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…
As I wrote in my book, I was/am part of a group of television professionals who hail from San Diego State’s Department of Telecommunications & Film, TCF for short. The Telecom part was, I like to think, a recognition of the efforts of one great man, Dr. Don Wylie, a professor at SDSU, who, as a Naval Reserve Officer, was instrumental in guiding our military satellite technology into the civilian commercial broadcast world. The truth is, by the time I entered the BS program in 1980, the technical aspects and this engineering discipline had given way to the glamorous world of TV and Film production, but the name stuck to remind us of our legacy… maybe. Either that or the University just didn’t get around to updating our name. And, so TCFers we were. Proudly.
But Dr. Don, Dr. Wylie, Wylie, or the Old Man (which was how my father, a Navy man himself loving referred to him) was the Spiritual Leader of a “Cadre” (his name for this dynamo production unit) of 9 men and 2 women. We immersed ourselves in the “act” of television production with such religious fervor, that not only did we create a renaissance for this previously sleepy breeding ground for the local Channels’ Daily News broadcast talent, but we are still friends, nay brothers, and sisters – truly family to this day.
This group is so tight that I faced coming out to them with more trepidation than I did to my own blood family (which was, I learned, a huge miscalculation on both sides of that equation). But unlike my blood family, from which you begin concealing your high risk behaviors, the Cadre had truly seen me and I them, at both my best and worst… and we were still friends.
This very boy’s club had only two very great women, one of whom married one of our boys. And for those of you just now joining my journey, the revelation that we were actually 8 men and 3 women sent shockwaves through our cadre.
Since I systematically came out through a series of personal heart-to-heart phone calls (we are spread out across this great country), I have had the great opportunity to see in person 8 of my brethren, with four hold-outs. Since I seem to be keeping score, two of the four holdouts had at least agreed to meet when I was in their areas (and had to postpone for different reasons) but the other two have to this day ignored any requests by me to connect. So, we’re 8-2 with 2 ties.
But, tho’ the sports metaphor is very much our dialect (having cut our production teeth on covering the Aztec’s teams, we shot and aired anything that bounced, was thrown, kicked or hit with a bat), in matters of the heart, it breaks down when I try to use it now. Maybe I have higher standards, but since I no longer have to “keep up appearances,” I can tell you the “wins” ain’t wins but the losses are truly losses… and the ties… even worse. Just knowing that we talked is not good enough, and knowing that we hadn’t talked yet is only slightly better than refusing to talk at all. As I said, this is family. The family that you get to choose. Tho’ we all are bonded by our addiction to television, love is our real drug of choice.
So yes, by phone, everyone was amazing and supportive and touched, said all the right things, and pledged uninterrupted love. I was to be “business as usual,” albeit my bond with the women was instantly a little deeper, so pleased were they to have a sister. And the guys? Well they went out of their way to make sure that this was “no big deal.
“but that was then…”
And this is now. Of the five who live near me in Southern California, three make as much effort to see me as I do them. Which means that, barring our productions schedules throwing our social calendars into the blender every other month or so, we see each other at least once a week at a “taco night.”
These three men are very dear to me. I will use their “Ski-trip names” handles they earned from an annual weekend of what used to be skiing until old-age started whittling down the reason for spending money on plane tickets to famous resorts to three days of whiskey, cards, and fart jokes.
First, there’s the infamous “Puff Daddy,” and next, there’s “CF” (which stands for Chin f**k, a reference to a self-inflicted injury suffered while under the influence). Both live here in LA LA Land with me, and finally, there’s “Bigsley” who still hails from our native San Diego.
I have always been closer (emotionally) to Puffy, having sold him the first television series I created, as well as truly holding each other up in darker times (cancer for him, my father’s passing for me). Now, this is not to say that CF and Bigsley are distant seconds, they are most certainly not. CF has bent over backward and, of all the guys (Puffy included), is the only one who calls regularly to check in on his new baby sister, me. Bigsley,, it turns out, is my knight in shining armor, apparently defending my new honor (in my absence) with the other guys right down to the pronouns. As I said, in my absence, and I’d trade a little of that chivalry for seeing or talking with him more frequently, but what’s a girl to do?
So, you can imagine that, close as I am with all three, it would still be a surprise to learn that they, well, are struggling. That is, they are struggling with the enormity of my journey. They are still trying to take the abstract thought that the “transgender thing” that seems to be the hot topic “out there in the world,” and fit it onto our real lives. And, that it would be me. Mad Dog, The Madman, their wild child. Sure Scott was a free spirit and seemed to be in touch with “his” feminine side, but, really? “He’s one of those?”
And these are not my words. They have all shared with Marcy Mylove, when I’ve left the room, that they aren’t as cool with my transition as they are trying so hard to be for me. Especially Puffy. He’s one of my biggest supporters. He has already dried my tears. He can and will listen to me as I work my way through some of the narrower rapids of my journey. But, when he’s sure his candor won’t hurt me (because I’m out of earshot), he confesses it’s huge. It’s enormous. We have so much lived life together and he’s not sure he’s “there” yet… sigh.
This is something I want my trans sisters and brothers to hear. Yes, they have accepted me. But I want our love to continue to grow without any glitch. And I’m sure they do too. And they are trying. They love me so much they would never hurt me by even admitting that it is hard. They are committed to diving on every grenade that rolls out from their own psyches, every subconscious stumble. They will always support me… even if they don’t or can’t understand me.
And that should be enough.
And, even without having heard this intel, I know this. As I wrote in a recent posting on this blog (The Wire, December 16) this is the psychic piano wire that is strung between all of our hearts and I knew I “twanged” this chord so hard that the pegs damn near broke off. And I knew it needed to be tightened on both ends. I am tightening my side, and Patience is the wrench. And time. Oh, and laughter.
Yesterday, Bigsley was driving back thru town. He had been further north with his son at a college Fraternity’s Father/Son weekend, so he asked Puff and me to dinner. CF was working and would be missed.
Now, something that is changing is their manners. Right from the start, they are genuinely treating me like a lady. Opening doors, letting me sit first, etc. We hadn’t even gotten thru the pleasantries and ordering when Bigsley asked,
“So Ms. Scottie, what are you up to? What are you doing?”
