Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Choking On the Ashes Of Her Enemy

Judith is insistent.

“What do we call this person you’re dating?” she demands. I give Jessica the side-eye and say “Shim. He-she. Jessica calls D my ‘ladyboyfriend’ but ‘ladyboys’ are those other kinds of trannys from Thailand,” I add injudiciously. Jessica nods, “You just try to keep up with the kids, Judith. Just try.”

I falter. I flail. I flatline. So here is the failure of a binary system. I had a friend who said she divided the world into “fuckable” and “unfuckable.” I attributed this dichotomy to her history of incest, and it’s too subjective to be a good system, although I wonder how many of us view our world this way. I think you can split the world up into “wipers” and “non-wipers,” meaning, “those of us who will wipe and wipe until we’re absolutely positive nothing remains – even if it requires bleeding a little” and the rest of you stank pigs. But (butt!) you can’t readily identify people as one or the other; it requires the kind of census-taking I certainly enjoy, but few others seem to.

In the new, ObamAmerica, binary just won’t cut it. Democrat and Republican didn’t really work, last election. Male/female is almost quaint in 2009, a throwback to 2004 or whenever Match dot com got started. In the new millennium 5 years is last millennium’s 25. It took me a while to figure this gendered thing out, but I was one of the last kids in the 70’s to buy Earth shoes. I’ve always been that guy: by the time I’m hip to it you can count on it pretty much being over. I mean, I still have a faux-hawk.

But let’s pretend transitioning isn’t a fad. Okay, simmer down, it’s not a fad. But it could be. Look at tattooing. Actually, don’t. You’ll only bring a tear to my unicorn’s eye. No, it’s fine – not everyone is interested in “meaning” the way I am, and thank God. Even on testosterone I can devote untoward amounts of dissection to every fucking little feeling I have, only having just learned (finally!) that sometimes feelings are like cigars. You know what I mean. Nobody, not even me, is that interesting. We’re just that self-absorbed.

So what I’m suggesting (and by the way, I’m quite ill, so caveat emptor) is that you people, meaning me and all of youse, are going to have to learn to accommodate the trans.

I started, in my head at least and quite by accident, referring to Judith and Jessica as “he.” I believe this was an unintentional byproduct of changing my own interior pronoun. It occurred to me we might just refer to one another as “he/him” and simply drop the whole “female” thing from the language lock, stock, and yonic symbol. Some nuanced or sans-gender people call themselves “hir” and “ze” but I think less is more, and so would rather just cast it all out entirely, like in those futuristic novels where everyone is called “Mr.”

I truly believe we’ll have to. Bathroom protocol has got to change. There are simply too many of us; more and more are cropping up each day, like alcoholics and drug addicts, or (ha-ay!) gay people in the 90’s: everyone knows at least one. I can’t shop for gluten-free pasta in this burg without my ass bumping into a transperson, and mark my gender-neutral word, we’re coming to your town too.

Judith’s query is fair – but how to answer it? Sure, I can blithely regard myself as D’s “boyfriend,” because I believe shooting testosterone entitles me to it. Like it’s an entitlement. That’s the other thing: I wandered down the road of tranny hegemony, hierarchy recently, just for grins and discovered for myself that I could rank people. Transpeople have been doing this for years, but I hadn’t, so I tried it on. It goes like this:

You don’t “get” to use a male pronoun unless you’re on T, or going to be on T.

You’re an even better transguy if you’re not only on T - you’ve had your breasts cut off.

You’re an even superduper transguy if you’ve then gone and gotten a metoidoplasty and had all your uteruses and knick-knacks removed.

Personally, I think you can call yourself any damn thing you want. I think that’s awesome, subversive even. I think when I do get my knockers knacked off, I’m going to show up on your beach with a mother-fucking pink bikini top, how-do-you-like-them-apples?

