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
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.
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…
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?
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 to see just what inevitable looks like.
Next time: The Conclusion of “Well, that happened.”
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…
Okay… really. Where to start?
Yes. We marched along with the millions of people around the world – including Antarctica… for women’s rights.
And, while a millions stories and posts are and will be written about this proud moment in history, and many will be trying to understand it, quantify it, lionize it, and rationalize it, I want to just revel in it.
The bask in the brilliant light of community, sisterhood, and graceful power of us. Of we. Of all.
And, before we go any further, there are so many people to thank. The organizers of every March. The speakers at every march. Whoever started the pink pussy knitting circles. The unbelievably creative and clever signs. The men who marched alongside. The police who kept us safe. The parents who brought their children. And everyone who participated from home. And everyone who marched for marching with our respect, caring, joy and intelligence. Not one incident of violence or vandalism.
And this simple act of gratitude speaks to why I was marching. I marched for and because and to insure our rights. These and many other virtues and values of women were in crystal focus for everyone to see. Yes, I started with gratitude –, because that’s who I am and I believe who we are. And yes I thanked everyone for marching, or as we’ve seen marching from home via the interwebs – because this was not, as the organizers stressed many times just a woman’s march, it was a march for women’s rights.
And here’s the deal. Say what you will. The Gracious Power of Women has been and always will be, the creative, nurturing, sustaining the power of life. So though this was almost overwhelming, it should be no surprise that we stood together. For women’s rights are human rights. (Thanks HRC!)
I first heard of the March in Washington D.C. via the posting that announcing there would be a sister March in Oakland. I immediately responded. Not only is the Bay area near and dear to our hearts, but it’s the spiritual home of our marriage, and so many members of our vast extended family are there. So, what better way to celebrate than with our peeps?
Now, of course hailing from La La Land, it could be a little strange, to make the trek north, even after LA announced their sister March., (750,000? So proud of us!) Stranger still to go even when Snow snow threatened to close the Grapevine, .
But I felt the call of sisterhood beaconing us ever north.
I will confess as “the new girl” I had no idea what to expect. I only knew to follow my heart. I had to let my feet and spirit do the talking. I had high hopes for something, but I specifically stopped those in the “inkling stage,” so any of my preconceived notions wouldn’t get in the way of the Grace that would arrive.And I wished I could say (because it would make me seem so darn smart) that I intended to march for all of the above reasons. But I can say that I was truky letting my heart lead the way…
Mylove and I had a very simple agenda. Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.
But, Mylove was also trying to be “the adult in the room.” She knew we should be concerned with the immense rain storms in the forecast. That’s it. I didn’t think too far ahead. I didn’t plan out every second – make a bunch of appointments, nor a serious of checkpoints. I didn’t even have an exit plan – and with e. With even bigger storms threatening the Grapevine for our return drive homereturn, this was not “good drills,” as my survival expert pedigree should dictate. And… I really didn’t care.
Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.
Now, for any of you who know me, you know that this in itself is very strange behavior for moi.… As “adventure girl,” I am usually the designated field marshall – yes,. I know how to move a large crew (20-50) people and 100’s of cases of equipment into and out of remote countries around the world – so I better know how to pack the car, right? I better have the back-up battery chargers for our cellphones, the appropriate foul weather gear (not just for me but spares for whomever joins whatever leg of the journey) and yes, I get a little, ahem, “passionate” when someone strays from the rendezvous point(s), even if it’s “just for moment” to get a better look at the signs going by. And tho’ I did do all of the above as expected, it was more because it was left-over in my muscle-memory, not the consuming “strategery” (thank you Bugs) that had been my M.O. for my professional career and reputation.
And… it did give me pause… as it was noted in it’s absence… so I’m either maturing as a woman, and confident in myself to get sh*t done, or… I’m no longer defining myself by what I do, but rather how I do it… (but maybe that’s a subject for a future posting – stay tuned.)
And, I will also confess that I am as realizing (or rather coming to grips with) that I am usually the resident “Amazon” of almost every grouping of female friends that we have., i.e I am usually, the one woman in any group of women in our circles thatwho was raised by wolves. And, though estrogen has seriously and lovingly reshaped my… shape, I’m still almost as physically strong, and almost as physically large as I was… that. And more importantly, I still have that protector gene that rises up when we’re out in any crowd.…
But. I hadn’t allowed myself to think too far down any of the above roads.
Because for the last few weeks, I had been so consumed with keeping a dull pounding ache at bay. I felt that I had been kicked in the heart… and that the kicking would continue for the next four years, or until it ended in it’s certain impeachment.
For the first weeks of this brand new shiny year, I could only see divisiveness. I could only see strife. I could saw only disrespect, disservice, and just plain, ol’ dissing of anyone (and everyone) who is not a redstatered-state, rich, white, male corporation.
And my Amazonian tiara felt heavy.
As, I too, took my seat at my own pity party of one (and I’ve heard from a number of my dearest and strongest women friends –, my sisters -, that this table had more than one single seat), I didn’t care that I had been allowing myself to dine regularly on the sour gummy worms of insanity, anger and acrimony streaming from every news source, social media platform and even closest friends. And I knew, that I knew better. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right. I knew I would never be able to continue at this pace – t.These gummies are hard to chew, they ruin your appetite and they make your tongue swell… (not unlike Capt’n Crunch rash! Remember?).
So, I knew I needed to change. I needed to do something to pull myself out of this tailspin. I knew I needed to fill the tank and head north. Like millions of people all over the world, I put on my raingear and, locking arms with Mylove and my dear sisters, leptleapt out into the sea of love that in our case flowed like a river through the downtown streets of Oakland… .
… and despite our agreement to stay on the edges of the crowd, we – found ourselves right in the middle of it all…
… were swept alongside the pack of twenty ten-year-old girls – carrying their signs and wearing their hand knit pink hats…
… were captivated, as a young mother patiently explained in great patience (and, (I might add, with great insight) to her six-year-old son, why “we shall overcomb” made everyone laugh…
… cheered, laughed, chanted and walked in yes, the truly festive atmosphere….
… marching for Women’s rights, human right’s, Black lives’ rights, Environmental rights, Native American rights, Muslim-American rights, American-American rights. …
… and wasWe were all were baptized with love, with respect, with the Gracious Power of women.
This is my “takeaway.” I still feel our power. It has cleansed my heart. It has given me hope. It has washed the sour taste of those gummiegummy worms from my palate.
Today. T, the Monday after, the White Hhouse debates are already changing tone from the combative defensiveness of this weekend’s missteps.
Was it because of the March?
Probably. No one will probably give it credit. And it doesn’t matter.
The Republicans will be taking a retreat this weekend where they will strategize getting away from “small ball.” Is that because of the pink knit hats?
It doesn’t matter. Because, as women, we don’t give two hoots about “small ball.” And yes we know what it is and yes, we still don’t care.
This was not a movement to be judged. Success wasn’t depending on someone else or anyone who beieves themselves “outside” to validate.
None of the metrics men concoct can measure the power of what happened.
And, as a few have stepped forward to try to throw shade on the movement, to try to undermine and attempt to divide us for whatever reasons, (including those, who, as women felt they were being shamed for not wanting to march. N (newsflash –, we don’t care that you didn’t march, we marched so that we all have the choice to be and do what we feel is right for each of us in our own lives. If you felt shame –, I’m sad for you. I’m sad that you felt the need to shame yourself. And please know: we didn’t do that to you.)
There were pundits (even women pundits) who asked the same questions and made the same accusations that were levied against the Occupy movements. “Yes, but this will only mean something if now, you take this energy and do something with it” “Yes, but they better get the one message or this will be for naught.” “Does everyone even o know what they’re marching fo?” “They need a clear leader or their movement will die.”
Again. It doesn’t even matter what they say. W — what anyone outside thinks. All we cared about was that it was showing how many of us there are. How many of us are watching. How many of us will stand up for our rights.
More than anything, I learned so much about myself from just being in the company of us. I can place too much “belief” in the fallacy that bad can have its day, despite my faith that good will ultimately prevail. (who wants to live thru even a bad having a good inning? Still too much.) But, what I learned, even more, is how easy it was to allow the acid of hopelessness to erode my resolve.
And even now, as I watch “alternative facts,” executive orders try to dismantle Sanctuary cities, and even the Republicans like Paul Ryan try to invent a new definition for, “there’s a lot of ways for Mexico to ultimately end up paying for the wall in way or another,” I am held up by a Gracious Power that stands even if I might waver…
The millions of people who stood together around the world are the Gracious Power.
This Gracious Power plays by its own rules.
This Gracious Power is undeniable.
This Gracious Power will overcome.
This Gracious Power wears pink knit hats.
This Gracious Power wears what it wants.
But this Gracious Power is love. Is inclusive. Is Respect. Is Intelligence. Is creativity. Is Inspiring. Is nurturing. Is sustaining. Is the force that makes, holds, and supports this universe.
This Gracious Power is Woman.