The standard answer with these guys is to rattle off the various shows and projects and “gigs” that each of us has in play. Puffy produces movies for Lifetime network, Bigsley followed in Dr. Wylie’s footsteps (he’d be so proud) teaching TV production as well as producing documentaries. I have always been the freelancer, running other people’s shows, and pitching my own, but this time I answered by waiting demurely for the waiter to leave to get our order and saying…
“Well, I’m getting ready for surgery, which will be next month.”
Neither of my brothers flinched. They are seasoned poker players. But the earth did skip a beat as my words continued to hang in the air. They knew without any further detail or embellishment exactly which surgery I’m talking about. Yes, that surgery, The surgery. This is the milestone that not one of us (me included) ever knew was even on the table. And now, in this moment here it is… Puff breaks the silence first with,
“Can I fill this uncomfortable silence with a totally inappropriate joke now?”
I must’ve said yes. Because we began, with hearts now wide open (and their minds completely blown) to discuss the mechanics of surgery. Educational as it was, it’s still a fertile field to fill even more uncomfortable space with more inappropriate material. As you now have surmised, this is their very boy way of dealing with intense… with, well let’s face it, life. And… well, I’m admitting right here, that I used this opportunity, knowing that Puff was struggling, to lean in… and ask point blank if he is cool. If he’s okay. With this. With me. With this big step.
He put his dilemma into words:
“Look, man, you’re in my heart. And I love you as you, as you are now… a woman. But I’m trying to get over the fact that my bro Scott… will never come walking thru that door… ever again. You’re going to have to get used to the fact that people loved Scott. I love Scottie. But I really loved Scott. And Scott was my brother. And I… am never going to see him again. Ever.”
Now, my mind is blown. A white sheet of rain washed all my thoughts away – all I knew was that I was so very sad for my dear, dear, brother’s loss. I was, oddly, detached from being the object of his grief. I did not feel compelled to correct his view of the truth of my experience. I felt no hurt or frustration for my part in this. And, tho’ this was seemingly directed at me, I felt no blame from him, that I was the agent of his brother’s destruction, I only felt that he looked to me in that moment as one who would hopefully understand his loss. And the one who would hold him as we had held each other thru times of challenge and loss. My heart was breaking for him.
Bigsley broke what felt like a lifetime of heartache by man-splaining Puffy’s point, “Scottie, guys are black and white. We used to relate to you as a dude, and now we have to relate to you as a woman. By the way, you are rocking the woman thing. But that doesn’t make it easier. “Sorry we’re just… dudes”
In essence, since I speak “dude,” Bigsley was saying that Scott had to die, so Scottie could live.
In Puffy’s world, Scott was already gone. And Puffy was trying to mourn “on the fly” as he welcomed Scottie with open arms.
Now this is something that the trans community faces all the time. Many women (and I’m assuming the guys do too, they just don’t write about it in their memoirs) in the older generation would stage funerals for their male lives. I confess that this is not the first time my own coming out and the transition has been referred to as a death in the family. My sister Kiera still hasn’t gotten over losing her cherished big brother. And my dear friend, Merrie-Lynn, actually encouraged me to conduct some sort of acknowledgment/ritual of the ending of my male past. With surgery right around the corner, I’d be silly to ignore these signs from the Universe to realize that this part of my journey is demanding more of my attention.
Maybe it was because I was raised by wolves that I learned never say “die.” I think I met these previous signs (Kiera’s and Merrie-Lynn’s) with a total dismissal. A death in the family? C’mon Kiera! A ritual Merrie-Lynn? That’s a little too woo-woo for this girl. But really in both cases it was my desire to cling to the notion that even considering this as a death was a negation of… the truth.
I always had been, am and always will be the same me. I had always been a woman. How could I acknowledge, my past with the wolves as my “boyhood” and “manhood,” when I had never been either one myself?
There was never someone other than me to let go of. There was only me and I had no intention of leaving.
But seeing the loss in Puffy’s eyes made me realize another essential thing I have learned in this life… funerals are for the living. They help the living let go of their hold on the past. They allow their loved ones to move on.
So, now, I’m torn. I feel compelled to help cis people understand that trans (in my experience) is not that you “were one gender” and are now another. Sorry to start sounding like a broken record, but with 45’s recent order to dismantle protections for trans youth in public schools, this firestorm of misunderstanding has been stoked anew. Those who support this cruel and legal discrimination cite their belief and conviction that transgender is a lifestyle choice or even a mental illness. Denying the facts. Denying those who have experienced it. No one would ever in their right mind choose derision, discrimination, pain, trauma, violence and misunderstanding. Can we please put that one to bed?
Dysphoria comes of being in a body that will never, not ever, no matter how hard you try to deny it, match your truest, deepest “sense” and awareness of your very own self. I say this without the words “believe yourself to be” or “think that you are” that others have used to describe this phenomenon because they both imply an intellectual attempt at interpreting the experience that humans have of being human, that only each human can ever experience of one’s own self.
I have never not known that I wasn’t me, a girl, a woman. I had this sense before I had words. I had this sense despite the organs that this body had. I had this sense despite what my parents and then my teachers and then my society told me. I had this sense despite what I tried to reason and then discipline myself to disprove.
Even as I grew up, took my place in my family, made friends and started a marriage and a career, constantly creating a life for myself and a chance to love and be loved it was through an outer armor that looked like a dude named “Scott.” But the wearer of that armor was me.
And tho’ this body, despite being, well let’s just go with incongruent with the rest of me, has always been my trusty armor, a worthy vehicle, a true friend that has gotten me through thick and thin, and certainly deserves the utmost care and respect, I’m not sure a funeral for my armor would seem right… for me.
But for Puffy? Hmmm. Maybe? I would do anything for him.
I’ll have to get back to you on that.
But… I do feel a need to do something to recognize the crossing of this mystical, physical and very very real, threshold of my life. I do recognize it’s huge. I do feel a need to keep it as one of the most sacred moments of my life. Yes, it’s huge, but in a way that only I can ever know fully. I’m not alone as I do this, but I am the only one who will be doing this with this life called Scottie.