Jaysus, I have no idea where I’m going with this. I may actually have a fever. I’ll tell you this, though, I’m becoming more and more like a guy, every day. It’d be almost creepy if it wasn’t so cool. And notice I said, “like a guy.” I got a 99.5 on my statistics test. I have the capacity to progress linearly. I enjoy looking at cars, and who knows? I might someday enjoy sports. I wish “Kinging” was a sport. Colors look different on me, and I can now use a calculator. What’s new with you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Come To My Arms, My Beamish Boy

The past four days were spent sitting in a not-so-lovely grotto of statistical formulae. I had a Statistics mid-term; this is not a subject that is reflexive for me. If you want me to put pen to paper or write a song, do an interpretive pas de une, sculpt with found objects, mime, joke, cut up text from Paradise Lost and collage it into something new – in other words, be singularly right-brained, mutable, incomprehensible even – then fantastic: you shall find yourself Welcome To My World of Wonderment.

The margins of my school notes are populated by octopus and cuttlefish, with heads of roses, cupcakes, crab carapaces. Muscular men, multiple moustaches, ladies turned into gentlemen: these are my soothing companions to the summation of n squared times its probability. I’ve been patrolling my own borders with these characters since I can remember, and while they’re a comforting protection, they are also defensive, a diversion from whatever’s threatening me.

Mathematics is a threat. Rather, my perception of mathematics is that it is a threat. There’s something about the action of testosterone, however, on this former lady-brain, that has created, if not an opening, at least a beginning of an understanding. I find myself in less of a panic around all things algebraic, is what I’m saying to you. Now, you might posit that this is an effect of study, or of maturity even, and I will assent; these things have certainly abated my abject terror of calculation.

But the level of my dread, my incomprehension, my capacity for sheer dissociative terror, cannot be underestimated.

Nine months into hormone therapy, I find myself understanding what it is I don’t know. I understand how I need my information packaged. The free-floating alarm is contained by this new capacity. I am teachable. Some part of my foot is connected to earth.

Everything about being a lady, for me, was scattershot, gaseous, dilute. It was my version of the reknown female empathy, our relatedness to others, our Aquarian ability to merge air and make connections in space. The hormonal male has a heat-seeking capacity the hormonal female did not, at least in this body. I can zero in; I feel less pixilated. Untethered is the word that comes to mind, pre-T.

For observers the clarity and definition is less sure. I was having coffee with my sweet friend Sarah at Open Eye when she startled me by telling me it pained her to watch me interact with certain people, groups – that in these particular herds I was some kind of token, not truly accepted. This explication was very different from my own, admittedly block-headed, experiences. I can be mercifully unaware to the challenges my transition presents to others and I can definitely be ridiculously Sally Fieldian with the “you like me, you really like me’s.” Other times I’ve bristled, and challenged people to do better, better with the pronouns, better with their breezy invocation of the “tranny voice,” the parody of a deep, masculine attempt at femininity which I find painfully offensive, even as I am chortling at my own crackity-crack, T-induced, manvox.

But we’re all finding our way with this, right? It’s a huge social change, a shift like assimilating homosexuality, or racial parity, which we’ve all had to do at some critical juncture in our personal lives. Even as it occasionally offends me when friends call me “tranny,” (as often as it cracks me up, so how am I to police that?) I see the poignant attempts at intersecting, finding a place of comfort with something discomfiting or unusual as incredibly moving. I don’t need you to be politically correct, all the time, but I am moved to tears that you care enough to try, and are shame-facedly grumpy when you forget.

It’s interesting to try to field-note one’s own brain. These changes are so nuanced, such deft chemical rewires – they feel so natural – they almost defy observation. I have to dig deeper and deeper to connect with my pre-T neurochemistry. I like this guy brain. It’s very stolid. It will hold down the papers on my desk, which are everywhere. It also has sense enough to still be moved by every little thing; there’s always a moment in every English class I attend, that I have to suck in the tears urged from a tender short story, a tragic poem about the horrors of war, the artful exposition of race and class by Alice Walker. I’m a big crybaby. Thank God.

