I’ve been traveling deep, deep undersea, feasting on the marine snow of my old dead ideas. Marine snow, for you for whom cephalopods don’t fascinate, is the soft, downy flakes of detritus, composed of dead fish, fecal matter and plankton, that travel from the floaters atop down to the briny leagues. It can gather some girth by the time it hits the ocean floor. Me, I don’t let anything go to waste, especially not a good meal.
There’s this adolescent phenomenon, whereby youngsters tear down an institution and then rebuild it while trumpeting their ingenious originality. What I’m saying to you is that I forget, sometimes, that I didn’t invent transitioning, or that I have anything at all to offer to the larger world, regarding my own experience.
It’s humbling, to meet 17 year old transpeople who have waaaay more experience at this thing than I. I’ve discovered, in my dotage, that there’s a lot of stuff I know little about at all, boat-load of opinion aside.
When I came out as lesbonian, there actually weren’t many doing it my way, and so I did feel slightly original, if by “original” one means lonely and weird. In that, I was no groundbreaker. But there weren’t a ton of arty Patti Smith-style dykes, even in D.C. in 1978. We did manage to find each other, thank the gods (and who would they be? MC5?) but I do remember walking a gauntlet, in a women’s bar, of drunken flannel-wearers, who, to my newly-out 18 year old horror, groped my tuxedo pants-wearing legs and ass in a dykey approximation of a Pasolini film. It was the seventh circle of Hell. There was no-body who looked like me, no dyed-black, teased-up tresses and heavy eyeliner, no flat-soled soft boots, no chicken bones taped to their faux leopard jacket. Yet.
Those of us who were punk or New Wave queer found a place; we gravitated to each other with near desperation in clubs like 9:30, gouging our gay niche with Klaus Nomi, Bauhaus, Bush Tetras.
Now, here it is, 2009. I’ve lost my transgressive card, have you seen it? Last I looked it was the nineties and I used it to get too many facial piercings.
Trans? I got nothin. Show me something. You kids have been doing this shit for a while now. I got hip to the trans-thing sometime in the early new millennium. Women I knew started changing, first their names, their pronouns, then something else, ineluctable. It was the testosterone what done it.
In my forties now, I find myself kneeling at the feet of wiser, younger men and genderfucks. These guys, these people – they’re so fucking smart. They have a generosity of spirit, a compassion I never had. I was always too afraid, too scared you’d scope me out for who I really was, which was someone who was basically scared and afraid. Who knew? You can’t travel deep when you can’t catch your breath, you’re corseted by how you want to be seen, who you think you are. Transitioning is so good for me. I’m forced to disrobe, unbuckle, riiiip the Velcro and unstay the whale-bone so you can see my real gut in all its splendor. Diving’s easier then, too, naked and curious.
I guess I’m reminding myself not to reinvent a good wheel. I’m remembering to thank all my brothers, sisters, and whatevers for having paved this sweet golden trail. For me. There are so many helpmeets along the way. There’s a nearly unfathomable regression to puberty with hormones, so I know my kin will be kind when I mistake myself for a trail-blazer. I’ll probably break curfew, too, and embarrass my family in public. At least, I hope so.
What men and women and others have endured, to become themselves! I salute you; I’m in awe. And I want to thank the dudes who have connected with me, buoyed (boyed?) me in these occasionally choppy waters, dudes like Amrit, and Vegan BattleBot, Elliot and the rest of you guys. This shit is weird and hard. This shit is fantastic and transcendent. Only my boys (and I see us all, the boys under some tranny Fagin) know what I’m on about: the mood swings, the dysmorphia; the ecstasy of leaning into something new entirely; the sublime terror of same; the frustration, the tears, the insane sexual yank, in and of itself a new organ; the grief; the lost relationships; the deepening of old friendships; the family drama; the new wardrobe….
I’m going to borrow my mom’s station wagon and drive for miles, until the college radio station fades and I don’t even notice - I’m too deep in my desire, too tantalized by the road, smitten with the scenery, too captivated by your company. You can stretch out now, relax into the rhythm of asphalt and white lines, knock off your kicks, and hang your feet out the window. We’ve got nowhere to go but someplace amazing. Thanks for holding the map.