One thing that I am doing is allowing any and all emotions to come up – I’m trying not to stop any of them. Emotions are already a new and amazing experience for me, but in these last few weeks, as I get closer to the threshold, it’s been like a roller coaster in the dark. I have no idea when the turns are coming. And some of these have no names or essences that I’ve ever felt before, or that even make sense. But instinctively I know they have a special value whether they are connected to my stepping across or not.
And then there’s Mylove… My lover. The person who’s heart and body and bed I’ve shared for close to thirty years. Yes. This is her journey too. Equally intense – but specifically unique in that she didn’t get a say in going on this journey and more than I did. But I had 45 years to contemplate its significance and test its validity. No one can ever prepare for this, but I had close to a four decade head start on her. She had to get up to speed instantly, flying completely on faith in me and our love. And she does it every single day. She never saw this coming; didn’t want it wen it did, but… she wants me and our love. As do I. So we are figuring this out. If anyone had the right to mourn for the loss of her husband and her lover, her white knight, her king, it’s she. But those were all “flavors” of her honey, me. She’s the one who chose the name Scottie for me. I wasn’t changing who I was in her heart, I was evolving as a person.
What you need to know is that ALL of the above flashed through my heart and soul between chicken fried rice and the stale fortune cookies. Bigsley brought this night to a close by summing up his “men are black and white” theory by saying, “Look, men are stupid. Women are crazy. You were always … really crazy. Suddenly everything makes perfect sense. We should’ve seen this, you, coming.”
And there it is. My chivalrous knight Bigsley actually does get me. Despite even his own protestations. I’ve gone from black to white (again) over Chinese food. And maybe this is another bread crumb (cookie crumb?) I can leave for my sisters and brothers as they follow this path: just as you are constantly relearning things about yourself, and reexamining your every move, so too are your family and friends. They aren’t taking a step backward, they are refreshing their grip. And that’s a good thing.
Then, we’re outside and it’s time for hugs and kisses goodbye. We have always been “huggers” in this boy’s club, but this time, as 6 foot two Puffy bends down to hug me, we… kiss. It’s natural and sweet, the kiss you get from your daddy, your uncle or your big brother. It’s reassuring, and… reaffirming. And it catches me off-guard. Because…
I got lipstick on Puffy’s cheek.
Every lady knows “you don’t share colors!” and I whispered my apology in his ear as we hugged. But while I was worrying about his cheek, he was whispering in my ear:
“I do love you, Scottie.”
And his hug went straight to my heart. As we let go, I did what my aunts and other great ladies had taught me by example and I wiped the pink smear demurely off like an Audrey Hepburn movie. I think I also lifted one foot behind as I did it… no idea where that came from…
After blessings for our various safe journeys home, I drove away in tears.
Tears of gratitude.
It was said by more than one reader of my book (which spans a year in the life of my extended family that stretches across to Europe and Australia numbering well above 200 people), that my life and journey and the people in it are some of the most amazingly generous, loving and supportive people ever gathered. I strongly agree. My journey is our journey. And tho’ they didn’t ask for it, it has given all of these people the chance to show to me, and themselves, that we are the noble, loving and best humans we hope and aspire to be. Even if and when we don’t know what we’re doing. We love first, ask questions later. And yes, it’s messy. But so is life.
I have never actually been grateful that I was born trans, but I can see that my trans journey is a profound and precious gift. A humbling and amazing immersion in love that fills me to overflowing every day.
Who knew that a little bit of lipstick could change the world?
I sat down to write this week’s posting, and realized…
I had already said everything (this week) in an interview for another woman’s blog.
So I decided to throw light (the opposite of shade) on a fellow blogger for the great work she does, which is this: She interviews the Heroines in her Life, and as of this week’s count, I am honored to be number 362.And in the three days since my post dropped, she added three more…
Yes, it’s some amazing company. You’ll find the “usual suspects,” great women whom you have heard of, who have lead our community (either metaphorically or by real world sweat and tears) but it’s also women you need to know. Women who have made a difference doing nothing more than the greatest act of courage – truly, being themselves.
Which, we’re learning, is even more mystifying than previously thought.
I received an invitation a week ago from Monika Kowalska – and this started our journey together. Monika paid me one the greatest compliments I had ever received:”Scottie, I was reading and reading (your answers) and I started to feel that…
I am no longer cursed but I am gifted to be a transwoman! Thank you so much!!!!”
Well. What can you say after that other than – Thank you God that I have something to give.
So. This week, I direct you to Monika’s great blog dear readers and see for yourself what all the hoopla is really all about…
Please read my responses to her insightful questions at:
And see you next week –
scottie jeanette christine madden
Last week, Marcy and I were treated to, and I won’t hesitate to say, a tour de force (for once it’s actually used correctly) named Alexandra Billings in her performance, “I’m still here.”
It was… life affirming, life changing and… just plain ole life. But, an extraordinary one… as there’s nothing, not even her propensity for McDonald’s, is ever plain.
Now fair disclosure, Alexandra and I are getting to be better friends every day (when she picks up the phone), and I’ve written about her many times. Yes, I do think she walks on water and, no, you will never catch me saying that out loud—especially to her.
Nonetheless, her show consisted of more than an hour and half of songs belted to the rafters, enrobed in comedic bon mots that were both planned and spontaneous. Perfect example was when spilling her water glass on the piano became a Groucho Marx routine complete with enlisting help from the hapless, off-stage manager, and an innocent 80 year old bystander’s shawl to mop it up. And there was planned patter & jokes that even tho’ I (in my few months of friendship) had heard a variation on, still got the big laugh out of me anyway.
An amazing, yes amazing performance.
In my continuing efforts at this fair disclosure thingy (I think I’ve already told you), Alexandra has signed on to the drama series based on my book. Yay! And I, in turn, have signed on to develop her stage show into a television event (stay tuned for updates on this all). None of this skews my admiration of her as a woman. As an artist. As a role model. As an activist. As a great spokesperson for our community…
that being said…
Her performance shook me all night long, and then some.
