At the end of an extended period of longing, it would be nice to finally belong, but it seems to me the odds are quite slim. I hold out hope for legitimacy and membership and belonging, but I feel relegated to sit on the sidelines or out on the back porch or over in the ghetto where my desires for identity can be acknowledged as authentic, but never have to be accepted or acted upon.

Where am I from? Nowhere.

And that’s where we who are true to ourselves retire, rocking on the porch, self satisfied with that formal feeling that comes after great pain, but never self actualized. Othered, we wave to each other and nod knowingly in our gated community, seeing way over there the shining city on the hill where belonging takes place. Out here on the perimeter, there are no stars. Here, we long but do not belong.

In the March issue of Denver’s community magazine 5280, meet a local family that is raising a little girl born in the wrong body:

http://www.5280.com/issues/2008/0803/feature.php?pageID=1017

It’s a thoughtful, balanced, and well-researched piece, which is more than I can say for this piece of hurtful trash, also from the Denver community press, the GayZette Denver (reported on at Lynn Conway’s website):

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/US/Gayzette%20defames%20trans%20child.html

Just when I think I have it tough, I read remarkable stories like these. She’s so strong and courageous at her early age — and I’m so fearful and cowardly and late-to-the-party that it’s hard to imagine we belong to the same gender spectrum.

Good Morning America did a segment about Megan Wallent, the Microsoft executive who recently transitioned from male to female. The comments on the story are pretty harsh, as is the commentary on the story by Newsbuster’s website, among others.

I myself am reminded of how blessed I am to have friends and family who are supportive, but I’m also curious, in light of these nasty letters and similar ones trashing Susan Stanton a year ago, whether my choices reveal me to be as egocentric and monstrous as the letter writers believe Wallent and Stanton to be.

It’s hard to know what my friends and family think about my transsexual transition — maybe they’re being polite by not asking questions, or maybe they’re really busy with their own lives, or maybe they simply don’t care. Whatever the reason, I feel as if I get very little sense of how others process my situation. Mind you, I’m getting lots of support and love and trust, and I’m not wondering what people think about me per se — what I’m curious about is how they themselves feel in light of my change. I hope they’re all writing furiously about how they feel as they watch a family member or friend change, but I cannot be sure.

An exception is my friend Ellen, who blogged her reaction to my disclosure over on The Bilerico Project. She regrets not having figured out my transgendered nature and wonders what signs she missed.

On our way back from Santa Barbara, Mary Jo and I landed at the halfway point to have lunch with Allyson, who you may recall from my December blog postings and to whom I link in the blogroll on the right of the screen.

At a restaurant appropriately called D-vine (wine bar and restaurant), we sat outside in the fresh February sun and the fresh air and talked about family and plans and blogs and transitions and all sorts of things. The three of us had wonderful lunches and a dessert that was almost good enough (three of us sharing one slice) to order another piece.

I found myself feeling large and loving and connected, and Allyson had a lot to do with it. Visiting her was a recharge, both for me and Mary Jo — we’re pretty stable and have good friends, but there is no substitute for a thoughtful person on the same trans* path.

But it’s odd to say “same trans path,” however, because the trans* journey takes as many forms as there are transsexuals, and the “same path” refers to moving in a generally similar direction, rather than walking in a well-worn and constrained rut.

For example, I myself seem to be on an “inside-out” path, meaning I’ve worked on my mind, emotions, social connections, and hormones while still not owning a stitch of clothing. I have only recently bought wigs and makeup and am still borrowing Mary Jo’s clothes when I go out. As my inner self gets more and more relaxed with my nature, and as my friends and colleagues begin trying on the idea of life with Joyce, I think the outer expression of Joyce will emerge, but not necessarily until that point arrives.

Some transsexuals, on the other hand, are on “outside-in” paths, and begin their transition with clothes and makeup and move to socializing in their new role, followed by therapy and hormones. It doesn’t matter which of the hundreds of paths one takes towards transsexual happiness, but meeting fellow travelers is worth the effort.

The path may be solitary, but it’s probably better if you travel with friends and loved ones. Allyson told us of her mother’s love and this story simply filled me with joy — My own mother and father are both dead, and while their deaths may have freed me to pursue this path, I also think they would have been loving, if not a bit perplexed, parents, and I would have enjoyed getting to know them as Joyce. Rather than dwell on their loss, I simply need to look around and recognize that on my own transsexual path, I have an extended academic family around me today — they’ve been supportive and inquisitive and fun to talk to about this transition. These colleagues make up, along with friends like Allyson and Gerald and Helena, the kind of family where I feel like I belong.

As I wrote a month ago in “Trans-fer,” I think for some it’s an easy step from fear and hate of non-conforming others to eradication.

This past week, a middle-school kid, Lawrence King, was shot to death in Oxnard, California. Apparently gender-variant, he had been coming to school in high heels and makeup. Some of the boys at the school said it was starting to freak them out.

So he was eradicated.

Whether he was gay or transgendered doesn’t really matter. In an excellent op-ed piece in Salon.com a couple of months ago, Susan Stryker pointed out that violence against someone who’s “queer” is almost always going to be about how they act and dress, not what they do in the bedroom, and thus this violence is always about gender norms, not about sexuality.

It’s about conformity and how frightened, small-minded people strike out at those who do not conform. It’s also about those of us who are tolerant of difference–opinion, sex, politics, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, religion–and how we need to make it clear that a pluralistic society will not stand for this sort of intolerance, not just through lip service but through personal action. This personal action extends beyond lobbying for laws or expressing disapproval at intolerant people; I think we also have a responsibility to recognize the hate and fear in ourselves, to acknowledge that we are all racist and homophobic and xenophobic to a certain degree, and through that acknowledgment to vow to work on our own tolerance and understanding.

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