The Other Direction

The other day a day friend said something to me that has echoed across my inner skies for… well… Geezus, really? (says she looking at a calendar) Months?

Fade in: It’s Memorial Day weekend 2017 – Bright southern California sun paints the trees with the promise of summer, and the breeze, a welcome break from a late spring heat wave… a glorious treat across bare legs. I ask Siri to dial the number of my favorite Green Beret – the infamous Master Sergeant Terry “Tezzer” Schappert, who is truly one of the stars of my book – his love, support and acceptance, an inspiration to all the “real men” out there. I always call Tez on Memorial Day to sincerely thank him for his service, my freedom as an American, and to talk about our shared love for a Canadian Power Trio, called Rush.

0k7xrvVotsifMFjao9realDwV6UrXiaWQjAMSU9hGlk
How many dogs can say they were rescued from vampires by a Green Beret?

Terry was one of the cast members of my show, “Dude, You’re Screwed!” for the Discovery Channel, three years of my life that was at once both the hardest and best times of my life. A time where I lead a boys’ club of testosterone-addled military survival experts around the world in some of the most dangerous spots (jungles, geyser riddled glaciers, deserts) as they subjected each other to a survival contest to find water, food, shelter and “not die” all in the name of reality TV… as Terry loved to say – “it’s okay, until it’s not okay, and then it’s REALLY not okay.”Logo3.001

The esprit de corps that I had to nurture everyday earned my reputation as den mother, despite an insane production schedule (get into and out of not one, but back-to-back third world countries, with each’s customs and ways, dependent on local transpo to remote locations in just 14 days with 100 cases of gear and 20 crew – then repeat with no more than two weeks prep between), for a network that was not only in turmoil (we had four network executive changes in season two alone) but that also treated our cast as nothing more than “wannabes.” Which was odd, cuz the reason they bought the show and promoted it as such was that these guys were the real-deal, not a bunch of weekend warriors or reality show contestants. I guess, like the rest of the country, they don’t understand the value of real soldiers.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: never regard a Green Beret, A Navy SEAL and RAF Survival instructor as “Wanna–be” anything except, maybe wanna-be removing your head from your neck when you do. Jes’ sayin’.

We did eight countries on four continents in three months with only one case of malaria, one fractured ankle, and two lost cellphones. As Terry would also say, “nobody went to the hospital, nobody went to jail, nobody got pregnant – it was a successful mission.” That these guys not only followed my lead, but had my back was largely due to my having won their respect as showrunner and professional despite long hair and hoop earrings. When they learned that I had guided our adventures despite a soul crushing gender dysphoria, my stock actually went up in their eyes. After I came out to them, they called the production company and the network and said, “Just in case you’re thinking of doing anything stupid… we’re with her.”

That’s how real men roll, boys.

They were with me when my dysphoria was at it’s tippy-top, peaky peak peak. When I was wearing sports bras under my Columbia expedition shirts to hide “the girls,” when I wouldn’t take off my shirt in the Yucatán cenotes or the southern Chilean bays to go swimming, when I was crying myself to sleep every night after screaming my rage and frustration with a god that imprisoned me in someone else’s body into my pillow. They were there right before Ms. Scottie emerged into her full bloom (and let me tell you, the beginning was anything but pretty.)

It ain’t anything like I am on this Memorial day, reddish hair in a cute topknot, white skirt and pink tank (oh, and on the other side of GCS), now a full two years since our “Dude” days, thanking newly retired (and not digging it) Master Sergeant Tez — himself, toes in the sand of his Outer banks beach. He’s on a new show about Hollywood Weapons and once again touched that I remembered him on this day. As we catch-up about our lives, Tez says something that freezes my mind like the too cold iron spike of a brain freeze:

“Well, Ms. Madden, ever since you went in the other direction…” 

I confess, I don’t even know if I heard how he completed that sentence. My mind stopped recording and skipped right to processing.

Was he saying that we had a shared path that I left? Was he talking about gender? Was he talking about… what was he talking about?

Since that time, I unstick this piece of mental bubble gum from the headboard and give it chew almost everyday.

The Other Direction”
“The Other Direction”
“The Other Direction

The first time I heard about “othering” was in Janet Mock’s book “Redefining Realness,” and since that time it has become a theme in our national conversation about marginalizing anyone, particularly by race, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and has become one of the various tools in getting people to understand intersectionality. But Tez’s statement makes it seem like I picked a direction that was… well, defined by being, separate from a reference vector of some kind.

Did I choose to be an “other?

First of all, really, would anyone choose to be one? As I said in last week’s blog, many of us (particularly as adults) strive to be individuals. To be “unique,” and yes to be different. To be memorable, to stand out from the crowd.

But, make no mistake. None of us would choose to be bulldozed back into line, forced into a group of “other” that makes it easy to discriminate against, to vote down, to legislate away. But that’s how it works. Those who fear having less, want to use the boogie monster called “other” so there is no one person whom you would have to look in the eye. It’s neat trick, isn’t it? No one has to be face-to-face with “the other” to remind them that they are human, deserving of all rights equally. The captain has turned on the discrimination light; you are free to move about the cabin.

I must confess that I have… well, always looked at the rest of the entire material world as other. As an artist it’s been my job to observe it, explore it. Try to make some sense of it, with film, video, clay or heck, even crayon. So, to be pushed from my post into “other,” is um… what’s the word? Disorienting? Close.

I was trained as an artist. I’m just now recognizing that tho’ (as I’ve often said here) success was my armor of choice when I was running with wolves, my default survival mechanism had actually remained hidden to even me, masquerading as my gift. I call it “laser-focus,” anyone who is an artist or craftsman knows this one. The ability to stay “dialed-in” on a fixed point artistically or intellectually means you can shut out all else. You can immerse yourself in the creative challenge of a project fully and tune out the noise of the world completely.

Even the gnawing on your soul.

Which is what too many realize too late that we were doing. But besides paying a dear price for this Jedi-skill/curse, (disconnection from one’s loved ones being the top of a very long list) the problem is, once you start, you cannot stop, lest whatever you were ignoring, gets the upper hand. Is doesn’t go away simply because you shut your eyes like a child playing peek-a-boo. And no one has been able to maintain “LF” forever… sooner or later the laser will drift from it’s mark and destroy the walls of the tunnel it had bored, and the ocean of life will flood in and claim all.

When my walls crumbled, so too did the myth of security and protection that my laser focus used to whisper as promises to me to keep me separate from the “others” that I was making art for and about. I could no longer let these whispers distort my perception of reality. I knew that we as women have endured misogyny for centuries. I knew transphobia bred murder and hate. But art had hope in it. Hope for change. Belief in humanity. Faith in love. Understanding that we are all one.  Being other wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. Until it was.

The other direction.

Which direction was I going?

To Terry, I was a respected adventure reality showrunner. I suppose, if we kept on going in the “same” direction (even tho’ “Dude” was not going to get a third season), Terry and I might’ve met up “out in the field” together yet again. We still might. But that’s not what he was talking about. And his words “the other direction” and their Doppler effect speak to how far he knows we are from where we were going.

Terry and I shared a lot of things in our three years in a meat grinder.

Beyond our love for the best rock band in history (tho’ he still has a softer spot for Judas Priest… sigh) and Bugs Bunny, chili’ mango, malapropisms, mixed metaphors and dogs, we both knew to the core of each of our beings that our work ethic, our belief in excellence and family first was who we really were. We drove each other to be the best that we could be at each moment. We counted on each other to always be there. Wherever, and whenever that there would ever be.

Which may be in some small way, what he was saying.

Is he wondering, since I went “the other direction,” that I… won’t be there for him?

Or is he saying, where I’m now heading… he can’t go with me?

I know I have a penchant for drilling down too deep. And I can’t blame it on TV, even tho’ the truth is production, especially on my shows, becomes so intense, and so consuming, so us- against-them, that hearts get fused together by the fire of creativity, sleep deprivation and bad street food. Trying to heal the hematoma that appears when the tissue is ripped apart by time and or your next show usually makes people wary of allowing the fire to fuse their hearts anew. We even have the term “showmance” that speaks not so much to this phenomenon existing, but rather to it’s inevitable end.

No. It’s me. I know this. And so do you if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time. I expect human relationships and interactions to always be our best noblest selves. In my world, even casual encounters are supposed to be our best and no one is harder on herself for screaming at that asshole who just cut ME off on the freeway, or idiot tech support person who misgendered me, than me.

So… yes. It’s me. I always place too much weight on what people say or think. But… here’s the kicker. So does Terry. I know this having to have talked him down from several ledges (more like asking him nicely to take his finger off the trigger, being the retired Green Beret and all) countless times. Like the time when the network said that it was the format that was the star of our show, the cast was replaceable at any time. Or that time the network wanted to deduct the Canadian work permit fees out of his and the other cast members’ salaries. Or best yet, when the network came up with the title for the show. Terry was active duty at the time but delaying deployment in Afghanistan where his real brothers were laying their lives on the line. So what did this ever-awesome network think was the best title they had ever heard? The title for the show that was demonstrating to the world what and how and who Master Sargent Terry Patrick Schappert is? Why, thank you for asking – they called our our show, “Dude, You’re Screwed!” as if it was about a stoner teenager who lost his car.

Terry saw blood. I had to be the one to tell him. I had to be the one who said that titles don’t really matter – and “what’s in a name?” and a buncha other BS to chill his ire, but really, what actually worked, was when I put all that aside and did what I always did, which was speak from my own heart, and say not even a shitty inane sophomoric title could take away what we were practically dying for (not exaggerating) and that we were just going to have to live with it… together.

We shared this too. This affliction of caring.  Of overthinking it. Of going too deep.

So. It’s not just me.

So why do his words haunt me so? I guess it’s because I know I haven’t made it easy on myself. The truth is, Hollywood and TV are supposed to be either so enlightened or capitalistic that neither cares if you’re green with polka dots as long as you’re good, and making them money.

But that’s not true.

What is true is that I freak people out. Before transition, I was labeled “passionate” which is network-ese for a “royal-pain-in-the-ass.” But I also had a rep for “getting it done” and bringing home ALL of the story, as a respected showrunner, given the responsibility for millions of dollars of production and literally people’s lives (adventure TV needs adventure, right? That don’t happen on a soundstage) but since coming out?

Well, okay, picture this – I’m a college educated, thirty plus year veteran of almost every genre and format of live and edited, scripted and non-scripted television, who has also taught production to everyone from the CIA to the major network news divisions – okay, hold that image in your mind as… I have had not one, but three people say to my face, “it’s not that we have a problem with your transition, we applaud your courage to be you, but it’s that we don’t want the crews to have an issue with you… for your sake.”

I haven’t worked as a showrunner since I came out in 2015.

I’ve had 10 (in two years) interviews for a showrunner position – each was amazing, went great and then ended with a variation on the above excuse, sorry, reason. I’ve been up for not one but three shows about transgender people, the last was about couples who had decided to stay married after one of them came out as transgender. I was told that even tho’ I was a transgender woman still married after 28 years, they wanted someone with more experience. Which is network-ese for a cis-gender male.

I wish I was making this up.

Terry’s right, it’s okay, until it’s not okay…. And then, it’s really not okay.

Is this what he meant?  Is this “the other direction” I went? People are free to say incredibly stupid and insulting things to my face – because why, I’m powerless to stop them, because I will be so flabbergasted that I will be frozen with the aforementioned brain freeze and they’ll be able to slip out of the room?

The truth is I’m going in the direction I was always heading.

Did I know that I would be able to live and grow as a mature woman? No. I was, and maybe this is what Tez is alluding to, trying to play out the clock, pretending to be a boy. I was working double time to keep my dysphoria under lock and key while still trying to be a happy person and functioning member of society and…  Tez’s showrunner. Maybe that’s why Tez is still in my corner. Because I was woman enough to be stand up and be myself, despite the world’s callousness to the “others.”

