Part 2: More, “that happens.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sleepy-girl.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve made it. I’m here! Amazing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting.

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

Time.

Time to see just what inevitable looks like.

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

At the feet of the Goddess

 

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!”

Vitamin E.

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…

Vitamin E.

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.

California Dreamin’

It’s summer. Gorgeous afternoon sunshine, heat wave comin’ but not here yet, Chicago Live from Carnegie Hall tellin’ me that it’s “Only Love Beginning,” and I’m …

Carried away by it all.

It dawns on me, I have always been a California Sunshine Girl (as my father would say with a wistful and proud tenor … usually to my sister Kimm or about any of the various women he met as a car salesman in the infamous Inland Empire). It’s just that you, he and the rest of the world never knew it.

But the image of me as a naturally athletic and active woman whose beauty stemmed more from her smile than her wardrobe, who lit up every space she graced, and celebrated the outdoor lifestyle that is our birthright in SoooooCal, is actually my default state of being.

Until, that is, I remember that I’m trans.

I’ve written about my dance with this moniker, this label, in my book, and I will confess that it is even now, a work in progress.

But my personal dance doesn’t matter anymore. Because being trans in 2016 is a … well, it’s something that none of us is. Being trans in 2016 is to be something we have all fought against for our entire lives, and now, must continue to fight, everyday. Because being trans in 2016 is to be part of … a thing.

Being trans in 2016 … well, hang in there with me on this one, but it has nothing to do with our gender identity and, it turns out, has everything to do with our gender identity. Being trans is “an issue,” it has become one of the nation’s “dialogues,” one of the nation’s “narratives” (among many), and the definition or usage of “trans” could all depend on who’s saying it.

Being trans in 2016 is “a call to arms,” “a badge of honor” and “the next civil rights front.” While for some people, being trans is “a four-letter-word,” “igniting a national firestorm,” or “the height of absurdity” (this last is a quote from former “Brain surgeon” Ben Carson).

Yeah, everyone thinks they know what being trans is.

After all, we are that woman on TV, that man on Facebook, that guy in the Nike Ad, that guy on that show, that woman who was on that show and is now on that woman’s show; that dude you used to work with, that woman that just started working next to you, that girl in your child’s school, that boy in the news, those girls in that music video, that woman on the Daily Show …

In other words, we are the latest thing. We are a thing thing.

But here’s the thing … we’re not an … any-thing.

 We are a somebody. And, we are somebody else’s somebody.

We are your daughter, your big sister, your big brother, your new little sister, your cousin, your neighbor, your wife’s best friend, your best friend from high school …

When we are a thing and, more recently, a “that” thing, we become the abstract that can be legislated against. When we are that thing that everybody’s been talking about, we vanish from the reality of life, and we become instead spectres, punchlines, cyphers.

We sometimes falter ourselves and surrender to the belief that this is “our lot in life,” “the cards we’ve been dealt,” or for some, “the beds we will lie in.” We sometimes allow ourselves to take on the mantel that society seems to want to continue to shoulder us with – the “othering” that exasperatedly seems so easy for some of our fellow Americans to do without even a second thought.

Now, I just admitted right there, that this is a two-way street—what society says about me and what I accept about me. But folks, the reason why we’re still talking about this is … my side of that two way street isn’t trying to kill me. And while we’re on the subject, to my friends and family: yes, your right to vote is yours and you need to vote your conscience. BUT! If your vote puts a supporter of anti-LGBTQ laws in office, then you just put a nail in my coffin, plain and simple. And it’s on you. You don’t get to wash your hands of it all, and pretend that you didn’t know. You knew, and you still voted against me and my rights, and the rights of everyone in the LGBTQ community. I will not be able to look you in the eye. So, yes, voting what you refer to as your conscience may allow you to feel good that your team won, but my life, and the lives of all my LGBTQ sisters and brothers, are literally on the line.

What I am realizing, as the summer breeze brings me back into my body, is that I need to take a breath and step back from the front lines for moment and focus on my side of the street.

And that’s when I realize that sometimes even I have bought into thinking of myself as other … feeling like a trans woman, instead of a justa woman; recognizing that I am different, that I wasn’t born “like all the other girls.” And I realize there are people who actually hate me without knowing me. They call me an abomination. They think I don’t deserve to live.

And so, I have to take refuge where there is safety in numbers—in my trans community.

Which is what I’m doing. Everyday. And that means my is-ness stays grounded in the transwoman aspect of my identity. It is a survival mode in this four-letter-word HR2 bull-pucky world. The prevailing wisdom is for us to get out there, be visible, be more than a somebody’s someone, be a loud and present and unapologetic, and wonderful, confrontational, inspirational, technological, educational, someone.

Because the time is now for us to change the hearts and minds that have gone cold (or are somehow feeling that it is suddenly okay to admit that they always were) against us. These discriminatory efforts are well-funded, strategic efforts that are there to deny us our rights, to push us outside of the family of human. It will take all of us to give our all to change those hearts and minds.

I have to admit, as a California Sunshine Girl, it’s hard for me to believe that the rhetoric, rancor, and revulsion directed at our community is … well, real. What’s even more amazing is how easily people who are supposed to know better, gleefully and with complete knowledge, swan dive onto the cesspool, and allow themselves to actually, and fully, hate in the name of God, in the name of religion, and our constitution.

