of life? Nature doesn’t revere life, nor do its progeny, Flora and Fauna.

I’m kind of feeling like people ought to see what death looks like, even violent death. I think we’ve successfully protected our modern selves, to our detriment and spiritual bankruptcy, from understanding where our food comes from, what happens to people in wars, what dead people really look like, how babies get made from sperm and egg in human bodies. I wonder if we hadn’t wrapped ourselves in bunting, and then further anesthetized ourselves with fantastic, surreal imagery of sex and violence how we would feel about things like homosexuality and transgender? If we had a true comprehension and appreciation of the natural world, how could we give two shits about gay people and non-binary gendered people? I know we need to understand the repercussions of man-made violence to end it – but what about living in a reality and awareness of the natural kingdom, one in which violence is merely a part of the life cycle, animals are often homosexual, and even intersexed and transgendered? We’ve protected ourselves from reality and why?

See, I think the best activism I can do is to live out loud. That’s perfect because it’s a choiceless choice, for me. Watch me transition. I’m doing it, in part, for you. I understand that a piece of being an outlier is to humanize myself for people who are frightened. I’m scared too. I’m scared of death; I don’t want to consider that some animals depose their patriarchs by vicious murder; I don’t want to consider the implications that a random sperm can permeate an ova and become an actual human, one that its parents may not want for whatever reason; I’m frightened too, of a natural world that produces freaks and anomalies, mutants and sociopaths. This is natural fear, but I recognize it’s also an immature fear.

I think it’s natural for some people to be afraid of homosexuality, but I think that is the fear of a seven year old contemplating adult sexuality. We are immaturely fearful little humans and we aren’t allowing ourselves to grow up, at all. I’m grateful for the opportunity to review abortion, even though it was imposed on me. I'd like to control my intake of that kind of brutal imagery, save it for later, but I run the risk of never looking at it at all. I also need to see babies being born, pulled right out of their mother’s vagina. Talk to someone who’s had a baby. There’s all sorts of stuff that goes on with that that is like a big secret-y secret! And not because people aren’t interested, but because there’s this abiding idea that it’s too weird or gross. Would parents be as interested in surgical procedures that force gender conformity for their intersexed children if they felt that genital anomaly wasn’t that big a deal? Surgeries for correction, sure, but conformity?

Perhaps I’m all over the map with this one; I’m just sketching some ideas. Trans is super-natural. It happens all the time. Meat comes from animals that live and play and maybe even love and certainly communicate and, if they’re monkeys or lions, murder their ailing patriarchs. The brains of humans make them think they are male, or female, or neither or both. God exists, somewhere, in all of this. Nature appears not to care. An African American is going to the White House and California banned gay marriage. I hope I’m not flogging some dead horse here, and I will not be displaying photos thereof. And if you see something that hurts your heart, and makes you cry for your humanity, good for you. Now let someone hold you and savor the sweetness that coexists in all that noise, all the blood, and all your fear.

*I’m not sanctioning putting on a horrorshow for the kiddies at the schoolyard. I think that’s a really really bad idea.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Much Of A Good Thing or Neptune's Trident Jabs Me in the Ass

Forgive my tardiness; I’ve been splashing self-consciously in a tide pool of doubt. You know, you’re sitting ass deep in tepid waters that are crawling with fear and remorse and grief and guilt, thinking, on the one hand, “oh how familiar it all is” but being freaked the fuck out nonetheless by the creepy crawlies clambering ‘round your backside.

And of course, there were the elections. I live in NC and I believe we can finally say that this state has gone blue. Blue. I do believe in miracles and I see them every day and please note that I NEED THEM. There are too many instances of heinous human behaviors, especially my own, to counter and amend.

I heard myself say several transphobic things during the elections. It’s as if I think I can get away with it. Also, I’ve noticed that when I’m socially agitated, as I was election night (we hosted a party), devious forms of insecurities can emerge from the tepid brine. That day they took the form of prejudice. I said something ageist, too. You watch these gaseous, noxious clouds emit from depths you refuse to acknowledge: barely mined lodes of racial slurs you heard in high school, that vein of Grandfather’s bigotry, your own need, when you feel threatened, to step atop someone else to elevate your own bad self. You see them as if Mrs. Pigglewiggle had dosed you with “BustmeI’manasshole” powder and now you’re condemned, whenever you open your judgey mouth, to emit less than whimsical flatulence from your face in public.

Also, sometimes the testosterone really actives my not-so-inner prick. I wish I was kidding. I can totally channel my dad – who is usually a pretty nice guy – at his absolute worst: sure of his superiority in all things, so confident of your lesser status, your lame belief system, your irrationality bearing further evidence of a weaker mind, and convinced that you will be a better(ed) human for hearing why this is logically true.

I watch myself become the worst in all the men I know when I’m scared, and I wonder if some men aren’t scared most of the time?

When am I the best of men? I think with Gus, Jessica’s two year old, I’m a good guy. He makes it easy though. I think I’m a good guy when I listen to people, especially women with fine asses. I’m listening to you and I'm actually interested. I’ve been observing men with women at school; they appear to be paying attention to that hot youngster they're with, but they’re not. Guys have the capacity to sort out the necessary information from a barrage of detail, and so only need to hear the right three words from their companion’s pouty mouth to successfully accomplish “listening.” I am attempting to make an art of listening. Like a great many little human on the planet, I enjoy talking about myself too. (I see your eyebrow rise! Shut up! I’m talking about listening here, how deep I am!) Conversation is delicious, and intellect and beauty enhance the experience; testosterone, I’m sad to report, redacts most text, editing a glorious bouquet to a single loud flower.

I guess I’m grateful T has its own built in Humiliator. It keeps me humble. For all the swagger, the dismissal, the overt confidence, I suffer symptoms of near paralyzing fear of public speaking. My ass is incredibly sweaty, which mitigates my offensive narcissism. I really cannot believe you don’t find me handsome. I can’t. Okay, but you have to find me cute, right? But see, when I think that, and then I rise from my chair and my entire lower wardrobe is frantically mopping up butt perspiration – well, it’s like the checks and balance system of our constitution. I suppose I smell, too, but years of past smoking and chronic allergies often render me too occluded to tell. Thankfully, you’re not on testosterone or you would need me to know that I offended.

Am I kidding myself? I’ve always had one large clown shoe hovering dangerously towards my mouth. Still, it’s really important to me to be a decent guy. I don’t want to go through all this drama to be an A-hole. I like men who are sweet, men with confidence; I’m drawn to funny, creative men, who are leaders without being stupidly alpha; I like men with minds that keep me entertained and guessing by their labyrinthine twists and turns. I like men the same way I like women, as it turns out, except without the sexy parts.

Can I be that guy? Am I that guy? At least you won’t ever have to say to me, “my eyes are UP HERE, Buster," that I can promise, and I am listening.