Ironically, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I actually asked Tez what he meant by this, he probably wouldn’t even remember saying it.  But that’s not the point. The point is that by remarking that I went in the other direction, I did go on a journey. And it will never stop.

So, tho’ I am going in a different direction than my dear big brother Tez, it doesn’t mean we still won’t end up in the same place we both were heading together. The way to the destination is never just one road.

And I can’t wait to see you when we both get there, big brother.

 

The Matter with Privilege – Or why I should never blog after watching “The Handmaid’s Tale”

I have had a busy spring and summer giving talks and workshops with Mylove about the care and feeding of unicorns, commonly referred to as transgender health and rights. One series of talks was as a member of a panel of speakers that helped prepare the entire workforce of Kaiser Permanente West LA to begin offering GCS. Yay KP, but the reason I’m bringing this up is that I was blessed with meeting amazing, articulate, engaging, and committed members of our tribe who shared my passion for getting it right for us, but who had amazingly different views and experiences..

Wow.. Didn’t see that coming.

I’m kidding.

But I will confess, the conversation during the course of 12 workshops over a 3 month period went down a few roads that even caught me off guard. And one of the most significant of these was the various privileges and status we as transwomen and transmen had given up or, surprisingly gained with our various transitions within our ethnic communities. We were as diverse as could be: Asian, Black, Latino, Latina, Native American and lil ol me, I don’t like to say white, cuz that doesn’t take my Finnish, Polish, Swedish (mom’s side) mixed with my dad’s Irish and Scottish (vs. Scotch Irish which are two very different things!) into account, and of which I’m very proud. But for argument’s sake, will use the pejorative “white” for this post, if for only to make a point.

So, fairly representative of the major ingredients of our American culture, we laughed that we made up a Justice league of trans superheroes even tho’ we had 6 incarnations of Wonder Woman and about 3 of Superman (tho’ Josh, I’m sure, struck me more as one batting for the other team… meaning the Marvel team of course, being more of Reed Richards, Fantastic Four kinda guy…).

Did I just digress? Probably. If you’re new to me, it’s kinda what I do.

What struck me in one of these convos was that Sharon, a Black woman (she never got into the label African-American), stated that, “while Scottie stepped away from White Male Privilege, I [Sharon] have gone from the bottom, reviled in my community, as an effeminate gay black man, up the ladder of status to the top, as a Black woman. Now white men are afraid of me.”

As I let this thought sweep me off my feet, Aly, an amazing Chinese-American woman laughed, “Well if we’re buying into stereotypes, which the world seems to soooo want to do these days, I went from the tippy top of Privilege as an Asian Man, down one rung to Asian woman, and I still intimidate white men.”

Gino, a transman joined in, “Well, I went from Latina to Latino, and now, somehow I am suddenly smarter.”

As we all pondered the ironies of our journeys, two things struck me:

  1. We all knew what each was talking about – the assumptions and tropes didn’t need explanation or context – the reality of the stereotypes of how race and gender was regarded in each community was known by us all…
  2. They all used the metric of White Male as the point from which status was calculated and measured.

It’s especially a factor when measuring my value and worth by others. In fact, one phrase that is used to continually bash my sector of the marginalized societies that march under the rainbow flag is “White Male Privilege.” As in:

Easy for you to say, you enjoyed White Male Privilege.”

You’ll never know, because you are stained by White Male Privilege.”

And my personal favorite, “Now you know what it’s like to live without White Male Privilege.”

So, let’s get something straight. I am, and always have been, a woman. Except when i was a girl.

Tho’ the world thought and conspired to make me the boy and then the man my original birth certificate proclaimed me to be, it was obviously a typo, which has since been corrected thru a court order (had to get the big guns involved) and medical skill. But nothing changes my experience of being raised by wolves.

So it is accurate to say I enjoyed WMP, and benefitted in certain situations. I, and my fair skinned sisters will not and do not deny that. But what is ironic is that when we are reminded by the slash of this accusation, we are often found bewildered, not because we don’t understand that we, through an “accident of birth,” received endless seen and unseen overt and covert benefits merely because of the color of our skin, but we were too haunted and hounded by the spectre of dysphoria to enjoy them. This does not excuse us (okay, getting too broad here) excuse me, nor am I asking for forgiveness, sympathy or any additional anything, I am merely explaining the presence of the bruise that appears, when this question is slung at me. Because the asker of this question assumes two very messed-up things; Number 1, that WMP is something of intrinsic value that we both, asker and I, are presumed to agree to it’s value, and thus agree to a sense of loss at it’s being taken away.

And B, and more insidiously, it is also a “tell” that the asker does not see me as a woman (otherwise, how could I have had WMP long enough to lose it) but also that I am too stupid to have known what we as women have endured (for decades) with WMP’s existence, and thus need it pointed out to me now.

Why the dramatic language you say?

First my weekly disclaimer is in order. The trans people I know, myself included, are some of the greatest students of human nature you could possibly ever know. The later we transition, the longer we have been in the “observer” mode because it’s the only place we can rectify our dysphoria, by longingly and lovingly scrutinizing every move cis people make. It’s both how we soothe our aching souls and how we will protect ourselves when we do finally venture out into the world. Our radar sweep is wide and scarily astute to make sure we aren’t read, lest your clock tolls for us. So we know and must read between the lines.

And we hear the truth in your language that you aren’t even aware of.

Its why we on the panel all knew why the various changes in status made so much sense, even when it was patently absurd. Because it was undeniably… real.

And the sting of having WMP slung at us white girls whenever we cry foul at our treatment has a particular venom designed to hurt. The sins of our fathers, it seems, are to be atoned for by the daughters.

We know, especially as transwomen, that the shock and awe of our comings out make most scratch their head. It was one even of Mylove’s first questions:

“Why would you want to be a woman?”

As a woman who had been raised through the fifties and sixties and had borne the extra burdens that women have been expected to bear, and the lack of privilege and rights and general regard in our “enlightened” American society, Mylove wondered why I, who as forty-five year old, “man” just hitting my stride, would willingly walk away from all that to step into womanhood.

She didn’t use these words but others had a catchphrase, and they wanted to know, “How could you possibly want to give up “White Male Privilege?” As if being a white woman was a step down from my lofty birthright. A loss. Somehow bad or lessthan.

This has, please god tell me you can see, implications of sexism that I pray we are never going to pass on to our daughters and our sons. This question acknowledges, and more importantly reinforces, the notion of male superiority. Yes.

Tho’ it might not be the intention; this is what’s being said.

This question also reinforces the notion of white supremacy. It does not merely acknowledge its existence (as WMP critics keep saying) it continually puts this bullsh*t back into the conversation. I don’t know how you were raised, but where I came from, I was taught that character and achievement made you better than yourself. No one is supposed to be better than anyone else merely by the color of their skin, the language they speak, the religion they practice and certainly not the gender or non-gender with which they identify. And if, more likely when, they act that way, or believe that way or try to legislate or discriminate that way, it must be stopped immediately… with extreme prejudice. (irony is mine).

Julia Serano wrote astutely in Whipping Girl, that the reason why cis men and, more horrifyingly, cis women have such a visceral aversion to the mere idea (i.e. a figment of a very fucked up imagination, that allows the nurturing of stupidity) of trans women, is that both men and women believe and continue to support the notion that men are superior and “given a choice” can’t believe for even a moment that anyone, in their right mind, would willingly give up that privilege to be… GASP – a mere woman.

She goes on to say that Transmen get the opposite treatment. They are suddenly regarded as smart, of seeing the light, when they step into privilege of the male class. This is an over simplification and, tho’ some of my trans male friends, including Josh “Reed Richards” might agree, others have a tough time as late-comers to the boys’ club, and face their own set of discriminations, and prejudices. But if they choose to do so, once they “pass” and blend in, they can feel the warmth of privilege. Never underestimate the superpower of facial hair.

So we as transwomen get it coming and going. When we finally get someone to wrap their heads around the reality that we are women, we get regarded as stupid or crazy for choosing to live our lives as “the weaker sex,” and then get discriminated against as women and marginalized as transgender.

Fun, huh?

As bad as it can be, it’s never, despite what my sisters in the Hall of Justice say, as bad for me and my white sisters as being a transgender person of color. 2017 is only half over and the HRC is already reporting 14 murders of transwomen, all of them women of color. Last year, 27 deaths were reported, with almost all of them trans people of color. That’s more than two a month in a population estimated to be 250,000 in the U.S. Death by “living while trans.”  Seriously? Come on!

So, tho’ my mere presence can incite revulsion and violence, statistically speaking, at least I won’t end up set on fire, stabbed, shot and stabbed, raped and stabbed and set on fire, and the ever popular dragged behind a car.

So there’s that.

And let’s keep this in context – my super sisters of color in the league aren’t myopic, they are being “ironically optimistic” – when they spoke of how as individuals each had risen from various rungs within their communities, they were still measuring against the benchmark of “White Male” – they and I harbor no illusions about how their entire slices of the human pie continue to reel from centuries of abuse, discrimination and the blatant R-word “racism” at the hands of white society.

It’s 2017 and every time someone chants “Black Lives Matter,” some backassward insecure cretin, who we hope has not added yet to our gene pool, responds with “White Lives Matter too” or it’s passive aggressive lil brother, “All Lives Matter.” So, yes, an unfortunately too large a section of the fabric of our country is fighting tooth and nail to remain in its arrogance, hubris, and ignorance.

Yes. it’s been a hard lesson for whites to continually swallow that despite, “not being a racist,” our society is. Still. Despite the civil rights amendment, despite having a black President, this is still a country where black parents have to have “the talk” with their black sons; where black parents live in real fear that this might be that night when their sons die at the hands of those charged with protecting them.

This is still a country when our current “President” is doing everything in his power to build a wall between America and the entire Latino and Latin America world.

Let’s get real. We all know we live in a world where, even before we got a pussy grabbing sex offender for our Commander in Chief, most everybody in government is in, or supports, the ultimate boys’ club, with the exception of shining lights like Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters, and Kamala Harris who fight every day against that boys club – a world where it took a full frontal attack on women’s health and the ownership of our own bodies to get women on the other side of the aisle to wake up, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins, lest our fate being determined by a panel of old white men…

So, yes. None of us in this league of heroes, despite the inherent confidence that comes with our superpowers, are Pollyannas. We get it. The world is hard out there, it’s hard for everyone. You don’t have to tell us, we live with this reality everyday.

Does your mere presence invoke violence and rage inside someone else?

Does your mere existence and the violence you suffer foster a sense of “well, she must’ve asked for it…” in the heart of anyone? How ‘bout in the heart of a sweet old so-and so, who everyone generally agrees “would never hurt a fly?” Yet, this sweet old so-and-so might as well have pulled the trigger, swung the bat, jabbed the knife or lit the match, herself. She turned her back on us in her heart. What’s her Jesus gonna think of that?

If your mere existence creates that in someone, why would you choose…

… to stand for it?

None of my sisters, no matter their color, chose this. God did. What we chose was between living and hiding, living and dying, and hopefully, one day, living and thriving. Our brothers too.

That we fly in the face of gender norms should be inspirational, not a cudgel with which to beat us.

And still the darkness reigns.

And maybe it is the wolf blood that once ran through these veins, but this… enrages me.

So, here’s where superpowers come in handy, we use them on ourselves, to keep our swords in our sheaths/ And choose instead our motherly compassion.

