Archive for May, 2011

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Caitlin on Christenings

27 May, 2011

After today, I am rewriting the Jackson Five. What do you think of this: Easy as, R-E-D! Simple as T-A-P-E! R-E-D T-A-P-E complicates things for me!

I returned to Whitman-Walker and took care of med issues. Then I waited to see one of their pro bono lawyer. I had with me my passport, driver’s license, and a slew of questions about paper work on loans, diplomas, testing results, medical files, separation and divorce papers, pay checks, social security, selective service registration, “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” I was there to continue the process of changing my name and gender marker. Though the hoops I must jump through are not simple, the entire process sounded easier than I anticipated for getting a passport ID with the new name and gender marker.

The lawyer and I sat down and discussed the process. The first step is to get my name changed at the courthouse in Alexandria. We filled out all of the paperwork for that, which enables me to march into the courthouse, turn in my papers, and get my name changed.

Unfortunately, nothing ever goes so smooth. To begin, parking at the courthouse, located in the old town shopping district, was a bear. Then, I went to the wrong department first and had to go from third floor to the basement to the Law Library.

Once there I had to wait seventeen minutes for her to finish her lunch before I could get the one form I still needed. Still struggling forward, I had to fill the forms out a second time because the notary republic who legalized the first set, forgot to sign the forms after which I had to cross the street to get the new forms notarized—which also required going through the metal detectors several more times. I sat in the bank for twenty minutes waiting to have my papers notarized.

Returning to the courthouse, I went straight to the clerk’s office passed them the papers and only for them to say, “I need to see you proof of residency.”

. . .

. . . That’s when I realized I forgot to bring a copy of my lease with. Because of that I couldn’t get the forms submitted today. They did, however, tell me I have all my paperwork in order, which means . . .

. . . Tuesday I can march into the courthouse, turn in my papers, and get my name changed.

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Caitlin on Hair

27 May, 2011

This post will be a bit different from previous ones. I just wanted to “talk” for a moment about what has been on my mind, or rather, what has been above my mind, that is my hair. For the last two days I have been of the opinion that my hair seriously sucks. I had been letting it grow out and it was getting to the start of a good length when M and I fell into the Pit of Despair (martial issues). Fool that I am, I thought that getting my hair cut the way M liked would help the marriage. It would show I was willing to compromise and to see her point of view. We all know how that turned out.

So, I am back on the task of growing it out, but I am starting all over again. So now I am Caitlin and I have this hair that is too short to be long and too long to be short. So, I was asking myself: Self, why do you feel your hair length is such a negative. There are women aplenty who have short hair, some shorter than yours. Why is this such a big deal? Because, I reply, hair length is one of society’s great litmus tests for femininity and true womanhood (second only to breast size). The longer a woman’s hair the more feminine or girlish she is. Don’t buy it? Let’s look at the facts.

  1. The narcissistic primate, that is typical human, notices hair before facial features. (S)he also notices the hairline and associated problems with its placement before facial features.
  2. Hair related activities take up almost half the amount of morning prep time. From shampooing to conditioner to hair gel and hairspray to curling to blow drying to straightening to teasing and lord knows what else.
  3. Today, in the course of eight hours, I heard three distinct conversations about hair and dissatisfaction with it; none of these conversations involved the same participants twice and none had a positive tone.
  4. If you have curly hair you need to straighten it. If you have straight hair you need to introduce waves, and curls.
  5. You can’t go thirty minutes without hearing/seeing an advertisement for hair-related products and services or referencing some great hair disaster.
  6. Society considers women with short hair as more assertive, annoying, and irreverent–traits typically thought of as male; they are, also, more likely to speak their minds, making their opinions known. Women with longer hair are considered thoughtful, kind, and soft but also naive, coquettish, and emotional typhoons.

Still doubt my statement’s veracity? Try shaving your head ala Sinead O’Connor and see how long it is before people begin looking at you with concern for your mental and physical health.

