Field Notes In/On Transition
It’s April, Fools.
It’s way past April Fool’s Day, and I haven’t done a Transition post in a while. I’m always waiting these days it seems for “something to happen” to write about. Well, life happens whether you think its blog worthy or not, so I’m forging ahead a bit blindly, and likely as not will be dredging up the same old topics.
I have been a bit edgy the last few weeks, in fact I even took a long weekend on the actual Long weekend. 4 days off in a row really did feel a bit like a mini vacation, even if I never went anywhere. I avoided two social engagements that I thought I would definitely go to when invited, but I needed the time alone more than I needed to be around people. What’s odd about that is that I already spend as much time alone, or more, than anyone else I know.
My job entails being social all day, and sometimes I’m not that good at the social aspect. I’m pretty easily exasperated by people who don’t understand basic communication. It has always been really difficult for me to poker face said exasperation. I’m an eye roller from way back, is the fact of the matter.
When I was a dude, it wasn’t any easier to interact with people who; if they weren’t giving me money, I would just walk away from, but now I have the “being trans” aspect to throw them off, or not. I swear there are a lot of people who come in and see me, and just seem to think “guy in a dress,” and take it no further than that, no big whoop, just a guy in a dress. It is East Van after all, lots of things you see that don’t quite compute. One really regular customer recently (on a day I had off) mentioned to a co-worker that he hadn’t liked a movie I recommended (I stand by the recce, “The Grissom Gang” is a great flick from Robert Aldrich), in doing so, not knowing my name I guess, despite being someone who went to many of the same parties as me for 2 decades... called me “the guy who wears a dress all the time.” It’s almost cute, this, but my awesome co-worker said to him “You mean the woman who usually works in the daytime?”
It’s a bit hard for me to grok that other people maybe don’t know or understand anything about Trans Folk. For many, I think despite a lot of media (almost all of it about little kids who safely fit into the most cliched conceptions of boy/girl wannabe-ness, or Trans Women and Trans Men who have been victims of violence.) in recent years, most folks don’t really think about it, and just see me and other trans folk as people “living differently.”
Another Customer started to ask me.... “So , with all the women’s clothes and...?” I cut him off, and said, “Well I’m a woman now, so this is how I dress.” He was a bit wide eyed, I could almost see him imagining that I’d had “the operation.” I wasn’t going to talk about it any further than that, though with someone whose business, it isn’t, and I went back to renting the movie to him.
This is kind of a point that for me is worth discussing, that I’m a woman now. It’s a bit disingenuous to my own experience to use that hackneyed “I was always a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Now, I am that (I think), far more so than before starting HRT and Transitioning. It does not capture who I was, as much as now it captures some of who I am.
I am however, more than just my gender. Everyone is. No one is just a woman, or just a man. I am a person before any of that. Gender is just how we present ourselves. I am currently presenting and living as a woman; which I never let myself do previously. I tried hard to “be a man,” in my view, I failed miserably, constantly. Others around me may not have looked at me that way, or recognized my internal struggle, even after me coming out to them as Trans. I think most of the time I “presented” relatively well as a typical Fatso Male (the Fatso part being a huge part of my pre 2007 weight loss existence)... I still see that fat man in the mirror sometimes, but its like he waving goodbye to me, as that sensation occurs less and less often.
I concrete example of me not being “a Bro” anymore (and that I’m aging as rapidly as anyone else, dammit) occurred just the other day when I had a “meet-up” with some internet/real life friends. On FB, I often chat TV in a group started by some people I know locally, and I’ve become “friends” with some on there that I’ve never met. We had a meet at my fave local watering hole, Storm Crow. I had a bite to eat and 3 or 4 beers. I still think I only had 3 but whatevs, the point is, after just 3 or 4 beer, and one later at another watering hole that I don’t usually go to, I stumbled home, sort of aware that I was way drunker than the 4 or 5 beer would have made me back in the day, as they say, which is/was wrongly still my measuring stick as to how much I can drink/party.
I laid down on my futon for “a quick minute” and instantly regretted that as I tried to bolt for the toilet, but never made it. I hate puking more than maybe anything. nothing makes me feel worse, but well all over, I woke 3 hours later and cleaned it all up. (and again in the gross sober morning) It happens to anyone who drinks a bit, I guess, but not me that often, as usually I can tell if I’m reaching whatever limit that day.