As a fifty-five year old woman, I expect men to be boys. I expect them to cling to the safety of their mommies’ skirts when confronted by the likes of me, to roll their eyes, scratch their heads and say aloud, “I don’t get it, but I admire your courage.” And then stumble over pronouns as they half-heartedly try to re-see me as a woman in their worldview. I also allow some to grow out of this toddler stage and grow into men that will treat me with respect. Most times the sign that this has happened is when they start treating me like woman and…

… stop calling me and forget to include me in the things we used to do together. Another sign is that I find that I start talking to their wives and girlfriends more than to them. In short, I am no longer my friends’ equal, but rather someone who must be dealt with, managed or… just plain ignored. But, and here comes the Stockholm’s syndrome that women have chosen for years as coping mechanism – at least the good news is, they do see me as woman!”

As maddening as that is, what makes my once wolfen blood boil is when I get it from women. I have been completely dismissed by some of my lesbian sisters as “will never be a woman.” As if the stain of testosterone has tainted me forever.

Are you kidding me?  I’m a fucking gold-star lesbian! How many of you can claim that? And… I am not your opinion, belief or definition. You do not define me. You don’t get to admit me to womanhood. If anything I am wonder woman – having fought and won the testosterone wars, despite all odds, even biological ones – to stand in victory with Grace, with dignity, with love.

And in these emotional and psychological skirmishes, Julia’s theories become freakily prescient. Not even pure radical feminism escapes the patriarchy (which critics have said for years), because it allows itself to be defined in the negative, no matter how you spell womyn. But it can’t be had both ways – we as transwomen can’t be (in their words) stupid enough to “want” to be women, while being audacious enough to claim that we are. Both fly in the face of feminism. We are not second class anything. And no one, certainly not even another woman gets to define who any one of us, are.

We as trans people are the living examples of just that. The world believes it can have a belief and/or an opinion of whether we actually exist or not. As if its opinion matters at all. And at the same time we are mysteries who dare to flaunt the boundaries and limits of a binary world – how dare we! And where did we get such courage? “They are not like us.” “They are not human.”

We push everyone to reconsider their own identity and that comes with a price. Most push back – it’s too uncomfortable, too radical, too intimidating. If we’re living at close to total potential, why aren’t you? We scare people because we are Superhuman. We know ourselves and you better than you will ever allow yourself to know yourself. Our living out loud throws shade on you living in your quiet secrets. Our light is seen and felt as your shadow.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

if we have to forgive you for abandoning core feminist views and harboring revulsion in your heart, judging us as less than anything, then you can certainly forget that physical biology has anything to do with identity.

I worked an entire lifetime to get to here. I want to be a part, not be apart. My femininity is not a commentary on yours, my womanhood doesn’t devalue yours. You do you and I’ll do me.

Look, I and my tiara’d sisters (and brothers) get it that when we first come out you may need a minute or so to reconfigure us in your mind as individuals. But for as a whole community, we as humans should never have been outside your hearts. Even if you never had an occasion to know we existed.

And if this isn’t you, great!

But if this shoe fits…

Ask yourself are you playing into sexism, supporting old outdated ideas of what a woman is, what femininity is? Are you supporting our grandparents’ notions that we, as women, could never be more than second class citizens, the weaker sex, the fairer sex? Have you allowed these to create a hierarchy in your own heart of gender, of race, of economic, intellectual or any other otherness? Do you still not see that we as trans people bring to the human table the virtues (among many): live out loud, passionate compassion, following one’s own heart fully, and above all, unconditional, unwavering love?

Why?

Stop it.

Follow our lead.

Adjust your tiara, coil your golden lasso of truth and let’s all get out there and fix this world!

 

Part 3 of 3: That. Happened.

Dear Reader,
Yes, its true. I’m back at it, after time off to heal. I have posted the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is part 3, and the last installmentof this feature. And tho I was coy with my disclaimers in the previous posts, this time i really mean it. This time I get personal, really personal and write some graphic descriptions that those with modest mores might find a bit over the line. As always I tried to keep it in good tastse. But your boundaries are your boundaries – no judgement here. You be you and I’ll keep it as real as my fingers can type. Without further ado.. Wait! Where were we? Oh yes, I left us at a cliffhanger? Good for me. Dr. Wylie would be proud. And that cliffhanger was… oh, yes, that I had just had the bandages removed from the surgical area and was handed a mirror to see for myself what had been under all that white guaze. Ready? It’s Raised by Wolves 21’s conclusion? Well, anyway, it’s part 3 of 3…
Scottie Jeanette Madden , June 2017


Continue reading Part 3 of 3: That. Happened.

Part 2: More, “that happens.”

Dear Reader,
As I wrote last time, “I’m back on line” in more ways than one, after some time off to heal. I promised to post the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is part 2 and it contains some graphic descriptions that those with weak tummies might find a bit graphic for a place that takes pains to chart the psychological seas of transformation. I tried in as many case as I could to soften the blows, but then again, I made a pact with you waaaaay back at the beginning of our journey together to tell you all to the best of my abilities as a writer and a human. So, I do this with some… adherence to a growing sense of graciousness that I hoping comes with the territory, and so, without further ado… I present Raised by Wolves 21 pt 2
Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden ,Spring, 2017,

PREVIOUSLY ON… Scottie Jeanette has just come through “day zero” the first day of spring of the rest of her life and is surprising everyone, including her surgeon with her blooming radiance…in fact, she’s what some would call “that girl.” (and not in a flattering way) and she’s getting frankly, little annoying

OPENING TITLES IN, READ: “Part 2 More That happens.”

I am starting to levitate in my very bed. The smell of fresh flowers and bouquet of balloons have taken hold of each cheek and stretch mouth into a pepsodent smile… Mylove has just deftly origami’d her fold-out bed from what is supposed to be a chair and stands over me to kiss me good night.  She brushes the hair from my eyes… God, she is beautiful… She kisses me deepy and settles into her… nest, as I turn out the light.

The chime of my cellphone lets me know that I’ve received a text,… I look to my cell and see that My big Sister Alexandra Billings has checked in on me, and I read aloud for us both to hear:

“So much stardust and history rain on to you today. You move into a newness that is alive and glorious. Although it is filled with the unknown, there are discernible and recognizable parts to it. The fact that you are living in the center of what’s possible has been with us since Time breathed in its first space. And so the courage of who have always been rests in the knowledge of where you’re absolutely headed. That is close to you. Your courage to run into the fire; to blaze across the sun and to leave a trail of compassion and brilliance in your wake. When you do this, and when you do it out loud, others receive it and are reminded. No matter what the transition, they are saved by you.
 I love you Angel.
GO!” 

 Okay… so, it’s one thing when you feel these things in your head and heart… quite another when someone says them about you. It seems so much more, I dunno, tangible?  I know, I know, we’re supposed to be self-reliant strong women, who do not require outside validation… still, her descriptions are waaaaay better than I would ever allow myself to use for myself. They carry substance. They have… an effect.

I drift off to sleep, with day zero in the books…

sleepy-girl.jpg

But my status as the star blazing across the sun is short-lived.

The next day comes and I’m even more radiant as the effects of the anesthesia are wearing off. Today’s task is to take me off of the intravenous pump for pain meds. Not sure how I feel about this. I’ve actually grown fond of the fact that I can push a button and feel pain-free instantly. In fact, I will confess that I have actually figured out (by counting beats of the pump) the minimum wait time that allows me to push it again and get another dose. My goal is to get maximum doses in the two hours I have left, before they’re going to take it away.

I said I was blissed out I did not say that I was not in pain.

I make a note to look at this aspect of my character later…

The first couple of doses of oral hydrocodone seem to be OK and so is my appetite. The hospital food isn’t really all that bad – a nice fillet of salmon, some green beans and green salad what’s not to love? And they are getting me as many Italian ices as I can eat, which brings me back to my grandmother’s stoop in Brooklyn one summer when I was a child…

which is actually happening a lot today. I’m tapping into a lot of childhood and teenage and young adult memories. With each one, I connect the dots from then to now, from there to here, and realize… OH MY GOD. Oh. My. God. Oh, my God,  yes it’s true…

I’ve made it. I’m here! Amazing.

And I feel great – which feels like bragging as I hear how the other girls on the floor are doing. And you know me, I’m not one to flaunt what I got…

But that night. It’s dark, after midnight, Mylove is asleep in her itsachairitsacouchitsaloungeitsatorturedevice, and she’s actually sleeping for the first time in hours… And something is happening…

I can feel that feeling. My nieces call it the “mouth sweats” – that sudden watering of your mouth for a reason that you never wanna even think about. That dreadful feeling that tells you that you’re suddenly too far away from any bathroom… Now I have never, ever in my life liked the idea of barfing. I resisted it to the very last possible moment.  I think I would rather be hit by a bus than throw up.

But suddenly I realize I’ve lost the ability to have a vote in this and I hit the nurses call button…

FREEZE FRAME. I have to back up.  Of the nurses and assistants who have been tending to my every need here, 98% are women.  There have been only two dudes. One, a nurse named Shane and the other an assistant named David. For some reason, David and I must have some karma because I’m relating to him like every dude on every team I’ve ever played. I still have the muscle memory of how to speak “dude.” And for every shot across my bow, I return fire in kind. In other words, we have a lot of snappy banter (I said snappy, not witty). Mylove is the first to notice this give-and-take, and she asks me what (the heck) I’m doing. Like I said, it’s my muscle memory and I thought I was just reacting to things he said, but the fact that I use words like “return fire” to describe this needs to be looked at.

I don’t know why David’s firing at me in the first place. Actually, if I think about it, I do know why he’s doing it. It’s how dudes relate to the world, and this world “in partic,” which is one of the top places for GCS in the world is all about women.  It’s so all about women that that’s all there is in the surgical ward. My surgical team was 100% women. Many of Dr. Ley’s office staff visited me every day. The office staff is 99% women with the exception of the man whose name and reputation is the head of the practice, Dr.Toby Meltzer. Yes, David and Shane are outnumbered and are involved in a world of all women, all the time. So, as professional as they both are, Shane cloaks himself in crisp professional confidence, while David chooses instead a benign “trash talk” as his idea of bedside manner.

But I have no idea why I am relating to him in the way that I am. It’s as if I sense his “fishoutofwateryness” (what? It’s a term, look it up), and I’m trying to put him at ease by returning fire. I’m not cutting him any slack. And he’s not cutting me any either. Our banter has an edge like a pick up street basketball game. it’s competitive, it’s fast and you’re never gonna let your opponent see you sweat…

But it’s just about to backfire on me as my mouth sweats and my stomach churns and I stab the nurse call button and…

it rings and rings and rings and finally David answers but instead of asking what I need, or even why I called, David uses this opportunity to get a couple of jabs in, because that’s what we do…

And as I try to squeak out the words, “David. Nauseous,” for fear of what will happen when I keep my mouth open too long… but It happens anyway.

And I cover the call button, and I cover my bed, and I cover the floor…

… and it keeps on coming, and coming, and coming.  Mylove is up instantly from a sound sleep, but I’ve created a moat that she can’t cross. She fumbles to get the lights on, and finally David comes into the room with Shane the nurse (it’s dude night) and they see what I was trying to say over the intercomm — a tsunami of my day’s worth of food and drink.

I stare at David. He reassures me – he’s got this, I can go back to sleep… He does smile sheepishly as he disinfects… well, everything. Our banter has no place here…

It’s a rough night, and the next day, I’m down a few pegs, both emotionally and physically, my comet streak may have gotten eclipsed by the dark side of the moon… but not for long.

Because for the next few days I’ve got a job to do, and I need to get serious. it’s all about healing doncha know, come day six, my life will change dramatically… again. The packing will come out, the bandages will come off, and I begin “physical therapy.”

So Mylove and I get up every morning and walk through the town of Scottsdale now Scotties-

Dale. It is for all intents and purposes almost like a vacation, except that I have to be back every three hours to the hospital (rules), but it’s a sweet time for Mylove and me. And we really have nothing to do except get some fresh air and then go back to the hospital to find a new bouquet of flowers waiting for us.