These ideas are a bit dated and, of course, painted with a broad brush but enough commonality exists in people’s experiences that this broad stroke puts us on the same page. And that page is right in the middle of society’s expectation that a “real” woman has mid-length to long hair. And thus, my statement, my hair currently, seriously, societal-expectationally sucks.

:: . . . sigh . . . ::

I am so over this patience thing. Too bad I have another two years of puberty to go.

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Caitlin on Myth, Fiction, and Legend

22 May, 2011

Attempt One:

“It is Saturday. The temperature is in the seventies, the sun is out and shining, the lawns and trees are green, there is a light, pleasant breeze blowing  south to north. In short, it is delightful. No, it’s more than delightful, its brilliant. Unfortunately, I am not outside enjoying this respite from rain but am inside packing boxes. With only a week remaining and a number of odds and ends and a kitchen left to pack, I do not have the time go outdoors, no matter how much I might like to–and I would like to; though I am taking sometime to enjoy how nice it is while I click-click-click away on the laptop keyboard.  I shouldn’t blog; I should focus on the task at hand, but I can’t focus on it.  It’s painful. A dull aching pain in my chest, like having just walked into an I-beam sitting at chest level only this ache is not physical; it is mental. And its cause? Photographs.”

Attempt Two:

“I came across a book of photos my Mom put together for me. Photographs of my family and myself at work around the house and at leisure. I flipped through the photos. Looking at them fills me with nostalgia for those times, the sweetness of those days captured on photographic paper while the mundane events are lost to the fog of memory.  I hesitated as I held those photos, unsure where to put them. Not what box to pack them in, but in my new home, my new place. I’m not going to want photos of who I was visible in the bachelorette pad, it will lead to questions and feeling the need to justify and explain myself.  I don’t need to explain myself or justify my choices.  I do, however, because I have respect for those around me and I want our transition as pain-free as possible. The problem with pain is its unavoidable nature. Struggle against it, rage against the dying of the light, but it will come to you just the same. It is a natural and unavoidable part of the universe. It’s all part of the natural order of things, which makes me wonder–”

Attempt Three:

“I shoved my laptop aside in frustration.  This is too pleasant, too neat and clean and squared away. What I feel today is raw and jagged and will cut deep leaving a nasty scar if handled wrong. I cried looking at those photos because of the conflicting emotions they stirred in me.  They were not nice emotions.  The word nostalgia is polite and shallow attempt to express the pang of loss and the ache of what has gone before and can never be again. But even that is not quite right, because there is also a part that is angry.  Part of me hates the photos as I hate all–”

The Raw Truth:

I don’t know how to start this. There is no poetry or flowery prose. Words are too plotted and planned. They betray the intimate emotion, the raw energy of the moment. What I want to say is simply: I am sorry.  I am sorry to all of you. For what I have done to you. I am the little boy-girl in the dark basement in Omelas. The one Le Guin wrote about; the one who must suffer for the residents of Omelas to know perfect pleasure. For thirty years everyone could be happy because I kept a dark secret buried inside me.  I was making myself miserable and ill, but the people around me could be happy. They didn’t know this was the condition for their happiness, but I did. Then I did something horrible. I let the boy-girl out of the basement and gave the kid what the kid needed for happiness. On the surface a kind act, a humane act, but in doing so I ruined paradise for the citizens of Omelas. I made everyone around me miserable by becoming myself.

Perhaps overstated a bit, perhaps not. It depends on who you talk to. But I know what I see and what I see makes me feel very selfish and very guilty. From those who do not approve of my choices I expect to see anger and resentment, but it is what I see in the dark corners of the eyes of those who support me that hurts so perfectly and completely. Buried beneath the support and well wishes–which are genuine, I do not doubt them–is a sadness. The sadness born of loss and grief as everyone mourns for the person they used to know. And now I think to myself, what gives me the right to pursue my happiness if it is at the expense of everyone else’s happiness.  What have I done to my friends and family?  I have survived thirty years of living counter to my perceptions, emotions, and understanding of myself; why can’t I play the role another thirty years and let everyone else be happy? Who am I to place my needs, my happiness, above everyone else’s. Someone must either be a rare, influential individual or a self-absorbed egotist to place their personal happiness above the happiness of the community. I am not that special. Am I that selfish?

