Dancing With My Kids

Last night, my children, especially my daughter, were doing strange interpretive dances to Colin Hay singing acoustic Men At Work classics. This was, in and of itself, one of the most strange and entertaining and wonderful things I could ever imagine watching and I wondered if other parents are gifted with equally strange and wonderful children.

It’s something I don’t ask other parents because often when I talk about my kids, I feel like I’m one of those parents who spends all her time bragging about how special and wonderful her kids are. And, truly, my children are special and wonderful, incredibly smart and gifted and wildly weird. I know they are exceptional and so I try not to discuss how exceptional they are too often because I try not to be one of those parents too often.

But my kids are awesome and really free spirits who dance and sing with abandon and have very few limits placed on their imaginations or how they express themselves. I believe this has resulted in my daughter’s penchant for interpretive dance. I didn’t teach her to dance like that nor did anyone else I know of…it’s very weird.

Anyway, so they were dancing to Colin Hay, Who Can It Be Now…not a big dance hit. So I, being me, put on You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon because it was in my head and I thought they could have some fun dancing to it and they were and then, because I can, I got up and danced with them and didn’t care what a goofball I was because I was having the best time with my most wonderful children and all the crap going around in my head, just for that song, disappeared and I was as happy as I’ve ever been.

I don’t dance enough and I don’t express the joy of my life enough. I don’t stop thinking enough and just have fun with my family. But when I do and remember to let go and just laugh and be a goofball, it’s as good as it gets.


A Notable Day

Today is a day of milestones…markers on the path that we travel around in a circular fashion. I suppose as the earth makes it way around the sun we can imagine all these little milestones in space and wave to them as we pass. Some having taken a more permanent spot to be visited at every passing and others just there momentarily before they are sucked into the heliosphere and burn up there.

My permanent calendar marker for today indicates that I had my last cigarette 13 years ago. That was 1999 when I kept my promise to myself not to be a smoker past my 30th birthday. I had been a smoker since the tender age of 15 and I thought at the time that 15 years of smoking was as much as anyone needed to devote to an addiction. Also, I think it was a couple of days past Thanksgiving that year and things didn’t feel right. Rather than hope those feelings would pass and medicating them with another pack of cigarettes, I turned that key in my mind that one must turn in these cases and stopped smoking. Cold turkey, which I believe is the only way to do this.

You just have to stop and find something else to stick in your mouth for a while or forever. I used sugar-free mints, lemon flavored. I consumed them with a vigor and found them so much cheaper than cigarettes that I was able to fuel my new addiction to collecting CDs. I collected a lot of CDs and rather obsessively, too. But I still have them whereas I have few reminders or keepsakes from my years of smoking. In two years, I’ll have made it past that milestone of having been a non-smoker for as many years past smoking as I spent smoking. So for all of my friends who laughed when I told them I was quitting… thank you for your doubt. It was good fuel in the beginning when I needed it more than kind support.

My other, more transitory marker for today is that this is the six month anniversary of my surgery date. Normally, I do not mark any anniversaries outside of a year because when you start micro-celebrating, what is the minimal cut off period?

But for my recovery, today is important because I no longer have to dilate twice a day. I’m down to once and with one fewer dilator. And, yes, this is the reality for the next 6 months, but it’s a little more freedom from that routine and I’m happy to put the blue one away and happy to have just that much more of my day back.

Milestones are also a time to reflect and while I know that six months is not that long in comparison to the rest of my life, just 1/85th of it meaning that it will be another 83 measures of six months before I can say I’ve spent as much time with my present physical reality as my previous (I suppose this is as good a reason as any not to micro-celebrate), I am still not at the point where I…interact…with my new parts without wonder. There’s a kind of magic in it that is science of course but magic nonetheless that so short a procedure can make such a huge difference to the way I feel about myself.

I imagine there will come a time in the some 83 half turns from now when I no longer think too much on the wonder of this…on what it took to quit a bad habit and on the terraforming of my body to make it livable. But for the time being, I still retain the right and privilege to reflect and celebrate these notable days.

Trans Like Me

So we’re friends, you and I.

I have to tell you something and I hope that won’t upset you, but it might.

You see, you will never be trans like me. Never.

You’ll never come to understand yourself the way I did.

I knew early on that I wasn’t like my older brothers. There are two of them and these days they are really great men and when they were my older brothers when I was a child they were really cruel boys. So when I speak of them in memory, they are not the same people, the people I now love and admire. In memory, they are the ones I feared.

