Saying Goodbye to 2012

I used to look back on the year that was with some modicum of regret at the things I did not get done and there were always many and many were correctable if I had only been…

So I continue that practice first, because those things I did not do in 2012 can be accomplished in 2013. I can look back at the flaws of the year as a challenge, however, and not a regret. Because if I have learned anything over the last few years, it is not to regret anything because what is done is done and cannot be regretted away. So this list of things is not of regrets, but rather those things still yet to do:

  • Have a healthy body…and yes, this includes losing weight. Something about the winter season seems to include gaining weight, which I seem to have done with some great success. And this is a promise I make to myself every year and have yet to keep. This year I keep it because on my path to self-improvement and enlightenment, this is one of the last great steps and I will take it.
  • Procrastinate less…I say less because it is unreasonable to say not at all. I’m not Hamlet continually putting off until tomorrow what I could be doing today, but I am skilled at last minute heroics and I would like to see what happens if I do things right away rather than later…at least more of the time.
  • Lighten up. I’m a very serious person and seemingly get more so as the years roll on. For my kids, I need to be playful and fun more often than not. They need to know that I am there for them for anything, including just wrestling every now and again.
  • Clean more…just because I work a lot of hours away from the house doesn’t excuse me from being more on top of things at home. But this goes back to the procrastination thing.

There’s my current list of things to do and why yet I live to say this thing’s to do sith I have cause and will and strength and means to do it.

But oh, 2012, I have done some good here yet.

I published my second novel and that’s no small feat. If you’ve written a novel or more, you’ll understand the triumph of this. If all goes well, I’ll have my third out this year and it is one of the things in my life of which I have rightfully taken some pride, my ability to start and finish these works and believe in their quality.

And there was that little matter of a surgery. Not so little, really. Some may try to downplay it, but for me it is still an amazing thing to be able to live a life where I can know something like peace with myself. To say that GRS is unimportant or unnecessary is not to need it as I did. Simply. I can do something as simple as pee and not be bothered, pained, by the presence of what was once there and is no longer. It’s an amazing thing. I know what it is not to wonder if life would be better because I know and it is. Life is better now. Living is simpler now. I can think about other things and do.

I began a new journey in learning, discovering the world of Educational Information and Technology. I’ll have my MS in it this year, but more importantly, I see where my field is heading and I believe in it and believe that we can make changes now that will pay dividends in the present and future, but we need more believers. Right now, most pay lip service to it, but few actually commit to changing their practice to do what is best for the students. I feel like a revolutionary and wish only to have Eponine’s waist (and voice). I will fight for this in some area or find new areas to explore.

Finally, I’ve come to terms with who I am in this world and found the terms for who that person is. I’m trans and say it proudly because to do otherwise would be to feel shame and I am unashamed of who I am. I will continue to live and love and be myself always.

So goodbye 2012. A good year. One of my best. A year that promises better years to come and I embrace them as I did this one.

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Our best lives

Today we’re studying Act V Scene 1 of Hamlet, which you might know more familiarly as “the graveyard scene.” It’s a strange bit of staging, coming on the heels of Ophelia’s suicide and all the relative depression and darkness at the end of Act IV, here we have this moment of levity with the two clowns, followed by Hamlet’s encounter with and philosophy of what is left behind after we die and to what end it serves. Finally, the rather absurd melodrama of Ophelia’s funeral. A very busy scene and prelude to the finale.

In thinking about Imperious Caesar and his fate as clay to keep the winter wind away, and many of the other discussions of where we end up after death, where our bodies go, that come up throughout the play, I think of all the attention we give to our bodies as we live. What is it, this thing that will someday become the quintessence of dust, that we worry so much about, that we fret about. It is the simple shell of our lives that we use as we move through the world.

It is not our body that matters so much as what we do with it. How we use it to affect the world, to affect others. And, yes, the better we maintain it, the longer we can remain within it and use it to be effective…to be remembered in some manner once we have vacated it. But still, it is just a thing but we give it so much importance. We fret because of the shape it is in or the shape we wish it were in and rather than enjoy what we can do with it while we have it, we make it the focus of so much angst that we ask ourselves silly questions like “To be or not to be.”

I have no time for the “not to be” crowd who “take arms against a sea of troubles.” But rather I will “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” I will live in this body as long as I can do so.