Each morning my workout is to “power hike” (no other word for this – it’s not quite running, and way faster than hiking) in the hills that are the northern border of the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy. Locals here call it “dirt Mulholland.” It’s the stretch of the infamous Mulholland Drive between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Havenhurst – a fire road that’s the mother artery for hundreds of smaller trails that feed off of this idyllic length of paradise between ocean and valley.
It’s a favorite for a morning cult of dog walkers (I’m one), mountain bikers (one of those too), trail runners, casual strollers and… well, it’s as a diverse a group of humans as the wildlife that call it home.
Why am I telling you this?
To put you in the same morning-sunshined, ocean-caressed, crisp-aired, rosy-cheek-kissed bliss that could only be made better by Return to Forever’s, “Romantic Warrior” pouring from my earbuds and marinating my soul…
You there? Ahhh, yes, there you go… now, breathe in and…
Cue the hawk. Her shadow kisses your face first and you look up – she waves with a curt tip of her wing as she soars out over the valley. And… something else passes by … and before you can even ask yourself what…?
She backs up and re-enters your field of vision, blocking out your hawk’s majesty… and as Stanley Clark’s bass line seduces your attention like warm maple syrup, a bright-faced, blond, brilliant light of a woman is talking… to you… she doesn’t seem to notice the earbuds…
So, you pull them out, and you hear her say, “… and would it be okay, I know this is terribly forward, but my daughter is a film student at USC, you see. And she’s making a film about a transgender police officer…”
Now, I am, and have always been, really good at inference. Sometimes to my downfall. All I need is a seed of a thought to deliver you a forest of a story. But as I struggled to hang on to this woman’s breathless story about her daughter, and the efforts she’s making, and the support she’s getting from the LAPD, and the officer himself who served in the Marines as a woman but transitioned after a distinguished tour of duty and is now quite happy as a male police officer, and the rest of the officers have been great with accepting him…
… my own thoughts were starting to drown out her voice. I realized I was desperately trying to figure out why is the woman, whom I have never met, who seems very nice and earnest, and proud of her daughter…
… why is she telling me this?
And when I still hadn’t heard a question in this waterfall of information and detail, nor even a request, a cold shiver went through me that I could not stop. I heard myself asking her,
“How did you know I was trans?”
Instead of a direct answer, I heard instead that she actually has other friends who transitioned years back and struggled, and are very brave, and after two in-depth stories about these friends, she confesses that she has seen me many times up here.
Now, for those of you who have never seen me. I am working very hard to reclaim a body that spent 50 years being Raised by Wolves. I’m happy to report, it’s working. And so is the estrogen. I have hips, and I am starting to get an hourglass figure. A woman is emerging In place of all the sweets and carbs I have given up. On this day, in fact, I am looking quite cute (ask Mylove) in athletic tights and red trainers (way better word than sneakers, I think) and, my hair is pulled up into a cute top spray. I’m wearing my Audrey Hepburn oversized sunnies… I tell you this so you too will have the same vision that she had. That way, you too should see my crest falling…
Which makes her talk even faster, and I hear her say:
“But really honey, you are so close, you are at least 80 percent. Yes, 80 percent for sure.”
Now. I don’t want you to misunderstand me. First, yes I was thunderstruck. And we’ll talk about that in few paragraphs, but I need you to know that I was so blown away by her blunt honesty and matter-of-fact brightness, that I kept talking to her and actually walked the rest of my morning hike with her (albeit more the stroll mode).
We parted ways at my home trail. I agreed to talk to her daughter and help her in any way that I could and when the subject of my career path came up (30 years in television, I know a thing or two about documentary filmmaking), she was overjoyed and proclaimed this meeting “meant-to-be.” I can’t lie, I felt that way too… I found out all kinds of interesting and wonderful things about her and, yes, we could be friends.
When I got home and told Mylove about the whole encounter, just as I was about to say her name, Mylove said it with me in stereo, “Oh, you met Lenka. She’s amazing, isn’t she? A brilliant light.” Hmmm, where have I heard that before? I guess it was meant to be, just as she said. And so I followed-up, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It feels weird after all that to confess that, as wonderful as it was, I was still… “unsettled.”
Okay, I promised, so here goes…
Eighty percent? Eighty? Eight-o percent-o. A solid “B.” A nice, “thank-you for playing” rating?
Eighty percent of what? Of womanhood? Of physical femininity? Of you’re almost there, but not quite? I’ve heard of measuring up… but really?
Why did this number rock my world? Well. It couldn’t have come at a more intense time or as they say, happen to a nicer girl. In the week leading up to this, I’ve had to endure whispers behind my back that the timing of my “choice” to be a woman was ill-timed. (This was from someone who should know how wrong at all levels that thought is.) I had direct in-my-face accusations that I haven’t “paid my dues – by working at sh*t jobs, like most women.” With these, I have no idea where to even start to correct these misconceptions. They are deep judgments that all my good deeds and my past efforts can’t seem to cleanse.
I was accused of conflating make-up, hair, and clothes with being a woman.
It doesn’t matter how many disclaimers I put out, this is the gum on my shoe that I can’t shake for love nor money. And, if I’m honest with myself, I have to confess that the number of references I make to the above, with all their requisite rationales and justifications, don’t quite add up to making the case for acquittal.
But, this was flung at me like the bag of trash that sprayed the feet of the teary Iron Eyes Cody, and… it hurt.
Do I celebrate my femininity every day with the way I now freely present myself to the world? Oh, heck yes! Do I still have a sense of urgency to make up for lost time? Without a doubt. Does it matter how I look? Well, yes honey, it does. Just as much as it does for the next girl: okay, maybe a little more enthusiastically than the average middle-aged woman, and just shy of obsessed, but not for the psychotic reasons that would land me in therapy. I care because I can now fully, freely, care about how I look. I can look into a mirror and see me. Caring and taking the time to do something about it does not define or confirm my womanhood, it glorifies it. My womanhood. Not yours or hers or Mylove’s. Mine. It also doesn’t say a thing about your womanhood. It doesn’t comment on what you should do or not do, just as yours doesn’t, mine.
Especially since it’s apparently only at 80%, anyway.
This was the frame of mind that was my “plus one” as I went to my friend Tarrah Von Lintel’s Art Gallery for the opening of Mark Seliger’s “On Christopher Street” Photography Show. My iPhone crapped-out on the way there, killing my GPS and sense of direction so much that I got horrifying lost. (I actually had to resort to orienteering survival skills, thanks, John Hudson.) Finally, I arrived 15 minutes before it closed (I missed about 80 percent of the show?) and, together with close to 300 people, I was taken by the portraits of transgender people who live in the Christopher Street neighborhood of New York. These portraits were stark black and white, with the soft-focused background urban textures, like armor worn proudly by these people. There were singles and duets; a quartet my favorite. They were from all walks of life, and all pure New Yorkers. The camera caught their steely, worldly, been-there stares. They are Loud. Proud. Out. 100 percent there.
The crowd appeared to my 80 percent perspective to be 50-50 percent “cis” to trans split. There was a spectrum of the trans community present. So many faces I had never seen before. I glommed on to my new BFF Ashlee (whom I met thru Tarrah), and she was a friendly life raft in a sea of anonymity. Ashlee,who was live on Facebook as I hugged her hello, spent the rest of my fifteen minutes introducing me to everyone who came with ten feet (she’s like that). And I met some amazing people, doing amazing work for our community. It was a vibrant, happy, hopeful vibe, and I was sorry when the lights began to go off, effectively “brooming us out “of the gallery as the show closed. As I drove home, I had to admit to myself that I haven’t really been involved in the LA community maybe as much I should be. I’m an author and speaker, darn it, helping the world understand our experience – and the world out there is so… big.
A few days later, I had lunch with Tarrah and we talked about this. Now, she is a solid pillar of grace and calm wisdom. She admitted she had never had such a happy, hopeful vibe at any of her openings before. As the conversation got deeper regarding my experience of the portraits, I confessed that as amazing as they were “technically,” some of them were actually a bit “on the nose” (LA speak for “expected,” i.e. clichéd) with regard to the transgender “narrative.” (Also LA speak, but also used by many to describe the commonly held belief that we think we invented it. But really, it’s a collective story we tell ourselves to document and ascribe meaning to our various groupings.) And by this I mean that there are several “tropes” (this one is ours – LA speak, I mean) such as “trans street walkers,” “trans overcompensators,” and “trans body alteration.”
To be transparent (I couldn’t – but maybe shudda – resist), the niggle in my tummy was that too often these tropes become truths – that is, they become “prejudices” or, at the least, “preconceived notions” about any sector of society. In this case, our trans community that can impede equality. That’s the fear anyway, and, I admit, it was sorta mine. It’s why GLAAD exists. It’s why we try to bust stereotypes of all kinds. It’s the first steps toward (my fingers are gagging on the word as they type), normalization. We’ll talk later about why, if I take a breath, I try to never buy into this fear or oversimplification, but for this post, Tarrah is the hero…
So without further ado…
Tarrah defended her choices (after all, she is the curator for the show, and those were her choices) saying that that was precisely why she chose the more provocative shots (a few were the professional sex workers in the neighborhood). These photos asked us all (especially trans people) to confront internalized transphobia. We are not the choices many of us have had to make to live – and we certainly better not be judging those choices as the measure of character. In our community, the hard options between life and obliteration are never easy, never cut-and-dried, never the easiest path. Our choices are never between being what we are and hiding. but rather, how we will live as who we are with the world often not only in our way but actually conspiring against us.
