Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Because it’s Spring in this body, all I want to do is revel. I want to bask in the sun of testosterone-induced magnificence, and yours as well. I’m hot for all things trans; I have found a new glory in the masculine, and a deeper sadness too.
“I think if I find myself telling a story more than three times I’m going to drop it…” I muse aloud at D. “I think I get wedded to a narrative, a good story and then I think it’s true well beyond its expiry date!” Like, for instance, I had told myself I liked the femmes. I liked “Girls.” I used this to explain my last two lovers, two heterosexual women whose presentation clearly fell on the feminine side, particularly when juxtaposed with me, who regarded myself as “transvestite.” I had this strong attraction to men’s clothing I JUST COULDN’T FATHOM.
Well, the mind likes order, it likes to stratify, structure; it’s inordinately fond of genus and specie, family and class. Even my mind, which is Aquarian in its untethered gambol – I cannot predict what tree it’s going to land in, all helium and hot air – ends up in definition, defining for eternity what are flavors in time.
I tasted femme and found it bright and crisp and exotic to my palate. Against its fruited plains I could flex and pop a bicep, I could fuck like a man while making love like a woman seamlessly, again and again and again. I found it easier to navigate my inherent chivalry, my almost fetishistic compulsion to tend the lawn, fix the sink, take out the trash, be a dude. I never could find comfort in this as a dyke; butch felt more aggressive an identity than I could handle and I never did find the consolation and ease I felt an identity should give me. But being with a “womanly” woman – that was a sweet opiate drop of oil in my stormy gay tub.
To transition from female to male is to allow myself to love, in all ways possible, the most forbidden fruit of all. Men, manly men, sweet men, ugly men, hairy men; men that are penile and erect with turgid, oily muscle, men with guts that push against their tee-shirts; men that smell of b.o. and cigarettes, men that have their babies in a wrap over their heart to keep their hands free; men who laugh loud and talk shit, men who can be stupid and heartless one minute, then gentle and paternal the next; men who wear pink and lipstick and eyeliner, whose every step is the twist of lamb’s tail, who sleep with men or women or nothing at all, who drive cars and make cars and flip bitches off with their suntanned middle-finger, and above all, above everything else human and inhumanly possible, men who are women.
Here’s the thing. I feel such new compassion for my benighted hetero sisters. I love the men but goddamn! They make it difficult. They are, in the main, really, truly, genuinely clueless. I can tell you firsthand, having passed for such creatures: they know not what they do. Sure, some of them do, some of them get, deeply, their participation in a very, very sick social structure, that grants them the privilege of invisibility, the privilege women, most non-white people, and many, many gender-nonconforming people do not have.
I for one am sick to death of being patronized, gagging in my mouth from the aftertaste of the cock-like supposition of authority from this man or that man, and I’m as sick of the women who take power where they can, and from whomever, screaming insensate at shop-keepers and valets and children; I’m vomiting as I listen to black men and women make fun of me as I walk past them, mocking my walk and my voice and even my friendliness, on my knees curled from an indefinable pain even my hierarchical mind can’t stratify, can’t wrap around, except to retch and retch and retch again.
And this is my imponderable, impenetrable sadness.
So I will set us all free. Me from my stories, me from my mind, me from the critique, the judgement; me from my deep, deep human hurt that pings around my heart’s hollow, hoping to land or hear a ping back. I will tell a great many stories, for ever and ever, because once upon a time I believed them.
But none of them are true.
Monday, October 19, 2009
This begs a word-by-word deconstruct and is nearly pure Dada in juicy ridiculousness. Are we implying that men are women’s pudenda or sweet, madcap furballs? And what, if anything, does pain have to do with this?
Ha. I jest. It’s a shibboleth of sorts that men are pervious to pain, and in fact will revert to toddler in face of same or illness. My own family was uniquely stoic in the face of any illness or trauma – I’ve seen my father pick digits off the garage floor beneath the table saw and laugh that he guessed he had to get to the emergency room. I remember opening up my own hand with a hand saw (and that’s why they call it a “hand saw” kids!), watching yellow globs of fat slide out from over tendons and cursing my bad consumer luck for having to now test the “urgent” in “Urgent Care.” I hate more than anything, having to wait.
I have been held hostage, for over a week now, to the mordantly exquisite pain of a fractured, cavitous tooth. I loped around it for nearly a month, gobbling ibuprofens and eating to one side, but it bested me last Thursday where at 2a.m. I woke up thinking the devil had exposed my dentistry and was digging through my teeth with red-hot claws like Madeline Kahn at the sale bra table at Macy’s one forlorn Christmas. The Madeline Kahn reference is true, by the way – according to an ex who used to work there, Maddy snapped a bra from another shopper with the kind of triumphant zeal only the holidays can evoke.
On the other hand, I always thought of my brother as a “lap baby,” one of those children who have figured out how to get nurturing from the immaternal by being consistently ill or in crisis. Here was the child who was allergic to everything: dust, wheat, dairy, chocolate for godssake, for whom we had to line mattress and pillow, drink powdered milk, eat carob, who had to go every week to Bethesda to our weird, basement cave-dwelling pediatrician for every child’s nightmare: the shot. My brother managed to tease a tenderness from our mother - a woman whose answer to my questions about what menopause was like was a strident, “I don’t know - I was too busy” - that I have never seen from the same woman who told me once, “I don’t know why people like to hug me when they greet. I rarely even see these people.”
