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.


  1. The pressure to be more masculine and what it means to be a "man" definitely is a real one, from both within the trans community and outside of it.

    It's actually a byproduct of transition that I hadn't entirely anticipated when I began, where I feel this constant social pressure to "pass", to present myself in a masculine manner, or to speak deeper than I feel comfortable in order to be seen as a legitimate trans person.

    Still, despite that pressure, I try to recognize it for what it is: reflections of binary gender that I reject, and don't have to conform to, ever, in order to be comfortable and happy in my own skin.

    Thanks for this post, Sam, and for everything you blog about. You're a great source of inspiration for me, and, dare I say it, my favorite trans blogger by far. :]

  2. Sounds like you and I are mirror-opposites. I transitioned MtF and after years living stealth as a very feminine woman, allowed my inner butch dyke to shine through.

    I love the way you write, Sam. LOVE IT!

  3. Wait, cupcakes are the trans dessert? I think I may be trans then.

  4. Same. I want me some cupcakes!

    I definitely feel the pressure to behave in a more masculine way, but a lot of the time I end up being pretty damn flamboyant. It's just more practical; along with the need to come into one's own as a man or a woman or whatever they might be on or off the gender spectrum, there's definitely the need to just let one's gender expression be whatever feels right. If a cisguy can swish when he walks and like sparkly things, then a transguy can, too. (Not that I'm saying you swish when you walk. I wouldn't know, but I have a feeling you don't. But there's no denying that everybody loves sparkly things...excluding Stephanie Meyer's mangled concept of vampires. Those don't count.)