And, all of that, our history, our journey, our legacy, in the glare of the streetlamps was on display in all it’s glory in the denizens of Christopher Street. As Tarrah says, “These people completely owned their authenticity, 100 percent.”
Really. 100 percent.
Well then, and tell me you saw this coming if I’m 80 percent…?
Was that what Lenka was talking about? Did I just presume (shut-up, Tarrah) that she meant I was 80 percent woman when she meant I was 80 percent … trans?
80 percent authentic? 80 percent both? (Um, ain’t that 160 percent?)
Nah… I’m sure she meant… well, she must’ve meant… Come on, as a cis-woman, she had to mean… (Gosh darn you Tarrah! How dare you make me… think!)
Shoot, okay, so now, I’m confused. And why am I allowing myself to fling myself down this rabbit hole? Well, actually there’s a very good reason. Because that’s also who and what I am. When I realized that my real survival mechanisms weren’t the ones that had me believe that I could finish out this precious gift of life from God as “half of a man,” but were the ones that finally, blessedly kicked in when annihilation seemed truly imminent to live life as a whole woman.
But if Lenka’s right. Let’s say I am 80 percent. That means I still have work to do. What 20 percent should I start on? The woman part? The trans part? Both? (And never mind that I am already devoting all of me to working on both. As my writing partner always reminds me, the biggest room on the planet is the room for improvement.) So… it’s a poser, yes it is a real stickler.
Maybe Tarrah is right. Maybe I should get to work right away on that part that cares too much about what other’s think.
And in that case, maybe Lenka is right… I’m almost there.
Well, well, well… 2017. Here. We. Are. And, B-T-Dubs, welcome! To my regular readers, thank you for the little Christmas break. If you missed the ending, it’s in the archives. Thank you for indulging me, letting me wax a little nostalgic and, most importantly recharging. Now, back to this blog, eh?
I will confess, that this experience can be a little like having an “online diary” that the world is welcome to peruse to their own peril. I am surprised at the things I will say with my fingers to seeming stranger, but you’re no strangers, you’ve decided to follow me. So I need to “bring it,” as they say, and make this worth your time. Opening a window into our marriage and the transformation its going through is hopefully worth everyone’s time. So, we have fearlessly put on our crash helmets and pulled down the roll cage, as Bette Davis is often misquoted as saying, ”it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” So with that, let 2017’s wild rumpus start!
Beauty & the Breast –
One thing I need to make sure every reader understands of my experience is that it is (proudly) the perspective of a woman married for coming up on 28 years.
Marriage is everything everyone says it is.
And if you’re like me, you’ve gone through some very interesting stages and changes (okay, I hear you snickering – I’m talking about the “expected changes” – oxymoron if never there was one – that everyone faces over the course of a human life, silly). These stages or changes have certainly changed the lens through which I view life. I had an arrogance about our accomplishment at ten years of marriage that was way gone by year 20. The longer I’ve been married, the more talking about it or thinking about makes even less sense… and, yet, paradoxically, it makes oh-so-much more (sense).
I can’t imagine not being married.
Really… and I have been making a living imagining the impossible into existence, dreams into reality and (with reality) foretelling the future. Seriously. (But then, foretelling the future with today’s reality show “talent” is like shooting fish in a barrel, and is not even on par with a good card trick.) So reality, I just cannot imagine not being married.
And that’s only because of Marcy. Mylove.
I can’t imagine not being with her for even a day, and with all the powers of my imagination, I certainly just can’t conjure a world where she and I are not in it, together.
Through fighting her cancer, and lovingly transforming our marriage that started as a seemingly cis-hetero “traditional” marriage into a love affair between two women wedded in more bliss (if that was even possible) than ever before, everything we’ve done, was done together. Including the creation and nurturing of the greatest relationship in human history.
But as two middle-aged women, this isn’t as easy as anyone wants to make it. Nor is it something either of us is proud to admit. And surprisingly (at least to this girl), the big things have always been easy – the choices are clear and the action (or inaction) relatively defined. Sorry, newlyweds, but it’s the small things that trip you up. Maybe It’s that, as you get older, you get less willing to put up with less, more willing to expect more, and you both know how to get it, from each other – both good and bad. The danger is that we are also quicker to slip into the kindergarten mentality that less for you means more for someone else, and vice reverse. Marriage is the knowledge that that “zero sum” bullshit is just that, and has no place in marriage. Less for you is never more for her. And yet more for you can mean less for her – and why oh why would anyone in love want that?
Okay, so, now you can add the layer of our transition (see what I mean? We do everything together). As I continue to grow into the woman I am, blossoming and developing and yes, changing right before her very eyes, we’ve stubbed our toes on some surprising bumps in the road.
And since the cat is literally out of the bag (at least here) that I am going to have GCS, this example takes on a certain poignancy that has us both nodding and scratching our heads.
First of all, some context for those of you just joining this show. Yes, I am physically changing and nobody has watched this with as much fascination and, let’s be real, trepidation, as Mylove. Her knight in shining armor has already been riding sidesaddle. The arms that have held her, the chest that has pressed against hers, the face that she studied, the hair that she has run her hands through for all these years – the man she thought she had married has curves and softer skin, hips, a waist… and yes. Breasts.
Soon, there won’t be anything male left.
And as dramatic as all this is to Marcy,When I stare into the mirror the woman who stares back at me is … well, let’s say, yes, she’s working very hard, and God has blessed her with certain, “charms,” but…
Let’s take a moment here to look at that “but.”
Because it’s a “bone of contention” between trans women and cis women, that frankly seems very odd to me. And this is important because in the abstract, every cis-woman seems to agree with us trans gals – we all have physical “flaws” we either wish we could fix, or, have stopped looking at (or, yes, even really figured out a way to just not care about). Our physical appearance is a bizzillion dollar industry fed by media, society (and yes, biology). That this is true is the subject of countless books, films, talks, and mother-daughter chats, and is usually not in dispute. In 2017, this is something that we as all women have started to make some in-roads into getting men to understand. The ugly truth is we as women are just not raised not to care about how we look. And despite everything Gloria taught us, and we are trying to make true about our worth, we are still objectified, judged, sexualized and scrutinized for it.
Trans women have all that AND we are coming from behind the power curve. Our bodies have been saturated in testosterone – our bones and muscles, skin and everything else has been bombarded into an image that for many is a massive mountain to scale toward feminine form. Not only is that a hair on our chin, but it’s a chin chiseled by testosterone! To top that off, we haven’t been raised or taught any sort of acceptance of ourselves, only complete and total surrender. And lastly (unless we go the showgirl route), we aren’t taught the tools to “make-do” with what we got.
Try accepting that.
It’s not possible (for this girl anyway), and it’s why the walls eventually fell.
A confession here – some cis-women try to make it “okay,” with any efforts we make toward feminizing our appearance, making exceptions to beauty’s rules for us because, well, for all the reasons above. Yes, thank you, and we love you for trying – but… no.
So, that’s the backstory when I or my sisters say… I really need to change this about me…
And as I work to retake my body from the ravages of testosterone through hormones, exercise, diet, and eyeliner, and yes, surgery, I guess all I’ve ever been asking is please understand what that really is – or rather what it’s not – vanity. It’s not a misunderstanding. I’m not misguided.
No. A surgeon won’t make me a woman. God already did that. An endocrinologist can’t make me a woman. God already did that. Cosmetics and wardrobe don’t make me a woman.
God did that.
So, with all that in mind, we now return you to our regularly scheduled marriage. A marriage that was love at first sight for both us. But, she was married at the time. So, instead we got to know each other as friends, and when fate thought it was finally time to intervene, it struck us like a thunderbolt. Throughout our marriage, just like the very first time I laid eyes on her, Marcy’s beauty would always bring tears to my eyes, and over time my regard for her physical beauty and sexuality and sensuality has been burnished deeper by passion, love, respect and is and always has been – as brilliant as a thousand suns.
As I transform, I’m learning that she was enraptured by the little things about me – the strength in my hand as it effortlessly balanced and (simultaneously operated) a broadcast video camera on my shoulder. The ways my eyes focused on any obstacle, the way light played across my “cute Lil Polska nose” (don’t ask – I’m Polish and Finnish on my mother’s side… and well it’s a long story). But, and here’s the punchline – she admits that I’m way cuter as a woman.
That said, she has never been attracted to women, whereas I have only been attracted to women. So my transformation right before her very eyes, tho’ interesting, is not what she ever wanted in a partner. And tho’ she wasn’t blown away by masculine form, she was attracted to the overall package.
And here’s where it gets surprising and… a little dicey. Because as I start to mature into the woman I am, and get more confident with what I want and how I want to be, I’m developing my own sense of style and self.