Remembering I’m trans is to remember that a whole church (the church of my childhood) has been turned against me and my family. Pope Francis said, “Ideologies that profess children can ‘choose their gender’ constitute the very annihilation of man as image of God.” Wait … did he actually say “choose?” Isn’t this guy supposed to be a man of science?  He reads, right? (And don’t get me started on his namesake asking to be the “instrument of God’s peace.”) Does he only feel this way about trans children? Does he feel the same way about children born with no limbs? Cleft palate? Down Syndrome? Are they also not born in the image of God? How could any religious leader denigrate a whole population of the human race? Not only does he devalue us but he effectively placed a target on our backs. I’m aghast that he could say this because, as I was taught in my catechism classes, God doesn’t make mistakes. So Mr. Pontiff-sir, you need to get on the right side of science and history and God’s love.

So, remembering I’m trans is to remember that some are trying to gain back the ground they lost in the first civil rights fight, and that’s their right (they believe) to hate. And they are all jumping on the HR2-like war wagon, turning their fight to hate on me and my community. Remembering I’m trans is remembering that my own sister has chosen to listen to everyone else about me, over asking me about me.

It’s remembering that the only way to change all of this is to remember that, as a trans woman, I am beautiful, that I have more to contribute than the average person, that I make the world a better place by being in it, and that I can never allow myself to fight the world, but that I may have to fight for my place in it. Again. And Again. And Again.

But also, that I must fight with light, laughter & love. Always. Forever.

Given all that, maybe you now can understand that every so often, I still would like to just feel that breeze across my California Sunshine Girl’s cheek…

… so I sigh. And allow myself to lose myself in that breeze … for a few precious moments.

The Company of Women

Okay…  Fair disclosure? I have what many women take for granted—some do not want it nor do they seek out; others pretend they don’t have it or need it. But what any girl raised by wolves craves, at least on some level, and maybe, probably and tragically will never have is …

the company of women. Sisterhood.

Now, as much as we try to paint it with a rosy brush, it’s not all love and light, even with the communities strung together by letters (oh and shared um… discriminations…). It doesn’t seem like it should be a miracle, but then it also doesn’t seem like anyone should have to worry where they go potty either … ah, reality—good old slap your forehead in disbelief, you gotta be kidding me, somebody please wake me up, reality. But yes, it’s true. So, that’s why having sisterhood is such a rare and precious thing. It’s not a given, it’s not a done deal. Not even a slam dunk. It’s … a miracle.

Yes. it is a miracle, this sisterhood thingy..

And it’s not lost on me that I am the new girl, the baby sister, embraced by some as a wonderful, joyous chick with fluffy stubby little feathers where my wings will be, and the gawky, awkward gait that needs the shoulders of my older sisters to keep me from tripping over myself as I start to spread my wings and fly.

At 54 years of age, this is admittedly a little weird for me to accept, but not in ways that may be obvious – having been raised and regarded and expected to succeed, to have my “feces cohesive,” to know where the four-letter-word I’m going and how to get there. As a professional leader, I was expected to make sure everyone else was safe including every new baby whatevers. I made it my business to know where the threats were, how to deal with them, and how to make it all work to our advantage (or at least, not take advantage of us).

It’s a skill that fed me and Mylove (literally) for close to 30 years.

So, to be the new girl, the one who doesn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t know; the one who’s “heart is blessed” (in the southern “bless her heart” dismissiveway); the one who, in many ways, is “back at square one.” Whenever I get help from my big sisters, it’s a lesson in humility.

The reason being back at square one is humbling is this:

as a 54 year-old woman, I have to admit … I am immature. In many ways, I don’t know how to be, as my big Sis Kathy would say, “in polite company.”  I am humbled by knowing there’s a lot I don’t know. All I can offer in my defense (which I tried to explain in my book) is that I protected myself from the crash that would come whenever I allowed myself to be myself by ignoring this thing called life to go by me untouched. And so I never did learn which fork is for the salad or why you don’t wear white to a wedding.

Now, this isn’t that important in the long run, right?  On what planet???? Of course this is important. Women have to master “being” as a survival skill. Fortunately, it’s in our DNA. We do know how to be; it’s how we live … together. But we still have to learn where the fine line is between being gauche and standing out.

At this point in my life, knowing this and knowing how to do it, are a platform and a train. And you can guess where my feet are.

If you can’t imagine what it’s like to have to redefine your life at fifty, consider this: you have slowly (imperceptibly at times and dramatically at others) been “making” this person known as you. However, those of us raised by wolves have had to try to make a “persona” to show you, while keeping a parallel track of consciousness that is our self-self, slowly maturing as we age. The persona track gets to try and fail, to step out and stub its toe, bump its nose, trip over its own folly, and learn from its foibles, as well as its successes.

But the self-self, oh the dear and sweet self-self, lives like Rapunzel in her cold stone tower, or worse, like Sleeping Beauty, waiting fora prince’s kiss to free her from her sleepy curse.  The self-self’s so-called life gets lived in theory only, with a silent, longing whisper documenting “couldas, shoudas, and wouldas” that fall further and further out of sync with a growing intellect and ever-changing sensibilities. These sensibilities are ethereal, with no practicality to test their validity.

For me growing up, my feminine self-self’s constant whisper put everything it said into ideals, “I would never do that as a woman.” “I would never let anyone talk to me like that.” “I would never let a man define my life.” “I would never wear pants.” “I would celebrate my femininity every day.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

But those were the declarations of a girl who never dreamed that she’d ever get to descend the cold stone tower’s hewn steps one day, never thought she would ever cross the courtyard, never believed that she would feel the sun’s warmth on her feminine cheeks.

In other words, the woman I would’ve been eventually became only the product of my mind. And I’ve had to be brutally honest with myself to accept that this is usually called a fantasy. This fantasy woman would, of course, look amazing in anything, never get sore legs or feet from heels that were too high, never get cold from hemlines too short or necklines too long, never attract derision from revealing too much cleavage, never engender disrespect, would be loved and admired by all.