Nonetheless, I hear from my besties that their husbands and boyfriends are big babies when ill. I suspect my own intolerance for discomfort and pain is linked to years upon heaping spoonfuls of opiated years, and that persistent painkiller addiction has sucked dry the well of serotonin for this ex-junky. I will attest that since detoxing off of methadone in 1994, I have occasional ingress to an experience of pain that would make Pinhead from Hellraiser moist with pride. (I just envisioned a Top Chef-type scenario involving Hellraiser minions as judges but have chosen to edit this fantasy to this aside…)
What do pain and illness have to do with gender?
I’ve been considering the difference between hating one’s body and true dysmorphia. Most of us who have been women in America know firsthand what it’s like to hate, or at least be disgruntled with some part of our body. I just gave in about my thighs – even when I was a skeletally thin Screaming Skull coke-head you could still spot the random thigh dimple. And my ass looks like an infant’s, no matter what exercise I enslave it to.
Dysmorphia, on the other hand, feels less like loathing and more like confusion. What is that and how did it get here!? It’s like – well, imagine waking up one fine morning and discovering you’ve got a tail. And not a cool, Nightcrawler tail – a freakish, fleshy tail of no aesthetic value whatsoever. Dysmorphia is the reverse of the phantom limb syndrome- it’s the itch of a living thing attached to your body, it’s the itch of being trapped in a body, like a cast, that isn’t actually yours yet you cannot escape.
The doctors at my local hospital won’t do my top surgery. It’s perceived as cosmetic, elective, and they "don't do cosmetic." The difference between “I can’t live with this nose” and “I can’t live in this body” is the difference between someone looking outside for validation, and someone who cannot even know the meaning of the word validation. There’s been nothing to validate but an immaterial longing, as if heartbreak was something one was born with. I understand how poignant both desires can be, but comparable? I think not.
Anyhoo, these are my thought when I’m not thinking “tooth.” Which is all I’m thinking these days, until tomorrow at least, where the good dentist shall scrape this wanton, shamelessly attention-courting nerve from my fractured face.
Men, women, and some of us interstitial: we’re all big pussies. At some point, for something. Let’s jump in a big pussy pile, like Max and the Wild Things; let’s howl together in righteous indignation to a god that would give us this strange neurochemistry, and let’s thank it for something too. Pain tells me to change a situation, and dysmorphia tells me to change the world. Together, we can do this thing, a tooth, a gender, and let us not forget a haircut, at a time.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Since I got sober, really sober, less than a decade ago, I often feel like I’m coming up from under ground, post-apocalypse. If you’ve ever been on the metro escalator in Dupont Circle, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s a whole world talking, and it’s articulating faster than I can listen, much less process. This sometimes feels like a brutal contrast to my own personal life, including my transition, which seems to evolve rather slowly and even begrudgingly, like a teenager asked to pick up her room. Time and time again, I watch (and with undisguised joy, I might add) guys sprout Amish beards, get surgeries, swagger on in to the men’s room – while I hunch and cave and compress the breasts, and curry my tiny face hairs, urging thickness in the one and diminution in the other.
This is how it goes. And I promise the next person who lets “it is what it is” fall unexamined out of their gaping maw shall be subject to an “it is what it is” tranny fine payable to me, Sam Peterson, in the currency of the realm. If you’re my friend, you can just turn around and come back in again. If everyone is saying it, it’s not deep anymore.
I was at a grueling meeting of the transpeeps last week, where two guys were expressing their fears about getting clocked as “non-actual-dude” in the men’s restroom. Frankly, it’s hard for me to empathize with that. They’re getting in the men’s room. Another gender-vague person and I had to emphasize that we don’t use the room of our choice. We fear outing, we fear violence. “I could probably take a chick on if I had to,” I assert with my usual sensitivity, thinking that if it came to fisticuffs around bathroom decisions, I’d fare better with my birth kind. Much of this fear is between the ears, too – nobody’s in the men’s room, checking the direction of someone’s feet; conversely, I doubt anyone would even give me a second glance if I went to the men’s room at school. I only don’t go there because so many people there know me as a “woman,” and I chafe at the thought of having to explain to my fellow DTCCers what me and my micro-penis and testosterone-flaccid boobs are doing in “their” bathroom.
My friend exists in a state that would be intolerable for me, who is a loud, gregarious, non-secret-y Sagittarian. They (I find ze and hir troublesomely academic, but in 6 months time I’m sure I’ll be ze-ing and hir-ing all over the jernt. See above for “begrudging evolution.”) work in a rather conservative environment, and have done so for years. They let other co-workers choose their pronouns for them. They’re not “out” at work. They live the double life we’ve come to recognize on Maury and Oprah - but when it’s up close and personal, it ceases to be entertainment and becomes unyielding heartbreak and humiliation. At least, for me, watching it. My friend is quiet, private. They conceal their life with every unspoken sentence, or reveal with the easily quashed quiet of the shy. If I have a thought, it’s out of my mouth like a gumball in a penny candy machine, no censor, sweet, cheap, delicious and possibly stale.
But I know the ignominy; my ears burn red at slights - strangers may never know they injured with their gendered assessment of me, who is now weirdly caved in from an indignity I can carbon date to the birth of my brother, who had something substantial by way of his diapers and proved me a girl. “This is your sister,” said my father to my baby sibling; I choked on it then and I’m still gagging now.
It is what it is. I embrace, with varying degrees of success, my gendered presentation. We’re all somebody else in our minds, anyway, aren’t we?