Previously (and by that I mean, over close to three decades of romance and daily life), Marcy had been the arbiter of all things woman. She had set the bar for what was and was not desirable and acceptable in the world of femininity. And, this, I can say, is how it should be. Yes, there are too many times when a woman will give up what she wants to make her mate (man or woman – we’re not discriminating here) happy. We’re talking about maintaining the laws of attraction, right? It’s a two-way street. But someone is driving the car if you catch my drift. In a perfect relationship, both are driving together in the same direction… what someone is or has or wears or accentuates or whatever is attractive to their lover.
I will confess that this did take me a few years to figure out. Early in our marriage, I bought what I would want to see Marcy in (and soon to be out of) which was not always how she would want me to see her (and certainly not what she wanted to wear or take off. Period). Over time, she helped me see how she views her body and her beauty, which like many women is both the product of trial and error, personal taste, and a dash of history. And, like many women, is defined as much by what she wants to wear as by what she would never be caught dead in.
Because I am a woman, tho’ she didn’t know it at the time, I understood… perfectly, eventually. Remember, a lot of a woman’s upbringing isn’t done out in the open, certainly not in our day. Propriety and modesty are hallmarks of the feminine world. “A lady has her secrets.” “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” “This is just between us girls.” Mystery cloaks the things that boys frankly think are too icky to want to know.
Marcy was and should be in charge of her. And that was the standard of beauty in our home. She took great pride in her natural beauty – very little make-up, comfortable clothes, health, sunshine and yoga lifestyle. Now, let’s be real here. She looks freakin’ amazing even if, as my father would say, she wore a burlap sack. Nobody can ever guess her age. But her beauty comes from meticulous care of herself for over fifty years – and great genes. She has eschewed the beauty trends throughout five decades because she never wanted her beauty to be depended on any technique or product. No hair coloring, no nail polish nothing toxic in anyway. She never needs much to light up a room. And this is not just my opinion… tho’ it is my experience. She is beauty incarnate.
But now, there’s two sets of hands on that steering wheel… in that car careening down Beauty Blvd.
And the other set is an enthusiastic newbie who never, ever thought she would live this dream come true and is going to make darn sure, she gets the most out of every moment she still has left.
I never thought I could rock a set of acrylic nails.
I never dreamed I could color my hair to a color I actually wanted.
Tho’ I am an artist, I never believed that I could draw a black winged swoosh on my eyelids, or that it would actually look… darn… adorable? Nah… it’s, dare I say… actually… sexy?
Yes, I could wear pants. Women do wear pants. Yes, Katherine Hepburn looks killer in pants. Marcy rocks pants like nobody’s business, all my women friends wear pants! But I’ve worn them every day for fifty years – four-letter-word, pants, and dayam if I… holy moly, I got my mother’s gams! Gimme the miniskirt!
And yes, heels. Hell yes heels! I hear all the essays about how they are a symbol of this and that but, FOR ME – they represent freedom. So, yes, I can wear them, thank God.
And… yes, I’ve been blessed with being Monday’s child and will not have to resort to FFS. But, and here’s another confession, I did draw the line after permanent lip liner, well I didn’t draw it – Layla my aesthetician did – and my lips are fuller now (I also got my mom’s lips, can’t have everything, I suppose).
But… here comes the surprise. Marcy actually liked the lip liner. That’s not the surprise. She does roll her eyes at some of my skirt lengths – but she will admit, if pressed, that I do actually have the legs to pull most of them off.
No, the surprise came when I announced that I was going to see if I could also get breast augmentation when they did my GCS. (This a common practice for a lot of trans women – same recovery time, but one less trip under anesthesia, and it gets done all at once.)
Now, this, for every woman is a very personal decision. Hormones have done a very good job at giving me “the girls,” but, they are still on a skeleton that was constructed with testosterone for many years. And proportionally, they could use some… well, augmentation.
Marcy was silent for a very long time.
I know, this is never a good sign.
But also, I’ve (THANK GOD) learned something very important during this transition. My words aren’t ever going to change her feelings. And I’m an idiot if I think that’s even desirable – really. You win the fight but lose the support – now, how bad did you really want what you were fighting for?
Finally, she confessed that I can do what I want, but she’s saying this out loud – she’s not sure she can deal with touching ‘fake boobs.”
So… I swallowed all of the stuff that was wrestling to be the first to shoot out of my mouth… she is okay, even supportive, and really understands how critically important it truly is that I will undergo GCS. A major, life-changing, world altering irreversible surgery. But… and, there’s that but again, she is not okay with “cosmetic” surgery.
I decided to try to understand what she was saying.
- She really means it. She never thought she would ever touch breasts, let alone artificial ones. Her imagination ruled her feelings. Arguing this was ridiculous. I didn’t even try – I truly had no idea what it would feel like to have them, how could I argue how they would feel to her?
- She was also subtly displaying transition fatigue (I just made that up – if it isn’t a thing, it should be). I know I’ve pushed her waaaaaaay past her series of “nevers,” the seemingly endless series of my finish lines that seem to be pulled right out in front of her as she is desperately trying to just break the goddamned tape. Yes, it has to suck.
And while both of those are true – what’s also becoming clear is that I’m becoming (or at least heading in the direction of) the woman Marcy adamantly swore she would never be… and, in fact, for many years this was something we both agreed on. Now, She’s not judging women that do any of the above. They do that in their lives, and we “used to never” do that in ours. But, here we are, her love, her own “honey” is swan-diving into all things never…
I get it.
Woman to woman, I appreciate that this could be taken as a slight of the woman Marcy is. As if she’s somehow not good enough. Like she’s not the kind of woman I admire enough to want to be. She could say that she has “brought me up right” – teaching me the things that only women know about their bodies and beauty and self-image. So, why wouldn’t I honor that by being that same kind of woman. Her kind of woman.
Instead, it would seem, I’m the other woman.
But we’re in love. And in her defense, this is unlike other relationships – she didn’t “pick” me (in my current form) as people pick each other in the so-called “normal” way. Normally, two people meet each other, see something they like on some level, fall in love and decide to be in a relationship. Marcy met Scott, fell in love, decided to get married 27 years ago, and um… well, Scottie, well, let’s just say that she became “not the man” Marcy married. But she is, and always will be the person Marcy fell in love with.
So, yes, I’m the other woman. The key here will be balancing my drive to be the woman I always swore I’d be, while remaining attractive to my lover. Yes, she will (already has) accepted me fully and totally. But that’s not attraction. Attraction is that x-factor that gives love a place to sing and dance. How do you change what you are attracted to? Women have had to do this throughout our existence. In traditional marriages, we’ve had to be okay that our men got fat and bald (while maintaining our figures for him), so it’s a skill we’ve developed. But that puts it on Marcy, and that’s not how we do things around here.
All I can say at this point is… this isn’t settled by a long shot. Work in Progress as they say on the set.
Work in Progress, indeed.
I started this blog to have an outlet for all my work. And if you’re like me, you could use a little holiday cheer. What I maybe have’t confessed in recent posts is that I started down this crazy road as “a creative” because I grew up on steady diet of Saturday Morning cartoons, and always knew I’d be, one day making them.
Which I did.
For four glorious years I wrote, directed and produced, along with my dear partner, Andy Jones and a band of merry pranksters, a children’s television series called Pug & Zero’s Field Trip.Which for those of you who haven’t seen it, was, as we described it, “Lucy & Ethel meet Steven Hawking.” Wherein, we proved every Saturday (in syndication, remember that?) that pratfalls and string theory do mix quite nicely. Yes, we let Schrödinger’s cat out of the bag… and our 6- 10 year-old audience loved it as much as we did.
And… yes. I miss it very much.
Somehow, I got so… serious in these last few years of my career. And tho’ I wouldn’t trade my current track of serious (well, okay, we are still talking me) adult subjects, my book and the lectures, the workshops and doing everything I can to make our world a little more tolerant, a little more accepting of the diversity that is human beauty, for anything — especially since it’s become even more about life and death (is that even possible?) in these last few weeks. But, I need to refresh my spirit, so I will fight our fights with a renewed sense of purpose. I need to take a breath so I can Radiate Light, Laughter & Love anew.
And what better way time to recharge than the season of light?
So, for the next coupla’ weeks, that is my gift to us both. A big bright sugary cookie sprinkled with an extra dollop of holiday cheer. To refresh our spirits together in the form of some Christmas stories I wrote a few years back to cheer up my sister who was lonely in her new adopted England. A postcard from home (if your home is next door to Dr. Seuss, maybe).
I wrote these Christmas stories to be read aloud. The first up is an imagining of what might have happened as a sequel to a story that seized my imagination at a very early age and only furthered my addiction to animation, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer… so without further ado… Merry Christmas & Enjoy! And I promise to get serious again as soon as the sugar high wears off, cross my heart!
Rudolph to the rescue… again!
The continuing adventures of our beloved “misfit” with his infamous red nose, or what happened the morning after his famous ride…
We all know how Santa’s “ninth buck” saved Christmas back in the day… but what we didn’t know (until now) was how that storm was started or by who… and of course we also never knew how this same you know who never got over his evil plan being foiled by a rookie reindeer on his very first ride.