But, when the day did come in this lifetime that I filed the bars of my prison and broke free, I was to encounter, in the warm light of day, the real me, the real woman, who would be living in the physical reality of 2016 … a woman who was larger than many but not than most. she was not super comfortable with how some clothes showed too much of a good thing, and didn’t really look good with too much eyeliner.She was smart enough to know how the games are played, was more confident speaking up and speaking her mind than many would dare, even if her voice is deeper than she’d like. Was a bit more (I dunno the best way to say this)cavalier than most? The boy word would be… cocky. (Ew, it’s creepy to even type…) But, she is. Cavalier that is.

But, and this was the big surprise, she was a bit awkward. Okay, no, a lot more awkward than most about the simplest things.  Like… like, how to be. How to exist. How to relax and live.

I wrote last time about how I have been in an on-going discussion about “how a woman bes,” with my screenwriting partner and mentor, Valerie.  As a woman of color who has deftly and gracefully navigated Hollywood, she has a four-letter-word ton of things she can and does teach me. But this discussion keeps coming back to behavior. What are female traits/things, etc., and which are male. She has taught me that being a woman is having the right to be free from ANY rules for rules’ sake. She loves Jaden Smith and his declarations that he’s not wearing a girl’s skirt, he’s wearing his skirt. She reminds me constantly that, up until the1930’s, pink was considered too strong a color for girl babies; blue was softer and more feminine.

In these discussions, I am guilty of constantly trying to draw distinctions between female & male behavior, quirks and tics. But Valerie checks me into the boards every time. (How very hockey night of me.) Having been raised by wolves, I figure, I do have a perspective that she might not have. but that doesn’t matter to her. She disagrees with the premise that there are definable male behaviors and female behaviors..

In fact, she challenges me every time without fail … I can hear her now … “not every time.” See what I mean?

But she is right. She naturally sees the world the way I hope to see it. Being a woman means YOU define the you that you are. And nobody, not society, not other women, certainly not men, not history, not yesterday, nor even tomorrow, defines you.

Well, except that it does.

You wanna test this?  Watch Fox News (an oxymoron if ever there was one). It’s in their DNA. They have changed the way that women are filmed. Fox News treats women differently from their men, and it’s so not good—from the way women are regarded by their male counterparts on camera to the disparagement they endure at the hands of their management on down. Can you say, “Meghan Kelly?”  But the women who do notice this have to ignore it, because this boy’s club has given so many women prominent jobs. The women who don’t notice … well, I’m not sure they’re reading this.

I mentioned all of this to my hair stylist, Tammy. This amazing woman is actually “number three” (the third person I “came out” to). She put her scissors down and spun another chair around to sit and give me a talk that I, having not had my mother’s knee or even the cliché teenage slumber parties to learn the ways of women, ever got. She was as serious as a heart attack as she rolled the words over in her head as if deciding if I was ready to hear the truth about the Easter Bunny …

“Our life as women, like it or not, IS governed by our appearance. It doesn’t mean that’s who you are… but it sorta is…. who you are.”

And this is how I knew estrogen is working on me. I knew what she meant by that conundrum. I can hear Valerie rolling her eyes from here. We may not want to have society judge us on either our ability to match shoes with our dress, or our indifference to that significance, but judging will be happening—even by our best and closest friends, family, and lovers. What the judger and judgee do with that judgment is up to both separately, and the stuff that makes this whole magilla the magilla that it is. We surrender to it, fight it, embrace it, buck it, ignore it or dismiss it, dance with it (to it or around it), tweak it, bend it, break it and break from it. Every day.

Sigh. This gets me to my point of this mining operation. This girl had to realize that, having been raised by wolves for most of my life, I have been cultivating two sets of criteria for this mad play. One was based on male values and the other on my values. The male set has been easily dropped, mostly (tho’ wraiths of their former selves creep up from the darnedest places and at the darnedest times). But the female set was based on theory only, with little practical application to confirm, refine, and expand. Double sigh. What’s a girl to do?

They say the universe hears even the slightest whisper of a prayer.

And three weeks ago, I found myself in charm school. I’m not kidding. My auntie Linda really and truly embraced the opportunity (and the obvious need) to use the two weeks of Marcy’s and mystay with her, as her chance to make a lady of me. She is a dear friend who invited us to come to Seattle to promote my book. And here’s where I got the above picture of a chick being kept warm and fed as it grew to eventually be pushed from the nest to fly on its own.  Auntie Linda made it her business to get up in my business to sand off as many rough spots as she could in two weeks–the collateral damage from my time with the wolves.

Her motto was this: If I was ever invited to the White House, I should know how to conduct myself as a lady.

Now, let me make something crystal clear. I loved, loved, LOVED every moment of her loving and gentle tutelage.  Every admonishment was a baby step forward. From chewing gum in public (apparently this is frowned upon in polite company), to cursing (when I got fresh blackberry juice on my white tennis skirt and tried to verbally shout it out, I heard from two rooms away a gentle, yet firm reminder, “Lady’s don’t curse”), to being practically levitated into the air by her stern look of shock alone when I bent down on one knee in a dress to pet a dog and was, well, giving it away for free, as they say.

But the harshest lesson was the day I sat back after a lunch I had made for us ladies and had, thank-you-very-much, totally nailed it. I pulled out my trusty flossing toothpick, as was my custom, and proceeded to clean my teeth. Auntie put her fork down and said with a very quiet and sweet voice, “Honey. Among family, it might be okay, but… well, you don’t… You won’t pick your teeth in public, ever, right? Ever! In fact … it’s really not okay among family, either.”

Now. I felt like I had been hit in the face with a bucket of cold sh… shame. As I sat there, face burning, mind racing in roaring silence, Mylove was doing a victory dance in her seat.