A quick note on that: it seems many of our friends have been waiting and planning for this time as well – our room is filled with bouquets of flowers and the balloons and a teddy bear and cards and well wishes all celebrating “it’s a girl!” It makes me smile, and it makes all of the nurses and assistants on the floor stop by our room just for a whiff of the amazingly beautiful fragrance of love, acceptance, and support. So much so, that one of the assistants, Amy, comes in after five days of this with yet another bouquet and says, “you are killing me with these flowers!”

Everyone on the floor agrees, they have never seen so much love in one room.

I’m not the first girl to go thru this experience with this team. I am Dr. Ley’s 44th since January. And Dr. Meltzer has been doing this for over 20 years. To say they got this down is an understatement – it’s a 10 day regimen that counts your surgery as day zero. Each morning a nurse comes in and writes on the white board that day’s “job.” And they are serious. Days 1-5 have simple tasks of healing and walking but on Day 5, Charlotte, my day nurse, gave me the pep talk for day 6 (I guess i needed a day to process it?), drawing on the whiteboard a crude drawing that would make every 7th grade boy titter with glee, of me with my legs spread like a porn star. In the newly created sacred area between my legs (which Weezie has dubbed the “Pristine Vagene”), Charlotte drew on the area a wide black oval and looked at me like a Sex Ed teacher, drawing a “black circle” for each as she says, “Scottie… there are four holes: your clitoris, urethra, vagina, and anus. Got it?  Wipe from front to back always! And don’t wipe – pat, pat, pat. Any questions?”

As a matter of fact. Um.., yes.

I never thought of it before, but why did God but the ladies’ room in the middle of the playground? (This could be evidence that God is a man – guys never think these things thru, on the other hand, it cold prove that God is a woman, making the restroom centrally located, and never to far from anywhere…) I mused aloud this essential question as Charlotte left the room. Mylove stared at me blankly. She had nothing, smiling with amused dismissal, a certain “they’re so cute when they’re little,” kinda thingy.

But whatever. Right now all I know is that I’m the mummy down there, but tomorrow’s the big day… the big reveal and it starts early!  

I don’t sleep a wink – It’s like Christmas and blessedly it’s finally morning. Meg, Dr. Ley’s head nurse, has given word she’s thirty minutes out. That’s Meg, my big sister, efficient, together and “on it.”

I stare at the yellow-brown rubber tube that flops out of the square of surgical tape that hides my… me. The me I’ve only dreamed, prayed, screamed and cried for, for over fifty FREAKING YEARS…

And then Meg is in my room – without a sound, she’s standing over me with huge smile and my bed starts rising up like Young Frankenstein toward the sky, so Meg doesn’t have to stoop to get to work. She winks at me, “you ready for this, Miss Scottie?” I realize I’m not breathing.

Meg tells me to use my “lady blow” – which, I learned is the magical connection between putting my lips together and blowing and the moving of muscles that open my vjay-jay,… (I know, right?) I follow her instructions…  and she gently yanks the square of tape off from my abdomen and, as I wince from the warm sting of the tape’s protest, Meg starts to pull the packing that has held my new vagina open and in shape – and it’s just like a magician pulling endless scarves from a top hat… Then she says, “blow out your birthday candles, Honey.” And as I blow, she pulls the last of the packing and I feel like I’m turning inside out with her last tug… I’m blinded by a sensation that seems to light up my entire body with white hot electricity…

As I return to my body (timidly) and open my eyes, Meg smiles and says the last bit is always… interesting.

So is that what the kids are calling it these days?

Interesting.

Meg hands me a mirror… It’s time. As I reach for it a lifetime of inevitable rises on my horizon, brilliant rays spear the lingering mists of dysphoria. The last clouds of a storm that passed forever just six days ago. The spring breeze of the bloom of my life left fills my heart, my mind… and now, miraculously, even my own body. My fingers wrap like new shoots around the handle as I look to Mylove. She nods, “it’s time.”

Time.

Time to see just what inevitable looks like.

Next time: The Conclusion of “Well, that happened.”

Well, that happened.

 

Dear Reader,
This is me, getting “back on line” in more ways than one, since the biggest spring of my life. As I promised, I would take some time off to heal and bring the blog back when I could, which is now.  I will post the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is benign, but parts 2 & 3 will contain some graphic descriptions (and will also carry this premumble) reminding those with weak tummies that surgery and the human body sometimes can be… an uncomfortable affair…
So without further ado… I present Raised by Wolves 21 –
Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden ,Spring, 2017,

Well that happened…

I thought I would start writing this one a lot earlier than I actually am… I’m three weeks from the largest moment of my life with the exception of my marriage and… Yes, it’s basically a rebirth?

Is it? Because as radically different as every single molecule of every moment of every day is for me now, this is that inevitable that I wrote about in “Getting Back To Me…” that inevitable that has been the sun on my distant horizons my entire life, that inevitable that I tried to hide from for so long…

that inevitable that finally came.

When I last wrote to you all,  I was on my way to Scottsdale Arizona – I returned from Scottiesdale Arizona literally a new woman.

Before we go any further, I feel it’s time for the requisite pre-mumble and disclaimers, and I confess that I say this now with a little different understanding than I had before. But it still is our promise to ourselves in our community (which is of course the Ts of the LGBTQIA+ community). That promise is that we make sure it is understood that for us a community: surgery is not the destination, it’s not a value or degree of trans-ness or a commitment or anything other than the personal choice to either have or not have; that one must make in one’s life to fulfill one’s personal life path one way or the other.

We take pains to make this crystal clear so that we don’t establish a way to judge someone’s else’s identity.

We are who we declare we are and that’s not up for debate, opinion, or judgment.

That said, it is (was) the most important aspect of my transition, with the exception of Marcy’s support for me.

So, here I am…

On the other side of the river I’ve spent my entire life staring longingly at from the far shore.

And here’s where our legacy and the generational divides start to appear. I am, in the language of the older generation in the trans community, no longer trans… Yes, in the older generation when one of us “went all the way,” that person was no longer considered trans.  You were now…

just a woman. And thank you, God.

And to get academic for another half-second to completely throw this all into the blender, the whole idea of using the terms “cis” and “trans” from the Latin meaning this side (cis) and that side (trans) of the river, I suppose by definition I am on back on this side now.

What I can tell you is that, yes I am, finally after 45 years of longing, dreaming, wishing, praying, denying, trying to forget, throwing up my hands in despair, and burying my body with alcohol and any other kind of distraction…

Here.

The prayers of a 4-year-old child begging God to give her her body back when she woke up the next morning, have finally been answered.

I Got Back To Me completely.

And I wish I could say it was easy… it’s easy if you view it from afar, like watching the rising sun melt river ice. The truth is that the sun’s blaze transforms the hard crystal of ice to liquid and eventually vapor by searing the molecular bonds with such force that it cleaves atomic forces like paper dolls.

And speaking of paper dolls. For those just joining us, after waiting for six months in line for my surgical date, suddenly the day was drawing nigh. My surgeon’s nurse called me to make sure that I had all of the drugs I was supposed to bring with me, as I would be traveling from California to Arizona to enter the chrysalis and emerge as my butterfly self. I went to my local pharmacy to pick up the drugs and discovered…

According to their  “infallible” computer, I was no longer covered by my insurance plan.  I, or rather it, had been canceled. In their world, (which I had adopted now as ALL my world) I didn’t exist.

To say that I dissolved in a puddle of tears in the parking lot would be an understatement. I whimpered out to Mylove over the telephone as I struggled to find my car in the parking lot through a shower of tears. She calmly said, “come home Mylove, and we’ll figure it out.”

“Figuring it out” literally meant a 48 hours of round the clock phone call vigil, which i wrote about in my last blog – no need to pick that scab again.

Working with Kaiser’s managers in the members’ office and covered California to work it out was a harrowing experience considering I was just about to get on the plane. it was with those circumstances that we are driven to the airport by my brother-in-law then its a kiss on the cheeks, hugs that practical crush us and we’re on our way.

As we jog through the Burbank airport, Mylove suddenly veers left and I almost slam into a woman in a wheelchair, after making my apologies, I see what has literally attracted Mylove’s attention – A magnetic sign , in the shape of paw print declares, “I heart my 2 mommies.” Mylove is buying 2, for us each to affix to our cars back home. But it floors me, Mylove wants to declare to the world our state. Through tears I continue toward the TSA Prechek… with Mylove. Completely.

img_0985.jpg

When we got to Scottsdale, the hotel clerk told us we had to pay for the entire 9 nights in advance, $2500 that we didn’t have. We realized we needed to do something and fast. And by saying “we,” I really mean Mylove.

It was all her.

And that was the beginning of her carrying me (literally) through this entire experience, emotionally physically and spiritually, keeping my spirits up, making sure I took everything I was supposed to take, and generally opening every door in front of me.

I think you may all think you really know what love is, but you have not felt the full power of it as it comes from Marcy Madden.

So we paid for the one night, both held our breath and dove into the internet… no way we could blow money we didn’t have at that moment on something KP was going to reimburse us Gosh only knows when. And here’s where Mylove and I started to realize we were on a divine path lit by angels…

One our oldest friends, a blonde tornado who goes by the name of Eloise or Weezie for short was in Scottiesdale for a conference, and decided to stay an extra day and help us out. And she had a car, and she knew where the Whole Foods was and best pho. Since I could only have clear broth – I would not be deprived. To say she was a Godsend wouldn’t cut it – she was a blast of sunshine.

After a comedy of errors and another hotel, we were finally settling in to a day of bowel cleansing, which, if any of you ever gone through any kind of major surgery, may have had this experience. You have to completely flush your system of all solids which involves using industrial-strength laxatives that they try to make palatable by adding berry flavor to. SPOILER ALERT: it doesn’t work. I mean flavoring doesn’t work. It tastes like berry burp flavored gasoline. However, the lax thingy works waaaaaaaay too well.

Weezie and I must have have been sisters in a past life because in this life we bantered and teased like siblings… I’m using the past tense because, since transition, our banter is lighter and sweeter and the edge is all gone (something that she can’t stop reminding me of… sigh).

Except that now the roles are reversed and I’m the little sister. Weezie took far too much delight in my extra-embarrassing efforts during this mega cleanse, and couldn’t stop herself from recording on camera my very first enema.. yes we have to get that scrubbed from all devices…

The jokes and puns never stopped and soon we are all completely laughed out. Weezie excuses herself to her own hotel and then it’s just me and Mylove and a hundred or so more trips to the toilet even tho’ my “lips are sealed,” in other words, absolutely no more fluids after midnight. Even so, you’d think from the volume departing my body that I had been drinking directly from a firehose.

And then dawn comes… thank God!  Actually it’s predawn but I’ll take it – we have to walk to the hospital at 4:30 a.m. to be there at 5:00.

It’s eerie… walking with nothing but the street lights awake. Even the signs for Starbucks are dark at this time. The traffic lights change for no one, until we press the pedestrian button and get our way…

The hospital is as quiet as a church. Three other couples sit and whisper in the darkened lobby. We’re all anxious for our various reasons and scheduled surgeries. Not even the receptionist has arrived yet.

Marcy and I are crossing our fingers and holding our breath as we sit with the admissions woman moments later – we’re trusting that Marcy’s work with the KP members services has somehow held, and trickled down to here.  Everything’s still in a whisper as if we’re not wanting to wake the hospital up lest they too have kicked us out of queue over the insurance confusion. But we’re fine, and whatever snafus we had getting here seem to be ironed out at least for now.