I think about a double life. I’ve cheated on partners, and I’ve been a drunk “sober” person – those lies made me sick like a steady cold drip from a window on a perfect fall night led to pneumonia one October. And I was drunk on those lies, too – they were mouth-watering and at the expense of another, an innocent one. But the double life of a transperson costs everybody. It’s a backwards cheat. I’m sitting here thinking “why am I denying anyone my fabulousness? Everyone needs a little shotglass of tranny!” – and while this is a truth for the ages it would be ingenuous and even criminal for me to insist that transpeople rub themselves on the eyeballs of the half-awake world. Much of the world has a violent, even lethal response for people who challenge their shibboleths.
Still, what’s the reward for silence? Like nicotine produces a toxin of euphoria, what’s my prize for keeping the good news to myself? What am I so afraid of? Is this my transphobia, or my default to people-pleasing? Yes and yes and I’m a little ashamed.
So I’m counting on you, Sister-brother. I am going to lean heavy on your broad back, and let you fireman carry me at least a bit of the way. I can’t do this alone. I need you out there. Help me be an honest transman – and if honest requires I bide my time and bite my tongue I will but help me. I’m not in this thing to be a dilute version of me – I know when the time is right they’ll want all my verve and zest and snap, a reduction even, sharp and savory and sweet. So take me by the hand please; push those doors open like a cowboy at the saloon Sweet Friend and let me in. And lastly, after we’ve washed our hands at the sink, careful not to look at one another, you’ll bravely remind me to zip.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I’ve been experiencing a lot of grief and loss for The Dyke Sam recently. Unlike ThaManSam, The Dyke Sam isn’t anagrammatic of anything, although the internet says it can reconfigure to “Shamed Tyke” or “Hated Me Sky.” So I’m having the sads a little, and missing her (which is interesting – it begs the questions: where has she gone?). I wish I could get some therapy, for this and the litany of sadnesses and horrors I’ve participated in, but I can’t afford it right now. You may add poverty to the litany of sadnesses if you like.
Narratives about who I am or who I might have been had the world been good and kind and fair are gripping, magnetic even. Several years ago, I stood up into a metal shelf bracket and found myself with a business class ticket on the Fatal Ferry of Fibromyalgia. No, fibro ain’t fatal, although one might wish it were, but to stay on that boat for long could be. I have heard the sirens’ song of any number of compelling disabilities – I identified as “chronically depressed” for so long it very nearly came true.
Fibromyalgia was a gift, a fruit basket given to me by an amalgam of drunken car totalings, sexual assault, an abiding need to shoot drugs to near seizure and/or overdose, et cetera, et cetera, all calculated to disrupt my neurochemistry. It was just wonky enough, when I kissed that metal bar with my skull, to easily slide over to some sort of horrific schizophrenia, where all my neural impulses told me to (via migraine, twitching muscles, fatigue, unremitting neurasthenia, and a non-stop train wreck of agonizing pain) assassinate Gerald Ford, or at least, hurl this bowl of cherries at the backdoor in a tantrum of hurt and frustration.
I’ve been blessed by a ridiculously optimistic personality. You wouldn’t necessarily know that – you have to sieve through my snarkiness - but you will find, among the shark teeth, some candy corn and daisies. But armed with a diagnosis and a deep, dedicated love of drama (yes, Jessica, I am a drama King) I lay upon my sickbed and calculated the losses. I began to meet with others who inhabited this realm of adamant pain. Quickly, it was revealed: this is a world of Us and Them, it was a world of believers and unbelievers. The martyrdom to this diagnosis, however, was unbelievable. This made me sicker than the sick itself.
I watched an acquaintance turn her will and her life over to her multiple diagnoses and identities: bipolar, fibro, assault victim, rape survivor, alcoholic. Thank god it didn’t look very appealing – vanity probably has as much to do with my own survival as optimism or even access to clean water – and my own litany became less of a “who I am” and more of a “things that happened in my life.”
It concerns me that I see a number of transmen identifying as a “survivor” of this or of that. I wonder about the proliferation of disability identities I find on the interwebs. It’s a part of our process, to wade through pain, to pore over and attempt to find meaning in our tragedies. I salute the openness, the refulgent honesty my web siblings shine and I believe our secrets can kill us; I see the importance of frank discussion, of our abuses, our fears, our beliefs, the things that we feel fettered or broken by.
But I worry about us getting stuck there. A brotherhood of survivors is fantastic television but what feeds and nourishes and sustains this trannyboy is my unending, luminant gratitude for those very things that felt like curses. To land on the open sheet you’re all holding and be trampolined, buoyed above my low laying clouds – to see, even briefly, that open, sunny expanse, and then drop down, hard, held by your loving and splendid arms – to know, and I mean really KNOW, that we are legion, and we are loving and loved, and in this is a special place of sanity, the sanity only the gender-fluid can know and that is that we expose the ridiculousness of “him” and “her” even if only for a second and even if only for ourselves.
That luminosity you reflect, sister-brother, THAT’s what I want to hold on to.
I see catalogues of our fear, inventory of our pains – I can share first hand they’re just another bureaucracy. I find the sweetness in the details, the “mundane:” we are kitten-owners, child-birthers, cereal-buyers; no longer are we hanging by a thread of survival, we’re not eating cold out of cans – we’re catering the motherfucking party, we’ve transcended, we’re a celebration!
Know this, Handsome, Beautiful One. You are so much more than your cystic fibrosis, your cane, your Zoloft, your incest, your addictions, your overweight, your longing, your grief and your loss. You are The Sun; you are the most powerful light shining on Earth; you blind me with your radiance. Go out now and blast thee motherfucker, fucking torch down Target with your brilliance. I can’t wait. I’ll be there, shopping for shades, looking fierce in hats, and waiting to be awed.
