Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hymn to Him

If you’re looking to be “himmed” and not her’d” there’s a tranny hierarchy, FYI. Some of us have heard this, and even the best of us might have experienced the sour taste of having to “him” someone who hasn’t “earned” it.

By this I mean there are some transguys who feel that you can’t be a “him” if you ain’t on the T; I’m given to understand there’s some sort of ranking by surgeries, too. I have wondered on occasion, if assigned-at-birth-men feel that, that “hey, you didn’t live male, Shortstuff, so how dare you pad your panties and call yourself a man!”

I don’t think cisgender men give two scrotal hoots about transguys actually, and therein is the heartwrenching difference between us and them. If they only knew.

I have been surreptitiously scoping the masculine for YEARS. Practically out of the womb. Since I can remember - and I can recall the hiss of the black and white television and the palpable devastation of the adults around it during the first Kennedy assassination and that, mothersuckers, was less than a month before my third birthday – I recollect an already ripening love for the male.

This love of mine was very specific however: I did not care for male children. They were loud, gratuitously violent, and inclined to force me to remove my panties. My best friend, David Lindsay, was a gentle creature who, like me, shunned the boys and the girls, neither of whom seemed to play at anything really fun like “Radio Announcer” or “Variety Show Host.”

But the accoutrement! The boys’ blazer had a pocket on the inside! This made me inexpressibly covetous. I could see myself wearing the handsome dark green wool, tucking special rocks and paper with secret code inside. I was more Christopher Robin than G.I.Joe. I longed for real collars; everything for girls was softened and blunted or darted and pleated. I wanted boxy pants with lots of pockets and…and belt loops by golly belt loops! A belt even! The treasures I beheld in my father’s jewelry box soothed this unnamed, unspoken anxiety, the anxieties of being a Samantha when I felt so SAM.

Men, I have been watching you for years. Your slumps and your slouches, your insouciance, your insecurities. I’ve let my envious eyeballs explore every inch of your solid shoulders, your clavicles, the goose-flesh dappled skin of your dense necks. With something akin to love and certainly within the realm of passion I’ve counted hairs, noted like a scientist the areas in which they are more likely to congregate. Because I am so visual I drew you again and again and again. “What are those?” asked an innocent of my attempted sketch of Reggie from Archie Comics. “Breasts” interjects my mom nervously, who does not, who cannot, understand: I would never, EVER draw a female body. Why would I when it is the male’s that I worship? “Pecs,” I say, because I have learned their proper name, because I care, “they’re muscular pecs.”

Men, you are as foreign and as terrifying as a giant squid – and the waters are yours, always have been. I’m bouncing around in a purloined dinghy marveling at my good fortune in sighting such a creature, before realizing I’m about to be its lunch.

I have done everything I know to get you to look at me. I’ve been your (in)equal, in bands, on teams, at jobs, and in love. No matter how I tried, I was always second-tier. Bros before, well, you know. Men have always been among my closest friends, and yet I always felt your distance. I could be relegated to a “honey” or a “sweetheart” in less than a slap. When I call someone “Honey” it’s with the love of a mother. Women taught me that. I’m not sure I even like men, but then again, I’m not sure I like women either. As the immortal Johnny Mercer sang "I don't like men/ Women I don't like too/ Sometimes I don't even like myself, but I do do do like you!"

I am your stalker. I am up your pants leg now. Me and every guy in transition – we’re in your pen pocket, we’re tucked in your hatband; when you whip out your wallet we dash for a compartment; we’re on your jock, in your cologne, in your shaving mug, your class ring. We’re comparing size, and heft; we’re studying how you stroll. And while we’re jealous of your dick, we’re not jotting love-making skills from you, nor do we need your flirt. But mother goddamn, to have that confidence, the thing that can only be born of privilege!

Ah. So. There it is. I watch and I envy (penis!) and I covet and I long. But at the end of the day, I’m reminded: I really can choose to have the best of all possible worlds. How lucky am I!? I know what it’s like to be a woman. That may be the greatest gift I’ll ever have been given – to know what it’s like to be the most globally downtrodden of the human species teaches me compassion, right? It connects me with a worn, silken thread to everyone. And as I cast about for male role models I find, by and large, my male role models are women:

  • My neighbor Mixon broke up a fight between a pit bull and a herder, helped a guy in a wheelchair, and held the whole neighborhood together IN ONE NIGHT.
  • My friend Alex shines the sort of strong, wise paternal love-beam that pulls you in its wake to your higher self.
  • With greater and greater frequency, it is women who are modeling the kind of leadership, courage, and ambition I admire, the kind I think of as “male.”

Gay Christian mystic-activist Andrew Harvey believes Jesus’ was the ultimate masculinity, the perfect union of male and female. I can model a prissy control-freak, have a tantrum of sexual entitlement, or I can help someone without asking anything in return. I think of true, transcendent maleness as uniting, not dividing.

