Perceptions

I tend to read a lot. The subject seems to change with the season but I perpetually consume the written word. Which is a bit weird because I didn’t read so much as a young child. I remember a reading competition when I was in grade one, where over the course of the semester everyone would track how many books they each read. We were given a handout with twenty circles joined by a pathway surrounded by cartoon characters. Most people finished their handout by December, a friend of mine went through four such handouts. I read two books.

Now I can’t get enough. I’m not sure what’s changed, perhaps it’s the onset of the digital age. Maybe it was something I’d yet to discover. I think I may have simply decided reading was for girls and like so many things expelled it from my life. These are the kinds of thoughts I’m still unpacking. This also applies to my taste in music, I was very careful not to listen to anything that might expose me, and as a result listened to very little music at all. Same goes for clothes, decoration, hobbies, aspirations etc…

Why did I do this to myself? Despite the charade I soaked up every scrap of information relating to transgenderism I came across. To this day I can remember just about every movie and television show that touched on the subject. I recall sitting in the living room watching a television report on Caroline Cossey, the transgender Bond girl. I said nothing out loud but I can picture that report as I write this, and I’m still unsettled by the tone of shock and puzzlement in the reporters voice.

I’m a big fan of Jim Carrey and the movie Ace Ventura, but the end bothers me a lot. The bit in his apartment with the plunger hit pretty close to home. Don’t get me wrong I’ve seen the film several times and will probably watch it again someday, it’s hilarious. Mostly. I feel it’s important to accept the good with the bad, it’ s the only path to understanding. It’s not like the producers set out to offend anyone, it was just meant for laughs.

On a recent trip I witnessed two separate live performances in which they did an ugly drag bit, where the joke was solely that they were an ugly guy in a dress. Everyone in the audience laughed and cheered when the ugly cross dresser attempted  something sexy and fell down. I sat quietly in my chair and tried to appreciate the bit for the harmless entertainment the performers no doubt saw it as. Ok I didn’t appreciate the bits at all but neither did I see any benefit to voicing my objections.

Every few days or so I come across a blog entry where some precocious blankety blank will post their opinions on the trans population. Often some trite paralogism about how they are transethnic or transpecies, or it’s an appeal to misinformed religious standards (side note, Jesus was the guy standing with the marginalized and oppressed, at no point in the Bible does Jesus say, “Judge not lest ye be judged, unless they are queer.”). I do my best to read it all, and take what I can from it.

What’s really frustrating is that these criticisms echo my childhood feelings towards transitioning. I remember rationalizing to myself that thoughts and feeling do not change who I really am, I’ve learned the hard way just how true this is. I often found myself defending my faith as a child, encountering many of the same arguments I see directed at the gender non conforming. It’s all just made up nonsense, it can’t be proven and therefore it simply isn’t so. Hmmm.

Advertisements

Trust

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I am quite skilled at manipulation. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to make clear just how much I hate that. All communication is to some extent an attempt to manipulate, the reason we speak to each other is because we desire a specific response. I’ve spent my life being hyper aware of my words and behaviour, all for the purpose of blending in, of going totally unnoticed.

Do I use this ability to get what I want? Absolutely I do. I have a loving and supportive family, a good job and a nice apartment. Of course transitioning means any one of those could disappear at a moments notice (note that there used to be a fourth item on that list). Part of the problem is that it becomes habitual, I already analyze every word I say, why wouldn’t I choose the most productive. The other part of the problem is that human beings absolutely hate to be manipulated, and will react strongly when we feel that way.

The solution is to understand that sincerity is of the utmost importance. Does that sound pretentious? It may be a bit pretentious, but I do believe that’s the key to success. Well ok maybe not sincerity so much as perceived sincerity. Even so I think the best way to achieve this is by being as honest as possible. Except when it comes to things you really don’t want people knowing about. And again why wouldn’t I use my skills when it suits me?

