“Being Male”

This is something I wrote in my personal blog, and I just thought I would share it here as well. It is a reflection on how I felt about my life as a “male” and how I experienced that life.

The concept of life as a male, that life before transition and even during transition, has been on my mind lately. I have been considering what it must be like to actually fully experience ones gender, rather than to exist within in the social construct of one’s gender in order to survive.  I think back to my childhood and my young adult years, and I realize that there was so much of life that I was never fully able to enjoy and experience.

There were periods of time, some of them fairly long, where I was able to suppress my dysphoria, but even in those times, I still never fully experienced life as a male. Instead I lived with a constant uncomfortable feeling about what I was expected to do, the things that were going on around me, and even the things that I was doing. I went through the motions, living life the way others wanted me to live it. Never really fully engaging myself in life, unable to fully engage. Instead I was left to look at what was going on around me with the constant feeling that I was an unwilling participant, looking from the outside in, looking in at a life that was not mine, one that I did not fully understand.

Yet, I was able to build a successful life, but the joys of my successes were often shrouded by that constant uncomfortable feeling. The feeling that something was not right. There were periods of time where I acknowledged what it was, I acknowledged my feminine self, but hid it away. Afraid to express my true inner feelings, I hid inside this “male shell” and continued to play by the rules that were set for me, the rules that were set by the gender I was assigned at birth because of the physical appearance of my body. Rules that ignored the relevance of my mind, my spirit, my true self. Even though awareness came around the age of 5, I am sure that it was not something that arose only at that age. Memories before that time are few. I think in many regards I attribute not knowing before this time to not remembering a lot of life before that age.

How does one experience life when they feel so disconnected from it? That is the question that has been on my mind so much. How did I experience life when I was young, fighting the knowledge that my body did not match my mind, fighting the urge to express my desire to break out of the mold that I was expected to fit into. I think about it now more than ever, the desire to break the mold, and all the while the fear that arises with the idea of being found out. I continue to laugh at the male jokes and partially entertain the “male” conversations, all the while thinking that I would not be a part of these conversations if I were presenting as a women. I stand there thinking that, then, I would be spared the low brow humor, the constant testosterone driven conversations, the things that men talk about when they think there are no women around. Sometimes it makes me feel like a spy, like I am a woman disguised as a male infiltrating male culture and observing male rituals.

The reality of it is that I am a woman masquerading as a male, only this is not by choice. I was born with the body, and until my transition is complete I must live with it. I will continue to be the spy, observing, and not totally understanding. If anything, that lack of understanding is what often made life difficult. I never understood why guys do the things that they do, why they behave the way that they do, why they say the things that they say. If someone were to ask me what it is like to be a guy, I would honestly say that after 34 years of living in the male world, I don’t know and I don’t really understand it.

What I do understand is what it is like to feel trapped within a social construct that does not fit with who you truly are in the inside. I look forward to the day when I can live fully as myself, and interact with the world as the woman that I am. I look forward to the day when I no longer have to feel like I am putting on my disguise and venturing out into the male world for more field observations. I can then get out of the spy business, and get on with the business of being me.

There are times when I wonder what it is like to experience life with without feeling this disconnect. I look at men walking down the street, in the store, or out at the park, and I wonder what it is like for them to interact with the world feeling like a man on the inside and being one on the outside. I look at women, and wonder what it is like to have your outside match your inside, to not just be a woman in your mind and soul, but in your body as well. I guess you could say that at times I feel envy for those living in the cisgender world, those who have never had to question their gender, those who have always been able to pursue their passions knowing who they are.

This journey, for me, is not just about aligning my physical body with my mind and soul, but about being able to not have to pretend any more. To be able to finally live life and interact with the world as the woman that I am. I know that transition is not a cure all, and I will, more likely than not, be out about my being trans and probably be an activist, but at least I will finally experience what it is like to look in the mirror and see the woman I am reflected back to me.

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I told the boss!

Hi all,

Today, I told my boss that I have Gender Identity Disorder.  It was kinda scary, but I needed to do it sooner or later, and the right opportunity came up.  I had a laser treatment on Monday and I think the doctor used a bit too much power.  My face and neck has big blochy spots on it and a couple of places blistered a bit.  Anyway, he asked me what happened to my face and I told him “this is what happens when the doctor uses a bit too much power on the laser”  “Laser?  What’s the laser for?” he asked.  I said “facial hair removal, I’m having all my facial hair removed.”  We went on to discuss the service calls for tomorrow and I was thinking, “you dummy, it’s the perfect time to tell him!”, so I went into his office and sat down and proceded to tell him about my GID.  He asked me a few simple questions and I gave him basic answers, no sense in complicating it at this point.  I told him that I hoped this wouldn’t affect my job because I like the job.   He said that he didn’t have a problem with it, he likes the work I do for him.  So, we’ll see how the summer goes now that he’s aware of this aspect of me.  It’s one thing for him to know what’s going on, it’s another thing to see it developing.  I’m hoping that by taking it slow, they’ll be more accepting of me as things change.