Your brother in addiction, prostitution, sexual abuse, rape, poverty, domestic violence, fibromyalgia, IBS, IC, depression; making art, making love, finding hope, kissing kittens, brushing unicorns, painting pictures, meeting for coffee, calling you on the phone, meditating and praying, laughing until I pee myself, drinking the best cup of coffee, playing Fireman with Gus, reading a genius writer, loving, loving, loving and dancing with every sweet and open human generous enough to post their version of Beyoncé or Shakira on youtube now and now and forever amen.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I trudge up the hill to meet my friend halfway. “What’s goin on man?” I puff as I walk. “I saw your video, man, the one you posted…” “Well thanks for watching,” I say, preparing to be humble in the face of oncoming accolades. “It was really disturbing…I found it really disturbing!” he says, looking perplexed.
At the risk of being too self-referential, I’m referring to the video I’d posted to the right there, about fears around transitioning - which I’d also shared on the Book of Face, thereby exposing myself to a heap of barely–known pages - people who call me their “friend.” You know we don’t all KNOW each other, actually.
We continued to chat; I didn’t really get any more insight, and I did ask him directly what chapped him. I was moved that he felt he could have a conversation with me - him an assigned- at-birth male and me just super fabulous - and express this discomfort, and he took pains to let me know it wasn’t about me, personally – “you’re clearly a level-headed Dude” – that it was his stuff.
I live in my own little Warsaw. If it were in Manhattan it could be called “Little Trannytown.” My chosen interactions are with my chosen tribe: people who are generally socially conscious, certainly open-minded, and typically loyal. So I forget how challenging this gender stuff is, even as it has challenged me my entire life. Like most humans my default state is an intermittent narcosis, fueled by cookies, electronic over-stimulation, and a tendency to spiral down the dark side when faced with overarching human cupidity.
Gender is so fundamental, so deeply and immediately inculcated by society, that threatening its construct can fuck up your entire world view. We’ve all experienced those “floor-dropping moments,” when everything we’ve believed, up ‘til now, has been revealed to be, well, different than what we’d thought. I recall the first time I realized my parents were weird, were unlike other kids’ parents. It can be a deceptively simple moment. I remember Michelle Marcy and John Wilkinson talking about “heavy coats.” It was fall in Northern Virginia, and probably time to pull out the wool.
“Heavy coats?” I wondered. “What on earth could that mean?” In a blinding flash I saw Michelle and John around their respective, homey, breakfast tables, participating in the kind of conversations, ordinary and accessible, that the Petersons didn’t have. We didn’t speak of clothing; we talked of art and politics and I’m talking about the second grade here. I knew, I saw in that instant, the disability that would plague me for the rest of my school days: I was marked; we didn’t know about anything that mattered; we were smarty-pants freaks; it was a miracle my parents hadn’t been eaten alive by the parents of these children.
My life changed in that instant. My carefully crafted Mom and Dad origami drinking cup, now challenged to hold water, went soggy and failed. To pry open the eyes of another may feel like torture to them. I liken it to nudging your parents’ bedroom door open, you with your binky and blanket agape at the tangle of limbs and sheets and indescribable sounds. While that’s a fine example of a horrible awakening, there are moments in our lives that are wonderfully, painfully, opening and transcendent. What book did you read as a teenager that utterly destroyed your world as you’d known it, and wasn’t it delicious?! Is it just this ol’ Sagittarian or have you not experienced relief, or joy, or balls-out liberation when such a perceptual shift happens? Movies like The Matrix hold such resonance because we’re always making the blue pill/red pill decision, preparing to be slaughtered, hoping to find freedom.
I have got to remember that the gender thing is like that for the people, it’s primary, feels sacred. I have got got GOT to practice a little more empathy – after all, I have an agenda, and I want to persuade, right?
First it was the gays and their zany sexual confusion; now it’s those madcap ftms and their hair and clit growing antics! “In a world, where men and women change their genders at will…” I hear the announcer intone. (gift for the reader: say “In a world, where…” and fill it in with whatever you want, “kittens make breakfast” or “my ass no longer looks like a lunar landing site” – also, do Sean Connery imitations on anything. Hilarious for EVER. You’re welcome.)
In a world, where I am sensitive, touchy even, about my transition, about transgender, about the continued oppression of women and consequently the continuous suffocation of men – in a world, where I am about to be eaten alive by my neighbors, always, it’s Peterson status quo – IN A WORLD where I learn to stop serving myself up on a plate...Well, the transgendered are a tasty snack treat. You can’t fault us there.
So I bid you, go forth, transperson. Go shatter someone’s paradigm. Maybe you’ll get thanked later. Probably not. Nevertheless I bid you, go forth and scrawl some shit on the bathroom doors. If there’s no risk to your being, tell people who and what you are. There’s a whole bunch of us out here ready to love on you, when those other suckers can’t. Well, at least, Moneypenny, there’s me.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
If you’re looking to be “himmed” and not her’d” there’s a tranny hierarchy, FYI. Some of us have heard this, and even the best of us might have experienced the sour taste of having to “him” someone who hasn’t “earned” it.
By this I mean there are some transguys who feel that you can’t be a “him” if you ain’t on the T; I’m given to understand there’s some sort of ranking by surgeries, too. I have wondered on occasion, if assigned-at-birth-men feel that, that “hey, you didn’t live male, Shortstuff, so how dare you pad your panties and call yourself a man!”
I don’t think cisgender men give two scrotal hoots about transguys actually, and therein is the heartwrenching difference between us and them. If they only knew.
