This New Year's Day,2012, will begin the third year that I've been "Out" on this blog as transgender - FTM - Female to Male. There have been some changes since I made that post in July of 2009, some of them that are pretty significant. I went back and re-read that post, "Pardon Me, Your Umbrella is Leaking", and the changes are leaping out at me. I am the kind of person who has come to understand that changes are always with us, that change should be expected, that (in the words of Kiya Heartwood of the music group Wishing Chair) "...the only gospel that I know is things are gonna change."
Otherwise, after re-reading what I wrote back then, now would be the perfect occasion for eating crow.
Mostly, I stand by what I wrote in that blog post. Its still very relevant, and very important. Nor do I feel the need to go back and edit it. The thoughts I had back then were where I stood at the time, at the beginning of figuring out somethings that were of absolute, ultimate importance in my life. I don't need to change the past to acknowledge the present. But I do need, I think, to revisit it in order to see the nature of those changes and what they mean in terms of where I am now.
The change in perspective comes, of course, at the end of the blog, where I make a very definitive statement that "...since I am already sure that transitioning is not the answer for me...". That has changed and is changing daily. I'm pretty sure I will be physically transitioning to male at this point. I have a lot of thoughts and questions still, that I intend to spend some serious time on, before I take such drastic step. But I am of an entirely different mind here on this, than when I wrote that blog post several years back. And I want to stop and think out loud here about it for a bit.
I think one of the factors that influenced the "I am not going to transition" stance I took was fear, pure and simple - fear of a number of things. The first part of that fear was that I was at the very beginning of acknowledging something that had been in existence for me my entire life - something that I had never had words for. "Tomboy" covered it fairly well when I was a child, mostly...until that became socially unacceptable when I moved into my teens. At that point I was expected to stop being such a "boy" and grow up and be a young lady. Not to put too fine a point on that, it was hell. I wrote in that first blog post that I felt that for the first part of my life that my culture and society denied "what I am by making me try to present as a feminine heterosexual woman (and I did try, people, for 36 years of my life I tried!)". There is close to half a lifetime of serious, real pain behind those words. Of a daily effort that deep inside, I loathed every minute, and trying to do so made me loathe myself. So, at age 36, when I came "Out" as a lesbian - a butch one - that seemed to settle me into a comfortable identity, a place where I could be me. It fit, supposedly. Only, it didn't. Not totally. There was still this sense of missing a step, that jarring sense of "not quite". I still did not have the language, the words, the necessary information to make sense of just why things still didn't work in my life. Oh, I was happy enough, much happier than I ever was attempting to fit the "binary heteronormative" mode of being a woman. And yet...I still wasn't there, wasn't at home within myself. I knew there was still something more that was not right, even if it remained a vague unease, a discomfort that would not pass and grew more profound as time went on. So, when I made that final realization, with the sound of a key turning in a lock, that I was transgender, it was a pretty terrifying place to be. I had to take every assumption I'd ever had (again) and re-think everything I ever thought I knew (AGAIN!) and start all over. How many times have I had to do this? Far too many - and it never ever gets any easier. Stating then that I was just never going to transition was a safer place to stand, when starting out to contemplate the complete change of everything I ever thought I knew - and then tearing it all down.
The second part of that fear was for my relationship with my partner - my wife, Dreamweaver. And for her, as well. This is not a journey I am on alone. She is very much hostage to any decision I would ever make about this and she has had her own journey thus far. She too, started out in a fearful place. She has had a lifetime of dealing with men who have been abusers and who have damaged her and scarred her - she had found a very safe haven in being with a woman, in her lesbian identity, in feeling safe and secure in our love. And oh, gee, whoops, um...I'm a guy? Oh no, no, no. Talk about my world going upside down? This totally blew her's apart! And the track record of relationships surviving one partner transitioning is very poor - most of the time they break up. The idea of this fundamental shift tearing Dreamweaver and myself apart was perhaps the most terrifying fear I've ever had. And she felt it too, perhaps worse than I did. We didn't have one identity crisis - we had two. Mine - and hers.
