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.

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