Why I can never shrug off being clocked as harmless.
While to some the word transgender feels brand new, the term didn’t spring up out of nowhere with, say, Laverne Cox or Transparent. When transgender entered the popular lexicon through the efforts of activists and aid organizations in the mid-1990s, it replaced transsexual, which had replaced transvestite, which was what they called cross-dressers and before that viragos. Transgender was and is regarded as an umbrella category, and in the mid-’90s the two primary terms under that umbrella were female to male (FtM) and male to female (MtF). These terms captured what were then the major constituencies of transgender identity: those who were born female and lived as men and those who were born male and lived as women. But even at the moment of their emergence into the vernacular, FtM and MtF weren’t sufficient to describe the whole community: They coexisted with terms like third gender, which captured those who didn’t experience gender as incorporating a sense of “to-ness” at all—it wasn’t a journey from one point to another.
“I think the anxiety of ourselves being judged by our gender never goes away,” says 31-year-old transgender woman Rebel Marie…
How many times during this journey have I wanted to give up? To stop in one place and never move again?
How many doors have I passed through? Some with too much thought and some with not enough… Knowing each would close behind me, never allowing me to retreat, always pushing me forward?
Over the past several weeks I have found myself drawing closer to another of these doors. Again I am faced with a decision; this one more difficult then the last, or the one before. It is the culmination of every step which has brought me to this place. Steps I never could have imagined taking, never imagine not taking.
As with all the others, I stand on this side knowing where I am, what I face, the day to day battles large and small. It is the devil I know. On the other is the unknown, an entire life I could only live in day dreams and fantasy. One, not so long ago, which seemed forever beyond my grasp. It was more than my heart could stand, stronger than my courage. Of course I could say the same of so many things; walking out the door the first time on Halloween. The first time I went to therapy as my true self. So many firsts, indeed, which I never thought to experience in my life time. Yet I have. Walking in public. Feeling the sun on my face. The wind in my hair, the sidewalk under my feet.
To be seen.
Yet not… all of my fears melting away as I realized no one was going to stop me. There was no laughter, no pointing or staring. No name calling… no punches, or kicks, guns or knives… nothing. It was as anticlimactic as I had feared it would be climatic.
Another lesson in human nature.
I went from once a year to once a month. To once a week, then every weekend, my days at home spent building my confidence. I was growing… becoming… faster and faster with passing day.
Still, I fought to maintain a double life.
There were, and are, good reasons to try and live such a life. There are so many stories of ruined lives, unemployment, homelessness…
The truth is, my discomfort wasn’t stronger than my fear.
It’s difficult to live you life in fear. To let it define you. To build walls around you.
There comes a point where something has to give. The unstoppable force or the immovable object.
The fear of taking a step or the pressure to move forward.
In my mind, I see it has standing on a ledge. A wall on one side, an unknown expanse of darkness at your feet. You can step out and hope something you cannot yet see will support you or you can wait until the wall slowly pushes you forward until there is no where left to go.
Either way I face an uncertain future. A great unknown as large as any I have moved through so far and I know once I take this next step, the door will slam shut behind me. No going back, no do overs.
Yet I cannot stand still, as much as I want to. I cannot hide anymore, safe in the known…
Safe? An interesting choice of word. Is where I have been truly safe? Or was safety as much of an illusion as who I tried to convince myself I was? Another lie along with so many?
Yes and no.
It was a toxic wasteland which was slowly destroying me from the inside out. Fear. Self loathing. Hate… Depression. Dysphoria. Suicide.
The poison ran through my veins with every beat of my heart.
Sometimes salvation is only found when you have no where left to run…
No. I could no more stay on this side of the door than I could any of the ones before. Oh, I tried. Yes I did, just as I have every time. Just like all those others, I have found myself pushed forward by my heart, my desire for life.
The unwavering quest to becoming myself.
So here I am, faced with a decision which really isn’t a decision at all… To remain behind the door, knowing the world which I face or I walk through to the other side and a world full of the unknown. Do I live with the devil I know or the one I don’t?
Either way I cannot continue as I have. I cannot live two lives. It is slowly tearing me apart. Every look in the mirror, every whisper of his name. Every male pronoun, every assumption or expectation about who I am or should be, is a death by a thousand cuts.
It is either step through the door and go full time living as myself or sinking back into his world, once again becoming an non entity. A ghost. A reflection.
More than anything this is what I cannot stand to do any longer. To live a life of lies. To accept deceit. I am not who they think I am. I never have been. I never will be. To allow them to think otherwise is beyond my ability. It is beyond my ability to continue with the charade, to live, breath, eat, and drink a life which is not mine.
It is theirs.
I want to be me.
I want to be free.
Free of lies and deceit, expectations and reflections of a society which has never fully claimed me as its own, nor I, it.
Excerpt from: The Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients, adopted by the APA Council of Representatives, February 18-20, 2011. The Guidelines are available on the APA website at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/guidelines.aspx
Definition of Terms
Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex (i.e., atypical combinations of features that usually distinguish male from female). There are a number of indicators of biological sex, including sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia.
Gender refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender-normative; behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conformity.
Gender identity refers to “one’s sense of oneself as male, female, or transgender” (American Psychological Association, 2006). When one’s gender identity and biological sex are not congruent, the individual may identify as transsexual or as another transgender category (cf. Gainor, 2000).