I have been surreptitiously scoping the masculine for YEARS. Practically out of the womb. Since I can remember - and I can recall the hiss of the black and white television and the palpable devastation of the adults around it during the first Kennedy assassination and that, mothersuckers, was less than a month before my third birthday – I recollect an already ripening love for the male.
This love of mine was very specific however: I did not care for male children. They were loud, gratuitously violent, and inclined to force me to remove my panties. My best friend, David Lindsay, was a gentle creature who, like me, shunned the boys and the girls, neither of whom seemed to play at anything really fun like “Radio Announcer” or “Variety Show Host.”
But the accoutrement! The boys’ blazer had a pocket on the inside! This made me inexpressibly covetous. I could see myself wearing the handsome dark green wool, tucking special rocks and paper with secret code inside. I was more Christopher Robin than G.I.Joe. I longed for real collars; everything for girls was softened and blunted or darted and pleated. I wanted boxy pants with lots of pockets and…and belt loops by golly belt loops! A belt even! The treasures I beheld in my father’s jewelry box soothed this unnamed, unspoken anxiety, the anxieties of being a Samantha when I felt so SAM.
Men, I have been watching you for years. Your slumps and your slouches, your insouciance, your insecurities. I’ve let my envious eyeballs explore every inch of your solid shoulders, your clavicles, the goose-flesh dappled skin of your dense necks. With something akin to love and certainly within the realm of passion I’ve counted hairs, noted like a scientist the areas in which they are more likely to congregate. Because I am so visual I drew you again and again and again. “What are those?” asked an innocent of my attempted sketch of Reggie from Archie Comics. “Breasts” interjects my mom nervously, who does not, who cannot, understand: I would never, EVER draw a female body. Why would I when it is the male’s that I worship? “
Men, you are as foreign and as terrifying as a giant squid – and the waters are yours, always have been. I’m bouncing around in a purloined dinghy marveling at my good fortune in sighting such a creature, before realizing I’m about to be its lunch.
I have done everything I know to get you to look at me. I’ve been your (in)equal, in bands, on teams, at jobs, and in love. No matter how I tried, I was always second-tier. Bros before, well, you know. Men have always been among my closest friends, and yet I always felt your distance. I could be relegated to a “honey” or a “sweetheart” in less than a slap. When I call someone “Honey” it’s with the love of a mother. Women taught me that. I’m not sure I even like men, but then again, I’m not sure I like women either. As the immortal Johnny Mercer sang "I don't like men/ Women I don't like too/ Sometimes I don't even like myself, but I do do do like you!"
I am your stalker. I am up your pants leg now. Me and every guy in transition – we’re in your pen pocket, we’re tucked in your hatband; when you whip out your wallet we dash for a compartment; we’re on your jock, in your cologne, in your shaving mug, your class ring. We’re comparing size, and heft; we’re studying how you stroll. And while we’re jealous of your dick, we’re not jotting love-making skills from you, nor do we need your flirt. But mother goddamn, to have that confidence, the thing that can only be born of privilege!
Ah. So. There it is. I watch and I envy (penis!) and I covet and I long. But at the end of the day, I’m reminded: I really can choose to have the best of all possible worlds. How lucky am I!? I know what it’s like to be a woman. That may be the greatest gift I’ll ever have been given – to know what it’s like to be the most globally downtrodden of the human species teaches me compassion, right? It connects me with a worn, silken thread to everyone. And as I cast about for male role models I find, by and large, my male role models are women:
- My neighbor Mixon broke up a fight between a pit bull and a herder, helped a guy in a wheelchair, and held the whole neighborhood together IN ONE NIGHT.
- My friend Alex shines the sort of strong, wise paternal love-beam that pulls you in its wake to your higher self.
- With greater and greater frequency, it is women who are modeling the kind of leadership, courage, and ambition I admire, the kind I think of as “male.”
Gay Christian mystic-activist Andrew Harvey believes Jesus’ was the ultimate masculinity, the perfect union of male and female. I can model a prissy control-freak, have a tantrum of sexual entitlement, or I can help someone without asking anything in return. I think of true, transcendent maleness as uniting, not dividing.
And of course, I’d sure like to unite my thing with yours. I’ve got my eye on you.
Monday, August 10, 2009
You know, I’ve been transitioning from female to male for well over a year now, but I still occasionally have unsettling WTF moments. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s a really stunning sale on Bust.com, but every once in a while my head will break the surface of what in the moment feels like the scary, weird, murky Sea of Transition, and my (in this scenario) breasts will heave, lungs choking for air, legs churning in the waters, arms grappling to find purchase where there can be none. “What am I doing!” I gasp, a woman adrift in a hostile, manly deep.
It is for precisely these moments of confusion and doubt that I have taken a soggy cocktail napkin from AA’s “44 questions” brochure and crafted my own: “You might be trans if….” helpful checklist. Rub whatever facial hair you have as if you were Aladdin and your chin a lamp, adjust your crotch thusly and read on. These are mine, and they’re intensely subjective, but I urge you to find your own, if any of these plays like the icy transfinger of death on your questioning vertebrae.
- Do you have “the phantom-limb syndrome?” You might be trans if you know exactly what I’m referring to.
- Does the department you’re “supposed” to shop in make you break out in cold sweat? Do you experience unexplainable allergy symptoms (hives in the shape of the symbol for Mars) when merely tromping near the undergarment display?
- Does being mistaken for the other gender make you feel tickley and strangely elated? Conversely, does it really fucking piss you off?