And then I’m escorted away. Marcy will be sent for once I’m “gowned up.” I can feel myself slipping into survival mode. I’m not afraid. I’m scared that I will miss it – these most profound steps that I’ve taken as an adult, even more intense than our wedding, are happening! And I’m  trying desperately not to miss a molecule, but my mind is being clouded by adrenaline.

Weighed, gowned, and measured – BP is surprising normal, heart rate too, how could that be?

Yes, the super zen calm that I’m known for when I’m directing multi-cam television or steering a crew through a third-world customs quagmire has descended on me like a trusted friend. I am in my zone now, and the anxious turbocharged fear has given way to my superpower – I remember everyone’s name after hearing it only once, the entire surgical team flashes in and out of the cubicle getting ready for showtime. They are a well-oiled, highly professional team that moves with the tight choreography of a hip-hop ballet, smiling, gently joking and tending not only to my physical needs with needle, pill or cuff, but my emotional needs, keeping it soft and light, — they know better’n I, that every small step for them is a giant leap for me.

I’m helped onto my gurney, the warming blanket fills with warm air and I snuggle in, and Marcy arrives. Things are light and efficient – everyone is cloaked in surgical green except…

… my surgeon, Dr Ley.

She’s in her workout clothes as if she jogged to work this morning and is powering a banana and yogurt as she checks in on me and her team. She likes what she sees. Her team is ready. She gives me a reassuring squeeze as the anesthesiologist slips a pill under my tongue.

And Marcy says that she brushed aside my hair and kissed me for good luck. I have to take her word for it (I would’ve guessed as much) but that’s where the tape stops. No fade to black, no static… No freeze frames or even the film caught in the gate before melting… just a hard cut to black…

Three and half hours later I’m in a recovery room. Dr. Ley and Marcy have already spoken, apparently. I have no idea. I have no reason to disbelieve that, it’s just, I have no recollection of even being anywhere except… wait… yes, yes…

YES!

The first inkling I have that I have just finally crossed the river back to this side is when I’m aware that… yes, it’s… my face? Yes, my face is stretched into…

A huge contented smile. Mylove’s brushing the hair from my eyes and standing over me smiling (this time i remember) and she says, “every time you wake up, you have the biggest smile on your face!” Every time? Every time? You mean this isn’t the first time I’ve open my eyes? I’ve been in my room for two hours, which B-T-Dubs already has flowers in it, and a pink teddy bear holding a heart that says “it’s a girl!” and a huge bouquet of balloons. Weezie is still here having kept MyLove company.

And I am now fully starting to enter my body… this body. My body.

Did i mention that I don’t want to miss a moment? I am supremely, blissfully, wonderfully happy.  I’m so happy that I can’t believe how happy I am. As much as I tried to imagine this moment, I’m struggling so hard to cling to it. I’m….

Holy cow, I am not prepared for how immense this moment actually feels. And maybe that’s a defense mechanism or maybe that’s how I was able to stay on the other side of the river for as long as I had to. Maybe that’s the way that I was able to endure all of what I had to endure in order to get through a day on the far shore. But guess what? I’m so blissed out, that I cut off thus line of introspection. Even asking that question now seems so… Irrelevant? It’s hard for me to admit this, but yes… that’s how I feel,  that’s how amazing this time is! And it hits me like a thunderbolt! As my toes recognize the feeling of the warm sands of this shore… The pain of 50 years is so…  distant. It feels like a story I once read.

(Now, this is me talking three weeks after the crack of a thunderbolt sheared the smog of Gender Dysphoria from my being… and some perspective is in order)

In my writing, speaking, workshops, and activism, I’m remembering what the pain of gender dysphoria is so I can describe that to people who have never experienced it. That has been very relevant. It’s how I’ve been able to help open the hearts of people to understand our community, to help them try to understand how confusing and psychologically disturbing and traumatic this is. But more important than that – the world’s understanding of the destruction that Gender Dysphoria wreaks is crucial for getting transgender people the help and care we need to merely live our lives. Critical. Crucial. Necessary.

But… suddenly irrelevant?

Snapping back to my hospital bed…

I mull this… the black hole suddenly filled with light and love… like seeing the hole where a diseased oak had once rotted suddenly filling in with Gardenias. I reason, as my mind floats in a soup of Dilantin, the intravenous pain medication that is blissfully keeping me distracted from the sutures keeping me trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey… where was I? Oh yeah… it’s only irrelevant, this lack of gender whatchamacallit, to me right now. It’s obviously not time to think about the past, but wonderfully important to treasure this moment now.

For the next couple of hours I drift in and out of sleep, and every time I wake up, I struggle to stay awake to share this moment with Mylove…  A gentle knock at the door and Dr. Ley walks in and stops and stares at me and says, “how the hell are you so blissful? you just came through major surgery and yet you look… radiant.”

This, of course is a bit surprising since she sees at least three patients per day, so I would’ve thought that everybody has this same reaction.

But now even she was surprised.

Next time: Part 2 of 3  – More that… happens.

 

Transcen-dance

I’m trying to hang onto the bulwarks of my inner superstructure, lest my entire being flies apart from the inside out…

Which is a very convoluted way of saying… I’m… excited. Anxious. Antsie. (Or is Auntsie?)

In other words… I’m t-minus four days from the third biggest threshold in my life… namely GCS. Gender Confirming Surgery.

For those of you who’ve followed this saga of a woman raised by wolves, you know I’m given to striking metaphors and colorful imagery to describe my inner state, but even this is… well, defying my best efforts to capture in words.

But I’m trying. So please forgive me if I jump around in my attempts.

The waiting line for GCS is, maybe, by design, a long waiting time – an ad hoc process to weed out anyone who is maybe (and would hugely mistakenly, misguidedly) trying this on a whim.

But here’s where maybe won’t cut it, sister.

Still, those who are trying to wrap their heads around my life have said to me, with the best intentions, “Well, you better be sure, because there’s no going back.”

There never was any going back. But thank you all the same. I’ve never been surer of anything in my life, except, that I had to be with Marcy forever.

But that doesn’t mean my world isn’t getting bashed by wind shear and g-forces – much the same way a rocket gets buffeted as it reaches escape velocity to break free from the gravity’s downward shackles. I am vibrating, shuddering and veering as I press on with a stronger power than I ever thought capable of having… and it’s exhilarating, scary and…

… and I don’t know what.

No. I seriously don’t know what. I have nothing but a blank slate ahead, and absolutely no data other than the edges of the charts which read “here there be dragons.” My entire life, I’ve resisted even looking past my ships’ prow, much less steering for the stars. But now is the time. I’ve put both feet firmly on the accelerator…

It’s not like I haven’t fantasized what could be in that void of my cosmos. And for those of you new to this blog, in these parts the word “fantasy” refers to the wishful imaginings of what real life should be and not the fanciful play without stakes or repercussions that many use as a break from real life. In these fantasies, my life instantly returns to normal, and I’m off and running in my new normal life, where my body is no longer my concern: it’s as it always shudda been – as if it usta was – and I don’t have to spend so much of my waking time in, what my friend Dr. Alie calls, “a salvage operation.”

I say fantasy because the road to here so far was already rife with its measure of physical and emotional hardship. So, being the maturing woman that the world now knows I am, we have done our research and know that life only gets more fun from here. As the surgical contract that I signed clearly states, I agree to a lifetime of “maintenance” (EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Madden’s original noun has been edited/modified so as to not scare the living daylights out of the un-initiated. Thank you and sorry for the interruption).

So needless to say, I know what is waiting for me in theory, but…

I have no real idea who I will be when I get there.

I know that I’ve transformed (see what I did there) throughout all phases of my journey, and the girl that is going through one threshold is never the same girl who comes out on the other side. It’s fascinating, yes (from an anthropological point of view), it’s disorienting yes (from a psychological point of view), and it’s… okay, yes, beautiful (from a self-aware/spiritual point of view). But truly, I won’t know what it will be really be for me… until I step across.

And that will happen on the first day of spring. In just four days.

I’m letting that settle in not so much for you, dear reader, but for me.

To prepare for this, I’ve gone through over 2 years of medical scrutiny (not to mention 50 years of denial, introspection, prayer and tears), family/societal rejection, fear, and oh, yeah… 60 hours of electrolysis.  Pain, it seems and it’s endurance thereof, is the dirty little secret of our daily lives.

I give you exhibit A: For those who have never had electrolysis, it’s like, if you took two red scorpions, dipped them in gasoline, lit them on fire and willingly, intentionally allowed them to fight on your face. Of course we girls don’t just have to contend with hair there. The money shot is to repeat the above process (TMI ALERT) and then drop them down your pants.

Yes. It’s like that, and no exaggeration. For hours.

Most of my sessions are three – four hours. Numbing creams and painkillers only make it manageable. After the second hour, I usually just hide-out in mediation like a storm shelter, awaiting the electro-hot tornado to do its worst and hopefully pass without bruising or worse.

But last week, the stakes were higher – it was truly our (Layla’s and my) last shot to get it right. Layla, B-T-Dubs, for over 20 years is not only the best in the biz, but as a cis-hetero woman, she has been the guardian angel of mercy for us transitioning girls. Layla knows ALL of the LA girls. And I do mean all of all of us. She knows us from the inside out, knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us unconditionally.

But, as I said, we had one last shot to get it right. Let’s put it in perspective: the last thing you want is a hair growing up in there. Nuff said? Good. I don’t even want to think about it which is why I told her to go “all in” and let fly the songbirds of pain.

And sing they did. And in the throes of blinding, searing, white hot…  clarity, I asked Layla, “Layla, do you believe in God?”

“Of course I do Honey.”

“Then, what was She thinking when she made us? Why were Trans people put on this earth?”

“Well honey, you know God doesn’t make mistakes, so why do you think She made you?”

Maybe this was the endorphins kicking in, but I heard myself say, “I can only speak for me, but maybe it’s to have ultimate faith in myself. I have always had to hold onto my heart’s experience despite what my parents told me, in spite of what the world told me, and no matter what even my own body tried to tell me, I am… the me I always was. A beautiful woman.

Layla didn’t skip a beat (and it wouldn’t’ve upset me if she did), and she said,

“Honey, listen. Trans women are the strongest people on the planet. Way stronger than cis women or cis men. You are superheroes. No one has more faith in themself than you do. Nobody is as willing as you are to examine your life and know exactly who you are. You inspire me every day. And when you come out on the other side, nobody lives their life with more joy than you girls do. So, yes, I agree, you are here to teach us all Faith and Joy.”

Well, when you put it that way…

So… those are the handrails I’m clinging to as the clock ticks, sometimes in slow motion, and other times like the clocks in a bad time travel movie. I say clinging because I’m aware that this week is the absolute last one of it’s kind. I will never be here again. The precious time before a momentous change. We rarely get this much advance notice when our life is about to change. I’m not clinging to the past, but I’m also trying (and it’s hard) to not be in too much of a hurry to leave it.

As winter here in LA seems to be a thing of the past already, with 80-degree sunshine making the hillsides explode in green and wildflowers, I’m trying to slow things down so I can enjoy this scorchingly beautiful day without wanting to hit the fast-forward or skip button.  But it’s a losing battle, like trying not to anticipate Christmas morning on Christmas Eve.

The only cloud that darkens the fields of daisies is the fear that something could cancel or postpone this.  Faith. Faith. Faith. Now is the time for this, sweetheart. Don’t let the irrational or the imagined (both are but wraiths of the ego). Still… things happen…

Like a mere month ago, when I was taking a super-hot bath (it was still wintering way back then), and I thought Marcy had fallen, I jumped up too fast… and passed out on the way to my feet and fractured a rib on the side of the tub. Blinding pain, unable to breathe and desperate to rescue Marcy from whatever had befallen her, what do you think was my first thought even before I was able to suck in a half breath?

This better not mess up my surgery. 