Amber

Educating the World – Person to Person

I had a rather cool experience recently which showed me how small the world is – and how the right approach can cause people to be accepting even when you don’t expect it. My friend Abby suggested I share it with you all.

It all started one day at work – I was at lunch with my boss, co-worker G. and my trusty retirement-age volunteer worker D.

G. was talking about practicing guitar with his Tucson-based death metal band the night before and his musical history and aspirations. After some time, D. said to G. “You don’t happen to know a musician called something Blackstone, do you?”

G: “No, I don’t think so…”
D: “I forget his first name… something beginning with B…”
Me: “Bruce, perhaps?”
D: “That might be it. Yes, because the interesting thing about him was that he was in the paper recently…”
Me: “Oh, yes – I know him.”
D: “Yes, the paper wrote about him – he came out as a cross-dresser. So, how do you know him?”
Me: “Um… oh, the paper my husband worked for wrote an article about the band he is in…”
D: “Maybe that was the article!”
Me: “Oh, no… you read the recent one about the IFGE conference. The other one was back last year some time.”
D: “Oh, okay. Anyway, he does wonderful cabinetry. He did our whole kitchen. Very nice guy.”
Me: “Yes, he is.”

And that might have been the end of it. Except that, of course, it wasn’t. On reflection, I sent this email to D. after he’d left for the day:

You might be amused by this video that a friend of ours made, interviewing Bruce right after he’d talked to the Arizona Daily Star reporter

D. only volunteers for us one day a week, and he didn’t return my email, so I was a little apprehensive going in to work the next Wednesday. As I was walking up from the parking lot, I saw him, and he stopped to wait for me to catch up. He had a broad grin on his face and the first thing he said to me was:

“Thank you for that video link you sent me with Bruce in it. We really enjoyed watching that one! Yup, that’s our Bruce!”

I felt so happy to have been a part of helping educate the straight, white middle-class neighborhoods of Northeast Tucson!

On hearing of the reaction of D. and his wife, Bruce said:

Thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] They are repeat clients of mine and great people.

Since I am becoming more and more out, I realize that eventually the knowledge of who I really am will inevitably creep into my work life sometimes. This has caused me a little bit of concern because I am self employed and loss of income can be frightening … so far as I can tell there have been no consequences to my business by my being out. So , thank you for letting me know about [D. and J.] – it’s also good in that [they] are now far less likely to have a negative reaction to other trans people.

The message I hope to get across is that it is truly worth it to share your true selves and those of your friends with others, even if you think they may not be accepting. Their reaction will often depend upon your demeanor as you talk to them. I tried to be as matter-of-fact as I could be, presenting the fact that I knew “that side” of Bruce as perfectly normal and natural. Whether you are yourself transgendered, or a SOFFA, you have a role to play, large or small, in educating the rest of the world.

It’s all over when I go out thinkin’

who am I ?

what am I ?

how am I ?

Explain. Explain. Explain. I sometimes get tired of having to explain everything I do.

I chatted with a guy on line today, and, for the 15 minutes, or, so, we chatted he was nothing but questions. How this. Why that. It was all I could not to be completely honest with him in answering the questions. Luckily, for me, I was in a mood to tell it like it is, and, maybe not so lucky for him he was on the recieving end of my “why must I always have to explain this” rant. If I was his first contact with a trans person, then, I may need to apologize to the trans community for my actions. Not that I was rude, but, I certainly didn’t hold back much.

He asked me if I was born a boy. Yes. Easy enough. He asked if I acted like a girl when I was little. This I said no to for the reason that I acted like a boy, instead. That threw him for a loop. I explained that even though I knew myself to not be a real boy I had to act like one if things were to appear normal. Expressing my feminine desires were not to be tolerated in our house. Christians don’t do that. He asked if I was a total woman. No on this one too. For the reason (explaining) that I haven’t had any surgery that would prove otherwise. I have had an orchiectomy, but, alas, women don’t have penises (do they?). He asked why I would go through all “this” to not have surgery and be complete. Why not just stay a boy? Good fu*^ing question, genius, is what I should have said, but, I simply explained how I didn’t want to kill myself, that I don’t have that kind of cash lying around, and, the last thing I want to do is travel to wherever in hopes of getting MAJOR surgery at a discount price because I didn’t have enough to go to someone more qualified that would give me plumbing that works properly. Not to mention there is a risk with any surgery of that maginitude, period. I freely admit to the fact that SRS scares the complete SHIT out of me. Would I still do it? Yeah, I reckon so.

