Am I woman enough yet? (You Don’t Know Trans, Noob!)

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Some question of trans life back some six years ago or so when I began this phase of my existence with a pill or two and a thought about who I was…

I used to keep another blog called “Always, No Something” (completely erased from the interwebs as far as I can tell) where I would espouse an ever changing ideology about the transiness of life and I met some good folks through it and some weird folks, and some very opinionated folks, too. And I blogged every day, sometimes twice so and held court over a very active set of comments. I’d comment on lots of other blogs about what trans was and how I could be trans but different or what it meant to be a woman after having lived as a man.

Inevitably, some old timer would tell me how wrong I was or how not trans I was. I was sometimes called names. I was sometimes accused of being intolerant or worse. Sometimes I was told I was a man and that I couldn’t really ever be a woman. I was told there was a right way to be trans and I wasn’t it or that there was a right way to be trans and I was it and should turn around and tell others that they were wrong.

Sometimes I thought I was helping and sometimes I knew I that I wasn’t. I trolled with the best of them and flamed better than most. I know what words can do and know how a simple twist of a sentence can chap hides. It was all in service to my identity and the growth from who I had been to who I would be and in my search for what that was, I pondered what it all meant and when it was ever enough. Would I ever really know what trans meant or what it meant to be a woman.

It’s been over half a decade now and half of that time since my surgery and I have thought about all that interaction and all those words spent on this journey, many of which I consigned to the garbage bin of my personal history…regretfully in some cases, I miss being able to read what I wrote and thought about. And though I try, I cannot remember in any real sense what it was live as a man. I remember things, but not the experience. Images, but not the feelings. I wonder if I put on men’s clothes and tried to pass as a man, would I be believable to myself (others are easily fooled). Would I look in the mirror and see the man I once saw or feel foolish, as I did when I first began to transition?

I wonder what the Sisters who once chided me for not being woman enough, not knowing what trans was, would say to me now? The Miz Know It All’s and the Annie Ro’s. How would I measure up to their high standards? All these years later would they still accuse me of playing at trans (which they did at times, accepting me at others) because I still think on what it actually means?

When I encounter trans newbies, I try to remember what that was like, thinking I would be different or having no real idea of what I would become, but knowing I would become something. I’m not a butterfly…more of a koi dragon, having fought up the river and been transformed into something far more powerful than an ephemeral bug.  I want them to be koi dragons, too. To make it through this difficult test and become more powerful and beautiful from the challenge. I don’t want to tell them things I know they are mistaken about because I am wrong when I think it. My journey was mine and theirs will be theirs and while I might think I know more than they do, while I might actually, I also cannot tell them not to make mistakes or that what they are making are mistakes. It’s just not my place.

I can share, though. The river is big enough for us all to swim in and up…

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Fear and Loathing Outside the 7-11

I generally move through the world without too much worry about being clocked or being attacked or mocked after being clocked. I do this simply because it hasn’t happened to me in the 4 years and change since I found the courage to just stop worrying and present myself as myself. Over time, I generally stopped seeing every look as somehow knowing and generally stopped ascribing malice to others where no such thing most likely existed.

Generally.

There are specific times, however, where I genuinely fear that I may be subject to some measure of malicious intent on the part of others. Sometimes it is just the same cautious fear that many women have in the presence of a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes it is specifically a fear of being attacked for being trans. It happens. It hasn’t happened to me, but it happens and I am not so pollyanna to believe that it will never happen to me. I generally don’t worry, but when given cause, I do.

Last weekend, the closing weekend of my very successful run of Richard III (I produced, directed and designed sets and lights), I had to purchase a few bottles of red wine for our lobby from the 7-11 a block away (they have a selection of wine that will do for our non-paying connoisseurs). As I approached the store, there were a number of young men sitting outside and I got a serious danger vibe combined with a serious “clocked” vibe, some snickering and not quite sotto voce commentary that may or may not have been about me, but in that moment of feeling danger, I had to assume it was and act accordingly.

I quickly entered the store, made my purchase and exited specifically to avoid the gathering outside. I’m not sure if they saw me leave as I made every effort to avoid looking in that direction. I quickly returned to the theatre and was able to breathe again, before I processed my fear and panic. I pulled my spouse aside and shared the moment with her and was able to let it go in the moment.

But the thing is, moments like that happen. My fear is real and sometimes the danger is real. While I try to avoid potential danger, I don’t live my life in avoidance of life, and therefore there is risk. I am not so naive to think otherwise.

Being Openly Open

As I am coming to the end of my second year back in L.A. as a teacher and my first year back in high school, I have noticed a change in my attitude about my public identity (how out I am, as it were). At my job in Arizona, I didn’t have much of a choice about who knew I was trans. I transitioned on the job. The only people who didn’t know were the freshmen who came in the following year and it didn’t take them too long to find out. When I taught middle school last spring, I didn’t see the advantage in sharing my story in that environment. The students were hard enough to deal with as it was and while I would have liked to expand their minds as to what it meant to know a trans person, I wasn’t in a good head space for it.

This year has been different. When I came into the school I am working at now, I did not have a plan for being out or openly trans. I just figured I would play it by ear, or that people just know. I always assume people just know, but I’m often wrong. Case and point, my spouse was getting some work done by a tattoo artist we have both had work done by. Marni was talking to her about my self-perception, to which the artist said:

“She doesn’t know, does she?”

