Field Notes In/On Transition.
Happy 'Transition Day' to Me!
The spring equinox or thereabouts is the anniversary of my ‘officially starting my transition’... by that I mean, (and this is my personal start date, for my own reasons) the day that I started to take anti-androgens to block testosterone, as well as the day that I changed my name on facebook, as well as starting to send out forms, and enquire how to get the legal ball rolling on the legal name change. I also ‘came out’ to all my family and friends, close people in private first, then everyone at once... after a month or so I started this blog.
I almost wince at the photos from a time not that long ago (2012) But that to me seems like a lifetime ago. I constantly have to stop myself from adding years to the seemingly endless amount of times that I have to answer the “so how long have you been transitioning?” question. Does it really matter? I keep saying “um 4 or 5 years, I think,” and try vainly to count back, but, in fact, it has been 3 full years, going into the 4th year this weekend.
The early days problems of ongoing misgendering are far less frequent, or at least noticed, as unless it’s obviously a mean spirited misgendering, I really don’t care that much anymore. Almost anytime any of my friends does it these days, they correct themselves before I have time to register it.
Aside from my lifetime issues with my weight, I am more comfortable in my own skin than I ever was in the previous 45 years. It’s really difficult to explain how you can one day find out that you actually are the person you have fantasized about being, your entire life. Maybe why it seems like I have been transitioning longer than I have, is that really, I have been heading this way my whole life. I might not have the clear easy to spot signposts that you see in TV or movies or read in the more popular transition memoirs, or even documentaries. They are all almost always linear narratives, those stories. I don’t feel born again, I feel far more like I am born for the first time. My previous life was all gestation. (and a lot of indigestion :p)
Life is not so linear. There is very rarely a person who comes out, and A-B-C; gets acceptance, rejection for a while, then finds peace (whether through self realization, or death)... there is much more of a labyrinth to work through, so much back tracking.... Some folks never find the exact spot on trans continuum that they feel comfortable. Everyone, though, deserves as much space, and time as they need to figure this stuff out.
Just because I quickly adjusted to fitting in as a female ( I prefer Femme, but more on that later) presenting person, doesn’t mean I have arrived anywhere. Emotionally, most of the time I am kind of a wreck. Not so much of one, that I can’t function. In fact, I feel like I am finally functioning as a ( if not ‘the’) person I want to be. And I don’t always ‘pass,’ which was what I wished for most of my life, but sometimes it’s disconcerting to ‘pass’. Passing is a privilege that needs to be acknowledged, as it has a dark side of maintaining the binary heteronormative status quo, until of course you are found out. Passing infers deception. I almost never lie anymore, I can’t. So my ‘passing’ is your thing; not mine, as it turns out.
I have found that the longer I live as myself, and grow into the person I hid from most of my life, people see that person, and she is a woman. Trans, yes! And fiercely so, but with far less fear and anger built in. (Mostly) I still get very frustrated that my current status (I am also 48, ageism is very real) has a great deal to do with my inability to get more work.
But I also feel a bit of guilt and shame, that I am mostly enjoying my all but Friday work free days. I might be building a debt again, but to be completely honest, I need to ‘not work,’ mostly, right now. I am very keen to do a few days a week of maybe a few different tasks, just enough to pay my rent and bills and eke out a life. I am more interested in living my life and learning to be the person I am finally letting myself be, letting the world see her and accept her. If they don’t well: *shrug*, there are 7 billion other people, I bet you can find someone you accept. Leave me out of your non acceptance.
I have some built in guilt and shame about my nonchalance in regard to being underemployed. I wish I really could afford it, but that pressure to be normative, have money, buy things, to have less debt; it is strong, strong in me, and for a week I was desperately down about this, so down, and at the same time grieving my very diminished status (somehow whilst feeling more like I am beautiful, than ever in my life) as far as dating, meeting someone to love goes. Here again, ‘passing’ is almost an evil. I don’t want to be seen as a fetish object, or someone who is trans because of sex. I get angry thinking of that. I still have a lot of work ahead of me before I can go there I think, and I guess luckily, no one is knocking at my door anyway.