It’s a viscous moral cycle, my abilities are prone to abuse and the sad part is I’ve devoted these skills to mediocrity. I’ve noticed I tend to hold back whenever I begin to excel, until a few months ago my primary focus has been anonymity. Attention is still something I’m not comfortable with. I don’t want anyone looking too close, I still don’t feel ready to be completely myself around most people. I do everything I possibly can to stay under the radar.

Drab clothes, appreciation for popular music, good manners, proper annunciation, overt magnanimity, genuine altruism, strong work performance with minimal sick days, keep in touch with family, remember pleasantries and small talk, always agree with the majority opinion, be responsible, make good decisions, always wear sunscreen, blah sincere, blah blah kind, blah de blah boo bleh bi bo bopptiy etcetera de blah blah.

The point is to establish trust, the above are all things I think about obsessively. I want people to think well of me and allow my to go about my life in peace. Afraid that if I stand out, if people see the real me I will be falsely accused of all kinds of terrible things. I’ve experienced this a number of times in my life, I don’t look forward to seeing it play out again. So I hide.

Goodwill evaporates with mistrust. I am honest because I want people to trust me, all so that I can lie to them more effectively. And now the big secret is out, so where does that leave me? Have I traded one shell for another? Being trans means being judged far more harshly, there’s a reason the term cis-privilege exists.

To the people of Florida,

You’re going to realize just how absurd this proposed bathroom law is the first time a guy gets arrested in a woman’s washroom claiming he’s FTM. The reality is that if this law goes into effect it will become commonplace for people presenting one gender to walk into the other’s stall. I find it odd that people who are uncomfortable with trans folk seem to prefer this scenario.  

Exhaustion

So I got back into town on Thursday, and my life since then has been unpleasant. I’ve also been asked not to write about it. Needless to say I am conflicted. Imagine you love someone, they are a bright and wonderful person, caring, selfless, adventurous and totally open minded. You spend a year fostering a strong relationship, doing everything you can to prove to this person that you are worthy of their love. Then you reveal your deepest secret, the thing you have been running from since earliest childhood, and suddenly the love of your life doesn’t even recognize you.

Lady is not happy with me, the relationship is officially over. But it’s not because I am transgender (clearly). She will tell you I am a liar, and a cheater. She will tell you I have hurt her, that I am an awful, and frankly evil human being. I can’t help but take these comments to heart. She is a wonderful person, I mean that sincerely, and she has a number of very valid reasons to be upset with me. No I have never cheated (honestly the start of transition is not the time for added drama) and I have admitted to every lie I’ve told (all in some way involving my gender identity, and no that doesn’t make it ok). The fact is I’ve hurt her a lot, the pain she is feeling is a direct result of my decisions and actions.

What do you do when everything is your fault and nothing you can say will make it better? I don’t blame her, her belief is rational and her behaviour is justified in that context. I would be mad at me too if I had done the things I’ve been accused of.  I guess what hurts is that she doesn’t see me, I am a monster in her eyes. I dedicated my life to a lie, but it was one lie and in all other ways I have been compensating, striving to be the best possible person I can be so that if and when the truth was discovered I might find some measure of understanding.

The truth is out and all my efforts have been in vain. The good I have done has evaporated, all that remains is the evil, real and imagined. On one hand I can appreciate where she’s coming from, I have openly admitted to being a master manipulator. On the other hand the things I’ve been accused of are pretty amateur hour, if I’d wanted to deceive her these aren’t mistakes I would have made (granted that everyone is capable of oversight). For example rule one when lying is to convince people you’re bad at it. I told her I was a skilled liar specifically to move away from that lifestyle, of course now she doesn’t believe a word I say.

She says I have lied about her in this blog, that I have made her out to be a horrible person. She is not, and if I have led anyone reading to believe so I am deeply sorry. I accept full responsibility for everything that’s happened. She is the best person I have ever known.

Girls night out

I recently went to a gay bar for the first time, and the absolute best part about it was that no one gave me a second look. A heads up the following post is going to be fairly vapid and light hearted because that’s where I’m at right now. A lot of the trans news and blogs I read tend to be, for lack of a better word depressing. With good reason I’ll grant you but there are some sincere positives to transition, and one of those is that I’m starting to actually live my life. 