I wish the testosterone would make me super-fantastic at math, but a humble plod beats a frenetic anxiety attack any day. I’ll take that, and my new inability to not spit “Cuntbag!” at the glowering human trying to get around me in the parking lot. For some reason this feels really, really personal. Oh well. In other places I feel less bandied about by a mercurial wind and more like a kite, jauntily taut by a firm if possibly over-zealous youthful hand. I’d rather be sailing, as bumperstickers along the Chesapeake used to alert.

And I am sailing, although I have no idea who’s at the helm. Someone with a weird, sharp, but sweet sense of humor.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Battle of Your Bulge

So let’s review, shall we? Since the dawning of Testosterone, the little human called “Sam” has been observed:

Wearing the same shirt for days at a time, or at least desiring to

Ascertaining a heretofore unknown appreciation for AC/DC and Ted Nugent

Spitting the “c” word* at humans engaging in “poor driving skills”

Discovering that his eyeballs have their own dirty little agenda and that it requires all his new muscularity to divert their disconcerting predation on human parts, of which he has nothing to do with.

Thanks be to The Great and Wise Tranny Gods that I have stayed out of a relationship for a year. Almost exactly. My first 9 months of transition, my gestation, required a self-absorption and return to focus that another human would have diverted me from. The Gods, in their sagacity, withheld another from me until I had basted in my manly gravy long enough to be something savory. And a transguy, no matter how delectable, is not to everyone’s taste.

I wondered how it would be to make the sexy times on testosterone. Would I come a lot? Would I come once and then have to wait for it to get back up? Would I be an attentive lover, or would the urgency of my own overweening drive find me begging like a teenage boy for “just a blow job…no? Okay baby but touch it, go on, touch it…Please baby, please!”

For those of us who, as ladies, could have sexy times all day, T will not present all that much of a difference. My drive has always been high and I have always been able and willing to fuck the day away when given the opportunity. My therapist sees this as prima facie evidence that I was prehistorically a dude-in-the-making, that my sexuality has ever had a masculine flavor.

There is an…exigency, a demand from the nether regions, that distracts on occasion. I heard myself the other day, say with utter seriousness, “Baby, if I don’t come now I will die.” I do not recall any such utterances before T, issued with such fervor and conviction as I feel now. I feel I was rather more gentlemanly, BT;** there is pressure here that hadn’t existed prior. I meant it: I will die without release. There is a violence, or perhaps I’m surrendering to an already extant condition, in my sexuality, an athleticism and muscularity enhanced by the pressure-cooker of hormones, a cock-teased cocktail laced with spinach, an iron, heat-seeking depth-charge one must quickly find a barren island for its detonation.

I’d like to think it makes me a more interesting partner, hotter, but that may be more evidence of (delusional) masculinity.

Speaking of masculinity, it appears I have fallen for the charms of a sweet Nelly Boy. I assume this makes me a fag, but I know this is treacherous terrain for assumptions. Nevertheless, I heart faggotry, and so will embrace this construct, whilst hopefully ripping the sweet hell out of it. It, not s/he. How do gay men feel about dykes and trannys appropriating their culture, their desire? For whatever reason gay male culture is always the most marketable, the most fantastically designed, pre-packaged, hanky-coded bundle of semiotic hot mess – you can’t say that about dykery, really, which certainly has its own cultural signifiers. Dykes are to fag culture as white people are to black culture, only less successful at marketing. Dykes will assimilate fag culture, but it’s always too specific and marginal, too – dare I say – amateur, to be mainstreamed immediately. Don’t mistake the use of “amateur” as a pejorative: I have deep abiding love for the amateur, way more so than pro anything.