I am afraid I am. I cannot stand misery any longer, but my happiness means hurting those I care about and that leaves me with a ragged hole in my chest. The Pandorica, the box-like cell containing the universe’s most dangerous criminal and outlaw, opened; she is out and everyone knows about her existence. It’s too late to put her back in that box because now everyone knows she’s in it. If I managed the trick, some people would easily return to the bliss they felt before it opened.  But others lost themselves and lost their peace when the Pandorica opened. They are the ones who walk away from Omelas; they are ones who could not be happy knowing I was miserable and that makes my selfish act of telling them I was miserable as horrific as it is. To those I have hurt, I apologize.

Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent

Image via Wikipedia

But there is a B side to this album. The idea that people are heartbroken over the loss of A. A was a construct, an image. A was larger than life, the Übermensch. He was illusion supported by a feminine self. The human qualities in A were me, Caitlin.  Those qualities still exist in me because I could not be who I am without them. They are a core essence, the reality. So, why then mourn so deeply? To see the pain of loss in people’s eyes leaves me feeling like Clark Kent who longs for connection with a woman who is in love with a costumed version of himself and cannot see the real essence in him, Clark, the farm-boy from Kansas, the real person, the real hero. That’s not to say I am a hero. I’m no more a hero than I am a criminal, but the reality I face exists within these stories of  “a visitor from another world” and “a mad man with a blue box.” And although mere words cannot contain the energy and power of my emotions and the sorrow I feel at the mass number I have injured a mythos can, because, after all, aren’t we all a bit myth, a bit fiction, and a bit legend.

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Caitlin Song Sings the Blues

18 May, 2011

It is raining this morning which is a double disappointment. Partially so because of how bad traffic is when it rains, (if you so much as THINK of spitting on the road drivers freak out and drive either two miles an hour or two hundred) but more important lately because of how awesome my hair looks today and the fact that the umbrella is in the car on the wrong side of a torrential downpour. Surprisingly, my hair stays nicely coiffed despite the mad dash to the car through the typhoon; not surprisingly, traffic isn’t pleasant. The drive in is two and a half hours, but I still manage to pull in early.

Today is testing. The most fall-asleep-by-the-open-window-and-accidentally-defenestrate-yourself boring testing. It’s the reading FAST test which is so riddled with errors that it becomes a hazard to dedicated instructors everywhere. Thankfully this is the last county/state/federally sponsored required academic assessment I have to proctor this school term.

After the test D tells N he likes her package and I end up sending him to the office. Thirteen years old and it is already ingrained in him that it’s okay to talk to or about another person that way. It makes me sick, yet worse is still in store for me today.

Second mod is a good class for discussion. Today we talked a little more about me and they seized the opportunity to ask questions. The most common of which was: do you prefer being Mister or Miss? (Definitely Miss! So, friends, please, start referring to me as such. I find the use of the male pronoun in reference to me disturbing.) then we spend the rest if the period reading and discussing Golding‘s ::Lord if the Flies:: and making a real life connection between the island stranded boys a some terrible behavior that went down on the most recent field trip. The kids perform nimble mental acrobatics and really delve into the topic. Today they make me proud.

Third and fifth mods are pleasant, but sulking from having to do testing.