Apparently, people generally don’t just know that I am trans. I’ve spoken with a number of folks who have shared the same with me. More and more I am thinking that most people simply do not have enough experience with trans people to come to the conclusion that they are in our company. All for good, I know. I am happy to be accepted for me as I am and seen for me as I am, but I am also always slightly en garde (like a Canadian anthem singer I am) against those who know and think I am trying to fool them and don’t like it. Mostly when I am with my daughter in the locker room at the pool where she swims. I have that niggling worry that the pod people will point at me…

So if people don’t know I’m trans, do I want them to? I am open about it with my friends, the folks at the theatre I work at, and with any of my students who ask. I’m the GSA advisor and I’m not even sure if all the kids get that I am trans. I know they think I am a lesbian because I am married to a woman. But I haven’t ever come out and talked about it in a meaningful way. There are times when I want to and it’s silly, I know. But it just isn’t something that comes up in casual conversation or as part of a lesson. Even in a GSA meeting, I haven’t really felt it germaine or organic.

It’s a strange time to be trans to even be entertaining these thoughts…I’m glad I can be openly open and I think as time goes on, I’ll find the more organic and comfortable way to be so.

Not Transitioning Is Easier

If I were still passing as a man in the world, life would be so much easier. Not better, mind you. Life now is better. But certainly not simpler. Certainly not easier.

Shopping? Easier.

Relationships? Easier.

Work? Easier.

Priviledge? Much easier.

Parenting? Easier (not better, but easier).

But life is better. I am happy being me. I accept the complications because at the end of the day, when I go to sleep, I am mostly comfortable in my skin. My spouse pointed out to me the other day just how unhappy I was in my simpler life. Before she knew the truth of me, she knew that I was suffering. But it was easier to suffer in silence.

Easier, not better.

But there are times I reflect on this life of mine and weigh the ease of living against the complexity of living well. Easy is sometimes appealing in retrospect. It’s hard to remember pain when it’s so far gone. I see pictures of an apparently happy me, videos of a guy good at not showing the darkness inside and he doesn’t seem all that unhappy. I know he was, I was. But I don’t remember the pain. I know I had it, but I don’t remember it.

It’s easy to remember the good things. Those are the events and people who are worth holding on to. It’s natural to forget the pain, what the pain felt like. Like a bruise, it hurt in the moment, but now the moment’s gone and there’s nothing left but the memory of being hit and even that slowly fades over time.

Some complications are more painful than others. Some leave more lasting injury. Life is not always good.

But in the balance, I’d rather take my lumps as they come now. Life is better.

Dilation Procrastination Hurts

So for whatever reason I’ve been slacking on dilating. A lot of issues, but really, just being dumb and not taking care of me. So this morning I got back to it and paid the price…a lot of pain and no little bleeding. Kind of wasted me for the day. It’s no fun being sore down there and it could have been avoided…and will be avoided in the future.

Lesson learned.

On another note, this week has been a pretty down one. The coming week is full of work stress, but at least I’ve got vacation next week and summer’s not far off. I am ready for a real break from things.

I Fail at Support Groups

From time to time I think about going to a support group and from time to time I have, only to discover that I really don’t like the environment at support groups. Now that I’m in a different city, I find myself wondering if the support groups here are different than the support groups where I used to live and there is that part of me that wants to hear about the issues that other trans women are going through. In part for solidarity, in part to offer what support I can and in part because when I hear about what others are going through, it often minimizes what I am…I think it could be worse.

Which seems awful, really. Is it awful to feel better because things could be worse?

I’ve never been able to do go to those groups more than once or twice a year, meaning I’ve been to very few of them. Too few to make any real connections with any of the people there. I’ve made stronger connections to other trans people online, but very few of those have continued beyond casual Facebook connections. I was close with a small group of women for a time, but after my surgery, we lost touch…or maybe it was just me.

I’m not especially good at maintaining relationships beyond those that are very nearby. I’m actually fairly rotten at it and more so with trans people. But there are times when I feel like I need that connection, need to talk with someone who has been through what I have. I’m just not terribly interested in the politics. Support groups have their politics and in some ways, being where I am, I don’t really fit into the group structure in any meaningful way. Plus, I rarely socialize at bars or coffee afterward. So in a room full of people often on the outside of things, I am an outsider.

So I go looking for a connection and find nothing like one and so I don’t return and just go back to a life without a meaningful connection to another trans person.

Do I need that?

Sometimes I think I do…I’m just way too shitty at making meaningful connections to forge one and hold on to it.

Outed by Bureaucratic Paperwork

So this is fun.

Years and years ago, in another life (with another name), I was employed by School District A. It was where I started and I taught there for a year. Good pay, great benefits, terrible bureaucracy. Like Brazil (I think they send info back and forth through their very imposing Ministry of Information using pneumatic tubes). For many reasons, my family left the city we were moving in and moved East to the very hot center of the Earthbound plane and remained there until a mere week and a half ago. It was there I taught for School District B, a smaller place to be sure, but who were kind enough to be very accommodating to my transition.

But we were unhappy in the very hot place and wanted to return West, to the Pacific, which they say has no memory. The best place for me to work would be once again with School District A and after a lot of hard waiting for people to send canisters through tubes up and down the chain of whatever, I was rehired. Now the Pacific may have no memory, but School District A’s computer system, archaic by any measure, has memory for days when it comes to old names that have supposedly been changed because while the name and gender has been changed at the central level, the change has not filtered down to the subsidiary levels (those darned canisters getting stuck in Sam Lowry’s office I suppose).

So I arrive at new school, ready to teach and the attendance lady goes to print my rosters because my computer access has not been granted which, really, is not that big a deal considering the computer guy cannot fund a computer to give me to enter grades on and take attendance on and, well, do his job. Said rosters come off the press and she gives me “that look” that comes with associating old name with new reality and rather than starting at new job without old history, I immediately know that I will once again be the out trans teacher on campus.

*sigh*

I would have been more okay with it if I had a say in it.