It burned me all night long. And then I realized why. Because I felt entitled to pick my teeth at the table that I had, all my life been schooled was rightly, and divinely… mine.I was the oldest of four children, and my father’s only heir-apparent. My sisters will probably say that my mom fawned on me, but I certainly was being raised as that chip off the old block, the apple that wouldn’t fall too far from my dad’s tree, the very image that my sisters would use to measure the men who would come to be their husbands. And I was treated to an intrinsic princely privilege.

But here we were, post estrogen, and the table was my Auntie’s. It was her house. It was her food. I had merely prepared it. Where in the four-letter-word, did I four-letter-wording, get off with this … entitlement?

I realized that the reason there were third-degree scorches on my heart was the double shame of discovering yet another forgotten trip wire of male privilege, and the cold guilt from knowing that I had ever embraced any of them in the first place.

Look… before you either feel righteous yourself or try to help me off my hook, know that any privilege was a very small and bitter consolation prize for selling out one’s soul. And whatever perks I got have been taken back in spades. When the threat of getting raped and dragged behind a car because some psycho decides either that they get to decide what potty you get to use, or worse, that you are their new plaything, then you can call me on my supposed privilege. Until then, sit down, and put your mommy on the phone; this is a conversation for adults only.

Back in charm school, the cooling salve for me in the burn ward was my Auntie’s acceptance and love and genuine desire to help me make up for lost time. And I will be forever grateful for her and those two weeks.

Oddly, the universe must know I’ve got to work fast (maybe that evite to the Whitehouse is pending?), cuz the very next week, I got a crash course in being a woman in business from my wife’s dear friend and lifelong chum, Bunny. The Bun, is one of the most brilliant women I know. And it seemed like it only took her half a breath to embrace me as her baby sister. She seemed to instantly “get” that I had no idea how to go from one of the most respected showrunners in adventure TV to a woman in a man’s world. And once again, we had to act fast as I had an interview with a great production company in just a few days.

She grilled me as we sat in our bathrobes and slippies, sipping “fawkey” one morning, (coffee for those just joining this blog)  and apparently she was x-raying me for signs that I could at least reach up to touch that glass ceiling. I’d like to think she saw potential because she quickly left the room to return moments later with a pretty silk pouch. She poured the contents into my hand.

I opened my cupped hands to see a beautiful, and now my favorite, pair of pearl and quartz earrings. The Bun looked at me and got very serious as we both sat and she imparted these instructions:

Wear these.
No necklace. It just draws attention to your chest.
You want them to keep their eyes on your face. If they stray the earrings will make them return to your eyes.
You want them to take you seriously as a woman with a brain.

And then her voice went down to powerful yet hyper calm tenor:

“You must really listen to the “suits.” They are stupid and afraid of making a mistake with their boss, so listen for their weaknesses and then you figure out a way to make them stronger. And you let them take the credit for everything, and then you’ll own them. You don’t ever let them own you. You give up your desire to do your own things with them. Forget about that right now. You care only about one thing. Making money. You do what they want, cash their check, get your fulfillment elsewhere.”

Now, if I hadn’t been sitting in the gorgeous seaside Carmel villa that she had had remodeled to architectural digest level of exquisiteness, with a now comfortably retired powerhouse who had started as a nurse and became a leading consultant in the ADA compliant business, I might’ve dismissed her instruction as being merely… I dunno, maybe battle-scarred surrender. But she is the exact opposite, sitting tall and stately the victorious conqueror. Yes, here was one of the strongest women I know, giving me a valuable tip in the language only strong women can understand–that strong women know they are strong. They aren’t strong because others declare it. They know that nobody can ever take away their power because they know to their core that they are limitless. Because only women are capable of creation without believing that they are the source of that creation—that their power can never be lost, taken away or even given away… it just is.

Powerful stuff over morning fawkey and a lesson still banging around inside my head weeks later.

And again, humbling, and heady, and pinch-me-i-must-be-dreaming-what-in-the-world-did-I-do-to-deserve-this-what-took-me-so-long…joy. As I try to process this all without exploding into a supernova of relief, I realize that… holy geezus, I am going to be… better than ok.

But this is how it is in the company of women. Shared knowledge and careful, mindful nurturing of the next in line, to be the best person I am capable of being. How beautiful is that?

And it’s lucky for me, cuz as it’s been pointed out I’ve got a lot to learn, and fast. But I am a good student. Maybe that’s why I have been accepted so readily into the company of great women,into Sisterhood?

Then again. Maybe it’s just love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay then how ’bout a Womanifesto…?

Okay… I promised my womanifesto last time and… well, as they say,

I had good intentions. But… please allow me to explain.

You see, as I said in the last pages of my book, “Getting Back To Me” from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years, I can’t wait to see the woman I will become.

Now, for those of you who have read the book, you had the context to know that what I meant was… well, like, in the future.

Like any sane person, I knew I was always going to mature, grow, get wiser, smarter… you know… like a fine wine, etc. etc. And now that dysphoria’s cloud had dissipated with the rising sun of acceptance’s brilliant light and heat, I could actually… er, um, grow up.

But then, as I started to poke my nose back into this thingy called life, and realize that a few things had somehow either slipped my gaze before, or been shot down by my Aegis Defense system (sorry that too is in the book. It’d be easier if you read it and then all these witty metaphors would make sense), but I realized that I was starting to… gosh, there’s just no better word for it, than… become.

And so, silly me, I thought I would write it all down and declare the woman I am and it eventually would go to the world in a well crafted, word-smithed Woman-ifesto. (Can you tell this feminism thingy is rubbing off on me all already?)

