In the abstract, transgender men having babies seems a little like having cake with your frosting and eating it too, if only because transitioning itself is already like making a really big baby. To carry a child in this baby seems rather like an infant carrying a fetus, if you can follow my logic. But of course, in reality, this is the most mundane phenomenon of all – pregnancy. Yawn. I know more people these past 9 months – trans or not - who have had babies and I know a shocking number of currently pregnant people as well. Since I’ve lost several friends this year, this must be the Imax 3-D summer of the whole life-death cycle thingum. It seems rather extravagantly generative and almost oppressively Spring-ish however, like, having concluded we are indeed careening towards the Endtimes, the seasons are throwing themselves a White Party on Fire Island with Marianne the Maenad.
What I had not anticipated by transitioning was becoming an entirely new person. The narrative of transgender is that we get to be “who we really are.” I held to the string of that flighty balloon – the bladder of Becoming More Deeply Oneself – and looked to it to lead me somewheres. Where is a balloon going to take you but to the troposphere where you shall surely get sucked into the jets of a Southwest 757? Transitioning did not free me to find myself, like a divorce or a week with Outward Bound – it put me in a genetic splicing machine like The Fly and created something new, wondrous, horrible, as humdrum as pregnancy. I can tell you I am not more purely myself; I am something new entirely. As with a child, I can taste the flavor of my parents in everything I do but my parents are the boychild and grownuplady Sam. And they have about the amount of control and impact on me as Ward and June did on Eddie Haskell.
Snakes and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails, hormones and name change and chest reconstructions – these are what little boys are made of. Are you still finding your voice? Do you know who you are? As a transwoman, as an ftm? My condition (Gender identity disorder? U.S. artist?) means I shall ever be standing next to myself, observing, critiquing, wincing. I meet people of many persuasions who at least appear to be inside their own skins, but if I asked them I suspect I would learn they are a potato twice baked and terrified of being eaten. I myself feel rather underdone…but I’m closer now to something…
Disorder doesn’t touch it. I am nothing but order. My orders come in magnetic waves, a magnet wand moving iron shavings around a face – look, a Van Dyke beard! Now a Fu Manchu! I’m at the mercy of the magnet, people, I’m Wooly Willy. Only I wish I had that kind of facial hair. Transitioning is in the hands of people best suited for Etch-A-Sketch, Wooly Willy, Mr.Potato Head, our childhood selves who are imagining our adult beings. When I was six I used to roll up my pants legs and pretend to be a “Gridiron hero.” I didn’t exactly know what the “gridiron” was but its masculine significance captivated me. I confess, I rarely watch sports of any kind, and as I’ve grown older the sort of masculinity attached to the NFL has little appeal. I pine for the lace-up knee pants of yore, with leather armor and an actual pigskin.
So my boychild infects the adult. I make a fetish of ties and cufflinks and if it didn’t smell so much I might VO5 my hair like my father did. The man I’m becoming, and when I say “man” I mean quotey-hands man, is an amalgam of testosterone, surgery, and Bobby the camp counselor when I was nine. My library of manlitude is one ludicrous and scratchy reel after another – my godfather Gary Belt and his amazing, perfectly tanned, Mark Spitz-type body, or Mark Spitz himself, with that flagrant seventies soup-catcher and excellent bangs. Let us neither mention nor forget the Speedo, come to that. Stuffed with nuts, a banana hammock – stars and stripes forever, Ma! It was treacherous, to linger too long there; the effect of a man’s package on my pre-teen brain might have been enough to expose my inner longing, but alas I had no tongue (!) for it and I dared not give it name.
Today, who are we? We mutants, who has created us? If I were a woman I would be Ava Gardner in Iguana, Ingrid Bergman from Notorious, Butterfield 8 era Liz, Nico, Violette Leduc, Gerty Stein – but I’m not, so I won’t. Once upon a time, when I was a lesbian, I hosted a “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Party” and wore stilettos and a silk slip to my suite at the Plaza Hotel and left bright red lipstick on everything. My head pounded with red wine and Percocet because I knew the truth even then: I was Big Daddy in drag.
So from the head of our childhoods we issue, now Yul Brynner, now Speed Racer. What gets mashed in these templates is up to your cocktail of choice: estrogens, testosterones, accessories, plumage, fiberglass hulls, pantyhose, tricorn hats, or powdered hoof. We think we get a choice – and perhaps in some karmic, celestial way we do – but in the here-and-now, Baby, you’re lucky if you’re more Willy Aames than aimless willy. Surrender Dorothy, to the amalgamated tramp art of transition, all hand-madey and hobo, slapped between slabs of neutered silicon and stitches. Be grateful you are less of your own choosing; let the magic fingers (a quarter a pop!) of JesusMaryandJosephlizard massage your cortex into a gendered submission. The gods are going to have their way with you, trust. Please, my sisterbrother, should you see me senescent and ambling down your garden path, know that I have become most truly myself - ineffably, righteously, magnificently me. And I will be wearing a pair of red, white, and stretched out blue speedos.