Luckily it won’t. I’m better now, but it took a doctor’s note to clear me. Marcy’s fine, too. (Thanks for asking.)

Faith. Yes. I have it. Nothing between me and the threshold now but time.

And Joy. Joy that I’m aware of the significance. Joy that I can feel the Grace that supports me on this journey. Joy that Marcy is with me, side by side as we cross this threshold together. Joy that I know joy. Joy that I stand in faith.

So,yes, I make no apologies that this one is a “to be continued…” because the song of transcen-dance has a backbeat of faith and a melody of joy… and the chorus that leads up to the bridge is building to a crescendo.

I’ll see you on the other side…

Shock & Awe

I am bruised… by self-inflicted wounds. I just got out of a two-day Facebook war with a friend of my, as he put it, adolescence. (That shudda been my first clue as to just how far we had grown apart… adolescence? Who says that about themselves?)

But I digress.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit… no, I am embarrassed to admit that I took the bait with every posting until I finally pulled out of the tailspin.  But I fell to what many smarter people than I have already discovered, i.e. the classic, the liberal fatal flaw of believing that:

if I could say the exact right thing using “facts” (I know, call me Pollyanna), that not only would I win the argument, but also I would change the mind of my opponent for good and for… well, good.

I said I was embarrassed because this is not the first time I’ve made this naïve, tactical error. Chalk it up to the “fool me twice” dunce-cap-kinda-thingy.

But I will also confess that merely knowing this probably won’t stop me from doing it again.

The thing is, I know this strategy will never stand up to what they got on the other side. Facts, as we have seen, are no match for the campaign that seems to be the BFF of those who are on the wrong side of history but the alt-right side of philosophy. This campaign is the Kraken that’s been unleashed onto our society, but it has another name that maybe you’ve heard before.

I call it “shock and awe” or, as it’s probably more commonly known, the scientific name for a statement of such astounding arrogance and audacity, namely “complete and total horsesh*t.”

You’ve experienced shock & awe before. Shock & awe is usually very easy to spot because it is a cover-up for something that is so ridiculously false that it can’t be believed on it surface merit. Sober people usually walk away from anything enmeshed in shock & awe instantly. Few are foolish enough to attempt to use it because it is usually stamped out faster than roaches at a wedding banquet with derision, laughter, and a complete lack of support.

There have been some historic attempts at using shock & awe – and one could understand the lure of its potential to cover-up hopeless compromising positions, and or your garden variety nefarious deeds such as “having a wide spread,” being told “she was 18,” and “that’s just locker room talk.”

But something happened on the way to the democracy of 2017, and somewhere, somehow, President Steve Bannon discovered… the real truth was unimportant to a vocal minority of the American people, but “winning is all there is.”  (Thank you, Paul Newman – not Vince Lombardi.)

And President Bannon discovered something else—blatant disregard for the truth made the liberal left (and everyone with a brain) completely stark raving crazy. So crazy that they lost their minds, and more importantly, their way in every argument.

What’s funny to this girl is that this shock & awe strategy truly puts the cart before the horsesh*t, in that normal, intelligent people are so “awed” by the sheer audacity of these incredulous arguments, they:

  1. Let their guard down, thinking that there’s no way to even justify stupidity and lies, so why bother?
  2. Dismiss the information as so irrelevant that it is something that no one could possibly ever agree with. (So again, it’s not taken seriously.)

However, this sets the stage for the shock portion of our show…

Intelligent people are shocked that the above works. Progressives scramble to come down to Bannon’s level, which shelves all of the intelligence and thoughtfulness and more importantly good intentions of their position.

This shock knocks the progressives off their game so much that they find themselves playing defensive “Catch-up” on “solutions looking for a problem,” “False equivalencies,” “fake news,” and “alternative facts.”

This even has the Progressives questioning their own intentions. Maybe we were wrong to think that people are basically good. Maybe we did underestimate the middle of the country’s ability to ignore racism, sexism, and homophobia for the false promises of jobs. Maybe we should’ve played to their fears and lack of tolerance?

And here’s the deal, President Bannon is smart. He saw how some clever people learned from the big tobacco failures (in court with massive payouts) that you don’t need to enter into a debate.  All you need to to is sell the world on the idea that there is a debate, where one hadn’t existed before.

You don’t even have to waste time creating counter arguments (that’s too much work, and requires research and footnotes). No all you have to do is conjure a myth that “others smarter than us all are not convinced.” Wasn’t that fun?  See how that works? You don’t even have to invent a lie that can be struck down with facts.

And it works. We now have an entrenched view on the so-called right that there is a climate debate, which is all the daylight they need to drive a wedge into.

Why am I only now fired up about this?  Because not only is shock and awe being used to try and wrest our country from us, but people are trying to use it in everyday life.

Which brings me back to my past FB skirmish with my so-called conservative-leaning former friend. This experience showed me the very personal face of astounding arrogance and audacity and I responded exactly the way I those of on the left classically do.

It started when I shared a posting on FB describing Evangeline’s protest to President Bannon’s “beard” (whom some are referring to as simply “45”) about his recent executive order to rescind the guidance by President Obama’s protections for trans kids using the bathroom in public schools. Evangeline has a trans sister and she felt (maybe naively) that her singing the national Anthem at the inauguration bought her a piece of 45’s ear. That she feels betrayed and appropriated is not getting her any sympathy from those who suffered at the hands of men, especially this man, but hey, she tried. Good for her.

And I pointed out to all of those who said give 45 a chance, that these were his true colors, he is a coward who will sell out everyone, breaking promises to the most vulnerable, in order to play to his base.

And then the comments started to flood in. One man (who I went to high school with) asked a genuine question about the legitimacy of this issue and was answered by several of my Facebook friends. In this case, they were all real friends of mine who were also FB friends, because they jumped to make it clear to this guy “what was what.”

But then “the friend from my adolescence” who I nicknamed “Stever,” decided he was the new authority on all things trans. And he let his opinion that this issue (transgender) was a mental illness, a “disorder” that didn’t require a society to accommodate, and therefore didn’t require the protections promised by Title IX.

Before I could answer, he was buried by my FB posse. But… he doubled down.  Each attempt at argument revealing more of his arrogance, misunderstanding, prejudices and biases.

It was… mind-blowing. And I was shocked at his arrogance and awed by his audacity.

I struck back. I called out his misunderstanding and irresponsibility in perpetuating these lies that not even Fox News agrees with.

But he continued.

And I was immediately taken back to countless hours spent defending him to our other friends in high school who never could understand him. But I did. And I stood beside him, fought for him. And never abandoned him.

And… I admit. He hadn’t changed a bit. Even in high school he was an expert in everything we talked about. Back then I though of his arrogance as confidence, his audacity, charming. Inspiring, even. But here, now, I also hadn’t changed, and my old Pollyanna self was blindsided that he was could be so “in bed with the enemy.”

So I tried three separate times to get him to see how just “out of line” he was.

If I could show him how silly it was for him to negate my lived experience with something he read on the internet, we would both have a good laugh. He would thank me for opening his eyes. And we would listen to Rush (the Canadian Power trio, not the Pill Popper). And then his mom would call us to dinner and I’d have to call my mom and ask if I could stay.

But something has changed in all these years. Not just between friends, but our desire to be friends has eroded with the acid rain of social media. What’s happened to us?  Maybe it’s because it’s anonymous. It’s not like a real conversation. We can’t see our words reflected in the actual face of the listener.

Marcy even tried to knock some sense into Stever, posting in very plain language that there was no way he could ever know more than I on this subject.

Would he see that?  Could he ever recognize his folly and hubris if he couldn’t see my face?

But… I still had faith that the years spent dreaming together of being in a rock band (he plays guitar, I was supposed to be the keyboardist, even tho’ I would’ve preferred to be the drummer), sword fighting together in the forest (with homemade katanas we made in his father’s woodshop), and writing screenplays for the fantasy epics (that I would direct and he would star in), would amount to something. I just knew that he had to have an ember of the “me” in his heart that I could blow on and get my friend back. I didn’t dare hope at this point that he would know what living in my life was, but I did have hope that he would see how silly he was to think he could possibly know more than me and that his opinion could really hurt me physically and emotionally, and, if nothing else, I had hoped that he would at least…

… stop working against me.

But… no. He tripled down, if that’s possible, choosing instead to make it my job to convince him that I and my community are valid and worthy. Rather than do his own inquiry to find out where he got it so wrong, was at odds with the world’s medical community, the US military and decent humans everywhere, was so, let’s face it, out of sync, Stever was holding out… holding on. Digging his heels in…

So I… opted out.

I lost a friend (probably one that I never really had?) and I learned that nothing is ever going to change his and his brethren’s minds.

What’s maybe the most troubling is that Stever’s shock & awe campaign had no discernible goal, and maybe that’s the worst of all. What could he have possibly hoped to gain? What was the point of demonstrating to the world (at least the FB world on my feed) how misinformed, arrogant and audacious he is?  With others who use this tactic, they are bulldozing toward financial gain, as with President Bannon. But Stever would only, could only lose once he chose to stay in the fight.

And he did. He lost me. And I’m not sure that even matters to him. But he didn’t gain anything.

So what to do?

This isn’t an area where we can “agree to disagree.” My identity is not “up for debate” nor is “the jury still out” as to whether Gender Dysphoria is real. However, Stever, with all his outdated and misguided opinions, can still vote. He can still support any number of the attempts to institutionalize discrimination. So… I have to care what he thinks.

I guess this is why we have to enact laws to protect us from the obvious. My father used to say that locks only keep an honest man honest. If the general goodness of humanity would always prevail, we wouldn’t need locks, we wouldn’t have laws and we wouldn’t have wars.

But we do have laws, and the one that rules our land is a set of principles that make us the United States of America. Our constitution. You would think, the mere spirit and philosophy of it would be enough. But because there are always those who will try to bend the rules away from the shared collective good to a zero-sum gain of individual power and wealth, we have to enact amendments. Even these should be enough. But when they haven’t been (as in the civil rights act of 1964, which cited not only article one, but also the 14th & 15th amendments), we had to create laws that spell out what everyone should’ve known, but elected instead to bend.

So, even our laws aren’t enough? Apparently not. Our morals and American values are under fire again by those who want “freedom and justice for those who think and look like me,” instead of the true American values of united we stand, and liberty and justice for all.

How do we get back to that?

And where did this movement to dismantle our principles come from?  More importantly, where are the patriots who would protect these sacred values?

Um, that would be US.

Where are the patriots?  Well, we’re easy to spot. We’re out in the streets. We wear pink knit hats. We show up at the airports. We are flooding the town halls, and we’re the ones who will vote your devisive, discriminating, hate-filled hearts out of office in 2017 and 2018.

But until then, how will we deal with shock & awe, both on the national level and in our very own homes, or even with those whom we ourselves have stood up for and with in the past; our so-called friends?

Keep knitting.

It worked for Gandhi.

 

 

 

Funeral for a friend

As I wrote in my book, I was/am part of a group of television professionals who hail from San Diego State’s Department of Telecommunications & Film, TCF for short. The Telecom part was, I like to think, a recognition of the efforts of one great man, Dr. Don Wylie, a professor at SDSU, who, as a Naval Reserve Officer, was instrumental in guiding our military satellite technology into the civilian commercial broadcast world. The truth is, by the time I entered the BS program in 1980, the technical aspects and this engineering discipline had given way to the glamorous world of TV and Film production, but the name stuck to remind us of our legacy… maybe. Either that or the University just didn’t get around to updating our name. And, so TCFers we were. Proudly.

But Dr. Don, Dr. Wylie, Wylie, or the Old Man (which was how my father, a Navy man himself loving referred to him) was the Spiritual Leader of a “Cadre” (his name for this dynamo production unit) of 9 men and 2 women. We immersed ourselves in the “act” of television production with such religious fervor, that not only did we create a renaissance for this previously sleepy breeding ground for the local Channels’ Daily News broadcast talent, but we are still friends, nay brothers, and sisters – truly family to this day.