And I was different from them. My parents…my mother made my difference about my intellect, my higher level of scholarship and I was divided as the smart child. But I knew I was not like them because what they did and how they acted did not fit in with what I wanted to do and how I acted. It happened early on that they discovered me acting out this difference, playing with my mothers things because there were no other girl things in the house and they made me keenly aware that what I was doing was dangerous.  Dangerous. It’s a horrible word. Just the sound of it. But the feeling, the knowing that to be myself as I knew myself to be was to be in danger …I knew that the only path to safety was to mimic them. To be like them enough that they would write off the difference as part of my being “the smart one” or just a weird little kid and that was enough to keep me safe.

I understood that. Safety. I learned that safety came from not sticking out too much, from acting like others enough…from acting like other boys and men even after I knew that I was not like other boys and men and would never be. I knew the word transsexual when I was 11 and knew that it fit me better than anything else had to that point.

You’ll never have the same angst and depression and suicide attempts.

I know what you’re saying because you’ve had angst and depression and suicide attempts, or at least some reasonably large percentage of you have based on statistics. But mine was compounded by having bi-coastal parents who played transcontinental ping-pong with me for almost a decade. Mine was mitigated by my removal from my chief tormentors for large portions of the year. Mine was devastating because knowing I was a transsexual girl made puberty all the worse as I studied (years of study when I was a teenager sneaking into university stacks and knowing where the important books were shelved…pre-internet, darlings) what I would have to do to counter the horrible mess my genetics were making of my body on a daily basis. It wasn’t just knowing what was wrong but knowing all I would have to do if I were ever to counter it…and hating every last book because it seemed that everyone who ever went through gender transition was forced to be part of some horrible study where neck down pictures were a common part of the treatment. I believed that if I were ever going to transition I would have to sacrifice anything like dignity and self-respect in exchange for something like a half-life which really still felt like more than what I had.

And so suicide.

And so not. The will to live stronger than the desire to die, I suppose.

You’ll never have the same balked attempt at transition and then total sublimation as a defense mechanism.

Not being able to live without trying to really live, I ran away to be me in another town where no one knew me or of me. A city with a local trans center that I visited immediately and learned that life would be nothing like I ever wanted for myself. I would be poor and possibly need to do sex work to pay for electrolysis and hormones and I would be outside of the world in a way that frightened me beyond measure. I would mostly be alone and never know those people in my life who I loved and missed and who mostly believed me to be dead already.

I listened to a lot of Pink Floyd as a teenager. I knew what The Wall was and I started building one in earnest, walling myself into a little cell with almost no light and trying so hard to forget that she was there that all that was left was the ache and the horrific depressions and terrible rage. I had all the pain, but I blocked out the cause of it…or rather blocked it in so tightly that it should have never escaped.

And then I went home.

You’ll never have the same reawakening.

Years later. A lifetime later. A marriage and two kids later. A happiness that existed along with the pain, that competed with it and made life worth living a bearable and sometimes even wonderful. A real career and satisfaction and achievement…

And the mortar that held the stones in place rotting away and I felt it again and this time so much stronger than before and the pain was so much greater that it began to eclipse everything else…the depression had a reason and the rage a label…transsexual. Fuck me! Fuck me because I knew that this time I couldn’t shove it into that little cell and I tried. I tried every moment of every day and I thought

If I did it once, I can do it again!

But I was wrong and the more I fought against it, the more present it was and I hated it because it was going to destroy my life, destroy my family and their lives. It was so dangerous and I knew the stories because now I had the internet and knew that I would probably never see my friends of family…my children. Because that is how the stories went. I would lose my career and my self-respect and I thought of my life insurance policy and how that would help my family…that I would be worth more as a dead man than a living trans woman and I planned accidental deaths for myself…and I finally sought a therapist and began to come to terms with what I needed to do.

You’ll never have the same relationship successes and failures.

I came out to my spouse and to my very young children and it was a hard year when it was just us who knew. Not for my kids so much. They were very young and just knew that their parents were sad. But my spouse…she lost her husband the day I came out to her. She lost the man she was married to and had to relearn how to be with the woman who stood in his place and watch as this woman slowly erased so much of what she loved about the man. But she also learned that this new woman was in some ways a happier and healthier version of the person she had always loved and began to accept that this was the best way forward…that the man was not going to survive in any form, but the woman would really live.

And then others were let in, a trickle first of very good friends and then, soon, everyone who was not a part of work and then some who were. And perhaps because I am not one to travel in very conservative or religious circles, there were very few who objected in the least and most of the concerns were for my spouse and the relative health of our marriage. If not for her, I would have lost so much more, but because she accepted me, most of them did as well.