I got this idea because my friend, Valerie and I often discuss these things as we write. I, as trans woman, and she, as a cis-hetero, woman of color, often have very vibrant discussions about just what is male and female behavior. And let me tell you, I’m the stodgy traditionalist, while she’s the enlightened open-minded one.

So, to prepare myself for what would inevitably be a world-class, epic, on-going debate (’scuse me, discussion), I dug deep to bring up the woman I am (and had been planning to be for lifetimes) from her future, years before her debut as a very mature, worldly wise gosh-darned wonder woman with a capital Woah.

I happened to mention this as the casual answer to the standard, “what have you been up to?” asked by my dear friend and cherished older sister, Eleanor… as Mylove and I were driving her and her spouse, Lucy, to the airport. NOTE:  This was a great thing for Lucy & Eleanor. They were moving to live a dream they’d had for a long time. And four-letter-wording tragic for us. We have had these great women in our lives for 14 years, spent most every holiday with them and… well, we don’t know what we’re going to do with them on the other coast. Wait… sorry… I can do this…

Yes. Back to the 405 freeway, late one summer Friday night (are you with me? I know I didn’t signal before I switched lanes, but this is LA, yes?  Good.), I mentioned that I was working on this blog and the womanifesto and bla,bla,bla. Eleanor asked the obvious, “Well, what kind of woman will you be?” And she was excited about her question, she genuinely got the idea that I had a chance at 54 years of age to start with a clean slate and, given that golden opportunity, what would I do (as Jen Larkin wrote in my review) “with my left life?”

Now, as the swarms of red taillights lit our way to LAX, I knew that this question was a great distraction from the heavy hearts we all had as we were preparing ourselves to say goodbye. But, I demurely declined to offer up a speedy answer, and we laughed about yes, Scottie was changing. She never let that kinda thing stop her in the past.  Of course, we all agreed how difficult that would be to do in the now, less than fifteen minutes before… well, you know, they leave. (Can you tell how I feel by now?)

The next morning, I was … a little peeved. What kind of a woman WILL I be?  What did she mean by that?  WILL? How about now? What am I chopped liver? (wait a minute that’s Mylove’s line). I went from zero to hissy in nuthin’ flat — forgetting, of course, that the question was my idea. But that’s beside the point!  I knew what I meant, I wanna know what she meant!

But all that Sturm und Drang doesn’t answer the question sweetheart, and the truth is… finally, the fog of stupidity lifted and I saw that Eleanor was just doing what Eleanor does.  And it’s one of the reasons I will miss her so terribly—she has the superpower to hear my heart before I do. And, she takes this precious knowledge and uses it to gently help me grow.

So, the best thing I could do was take her enthusiasm as a “yes,” that I was on the right course, and oh yeah, I realized I still had much work to do. And I thought that if I promised you, dear reader, that answering this question – and putting it out as a great womanifesto as my next blog, I would magically have the Goddess of creativity grant me the space to get real.

Um… and have I said out loud that I am feeling the pressure to live up to the great women in my family who came before me? My mother is the best example, and my aunts—all of them. I knew even before I came out that getting it right, standing tall and proud with dignity as they had was way more important than knowing which shoes went with which dress.

MyLove is the best example of the ultimate woman (I hand picked her! Okay that’s not exactly accurate, my heart recognized her even before she was technically available) and Lucy & Eleanor, and Valerie, and my little sisters, and my Auntie Linda, and my new big sister Alexandra … everywhere I turn, great women are showing me the way.

I have, all around me, the greatest examples of the kind of woman I am.

And, I can tell you one thing–I’m not sure any one of these great women has ever thought it necessary to have their own womanifesto. It’s, well, not how they think. Trust me, Valerie has beaten that point into my head time and again.

But for a girl who was raised by wolves, this “how I would live (as a woman)” had been, for oh, so many years the only cooling salve for a heart in endless turmoil. (For those of you new to my story, let’s just say, that I’m a late bloomer) I would tell myself as I sat in my dank dungeon (of my own creation, in my heart) “I would wear dresses everyday.” “I would make every day a celebration of femininity, by looking my best, to light up a room with color, and beauty.” But it wasn’t always superficial, “I would never let anyone talk to me that way.” I would know that I would be as I, had always been: strong, creative, smart and caring. But I wouldn’t have to cloak those qualities in boy-ness to maintain my cover.

In essence, I have been writing this womanifesto all my life. It was scratched into the stone walls of the dungeon I had imprisoned myself in. And now that this cell is empty, and light has cleared away the moss and fungus, the walls are crumbling … and my writing is fading.

Either that, or estrogen has cleared my head and I now see that a set of rules about how to be is exactly what a woman ain’t. Sure, there’s great commonality among my role models. They are all fantastic, amazing, bright, shining lights of humanity that truly make the world a better place by their existence. But they are as individual as the facets of a diamond. For every amazing mother, there’s a woman who never wanted children. For every poet, there’s a scientist, for every artist, there’s an accountant, for every extrovert there’s a scholar, for every comedienne, there’s a healer.

They are:

Loving.

And Graceful.

And caring.

Intelligent.

Strong.

Interested.

They try.

They succeed.

They fail.

They have fears.

They rise above their fears.

They can laugh at themselves.

They laugh with each other.

They rarely laugh at others.

I’m not like a lot of girls that were raised by wolves, in that I never thought I would ever be here as the woman I am. Free. Me. But now that I am here, I can drop the façade of trying to appear that I have to have the answers before I even look at the question. I can let it show that I am not sure, without making myself weak, I can allow myself to continue to blossom and know that that is the woman I am now and, as Eleanor was probably watching me discover “the woman I will be,” is a work in progress, an unwritten book, an endless possibility, and a glorious question.