So living in this body, of not worrying about what will become of it should my time as its sole tenant end, I come to this point of being concerned about it. After all, I have to live in it, I want it to suit me. I want this body to best reflect who I am and be as comfortable as possible. And, yes, sometimes I do not maintain it as well as I should and, as a result, it displeases me. But that does not mean I am not concerned with it.

Here’s where I come to that element of what it means to live in a body that was not ideally suited for me to begin with. Should I have simply made do. After all, most people find some aspect of their body incompatible with their best happiness. After all. Why have I made changes to it? Major renovations. Major renovations.

Because I could. Simple. If I could not have done so, I would have not been able to do so and so the question would be moot. “That we would do, we should do when we would.” I was able to make a major change to this body I live in, this thing that will one day be dust that no one would recognize as male or female. I made that change because while we live, we owe it to ourselves to live as best we can. My best life is best lived in a body that best reflects the essential nature that is me.

My best life. I think that is something that is difficult for people to understand. That we should live our best lives. To live otherwise is to surrender to pain, to surrender to mediocrity, to surrender to unhappiness. I still have pain and unhappiness, but I fight against them. And I refuse to be mediocre. This life, this time I have in this body on this earth before I go on to stop the wind with Caesar, will be the best possible life I can live.

Transfictional

Yesterday, I read this post at laurustina and it struck me, reading about her daughter’s “boy suit”… it struck me that this metaphor that she was writing about so beautifully, this very apt descriptor of her daughter’s experience and her experience in coming to terms with her daughter was, for me, not a metaphor that I used, but one of the many fictions that I have created over the course of my life to deal in some measure with being trans.

When I was going through puberty, I hoped that the zipper would show itself. I constructed an alternate history of me, an alternate science fiction world that I was born into where I had been born a girl, body and brain. But I was born dying of a rare disease, something akin to what the “boy in the bubble” suffered from, but worse because there was no way I was going to survive. My parents lost their first child, a girl, hours after she was born, so they were desperate because they were going to lose me as well. My father, having done government work in his time as an engineer, had a friend who had spoken to him of a top secret project and that friend came through. They could save me, place me in a containment suit. The only problem was that they only had the one suit and it was for a boy. My parents had to choose between having a dead daughter or a living son and they chose to keep me alive, hoping that one day a cure could be found to allow them to remove me from the suit. In the meantime, no one could ever know, including me.

Somewhere along the line, however, I figured it out. I knew there was no way that the body that I saw on the outside matched who I was on the inside. But I couldn’t tell them I knew because it would break their hearts to know how much their daughter suffered inside her containment suit. At the same time, I hoped…wished, that the zipper would reveal itself, the release in whatever form it was that I could undo the catch simply peel the whole thing  away.

It was a good fiction for a while. It served me as many would, an escape in some measure, a focus of wishing that if wishes were possible and mine were to be granted, this would be the one.

Most of my constructed fictions, fantasies and escapes…most of them allowed me in some measure to continue forward in my life as a woman accepted by those around me as a woman even though they once knew me as a man. That they would see that I had been transformed through no fault of my own and be sympathetic and loving as I struggled through a period of adaptation into a life of happiness.

If constructing fictions is my art, then you could say my life imitated my art in many ways. Serendipitous I assure you.

I’ve read a decent amount of what is essentially transformational wish fulfillment fiction online. There are story sites devoted to this kind of work and it amused me, fascinated me and saddened me by degrees to see the kinds of constructs people created to deal with this. Some, such as a wretched series about a mall wizard who transforms men into mindless bimbo sex toys, baffled me. I am unsure what the purpose of these stories are except that they amount to either very oversexualized fantasy wish fulfillment or toxic revenge fantasies meant to punish men for bad behavior. Most had a kind of pornographic element to them. I don’t judge others for what they need, but these were not for me. Others, the more science fiction driven stories dealing with body-swapping machines and the like intrigued me simply because they fed into my constructed fictions. There would occasionally be a story about a boy suit…

There are many commonalities in the trans experience and it only stands to reason that we share many metaphors, consciously or un, stories that help us to get to sleep at night, fictional constructs, like an interior Second Life, where we can create worlds to live in as an escape, a way to stay sane by degrees knowing that when all else fails, at the very least, we can project into this fiction and exist there for a time.

A final note.

As I began and moved through my transition, the fictions fell away. I no longer needed another world to live in because in accepting myself and being myself, in being accepted as myself, I no longer needed to imagine an alternative to the life I have. I no longer needed to cast away the skin I lived in because it was as it should be.

