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.
It’s been a long day… in a good way. As in I have been on the run the majority of the daylight hours. It might have started out better though, as my alarm went off at 5:30AM and I then turned it off instead of hitting snooze like I meant to…
In any case, I did manage to get up and going in time to go to an early therapy appointment, at 7:00AM. Seriously… who does business so early? Just kidding, I understood why J needed to schedule me so early and I was fine with it.
Our sessions have been interesting lately because we have been mixing in a lot of general talk with more therapy related things with the subjects ranging all over the place from current events to religion.It certainly keeps me on my toes. Some interesting things came up this time; for one was the question of it is possible for me to find a way to buffer myself when I am reading something which has the effect of setting off my depression to one degree or another, such as the topic of my last big post. In talking about this I realize there aren’t any quick fixes to these situations and maybe there shouldn’t be. Sometimes I need time to process something and find the right answer for me. There are more times than not doing so is going to take a few days, as it did in this last case, but I am in a better place when I finally find an answer. Also, it gives me a better perspective of my own thoughts and feelings and I am better able to discuss things with others.
Speaking of my post and the original by Ali which lead to me writing what I did… We talked about it and I let J read what I had written after talking about what I had read. The discussion lead to what I thought and felt reading that post and the conclusions I had worked out for myself, mainly about being myself, being Kira, 24/7 regardless of what I wear; with or without makeup or a wig. As I told her, my outward appearance, while important for various reasons, has nothing to do with who I am inside my own head.
This lead to some interesting discussions, about how ones outter appearance can often be confusing and lead to someone being mis-gendered regardless of if they are male or female, gay or straight. That lead to something I didn’t expect which was finding out one of J’s daughters, who I have met several times, once asked if I was a boy or a girl. She wasn’t sure of which was correct and she didn’t want offend me by asking. This was without me really doing anything to change my appearance… All of which lead to another observation which was I cannot know how I am being read by anyone else, nor just what their thoughts might be. Because I cannot judge such things, I tend to be much harder on myself and the way I present than I should be. As A pointed out, we are always harder on ourselves than others are and this is magnified by my situation and insecurities.
I have to remind myself it seems I am presenting as more feminine than I realize. This is an interesting thought as I have been working to undo many of the habits I picked up while in the Navy, to return to more of the way I was before that point in my life. If I have succeeded to any degree, and people are seeing me now in much the same way they did back then, it explains a great many things which happened, and which I heard or was told by others regarding how I was seen by those around me. If this is really the case, then I truly have come a lot further than I ever imagined, which is a pleasant surprise indeed.
I follow a number of blogs by other trans people, it helps to read the thoughts of others who are in different places in becoming there true selves. Of course, as with anything so personal, there are things said which I understand and some I do not, there are opinions spoken I agree with or not, but in all things, it makes me think.
Ali Finds Herself is one such blog. She is thoughtful, insightful, and often funny and I find her posts to be interesting and often thought provoking. She recently wrote a post called Transgender vs. Crossdresser which I have been thinking about ever since I first read it a few days ago. I’m not going to recap the whole thing, you really should read it for yourself, but I will paste the last paragraph here because it so important to what I want to say;
“The answer I gave Nancy was this: “I think the line between crossdressing and transgender is when it stops being an event and just starts being normal.” And if I’m being honest with myself, I’m just not there yet. And cue the depressed sigh …”
I was bothered quite deeply by this post. It is thoughtful and thought provoking and in many ways spoke to my own struggles in defining myself… it carried the ring of truth on several levels, yet there was something about it and Ali’s conclusion which bothered me for another reason.
Transitioning is a multifaceted aspect of being Transgender, yet it alone cannot define what it is to be Transgender. It goes beyond Gender Expression, (though it is part of it). It is not just a physical but mental as well. It must, and does include all of the ways a person changes in how they see themselves and the world about them.
Being Transgender is as shallow as your skin and as deep as your heart.