So first the preamble. My very good friend, who will be referred to as Matron, booked us a makeover with a woman who we both used to work with, and is now a professional makeup artist. We will call this makeup artist Summer. The evening began with Matron and I making a trip to the mall to buy outfits. One of the nice things about transitioning in your thirties is that funds aren’t as much of an issue. The downside to that is that I may be turning into a shop-aholic, up until about two months ago my entire wardrobe came from either Walmart or places that cater to comic and video game enthusiasts. 

Going out en femme is infinitely easier with a friend. As I mentioned in my previous post the last time I went to the mall I was too scared to enter any of the shops. Matron provided a calm and steady hand, the store staff turned out to be very friendly and supportive as well. We put together a few items then rushed home in time to be only fifteen minutes late for the appointment. Summer was also running a bit behind and didn’t have to wait too long for us. 

Before starting we cracked open a few Strongbows, for the unfamiliar Strongbow is an apple cider and quite delicious. I was never a fan of alcohol, primarily because I would only allow myself the gross stuff. Like shopping, so called girlie drinks are something that I have been seriously missing out on, but more on that later. With whistles wet we got to work, ok Summer got to work and I sat there trying to contain my giddiness.  

I’ve been working diligently on my rudimentary makeup skills, and I have to say Summers kit absolutely blew my mind. My makeup kit is a tiny pouch that weighs well under a pound, while Summer is geared up like something out of a spy movie. The line of brushes stretched the length of the table, there were dozens of tubes and plastic cases in more colors than I knew existed. When she was done the result literally took my breath away, as in I looked in the mirror then a few moments later realized there was no air in my lungs. It was a bit of a moment for me. 

Summer then worked on Matron and when it wall all done we decided we looked too good to simply lounge around the apartment. Matron suggested the local gay bar, I was absolutely thrilled at the prospect. Summer lamented that she couldn’t join us because she had to work, but was kind enough to offer a ride. Matron and I stopped for a bite to eat before heading to the club, the server kept giving the strangest look but I didn’t care at all, I felt fabulous. 

When we got to the bar the doors were locked and there was a note on the door saying it was closed. My heart sank, but only for a moment because the note went on to say that even though the main level was closed there was karaoke in the basement. For me this couldn’t have been better news. The place was practically deserted, when we entered there were two other patrons besides Matron and I. The manager was super cool to us, he listened to my story and told me his. Matron introduced me to cosmopolitans, which may be the single most dangerous thing I have yet to encounter on this planet. 

With drinks in hand the manager gave us a personal tour of the place, it’s really nice and I look forward to going back when things are a bit livelier. In this instance the lack of patrons was a godsend, I tried singing with my female voice and absolutely butchered “Part of that world” from little mermaid, before falling back on my favorite boy songs. As the night progressed a few more patrons shuffled in, not one of them cared one whit what I looked like, it was absolutely glorious. 

For possibly the first time in my life I was just me, as myself, in a public place without a shred of self consciousness. I sipped my delicious drink while belting out my favorite songs and felt completely at peace. Too bad I had a flight to catch the next day, Matron and I left shortly after midnight, I got home with maybe an hour to pack before heading out he door, tipsy and sleep deprived, to catch a cab to the airport. I’ll be home in about a weeks time and I’m seriously looking forward to going back. 

Busy Day

So today was a fairly momentous day in a lot of respects. I saw my family doctor regarding my transition for the first time. I was quit impressed at how familiar they seemed with the whole process, apparently they have dealt with numerous transgender patients over the years. The initial visit was fairly short, they went over the basics, sent me for some blood work and scheduled a full physical. They said that I could probably start HRT in the next few weeks.

The blood work gave me an opportunity to work up my confidence a bit, I figured why not go full femme. The clinic is based out of a mall near my house so it meant I could get to some shopping while I was out. Ok who am I kidding, I was scared out of my mind the entire time and barely looked at the shops. I don’t pass, but that’s not really the point. The point is to live life on my own terms.