After her 90 minute set, Alexandra came out in street clothes (one of the first of many areas where we do disagree—jeans and a “t”? Please girl!) to answer questions from at least half the house that stayed for this rare chance. The audience, made of students and supporters of USC’s arts community, were also, it turned out, fans of both her work on “Transparent,” and fans of the Director who runs this performance series program.
There were, you can image, the requisite questions about being a professional actor that one would expect from this crowd, not unlike the atmosphere created on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” (but without James Lipton being all James Liptony—which I rather like).
And, I saw a chance to open up a door to do another thing that Alexandra does best… represent.
Now, her show had already been a musical journey of her life from young boy to showgirl to mature professor and artist, through the broken glass-filled trenches of AIDS, drug addiction, and heartbreak (oh, so it’s a family show) that’s as much the story of one amazing person’s life as it is a chronicle of the LGBT movement, experience, and legacy of the last 50 years.
But… for those of you who maybe follow her through social media (and if you don’t, you should), you might know that Alexandra gets to deeper, more relevant issues in her own daily life, calling on us all to be divine, while acting humanely—with all, for all, not just the trans community. It’s one of the reasons why I value not only her friendship, but her voice in the trans community.
So, Yes, I tossed her a softball (news-speak for “an easy one”). But in this case, my intention was to give her a pivot to talk about subjects that hadn’t been covered in her performance (so, sue me). And I wasn’t even disappointed when she cast aside the notion in my question, reframing my premise about there even being a trans narrative into the bigger “human narrative” (that’s my girl), before answering. (As I said this was her show.) But the magic worked, and the next phase of questions opened up to the broader issues about being oneself, and true to the art, and connecting with the audience… for real.
But I don’t think either of us expected it to take the turn that it did, and I didn’t expect to still be “shook” days later. It started innocently enough…
One young playwright earnestly asked in this open and very public forum if Alexandra would be willing to be interviewed for her senior thesis project (a bold move that even Alexandra must’ve appreciated for its sheer chutzpah). Her play, she continued breathlessly, was about women, and Alexandra had on this night demonstrated, a perspective on being a woman that this playwright hadn’t considered before (and there it is) nor, the playwright continued, even knew existed. Okay we can get into just how “sheltered” this young woman confessed to being, later. I hear my inner critic screaming from the porch, “Scottie Jeanette, you come down off that soapbox, this instant!”
The point is, she meant well! And like us all, she was captivated by Alexandra’s story & performance.
But it was Alexandra’s answer that shook me, oh yeah, and probably the playwright too.
“Well, as you know, I’ve been married for over twenty years to a woman I’ve loved for over forty, and I can honestly say, having lived beside her, that I don’t share the same experiences as she and her cis-sisters. I consider myself a trans woman. I’m proud of that. So, no, maybe I’m not right for your project.”
Which sounded to everyone as a perfectly reasonable, gracious, maybe thanks but no, thanks dodge. But smiles and nods and the love in the air seemed to egg Alexandra on, so she continued to say, “… and if you’re okay with that; and you still want me? Talk to my manager.”
I was… floored. I… was… did I hear her right? Was I just… sold out?
But, again, this was Alexandra’s show.
Which is what I had to keep telling myself to get myself to take my finger off the launch buttons.
For those of you who’ve been following me, forgive me for repeating myself. I am a woman. I use the trans prefix only as a shorthand in pertinent conversations and context.
I struggle with this paradox (see previous posts), like last week when we pushed back on little old me, Ms smarty pants, with the unanswerable question, “Oh yeah? If you’re a woman, then how do you explain your body?”
But before you offer me up the usual get-out-of-jail-free cards,” like chromosomes and DNA and other cultures’ historical embraces (India’s Hijera, First Nation’s Two-Spirits, etc.), I will confess that, tho’ some find solace in these, I don’t. What happens for others is rarely easy for me to adopt as an explanation for my inner experience of reality.
It’s nice to know, but nothing has actually worked, except my own mental elbow grease.
I write often about how I cherish sisterhood and seek it out and, yes, get disappointed when I’m cut off from it, either by self-inflicted wounds or good ole fashioned misunderstanding.
So, when the divine Ms. Alex makes self-acceptance of the trans kind seem so easy and so… de rigueur, so… required, what’s a girl to do?
I do still, obviously, duh, struggle with this.
You can see it as I’m trying to get the world (or at least my world) to not only see me as a woman, but capital “B,” Be with me as a woman. When we are capital “B,” Be-ing, we are surfing that powerful wave of connection that we are suddenly sharing (for whatever reason), ignoring the mental obstacles that judge, misjudge, fire and misfire like so much flotsam and jetsam… the ocean of truth between two people pounds the rocks of fantasy and imagination (of each other) into the fine beach sand of each of our inner shores. And we… just… connect.
I’m using the word connection as a metaphysical, spiritual, sacred embrace.
And that’s why I shy away (shy being the operative word here) from the word “acceptance.” I’m not asking anyone to accept my womanhood that’s a mental surrender to a previously held prejudice. No, I’m an “all or nothing” girl. Wait… in this case, even that isn’t accurate…
I’m an all or all, girl. There’s no room for nothing.
I know, and have learned from deep meaningful relationships with amazing people, that deeper spiritual connection is there for us with each of our very next breaths.
All it takes is for us to stay in that beautiful bubble that our hearts created when first they met.
So, I figure that it’s even better when we are able to now, breath freely in our bubbles with a deeper understanding of my true femininity, because now we can, when we both are just Be-ing together, achieve… well, an even richer state of love. Of connection. Of meaningfulness as two humans, you and I.
Now, put in these terms, I know Alexandra (maybe with far more inspirational prose) would say the very same things. And no, gender is not even a part of the above equation, except for my case alone. I ask that those close to me regard me as a woman and treat me in the same way they treat the other women in our life. In our bubble. According to the social rules that we have created together.
But when those close to me step outside the bubble we created and look instead to the outside society for clues and cues as to how to live with me, then, yes, I get… well, uncomfortable. It happens more often than I care to believe, and has happened to a greater degree (and heartbreak) ever since I came out.
So, when Alex so boldly declared how she wants to be regarded… yes. I braced for impact.