Its a very understandable, gut wrenching fear - for both of us. But I should have trusted us. I should have trusted her. She has walked every step of this journey, mine and hers, right next to me. And she has made it very clear that she's with me to the end of my days, irregardless of who or what I am. She has managed to work her way from moments of being horrified over the changes this forced upon her, to utterly supporting my need to transition, and that is a distance of near infinity to walk for her. And she has done so with immense amazing courage. Not, of course, that its all resolved and just fine now...I suspect that we have many more twists and turns on this road of transformation together, and a lot of them will be very, very hard. But I trust her. I trust us. Whatever the future, I know that I can trust that there will be an "us" that will last til death do us part - and beyond, if God or the Gods are kind.
And of course, there is the fear of societal judgement, by friends and family - all too often these kinds of life altering decisions result in the loss of friends and family. One of the things that others have said to me, is of course, the classic "If they can't accept you as you are and love you no matter what, then they weren't your friend, anyway." There is a bitter measure of truth in this. But there is also something missing in that statement too. We are all interconnected in our web of relationships and big changes cause growing pains on both sides. I have written here many times of my strained relationship with my father, 84 years of age, who simply cannot ever accept me being gay or transgendered. It doesn't mean he doesn't love me, or that he should be callously dismissed as not being a worthy parent or friend. It does mean that I have to think about where he comes from, his back ground, his era growing up, his paradigms and how the world that was then, formed and shaped him. That I have to realize that he is what he is, and that any ability to shift and change that radically in his thinking is truly beyond him, because of who and what he is. And my coming Out to him as either gay or transgender, would tear his world apart. My being gay identified is something that he and I can just barely manage in the most all out case of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" you've ever seen. He ain't gonna ask, and I ain't gonna tell. And we go on loving each other. Love is not the problem. Or, perhaps the problem is that in his aging and his growing fears and cantankerousness as a man in the end of his life, his love is deep and profound...and conditional. He never has been capable of "unconditional love". Only the profoundly good boundaries and caution we have always maintained of our differences have carried us this far.
But as a transitioned FtM???? Dad would be face to face with changes in me that no amount of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" could ever cover. Testosterone produces profound changes - my face structure will shift subtly, my voice will drop permanently to a male register, I will more then likely grow a beard, I will put on muscle, "top surgery" will configure my chest and upper body structure to masculine...in short, he would be irrevocably faced with the fact that his "daughter" is actually his son. And the fifty years of relationship that I have built with him give me no hope that he has the ability, the mental flexibility to make that shift. He's just not wired for it. Terrifying? You bet! Terrifying enough, that in initially realizing that I am a transgendered man, that my first reaction would be "There's just no way I could ever transition."
The final point of hesitation, that made me go, "Transitioning is not my path" is the fear of some of those above mentioned changes. Testosterone changes more than the outside physical appearance. It changes everything - mood shifts, how one processes emotion, how one thinks. I'm still wrestling that one. Would I still be "me" when it is over? What would that metaphysical place of "I" be, afterwards. Would I still be who and what I am now - and make no mistake, as much as I hate this body I'm in, there are parts of me I value profoundly, and fear and wonder how they would change, on this journey. That, I am still wrestling with, make no mistake. I'll have to get back to you on that one!
So...what has shifted or changed, that in a matter of a few years, I have moved from "never going to transition" to "yes, I will eventually transition". I don't know if its a case of I've "changed", I think its more of a case of that pressure that I have always carried within me of not being right, of not being who and what I am suppose to be having now found its definition, its voice, its narrative, its self awareness and understanding. And its like once that door is opened, there is no going back.
I mention in that first post back then that I avoid mirrors like the plague, especially full mirrors that force me to look and see the female body that I wear. Its more than that - FAR more then that, I just couldn't even begin to find the words for the complexity of it, for the full experience of it. If I don't think about it, my body persists in "feeling" male. Its like I walk within a ghostly form of a man, that the aspects of being female jar and grate on daily. I have good days and bad days. My menstrual cycle and recurring period are consistently among the bad days - really bad days. I loathe and hate my body with a passion during those weeks, furious with the constant obnoxious reminder that my body persists in being female - what an odd way to put it, I suppose. Maybe time will give me better words as I work this out.
I despise my breasts, and dress to conceal and minimize them as much as possible. Binding them is the next step for a more complete presentation of being male and is something that so far I have grimly resisted - and Dreamweaver agrees with me on this. Because it feels like once I take that step and start binding, the uncontrollable avalanche will start - and once started, it will not be turned aside, and I'm not there yet. Showering is a nightmare. I'm a very clean person - I hate being dirty. But I also despise the utter forced, inescapable intimacy of being confronted with my naked female body when I shower. It totally blows any ability to see or feel anything but the agonizing dichotomy of being a man, and still having to touch and clean and totally, bitterly, unwillingly acknowledge that the form and shape I wear are wrong!