My Lack of Bathroom Issues

For as long as I have been actively engaged in things trans, I have read and heard quite a bit about The Bathroom and The Trans.

And it’s scary, neh?

I think there has been some part of my brain over the last two years of using the bathroom appropriate to my gender that has been prepared to deal with a confrontation. The fact is, and it is a fact, there are a lot of trans people who have to deal with confrontations related to using the bathroom. It seems to be the primary source of sturm und drang for trans people and those who want us to never use the bathroom. But the truth for me is that I have never been accosted or harassed whilst peeing or whilst washing my hands.

Does that make me lucky?

Prior to my name change, and that is prior to getting an ID card with the letter F on it which would seem to signify to anyone who might possibly looked at it that the appropriate restroom for me would be the one with the picture of the stick figure in a skirt (could be a kilt, couldn’t it?), I carried a letter from my therapist which noted that I was currently in treatment for GD and therefore not just some random guy playing dress up so he could hear women peeing or rape them. So when they cops or security were inevitably called, I could whip said letter from my purse and be all like

In your face, I’m trans, bitches!

(or something less confrontational)

And they would politely leave me alone? I kind of suspected the letter might keep me from some horrid punishment, but it really was more a security blanket for me, a thing that said that someone said it was okay for me to pee in the women’s room. And I showed that letter to all of no people.

None. Not a soul ever saw the thing. Nor has a single person ever asked to see my ID.

Now don’t you use the P word (ya know – pass), because I don’t like it and I don’t do it. I exist and I am.

Maybe it’s because of my attitude that I don’t have issues or maybe it’s because I’m lucky to have not come across someone who has wanted to make an issue of me and it could still happen.

There is that part of my brain that is still prepared just a little to be confronted – J’accuse! …or more like the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers where Donald Sutherland does that horrible open mouthed screamy pointy thing. I have no worries of ultimate vindication, but in between the horrid moment of being accosted and having to vindicate myself, I would have to have that experience.

No one should have to have it. It shouldn’t be an issue. Even not having had an issue, I still have the fear of one and that is an issue in and of itself.

We should all just be able to pee in peace.

One Woman Show

So my history in the theatre does not include a great number of performances. The last lead role I had was when I was 9 years old and had the privilege of playing Harold Hill in The Music Man. Since then, my appearances onstage have been few and far between. My best performance was as a homeless man in a college production of The Dutchman. I went to college to learn to direct, discovered my voice as a writer and sharpened my skills as a technician. I always left the acting to others who had a greater passion for it.

Somewhere along the way, I became a teacher of performers and somewhere in that time, I discovered my voice as a performer, which mostly shows itself when I am teaching or have to read in for an absent actor at a rehearsal. I enjoy it and, in some measure, crave my time in front of the lights. Am I a well trained actor? Not really. But I’ve worked with well trained actors and learned enough to teach others to perform and to understand performance. I should probably take a class from my friend and mentor (who was my high school theatre arts teacher) to grow my craft in this area if I pursue what I am thinking of pursuing.

But do I need much training to play some version of myself?

Another friend has planted the seed in my mind to create a one woman show about my experiences as a trans woman. She believes I have something worth saying and, as someone who specializes in social justice theatre, believes I should attempt to say it. I am obviously intrigued (hence this post and a similar, shorter one on Facebook yesterday). It speaks to my desire to write again for the stage and my desire to perform something necessarily political and meaningful to me. In just the short time between yesterday and today, that part of my brain that plots and organizes what I write has already been plotting and organizing this play, this performance.

Will I write it? Yes. I think I will. Most definitely. The part of me that writes these blog posts and has been for years wants to tell something of my experience in a forum other than this. I believe in the transformative power of theatre, that live performance can change how others see and feel like nothing else can. I also believe in myself as an artist, that I can create a performance that can achieve what I would like it to do in some small way. I’m a little iffy about myself as a performer. Aside from being a teacher who stands in front of students by herself and delivers lessons and performances of a kind, I haven’t stood on a stage under lights and done something like this. I believe I have it in me, but I know it will take a lot of work to develop the kind of stage presence required to hold an audience for a show like this would…will be.

It’s going to about me, yes. But it will also be about something I feel strongly about as a trans woman, the idea of passing or, more precisely, why I abhor the idea of passing. If you have any ideas to share along those lines, I’d be happy to hear them. While I can do this by myself, theatre is collaborative and I would love the input of others.

I’ll keep you up to date as things progress.