What I do have, is community; that I feel accepted within, as a part of, actually a few communities. I have my facebook world, which for me is robust and interesting and not full of just the cliches those who hate FB are always on about. Maybe a virtual world, but filled with people who know me in real life and maybe know me better from my very raw FB posting style. Sometimes I vent, I rant, I cry on FB, I have fought back and almost won against the whole “suck it up sister’ crowd. I take no guff, and I am learning to disarm the guff respectfully and with less arguments when it happens. Sometimes shutting down a conversation needs to happen. I have gotten more support and love from facebook than I have in the real world, it is thus part of my ‘real world’, my community easily extends to folks I rarely get to see.
I also have the community of my neighbourhood, East Vancouver, specifically the Commercial drive area. East Van, and the Drive is/are a hub for artists, queers, and outliers of all sorts, some blend into each other’s communities, some don’t, but there is more acceptance of difference than there is denial. I feel safe, even at night, though I do grasp my keys going down my street.
The other community that I have most recently gravitated into, was the subject of my last post, my choir: The Femme City Choir. Identifying as ‘Femme’ has given me an anchor that I didn’t know I needed. The anchor comes from the fact that the choir is a part of the larger Femme community in Vancouver and elsewhere. A group of folks who are not some frilly cliche of femininity, but instead are a group that comes from various parts of various cultures under a banner they/we feel comfortable flying. The word itself comes with so many negative images because of the ‘masculine as normative culture’ that I believe we are emerging out of. I am having a hard time explaining this so let me give a real life example of my own: Boy good, Girl bad, binary nonsense.
When I was a little kid in the late 60’s-mid 70’s there were no words in my personal vocabulary, and very few in the world at large to describe being Trans* in the ways we now all take for granted. I wanted to be a little girl, and not a little boy, or at least I wanted to live the life I saw my young girl friends having. But I was a super observant kid, and I saw very young how the worst thing in the world you could be was a girl, or worse yet, a feminine boy. You would be teased, bullied to death. I wore this fear like a shining magic armour my entire childhood.
Thus, I shunned anything that seemed too ‘girly.’ I am certain I said awful things I no longer recall about ‘girly things.’ But secretly... I had last year’s Sears or Eaton’s Catalogues hidden in my comic books, and I looked at the girly toys, the girly clothes, all the ‘femme’ things were the things I could barely admit to myself I was looking at. Sometime the shame of just looking at this stuff I would never have or experience overwhelmed me so much, I would throw those catalogues away. I can only really recall the sweaty fear of looking, dreaming, not really even what I saw.
When I sneaked peeks at the ladies undergarments, or lingerie in these picture books from a bygone era, it was with a mixture of attraction and a desire that I was afraid to name. I hid from doing girly things into adolescence, secretly ‘borrowing’ clothes from adult women(sorry, to all the ladies I babysat for) who were my young boy size, this is a story familiar to many Trans folk. That fear though, that I had, is almost completely dissipated, as I feel comfortable buying my clothes (not ‘Ladies’ Clothes’, my clothes) now, buying makeup, and so on. I do not feel out of place, unless someone makes it so, by way of ignorance. I can *squee* with impunity when I see a baby or other cuteness. Its not an affectation, nobody beats me up.
That Femme Ideal that I had as a kid, has now grown up as well, and now I am immensely proud to be a part of a community of social justice minded, politically aware, and hopeful group of people, who all ID as Femme, whether straight, gay, poly, queer, male presenting, or female presenting etc.... whatever other parts of identity they/we have, also we are Femmes. The shame from my youth has faded and transformed into love and acceptance that I only recently realized was even possible. If we really have a goal, I feel like it is to make being Femme, something to be proud of, to revel in, rather than feel discounted simply for how we might present ourselves.
As I become more involved in this community, I think some other parts of my old life are also falling by the wayside, shields, charms, hexes that had kept Joe in his bubble of fear with some comfort, these things are changing too. For example, every day I am feeling less dependent on the idea that I am an introvert. In fact, Josie has far more extraverted qualities than Joe would ever have admitted to. I still get overwhelmed when a party, (and have learned to leave when I need to, rather than linger in discomfort) or a space I am in gets too crowded, too many people babbling, I zone out, but I can handle it, and desire to be a part of it more than ever. I want to be seen, I want to be heard. Not so oddly maybe, I have found a new voice by being part of a choir.