And of course, I’d sure like to unite my thing with yours. I’ve got my eye on you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

44 (not nearly) Questions for the Questioning Trans, or, You Might Be Trans If...

You know, I’ve been transitioning from female to male for well over a year now, but I still occasionally have unsettling WTF moments. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s a really stunning sale on, but every once in a while my head will break the surface of what in the moment feels like the scary, weird, murky Sea of Transition, and my (in this scenario) breasts will heave, lungs choking for air, legs churning in the waters, arms grappling to find purchase where there can be none. “What am I doing!” I gasp, a woman adrift in a hostile, manly deep.

It is for precisely these moments of confusion and doubt that I have taken a soggy cocktail napkin from AA’s “44 questions” brochure and crafted my own: “You might be trans if….” helpful checklist. Rub whatever facial hair you have as if you were Aladdin and your chin a lamp, adjust your crotch thusly and read on. These are mine, and they’re intensely subjective, but I urge you to find your own, if any of these plays like the icy transfinger of death on your questioning vertebrae.

  • Do you have “the phantom-limb syndrome?” You might be trans if you know exactly what I’m referring to.

  • Does the department you’re “supposed” to shop in make you break out in cold sweat? Do you experience unexplainable allergy symptoms (hives in the shape of the symbol for Mars) when merely tromping near the undergarment display?

  • Does being mistaken for the other gender make you feel tickley and strangely elated? Conversely, does it really fucking piss you off?

  • Do you eye-grope smokin’ hot representations of your “opposite sex”, in magazines, on tv, the internet, all the while recognizing you don’t necessarily want to sleep with them, but you like their style?

  • Do you ever say to yourself, “I’ve got this woman (or whatever your born gender is) thing down!” like it’s a job or a shtick?

  • Do transpeople of either gender make you unaccountably queasy? Do you feel an urgent need to express your opinions about transgender men and women, possibly in a blog?

  • Have you spent any amount of time at all, researching surgeries, hormones, ftm/mtf sites, drag kings, queens et al just because you’re “curious?”

If you’ve managed to read through these questions without your eyeball twitching, your lizard collar flaring, your fur at end, then sister-brother, move on. You’ve achieved some level of comfort in whatever skin you’re in. Me, I’ve printed this on rubber so I can stretch the letters large to recall that the skin I’m in is changing, every motherfucking day, and with various degrees of ease or pain.

It can be textbook Jekyll and Hyde up in here: one day I’m skipping (butchly) through fields of curling thigh hair, twirling under musky skies of pit-stank, gripping my newly arrived back fat with happy hands, thanking the dear Lord for the migration from my ENORMOUS working-class Euromutt thighs to this more masculine destination. Other days my facial hair makes me extremely nervous, each hair like an ant on my clean kitchen counter; the secondary sexual characteristic of thick-necked goiter fat is galling – I miss my pretty face.

The other list, and again, it’s entirely subjective, is my hormonal gratitude list, also perhaps stolen from twelve step groups (I wonder if there’s a 12 step group for thievery?). It reads like this:

  • I am so happy with the way things have…erm….changed downstairs. Who knew what a sigh of relief that would bring?
  • The thought of returning to my previous body makes me feel like I’ve been trapped overnight at Ann Taylor.
  • I love that I don’t have to buy pants to fit my ENORMOUS Euromutt proletariat thighs anymore. Waists actually almost work now, as do belts!
  • I actually kind of like masturbating seventeen times a day. “When do you find the time!?” you, a more reasonable person might ask. I make the time.

I recognize these may read as rather superficial, and don’t speak to the myriad ways gender gets forced down our collective gullets, one way or t’other, and how being perceived one way or t’other is vexing, painful even. When I get read for male, it’s like Jesus is giving me a scalp massage, but when a someone gives me the boob-scan and slots this into their “Ma’am” compartment I puke a little in my mouth.

So if ever you are in some sort of trans-panic, some freak-out about who you are and where you might want to go, feel free to use my list as a template. The mind, as I “understand” it, wants order, likes to create form and meaning (“oh look, there’s a monkey pushing a wheelbarrow with a pig in it!...Oh…wait, shoot…it’s just a bush growing over a trash can…”). Residing in the elastic, the lava-lamp of transition, can stir up a little terror.

I know a guy who, one day in trans-panic, shaved off his entire bushy beard and put on make-up and a dress. Sometimes we have to re-boot, hard boot even.

So before we shave our legs with that Daisy razor let’s linger on the list. Remember: God gave us a penis to use our brains with, or something something. Relax, tranny, relax. Believe me, we’re all gonna end up who we are anyway so let’s take a deeeep breathe, put our boots up on the coffee table, wipe our hands on our shirtfronts, and peel that paper off our begendered cupcake. All together now: lick! See, in a world where NPR insists “Sarah Palin has a following” we’re really not all that outrĂ©. And if you’re not going to finish that, hand it over to me.