- Do you eye-grope smokin’ hot representations of your “opposite sex”, in magazines, on tv, the internet, all the while recognizing you don’t necessarily want to sleep with them, but you like their style?
- Do you ever say to yourself, “I’ve got this woman (or whatever your born gender is) thing down!” like it’s a job or a shtick?
- Do transpeople of either gender make you unaccountably queasy? Do you feel an urgent need to express your opinions about transgender men and women, possibly in a blog?
- Have you spent any amount of time at all, researching surgeries, hormones, ftm/mtf sites, drag kings, queens et al just because you’re “curious?”
If you’ve managed to read through these questions without your eyeball twitching, your lizard collar flaring, your fur at end, then sister-brother, move on. You’ve achieved some level of comfort in whatever skin you’re in. Me, I’ve printed this on rubber so I can stretch the letters large to recall that the skin I’m in is changing, every motherfucking day, and with various degrees of ease or pain.
It can be textbook Jekyll and Hyde up in here: one day I’m skipping (butchly) through fields of curling thigh hair, twirling under musky skies of pit-stank, gripping my newly arrived back fat with happy hands, thanking the dear Lord for the migration from my ENORMOUS working-class Euromutt thighs to this more masculine destination. Other days my facial hair makes me extremely nervous, each hair like an ant on my clean kitchen counter; the secondary sexual characteristic of thick-necked goiter fat is galling – I miss my pretty face.
The other list, and again, it’s entirely subjective, is my hormonal gratitude list, also perhaps stolen from twelve step groups (I wonder if there’s a 12 step group for thievery?). It reads like this:
- I am so happy with the way things have…erm….changed downstairs. Who knew what a sigh of relief that would bring?
- The thought of returning to my previous body makes me feel like I’ve been trapped overnight at Ann Taylor.
- I love that I don’t have to buy pants to fit my ENORMOUS Euromutt proletariat thighs anymore. Waists actually almost work now, as do belts!
- I actually kind of like masturbating seventeen times a day. “When do you find the time!?” you, a more reasonable person might ask. I make the time.
I recognize these may read as rather superficial, and don’t speak to the myriad ways gender gets forced down our collective gullets, one way or t’other, and how being perceived one way or t’other is vexing, painful even. When I get read for male, it’s like Jesus is giving me a scalp massage, but when a someone gives me the boob-scan and slots this into their “Ma’am” compartment I puke a little in my mouth.
So if ever you are in some sort of trans-panic, some freak-out about who you are and where you might want to go, feel free to use my list as a template. The mind, as I “understand” it, wants order, likes to create form and meaning (“oh look, there’s a monkey pushing a wheelbarrow with a pig in it!...Oh…wait, shoot…it’s just a bush growing over a trash can…”). Residing in the elastic, the lava-lamp of transition, can stir up a little terror.
I know a guy who, one day in trans-panic, shaved off his entire bushy beard and put on make-up and a dress. Sometimes we have to re-boot, hard boot even.
So before we shave our legs with that Daisy razor let’s linger on the list. Remember: God gave us a penis to use our brains with, or something something. Relax, tranny, relax. Believe me, we’re all gonna end up who we are anyway so let’s take a deeeep breathe, put our boots up on the coffee table, wipe our hands on our shirtfronts, and peel that paper off our begendered cupcake. All together now: lick! See, in a world where NPR insists “Sarah Palin has a following” we’re really not all that outré. And if you’re not going to finish that, hand it over to me.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I think it may be time to embrace the next wave of feminism. “Do we actually need another wave,” ponders D, “or have we evolved past the need?”
We need another wave. Feminism has absorbed most of its tail and is hopping towards a verdant central isle but we’re still just frogs, really, aren’t we.
4th Wave feminism is distinctly trans. I think when we no longer need gender identification at all we can thank the waves that washed us and our tender, rubbery limbs ashore, but until that time let’s surf this together, shall we?
Even I find myself, on occasion, thinking “just pick a motherfucking pronoun, will you!?” at my friends who refute this generic convention. I’m confused and that makes me feel small and small makes me act, well, incomprehensibly angry. Good, noted. So I engage my adult and tell myself: “Self” I say, “Self, your non-pronouned friend’s not responsible for how you’re feeling right now. You like to be clearly right and anything less than that is sort of challenging for you. Where you are clearly right is in your support for another human being’s desire to be whomever they chose.” And then I pat myself on the head for being such an evolved human and practice using that friend’s first name in place of a pronoun.
It gets cumbersome. I wish we could default to one sex. I don’t care which. In my head I call nearly everyone “he” because I’ve gotten accustomed to switching it for myself. So basically, in my head, you’re transitioning too.
Back to 4th Wave Feminism. The 4th wave is not generational. I was born in 1960, and was steeped the womyn-cast cauldron of 2nd Wave witchery; my first science-fair exhibition was a planet being explored by “all-women astronauts.” In space, no-one can feel the glass ceiling. I’ve absorbed the lessons of those important decades, and then sat at the feet of my younger, knitting sisters of the 3rd wave, gleaning wisdom from them as we needle-pointed Nico on a pillowcase while bending over our boyfriends. Even we codgers can move to the next phase, the dance floor where boi and grrl merge in a beautiful disco kaleidoscope, becoming something whose meaning resists translation, is so inscrutable it defies category, but whose moves, whether spastic or elastic generate the warmest rays of light.
Activists need to be Sagittarian by nature, always looking to hoof it, ready to trot to the next, better place. The dance hall beckons.