Which (I can hear you laughing) is the divine answer to my prayer to the Goddess of Creativity. Oh, yes, She heard me. I asked for the space to get real…  and in that space I can really see:

There’s a reason why we call them manifestos, there’s no such thing as a womanifesto…

We don’t need them.

 

Next time: The Company of Women.

 

My Feminist Manifesto…

… or how do you bring 45 years on the boy’s side of the fence into alignment with being a feminist woman in 2016?

Cuz it turns out … that I am. A feminist that is. That I am and always was a woman isn’t news to anyone by now. But being a feminist is maybe even the harder part of my life for some to swallow.

The challenge was for me to decide was I first, second, third wave or … (psst… do we even have a fourth wave yet, I mean official-like and all?)

The truth is, I had to go back and look ’em up, because, astute as I am (believe me, when you’re dying of thirst in the desert of identity, a few raindrops of ANY girl talk about anything feminine was enough to get me to the next oasis), I soakedup everything I could along the way.  Even I lost track of the shades of gray.

And really, these shades turned out to be black and white (literally in the case of a fourth wave and its splinter group, “White Feminism.” Trust me, you don’t want this shade of pale). And these labels are all absolutely perfect for “othering” (America’s favorite pastime). But they do have differences that has each wave shaking its head at the other.

I could define these you for you, but others have done a much better job … (oh all right, here you go.The following is from Martha Ramptons, ”Four Waves of Feminism:”

http://www.pacificu.edu/about-us/news-events/four-waves-feminism. I paraphrase or add where necessary).

1st wave: The Suffragettes and the first “unladylike” activists challenge the “cult of domesticity”

2nd wave: St. Gloria and the Gang take on sexuality and reproductive rights, beginning at the Miss America Pageant in 1968 and on into the 90’s fighting for the right to define and govern our own bodies. Patriarchy and normative sexuality are broadly challenged.And, more importantly for this girl, sex and gender are differentiated. But maybe even more important to today, these amazing elders were the first to show that race, class, and gender are all interrelated. But this is also the wave that gave rise to, ahem,‘scuse me, but, wymin? Not that the majority of second wavers even gave these wymin a second thought, but they struck a chord trying to define the gender as having been born with a vagina (we’ll get into this later on…maybe).

 

3rd wave: These daughters of the Nineties took all of the above to a stiletto high extreme – embracing the very symbols of male oppression that infuriated their “mothers,” taking back the sexualized images of female sexuality as empowering examples of Grrl power. These are the femmes fatales that truly took having choice as their divine right – and nobody, not even another woman, can take that right away. This is also the gang that defies the binary en toto – embracing gender non-conformity from the top down (pun intended again, you’re beginning to catch on), and eschewing women-only “spaces” as anachronistic, and impertinent. The most telling fact about these gender-bending boundary-busters (I resisted using bustiers, okay maybe not) is that they refuse the label “feminist,” never agreeing to uniform philosophy or collectivism or goals.

 

As for the 4th wave, it’s still in the incubation stages, rising up from the soils tilled by its mothers. A moving out from academia, as Martha Rampton postulated to Elle Magazine, to the real world; a realigning of ideals from the lofty optimism of the third wavers to the world where the same threats that women have endured through the centuries haven’t changed – but they are the stuff now of public discourse from rape and sexual abuse to homo- and transphobia, Title IX, and maternity leave.

 

Thanks Martha! Now, where was I?  Oh yeah… where do I stand?

“It’s never before this time been a better time to be a woman,” say the papers and pundits.

We have Hil to thank for that, they say.

Wha?????  This is where my estrogen begins to boil. Call it the “outrage” enzyme that is the free radical circulating in my veins. “Time to be a woman?” This is where I can see what my elder “second wavers” were trying to put into the nation’s consciousness – the unconscious patriarchy that makes it seem as tho’ no toxic superfund will ever really scrub from our society. Our “time” thank you very much, was, is, and will always be.

 

But tell that to the white male sector of our society, cuz honey, they ain’t going down without a fight. As many memes on the internet have said, the e-word, equality, to a man means that they will have to give up a portion of what they now enjoy. It’s so deep that most have confused treating us like a lady as already going one giant leap beyond equality – and keeping us on the pedestals that each constructs “for us” takes so much of their conscious and (unconscious) time that (maybe if you squint) you can almost see why. Wait did I just go third wave on you? Or rather me?

 

Do boys “just be boys” and we just shake our heads, love them and smile? Do we not wear low cuts so as to not provoke, distract, or “send the wrong message” them? Get me going second wave again! Isn’t this fun?

No. it’s… well, the worst I can say, it’s disheartening.

Which, in my world, is the mostest, absolute worstest evil of them all. Something that forcibly removes the heart from its rightful place in all things, is the detail in the devil.

Disheartening in the same way that black parents have to have“the talk” with their children, particularly their sons, about how to conduct themselves when they get stopped by the police (they will) so they don’t die. How four-letter word is that?  More to point, how disheartening is that?

 

Yes, we as women have been given an abridged version of the talk (call it the talk-light, a third less murder than our regular beer) since time immoral (SIC). Don’t walk alone at night. Carry a rape whistle and mace – the boogie-MEN are out there and just because we’re taught to be paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get us. This is brought to us by the letter R for reality. And nobody thinks this is weird? Am I right? We are raised in fear. To fear. By Fear.

And could we blame us?

Because, given that not all anyone is anything, boys (notice the use of words here) are all we hope they are not. Men, the mature version of said group in question, are everything we hope they are. And here’s why we separate the men from the boys…

The trouble comes when they choose to be the one and never the other. This happens when Judges decide that “he’s punished himself enough already, so six months for rape is more than enough” and Ol’ Judgie-pie actually thought he would get away with it. That Ol’ Judgie-pie thought he was above moral, ethical or even societal outrage is exactly the problem. This dude didn’t even think it was a problem, and when public outcry jacks up like a set wave, he ducks from the ire.His defense becomes the issue rather than his f**king stupidity. And he will be allowed to slink away … and her rape will be a festering scar … on her. On us. A scar that we will all have that will make that limb a little less limber, a little less open for a hug, a little more disheartened for the next woman.