No… that’s his name. Bah Humbug…well, you’ll have to sit down for this one….
“what you didn’t know…”
Though you didn’t know it, the Christmas fog, the near disastrous storm of ’62 in which Rudolph with his nose so bright, guided Santa’s Sleigh that night, was in fact, a sinister act — of Evil… Uh huh! It was an ill-fated deed by none other than Bah Humbug, himself! The Nastiest, cruelest, ne’er-do-well this side of the ocean of dreams, to ever haunt the shadows of childhood.
Oh, it was him all right, accompanied by his cult of dark followers, Humbug’s motis operndi was usually to wait just outside the thorny gates of puberty — setting traps of fatalism and cynicism, to drive the myths and fantasy from the Kingdom of the Imagination with lies and conceit — destroying the magic of Christmas and Childhood. Sadly his dastardly plan had worked for years with small, ahem, success if you will. And some unfortunate souls never truly ever recovered – these unfortunate souls usually went on to lives of dreary servitude – willing slaves to a fatal view of reality, not unlike wicked school headmasters, stuffy loan officers or ostrich pen cleanliness inspectors. But as with all evil-doers intent on conquering the world, Humbug wasn’t satisfied and he wanted it all…
Truth be told, the storm ’62 was to be his greatest act ever — the final nail in the coffin, a way to once and for all destroy the very foundation upon which the warmth of Christmas had been built — belief in Santa Claus.
Oh no, you say?
And like most supervillains, his plan was almost too simple:
If Santa was thwarted by a great storm, he wouldn’t complete his rounds –
If he couldn’t complete his rounds, children the world ‘round, would cease to believe.
If the children stopped believing, their hearts would be broken and their minds would be fertile fields for the propaganda of cynicism…
And the warmth of Christmas would die forever.
It almost worked.
But while Rudolph, Santa, and team were fighting through the storm valiantly, a posse from the Kingdom of Imagination got wind of Bah Humbug’s sinister plan and caught him red-clawed in the act — they tossed him and his gang of putrid hobgoblins into the prison of desire, which, incidentally, sits atop the storm-tossed coast of the sea of confusion, perched like a festering sore on the border between Rationality and the Beyond.
And there he sat,
as the world woke-up to find that Santa had once again prevailed, aided by Rudolph and magical nose… a story we all know intimately.
Now, Bah Humbug, as you can imagine, was not about to take this lying down, and in the darkness of the prison’s slime-covered walls, he wracked his twisted, evil, alleged brain for a way of escape.
His blood-red claws scurried spider-like over every crack and crevasse in the granite and rust… searching, searching… searching… but… nothing.
Gingerly, he tested the white-hot bars of light that formed the cell door and window of his much-deserved cage…
but no… nothing.
In fact, the blazing torches of light were laser beams that fricasseed anything that strayed into their path. (A fact discovered when Bah Humbug pitched one of his hobgoblins into the door as a test pilot – his pitiful screams echoed throughout the prison for weeks after…)
It looked like Bah Humbug would have to spend his eternity under lock and key after all. But then one day…he flew into a rage and stomped about the entrance screaming to no one in particular:
“I don’t believe that mere bars of light could enslave me, of all creatures!”
“Boss, did you see that?” Asked a timid hobgoblin who cowered behind the toilet hole in the back of the cell.
“See WHAT?” thundered the incredulous Humbug, his sinister teeth flashing in the shadows.
“The bars. They flickered when you said the word belief.”
They both turned and saw that the bars remained steady. Humbug raised an eyebrow in warning.
“I don’t believe you”
The bars flickered ever so slightly. Humbug smiled an evil grin and shook his head with disdain. “You colossal IDIOT! It isn’t damaged by belief… I don’t know who is more stupider, you or the whole kingdom of goody-two-shoes. The bars are controlled by NOT BELIEVING!
He whirled around, his sharp cutting words had done the trick again, and he saw a slight, almost imperceptible interruption — a mere hiccup in the white-hot bars of light — but enough to confirm his dangerous theory.
He crept up close and with the fever of discovery, and foul-smelling beads of sweat collecting on his brow, he whispered to the silent sentinels that formed his prison, “I don’t believe in you.”
The bars of light flickered as if an evil draft had brushed the flame of a candle. “You see, my pathetic hobgoblin. My wardens are so bent on their faith in the goodness of all, that they hinge their entire Kingdom on the belief of even little ole’ me. My troubles are OVER! Squelch the belief in the hearts of men and not only am I free once again, but I will control their hearts FOREVER!”
And so it was that Bah Humbug learned of the source of the Kingdom of Imagination’s power and the key to his freedom.
As you can guess, he hatched a wicked plan of revenge…
Rudolph, the rising star of Santa’s elite Reindeer team was enjoying his vacation (a special bonus from Santa himself) in the Hawaiian Islands. It was during this lull in the action that Humbug called for his lawyer, a slimy river troll, named F. Flea Bailout and exercised his prisoner’s rights — after all, the prison was established by the Empress of Fantasy, who herself was not an unreasonable gal — and so the river troll paid his illustrious client a visit.
“Arrange to have the witch, Baba Raga brought to my cell. Tell her that I have a job for her that will repay all of her gambling debts to me.”
The River troll looked up from his faux crocodile skin briefcase and stammered, “As you wish, your despicableness.”
And so it was…
The witch, Baba Raga, reluctantly made the arduous journey to the fell prison, fearing the awful summons, of course, but eager to relieve herself of her mountain of debt. Their meeting was brief and scary with all of the usual theatrics that had formed Bah Humbug’s reputation of being an evil genius but pathetic b- grade actor. And as she stumbled back over crag and bramble to her humble abode, She had to admit, Bah Humbugs’ reptilian mind had hatched a scheme so evil, so… oh, I don’t know, what’s the word? Genius, yes that’s it! It was so pure genius, that even she, herself had wondered why she hadn’t thought of it years before.
So, of course, she took the credit for it when she gossiped with the other witches at their annual Samhain’ cotillion…
“I’m to be Humbug’s gal Friday, captaining his forces and carrying out his foul plan.”
“Oh, do tell” they shrieked with delight.
“Well if you must know, it works like this…”
And so the witch described in great detail (and far too many diversions I might add,) how they were going to “Water the seeds of discontent that everyone knew the older reindeer had for Rudolph, especially since he stole their thunder when he saved the day.”
“Oh, that’s so… effective – those ego-maniacs would do anything to get back to being Santa’s top dog… if you know what I mean. “
Baba Raga’s yellowed eyes gleamed with lust, “Donner and Blitzen especially will be ripe to help us sell that freak off to a sideshow circus, that’ll effectively get ‘ol Rudy out of the way… into a rusty old cage, giving him a taste of the medicine that Bah Humbug has to swallow every day. A HAH HAH HAH!….”
Oh… he’s so… so… deliciously evil… what then? Tell us, tell us!
Well, said Baba Raga, relishing the slimy green spotlight of her witchy sisters’ envy, “With Rudolph out of the way, Hummie will create an even bigger storm, (personally, I think he’s still convinced of his earlier genius, he really wanted the “storm-thing” to stick as his calling card, but that’s just me) he’ll send forth a fog so foul, so heavy, so heinous, that the hearts of men will shrivel under the murky mists of depression… There won’t be a “Merry,” a “Joy” or a “Ho Ho Ho” to be found for love or money.
“PERFECT!” The witches cackled, “can we help?” And Baba Raga became a celebrity in her own right.
“Of course you can,” she said between gulps of Trader Joe’s “Eye of newt pate'” We need to get the Reindeer on board to help us get Rudy out of the picture.”
“Leave that to me,” said a nasty northern witch, “Vixen, is an easy mark, nobody can ever remember his name, he’ll be happy to leave a gate open some dark and lonely night.”
And with that, Baba Raga left the cotillion that night, the talk of the coven – “the first Sistah” and feeling quite full of herself.
Chapter 2 – “and so it began…”
I’ve been trying to come up with an elegant way of starting this week’s post… but it’s hard to type as outrage and incredible sadness arm wrestle for access to the launch tubes…
And… like a horrifying number of women in this country who’ve had to deal with having their scars suddenly and unceremoniously ripped open during these past two weeks (two weeks?????), I have to speak up. We have, without coordination, nor cohesion, all come to the same conclusion, and realized that despite the pain, and shame, and, for god’s sake, please get this! fear, it’s time to step forward.
I too, am a victim of sexual abuse.
As a trans woman, I kept this buried so very deep, because I already have to battle the gnats and mosquitos of the misinformed, the ignorant, and the downright idiots who believe that their beliefs somehow overrule my existence. They think they can deny me and my identity. They can ignore science (look, we all get why there are climate deniers out there. You make your money from fossil fuels – we knew that. So we’ve never ever given credibility to your denial. But unlike your sick cousins, the trans-deniers, your denial is “just business”). But you both can stop now; you can stop ignoring the U.S. Government, the world’s health and medical minds – you can stop trying to somehow use your beliefs to make fiction into fact. You can stop thinking that your opinion is right and valid when applied to me and my existence. Just stop.
