Archive for June, 2011

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Charting New Maps

25 June, 2011

The stars in this place

are unfamiliar. It’s time

to chart a new map.

I think, last week, a number of people suddenly realized I wasn’t joking and now I’m not so much a humorous oddity as a threat to social order and decency deserving of being locked-up, “Certifiable,” as it was so bluntly said to me. So it’s time to cut the line that weighs the ship to port. I previously eliminated from my life family that was not supportive and I have now done so with friends. Either you are with me or you are not. But I have enough problems and struggles facing me that I do not need false sympathy and vicious gossip behind my back adding to these issues. Thus it is goodbye to some and for those still with me our cry is “Allons-y” and “Geronimo.” I am the captain of my ship, she goes where I point it. If you don’t like the destination, don’t come along for the ride. And what a ride we have in store.

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An Original

23 June, 2011

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I love this flower, a Lilium Columbianum or Tiger Lily. It’s so bold and vibrant that you immediately recognize it for what it is and appreciate it for its beauty. That’s the personality I want. I want to stand out as beautiful among the rough and plain things (and people) of this world the way this vibrant flower stands out among the weeds, a testament to individuality.

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Swimsuit Fashions

20 June, 2011

It took forever. We’re talking trial and error, purchase and return, hunts through racks and racks and racks and racks and more than my fair share of tears. It took forever. It took an hour at J.C. Penny going through their sale racks, looking for the right size, cut, style. It took mixing and matching pieces from different sets and re-coordinating them to get a new set that looked like it was sold as a single cohesive unit. It took forever. But it happened. I walked out of the store with a swimsuit I could proudly, comfortably, and–most important–safely wear to the pool.

I got home, rinsed off in the shower, slipped on the three pieces that make up the suit, grabbed a beach towel, a book, and my pass then headed out and down to the pool. In the hall outside the apartment I ran into one of my neighbors. I said, “Hi,” and introduced myself. She and her sister did not look pleased to meet me. That’s okay. No one said they had to be. They’ll get used to me or they won’t. Either way, I will continue as friendly and polite. Downright neighborly.

At the pool the lifeguard almost swallowed his whistle when he saw me. Granted, I didn’t have a wig on, but I styled my hair a bit so it had a feminine flare to it. Still, he glared and he followed me with his eyes as I found a deck chair, laid out my towel, and began reading my book. I planned on getting a chapter in before taking a dip. As, I read I listened to the kids squealing in the pool and wondered, if I stuck to the deep end, if I could get a few laps in. While I read the life guard had a few whispered conversations with the parents. One word caught my attention: predator. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to balance this equation. By nature of me being who I am and being at a pool when pre-teen children were present, I was automatically and without doubt a potential pedophile.

I never got in the pool. The eyes on me, following where my gaze went (from left hand page to right hand page) discouraged me from making full and proper use of my new bathing suit. But I refused to let them drive me out. I laid on that chair with a copy of Sookie Stackhouse and connected with the blonde waitress who can read minds. Both of us being something unique, misunderstood, and not particularly wanted around but too polite and well-mannered to be spoken against.

If my style of dress, and the fashion and gender understanding that goes with it, makes me comfortable, I will dress this way. I’m not doing anyone harm by dressing like this and they may interact or not interact with me as they see fit. But, as a culturally sensitive person and a member of the community, if my style of dress makes other’s uncomfortable does that count as harming them? Am I doing damage to someone else by being who I am? Am I within my rights to dress the way other women dress or because I have a bonus piece of equipment, do I not have the right to make this decision? I am currently troubled by this. Does the community as a whole have the right to dictate how I can and can’t dress? How I can and can’t present myself? How I can and can’t exist? At what point does my own personal need and preference override the community’s ill ease and what responsibilities do they owe me as a woman?

These are all troublesome questions and I don’t know if there are any answers to them. I don’t even know if there are any potential answers to them. Sometimes, being a TS woman gives me a very real, philosophizing headache.