Take Kinging, for instance. Drag has been around forever, but Kings as Dyke Kulture are really recent. Lip synching men dressed like Vegas showgirls have never done it for me. Well meaning people have taken me by the hand to performances they regarded as “edgy” – queens yanking fetuses from their Hershey-coated loins; dragging to Yoko Ono or L7 – but I remain strangely unmoved. Kings, on the other hand, always seem to have a sort of boyish (!) exuberance, an Andy Hardy “hey kids let’s put on a show” vivacity that appealed to me, even if, again, I find most drag oddly unmoving. I love cardboard props, seams and strings, crowns of aluminum foil and commitment to “let’s pretend!”

I had a good friend in Manhattan who did drag, lived drag. His daily drag was Rock n’ Roll Bad Girl, Bikini Kill drag. I played guitar for him at the Pyramid Club one night as he sang “Sister Morphine” – we were both smacked out of our minds. It’s a performance that gives me The Shames to this day; I was that fucked up. He was brilliant, high as a kite, Marianne Faithful to no-one, not Mick, not Keith, and certainly not his own gender. He had AIDS, I remember, and every shot we took together made me feel like I was helping to load his gun for Russian Roulette. In those days I wanted to die myself, and everything made me sad.

Today nothing makes me sad for long. How sad can I be when I’m living this ridiculous, delicious, hilarious trope, this parody/homage to man/woman? Believe me, you can laugh or you can cry, or both: streams of tears and I am pissing my pants I am laughing so hard. It is riDONKulous to be a transperson. HIGH Larious. Be yourself in a gang of humans. Choose the group. Watch them. Observe yourself with them. Are we not funny? And by “we” I mean Every Last Manjack of us?

Dude, I’m a cartoon. Maybe that’s why drag never drew me in, although given my history of homo- and transphobia there may be more going on there than garden-variety ennui. I live drag. I’ve been dressing like a twelve year old boy since I was..well…a twelve year old boy. You should see me: I’m nearly 50 and everything I own has skulls on it. It’s ridiculous. I’m ridiculous.

So again, what have we learned today? Let’s see. I have a truly raging hard-on. I think I am very, very sexy, but have a nagging suspicion this may be the wonderful symptom of living in a T-bubble. I have a big freakin’ crush on a big hompin’ Pansy, with whom I yearn to dance and jazz-hand, between bouts of royal reaming and schtupping. I may actually be wearing a clown suit, RIGHT NOW. I tell you, I wouldn’t know it.

So laugh, Tranny, laugh. It’s the best medicine, better than porn even. Honk on your boobs, or your surgically tweaked boy-nips, sashay Shanté, do-si-do and make a left, grab a Drag King, turn her round, and plant a big wet one on her moustached mouth. You can do no wrong; just keep dancing. We’ve got a war to win, don’t forget, so let’s keep up the morale of the troops while we’re at it.

*thanks, Jessica, for reigniting a love of the juicy “c” word.

**Before Testosterone, for the uninitiated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sworn Enemy of the Smurf!

The problem with transitioning, and depending on who you are it can be a big one, is that at the end of the day you’re you.

I am always, ever, snorting surf against the riptide of my own personality.

Par example: Last night I was with a semi-organized gang of homos in a meeting of same. We convene in what I imagine a Rotary or Lion’s Club might meet in, a high-ceilinged outlier building, possibly made of cinder blocks, with an enormous central fireplace adorned with a crest, naturalmente, because it can. The meeting is chock-a-block with ritual, Robert’s Rules kind of things; nonetheless, because it is an unwieldy gang of gays, there are little “extras” thrown in, asides and gang-chanted rejoinders. Because we can.

As we adjourn, and members push outside to fill the glorious near-Spring dusk air with smoke, I overhear a guy spit out, “I’m just not gay enough for all that!”

I’m intrigued, so of course I cup my ear and lean in.

Dude is really angry about all the furbelows and frills that come with our group, the commentary and chants. “I’m not gay enough for this shit!” He’s really angry, sucking his fag hard, pacing like a tiny lion. He’s saying that the gayness of the group pisses him off. What’s really hilarious and touching and heartbreaking about this particular tableau is Dude is possibly the nelliest queen of the bunch. He actually IS gay enough.

