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).

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