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Cute Accent

16 June, 2011

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Accents are cool.

Here is how my color choice for the accent wall turned out. It really snazzies the place up and adds depth to the apartment, giving the bedroom area a darker, richer atmosphere, which I hope will be conducive to sleeping, as well as just looking cool. Sometimes my sense of style impresses even me. 😉

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Community vs Outcasts

15 June, 2011

“A community of outcasts was found living near and interacting with one another in a local Fairfax County neighborhood. When local citizens were asked to comment the most common response was, ‘I was shocked to learn their were outcasts living in my neighborhood. They seemed like such nice, normal people.’ Local authorities have refused to comment on either the current status of the outcasts or what the plan for dealing with them is; however, if it follows traditional pattern the outcasts will be dispersed and continued inter-community contact will be prevented.”

How often do you see a news story like that? But it happens all the time. It’s happening now. We just don’t talk about it. It wouldn’t be polite or good manners to discuss the issue. Sure gossip about the individuals that’s fine. Discuss them behind closed doors and in hushed whispers (“Somethin’ really ought to be done about this here outcast issue,” a local Fairfax man whispered to his wife.), but to publicly address the issues and to acknowledge their existence in the community as normal, functioning citizens and not as some local news-hyped tragedy victim or the odd degenerate?  No, no. That just won’t do.

In the last three months I have become something to gawk at for the vast majority of the public. That’s fine. I expected as much. What I didn’t expect, however, was to become taboo. It’s fine to stare and point me out but to actually talk about the issue in a productive manner or, God Forbid!, talk to me about questions, thoughts, or concerns one-on-one (as opposed to the public debate some have tried to sucker me into), well, that’s right out.

And the scary thing about this indefinite moratorium on actively engaging and trying to understand the issue is the ignorance, confusion, and doubt that it creates not just in society as a whole but, most damaging, to the outcast community itself.  They pick up on the ban and, even though it is them the ban is against, they embrace it. Society says, they say to themselves, that there is something wrong with me. I am deviant in someway and as a deviant I need to censor myself and not rock the boat. Because of this mentality the TS population is easy to control and maintain.

Unlike homosexuality, which in many ways is far easier, the issue isn’t about who you sleep with, it’s about who you are. It’s more than preferences, and quip-quotes, it’s their entire esense, their being, their existence being banned from conversation. They are “The Almost People” from Doctor Who. They almost count as humans, they have the emotions, the intelligence, the ability to form friendships and bonds. But they lack the most important part: social acceptance. The vast majority of people are uncomfortable with the idea of gender let alone the bending and sometimes out right stretching-the-reality-of-it-beyond-the-pale that the TS individuals are considered to be doing.  So the public clings to their little fetishes and trinkets and prays that the plague passes them over all the while pretending it doesn’t exist and, by God, if you as a TS person want to fit in to society and be accepted you’ll pretend it doesn’t exist either, which means, either look like what you say you are or don’t go out. Yes, there are exceptions to this. I am privileged to know a number of people who are accepting of me as me, which is one of the reasons I cannot simply shut-up and blend in. In many ways I have it easier than so many, which obligates me to do what I can to help those who don’t have such privilege. But my being willing to be public runs us into the second issue regarding the unspoken ban on the TS community.

This ban also means under no circumstances should one ever attempt to disseminate information in a public forum to other TS individuals that would make their transition easier. No guides, no handbooks, no “So You Wanna a Be a T-Girl” informational brochures. It is an outright ban on information.

