With Mary Jo at an equestrian event and the boys over at the Rapido household playing all day, I found myself reading this blog and my trans* oriented correspondence from the beginning. I was surprised to feel quite a lot of sympathy for the writer, who was obviously struggling in the beginning to find her voice, fumbling along in the first few months. Along the way, however, I believe I have found a good voice, stumbling upon it perhaps in November or December.
What’s really strange about reading this chronicle is that sometimes I feel like I’m on auto-pilot, or that there’s a prime mover or a puppeteer making things happen and I’m only along for the ride, kind of sleep walking in a hazy and surreal existence. In other words, I know I have deliberated and reasoned the various decisions I’ve made, but having done these things (hormones, therapy, FFS, laser, electrolysis, coming out, full-time, etc.), I sometimes don’t remember having been as deliberate as I believe I was.
I can think of hundreds of moments — epiphanies, if you want — where I find myself a bit surprised at how I look or what I’m doing. I find myself in a hotel lobby with a hundred trans*people and ask myself what brought me here? Or I’m chatting with a mechanic about a flat tire, and then it strikes me that I’m someone different — I’m in drag…no, wait, it’s not drag, it’s normal. It’s like the Talking Heads song “Once In A Lifetime,” about those moments of shock when you ask yourself “Well, how did I get here?” or “My God, what have I done?”
At the same time, having written and thought and processed every minute facet of my life and relationships, it seems unlikely that this is truly some kind of auto-pilot, but maybe the kind of forgetfulness that comes from great struggle like childbirth or wilderness survival or extreme grief. Maybe this forgetfulness comes from the fact that there is no time to pause because we’re careening around a track and it’s very important to have eyes forward, scanning back and forth for the next problem to present itself. If this is the case, then the paradox is that while a transsexual transition is most definitely a long-term project, the transitioner in question employs a relatively short-range focus that involves close relationships, the next hormone appointment, the state of her beard, and the constant anxiety about whether she’ll “pass” today or not.
Both the past and the distant future fall away in a haze like the curvature of the earth, and I find that despite living and breathing and thinking gender for quite some time, I find that I an fairly confused about what it means to be moving towards my goal of being a woman.
There is no doubt I’m a real transsexual, but a woman? I’m not so certain — perhaps I’m a faux woman because I feel I’ll always be a transsexual and never a real woman. How could I, with 48 years as a boy and man and husband and father? Intellectually, I don’t really mind because I think trans* is a legitimate category of human being, someone with an interesting past, like your friend who tells you over cocktails that they used to live in the circus — who isn’t attracted to that sort of history?
The more I reflect on the subject, however, I suspect it’s probably not a matter of real vs. faux, but rather real vs. idealized. During a lifetime of envying the other sex’s bodies, I think many transsexuals have spent so much time imagining an idealized body (female or male, depending on your flavor of trans* dysphoria) that when we finally take steps to do something about it, being a “real woman” (or a “real man”) carries risks of not being enough, of not being able to match that lifetime of imagining. We complain about being too tall, too short, of not having big enough hips, or too-large shoulders, and in doing so, we aren’t really in the realm of trans* psychology, but rather in the realm of body image issues, where we have a picture of the ideal (from our friends, advertising, movies, magazines, and so on), and we feel deficient in our “real” bodies.
When I complain about having no hips or no waist, my women friends rattle off their various imperfections and say something like “welcome to the club.” Maybe that’s the way to emerge out of the transsexual transition, accepting the fact that I, like real women, have to accept a real and imperfect body and to find comfort in who I am. If you’re short, you make “short” work for you — if you’re big, you embrace your bigness and make it work for you. I see photos of myself and I like my smile and I think I’m genuinely happy and project confidence in the new me, so I know that at some deep biological and psychological level, I have come to a spot of peace with myself. Maybe I should just say this is my body, and this is what I’ve got to work with: tallish, thin, striking features, and an interesting history?
For those of us engaged in a transsexual transition, it’s important to get out of that short-term forgetfulness, perplexity, and fixation on today’s body, hair, clothes, and work hard to be mindful of how we got here and also how we’re going to live our lives after all this dramatic turmoil is over. I don’t think we want life to be the same as it ever was, an unbroken chain of repetitive thoughts and fears that keep us stuck in fretful sleepwalking and confusion. We want to see clearly with eyes of the world opened to our past and our futures, awake, alert, and content.