So, hopefully by now, you can see my problem. I do know how a Lacrosse team could not only gang up on a woman but try to hide it and then get help hiding it, from their fathers and uncles.

I have been in the room where all the young dudes got to laugh and joke about “her” or “them” with a dialect that has its own punchlines that need no set-up, a learned language of privilege and manifest destiny that defies logic. And I have watched as some of the women around me smiled thru gritted teeth for the few unfortunate times they found themselves in those rooms. And yes, I have also been mystified by the rare instances when there were sisters who seemed to embrace the misogyny and sexism, either as a survival mechanism or as … I dunno what.

I confess that I must work to harbor no judgment for my sisters in any of those categories – after all, I myself know only too well what we’re all trying to protect ourselves from. My armor was success; yours could be whatever you choose.

The fact that we have to protect ourselves is the issue.

But, I do know what we’re dealing with. I do know that the mere fact that we have an ism to call our own is the disheartening part. Yes, I have an issue that we have to have feminism at all. But honey, it ain’t feminism’s fault. In fact, as I’ve demonstrated above, the only fault this girl can see is when feminism divides women.

But the question I started with, which wave does this girl ascribe to, is, as of this paragraph, still unanswered … and maybe it’s because I can see the thread that got us to here.

It could also be that, at this stage of my life, I am smart enough to know what I don’t know and hopeful enough not to care?  A bit recklass maybe… Guilty as charged.

But it’s where my years of being raised with privilege and to have privilege, makes me a little sharper at where society’s boundaries are … and therefore where the weak spots are.

Which makes me a most inconvenient woman. (You knew I’d get the firsties back in the game, right?)

Next time, My Womanifesto…

All my love –

Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden

 

First blog post

 Fade in… Chill winds scrape the stark landscape as the opening titles, “Raised By Wolves” appear…


Okay… I think I’m ready to take this on… too.

I’ve been promising myself that I would start this blog for months now. I needed something to follow-up after the publishing of my book.

I needed to keep flexing the muscles that I discovered during that process.

I needed to have an outlet to discuss the issues and questions raised by my writing and give me a place to connect with the growing readership that has so generously allowed me into their hearts… and,

I needed something other than Facebook to pour the quicksilver of emotion and observation

Need. Need. Need. Geezus girl, talk about high maintenance! So shut-up and write already…

So without further ado… here tis –

I was raised by wolves.

Girls like me find that we are each like unicorns or aliens, constantly explaining our “phenomenon,” forever acting the Shell answer woman for our family and friends about other people’s lives. The biggest questions are covered in my book – but the “why” we exist is something we find doesn’t really matter to us and we bore of that discussion quickly. It’s the “how” we want answered. How did we get here? How was our journey? How is our life going? And how will we live our life going forward?

So… I’m naming this column “Raised by Wolves” – For me, it explains so much. I took that from the song by U2 off their “Songs of Innocence” album.  (Yes, that one that everyone feels so good about dissing.)

I was looking at my life, as I do every morning on my morning ride along the trails of “dirt Mulholland” and this particularly foggy morning I had been concocting my own feminist manifesto in my head when the song came on (my earbuds are standard equipment along with helmet and shades) – the chorus cut right thru my thoughts like Occam’s Razor:

“Raised by Wolves, stronger than fear.” 

I realized this was the metaphor I was looking for – an explanation from God for “how” me.. Those of you who have read my book know that I owe my “jailbreak from the dungeon or my own creation” to a letter that I wrote to God and the thunderbolt that came as the reply: A brilliant flash of clarity and strength and resolve and faith that shattered the chains of doubt and denial to be the woman I am. Period.

But after the star dust settled, nowhere in that pile of rubble was the chart, manual or even a clue for how to be me.  Just a rule-of-thumb to know which fork to take when I came to one – be upfront. Which requires a sense of finesse, a sense of decorum. Just as one doesn’t shout MOVIE in a crowded firehouse, you also do well to read the tea leaves before divulging everything about one’s past unless it’s warranted.  So how do I, a middle-aged woman talk about the past without, you know,… stirring up a cloud of emotion and confusion?  Okay back to the present… with me?  Good.

Turn’s out, Bono’s right.  I was raised by wolves. It’s both my strength and my gift. Girls like me do have something to bring to the table. As Jenny Boylan writes about “life in two genders,” girls like us can offer insight about how we navigated the stormy testosterone seas with minds molded by estrogen.

But first, we have to accept that silly little fact about ourselves.

Which for this girl is not easy to do. 

Why? Cuz I love, love, love, the pink cloud. Or the parts I’ll allow myself to wallow in.  For those of you new to this term, the PC refers to the real euphoria girls like me experience when we are able to be our “true” selves. It does take on a pejorative connotation when one stays too long with her head in said cloud taking on the deeper meaning that the clouded one has lost perspective and has become self-absorbed in said pinkness. 

This is generally tolerated for a brief time by the clouded one’s older sisters until it becomes a pain in everyone’s ass. Then the elders will gently lead pinky back to the grounded paths of reality.  I don’t know if there’s a blue corollary for our trans brothers (I may have to chat with my friend Ian ‘bout that). But suffice to say, it’s a natural part of growing up. It’s the dreaded “second puberty” that many of us (certainly us older generation trans women & men) go through that has all the same tearings and tuggings of the heart, body & soul that can only be tamed by… gulp, maturity.

