Usta-was…

Fair disclosure – I am the daughter of an Irish bartender-car-salesman-force-of-nature who fed my mom, me and my three younger sisters with his wit and gift of gab, or what the Irish call “Blarney” as much as he did with an honest day’s work…

… in other words, anything that can be said with words is much better with many many more words…

We’re storytellers. My pop and I. We come from a long line of storytellers and the proud tradition of Irish bards and poets… and our favorite subjects are usually, supposed to be ourselves. We’re not puffed-up egotists, mind you, c’mon, I said we’re Irish, and we’re good storytellers, which means we’ll usually be the plucky antihero at the center of a very dramatic tale worth listening to… probably even the butt of our own joke.

I willingly took the baton from my father, learning how to capture the attention of the entire room (no matter how large – we’re also very loud) and it’s something that was a great connection with my pop and the world at large. And as I became a veteran of international adventure filmmaking, I developed a huge inventory of material to draw from…

But lately, I find that all of this material, these stories, my precious archives, my history is… bittersweet?  (Not quite the word I’m reaching for, but let’s go with it until something more refined comes.)

Because in these stories, the protagonist is…. well, what I usta-was.

This is a phenomenon that the trans community wrestles with all the time.

Writer, Author, TV Host, and Activist, Janet Mock knows this better than anyone. In her response to an incident where some radio “personalities” not only threatened her and all trans women with murder, but justified murder and violence against our community as “normal.” Janet had no problem putting those guys in their place, calling out the Black community and our entire society to wake-up and elevating the entire incident into a teachable moment.

But she went on to make us all re-examine one of the core strategies that we in the rainbow community depend on to improve our lives – namely education when she said,

  “I’ve turned down thousands from colleges and corporations because I refuse to engage in Trans 101. Trans folk, especially of color, should not be obligated to help cis folk play catch-up on our experiences. The effort can detract from our work to protect and liberate ourselves.”

Ouch. So that’s why it hurts.

Trans 101 is shorthand for “Everything you need to know, are dying to know, think it’s your right to know, and should know about how and why someone is and could go from the outdated heteronormative belief that there is a gender binary, wherein a person assigned their gender by a doctor staring at the genitals at birth, transitions, either by the medical use of hormones and/or surgery and/or outward appearance to society into or to or was already there, or isn’t convinced is even the way to describe or subscribe to the seemingly “opposite” gender, which as we discussed isn’t accurate either, but since the majority of humans have a problem relating to even one word of this subject, we’ll have to agree to a modicum of clunky language in order to get them to stop killing us or wondering why we would choose this in the first place, since we keep saying it’s not a choice, but geezus can we stop now? Seriously we’ll never be able to tackle this all in one workshop, because you will still want to know if I am a girl how could I like girls instead of boys or vice reverse so what are we talking about, but yes thank you I am prettier as a girl, but it’s not about our looks, so please stop calling me sir, and I’m sorry that’s all the time we have, please remember to treat everyone with respect and no I don’t know her.”

Or… trans 101 for short.

The shorter version doesn’t flinch on addressing all of the above. Corporations, Academic intuitions, and organizations use a trans 101 to educate their workforces, student bodies, faculties and members about the elusive unicorns that they’ve heard so much about through mainstream media’s seemingly sudden discovery of this phenomenon, that apparently Janet’s breakfast club idiots slept through.

But… as a trans couple, Me the transgender lesbian one, and Mylove, the cis-hetero one, who are living all of the above, and are articulate, happy, intelligent women who don’t have four heads, neither of which exploded during the process of transition, we are called upon to bring our experience to the cis world, and do so happily.

Because we have committed our house’s resources to advocating, educating and inspiring for change. Mylove and I write, produce, speak and appear and lend our voices and our experiences to the “dialogue” to improve everyone’s life, but specifically the LGBTQIA community. We know from first-hand experience that the more the cis-hetero world knows of and about us, the faster things change. This has been the LGBTQIA recipe for change since The Black Cat & Stonewall.

And yet, as a married couple neck deep in the waves that buffet the shores of our community, we always ask each other as we prepare each workshop, “do we really need to go into Trans 101 again?” and “Surely we’re past all that by now…”

We feel that everyone everywhere must be getting the same news we are, watching the same drama unfold before us and live in the same country as we do… and invariably, after we’re done with a presentation, and it’s time for Q&A (our favorite part) we get the same questions:

How did Marcy deal with her husband admitting she was a woman? (read her book, she loves me in whatever wrapper my soul is wearing, but she says I’m waaaay cuter now.)

When did Scottie first know she was a transgender(ed)? (Yes, the use past tense of a verb that is supposed to be an adjective is still used even by our close friends… sigh) I’ve never not known I wasn’t a woman. I just didn’t have anyone else’s word (transgender) until counseling.