Here’s the crap part of the day. The dark storm that D’s comment foreshadowed. Kids in the hallway have started calling me “Booty Warrior.” I have to ask a class what it means. Turns out that’s the name of a character from a tv show. The character is a rapist and a pedophile, which is a ridiculous comparison and an offensive concept for a character. I am livid when I learn this but hold my tongue. I have sent an email to my principal, the employee relations head, and my union rep. I accept that people will call me fag, faggot, queer, homo, bitch, dyke, whore, tranny, and freak, but I draw the line here. The oh-so-conspicuous way popular media and bigoted bystanders cast us in the roles of victims of violence, perpetrators of violence, or both upsets me beyond belief. This will not continue.

Meanwhile new and old friends continue to write and message their support and encouragement. I am so thankful for these people and the gift they are. Without them this journey would be more pain than excitement; they keep me light and functioning. I dedicate this entry to each of you—if only typing all your names with one finger on a tiny touch screen wasn’t such a pain in the ass—in honor of everything you do for me.  Yes, I mean you!

Thus goes a dog’s day in the life of your friendly neighborhood bitch.

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Caitlin in Wonderland

16 May, 2011
Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Image via Wikipedia

As I move through the school my footsteps echo in the corridor with the iconic clickety-clack cadence of heels on tiling. I, a female instructor and student of femininity, am in that Wonderland age between twelve and thirteen (thank you E pill), where They say everything is off-limits and, therefore,I say, everything is worth exploring. ::If I wear my hair like this, how will people perceive me?:: ::My make-up looks especially good today and I coördinated my outfit well:: ::Today I feel fake and queer (that is unusual); why do I feel like a fraud today? How can I change my presentation to avoid this feeling?::

As I walk to my next meeting, a female student joins me. Though I don’t recognize her (she isn’t one of mine), she and I have a lot in common. Our bodies are changing as we sit on the cusp of womanhood, that bizarre middle ground where radioactive hormones bombard us like mutation promoting Gama rays, misinterpretation cues our social signals, a moods torture us with oscillations between euphoric highs, drama-laced lows, and tearful frustrations. (Yes, I know you can only oscillate between two things, that’s another oddity of Wonderland.) If I told this girl, who is growing up in a world twenty years and two thousand miles from my own experiences, that I cried for five minutes on Saturday because I couldn’t find my black flats with the sparkly toes (the ones that went great with the outfit I was wearing) would she understand? I believe she would; just as she and any other woman can understand the fear and humiliation I felt when a crusty, dirt-caked man followed me around the mall and offered to “allow” me the “pleasure” of giving him a blow job. There is a new bond forged between her and I. A new bond drawn from an ancient well of common experience. A well or perhaps just an impossibly deep hole leading somewhere as equally strange and delightful as I.

I have fallen down the rabbit hole and am navigating between who I was and who I am and who I might be. This Wonderland of emotions, physicality, relational breakdowns and creations. All mixed with a colorful cast of supportive, un-supportive, hostile, zealously approving, and indifferent characters. And this girl beside me surely counts as one of these characters. She is African-American, wears her hair flat-iron straight, and has two blonde strips of weave dangling from the place where her bangs fade into the hair about her temple. She is a unique sight—almost as queer as I am. This rebel without a purpose says to me, Miss Ell-ah, I’m glad you is a woman. You make a much better woman than a guy.

I thank her, which becomes a signal for her to continue, And you, like, fine with your make-up and nails. You know how’a do it right. And besides boys is stupid. Why would you ever wanna be one?

Preach it, Sister! Girls rule; let’s burn our bras then do our nails just so we confuse the shit out of the men who love us. And I can hold tea and no tea simultaneously in this beautifully befuddled borderland.

My meeting is with the staff counselor. Just a little check in and an opportunity to find out how to exert some control over this new-found well of emotions—drink deep draughts without falling in. She laughs. You’re a woman now, she says, you’re going to cry . . . a lot. But there’s something that helps.

Oh?