This group is so tight that I faced coming out to them with more trepidation than I did to my own blood family (which was, I learned, a huge miscalculation on both sides of that equation). But unlike my blood family, from which you begin concealing your high risk behaviors, the Cadre had truly seen me and I them, at both my best and worst… and we were still friends.

This very boy’s club had only two very great women, one of whom married one of our boys. And for those of you just now joining my journey, the revelation that we were actually 8 men and 3 women sent shockwaves through our cadre.

Since I systematically came out through a series of personal heart-to-heart phone calls (we are spread out across this great country), I have had the great opportunity to see in person 8 of my brethren, with four hold-outs. Since I seem to be keeping score, two of the four holdouts had at least agreed to meet when I was in their areas (and had to postpone for different reasons)  but the other two have to this day ignored any requests by me to connect. So, we’re 8-2 with 2 ties.

But, tho’ the sports metaphor is very much our dialect (having cut our production teeth on covering the Aztec’s teams, we shot and aired anything that bounced, was thrown, kicked or hit with a bat), in matters of the heart, it breaks down when I try to use it now. Maybe I have higher standards, but since I no longer have to “keep up appearances,” I can tell you the “wins” ain’t wins but the losses are truly losses… and the ties… even worse. Just knowing that we talked is not good enough, and knowing that we hadn’t talked yet is only slightly better than refusing to talk at all. As I said, this is family. The family that you get to choose. Tho’ we all are bonded by our addiction to television, love is our real drug of choice.

So yes, by phone, everyone was amazing and supportive and touched, said all the right things, and pledged uninterrupted love. I was to be “business as usual,” albeit my bond with the women was instantly a little deeper, so pleased were they to have a sister. And the guys? Well they went out of their way to make sure that this was “no big deal.

“but that was then…”

And this is now. Of the five who live near me in Southern California, three make as much effort to see me as I do them. Which means that, barring our productions schedules throwing our social calendars into the blender every other month or so, we see each other at least once a week at a “taco night.”

These three men are very dear to me. I will use their “Ski-trip names” handles they earned from an annual weekend of what used to be skiing until old-age started whittling down the reason for spending money on plane tickets to famous resorts to three days of whiskey, cards, and fart jokes.

First, there’s the infamous “Puff Daddy,” and next, there’s “CF” (which stands for Chin f**k, a reference to a self-inflicted injury suffered while under the influence). Both live here in  LA LA Land with me, and finally, there’s “Bigsley” who still hails from our native San Diego.

I have always been closer (emotionally) to Puffy, having sold him the first television series I created, as well as truly holding each other up in darker times (cancer for him, my father’s passing for me). Now, this is not to say that CF and Bigsley are distant seconds, they are most certainly not. CF has bent over backward and, of all the guys (Puffy included), is the only one who calls regularly to check in on his new baby sister, me. Bigsley,, it turns out, is my knight in shining armor, apparently defending my new honor (in my absence) with the other guys right down to the pronouns. As I said, in my absence, and I’d trade a little of that chivalry for seeing or talking with him more frequently, but what’s a girl to do?

So, you can imagine that, close as I am with all three, it would still be a surprise to learn that they, well, are struggling. That is, they are struggling with the enormity of my journey. They are still trying to take the abstract thought that the “transgender thing” that seems to be the hot topic “out there in the world,” and fit it onto our real lives. And, that it would be me. Mad Dog, The Madman, their wild child. Sure Scott was a free spirit and seemed to be in touch with “his” feminine side, but, really?  “He’s one of those?”

And these are not my words. They have all shared with Marcy Mylove, when I’ve left the room, that they aren’t as cool with my transition as they are trying so hard to be for me. Especially Puffy. He’s one of my biggest supporters. He has already dried my tears. He can and will listen to me as I work my way through some of the narrower rapids of my journey. But, when he’s sure his candor won’t hurt me (because I’m out of earshot), he confesses it’s huge. It’s enormous. We have so much lived life together and he’s not sure he’s “there” yet… sigh.

This is something I want my trans sisters and brothers to hear. Yes, they have accepted me. But I want our love to continue to grow without any glitch. And I’m sure they do too. And they are trying. They love me so much they would never hurt me by even admitting that it is hard. They are committed to diving on every grenade that rolls out from their own psyches, every subconscious stumble. They will always support me… even if they don’t or can’t understand me.

And that should be enough.

And, even without having heard this intel, I know this. As I wrote in a recent posting on this blog (The Wire, December 16) this is the psychic piano wire that is strung between all of our hearts and I knew I “twanged” this chord so hard that the pegs damn near broke off.  And I knew it needed to be tightened on both ends. I am tightening my side, and Patience is the wrench. And time. Oh, and laughter.

Yesterday, Bigsley was driving back thru town. He had been further north with his son at a college Fraternity’s Father/Son weekend, so he asked Puff and me to dinner. CF was working and would be missed.

Now, something that is changing is their manners. Right from the start, they are genuinely treating me like a lady. Opening doors, letting me sit first, etc. We hadn’t even gotten thru the pleasantries and ordering when Bigsley asked,

“So Ms. Scottie, what are you up to? What are you doing?”

The standard answer with these guys is to rattle off the various shows and projects and “gigs” that each of us has in play. Puffy produces movies for Lifetime network, Bigsley followed in Dr. Wylie’s footsteps (he’d be so proud) teaching TV production as well as producing documentaries. I have always been the freelancer, running other people’s shows, and pitching my own, but this time I answered by waiting demurely for the waiter to leave to get our order and saying…

Well, I’m getting ready for surgery, which will be next month.”

Neither of my brothers flinched. They are seasoned poker players. But the earth did skip a beat as my words continued to hang in the air. They knew without any further detail or embellishment exactly which surgery I’m talking about. Yes, that surgery, The surgery. This is the milestone that not one of us (me included) ever knew was even on the table. And now, in this moment here it is… Puff breaks the silence first with,

“Can I fill this uncomfortable silence with a totally inappropriate joke now?”   

I must’ve said yes. Because we began, with hearts now wide open (and their minds completely blown) to discuss the mechanics of surgery. Educational as it was, it’s still a fertile field to fill even more uncomfortable space with more inappropriate material. As you now have surmised, this is their very boy way of dealing with intense… with, well let’s face it, life. And… well, I’m admitting right here, that I used this opportunity, knowing that Puff was struggling, to lean in… and ask point blank  if he is cool. If he’s okay. With this. With me. With this big step.

He put his dilemma into words:

“Look, man, you’re in my heart. And I love you as you, as you are now… a woman. But I’m trying to get over the fact that my bro Scott… will never come walking thru that door… ever again. You’re going to have to get used to the fact that people loved Scott. I love Scottie. But I really loved Scott. And Scott was my brother. And I… am never going to see him again. Ever.”

Now, my mind is blown. A white sheet of rain washed all my thoughts away – all I knew was that I was so very sad for my dear, dear, brother’s loss. I was, oddly, detached from being the object of his grief. I did not feel compelled to correct his view of the truth of my experience. I felt no hurt or frustration for my part in this. And, tho’ this was seemingly directed at me, I felt no blame from him, that I was the agent of his brother’s destruction, I only felt that he looked to me in that moment as one who would hopefully understand his loss. And the one who would hold him as we had held each other thru times of challenge and loss. My heart was breaking for him.

Bigsley broke what felt like a lifetime of heartache by man-splaining Puffy’s point, “Scottie, guys are black and white. We used to relate to you as a dude, and now we have to relate to you as a woman. By the way, you are rocking the woman thing. But that doesn’t make it easier. “Sorry we’re just… dudes”

In essence, since I speak “dude,” Bigsley was saying that Scott had to die, so Scottie could live.

In Puffy’s world, Scott was already gone. And Puffy was trying to mourn “on the fly” as he welcomed Scottie with open arms.

Now this is something that the trans community faces all the time.  Many women (and I’m assuming the guys do too, they just don’t write about it in their memoirs) in the older generation would stage funerals for their male lives. I confess that this is not the first time my own coming out and the transition has been referred to as a death in the family. My sister Kiera still hasn’t gotten over losing her cherished big brother. And my dear friend, Merrie-Lynn, actually encouraged me to conduct some sort of acknowledgment/ritual of the ending of my male past. With surgery right around the corner, I’d be silly to ignore these signs from the Universe to realize that this part of my journey is demanding more of my attention.

But…

Maybe it was because I was raised by wolves that I learned never say “die.” I think I met these previous signs (Kiera’s and Merrie-Lynn’s) with a total dismissal. A death in the family? C’mon Kiera! A ritual Merrie-Lynn? That’s a little too woo-woo for this girl. But really in both cases it was my desire to cling to the notion that even considering this as a death was a negation of… the truth.

I always had been, am and always will be the same me. I had always been a woman.  How could I acknowledge, my past with the wolves as my “boyhood” and “manhood,” when I had never been either one myself?

There was never someone other than me to let go of. There was only me and I had no intention of leaving.

But seeing the loss in Puffy’s eyes made me realize another essential thing I have learned in this life… funerals are for the living. They help the living let go of their hold on the past. They allow their loved ones to move on.

So, now, I’m torn. I feel compelled to help cis people understand that trans (in my experience) is not that you “were one gender” and are now another.  Sorry to start sounding like a broken record, but with 45’s recent order to dismantle protections for trans youth in public schools, this firestorm of misunderstanding has been stoked anew. Those who support this cruel and legal discrimination cite their belief and conviction that transgender is a lifestyle choice or even a mental illness. Denying the facts. Denying those who have experienced it. No one would ever in their right mind choose derision,  discrimination, pain, trauma, violence and misunderstanding. Can we please put that one to bed?

Dysphoria comes of being in a body that will never, not ever, no matter how hard you try to deny it, match your truest, deepest “sense” and awareness of your very own self. I say this without the words “believe yourself to be” or “think that you are” that others have used to describe this phenomenon because they both imply an intellectual attempt at interpreting the experience that humans have of being human, that only each human can ever experience of one’s own self.

I have never not known that I wasn’t me, a girl, a woman. I had this sense before I had words. I had this sense despite the organs that this body had. I had this sense despite what my parents and then my teachers and then my society told me. I had this sense despite what I tried to reason and then discipline myself to disprove.

Even as I grew up, took my place in my family, made friends and started a marriage and a career, constantly creating a life for myself and a chance to love and be loved it was through an outer armor that looked like a dude named “Scott.” But the wearer of that armor was me.

And tho’ this body, despite being, well let’s just go with incongruent with the rest of me, has always been my trusty armor, a worthy vehicle, a true friend that has gotten me through thick and thin, and certainly deserves the utmost care and respect, I’m not sure a funeral for my armor would seem right… for me.

But for Puffy? Hmmm. Maybe? I would do anything for him.

I’ll have to get back to you on that.

But… I do feel a need to do something to recognize the crossing of this mystical, physical and very very real, threshold of my life. I do recognize it’s huge. I do feel a need to keep it as one of the most sacred moments of my life. Yes, it’s huge, but in a way that only I can ever know fully. I’m not alone as I do this, but I am the only one who will be doing this with this life called Scottie.

One thing that I am doing is allowing any and all emotions to come up – I’m trying not to stop any of them. Emotions are already a new and amazing experience for me, but in these last few weeks, as I get closer to the threshold, it’s been like a roller coaster in the dark. I have no idea when the turns are coming. And some of these have no names or essences that I’ve ever felt before, or that even make sense. But instinctively I know they have a special value whether they are connected to my stepping across or not.