How did Marcy deal with Scottie’s deceit and betrayal? (By realizing there was never neither)

Did Scottie ever want to kill herself? («kill myself,» no. «Wasn’t sure how I could live another day? Always. Until transition.)

Have you had the surgery? (I’m usually coy about this – except in previous blogs).

And we realize. Yes. We still need trans 101 in 2017 and 2018 isn’t looking any better.

Left on their own, the cis world really usually doesn’t give us trans folk a second thought. It takes an “inciting incident” as the saying goes, to get on their radar, (which means it’s usually negative).  They weren’t thinking about us or it, until the President’s ban on transgender members of our military, so they never really did. They never thought about us until a cabal of Christians tried to influence the state legislatures of North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana and even Washington State to close bathrooms to us. (No one is really sure why they picked these states to do this.) They hadn’t given us a second thought until ol’ Betsy started to dismantle Title IX protections. The cis world never thought about us at all until an Olympic God, the seeming pinnacle of American Masculinity turned out to be one of us. But they sure concentrated on her car accident and the fact that she, despite all logic and reason voted for the white supremacist in chief for president, and was caught on film wearing a MAGA hat days after transgender sailors, soldiers, airmen, and coast guardsmen & women were barred from serving their country.

But when the hoopla fades once again … they stop thinking of us.

They may contemplate for an instant what they would do if their spouse came out to them, but it’s mental bubble gum, not a meal and any chewing won’t really satisfy the real hunger or provide any nutritional value. But they’ll go for a chew if they have nuttin’ else to do.

But then again… there are, of course, those who can’t stop thinking about us – and how abhorrent, abominable or disposable we are. They seem to be staying awake nights concocting ways to erase us.

However, the good news is that usually when Mylove and I speak to our audiences, it’s planned, scheduled and we have been invited, so the audience has come to listen and the exercise does go deeper and there is ample food for thought. So most partake.

But Janet’s assertion that we shouldn’t be obligated to help cis-folk play catch-up is a poignant one. Obligated. She’s describing the feeling many of us have when we have to bite our tongues as someone demands of us that we allow them the space to remain stuck in willful ignorance or worse. It’s truly bizarre. They don’t hear how their words are covered in barbs when they say, “give me a minute to catch up” or “we have to agree to disagree…” (this is my personal favorite… of what we’re agreeing to disagree about is that I am real, that I’m legal, that I am allowed to be.)

Think of it. We, as humans are all one. We are all family. We are blood. So when someone says “give me a minute to catch up” or “we have to agree to disagree…” they instantly dehumanize us. It happens in a heartbeat. The cord between our hearts is intentionally severed.

And what was one is now cut into two pieces, “one” and “other.”

It feels innocent enough when someone says, “Scottie, just let me catch my breath, you’re not the you I was expecting.”  Which, if we shared history, and the last time we saw each other, I usta-was, then I get it. But take your breath and let’s get back to that connection.

But when you say, “I’m sorry, call me ‘old-fashioned’, but…” Or “I’ve read the research, and what you really are, is deluded…” Or anything else that smacks of you trying to tell me what my experience of me is, you are not only at the height of arrogance, which is “bless your heart” asinine, but you are also so out of step with the current maturity of humanity, that your opinion and thoughts are completely irrelevant. You have played your hand as woefully inadequate. Your sense of entitlement makes you impotent. You have just effectively removed yourself from the conversation.

Can you put your mommy on the phone?

Yes, Janet’s words make sense (still) on so many levels. Especially the ones that make me wonder how long we will have to continue to drag the rear flank of humanity into the present.

But… it’s that we are still having this conversation (and twitter fencing and Facebook arguments) that is the real point of what she’s saying. It shouldn’t be this way in the first place. Seriously, in which situation is it ever okay, by any measure, to dismiss, dehumanize or discriminate against anyone?

Apparently, this one.

Some people believe they have a God-given, Bible-mandated duty to hate. And others who know that those people are insane, choose to look the other way, allowing hatred to spread unabated.

But, (thankfully?) there are still those in the middle. And these are our audiences. These are wonderful humans who, despite the fact that they think they are the ones who that just discovered the unicorn, or discovered a unicorn has been in their family or saw the flash of a golden horn out of the corner of their eye for the very first time… allow their hearts to be heard. It’s still a little weird that they regard unicorns as “other,” but what are we going to do?unicorn battalion crest.001

They want to know how to care and feed a unicorn because they truly are good people. And though they never knew a unicorn before, or had only read about one in books or saw one on TV, their heart can or has already been moved.

I guess that’s why we do what we do, it is because we feel obligated not just to the straight, cis world, but on behalf of my sisters and brothers, and those just now growing up (I’m sorry Janet) but I don’t do it without having to take a breath. As I’ve said above, the fact that I have to be okay while someone “catches that breath,” is still a hard pill to swallow.