A stiff drink. Just do it at home, not here. She smiles then hugs me. This is also a new thing: physical contact. I was never much for it, but now I find myself wanting a hug or a hand on my arm and, curiouser and curiouser, wanting to give others a reassuring hug or to place my hand on theirs when we talk to show understanding, to share comfort.

On the way back to my classroom, I encounter a female colleague in the hall. As a member of Gender M this woman never spoke to me, but while walking along side “Miss Caitlin” she starts up a conversation. We talk of inconsequentials as we walk to our rooms and are soon helloed by another woman, who joins our conversation by pointing out how easy it is to call me Miss. The first colleague agrees, As a man I would never have talked to you. You were dark and not friendly looking.

The second instructor agrees, You are so much more approachable as a woman. I like you a lot better this way. You should have done this a long time ago.

And you are always dressed so nice, the first one adds.

Yes, says the second. I’d love to go shopping sometime.

This touches me, moves me nearly to tears. ::Not now, my waterproof mascara will surely run.:: Being so readily embraced by these women is an honor. And, yet, it’s sad that it took a gender switch for these women to view me as approachable and to feel like they not only could, but also that they wanted to talk with me. And the feelings and acceptance become particularly peculiar when balanced against the boy who said, Dude, you ugly. Or the male colleague who is no longer able to look at me without laughing. Or another male colleague who said to me,  You are currently Song in a wig. (Though sans wig).

I don’t say these things to point names and name fingers nor do I say them to make anyone feel bad. Rather, The contrast between views strikes me as important. One side of the mushroom makes me feminine and the other side makes me queer and, like Alice, I need to eat a little from the left hand and a little from the right until I find the correct combination to combine my past, present, and future selves into a complete woman with whom I am comfortable and I can recognize as myself.

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Switching Teams: The Beginning

9 May, 2011

A breakdown of the day’s events:

One fifty-six: In four minutes I will walk over to the clinic. At this point I am as nervous as all hell before St. George and the Archangel Michael on the day of the judgement.

Two o’clock: While crossing the street toward the clinic I hear a tall, attractive black man shout to me, Lookin’ fine today, girl. I am a touch nervous about the individual given the neighborhood is what my students call ghetto-chic, but also quite pleased I have caught his eye and been found attractive. Cat calls and shout outs are still quite new to me and the initial thrill of recognition, appreciation, and validation has not, yet, given way to irritation at this Machismo Nation’s instigation of relations. After all, who says TG isn’t sex-y?

Two fifteen: I check-in at the front desk and sit in the lobby waiting for that future time when the nurse calls me in to see Dr. Tina. I’m still fifteen minutes early, but better early than late. I worry that something may have happened, changed, or come up that will prevent my starting the pills today. I am remind myself that the doctor approved my treatment at my last visit and the blood work is just a formality. These thoughts assure me the prescriptions are here for me and I ignore my worries, jitters, and nerves.

Two twenty-five: I’ve gone through the nurses pre-screening for weight, blood pressure, and temperature. She told me I had a pretty dress on. It is the olive shirt-dress the looks like the one I had Mel wearing in Peril. This is my second compliment on this dress (third if you count the guy on the street hitting on me).

It really does look quite good on me!

The entire time she calls me Miss Song or miss. Her recognizing me without fail or question is heaven. I am anxious for the day when this is the case with everyone, everywhere I go.

Two thirty-five: I am out of the lobby and into the exam room. It’s just a matter of time now.

Two forty: Dr. Tina comes in a goes over my blood work with me and reminds me to watch my cholesterol. Then she asks the question I’ve been waiting thirty years to hear: Are you ready to begin treatment Miss Song?

Yes, yes! Dear, Lord, yes!

Two fifty-five: I receive the prescriptions to get estrogenized and de-testosteronized. Along with some instructions and a prescription for how the school must allow me to dress at work. I ask my questions, get the answers, and am on my way to the pharmacy.

Three twenty: I drop the prescriptions off with the WWC pharmacy and begin the excruciatingly long wait for them to be filled.