I have days where I am mostly OK. The bathroom mirror shows only my face. I can avoid looking down at myself as I dress or undress, and the moment passes...and then I'll have days, sometimes for no obvious reason, where it doesn't matter what I wear, or what I do, I want to violently claw my own body off me - its not mine! And in those minutes I utterly hate it. I understand what sometimes drives some transgenders to cutting as a release valve for these feelings of utter alienation from their bodies...I've never done it, but oh, I can see the temptation of it, the need for it, the release of it! My voice doesn't sound right to me when I speak. And my utter fury of being constantly, instantly interpreted as a "woman" by everyone I meet and therefore instantly in their minds processed into a certain role, a certain "thing" that they may treat in certain ways is a daily agony. It doesn't matter that I'm dressing in every way possible I can to signal Male, man, masculine...hellooooo? Don't you people get it?!? I am not allowed the right to define my own self, to be what I am unless I totally transform everything, utterly and permanently into something they can perceive on a shallow surface level based on their brainless cultural programming.
Oh, yes. Its become very painfully obvious, day by day, struggle by struggle, that I will eventually be transitioning. Why not now? Why not just go ahead and go for it? Oh, there are several good reason...one, and probably the make or break one, is very simple. Money. Transitioning is not cheap. And we are in that lovely euphemistic place of being the "working poor", stone broke and working paycheck to small art job, to student loan and hanging on grimly between, fighting for gas money and food and bills. It wouldn't matter how READY I am; I cannot afford it at this time. Not yet. Someday that will change, perhaps soon even, as we are working on changing that through painfully saved and invested funds.
Another point in this time frame is that we are planning on moving out of state, at some point, when I finish school. The logical point in time to seriously pursue transitioning is after that move, and it is not impossible that this may fall after my dad passes - not something, mind you, that I want to have happen, or even want to think about. But time is passing and he is showing signs of aging and slowing and I am afraid he and I are
moving into the end of his life and our time together. Which is an agonizing and horrible thought...and its is also a very guiltily liberating thought. But even beyond that, getting out of this area, steeped in conservative fundamentalism and narrow bigotry and homophobia is a very smart move in considering transitioning. Fear of physical danger is actually not high on my list - but I'd be a fool to not see its there either. Moving is also a ways off, both because of finishing school and because of money, again.
And the final point is, that despite this growing internal volcano of pressure, I still have a lot of questions that I want answers too, both mine and Dreamweaver's questions. And I intend, before I put the match to the gunpowder on this, to seek out a therapist with experience in working with transgender issues for both of us, and there will be some serious work done on issues of self, and relationship and what and how and why. And I am not just talking about snagging a therapist to sign the papers blindly to get me past the gatekeepers to get testosterone and surgery - I'm talking about doing real inner work and processing, so that when I take those steps, I will be doing so informed, centered and profoundly ready, secure that Dreamweaver and I will weather what is to come.
So, where my journey has taken me so far? First of all, acknowledge that wherever I am right now, change is inevitable. That what is true today, may undergo a strange and deep sea change in the journey of life and to not let what I firmly believe to be unchangeable throw me when it turns out that the opposite is true. Secondly, I know now that it is very likely that transitioning is going to be a step that I will take. That I am getting on top of my fears...and that, bad or good days not withstanding, I have the strength to do this a step at a time, and do it right. And I know that Dreamweaver is right there with me. And that together, she and I can weather anything.
I will close this with a precious moment that occurred a few months ago...I was getting dressed and grumping my way into my sports bra, that always painful moment of having to acknowledge that yes, these breasts are here, and I have to deal with them. And Dreamweaver, who the year before was horrified over "losing" her lesbian identity if I became a male, thus making her in the eyes of society a straight woman, looked at me all of a sudden and said, "Well, if they're not yours, you shouldn't have to wear them!" See why I love this woman?
She put her finger on it, right there. This body is not mine. And I don't have to spend the rest of my life caught between what I am not, and what I am, and society's judgement of it. This is where I am today. And I most certainly have more exploration and growth ahead, and more words to write as I seek to express what is going on inside of me.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, as the poem says...I left the divergence back there quite awhile ago...
...and the road I'm on is good.