Knowing that I am already helping push Sisyphus’s rock up that hill, I am loath to let any armchair psychologist weigh-in on or re-write my origin story. I was trans before any abuse. The abuse was not, and could not be, responsible for anything other than the pain of being abused.
I am also compelled to help explain to the non-humans out there that the reasons why victims don’t come forward when it happens is…
Their own fucking reasons!
In my case, I was reading Janet Mocks’ book, “Redefining Realness,” and it opened that door that I closed so long ago. Tied-up in a knot of identity and sexuality and childhood confusion, I had been successful at convincing myself that there hadn’t been sufficient evidence to accuse him; that it was probably a “one time only” thing for my abuser. I had to face the fact that, tho’ my gender dysphoria was able to blow down the walls of its prison (once a month it turns out), I had been successful at burying my sexual abuse so far under that prison, that I almost forgot it was there…
Except that it was there. A crack in the foundation that makes every strut bend a little out of plumb. Casts a little bit of a shadow over things. A thorn in my heart where love is supposed to be.
But I must have gotten stronger through my transition, because I was able to say it out loud. I was able to tell Mylove. My lover. The one with whom I share my body and soul. I am…
This… happened to me.
It was a trusted man. My family trusted him, allowed him to take me and my friends places, sleep over at his house. Now, this man was in his twenties. He was a role model, or so my parents thought. He studied hard and became a paramedic. I went to his family’s house many times, and all of my friends would come too. We went to the movies and camping and all the things that are “great things” for boys.
I knew him for about 5 years when, one night, my best friend T and I spent the night. And he suggested that, rather than camping out in his living room (like usual), why don’t we all share the bed? T came from a family with brothers and didn’t seem to think it was weird. So why should I?
I woke out a sound sleep to feel someone moving my hand. When I realized what was happening, it was too late. I jerked my hand back and felt a reassuring hand stroking my forehead saying I had just had a bad dream… just go back to sleep. It happened again, and the same reassuring hand caressed my forehead, the same whisper, once again telling me I was the one who had a bad dream… and all this without a word from me, as I lay there shivering…
The other part I buried, and I still can’t believe I did this, was that my best friend was also a victim. The next morning, T was curled up on the couch in the living room. I asked, “when did you leave?” But his reason was mumbled as our host made breakfast. It wasn’t until the following day that T could tell me that he had woke up with his hand where it shouldn’t be. And he immediately sought refuge in the living room.
Needless to say, things were never the same after that.
I realized after talking to Mylove about it, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Mylove said all the right things I guess I was craving to hear – It wasn’t my fault, etc.
But the truth was, I never gave myself permission to be the victim, because I didn’t think I had a right to say I was “Abused,” since I’m not sure how far my bad dream went. And in retrospect, I’m not sure how much I actually buried… was it a single night? Did I let this happen more than once? Why had T been strong when I had not? He took control, I pretended to sleep. He never saw our friend again… I… can’t be sure when I stopped seeing our friend. Geezus, how much have I buried? And why am I still trying to downplay it?
I have to hold on to the handrail of rationale – the ways we all react to each situation are our own – there is no way anyone can ever say, “you should’ve done it this way,” particularly in the realm of abuse.
The criteria for credibility was not created by us – it was imposed onto us by those WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN ABUSED – WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO JUDGE??????
There is no statute of limitation on pain, on suffering, on the degree of pain or suffering. There is not a GOD DAMNED THING THAT WILL EVER EXCUSE OR FORGIVE THIS ABUSE OF POWER.
And before you start handing out ironic “thank yous” to some candidate/abuser for bringing the public’s awareness to this hideous problem, just stop that too. This has been going on for centuries, but it can stop here. We should all join hands with the brave women (and some men) who’ve stepped forward. And while we’re at it, stop playing partisan games. This is not a political issue. This is a fundamental human issue. We have to teach our children that this abuse of power is never okay. We cannot allow the abuse of anyone to continue, not even one more second. And we cannot allow the abuse to be swept into the other political issues that will be the first things we’re happy to ignore once this presidential race is over.
So what will we do? How will we heal this?
In a world where Brock Peters only gets 6 months for the brutal campus rape of Elizabeth Smart because he’s “suffered enough” losing his Stanford swimming scholarship and being labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life. In the wake of that, a Montana man, Martin Blake, gets SIXTY DAYS (????) for repeatedly raping his daughter, because he, too, had already “suffered enough” with 17 days in jail and losing his job.
I wonder what that really is?
As many women across our country, I am dealing with the torn flesh of an old wound.
I can find comfort in Mylove’s arms. Mylove, who has dealt with those times when men crossed the line with her. A child of the sixties, Mylove grew-up with every other woman (and man) believing that “boys will boys” and women just have to be okay with that. But she’s also the woman who had her nose bloodied by an ex-boyfriend and turned into a wolverine, wiping her blood on his shirt as she proceeded to shred his chest with her nails.
She has had to deal with a lot of revelations from me and about me. And this one about my abuse, I’m sure, was maybe as heart-stopping as discovering that she had married a woman. As I laid bare my wounds, as I came forward to speak up about how I had been sexually abused, she looked deep into my eyes and soothed my hurt and confusion, shame and guilt, with a simple salve.
She listened and held my hand as I looked at the fear in my shadows. She stood beside me as I gathered my courage to look all the way at it.
She asked what could she do? She hugged me while I cried.
No judgment. No should’ves, could’ves, or would’ves.
And then she asked if I thought maybe I needed to check in with T and let him know I had been abused that night too… as the tears began once again to well up. Once again, she knows me better than I know myself. She knows that this would tear me up. She let me cry it all out.
It’s a weird wrestling match between anger and sadness. And the tears come in waves. And when it looked like I was running out of steam… MyLove started throwing pecans down my cleavage to lighten me up! I can always count on her to bring me out of the tailspin…
She’s right. The pecans are a gentle way to bring my attention back to the present. A way to ask, “what now?” Really, what now? How will we all heal? How do we make sure this can’t happen again?
Well, we can start by saying we don’t support this, don’t condone this, never, ever will we excuse this…
… at the ballot box on November 8th.
It’s summer. Gorgeous afternoon sunshine, heat wave comin’ but not here yet, Chicago Live from Carnegie Hall tellin’ me that it’s “Only Love Beginning,” and I’m …
Carried away by it all.
It dawns on me, I have always been a California Sunshine Girl (as my father would say with a wistful and proud tenor … usually to my sister Kimm or about any of the various women he met as a car salesman in the infamous Inland Empire). It’s just that you, he and the rest of the world never knew it.
But the image of me as a naturally athletic and active woman whose beauty stemmed more from her smile than her wardrobe, who lit up every space she graced, and celebrated the outdoor lifestyle that is our birthright in SoooooCal, is actually my default state of being.
Until, that is, I remember that I’m trans.
I’ve written about my dance with this moniker, this label, in my book, and I will confess that it is even now, a work in progress.
But my personal dance doesn’t matter anymore. Because being trans in 2016 is a … well, it’s something that none of us is. Being trans in 2016 is to be something we have all fought against for our entire lives, and now, must continue to fight, everyday. Because being trans in 2016 is to be part of … a thing.
Being trans in 2016 … well, hang in there with me on this one, but it has nothing to do with our gender identity and, it turns out, has everything to do with our gender identity. Being trans is “an issue,” it has become one of the nation’s “dialogues,” one of the nation’s “narratives” (among many), and the definition or usage of “trans” could all depend on who’s saying it.
Being trans in 2016 is “a call to arms,” “a badge of honor” and “the next civil rights front.” While for some people, being trans is “a four-letter-word,” “igniting a national firestorm,” or “the height of absurdity” (this last is a quote from former “Brain surgeon” Ben Carson).
Yeah, everyone thinks they know what being trans is.
After all, we are that woman on TV, that man on Facebook, that guy in the Nike Ad, that guy on that show, that woman who was on that show and is now on that woman’s show; that dude you used to work with, that woman that just started working next to you, that girl in your child’s school, that boy in the news, those girls in that music video, that woman on the Daily Show …
In other words, we are the latest thing. We are a thing thing.
But here’s the thing … we’re not an … any-thing.
We are a somebody. And, we are somebody else’s somebody.
We are your daughter, your big sister, your big brother, your new little sister, your cousin, your neighbor, your wife’s best friend, your best friend from high school …
When we are a thing and, more recently, a “that” thing, we become the abstract that can be legislated against. When we are that thing that everybody’s been talking about, we vanish from the reality of life, and we become instead spectres, punchlines, cyphers.
We sometimes falter ourselves and surrender to the belief that this is “our lot in life,” “the cards we’ve been dealt,” or for some, “the beds we will lie in.” We sometimes allow ourselves to take on the mantel that society seems to want to continue to shoulder us with – the “othering” that exasperatedly seems so easy for some of our fellow Americans to do without even a second thought.
