The day began like any other day, with me putting on my sweatshirt backwards. I do this nearly every time I wear it and am equally baffled to find my face in my hood. I trust this is an effort on the part of my higher self to keep me humble via mortification; if so it works. In Biology class that same afternoon I was seized by an irrational fear of this dude in my class discovering I’m actually some kind of lady. This particular fellow reads me as male, and it’s no small props: he’s one of those walking penis guys - a professional wrestler and obvious cocksman. There’s something so penile about his breed of masculine -like Christian Bale when he’s not starving for a role – their skin is taut and shaved over a topography of ridiculous musculature and hypertense vascularity. One imagines that as they sleep, they contract and tumesce, now a sleepy slug in a jowly skin bag, now a rigid angry tube.
I have my random trans-panics. In this place of (ironically masculine) paranoia I am sure that I am about to lose points by being exposed as “really a girl.” Dudes like this one – hell, I doubt I even register for him most of the time. His radar’s set for threats and tits mostly; I know this because we have had conversations. He’s a smart kid and can certainly handle me being a transguy. It’s me sometimes that can’t.
I’m not sure when it happens. Maybe it starts with me putting my hoodie on backwards. Being read as male becomes extremely important. I forget in that moment that I am politically, spiritually and corporally above anything else transgendered. It reminds of when I used to be a lady (you know I’m cracking myself up every time I type that) and people would mistake me for straight. I know, that’s even more hilarious, but you know how the people are: they will see what fits their landscape. You and me? We’re lucky that ours includes minotaurs and blue monkeys. So I would get read as heterosexual and all of the sudden I’m editing my language. I would drift into this dreary narcotic numb, believing that whomever was talking to me would (what? Vomit? Kill me? Cease to love me?) change their mind about me if they knew I was queer. Suddenly, I cared what they thought. I was ashamed to be homosexual.
If you’re queer like me you know this comes from the outside. I’m looking for outward validation, right? When I deconstruct my homophobia, I can see how it was given to me, a gift from an insecure social structure. Have a bouquet of snakes? Why thanks I will! The transphobia is more complex, has less woodsy notes and more sulfurous emanations. It has to do with a inhabiting a body, one’s relationship to something that most people have the luxury of taking for granted – their gender, their form. How does one feel about this…this thing one lives in when it is constantly rebelling, endlessly thwarting one from admission to The Club? I was at the physical therapists’ the other day, performing my medieval rehab on my rotator cuff surgery, and my therapist referred me as “her.”
I watched myself retract energetically as I was doing truncated pushups against the door, like a hasty telescope. I plummeted from whatever endorphin height the exercise had initiated, wax wings spitting feathers the whole way down. The room was clueless to my crash, although my own ears were full of keening. I saw as I dove down past it, the landscape of my childhood. To be a transchild is to enter rooms of people you know and are happy to see but who don’t appear to recognize you at all. It was nightmarish. Boys would not see me as a boy, nor could my parents – although bless their hearts they let me play like one. Some girls saw through the mirage of the body to the essential Sam; the masculine signature beamed like a light through smoke for those in tune, those whose sonar bounced against the inner being. They helped give me meaning, shape. But they couldn’t give me ingress to The Club.
Waking up to my gender is phenomenal. It’s fantastic and delicious, rich with more insight and expansion than I could dream of. It’s also bitterly, sharply, achingly sad. But that place, that sad place, was a long time ago. I just have to visit it now. It is imperative to connect with this child-place, to observe what damage was wrought, to take inventory. I don’t know yet what I’ll need to mend and what needs throwing out, and I’ll never know if I don’t look. But it is not fun to go there.
E. relates, “I remember feeling like their eyes were always looking, appraising, judging, getting stuck in my skin like glass shards that I would have to extract at the end of each day. The shards left a poison that was less easy to extract, and it sickened me. Eventually though, the alchemical magic took place and I developed an immunity from these inoculations.”
Her “eyes always looking” were outside of her mostly, I imagine. My eyes are inside me, as arbitrary and thoughtless as jellyfish nettles brushing the inside of my skull. I am a transperson. I am not now a man nor shall I ever be, unless I want to. The pressures to be one are powerful, both externally and inside and the rewards are as enticing as a field of poppies. Oh to lay down and dream! But then I hear you whisper, I feel your lips in the skin shell of my ear, chin moving against my lobe, “wake up wake up wake up!” I am an extraordinary being who will someday notice but not feel the sting of the poison of the asleep and their careless cruelties, who will be done crucifying myself on some cross of normalcy. Maybe the world must doze and dream but we don’t have that indulgence. The cake is right here right now with you beside it and maybe even in it and I can’t wait to put it in my mouth.