Now, I’ve been body-slammed by another human kind enough to show me my internalized homophobia. Queeny, angry Dude? C’est moi. The world is a gentle place this night, and thus he is allowed to rant, suck and rant. Perhaps his awakening will come later, some other sweet eve; it will, eventually and it will sting.

I’ve been hanging out with a lot of transpeople recently. It’s time. It’s the best thing for what ails me, which is basically terror. I couldn’t even really put a finger on exactly what’s so terrifying, but I can share with you a protracted history of judgements and harsh asides muttered by me about people and whatever it is they’re doing that irks me. To this very day I have a knee-jerk revulsion for a certain breed of butch. Now it’s quickly followed by an acknowledgment of my homophobia, my fear of my own female masculinity, but for years, and by years I mean YEARS, I was just another dyke h8er.

Hanging out with a bunch of trannies is a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s like being in soft, snuggy blanket printed with spaceships and cowboys with a gang of sweet children, and other times it’s like being in the center of said blanket, while the mob from Lord of the Flies throws you up in the air with it as they consider whether or not they will catch you, and if they do, how to best disembowel and cannibalize.

It’s comforting to be with dudes in various stages of whatever, who want to share, are eager to discourse about this or that. To see the gendered spectrum, its nuances and delicious complexities, loud and proud, a rainbow with a swagger, is to rejoin the human race in a spectacular way. The flip is in fears and agendas writ bold in our speech and dress. Guys have often created or acquired rules about transitioning, how it should look, what needs to happen. Other dudes look really good, and one cannot help but hold oneself weakly against their flaming masculinity without feeling at least slightly singed. As with any social group, to be there productively means submitting to some discomfort, as my failings are highlighted by the success of others, while allowing myself to be elevated by the energetic, enthusiastic bonhomie of my peers.

I want to cradle some men in my arms. They are suffocating in a cave of their own design, one in which they might have explored as a small boy, that initially offered sanctuary, a pile of comic books, Playboys, some candles and milk cartons and maybe even a sleeping bag and flashlight. Somehow this place of supreme joy and haven has become solitary confinement, and now these boys have so many rules no-one else is allowed in. One “must” pack to be a good transguy; one must have short, masculine hair, a manly job; one mustn’t be a fag; one must never ever no never let one’s guard down lest one be “read” as less than a man even ‘though most of the world can’t even access scrutiny so detailed as to have clue one how to identify a transperson. Sweet brother, you have fallen prey to the Gargamel of Masculine Social Construct and his Sorcery of Shame. God bless you Beautiful Boy; someday our love will penetrate your cave and you will be compelled to exit, led by your nose to the smell of our delectable cupcakes, the transperson’s dessert of choice.

On a rough day I’m destroyed by the overarching presence of my breasts; I’m ashamed of my soft hairlessness, my dykiness. But other days, and these are more frequent, I see myself in that multihued dimension, a facet of an infinite crystal that is expanding exponentially even as we speak. And while I can revel in my deepening voice, my thickening torso, the added muscularity, the presence of other transpeople is humbling. Our sincerity and commitment in the face of mordant demons, external and within, is nothing short of transcendent. And so, my brothers, friends, and even my enemies: I bow, deeply, to you. You remind me to stay “right-sized” and present for the ride of a lifetime. You remind me who I am: Tha Man Sam.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Incredibly Shallow Birdbath of Loneliness


Lesbians are complicated. Rather, my relationship with lesbians is complicated. My relationship to lesbianism is complicated. People in AA occasionally say, “it’s Alcohol-ISM, not Alcohol-WASM,” after which I always mutter “it’s Lesbian-ISM, not Lesbian-WASM!”

Is it Lesbian ISM or WASM for me? My friend (and favorite painter) Ed Larson ran into me and my new paramour on the durty streets of downtown Chapel Hill. He turned to his wife, afterwards and said “So Sam is a MAN, and he’s dating a LESBIAN?” Jessica prudently shushed him with a “just don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it.”