And then my family. In parts accepting, but very strange about the affair and I will try not to say too much because I hate to say anything to make them feel bad should they read this, but it took them a while to really believe that this was a real and true thing. But they have and I love them.

We lost my brother-in-law. But we never really had him. He believes there are demons in pictures and hides himself and his family away from the world. Literally. His walls are built out of religious texts and self-serving doctrine. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to seeing them come down one day and hope for his kids that the day is sooner than later.

Your body will not react the same way to HRT.

And you know this. Genetics, right? To this day, people think I had a breast augmentation. Not that I wouldn’t mind a little more size to match my frame, but what I’ve got is mine from the chest up. I fight with body hair and the fact is I have had good, if not great results physically and I really have nothing to complain about and I could give you a timeline of what happened and when but it’s not going to match what happens and when for you. Deal with it. Some girls start growing boobs earlier than others. Some girls get bigger boobs than others. Everyone complains that what they have is not as good as what someone else has. Women and men, both.

You won’t get the same reaction from your employer.

I’m a high school teacher. I teach Theatre Arts and English and work in close quarters with my students and I thought for certain that this career was over and I mentally prepared myself for it. At the same time, I did due diligence and explored every option and discovered that the people I worked for were more progressive than expected and protective of their dual-certified staff and I went from Mr. to Mrs. in the space of the week before the school year began and it was crazy and wonderful and weird and nothing like I imagined.

And except in few cases, I am rarely, if ever misgendered and hardly noticed except that I am some how seen as slightly less competent than before but that has nothing to do with being trans and everything to do with being a woman.

You won’t experience GRS as I did or recover in the same way.

Yes, I have had the surgery. Last May. In Montreal by Dr. Brassard (I recommend him). So tomorrow is 6 months. Tomorrow I will use one less dilator and dilate once less per day which is just once now for the next six months and it will continue to be uncomfortable. I still have some swelling and discharge and have had amazing orgasms and this may be too much information, but I will always provide too much information about this when asked because rather than act as if it is none of someone’s business, I’ll go to the other extreme and tell them more than they ever wanted to hear. I am an educator, after all.

But what I now have is still unique to me and my experience. I cannot speak to anyone else’s. Some folks weren’t as happy with Dr. Brassard as I have been. Very few of them from what I know. But they are there. Some folks don’t see GRS as being the end all and be all of transition, that it is somehow overrated.

And I don’t get that at all. Yes, living full time was a dream made real. Living authentically is a brilliant revelation. So has the fact that I have never been confronted by anyone in a public restroom or about anything at all…that I have enjoyed living as a woman in the world unquestioned. All prior to my surgery. And that was awesome, I assure you but every time I used the restroom and showered and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror…it was a cruel reminder of the fact that no matter what outward social successes I enjoyed, my body was still not right and would not be until I had it fixed.

And so there is no denial from me that the surgery was not the icing on the cake, but the cake itself. Everything, every part of this has been important but being rid of the dysphoria was what I needed more than anything else.

Please don’t mistake this for me saying that living as a woman is not important to me, because it is. I’ll write more about this another time. 

But I have heard some say that GRS has not has that big of an impact all things considered. This is why I say that your surgery will not be like mine. I cannot tell you how you will feel when all is said and done.

Your life will not be like mine.

I am an award winning playwright, a professional screenwriter (I’ve been paid!), a published novelist, a public school teacher. I hold two Masters degrees and am working on a third. I’ve worked in the theatre and on films and rode on the back of a garbage truck and was a hotel maid for a time. I’ve slept in the one of the biggest mansions in L.A. and played pool with an NBA star… and with my cat in a half-constructed balcony of a theatre in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco where I would go out late at night to smoke cigarettes and chat with prostitutes. I’ve been very rich and very poor and everywhere in between and my life has been nothing if not interesting and unique and it is mine.

Being a post-op trans woman is just one of the many things that I am, but it is a really big part and I own that and do not dismiss it. It is my unique life as I’m sure you have your own.

You will never be trans like me.

And I’m happy for you about this and and I’m sad for you as well. Because my life is very good these days and even thought money is often tight and I’m still on the surface of the sun, life is very good and I am so happy to be able to live it that I never want to leave it… and I love myself.

I sincerely hope that even though you will never be trans like me, you find your best way of being trans (if that is what you are and only you can tell you that) or simply your best possible happiness. It is possible. I did not think it back in the time before, but I do now because I know now and it is.