And then there’s Mylove… My lover. The person who’s heart and body and bed I’ve shared for close to thirty years. Yes. This is her journey too. Equally intense – but specifically unique in that she didn’t get a say in going on this journey and more than I did. But I had 45 years to contemplate its significance and test its validity. No one can ever prepare for this, but I had close to a four decade head start on her. She had to get up to speed instantly, flying completely on faith in me and our love. And she does it every single day. She never saw this coming; didn’t want it wen it did, but… she wants me and our love. As do I. So we are figuring this out. If anyone had the right to mourn for the loss of her husband and her lover, her white knight, her king, it’s she. But those were all “flavors” of her honey, me. She’s the one who chose the name Scottie for me. I wasn’t changing who I was in her heart, I was evolving as a person.

What you need to know is that ALL of the above flashed through my heart and soul between chicken fried rice and the stale fortune cookies. Bigsley brought this night to a close by summing up his “men are black and white” theory by saying, “Look, men are stupid. Women are crazy. You were always … really crazy. Suddenly everything makes perfect sense. We should’ve seen this, you, coming.”

And there it is. My chivalrous knight Bigsley actually does get me. Despite even his own protestations. I’ve gone from black to white (again) over Chinese food. And maybe this is another bread crumb (cookie crumb?) I can leave for my sisters and brothers as they follow this path: just as you are constantly relearning things about yourself, and reexamining your every move, so too are your family and friends. They aren’t taking a step backward, they are refreshing their grip. And that’s a good thing.

Then, we’re outside and it’s time for hugs and kisses goodbye. We have always been “huggers” in this boy’s club, but this time, as 6 foot two Puffy bends down to hug me, we… kiss. It’s natural and sweet, the kiss you get from your daddy, your uncle or your big brother. It’s reassuring, and… reaffirming. And it catches me off-guard. Because…

I got lipstick on Puffy’s cheek.

Every lady knows “you don’t share colors!” and I whispered my apology in his ear as we hugged. But while I was worrying about his cheek, he was whispering in my ear:

“I do love you, Scottie.”

And his hug went straight to my heart.  As we let go, I did what my aunts and other great ladies had taught me by example and I wiped the pink smear demurely off like an Audrey Hepburn movie. I think I also lifted one foot behind as I did it… no idea where that came from…

After blessings for our various safe journeys home, I drove away in tears.

Tears of gratitude.

It was said by more than one reader of my book (which spans a year in the life of my extended family that stretches across to Europe and Australia numbering well above 200 people), that my life and journey and the people in it are some of the most amazingly generous, loving and supportive people ever gathered. I strongly agree. My journey is our journey. And tho’ they didn’t ask for it, it has given all of these people the chance to show to me, and themselves, that we are the noble, loving and best humans we hope and aspire to be. Even if and when we don’t know what we’re doing. We love first, ask questions later. And yes, it’s messy. But so is life.

I have never actually been grateful that I was born trans, but I can see that my trans journey is a profound and precious gift. A humbling and amazing immersion in love that fills me to overflowing every day.

Who knew that a little bit of lipstick could change the world?

Massachusetts Sun Shine

I’m not sure if I should watch the news anymore. Even my sane spaces are cray.

I don’t trust anyone to give it to me straight, except (and here goes, I’m outing myself) Trevor, Rachel, Sam B, or Joy. But even they are at a loss to describe the events of our country right now.

Each night, I’ve gone to bed with a stomach ache and a bloody tongue… but not for the reasons you may imagine.

Being Raised by Wolves, and especially being a Madden, the bile that rises in my throat when injustice rears its ugly head usually poisons my tongue as it sharpens my wit – and then I will cut you.

Deep.

And that’s not only scary. It really hurts my heart to think I’m capable of even fantasizing someone else’s destruction.

The other day, Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced in the committee hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions. Silenced. An obscure parliamentary rule was used on one of the prominent women in our Senate as she read from the 1986 testimony of another prominent woman, Coretta Scott King. Yes. That Coretta Scott King.

Silenced.

And Senator Warren’s fellow democratic Senators (two of them) got up afterward and read the testimony.

And were not silenced.

It was like a bad ABC Afterschool Special, when one boy sees an injustice and takes a stand for the girl who was wronged. I don’t know whether to scream or hit something.

And this is why my stomach hurts. I am at war with my admiration and awe of the Grace and restraint that Sen. Warren is displaying in the various news interviews (she, just like Hil, is in that red-zone where playing the woman card is the dangerous play), and with the blinding searing white hot rage that may just impel me to take that same rage out in a very un-ladylike manner.

… (I’m not looking, did Scottie stick that landing?  No broken glass?  Whew.  She got to the end of that sentence without committing horrendous war crimes, good for her!)

I’m serious. I’m looking to take my cues from Elizabeth. If anyone knows how to “play with the boys,” it’s she. And here she is, deftly dodging what everyone can see – what’s happening to the goose ain’t ever gonna happen to the gander – because… because…

Because… “Because” has become a four-letter word – short for “because I said so,”

I’ve seen because, before.  We all know because, when we see it.  It’s always been because of because. And the boys will never admit when they are because-ing. Except for hopeless cases that are still so entitled they think because-ing is their divine right.)

My first instincts would be slam Mitch and Jeff’s heads together and see if maybe that would knock some manners – just some f***ing manners, if nothing else – into what is laughingly referred to as their brains.

But Elizabeth is the one who fights sexism and stupidity, not just every day, but all her life.  She’s been at this way longer than I. And I am trying to learn how she does it.

What’s a girl to do?  No, I’m serious, what is a girl to do? What is the play here?

Mylove is always trying to talk me down from the cliffs of high self-expectations whenever I get in this state. I’m horrified at just how deep testosterone cut the trenches in my veins. And even tho’ the rage enzyme is no longer there (trust me, my estrogen count is as high as five pregnant women, there hasn’t been any room for testosterone for years), still the old trenches at the front lines are there, littered with broken glass, dank puddles of sweat, pooling in the corners… and the firestorm of rage uses them as shortcuts to destruction, like Steve Bannon uses Donny.

And so, yes, Mylove reminds me, women can be mean, evil and as we know, nasty. The Rage monster is not confined to one gender or the other and “not wanting to fight,” is not a part of being a woman. I know. I know. I freakin’ KNOW! Mylove is not the only cis-woman to try to get me to understand this. I’ve had several women tell me this, and yes, they too, are right.

But it’s hard to trust their wise counsel completely, because they don’t know what I know…

How rage tinged with testosterone feels in my female arteries…

It’s why I describe it with such acridity. Such, virulence. Such toxicity.

It hurts.

So, that’s why I don’t ever want to ever feel it again.

And that’s why I pray for Elizabeth’s grace. Her decorum. Her tough-as-nails, take no prisoners state. She gets it done. Without that rage. She is enraged, of that I have no doubt.  But she doesn’t do rage, itself.

Last night as the drama unfolded further, she reminded us in a calm and gentle voice, that the men who shut her down had themselves failed in their duty to hear in her reading of the 1986 letter (yes, this just in…) the very evidence that should have done what everyone was afraid of, impugn Sen. Sessions’ (now Secretary Sessions!) character. But this was a self-inflicted injury. He did this of his own hand. By his own actions. His own decisions to not once, but several times, act in a manner that was so damning that it worked in blocking him from a federal judge position . So he brought this on himself. He maligned his own character.

And the Senators who did not stand up with Senator Warren, stained their own character by dereliction of duty. By placing protecting male privilege above protecting our country. They overlooked their boy Jeff’s racism for partisanship, his flagrant disregard for the rule of law for Robert’s Rules of order.

So tell me, who has impugned the character of these senators? Who by their own rules deserves to be silenced?

I am, I think more angry that Elizabeth should even have to know how to fight like a girl. That she would, as a woman in 2017, have to know how to “take on” the men. And, as women, I know we all get by on a variation of not treating them or ourselves as “a gender.” As Sun Tzu tells us, “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” It’s a boy’s club, so it’s a “be one of the boys,” strategy.

And we also know that the men don’t follow Sun’s advice when it comes to us. They know only blunt force trauma, bribery or begging. They only know how to act like boys when we are present. They do, very much, see our gender; are threatened by it; patronize it; try to corral it; but never try to understand it. Oh, no. That would be surrender. And we can’t do that.

We know that ole Mitchy threw the gag-order card out there, knowing full well it would never have worked on a male Senator, He also knew he wouldn’t get any pushback – and that the other boys would follow his lead, “boys just being boys” and all.

But this is why my blood still boils – we all know it was wrong. And they did it anyway.

And they placed silencing a Senator over hearing evidence (again) that would impel them to either change their vote or, blatantly, be on the record for ignoring evidence to keep their male egos intact. And, yes, they have been called out on it. But will they do it again, and again? Will they always just be “the boys?”

Am I making too big an issue of the gender thing here? Because Senator Elizabeth Warren is not. And she’s the one in it. I am enraged and she is not. Is that because she is, as Sun Tzu also teaches, “patiently waiting by the river for her enemy to float by?”

What is Ms Scottie’s lesson here?

I will confess, I am a veteran of the battles of which I speak. I have had to fight for my team, my show, my idea and my position. I modeled my tactics after the men I fought, I followed Sun’s counsel and, “Let [my] plans be as dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” I was a good girl and student of Sun’s, I became my enemy to know my enemy. I won many and lost many.

And now, I don’t want to fight like Sun. I don’t want to see men as the enemy. I want Elizabeth’s Grace.

But old habits die hard. And the phantom testosterone haunts my veins, spoiling for a fight. Any fight, even a mental one.  Do I hope and pray that it will fade over time? As Sun says, “Even the greatest sword rusts in salt water” Will my tears dull that blade?

What if I need that sword?

Many women have looked to me for intel and guidance on how to run with the wolves. Do I owe this to my sisters? Is this something I can contribute? Is this my role?

Because clearly the fight ain’t over.

Not for congress. Not for our country. And not for me. My “long Kiss Goodnight” is not about remembering that I was raised by wolves but rather trying to say goodbye to those habits. The overt ones are obvious. But the assassin’s creed is… shit, in my DNA and here’s the rub, dear Scottie Jeanette… there’s no amount of estrogen that will ever change that.

Maybe Mylove is right. What I thought came from the wolf pack has, like everything else, always already been there. My instincts to fight are a woman’s instincts. My rage is a woman’s rage. My strength is a woman’s strength. I am me.

Maybe I have nothing to worry about.

But they do.

We were warned, it was explained to us. Nevertheless, we will persist.

Thank you, Mylove. And thank you Senator Elizabeth Warren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt by Association…

I sat down to write this week’s posting, and realized…

I had already said  everything (this week) in an interview for another woman’s blog.

So I decided to throw light (the opposite of shade) on a fellow blogger for the great work she does, which is this: She interviews the Heroines in her Life, and as of this week’s count, I am honored to be number 362.And in the three days since my post dropped, she added three more…

Yes, it’s some amazing company. You’ll find the “usual suspects,” great women whom you have heard of, who have lead our community (either metaphorically or by real world sweat and tears) but it’s also women you need to know. Women who have made a difference doing nothing more than the greatest act of courage – truly, being themselves.

Which, we’re learning, is even more mystifying than previously thought.

I received an invitation a week ago from Monika Kowalska – and this started our journey together. Monika paid me one the greatest compliments I had ever received:”Scottie, I was reading and reading (your answers) and I started to feel that…

I am no longer cursed but I am gifted to be a transwoman! Thank you so much!!!!”

Well. What can you say after that other than – Thank you God that I have something to give.

So. This week, I direct you to Monika’s great blog dear readers and see for yourself what all the hoopla is really all about…

Please read my responses to her insightful questions at:

http://theheroines.blogspot.com/2017/02/interview-with-scottie-madden.html

And see you next week –

scottie jeanette christine madden