In many ways I understand the confusion and doubts created when you cannot be yourself full time, when you must parcel out yourself in different packages for different occasions. Just as Ali does, I must maintain a male presence at work and for my children. I must think about everything I do and how it is being seen by those around me and sometimes it gets to be too much. Just as she wishes to be Ali all the time, I too wish I could let the world see Kira all the time, yet I know this just isn’t workable at the moment. The difference between us is how we view ourselves irrespective of outer appearance.
I am Kira full time now. Maybe not in how I walk down the street, but where it real matters in my day to day life… Inside. There isn’t a “him mode” and a “Kira mode”… there is only me behind my eyes. In my thoughts and dreams, in my emotions and opinions, in every way which truly matters to me as a person, I am Kira.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be seen as I truly am all of the time, but you know what? In the end it is the same; the world will only ever see the outside, not what’s inside. Not what makes me a human being and not just a body taking up space.
I guess what bothered me so deeply about what I read was the impression I require an external measure of who and what I am… That by making a big deal out of getting dressed up, putting on makeup and a wig; by seeing doing so as a personal adventure to be savored and enjoyed, I am then making a production out of it, turning what should be a normal, everyday event, not requiring any serious thought, into something separate and special, that I am in someway not being true to the “Transgender Ideal.”
I simply cannot agree with this. Not for myself. Maybe getting “fancied up” is something special for when I have the time and energy, but I am at all times Kira.
To me, this is what separates me from Crossdressers, they put on a persona. An almost separate identity from themselves, becoming something else while presenting as the opposite gender, yet inside, in their heart of hearts, they are the same person in a different costume.
For them it as much about the presentation as anything. For myself it is only a outward expression of my inner truth. I do not “become” Kira; I am Kira, and this is just one of the ways I express myself.
There are times when I wish it was easier to express emotions through writing. I know of course this is something which is done every day… great writers seem to invoke a powerful response with just a few well chosen words, but I am not one of them. There are times such as this when I struggle to find the words to express even the smallest part of what I am feeling.
I have spoken of reaching a “low” point. Clearly this does little to express the depth of my thoughts and emotions during some points in my day to day efforts to deal with with things. Maybe I am deliberately glossing over things, trying to make light of what is really something more serious than I am willing to admit even to myself. Then again, there are times I simply don’t want to burden others with my problems. I seem to cause enough problems without deliberately adding to them.
But this once, I would like to try and share some of my thoughts, some of these emotions that have me here, typing all of these words while there are tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart, because, maybe, just maybe, there is someone else who is feeling the same, having the same thoughts, who could use knowing they are not alone in this moment.
I was luck enough to have someone to talk to last night when this was hardest to deal with alone. A friend who was willing to lend me an ear to listen, an arm to lean on when I needed it more than I wanted to admit. I know not everyone has someone like that and I cannot tell you how thankful I am that I do,
More and more, as the days have passed, I have found my thoughts turning to what it would mean to be able to live openly. To be able to go about my day, doing the most mundane of things as myself, being accepted… or just ignored. To walk down the street, to go shopping, to just sitting at the computer without thought of hiding. To be able to simply breath without thinking. It isn’t about “passing” because such things simply don’t matter any more.
Last night these thoughts suddenly flared into facing a fear I have managed to sidestep to this point, to down play because I wanted to convince myself it didn’t matter. But it does.
I realized I was afraid of dying without having lived as myself. Of having who I was truly was for ever lost behind a name carved on a piece of rock that wasn’t “my” name. Who would look at it an know the truth it concealed? Who would remember the woman I was?
I don’t know how to explain what I feel when faced with this possibility. The understanding that one simple twist of fate could erase me in a blink.
There has been so much discussion, so much anger and argument over the issue of “privilege”. So many harsh words exchanged over nothing more than words. Pointless puffs of air no one will remember. Well, this is what privilege looks like… It is knowing if you die, it will be your name on a piece of rock. Your name in the paper. Your name people will remember and speak of. It will be you people think of with love, with fondness, with anger and spite. It will be you as expressed by such a simple thing that will encompass a life lived.
I may never have that.