This cultural ban invalidates the TS’s right to exist and on their ability to form community. It’s like what the Assyrians did to the people they conquered—keep them separate and isolated and you never have to worry about them standing up for themselves, demanding fair treatment, or lobbying for equal rights. And with the denial of community comes the need to experiment in order to learn what being TS means and how to be TS. This is how so many TS individuals get themselves into trouble.  You see, this is more than just a gender issue.  It is also a social and political issue. The majority of TS individuals are poor and under-educated. (These stats could be impacted by the fact that most middle class and wealthy individuals who are TS also have the resources and education to go undetected and transition in total stealth mode, something I have thus far and for personal reasons refused to do.) With these two social stigmas already working against them, when you add the socially crippling stigma of TS they are playing a game rigged in the House’s favor.  Double zero, folks, House takes all; no winners. The experimentation leads to needing funds to buy hormone treatment and to purchase clothes, binding bandages, padding, falsies, surgery, name changes, license changes, gender marker changes. And those who have already run this gauntlet have nothing to say, because if they offered advice, if they tried to help in anything but a one-on-one private meeting behind closed doors, they would out themselves and all the anguishing work they put in for the last decade or more to pass and survive in a hostile climate would be shot to shit. So the uninitiated trying to survive become sex-addicts, call-“girls,” prostitutes (the sex industry is both lucrative and a source of make-up and presentation tricks), victims of violence, suicide stats, murder victims, or they do irreparable damage to their body while trying to figure things out on their own.

So when there are laws up for vote about allowing a more inclusive society, please consider where I and a number of other nice, normal Americans are at and what we need to survive in a healthy way that encourages maturation and not self-destruction. Consider your role in creating a tolerant society. Consider the quote from a banner given to me by a most prodigious math teacher, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Give us the opportunity not just to be who we are, but also to be who we are in community. Allow us to discuss with each other and anyone who honestly wants to know the issues tied into our lives and the lives of those we love. I’m not asking for TS appreciation week. I just want the same freedom to associate with and learn from others like myself in a public community without retaliation, instead of in a room in some conference center behind closed doors just in case someone walking by doesn’t like who the strangers in the room are.

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A River of Stereotypes

11 June, 2011

Dave Barry once wrote, approximately, the key to writing is having a great opening sentence. Once you have that great opening sentence everything else flows. Given the intense labor I consider writing, I have never penned a great opening sentence. Take this entry for instance. How hard can it be to come up with a great opener about a cadre of tailors, two department stores, and a spiteful shopping cart? Very. Apparently. So, instead I’ll start by telling you about a wedding.

Myriad words exist solely for toasting weddings. It seems these words, usually long and sounding like the scientific name for a flower–such as pulchritudinous–gather round the thesaurus’ water cooler and swap stories of weddings-past while they wait for their turn in use. I break their personified hearts today because of all the descriptors one could use the best for this particular wedding is: pending. It is my brother’s wedding to a wonderful, and feisty, gal slated for August twenty-first. A wedding in which I am the Best-woman.

As Best-woman, I will be in a sleek, fitted suit designed to work with the few assets I currently have. Because I don’t have such a suit I trolled store sites like Babe Winkleman futzing through the waters of northern Minnesota with his line played out behind him hoping to scare up a big’un. I’m not sure what shady shoal Babe will find his big’un but mine is on Chadwicks.com. A chic, tailored pantsuit with a unique and flattering design. It’s belt-style loops through silver tone grommets; the lined, v-neck jacket has long sleeves and a mandarin collar. The jacket pairs with slightly flared pants great for heels. The only difficulty was not knowing my current measurements. So I embarked on quest through the mall, a girl determined to get the measurements that make her the chick in the smokin’ hot pantsuit at her brother’s upcoming nuptials. I had no clue what I was in for.

As I have stepped my skirted-self about town, I have gotten use to getting odd looks and glares. These things come as recognizable landmarks in trans-territories and second puberty highlands, but was unprepared for actual bigotry. Worse, the bigotry came at the hands of the transwoman’s stereotypical best friend: the fashion industry. I visited two high-end department stores and three professional tailors and all five refused to take my measurements. My favorite two reactions were the Lord and Taylor staff who asked me to take a seat and then ignored me for nearly half an hour (had I not gotten up and left I would probably still be there) and the tailor who looked me in the eye and said, “We don’t do women’s measurements” while three feet behind him his colleague measured a slender, fine-boned African-American woman. It was at the third tailor’s, however, that I had my fill. I entered the shop and politely inquired of the lady at the counter, do you provide measurements for formal events? The woman didn’t respond. Thinking she hadn’t heard me I repeated my question a little louder. She still didn’t respond. Perhaps she’s deaf, I thought and turned to address the male staff member a few feet away. I got halfway through my query before he turned sharp enough on his heel to please a Marine drill sergeant and walked away leaving me . . .

