Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Perfect Storm

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

I'm Not Particular as to Size, Only One Doesn't Like Changing So Often, You Know

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 Brooklyn accent on your lady-name in your honor.

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

My Little Transsexually Fabulous Pony

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.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Is That a Sparkler In Your Pants (Or Are You Declaring Independence?)

What kind of person changes their gender!?

Okay, here’s a better question for you: What kind of person gets their own name tattooed on them? There’s narcissism and then there’s narcissism. I have no idea what I’m talking about except that transitioning requests your audience, please. After yet another conversation (okay, monologue) with D about ass hair growth, observance and inspection of same – and I insist, absolutely insist, you look too – I have the grudging civility to inquire “are you bored with my tranny obsessions yet?”

Adolescence, for me anyhow, was a secrety, secrete-y, shameful affair. While occasionally one would be asked to share how many pubes one might be sporting, one never got to fully revel, fully GLORY, in the onset of menses, swelling breasts, armpit smells, changing stature. It was an odorous, odious event, lowlighted by the constant thrum of social anxiety sprinkled with sebaceous cysts.

I wish I could’ve enjoyed it, particularly my burgeoning sexuality, but everything, sexuality included, was so baby-fresh and tender, so easily stifled and crushed by another’s malicious or merely awkward, foot.Transitioning needs you to pull up a chair and sit a while. It wants to give you a cupcake on a china plate because it loves you and it wants you to feel comfortable in your own skin and enjoy this moment.

Somewhere, a couple months ago, I started getting clocked as a dude.

I don’t know what happened, what shifted these past 60-90 days. I’ve been sitting in a lawn chair with my cake and a hand-mirror, looking for any nuance, any move towards man. I don’t think I look substantially different. But something has shifted, something definable only to the naked and whole eyeballs of strangers.

If you’ve known me, these alterations are largely indiscernible, subtle and energetic, and, too, you may be resistant to seeing your friend in a new way. We’re all like this about all our friends. We’re the last to see weight loss, clearing skin, last to sign on to the upgrade, the latest iteration of something we’re so comfortable with. Me, I just added some more bass to this funk, and the people I pass suddenly want to dance. I’m totally the Tranny From Ipanema. I kid you not and D will vouchsafe: women and men are shining on me in public all the time. Women smile and stare as I beam back, and even men, clearly unsure why their faces want to do this, allow for a bemused grin. Transitioning is bursting at the seams like springtime, a three year old with a new Conductor’s hat that can’t wait grab you and push you onboard the “train.”

So why, people with a camera, why are you taking the same old picture, time after time? Every photo series of transmen I scan looks like this: Black and white, a punk’s portrait, maybe a little edgy, and then of course, the shirt off. Top Surgery pics maybe. A video of same if we can get some. How many of these do we need, when there are SO MANY STORIES? I’m not a photographer – this here is my shtick – but if I were, my pictures might look like:

Mo and Nolan knitting together at the Open Eye.

Cole ringing up customers at Weaver Street Market.

Danny and Terry calming the roiling anxieties of newly gay UNC students and faculty.

X and Y and their new infant Zee.

Red Bear riding his bicycle, shirtless and panting, all over Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Me, forced to play an inflatable guitar while wearing batman mask by my “nephew” Gus.

My docu-drama is I have resisted, to the worst of my ability, the most visionary, most important, most life-altering changes I have been forced on my knees to make. Getting sober, falling in love with God, and transitioning are the best things that have ever, EVER happened to me. And I fought ‘em all, the whole time.

Maybe the best picture of me would be one where I’ve just punched one of those punching bag/balloon guys and it has come back up and popped me in the kisser. So the photo would be of me knocked on my ass with birds and stars tweeting and spinning a merry halo around my head, staring loopily and with obvious adoration and gratitude, at your face.

Happy July Fourth. This is one national holiday I'm going to co-opt for my own.