But despite my love for pink, the real reason it’s hard for me (and please note, I’m only speaking for myself here ) is that there’s acceptance and then there’s acceptance-acceptance.

When I look at my own growth, (I’m a little leery of that maturity word) I have to, as my friend Gizi says, “get honest with the truth.”

So here goes… honestly… I never wanted to be trans. Why?  Because I always knew I was a woman. Please, growing up inside this body, trying my darnest to play the cards I was dealt, was hard enough. Having to walk through life hermetically sealed in a conundrum, and cloaking that conundrum with armor to protect it was almost more than… well, it almost swallowed me whole. So when I finally broke free, and stood in the bright sunshine of my femininity, well…all’s I can say is I’ve earned my womanhood. So to add the qualifier “trans” in front seems, I dunno… a bit forced. .It’s a phrase someone else coined to describe me. It’s not one I had ever used (until I saw a professional) – I had only ever used girl and woman to describe myself to myself. 

But, in order to live an “official life” (the documented, government issue, right-in-the-eyes-of-the-law, kinda life) I have made use of the trans moniker. It seems to make sense to people with stamps and records and filing fees and such. But it’s not easy.

With the current state of affairs with the republican right using us as their latest whipping girls and boys, you could argue that it’s also not one of my best strategic moves… (which should finally put to rest the insane, ignorant and downright offensive charge that this is a choice).

But… accepting who and what I am is one thing, and living, truly living, is another thing altogether. That is a choice. I can choose to live out loud, or continue to live according to everyone else’s expectations (yeah, which worked so well for me for close to fifty years). But, without putting it lightly, that is for me, only a life or death choice.

Even choosing life has degrees.  And accepting-accepting requires all 360 of them. 

I am required by the “code pink protocols treaty of 2015”* to confess that when I even think of hesitating, pulling back even one degree, sets the wolves in my heart a’braying.

It is how I am

And accepting-accepting requires a daily refreshing of my grip on that reality

Because no matter how dramatically my body changes. (And oh my, it sure as heck is) my past is not changing. Will not. Ever change.

So, accepting-accepting is this:

I am the woman I am today,because I was raised by wolves.

And I can’t get around this other feeling in my heart: I’m proud of having been raised by wolves. I love my wolves. They are noble. Strong. Smart. Beautiful. Family comes first. They have each’s back. Nobody messes with wolves.

And so this is my dilemma; tho’ I was raised by them, and for many years (almost 50) I tried my darndest to act like one. I got really good at it. Most couldn’t tell me from my pack.

But that doesn’t change the facts, (and trust me, I truly tried everything I could to believe it away, pray it away, think it away and drink it away.) I am not, and never was one of them. As proud as I am of their love – that love is a reality that I tried so hard to hold up and then, so hard to escape

And so, now, here I am – It’s 2016, I’m fifty-ish years old (see, the magic is working already!) And I find myself trying to ignore only that “detail” my history. But this is where I stumble. Because I love almost everything about my history – bumps and all. (Except that boy thingy and all that went to surviving it). I love the people of my past dearly. I love the lessons I learned, the strides I made and the love I loved.

And so, this is something girls like me have to come to grips with – especially the late bloomers (like me) – namely what to do with the wolf DNA that still runs in our veins. ‘Cause let’s be real, it’s there, it might not look like anything anyone would recognize as particularly wolfie, or even wolf-like, but… it is there. And it can hurt, when it makes itself known, even be a little disorienting. Or at the very least… weird.

Trust me, it took almost everything I had to type those last few sentences, even greater to not delete them. Yes, despite all the strides I’ve made, it doesn’t even take a full moon to draw forth my lupine impulses…

Even hiding behind the metaphor (cool as is sounds) is telling, isn’t it?

So, that’s what I hope to discover along the way (with your help of course), and that is, which of my wolf-like ways is going to go forward with me and what’s gonna be left back with the pack? 

It’s a question I stub my toe on every day. I find myself blurting out with great pride a memory of my past… and remembering (too late) that the protagonist in my story is in a male dilemma, concerned with male problems… and the sensation is like hitting a wall at high speed. I’m suddenly in slomo – glass shards swirling around like diamonds as whiplash and airbags detonate my thoughts and my spirit slams into full stop. And I realize…

That was so last year… a distant memory of another lifetime.

Or… if I’m going to try this accepting-accepting thingy, then it’s the life of a girl who was raised by wolves to be the woman she is today. She is fierce, she is strong. She is gracious. She is loving. And she makes no apologies for how she is. No apologies for what she is, and yes, no apologies for even why she is

And she’s strong enough to make those “no apologies” to herself, first and foremost.

Because she was raised by wolves. 

And that will never change no matter how much lipstick She wears. 

And that’s a good thing.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way – that’s what this blog will explore. Life, mine yours and ours  as I see it from my perspective as a woman raised by wolves.

There’s lots going on. Girls like me have never seen this much coverage or exposure in history. We’ve also never faced this much flagrant in-our-face discrimination. But one thing I don’t have (having spent the better part of my life with my lupine brothers) is  patience for lunacy, bigotry, hatred, discrimination of any kind, or entitlement, especially the white male privileged kind) In the pack I was raised by. We would never stand for me being treated with anything other than love and respect. And I, in turn, won’t let my sisters (nor my brothers) face anything other love and respect, either.  

And yes, bite.  

So. Let’s get in to this thing called life…

Shall we?

 Next week – my feminist manifesto.

* The Code Pink Accords of 2015″ was a landmark agreement between Scottie Jeanette & Marcy Madden establishing the accepted borders between truth and honesty in their relationship, ending the disputed zones of “other”, “none of your business”  and “it’s my life.”   Traditional zones of single trans people who wish to remain single.