The whole explaining thing has really been on my mind for the last (ever), because it is such a humongous burden we, as a community, are linked together by. And it isn’t that I have to explain everything I do, but, in certain situations when I have to explain why people shouldn’t touch each other like that, or, why I go through what I do to be comfortable when it possibly risks the comfort of the people surrounding me. There are times when I don’t exactly feel invisible, but, I certainly don’t feel as if I am inconveniencing, or, risking the comfort of, people around me to see me for who I am. If they feel that way, then, those are their feelings. Not mine. There is no relation in my mind.

I am rambling big time at this point…..The other day at work while getting banks ready before the store opened I asked to exchange some bills for some change. A supervisor (not normally in there at this time) chimed in, jokingly, with “yeah, give him some change. he just needs some change (laughing)”. I froze as he handed me the change I asked for. What was probably an innocent pronoun error was maginified as it was heard by 3 other co-workers who surely already know that I am something they may not exactly know the word for. Innocent or not it was an awkward situation, and, I plan on having a talk with the supervisor tomorrow at work just to explain how he may want to work on his pronoun usage in the future, and, if he could that would be just super!

Not to be outdone a similar situation happened the next day as we were having a plant sale outside on a day it was raining for most of the day. (Rain + wind + fine hair= disaster..FYI). As I asked a woman if she was next in line she replied with a “sir, can you please help me with something out in the yard?”. “Me?”, I said. “yes, sir. can you tell me about blah blah”. She went to repeat a few times to her sister that “this gentleman” is going to help me with the hanger, as we were walking away. She managed to squeeze in a few more he’s by the time we were done with her order, and, I can honestly say she could not have left soon enough. My sour mood of late can be directly related to the two times in which I, looking back, allowed people to not see the real me somehow. That troubles me in a way I am still working towards putting my finger on. ( am I not proud enough of who I am to correct someone the first time so as not to let it happen again? )

Thankfully, later on during the plant sale two women approached the table with a warm friendly glow about them. It was the happy feeling a daughter has at a plant sale with mom, I guess. The daughter looked me in the eye and told me she was 6’1″, and, she wanted to know how tall I was. We instantly started talking about getting clothes that fit when her mom jumped in and told me that she has heard all the women in Germany were apparently very tall, because that is where to get clothes for tall women. In a matter of an hour I had gone to questioning my existence to feeling the warmth that life has to offer when who I am is just that. I am just as I am. And there is no damn explaining anything.

I try not to think about things like all this too much, but, it is often impossible, for me, not to think about who you are, and, how it is people see you. To fall into the trap, if even for an instance, of judging your worth to other people to that of your own worth can, and, often does, get me into trouble. Funny, in controlled environments I am open to talk about who I am and reveal personal information without a problem, but, put me out in public where I live my life and I clam up like I don’t know what to say, or, worse yet, feel as though what I have to say isn’t worth saying.

This is what I get for being in such a good mood last week, I supose.

Good night. And, good luck.

Karen

Why would a saint feel so damn guilty?

I’ve known that my spouse is transsexual for ten years.

I kept this fact a secret at her request and told no one for the first five years of our relationship.

I’ve supported her in her transition for the past five years and still do 100%.

I’ve remained loyal, defended and explained her transition to friends, family, strangers, my uptight narrow-minded ex-husband, and most recently the Automobile Club of America who claimed she was a “different person” now that she’s changed her name and gender and refused to tow her car.

So why the crushing guilt?

I’ve never uttered a word aloud to anyone except my spouse regarding any confusion, fear or doubt I might have about her transition.

I’ve allowed her some wiggle room to explore her new female sexuality, but will not give you any details.

I’ve been called a “saint” by more than one acquaintance for my understanding, support and loyalty towards my spouse and the difficult time she’s gone through.

So why do I feel such crushing guilt?

Because my body is fighting me. It won’t do what I want or be what I want — which is to have the same sexual feelings towards my spouse now that she is a different person that I did previously. (And please don’t even start with that “still the same person” stuff — it works in an intellectual context, but not in terms of how the human body works.)
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The New York Times Covers Married Couples Staying Together Through SRS

A positive news article covering both a success story and the legal implications (but why is it in ‘Fashion and Style’?)

Through Sickness, Health and Sex Change

“We’re one of the few of our friends who are still in our original marriage,” Denise Brunner said.

But it is not exactly the same union, as evidenced by their marriage certificate, which they have enlarged to poster size to make the point. The original, from 1980, listed Donald Brunner as the bridegroom and Frances Gottschalk as the bride. But a sex-change operation in 2005 turned Donald into Denise. Fran stood by her spouse, and the couple secured an amended certificate, putting “Denise” next to “bridegroom” for lack of other options.

Read the full article here