And I had good cause. Because it happened to me on the way home.
And it happened from the one person who loves me most, and proofs this blog and should know better than anyone else, why I feel the way I do… and I would hope be able to answer this question (were it to come up) in my absence.
And… even I, intelligent woman that I am, can see why even Mylove could agree with Alexandra, despite all of the above.
Because Alexandra declared her views from the context of being the star of the night, and Alexandra had a microphone that amplified her perspective for her life (somehow hearing things in a concert hall seems, I dunno, more important or have more value?). And maybe I’m nervous that someone else may hear Alexandra’s declaration and, knowing that I respect her, naturally and innocently apply her views to me. (I can and did correct Mylove’s misunderstanding. But I was able to talk it through with her. What about those who will just assume? What about people I don’t even know? Breathe Girl! Calm down! Ah, the wonders of being trans. We can be so consumed with making preemptive strikes to safeguard our future kerfuffles, that we walk around like porcupines!)
Truly speaking, I don’t have an answer for the criteria that Alexandra presented.
I saw how my family lovingly raised my sisters to believe they could be anything they wanted, while actually kicking my butt (also lovingly) to make sure that I made it actually happen. It’s subtle, but the girls weren’t hammered and hammered and hammered to make sure they would follow through to success like I was, they were given the room to be or not be, and they would be loved no matter how they turned out. And now, as mature women, none of us are really sure which way was best. But…
I wasn’t raised on the inside of things that are a woman’s natural life—like what a period is, childbirth and childbearing, etc., though I was, as the oldest, and as my father’s “second in command,” the steward of the women in our house. I was keenly aware and directly involved in making sure that “our four women,” whose cycles invariably aligned, were taken care of, and this time had very high significance and attention in my family. And no, I never really disliked this. And yes, as a smart person, I knew that this made me unique—the boy who knew as much about periods as the blushing mothers of my friends. And well, let’s face it, it became a great part of my stand-up routine. (Doesn’t everyone have a stand-up routine? You know, the answer that you give your friends’ parents when they ask, “So… how’ve you been?”)
But it also, when I’m brutally honest with myself, paradoxically spotlights that I was still separate from my sisters. I was their steward, their guardian, I understood that they were going through something. As time went on, and the female intuition of my creative mind empathized even further, I understood even deeper…
… what I was missing, and where we differed…
This alone is what made me shudder when Alexandra declared her “not-ness.” On this, she was right. And I had no rebuttal.
This question even comes up in feminist circles as being “what defines a woman?” But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Like it or not, know it or not, women have a shared experience that I have only had from the outside looking in. Though we both may have had the same reactions and emotions to a situation, I’d be naive to think that my cis sisters, feeling both the warmth of being cherished and the bite of sexism (and being the object of both) is the same as my witnessing it “once removed.”
This is what “other” feels like on my side of the fence.
So, is she right? Is Alexandra’s declaration supposed to be how I should feel? Is acceptance of my trans-ness the goal?
Do I need to get that I am not a woman but rather a woman with the trans prefix?
I fully admit that this has got to seem strange coming from a woman who wrote a book and records a regular video vlog and writes a weekly blog about being raised by wolves. Yes, I had to accept that this gender dysphoria wasn’t going away. Yes, I had to deal with the fact that I had… something to deal with. Yes, I had to involve doctors and counselors, and I had to find a way to describe to my family and friends why I would be looking and living so differently from the way they had comfortably learned to live with and look at me for over 45 years. Yes. Yes.
But I never called what I was “trans;” never thought of myself as other than me. I used the words “woman” for what I was and “man” for what the world thought me to be. Trans only came into favor within the last five years (I guess we had to wait long enough for the stigma of being “Not a Camaro” to wear off?). And before that, saying I was a transsexual was too… optimistic.
And why, Ms. Scottie, yes, why dig this deep into semantics in the first place?
Why was I shook all night long and then some to make me take to the keyboard to figure it out?
… each term, each word, each label, each title, comes with a short hand that, good or bad, will be the way the world regards us all. Each has a set of social rules. (We’re talking big picture now, outside the sacred bubble described above.) Admittedly those rules are broken and being re-written all the time, but are nonetheless there to make the blind spots less blind, the unpaved roads less bumpy; to give us a way to see around corners, and more importantly, protect us from the unknown. And tho’ we’ve talked to death about the notion that “labels can limit,” but “labels should not limit,” labels are here. We’re learning that being “color blind” with race is… actually just blind—blind and, actually, a dismissing of someone’s humanity.
So, back to the word “woman,” we all have a pretty common starting point for how you can relate to me. With trans, I’m stating that, unless you’re trans, you will never understand me.
But… and here’s the big “but” coming… you ready? I am, as a member of the trans community, able to make room for both my view and Alexandra’s. As she does for me. Without either of us canceling out the other. (I know, what was I worried about? Geeze…)
We can do this because something that is possible to generalize about as being true across the board with trans people is that we make room for the various variations of gender identity that appear daily under our side of the LGBTQIA tent—gender non-conforming, gender neutral, gender queer… and that’s just this week. We hold ourselves to the same standards we ask of the world—accept that what and who we say we are, is who we are. (Yes, I still feel the same way about the “A-word” but it’s different when we’re talking the whole community.) Please don’t discriminate against us. Allow us the same opportunities as everyone else. Please treat us as equals.
So. I can make room for Alexandra’s declarations just as she has generously made room for mine. She sees me as a woman. I see her as a trans woman. We see each other as sisters.
And so, I can still hate her for the way she rocks the Marilyn “seven-year-itch” dress and sparkly platform pumps.
And she will defend me when our feminist sisters judge me for making this (yet again) about shoes and hair.
And she probably still won’t answer my texts, emails or voice messages for weeks… but she will come running whenever I need her.
We’re sisters, after all.
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.