Now, I just admitted right there, that this is a two-way street—what society says about me and what I accept about me. But folks, the reason why we’re still talking about this is … my side of that two way street isn’t trying to kill me. And while we’re on the subject, to my friends and family: yes, your right to vote is yours and you need to vote your conscience. BUT! If your vote puts a supporter of anti-LGBTQ laws in office, then you just put a nail in my coffin, plain and simple. And it’s on you. You don’t get to wash your hands of it all, and pretend that you didn’t know. You knew, and you still voted against me and my rights, and the rights of everyone in the LGBTQ community. I will not be able to look you in the eye. So, yes, voting what you refer to as your conscience may allow you to feel good that your team won, but my life, and the lives of all my LGBTQ sisters and brothers, are literally on the line.
What I am realizing, as the summer breeze brings me back into my body, is that I need to take a breath and step back from the front lines for moment and focus on my side of the street.
And that’s when I realize that sometimes even I have bought into thinking of myself as other … feeling like a trans woman, instead of a justa woman; recognizing that I am different, that I wasn’t born “like all the other girls.” And I realize there are people who actually hate me without knowing me. They call me an abomination. They think I don’t deserve to live.
And so, I have to take refuge where there is safety in numbers—in my trans community.
Which is what I’m doing. Everyday. And that means my is-ness stays grounded in the transwoman aspect of my identity. It is a survival mode in this four-letter-word HR2 bull-pucky world. The prevailing wisdom is for us to get out there, be visible, be more than a somebody’s someone, be a loud and present and unapologetic, and wonderful, confrontational, inspirational, technological, educational, someone.
Because the time is now for us to change the hearts and minds that have gone cold (or are somehow feeling that it is suddenly okay to admit that they always were) against us. These discriminatory efforts are well-funded, strategic efforts that are there to deny us our rights, to push us outside of the family of human. It will take all of us to give our all to change those hearts and minds.
I have to admit, as a California Sunshine Girl, it’s hard for me to believe that the rhetoric, rancor, and revulsion directed at our community is … well, real. What’s even more amazing is how easily people who are supposed to know better, gleefully and with complete knowledge, swan dive onto the cesspool, and allow themselves to actually, and fully, hate in the name of God, in the name of religion, and our constitution.
Remembering I’m trans is to remember that a whole church (the church of my childhood) has been turned against me and my family. Pope Francis said, “Ideologies that profess children can ‘choose their gender’ constitute the very annihilation of man as image of God.” Wait … did he actually say “choose?” Isn’t this guy supposed to be a man of science? He reads, right? (And don’t get me started on his namesake asking to be the “instrument of God’s peace.”) Does he only feel this way about trans children? Does he feel the same way about children born with no limbs? Cleft palate? Down Syndrome? Are they also not born in the image of God? How could any religious leader denigrate a whole population of the human race? Not only does he devalue us but he effectively placed a target on our backs. I’m aghast that he could say this because, as I was taught in my catechism classes, God doesn’t make mistakes. So Mr. Pontiff-sir, you need to get on the right side of science and history and God’s love.
So, remembering I’m trans is to remember that some are trying to gain back the ground they lost in the first civil rights fight, and that’s their right (they believe) to hate. And they are all jumping on the HR2-like war wagon, turning their fight to hate on me and my community. Remembering I’m trans is remembering that my own sister has chosen to listen to everyone else about me, over asking me about me.
It’s remembering that the only way to change all of this is to remember that, as a trans woman, I am beautiful, that I have more to contribute than the average person, that I make the world a better place by being in it, and that I can never allow myself to fight the world, but that I may have to fight for my place in it. Again. And Again. And Again.
But also, that I must fight with light, laughter & love. Always. Forever.
Given all that, maybe you now can understand that every so often, I still would like to just feel that breeze across my California Sunshine Girl’s cheek…
… so I sigh. And allow myself to lose myself in that breeze … for a few precious moments.
Okay… Fair disclosure? I have what many women take for granted—some do not want it nor do they seek out; others pretend they don’t have it or need it. But what any girl raised by wolves craves, at least on some level, and maybe, probably and tragically will never have is …
the company of women. Sisterhood.
Now, as much as we try to paint it with a rosy brush, it’s not all love and light, even with the communities strung together by letters (oh and shared um… discriminations…). It doesn’t seem like it should be a miracle, but then it also doesn’t seem like anyone should have to worry where they go potty either … ah, reality—good old slap your forehead in disbelief, you gotta be kidding me, somebody please wake me up, reality. But yes, it’s true. So, that’s why having sisterhood is such a rare and precious thing. It’s not a given, it’s not a done deal. Not even a slam dunk. It’s … a miracle.
Yes. it is a miracle, this sisterhood thingy..
And it’s not lost on me that I am the new girl, the baby sister, embraced by some as a wonderful, joyous chick with fluffy stubby little feathers where my wings will be, and the gawky, awkward gait that needs the shoulders of my older sisters to keep me from tripping over myself as I start to spread my wings and fly.
At 54 years of age, this is admittedly a little weird for me to accept, but not in ways that may be obvious – having been raised and regarded and expected to succeed, to have my “feces cohesive,” to know where the four-letter-word I’m going and how to get there. As a professional leader, I was expected to make sure everyone else was safe including every new baby whatevers. I made it my business to know where the threats were, how to deal with them, and how to make it all work to our advantage (or at least, not take advantage of us).
It’s a skill that fed me and Mylove (literally) for close to 30 years.
So, to be the new girl, the one who doesn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t know; the one who’s “heart is blessed” (in the southern “bless her heart” dismissiveway); the one who, in many ways, is “back at square one.” Whenever I get help from my big sisters, it’s a lesson in humility.
The reason being back at square one is humbling is this:
as a 54 year-old woman, I have to admit … I am immature. In many ways, I don’t know how to be, as my big Sis Kathy would say, “in polite company.” I am humbled by knowing there’s a lot I don’t know. All I can offer in my defense (which I tried to explain in my book) is that I protected myself from the crash that would come whenever I allowed myself to be myself by ignoring this thing called life to go by me untouched. And so I never did learn which fork is for the salad or why you don’t wear white to a wedding.
Now, this isn’t that important in the long run, right? On what planet???? Of course this is important. Women have to master “being” as a survival skill. Fortunately, it’s in our DNA. We do know how to be; it’s how we live … together. But we still have to learn where the fine line is between being gauche and standing out.
At this point in my life, knowing this and knowing how to do it, are a platform and a train. And you can guess where my feet are.
If you can’t imagine what it’s like to have to redefine your life at fifty, consider this: you have slowly (imperceptibly at times and dramatically at others) been “making” this person known as you. However, those of us raised by wolves have had to try to make a “persona” to show you, while keeping a parallel track of consciousness that is our self-self, slowly maturing as we age. The persona track gets to try and fail, to step out and stub its toe, bump its nose, trip over its own folly, and learn from its foibles, as well as its successes.
But the self-self, oh the dear and sweet self-self, lives like Rapunzel in her cold stone tower, or worse, like Sleeping Beauty, waiting fora prince’s kiss to free her from her sleepy curse. The self-self’s so-called life gets lived in theory only, with a silent, longing whisper documenting “couldas, shoudas, and wouldas” that fall further and further out of sync with a growing intellect and ever-changing sensibilities. These sensibilities are ethereal, with no practicality to test their validity.
For me growing up, my feminine self-self’s constant whisper put everything it said into ideals, “I would never do that as a woman.” “I would never let anyone talk to me like that.” “I would never let a man define my life.” “I would never wear pants.” “I would celebrate my femininity every day.” Etc. Etc. Etc.
But those were the declarations of a girl who never dreamed that she’d ever get to descend the cold stone tower’s hewn steps one day, never thought she would ever cross the courtyard, never believed that she would feel the sun’s warmth on her feminine cheeks.
In other words, the woman I would’ve been eventually became only the product of my mind. And I’ve had to be brutally honest with myself to accept that this is usually called a fantasy. This fantasy woman would, of course, look amazing in anything, never get sore legs or feet from heels that were too high, never get cold from hemlines too short or necklines too long, never attract derision from revealing too much cleavage, never engender disrespect, would be loved and admired by all.
But, when the day did come in this lifetime that I filed the bars of my prison and broke free, I was to encounter, in the warm light of day, the real me, the real woman, who would be living in the physical reality of 2016 … a woman who was larger than many but not than most. she was not super comfortable with how some clothes showed too much of a good thing, and didn’t really look good with too much eyeliner.She was smart enough to know how the games are played, was more confident speaking up and speaking her mind than many would dare, even if her voice is deeper than she’d like. Was a bit more (I dunno the best way to say this)cavalier than most? The boy word would be… cocky. (Ew, it’s creepy to even type…) But, she is. Cavalier that is.
But, and this was the big surprise, she was a bit awkward. Okay, no, a lot more awkward than most about the simplest things. Like… like, how to be. How to exist. How to relax and live.