The other part of that is that I was drinking with these dudes, who are well, dudes. It made me a bit nostalgic for my “party heyday” of the 90’s, wherein I partied as hard as anyone, I was for that evening, presenting a bit of that old Joe the Bro. Not in a bad way though, I am no denier of where I come from. Yes, I was a dude; and to many I still am, not having had “the operation.” If your idea of what men and women are is as reductive as being down to genitals, I don’t think you quite get it. I didn’t for a long time. I still carry a lot of Bro joe, but when people call out that (to me) male name, I don’t turn around anymore. I see myself as a woman with the baggage of never having been a girl. Lots of women for lots of reasons didn’t “get to” have a girl-hood.... Lots of boys too. I got to have a boyhood, which aside from spending a large portion of my time fantasizing about being a girl, was pretty awesome. I read the books, ate the food, mostly played the games I wanted to. I no longer (and don’t know that i really ever did) regret being a boy, growing up. I never felt I had a choice. as a kid I realized early on that in real world terms I had no power.
This having no “power,” not feeling strong or worthy has been my crutch, the thing that always got in the way of being able to transition, achieving my goals as a writer/creative person. I have never felt deserving; because I was “lying in my presentation of who I was/am, of praise, attention. And I did make the effort to get those things, quite often. i performed at open mics, self published comics, chapbooks, Put myself in as much spotlight as I could, always waiting for someone to recognize the “real me”. in there somewhere, and give me permission to be myself, to be Josie.
Of course as it turns out, I am the person who needed to give that permission, and any other permissions, to be an artist or a writer. I am these things not in spite of my Trans-ness, but as a part of my Trans-ness. It is extreme;y hard for me to think I deserve to be happy, to be have creative freedom, to be able to live my life in the manner I do. Do I deserve to be called a woman? I think so.
There are people I love who may never do so, but I don’t love them any less. I can’t I don’t have it in me to get all fucked up over someone else’s inability to see the world as I see it. Which as far as I am concerned is how it is. I can have empathy or understanding for your world, you should be able to have same for me. You don’t have to understand it, as well as I do, nor i yours to have respect. That’s all I want, a little respect. I often still feel if not disrespected, then somehow unworthy of respect in most aspects of my life. When you feel like a failure at your core being for 45 years of your 46, It is no mean feat to even say I “deserve” anything.
My mind in every conversation, human encounter I have (almost, excepting those I count as great friends) I am ready for there to be a negative encounter. I have a hard time to this day, as content as I am in comparison with say 18 months ago, when I wanted no more than the end of it all, thinking that i’m not going to yelled at or reprimanded or made fun of. This kind of thing hasn’t even happened to me that much. But my outlook has ever been unsunny as far as my preconceptions go. My feelings of unworthiness still cause me insomnia, and a lot of stress in my day to day.
I think I am strong enough however, most days, to get past these fears, this fear that has governed almost all of my life. I’m starting to think about things like what kind of job or jobs can I muster up when and if the Video Store thing goes quietly into that good night. I’m a not so pretty trans woman who makes almost no effort to “sound female,” who can write words, take pictures and edit same with a certain amount of skill, I can have a conversation with pretty much anyone on any topic. I have a modicum of charm. I am also snarky and kind of snobby. Maybe I can network something through my linkedin profile? I am doubtful of that whole enterprise, but there must be something in my future.
In the past I never thought this was true. My future was limited by my undeservingness, my fear, that paralyzed me from taking opportunities. As much as I am unsure of what I will be doing in even the near future, I am at least secure in who I am and will be while doing whatever that is. Maybe my slapdash whining of a blog will turn into a book? I doubt it. It’s a blog. Books are a whole other thing for me.
I can’t help but think though that maybe I am gaining a bit of writing confidence with this grammar horror filled blog. Perhaps despite the fact that I don’t write every day, I am always writing it in my head, always. Once in a while some other bits of writing slip out, even. It’s been awhile since I felt like I had a voice. I still haven’t got there, in Transition, this blog is like an intermediate voice, of a person in Transition. Someday I hope to be using a more refined version of this voice to make some meagre writerly income, much like I do now using my vast cinema knowledge in conversation and as a sales technique.
I haven’t figured out exactly how, yet, but I’m hopeful.