My Godson’s name is Sam. He’s 24 years old. I have watched in awe as this precocious child grew to be an amazing man. Not so special, you say? Well this man was dragged through a knothole backwards called “Autism.” As I wrote in my book, through his parents tirelessly, selflessly (well, there’s just no adverb that adequately describes how they, and Sam) wrested his life from the cul-du-sac of society’s narrow-minded ways. Maybe it’s because they worked for Sam to live, instead, a rich and wonderful life. And lo’ and behold, when all was said and done (and yes, that word done is elastic too), Sam and fam live what some might actually accuse them of living,… a normal life (tho’ that’s a four-letter word in our world).
But, I won’t lie, we all had to learn how to live this life with Sam. There wasn’t a map and they were making it up as they went. But, it wasn’t hard to zip left or slide right as things changed. I myself have asked the world to change how they live with me. So, Sam and I, well, we’re alike that way.
Sally Joy, Sam’s sainted mother, has patiently guided me in my interactions with Sam until, I as a big girl, was able to do my part and develop my own relationship with Sam.
Now, I, or at least my work, have always had a special place in Sam’s world. My syndicated children’s TV show, “Pug And Zero’s Field Trip” was, for a long time, Sam’s “stim.” “Stimming” (some say it’s short for Self-Stimulation) is a term which refers to the default behavior that some on the autism spectrum use when social situations become confusing or uncomfortable. The person tries to calm themselves by making repetitive sounds or hand and body movements. In Sam’s case, he would recite an entire episode of P&Z from start to finish, including the commercials. Flattering, huh? It was until I realized that, if I tried to interact with him during these episodes, he wasn’t looking at me, but rather through me. If I interrupted him, he would start over from the very beginning.
But, as I said, Sally & Ed (Sam’s father) turned their entire life into learning how to be in Sam’s world, rather than allow his round peg to be slammed into the world’s square holes. And it started to work. Luckily, Pug and Zero would eventually become just another one of Sam’s favorite TV shows and it turned out to be a bit of inspiration (what every artist hopes for).
Sam became a filmmaker just like me, and earned the basic techniques of stop-motion animation and creating cartoons. He wanted to follow in my footsteps. As a teenager, Sam took on a gargantuan task of producing a “making of” featurette for the home video version of my indie-horror feature film, “the kiss.”
As one of his Godparents, of course I would make use of any opportunity to show my Godson how our business is run. Sam stood up for himself creatively, and threw tantrums where appropriate (that’s my boy!), and showed both potential and a maturing as an artist. The end result was a pretty good half-hour of television – with no excuse for his age or experience. The best part of this was being involved with Sam on a regular basis. And our relationship also started to mature.
The fog swept in, and Mylove and I had to deal with our own lives. Gender Dysphoria. Cancer. Turmoil… a tiny bit of chaos. Marcy and I had to circle our own wagons and cling to each other for dear life as the stagecoach careened passed the “bridge-out ahead” sign. We were heading for the… (sorry, I’ve run out plum out of western movie metaphors to paint the hardest years of our marriage with a sardonic wash). What I’m trying to say is that, as we braced for impact, we didn’t have a hand left to reach out to family and friends.
I was sad when Sally Joy confessed that they were hurt (tho’ they understood) by our silence. I realized, almost too late, that they were one of the inner circles that I forgot to have “the chat” with. (The chat is the formal, “hey, I’m a woman” phone call or, when lucky, face-to-face discussion, where we start the process of changing the pronouns for me in the hearts, minds, and mouths of those closest to me.)
I’ll just blurt it out right here: Sally Joy had a rough time processing my transition. So much so, that she had to paint me in order to understand me. (Her portrait of my FB profile pic, which announced my transition to the world, is on the cover of the first edition of my book, “Getting Back To Me”.)
But Sam didn’t have a rough time. It took him about 15 seconds to transition me in his heart. It blew me away how fast the speed of love is, and how much it bends the trees when it passes…
Fast forward to 2015.
Sam posted on his FB page – “Congrats to Bradley Whitford for his supporting actor Emmy as Marcy in Transparent.”
Now, you need to know that Sam has quite the connection to Bradley – dating back to his “The West Wing” days. Sam will say that it’s Bradley and his support of Sam back then, that made Sam want to get into acting (which he also does professionally, B-T-Dubs). Sam went on in his post to say that “here’s also a painting my Mom did of one of my Godmothers, Aunt Scottie, who is a trans woman.”
Insert crack of thunder here…
Why did I just feel the world shift on it’s axis?
Why did it strike me so hard?
I told both of us (you and me) how well Sam took the news about me and immediately recoded me in his wetware. I had already celebrated his acceptance.
So, why did this benign posting hit me like the proverbial “ton of bricks?”
Part of it was my survival software kicking in… “Captain! Radar shows extreme risk of negativity from a direct Facebook outing.” Battle stations? What? Permission to engage? Are you kidding? Do I still need to worry about the world knowing about me? Am I not over this? Should I be over this? Why does it matter?
Sam’s posting forced me to look at the dichotomy of my feelings. As I said in GBTM, I am a woman (no trans qualifier/prefix). I want the world to know me, regard me as a woman. When new people meet me, I don’t shake their hand and say, “Hi, I’m trans.” I want them, after meeting me to say to themselves, what an amazing woman. Or, hey that chick is pretty cool. Or, that lady is freakin’ smart. Or who’s that girl? Heck, I’ll take anything that celebrates and recognizes me for the woman I am.
AND, at the very same time, I always stand with my sisters and brothers in the trans community. I respect everyone’s right to identify as they see fit, just as I want that same respect from others.
Granted, to stay coherent in the dialogue, I do use the term trans as a short cut to describe my experiences when appropriate. It’s why I usually just say, speaking as a woman who was “Raised by Wolves,” I yada yada yada.
So I called Sam to have a chat about “it’s okay for me to say I’m trans, but it’s better if someone grants me the courtesy of asking me when they want to refer to me as trans, especially in print. Trust me, my words were already falling apart before I even said them. His posting was not only innocent, it was respectful and, freakin’ celebratory. My Godson was proud of me.
Sam, of course, was wonderful, and he got my dilemma right away – it clicked for him even as I fumbled and stumbled to make sense. He said that he faces a similar quandary when he gets described as an “autistic man,” rather than “justa” man.