I wrote last time about how I have been in an on-going discussion about “how a woman bes,” with my screenwriting partner and mentor, Valerie. As a woman of color who has deftly and gracefully navigated Hollywood, she has a four-letter-word ton of things she can and does teach me. But this discussion keeps coming back to behavior. What are female traits/things, etc., and which are male. She has taught me that being a woman is having the right to be free from ANY rules for rules’ sake. She loves Jaden Smith and his declarations that he’s not wearing a girl’s skirt, he’s wearing his skirt. She reminds me constantly that, up until the1930’s, pink was considered too strong a color for girl babies; blue was softer and more feminine.
In these discussions, I am guilty of constantly trying to draw distinctions between female & male behavior, quirks and tics. But Valerie checks me into the boards every time. (How very hockey night of me.) Having been raised by wolves, I figure, I do have a perspective that she might not have. but that doesn’t matter to her. She disagrees with the premise that there are definable male behaviors and female behaviors..
In fact, she challenges me every time without fail … I can hear her now … “not every time.” See what I mean?
But she is right. She naturally sees the world the way I hope to see it. Being a woman means YOU define the you that you are. And nobody, not society, not other women, certainly not men, not history, not yesterday, nor even tomorrow, defines you.
Well, except that it does.
You wanna test this? Watch Fox News (an oxymoron if ever there was one). It’s in their DNA. They have changed the way that women are filmed. Fox News treats women differently from their men, and it’s so not good—from the way women are regarded by their male counterparts on camera to the disparagement they endure at the hands of their management on down. Can you say, “Meghan Kelly?” But the women who do notice this have to ignore it, because this boy’s club has given so many women prominent jobs. The women who don’t notice … well, I’m not sure they’re reading this.
I mentioned all of this to my hair stylist, Tammy. This amazing woman is actually “number three” (the third person I “came out” to). She put her scissors down and spun another chair around to sit and give me a talk that I, having not had my mother’s knee or even the cliché teenage slumber parties to learn the ways of women, ever got. She was as serious as a heart attack as she rolled the words over in her head as if deciding if I was ready to hear the truth about the Easter Bunny …
“Our life as women, like it or not, IS governed by our appearance. It doesn’t mean that’s who you are… but it sorta is…. who you are.”
And this is how I knew estrogen is working on me. I knew what she meant by that conundrum. I can hear Valerie rolling her eyes from here. We may not want to have society judge us on either our ability to match shoes with our dress, or our indifference to that significance, but judging will be happening—even by our best and closest friends, family, and lovers. What the judger and judgee do with that judgment is up to both separately, and the stuff that makes this whole magilla the magilla that it is. We surrender to it, fight it, embrace it, buck it, ignore it or dismiss it, dance with it (to it or around it), tweak it, bend it, break it and break from it. Every day.
Sigh. This gets me to my point of this mining operation. This girl had to realize that, having been raised by wolves for most of my life, I have been cultivating two sets of criteria for this mad play. One was based on male values and the other on my values. The male set has been easily dropped, mostly (tho’ wraiths of their former selves creep up from the darnedest places and at the darnedest times). But the female set was based on theory only, with little practical application to confirm, refine, and expand. Double sigh. What’s a girl to do?
They say the universe hears even the slightest whisper of a prayer.
And three weeks ago, I found myself in charm school. I’m not kidding. My auntie Linda really and truly embraced the opportunity (and the obvious need) to use the two weeks of Marcy’s and mystay with her, as her chance to make a lady of me. She is a dear friend who invited us to come to Seattle to promote my book. And here’s where I got the above picture of a chick being kept warm and fed as it grew to eventually be pushed from the nest to fly on its own. Auntie Linda made it her business to get up in my business to sand off as many rough spots as she could in two weeks–the collateral damage from my time with the wolves.
Her motto was this: If I was ever invited to the White House, I should know how to conduct myself as a lady.
Now, let me make something crystal clear. I loved, loved, LOVED every moment of her loving and gentle tutelage. Every admonishment was a baby step forward. From chewing gum in public (apparently this is frowned upon in polite company), to cursing (when I got fresh blackberry juice on my white tennis skirt and tried to verbally shout it out, I heard from two rooms away a gentle, yet firm reminder, “Lady’s don’t curse”), to being practically levitated into the air by her stern look of shock alone when I bent down on one knee in a dress to pet a dog and was, well, giving it away for free, as they say.
But the harshest lesson was the day I sat back after a lunch I had made for us ladies and had, thank-you-very-much, totally nailed it. I pulled out my trusty flossing toothpick, as was my custom, and proceeded to clean my teeth. Auntie put her fork down and said with a very quiet and sweet voice, “Honey. Among family, it might be okay, but… well, you don’t… You won’t pick your teeth in public, ever, right? Ever! In fact … it’s really not okay among family, either.”
Now. I felt like I had been hit in the face with a bucket of cold sh… shame. As I sat there, face burning, mind racing in roaring silence, Mylove was doing a victory dance in her seat.
It burned me all night long. And then I realized why. Because I felt entitled to pick my teeth at the table that I had, all my life been schooled was rightly, and divinely… mine.I was the oldest of four children, and my father’s only heir-apparent. My sisters will probably say that my mom fawned on me, but I certainly was being raised as that chip off the old block, the apple that wouldn’t fall too far from my dad’s tree, the very image that my sisters would use to measure the men who would come to be their husbands. And I was treated to an intrinsic princely privilege.
But here we were, post estrogen, and the table was my Auntie’s. It was her house. It was her food. I had merely prepared it. Where in the four-letter-word, did I four-letter-wording, get off with this … entitlement?
I realized that the reason there were third-degree scorches on my heart was the double shame of discovering yet another forgotten trip wire of male privilege, and the cold guilt from knowing that I had ever embraced any of them in the first place.
Look… before you either feel righteous yourself or try to help me off my hook, know that any privilege was a very small and bitter consolation prize for selling out one’s soul. And whatever perks I got have been taken back in spades. When the threat of getting raped and dragged behind a car because some psycho decides either that they get to decide what potty you get to use, or worse, that you are their new plaything, then you can call me on my supposed privilege. Until then, sit down, and put your mommy on the phone; this is a conversation for adults only.
Back in charm school, the cooling salve for me in the burn ward was my Auntie’s acceptance and love and genuine desire to help me make up for lost time. And I will be forever grateful for her and those two weeks.
Oddly, the universe must know I’ve got to work fast (maybe that evite to the Whitehouse is pending?), cuz the very next week, I got a crash course in being a woman in business from my wife’s dear friend and lifelong chum, Bunny. The Bun, is one of the most brilliant women I know. And it seemed like it only took her half a breath to embrace me as her baby sister. She seemed to instantly “get” that I had no idea how to go from one of the most respected showrunners in adventure TV to a woman in a man’s world. And once again, we had to act fast as I had an interview with a great production company in just a few days.
She grilled me as we sat in our bathrobes and slippies, sipping “fawkey” one morning, (coffee for those just joining this blog) and apparently she was x-raying me for signs that I could at least reach up to touch that glass ceiling. I’d like to think she saw potential because she quickly left the room to return moments later with a pretty silk pouch. She poured the contents into my hand.
I opened my cupped hands to see a beautiful, and now my favorite, pair of pearl and quartz earrings. The Bun looked at me and got very serious as we both sat and she imparted these instructions:
No necklace. It just draws attention to your chest.
You want them to keep their eyes on your face. If they stray the earrings will make them return to your eyes.
You want them to take you seriously as a woman with a brain.
And then her voice went down to powerful yet hyper calm tenor:
“You must really listen to the “suits.” They are stupid and afraid of making a mistake with their boss, so listen for their weaknesses and then you figure out a way to make them stronger. And you let them take the credit for everything, and then you’ll own them. You don’t ever let them own you. You give up your desire to do your own things with them. Forget about that right now. You care only about one thing. Making money. You do what they want, cash their check, get your fulfillment elsewhere.”
Now, if I hadn’t been sitting in the gorgeous seaside Carmel villa that she had had remodeled to architectural digest level of exquisiteness, with a now comfortably retired powerhouse who had started as a nurse and became a leading consultant in the ADA compliant business, I might’ve dismissed her instruction as being merely… I dunno, maybe battle-scarred surrender. But she is the exact opposite, sitting tall and stately the victorious conqueror. Yes, here was one of the strongest women I know, giving me a valuable tip in the language only strong women can understand–that strong women know they are strong. They aren’t strong because others declare it. They know that nobody can ever take away their power because they know to their core that they are limitless. Because only women are capable of creation without believing that they are the source of that creation—that their power can never be lost, taken away or even given away… it just is.
Powerful stuff over morning fawkey and a lesson still banging around inside my head weeks later.
And again, humbling, and heady, and pinch-me-i-must-be-dreaming-what-in-the-world-did-I-do-to-deserve-this-what-took-me-so-long…joy. As I try to process this all without exploding into a supernova of relief, I realize that… holy geezus, I am going to be… better than ok.
But this is how it is in the company of women. Shared knowledge and careful, mindful nurturing of the next in line, to be the best person I am capable of being. How beautiful is that?
And it’s lucky for me, cuz as it’s been pointed out I’ve got a lot to learn, and fast. But I am a good student. Maybe that’s why I have been accepted so readily into the company of great women,into Sisterhood?
Then again. Maybe it’s just love.