. . . to abandon my quest and set off in search of groceries and, more important, beer.

Away to Shoppers and the politest check-out clerk I ever had. Now, consider this contrast. The fashion industry, which makes a fair amount off the whims and egos of drag queens, transvestites, transsexuals, and gender queer individuals, had zero tolerance and a fair amount of hatred for little old youdon’thavetocallmebeautifuljustprovidetheserviceyourjobasksofyou me. Then, in blue-collar and sales land, a courteous stock boy and a friendly cashier who complimented my outfit provide superior customer service. Do the stereotypes seem off to you? Their kindness, the compliment, and a twelve pack of craft beers mended my mangled spirit and I was again feeling upbeat as I bounce-bounced my cart through a parking lot boasting more lumps than homemade gravy.

Whether it was the heat or the washboard surface I will never know, but at that moment the cart’s front wheel jammed and the cart refused to budge. So I drug and tugged the ridiculously heavy cart with an immobile wheel across the lot one yank at a time. Half way to the car a white man in a crisp shirt and ironed trousers starts, “Let me help you, miss,” and finishes with “Oh, yuck,” and an about-face after glimpsing me. Chivalry among the white male is certainly dying if not dead. It is alive and well, however, in the Latino population. Back at the apartment an elderly Latino man volunteered to help me with my grocery bags. Going out of his way to carry them up to the fourth floor. “Are you having a party?” he asked. No, I replied, just groceries. “Pretty women like you should be invited to parties every night,” he said. My reply entailed a strong blush and soft chuckle.  I thanked him for his help and he ended my excursion on a positive note by saying, “It was my pleasure, darling,” before shuffling off.

Being a woman and navigating the inconsistent world of stereotypes is certainly a mixed Versace Patent Flap Shoulder Bag.

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Lounging Minds Want to Know

8 June, 2011
High Anxiety (album)

Image via Wikipedia

As I have gone through life the place where I feel the most anxiety has shifted. (Well, technically the place I feel the most anxiety is in my body, but that’s a technical quibble and we’ll just go with physical location in a broad sense of the word.) As a student, it was often at school but when I hit my teen years it was at home. Later it became the job site and as a teacher it has often been the classroom. Lately, however, it has been the teacher’s lounge. And we’re talking serious anxiety here. Palm-sweating, stomach-twisting, lunch-losing anxiety. Just walking in the room is enough to set my teeth and the fine hairs on my neck on edge. The reason? When I walk in there I no longer feel like a whole person and that experience is indescribably disturbing. It’s like existing in two world simultaneously, one with oxygen and one without; you never know if your next breath will fill your lungs or cause them to collapse.

Over the last several decades I have grown accustomed to feeling one thing and being perceived as something else. I have also gotten to the point where I am no longer caught off guard by someone actually referring to me by the proper pronoun (feminine pronoun). What I am not used to, is the strange new gender middle ground I exist in. Some still see me as and refer to me as male, some see me as male but refer to me as female, some see me as female but refer to me as male, and still others see me as female and refer to me as female. When I step through the door of the teacher’s lounge at lunch I am stepping into a world where all four possibilities assail me simultaneously and render me a quivering mass of nerves with a tremendous case of social phobia. I’ve actually slated writer’s club meetings every day this week during lunch, just so I can avoid feeling that anxiety–an anxiety that has been slowly eroding my self-esteem.

This, of course, makes me appear stand-offish and only serves to further alienate me from colleagues who already see me as having flipped my lid.

::sigh::