We both agreed that we are proud of our pasts, but that we are not our pasts anymore. I admit that I do feel a little weird looking back or if I get reminded about my past. In the end, it was a fruitful. and heady, terribly intellectual conversation with my Godson, now a man, and we connected in a mature way – each bringing our experiences to the table as equals. It was truly magical and I was proud of my Sam.
But nothing prepared for the floor dropping out as I decided to steer the conversation into more personal waters.
I asked Sam about his girlfriend. She and Sam have been dating for almost two years. And I will confess, I, like most people, didn’t take young “relationships” in the family, seriously. I mean, they last for a semester at best, right? But when Sam & she passed the two-year mark, it got my attention… and Sam is smitten with her.
Sam has that amazingly, wonderful and dizzying relationship with “first love” as much as he does this particular young woman. As a young man who hasn’t had the traditional childhood and teen years of most people his age, Sam hasn’t ever had a serious relationship until she came along. And that means he hasn’t been tainted by heartache or by cynicism or by gender politics, and I hope he never is…
… but I was absolutely mesmerized by the timbre of his voice as he described how she makes him feel. I felt a buoyancy in my body that went straight to sweet and exhilarating vertigo, late summer sun sneaking through the clouds of an unseasonal rain, a fresh breeze blowing Zuzu’s chimes and Sam’s first love sparkling in the air like stardust, kinda dizzying.
I didn’t want what he had, I was just happy that he had it!
I wasn’t wishing I had that first love – I knew I had never lost it.
No, this was an “elder auntie” joy at reveling in her Godson’s joy.
And this was a new feeling –an incredibly subtle, yet amazingly powerful feeling that ripped through my entire body like lightning, and ocean waves, and morning breezes, and maple syrup.
And this is something that feels weird to admit out loud. We in the trans community try to explain our existence to a world that already doesn’t, for even a moment, get how or why we are. Explaining something with “born-again fervor,” like it’s the first time that emotion has ever been felt in the history of humankind, seems as if we have been in a sleeping beauty slumber, until estrogen’s kiss wakes us. Which seems at odds with the “I’ve felt this way my whole life.”
Well, if we did, then, why does it feel so new?
And why am I worried to say that out loud?
Because we are judged up one side and down the other more than many other groups. We already are confusing and don’t fit into anyone’s box. So, when our stories don’t add up, we are vulnerable to being dismissed, discounted and just plain dissed… each one a spokesperson to the circle we’re addressing of the entire trans experience. Talk about pressure. Talk about the exposure. Talk about inaccurate.
Yes. We are snowflakes. No one speaks for us all… but that doesn’t stop our being put in that position. By your mom. By your boss. By your neighbor who knows everything.
Your family & friends are trying their absolute best (mostly) to understand something that they have been told by life and society is un-graspable. So, when you hit on something that shines a light on an aspect that becomes clear for them, it’s understandable that they would try to apply that across the board.
That might work in almost every static case of circumstances, but never works in practical one-on-one human relations. Even those in the fields of psychology realize that the only thing they can predict about another human is that they will be unpredictable. Still, the human mind wants to hold them accountable for knowing.
We have watched our every word for our entire lives – weighing, worrying, dissecting. Will our words stand up to scrutiny? Will I pass muster? Will my words “out me?” Will I put everything I hold dear at risk; will I put my life at risk?
So… yes, it’s a tough habit to break. But it gets easier everyday.
Because I now live everyday in the pure light of sunshine’s embrace. And I grow a little more everyday. Watered and tended by the love of Mylove. Of my Sam. And those around me.
So, yes, Sam, I am:
One of your Godmothers.
Your Aunt Marcy’s love.
Your Aunt Scottie.
Sam, I am, Yours.
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.
Last week was one of my favorite Indian festivals; Navaratri, The nine nights of the Goddess. I don’t have space to go into what it all means, but the point you need to know is that it celebrates the Divine Feminine, and as one of the newest girls on the team, I’m all in. Finally.
So, there are lotsa ways Mylove and I celebrate this sacred time in our house, but one of the simplest is mere “remembrance,” a yogic practice of holding someone or something sacred in your heart and mind and allowing the blessings of the memories and thoughts to reverberate through your entire being. You can do this in even the most mundane of your daily activities, turning each one into a sacred ritual, rich with meaning and experience.
One morning, I was using my ab(dominal) wheel and truly relishing each time I rolled out into a pranam (a reverential bow) and realizing that I was actually doing it toward our MahaLaxmi Puja, the altar in our bedroom devoted to the Goddess of abundance, wealth, and beauty, and smiling inside that I am that Goddess. It hit me, I’m checking off all the “never woulds, never coulds and never shoulds” almost every day since I came out. There is now, nothing out of my reach or forbidden to me – if I wanna cry at movies, call everyone “honey,” wear an evening gown, go window shopping at Sephora, or be President of the United States, now I can, because I’m a woman!
Now, those of you who’ve been with me here at “Raised By Wolves” since the beginning, know that I wrestle with the sublime to the ridiculous almost every day. And anyone who knows Alexandra Billings knows she’s set the bar very high about what and where we place our attention. But you also know that I’m going thru my second puberty and reveling in the simplest freedoms like wearing lipstick and lace, and any of the other previously forbidden fruits. I am the biggest cheerleader for “a little extra sumpin’- sumpin” a touch more bling, a bit more sparkle… you might not only live once, but this is the only version of you you’ll get this go around and, as many have said, life’s too short for bad coffee, no lipstick, or pulling back for any reason. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog…
I’m using the ab wheel, remember?
I was really feeling the deeeeeeep stretch of each pranam, and wallowing in the glory of really feeling, not only comfortable in my skin, but great in it. Here I was, 45 pounds lighter and yet waaaaay stronger and fit and maybe, just maybe, able to wear a… bikini soon. It’s the first time I’ve ever, ever dared allowed myself to even allow that thought to form…
As I looked up from one more amazing, deep stretch I saw my long manicured nails (rocking a rather bold mother-of-pearl finish) and giggling with glee that my hands looked so… so…
…and it hit me, or rather rumbled from deep inside of the bottom of the deepest vein that runs to the depth of the physicality of my being… an earthquake of joy and love and gratitude.