I walked through the mall without fanfare or incident, drawing a few stares but no comment. Once at the clinic I presented my paperwork, for the record I have not yet chosen a female name, and it suddenly occurred to me maybe this was not the most sensible time to be full femme. But heck with sensible, I’d do it again. I gave my name with my work in progress female voice and had a seat, doing my best not to make eye contact with anyone in the waiting room.

After an hour of waiting it occurred to me maybe I had missed something. I went up and asked if my name had been called, I gave my name and the receptionist asked where is he. So maybe I pass a little, who knows, anyway they sorted things out and a short time later i was all done. On the elevator down a lady complimented me on my purse, I complimented her hair, then I blushed and stared straight ahead. It would seem one thing that hasn’t changed through all of this is my awkwardness around women.

On my way back through the mall I heard a couple of guys behind me say “he she” a number of times while snickering to each other. I ignored it and continued straight ahead. It was almost a relief, in the sense that no one else cared. The vast majority of people where content to go about their day without giving me so much as a second thought. Being in such a public place I wasn’t all that concerned for my safety, though I did look behind me a number of times in the parking lot to be sure I wasn’t being followed. A lifetime in the closet has instilled a bit of paranoia.

After that things have been fairly routine. I relaxed for a bit and got to some cleaning. I had fencing class this evening, which Lady and I took up the fall, it’s good exercise and a lot of fun. Got groceries and now I have some writing to get done. Oh look, there’s over 500 words, sweet that means it is now lazy time 😀

Agency and Spirituality

First off let me state that my intention here is not to proselytize (preach), but simply ruminate on my personal spirituality. I believe in agency. I believe there is a fundamental agency to reality, which some people refer to as God. The bible states it is inappropriate to presume upon the nature of God or their intentions, that said I believe the world we live in was created in such a way as to encourage the development of agency.

Even in a secular context the prospect of agency holds a great deal of merit. I know that according to some military strategies the most potent resource on the planet is considered to be a capable and motivated agent. This makes sense, as the most efficient means of acquiring literally any other resource is usually a matter of finding the right person or group and providing the appropriate incentive.

More agency means more resources, which in turn help to increase agency. The end result is more tools and comforts. It also means that less resources are wasted on conflict. I recognize that none of these ideas are new, I’m sure there exist many philosophies that touch on this. To be honest I’m just purging the inside of my brain onto the page, and sincerely appreciate your indulgence if you’re with me this far 🙂

My fascination with agency no doubt stems from my personal experience. For most of my life I was determined to be a boy. The problem was that I wasn’t actually exercising my agency so much as trying to anticipate what society would expect of me. I paid close attention to masculine behaviours, then tried to incorporate those aspects into my own personality. Eventually I began adjusting my personality to suit those traits.

There’s a section in the bible that basically states a man should not go around dressing as a woman, and a woman should not dress as a man. I find that passage holds a special relevance for me. I hurt the woman I love, quite a lot actually. It was wrong of me to hide who I am, to present myself as something I am not.

But does this constitute a lack of agency on my part. As stated my decision was to be a boy, yet it was not a decision I was able to make. The reality of agency is that if the optimal path is available a person will always take it. We need challenges to overcome if we are to grow. And the fact is this whole experience has expanded my agency a great deal. I have had several deep and meaningful conversations, connected with people in ways I never have before.

I’ve become aware of the many decisions to be made, and there’s so much of the world that I’m now ready to experience. I’m also becoming aware of just how lucky I am. I miss Lady and regret the pain I’ve caused, but otherwise things are going pretty smoothly. I’ve come out to most of the important people and so far I’ve been given heartfelt support from everyone.

I recognize that a big part of why things have gone so well for me is because of the many people who’ve helped pave the way. I’m not the first openly trans member of the family, and to them I owe a great deal of thanks. Also each of the voices of our community helping to spread knowledge and understanding. Each of these people have increased my own agency, so I am much more inclined and able to contribute myself.