Gender expression refers to the “…way in which a person acts to communicate gender within a given culture; for example, in terms of clothing, communication patterns and interests. A person’s gender expression may or may not be consistent with socially prescribed gender roles, and may or may not reflect his or her gender identity” (American Psychological Association, 2008, p. 28).
Sexual orientation refers to the sex of those to whom one is sexually and romantically attracted. Categories of sexual orientation typically have included attraction to members of one’s own sex (gay men or lesbians), attraction to members of the other sex (heterosexuals), and attraction to members of both sexes (bisexuals). While these categories continue to be widely used, research has suggested that sexual orientation does not always appear in such definable categories and instead occurs on a continuum (e.g., Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953; Klein, 1993; Klein, Sepekoff, & Wolff, 1985; Shiveley & DeCecco, 1977) In addition, some research indicates that sexual orientation is fluid for some people; this may be especially true for women (e.g., Diamond, 2007; Golden, 1987; Peplau & Garnets, 2000).
Coming out refers to the process in which one acknowledges and accepts one’s own sexual orientation. It also encompasses the process in which one discloses one’s sexual orientation to others. The term closeted refers to a state of secrecy or cautious privacy regarding one’s sexual orientation.
*The 2011 guidelines replace the Guidelines for Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients adopted by the Council, February 26, 2000, which expired at the end of 2010.
First off let me say I am not complaining, I am however, a little confused. Maybe different eyes will see what ever it is I seem to be missing when I look at myself. Now, I do admit to being critical of my appearance especially when I’m ‘al natural.’ The truth is I expect to be greeted with male pronouns and generally treated like a guy whenever I go out like this. What still throws me a little is being treated as a woman and addressed with female pronouns. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of ‘guy mode’ vs ‘girl mode’, I act pretty much the same no matter how I think I am presenting.
Having just said all of this…
I went to Costco again today and again I was walking. First off a gentleman I didn’t know started taking to me after he had caught up to me, and while he didn’t use female pronouns, I had the distinct impression he thought he was speaking to a woman. Then in the store, I was greeted with female pronouns, and seriously, I have noticed women treat me differently, greet me differently, and just seem to be more open and relaxed around me than I ever remember.
Maybe I’m making more of this than it really is. Maybe it nothing more than wishful thinking on my part, but I’m including a picture of how I went out today. (It isn’t the greatest, but my middle boy took it of me so please be kind.) 🙂
So you tell me, guy? girl, neither?
Oh, and this was all after being mistaken for A on the phone this morning…
Add this one with my ‘enhancers’ which give me an A cup. I wasn’t wearing them earlier though…
So… Another day, another hour in a dentist chair. I guess the good news is it will be a little while before I can get back in to finish this in depth cleaning. The bad news? Well, I still have a tooth which will need to be pulled and they want to take my wisdom teeth too… I don’t care about the wisdom teeth, they should have gone a long time ago, but this other one is being a major sore spot which is going to need to be dealt with sooner than later. The other bad thing? The pain killer they use isn’t doing the job completely and it wears off almost before the hour is up… and I was told they were using something stronger… <sigh> I’ll have to see what happens the next time I’m in.
Okay, enough of the light stuff.
In some small way I’ve been thankful for having other things to write about beyond Trans* issues. It however has been rather dishonest of me in that I have had things I should be talking about but haven’t. Part of it is I’ve had trouble expressing my thoughts and feelings in a way I feel comfortable sharing, in another, I haven’t wanted to seem like I’m finding reasons to complain. Over all I have been fortunate in being able to maintain the status quo in both in my relationship with A and the boys, and I’ve remained functional in the male roles I have to keep up for them and at work. I know I didn’t express this very well, as I said, it has been a problem in how I wanted to explain things…
I believe I can handle working as male. It’s been sixteen years now, and even if there were not the issues with my coworkers, I still can’t say I could comfortably transition in such an environment. My day to day life however is becoming a different matter all together.
Every day interactions have become more difficult. Just knowing I present as male is bad enough, but the constant barrage if male pronouns and greetings has become an endless stream of negativity. Every one a little barb which tears away another small piece of my heart. I think I mentioned before Jodi’s concern over how easy it is to push me over the edge from having a good day to having a bad day. A has also pointed out my bad days usually become bad weeks where she is back to walking on eggshells… this bothers me deeply. I don’t want her or the kids to feel this way, and I don’t want to feel it either… So to that end, I spoke with my doctor and had my Prozac dose doubled. I haven’t mentioned this before because I don’t want to jinx myself, but after today I think I can say it is helping, but I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not.
I had a salesman stop by today to try and sell me new windows, which is the last of my worries at the moment, but it was trying to be nice, which means what? You guess it it, plenty of attempted male bonding and a ton of male pronouns with a handful of “Guy” thrown in for good measure. Before this would have sent me into tailspin, but today it more or less ran off like water from a ducks back. I took note of it, but it was as if there was a window between the words and myself. It was a strange feeling to say the least. I guess I’m worried about have too much separation between myself and my emotions. As with so many things, I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it goes.
Still, each day it is becoming more apparent to me there is a line I am going to cross where I will no longer be able to interact with the world at large as male. I just don’t know if I should find the prospect exciting or terrifying. I think more of the latter and less of the former.