I am a woman… I… made… it.
Deep wracking sobs kept rum-tumbling out, over and over and over. I’m talking snot-bubbles, burning eyes, the whole shootin’ match… not even trying to avoid the drool pooling on my yoga mat, I let go of the wheel and curled into the fetal position.
I felt my subtle being rising above my fetal self.
“Look at me, I’m crying that deep cry that I’ve waited for an entire lifetime!”
“Wait, what are we doing out here? Don’t wanna miss this… get back in there and let go, girl!”
“Is this what they would call deep soul cleansing? (And where did phrase come from anyway? Some cheap novel?)”
“NO! It’s what they say when… what are you doing?”
“Shut-up! You’re missing this!”
“Right, good idea, okay, I’m heading back in there…”
“Well, stop talking and go!”
And then, I was able to really let go. And I swan dived backward into a waterfall of tears… and it was… amazing. I have no idea how long I was there, I can only mark time by the river of tears spilling from my mat to the floor.
When I finished, I stood up and staggered upstairs and looked at Marcy like I’d both stepped out of a torrential downpour and a two-hour mediation…
What happened to you?
So I told her.
The physical changes of gender transition are sometimes the only part that anyone seems to care about. I’ve had my theories about why this is, for others, and for me. Those are the measuring sticks for the “one little victories” that literally track the progress of all of the hard work, and I mean hard (oh, honey, just one of the procedures would horrify the strongest of the strong), that is now, part of my daily life. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s… worth it.
Once you begin to understand the mind-body-heart connection as deeply as we do, you’ll understand why this is one path of the journey that many of us have to take. It’s the only way to remove the thorn that’s festered in our psyche for most of our lives.
But that’s not what any of this is really about for any of us. It’s an odd lot. Our maturity gets kicked into hyper drive as our bodies step into a wormhole of our second puberty. Yes, it’s like Syfy. And there’s nothing that can prepare you for what that feels like. But it is what we signed up for. And learning to dance with biology while trying to be who we’re supposed to be: both true to ourselves, as we are true to the society that hates us, doesn’t understand us, objectifies us, reviles us, AND loves us, supports us, is intrigued by us, learns from us, is inspired by us… makes daily life a non-stop adventure.
And the who we are is, as Alexandra reminds us, the most important and interesting to talk about.
This is the number one topic around our house, lately. And Marcy and I are continually looking at all the things that have changed in the last two years. Now, before we proceed, many people refer to this as “Scottie’s transition,” which is inaccurate for a number of reasons – chief of all, as a married woman of close to 30 years, it’s our transition if anything. But we all like to have something to mark time with, so just between us girls, we call it “since vitamin E” (for estrogen). This doesn’t connote when I came out because the chaos and false starts that all crashed into one another at that time have blurred the start of it all, except, of course, the ending of that chapter of our life and the beginning of now.
“Since vitamin E” marks, instead, the beginning of feeling good, feeling right, feeling like me. Truly me. The me without an asterisk. The me without apologies, compromises or masks.
We always joke that, after almost 3 decades together (29 years, last April 29th, for the mathemagicians out there), it’s about time some of those little annoyances that plague every couple, were gone by now. But something (stubbornness?) in both of us, keeps many of them alive.
Not so, however, on Vitamin E.
The other day, Marcy came out of the bathroom with tears in her eyes, “Oh my God!” I asked, “Mylove, what’s wrong?” She shook her head and stammered, “Not only did you replace the toilet paper, but you put it on so the sheet comes over the top!”
And before you ask, the toilet seat is always down in our house (but it has been since my childhood, a mom and three sisters in the house, I wasn’t stupid back then either).
I put out the trash cans the other night, and when I came back in, Marcy was thunderstruck. “Oh, my god! You were quiet!” I was a bit bewildered, apparently, the “dude” that used to live with her (some arrogant schmuck named Scott) thought it didn’t matter if you made a ruckus late at night in the neighborhood. How inconsiderate…
I’m kidding, sorta. In a marriage or long time, committed relationship, theses seemingly inconsequential events are the shorthand for decades-long debates and decisions.
And as funny as those things are, the real changes since Vitamin E to our relationship are subtler, yet incredibly powerful. As a woman, I feel every change of the winds well before we get around a bend. And tho’ I’d love to think I was always attuned to Mylove’s frequencies, Vitamin E has cranked up the volume, and I can sense her shifting moods from three area codes away. But importantly, I know why her moods shifted in the first place, why it’s a big deal, what the ramifications could be, and most importantly, I know what is necessary for me to do with all of this. (Hey boys, take note here, sometimes it’s nothing).
Now, am I saying that Vitamin E is like sapho juice, giving us increased superpowers? Thufir Hawat would say heightened potential (Dune anyone? Anyone?). But for me, who’s first and only natural dose came in utero, the reintroduction into my life of “E” has shut down the panic-stricken screaming that I had to strive for decades to become deaf to, the pleading and, eventually, faint gnawing whisper that came from being imprisoned in someone else’s life. It vanished almost the moment estrogen returned to my veins. And with it, the entire security apparatus built to contain the prisoner’s mere existence was also gone – freeing up about 70 percent of available energy resources.
So, call it operating (finally) at full capacity.
But, even more than that, I have a clear view and no pebbles in the fertile soil that is my consciousness. My petals are fully opened to the sun’s rays, and now I have so much more to give to the one I love. And so much more to receive. And that’s the biggest change in our relationship. We both are so much more there for each other. We, who were already a model of a loving marriage, no longer are pretending we don’t, or can’t, understand each other. We have always been speaking not only the same language, but the same exact dialect. But, I could never admit that before, and Marcy could never pretend to understand.
So, if we suddenly stop making sense to each other, we each know it’s because we won’t understand each other.
And that’s a horse of a different color altogether.
Luckily, neither of us has, especially since vitamin E, had the patience, desire or tolerance to waste whatever precious time we have in each other’s arms and hearts, especially if it’s because of any self-inflicted stupidity.
And I guess, I’d like to think I’ve always been that kinda girl. But then again…
… I did use to put the toilet paper on backward… just for fun.
I said, used to.