While I wait a thin, older black gentleman, who had said hi to me earlier and of whom I had politely inquired how he was, sits beside me. After a minute he asks if we can stay in touch. This catches me off guard; Befuddled, I ask why he wants to stay in touch with me. (Ge’ez, am I naïve.)

He replied, I was hoping we could get to know each other. I paused for a moment to allow my drifting thoughts to catch up to the conversation and then a slow sense of recognition drifted over me, like fog rolling in on the shore. I explained that, though flattered, I am in the process of getting divorced and not ready to see someone else. He understood and in a minute wandered off to another area in search of more receptive prey.

Strange days . . . stranger still ahead.

Four thirty: I pay the copayment, collect my pills and leave. Just holding the bag with its Pandoricum of pills I can I feel a new confidence and excitement building in my viscera. I have to place my hand over my mouth and cough to suppress the coquettish giggle threatening to burst out and humiliate me as I walk down Fifteenth Street back to the car.

Four forty-five: I am stuck in afternoon D.C. traffic but I remain unusually calm through it.

Seven: I am home and take my new pills, one to make me bigger and one to make me small, with a glass of water. I lean back in my arm-chair, smile, and let my mind drift to thoughts of Alice when she’s ten feet tall.

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Switching Teams: The Ending

9 May, 2011

Today was the last full day of my biological, birth hormone levels. In some ways this is my last day as a member of Gender M. It’s funny, but this transition has a lot of last days built into it. The last day I thought of myself as part of Gender M; the last days others consider me part of Gender M; the last day so-so and so-so talked to me; et cetera. It’s a slow process with lots of little steps. For example, a month from now I will be spending my last day legally A with marker M and the following day I’ll be legally Caitlin with the marker F.

And there’s the B-side. Each of these last days is the gate to a first day. Tomorrow will be my first day as part of Gender F, hormonally, which according to some is the part that matters most. It will be the first day of playing for the other team and swinging hard for those fences to show I’m every bit as feminine and female as my birth-born teammates.

I’ve noticed this team mentality in how friendships have been playing out. I had always had a few more female than male friends, a sixty/forty split, but now the balance is heavily skewed toward the female at eighty/twenty. Part of that is I have lost a number of friends, but the unique observation about this is which friends I have lost and which have stayed. Those figures typically have a definite gender and religious slant to them. Most of the ones who fall away are male and Christian.

My mind spins and plays out like line unspooling from a fishing reel after Babe Winckelmann has cast for the deep, shadowy, pools. How can you walk away from a friendship years or decades in the making? The attitude is beyond me. As part of Gender M, I was miserable, short-tempered, and wasting away. As a member of Gender F, I am happy, confident, and healthy. Empirical evidence alone is enough to convince any skeptic of the transition’s worth, not to mention the emotional and social evidence. But not only do a number of males, Christians, and conservatives deny the evidence, but they deny me. Now I’m not saying you should be listening for cocks to crow thrice, but to walk away from something you’ve spent so much energy building strikes me as an over reaction. Either they are unable to reconcile mistaken/outdated/ill-founded beliefs with the veritas before them or they have something about themselves they wish to change or express and, too fearful to do so, they hide from what reminds them of their own ability/inability to do something about it. And thus I have found myself with half the number of friends I once had.

The truly fascinating people are those who vehemently believe I am wrong for what I am doing but stick beside me to offer support. I am at a loss to describe the rich and noble character these people posses. The untainted hearts when merged with their pure beliefs and their longing for what is best for their friend must leave them with an internal dissonance that is at times unbearable, a great rending feedback enough to make the pores in your ear lobes bleed. Toward these people (such as Manders, Josher, GNome, Ro-bear, and Suzette) I tip my heart and pour out my empathy, love, and admiration. For, like myself, they do not care what team I play on, and they posses the strength of character to move past, around, or beyond their inner judge and accept their friend for who she is.