I don’t know that my friend identifies as “lesbian.” This is more of a Queer dimension we inhabit. But for sure, the uninformed and unimaginative will certainly read us as two dykes. And Ed was only partly kidding – the bafflement exists. For many of us, Queer an’all, who is with whom can be perplexing. Just ask my friend S, whose daughter is now her son, who now identifies as “heterosexual.” S can’t wrap her brain around her son’s sexual declaim, largely I think because she knows what’s in her “son’s” pants. It simply doesn’t make commonsense to her.

I was raised by perverts, once I left home. In PervLand everything exists simultaneously. You’re a puppy, perhaps, maybe even neutered. By day you’re a banker, but you keep your bowl in your bottom drawer, your secret “real” life anchoring you to emotional security like Linus’ blanket. For some, trans is a paraphilia. What do I have in common with the guy who wears a skirt, has boobs, but still identifies as a guy and for whom these are sexual talisman, turn-ons? His perv trip is way out loud. Transitioning has its psychosexual elements; to find one’s way home can contain the fiercest surge, the sweetest charge. I learned to be comfortable, or at least amused, with sex and gender nuance, is what I’m saying to you.

Lesbian was always rather more challenging for me. I was uncomfortable around the lesbians from the git. My homophobia seized on the Mary McCarthy “The Group” paradigm of lesbianism, which was that it was inbred, incestuous, riddled with unappealing drama, rife with poor boundaries and busy-body-ness, obsessive, unattractive. The first lesbians I knew were these two characters from High School. They were absolutely insane. One of them, a hide-tough, prematurely leathered blonde wanted to borrow a syringe we kept in my house for my brother’s allergy medicine, because she wanted to try shooting cocaine; the other, a less hardened, cheerleader blonde had literally fucked the entire football team. They terrified me.

They were lesbianism pathologized. I was 15 and out by then myself, at least to my friends, and drinking beer at their party. The blond, coke-shooting scary one passed me a nearly depleted bottle of tequila, and in what appeared to my ingenuous ears as a gesture of lesbian bonhomie, said “Here, drink up, Sam! Go’head, finish this shit!”

From across the room, as time inverted, I saw the buxom blonde’s head snap. Immediately she appeared between us, and wrapped her hand around the bottle. “Isn’t that the tequila that made us really, really sick?” she asked her generous partner. “Oh right” smirked Leathern, who turned her gaze full on me, with a face full of glory and hate.

In general, women terrified me. This persisted until my forties I’d say, when I finally sank into the warm, inviting waters of me and my own sexual power without needing another’s validation or invitation. It is no coincidence that at this time I discovered my need to explore my nascent masculinity. Or whatever you want to call it.

Can I ever fully relinquish my Lesbo card? Is it ISM? I have always felt like a fraud around lesbians, but is that simply a metastasized outcropping of my alcoholism, which is always finding ways to isolate me, keep me from connecting? Or am I a fraud because I’m actually NOT A LESBIAN?

Feeling fraudulent would explain my discomfort, my homophobia, my occasional nausea. It feels like a club I never fully fit in, yet another social sphere that seems to have implicit rules, behaviors, dress-codes and handshakes, possibly its own language, and I will never, ever be given that manual, led by the Lesbian Illuminati to the inner-sanctum, a labial labyrinth where women actually do run the planet, like the Jews control the media.

For now, I’m a straight dude and a dyke, who is neither terribly straight, nor totally dude, nor really a dyke. I guess I’ll float around Queerville for a while; these are my people, the outliers, the fetishists, the sublimely ridiculous, the ones who own costumes because they sometimes just feel like being an old lady from Weehawken, whose politics are interstitial and connective, who are the literal fluid between social cells, and who fear unlovability even in the face of astounding love and compassion.

Queers and octopuses. Did I mention the octopuses? At the end of the day, we’re all the freaking same, even with eight legs and a huge head. It’s human ISM, not human WASM.