This new place requires a regular scan. Like the 70’s exhorted self breast-exams, 2010 urges intolerance appraisals. I am constantly mortified by what old, bad ideas have managed to creep back into my cupboard, or worse – prejudice gets like sugar ants in the kitchen: they find a miniscule leaving from a disgusted fruit and there’s a swarm. All of the sudden it’s okay for me to talk smack about fat people, or fags, and the next thing I know I’m having to Hazmat the entire storeroom.
3rd Wave feminism expanded the landscape, embraced kink, scraped off the mold of dogma, and explained how someone could dress like a little girl in public, be a Daddy in bed, and still be a feminist. Like the 3rd Wave adopted Betty Page, 4th Wave looks at the Daddy/little girl construct with hot nostalgia. We don’t discard - we use everything because we’re green like that. I’ll bust out my Daddy when appropriate, but my sexual gender is a mutant cephalopod, has more limbs than Kali-ma, and they all want to embrace and caress and beat you into a delicate froth of submission.
Transpeople are either mutants or the next evolutionary stage: either way it looks like it’s gonna be great TV. We best pay attention now and not tivo for later. Trans is here to blow the lid off, off the Tupperware container of marriage of any flavor, off the top of our sex-toy chest, off our insistence on four able limbs and two well-spaced eyes; it’s messing with our dick AND our pussy, the most mistaken-for-sacred idols the world has ever known, so if we’re scared, it is totally okay. We should be. I’m scared, and I have no idea what to wear to this shindig.
What I will do, however, is don some Capezios (the eighties ARE BACK, shut the hell up) and moonwalk (badly) out on the floor. You will slide out beside me, and take me for a dip and a spin. Then we’ll all open-eye meditate with each other and watch with delight as our upper lips grow moustaches, then split open and reveal full Marilyn mouths, pursed and sibilant, expressing a divine juice from a beyond-yonic mango in our foreheads, dripping down, coming on our eyelids, noses and cheeks, all good nourishment in preparation for what’s coming.
And what’s coming is something only you and I can create – so let’s make it with mercy, and compassion, and kindness, and beauty, and love. We’re all of us going to need it.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Jessica says I’m a lazy tranny and I suppose that may be true. I believe I have a pathological dread of bureaucracy (I actually just typed “bureaucrazy” – should’ve kept it.).
I’ve been on those wacky hormone-y injection thingums for well over a year now and I’ve yet to get my name legally changed. Or rather, I finally went to the courthouse today – this on the heels of repeated interactions like these - nurse, upon being handed my medical ID card: “Who is Samantha in relation to you?”
Now that’s a fantastic question, isn’t it? Who, indeed? I’m sure I don’t know, at all, or very little. It’s all very Lewis Carroll if you ask me, or maybe more Bataille, if your flavor of trans leans less to zany British comedy and more to French decapitation subculture. There’s certainly something here for everyone. Having mostly lived a life morally scripted by Genet, I’d happily subscribe to something a little more light-heartedly surreal. Benny Hill even. Mr. Bean. (and there’s something distinctly trans about Rowan Atkinson, isn’t there? Or is it just my longing for his brotherhood, me a Black Adder aficionado from too far back.)
Anyway, I was waxing philosophic.
Early on, during my requisite twelve sessions with a mental health professional, my therapist questioned my lack of enthusiasm to traipse over to Hillsborough for the name-change forms. “It’s the first thing most guys do” she said, tonally arching her eyebrows at me, “it’s the easiest change you can make…most guys are eager to do it.”
Not me, I said. She seemed to think this was indicative of a reluctance, a lack of commitment, a digging in of my boa-trimmed Candies. I was quick to assure her I hadn’t actually owned a pair of Candies since high-school, and they were anathema then. No, no, I merely have good ol’ fashioned American dread of anything paperwork. I’m terrified, having begun this process, that I’m now on an inexorable road to lengthy lines, forms that may as well have been written in Klingon and which are always described as “self-explanatory,” mirthless clerks, scowling management, and the assumption that only a stupid person couldn’t figure this out, wouldn’t have done A B and C already. I just threw up in my mouth a little writing about it.
As clever as I am, I drop a good 50 IQ points when I’m in a line and have a form to fill. I just do. I cannot decipher their dream text; I do not understand the language as it is being spoken to me; I am absolutely confounded by the linear. Case in point: at age five I weep in terror as our teacher makes a newspaper hat and asks us to follow along. I know at the outset it is beyond my capacity, this folding and refolding, beyond my ken to make such straight and wonderously crisp lines; something inside me cracks and releases the deepest brine. Already at this tender age I have subterranean caverns of sorrow and shame, acquired by observing and participating in the sexual depravities only a child can – but nothing feels quite as penetrating as this blinding stupidity.
It blocks me from completing the most innocent of things sometimes, but I’m much better at it now. Nonetheless, there hasn’t been any urgency around the name change. Everyone’s always called me “Sam.” I hadn’t been reading as male until very recently, so, well, so what? Why should I? But now the credit cards and IDs are galling. Jessica reports that whenever I call her cell, “Samantha” comes on screen, and she’s forced to say, in her best Tony Danza, “Samant’a! Samant’a!” This hardly seems fair, to ask of a friend, to have to repeatedly do a
And so I manned up and drove to Hillsborough.
Before I left, Miz Marva, the seventy-something year old lady next door waylaid me. “Sam, Sam, come over here Sam,” she called with a senior’s urgency. Miz Marva and her sister think I’m a man, and flirt with me accordingly. “Sam, my sister has some eggs for you…Kara, come on here, Sam’s outside!”
Miz Kara, who is not someone I would ever want to mess with – as Miz Marva says, she works with the retarded, and she can handle it – coyly hands me a basket of enormous, nearly Jurassic-proportioned eggs. “Sam,” Miz Marva makes it have two gentle syllables, “you got two black ladies giving you gifts. I bet that’s your dream, isn’t it!”
Well pretty darn close. If they can fill out forms.
Equally abashed, I thank them for the eggs and for all their hospitality. It was unnerving at first, to be so baldly flirted with, particularly by strangers, simply because I’m a “man,” but I’m settling in to it.
I suppose there’s some hesitation, some cling, to my old me. I had chosen “Samuel” but in the end, stuck with “Sam.” The more formal felt biblical, rabbinical even, and implied a vigorous commitment to doctrine that belied my essential laziness. So I stayed with Sam.
She’s fading, the girl who never was. More and more I remember, recall feeling uncomfortable, adopting postures that didn’t fit me, discarding some that did, because they weren’t congruent. I was never actually a girl, as it turns out, and may never actually be a man, either. As it turns out. As long as I don’t have to pay taxes on it, do an assessment of it, or complete it in triplicate, I think I’m gonna be okay. But let me put you on hold; Kafka’s calling.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Unicorns, ladles and gellyplugs, I give you Unicorns: sexy, cheesy seventies tattoo, perennial favorite of pre-teen females and gayby boys, bringer of crystals and ceramics, beacon light of every emo and ironic indy tee-shirt.
What is it about this sleek, snow white filly, upon whose golden mane glints moonlight and whose bewitching tail snap kills nary a fly, but transfixes all who gaze upon its hypnotic splendor? Who is adorned by God’s Own Paperweight, the divine slice of the Sun Himself, affixed to its very forehead?
Oh transmen, are we not Unicorns? Here we frolic, stamping playfully in your sunlit meadow, snorting fire and ice, our horsey tranny thoughts impenetrable and infinitely mysterious to the masses. They seek us to capture us, use our special god-given gifts to enhance their own paltry libidos, bolster their flagging self-esteem. Like the Unicorn, we are a rare and lovely pleasure, an omen, a signifier of something terrifyingly beautiful come to smash your handmirror to bits.
Okay, maybe not. When you’ve earned your own entrance at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival you’re hardly a dying mythological breed. I mean, we have our own flag, don’t we? And we can’t always be tamed by a maiden – I have empirical data for this bit of science.
But riddle me this: are we not some sort of divination or omen? Don’t transpeople seem to be popping up all over the collective lawn like…like…freaking dandelions? Would that we WERE unicorns, people. How fantastic would that be, to see singularly horned creatures everywhere, at the Citgo, the market, bitching at their children sotto voce at the library, making cheese in a goat farm, a be-horned forehead peering into your mouth at the dentist? What does it MEAN!?
I’ve always ridden English, very formal and elegant, but I think with this particular mount I shall go Western and ride hell for leather. Unicorns at your marks.
I think transpeople are a literal gift from God. I also suspect that a number of the newly (and I mean since the sixties) gender dysmorphic are the result of the effects of hormones and other chemicals that have found their way into our medicines, foods, plastics and even our water on our very receptive fetal neurochemistry. Just as the unicorn may have been a beautiful freak, so may I be.
Nothing alters the bald fact of my balding reality so it doesn’t, at the end of a long, boyish day, matter where the fuck I came from, to me. But in the larger scheme, transpeople portend not only the death of the destructive cancer of a strict binary gender system, we may signify the end times of pollution, one way or another. Transpeople are the bleach cake on the inside of society’s toilet: we’re here to clean your shit up.
The world is a filthy, filthy place and not in a dirty nice way, either. Do your research. Until the seventies, doctors gave women “vitamins,” diethylstilbestrol or DES by any other name, a synthetic estrogen thought to prevent miscarriages. DES has transgenerational effects, meaning, it can give your granddaughter vaginal cancer. It is also linked to hypodysplasia and malformations requiring surgical interventions. And that is what it does to the body. We can only guess at what synthetic hormones do to our brains.
By this I do not mean to imply that transgender is a malformation. I cannot express how deeply I understand transgender to be sweet magic from a generous Universe, a Universe intent on exposing us to our stinkin’ thinkin’ in creative, ecstatic ways. The sickness is in the society. And to kill the Unicorn is to murder the bringer of The Light.
We are sick, sick to the bone, rotten with bad ideas about men and women. It’s about time we dismantled all that, although it’s really collapsing in on itself, and yes, you can thank feminism and queer people for all that. You’re welcome. And we seem to bolster our spiritual sickness with crap food and additives, making it okay for nine year old girls to menstruate and ten year old boys to develop breasts before they ever see pubic hair.
It took being singularly shattered by my own bad behavior, multiple times, before I could even start to make any changes in my life. I respect the process of deconstruction and I feel it happening for us on a global level. It took us two terms of GW to get an Obama. We’re gonna bottom out on all this shit, and soon.
So mark my words, as a Transsexual Omen: the end times are at hand. Find you a Unicorn, motherfucker, and stay in the light because WE ARE HERE. And there will be more of us. And we will fuck with every idea about men and women and what that means to you personally that you hold dear. While you’re figuring it all out, maybe you want to start recycling too, and cleaning up your food; go do some volunteer work. There’s no telling what crap is in your body, turning you and possibly your offspring into the next decade’s hermaphrodite. It aint going to be easy, and it aint gonna look pretty, all of us detoxing together, so you might as well go get some glitter and ribbon. This is one pony that likes to have a little lift in his trot, some pepper in his prance. This is one hot pony you cannot take for a ride.