And Janet’s is ultimately right. It’s not easy to be the unicorn in the room. No one is fooling anyone – we all know why we’re all here for a Trans 101 workshop. It’s a safe place to help cis-folk “catch-up” on our experiences, but to do that..,

… we have to play usta-was.

Usta-was has become an ingrained part of the trans narrative. I am an obvious version of this phenom, in that I usta appear as tho’ I was a man.  But there are many variations of this phenom. All are equally valid and valued.

The point connection with our audiences is usta-was. And for most, we could end up staying here for the rest of time. Some are so blown away by the physical act of transformation and the process and the courage as well as the hardship and effort required that they don’t have the attention span for any other part of the discussion. They don’t have an appetite for the happiness, the relief, the thriving and contribution we make. It’s not as dramatic, it’s not as exciting, or easy to see with your eyes, certainly not as captivating… and Invariably, questions return to the blunt force trauma of usta-was, where Scottie was Scott, the woman, a guy.

Let’s be real, it’s the only reason the breakfast bozos had Janet on their show in the first place.  She says in her article that she has no illusions that these idiots had any desire to be human, even though they have many times decried (rightly so) the devaluing of black lives that our country still can’t seem to fix. They “looked the other way” when hatred sat right before them. And they fed hatred with smiles, laughs and tacit and overt agreement. And still, others made excuses for them –

All while Tee Tee Dangerfield became the 16th trans woman murdered in 2017. She was shot to death in Atlanta, that very weekend (we have since lost two more).  She was murdered because she usta-was. Janet was disrespected because she usta-was. The cis world is obsessed, repulsed, enraged by and yet, still fascinated that we usta-was.

I have no counter to Janet’s point that the conundrum for us is this: even the act of engaging in usta-was to correct it, perpetuates its existence.  It’s the amber that imprisons us forever in our pasts that were never correct or accurate but are still captivating and beautiful.

Our fear is that you will always see us as only usta-was. You will never see me in my womanhood – you will see me as I usta-was.

And yet, an invisible part of being Raised By Wolves is the internal wrestling match with usta-was. Some in our tribe choose to patently ignore it. Erase all traces. Others wear theirs out loud, sometimes literally tattooing the past for all to see. As we contemplate our pasts we see both good times and bad (like everyone) except ours have all kinds of heartbreak in both. When we share with you our “good,” you would never know how the lead shielding of my armor stopped joy from penetrating my heart completely, and with the “bad” you would never know depths to which I sunk.

But I do. I remember how it usta-was.

And as I settle into my own acceptance of myself, I am sometimes surprised that the pain, confusion, and sense of imprisonment of a lot of my usta-was is starting to fade. I have to “call it up” from a distant island where I had marooned it during the coup d’etat my feminine self-staged a few years back. I call it up to support others in their understanding of what this world is like. What’s weird is that while the details are clear, gone is the overhanging feeling of dread. But what is left are the sometimes embarrassingly silly ways I tried to deal with a Nazgul who is no longer there. Yes, I remember being hijacked every month, and fearing both the departure and return. Yes, I remember having feelings of powerlessness, the feelings of entrapment, the feeling of injustice. But I can’t recall the actual feeling viscerally.

Thank you, God.

When I do recount the times when I stood on the top of a tower of ice and fire in Iceland, or swam in the crystal waters of a cenote in the Yucatan, lead my crew out of the Guyanan jungle, or stood on the legendary beach of Uluwatu, it seems like an adventure novel…

And that’s what everyone wants to hear – it’s the hook that not even I can deny. Yes, I wrote the backcover notes on my book. trading on the tropes that I was trying to overcome by writing in the first place – in order to get the reader to pick it up.

Because everyone, including ourselves (at first) is fascinated by usta-was.

But, usta-was is only supposed to be the jumping off point for those who are just waking up in 2017 and realizing that there are herds of unicorns… gosh – everywhere!

As the woman who “didn’t have a hell to leave,” I hope my story helps people understand that nature has a course that no amount of nurture can change.  No mob of pitchfork-angry Republicans can “scare” it away. No mean-girls can shame it away, no father can “man-up it” away. No facebook troll can “opinion” it away. No religious zealot can “fire and brimstone” it away. Not even the very real fear of never being loved or lovable can threaten it away.

The only path is acceptance. If it comes with love, all the better.

Maybe we can be women our society is inspired by, “Scottie followed her heart despite what the world, success, society’s expectations, even her own body, tried to deny.” And “Marcy faced down her greatest fear to choose love.”

We thrive when we embrace one another.

We thrive when we choose love over fear.

We thrive when we stand for love, body & soul.

We thrive when we stand up to ignorance, inequality, and discrimination of every kind.

And to make this point, we have to tell you “the before,” the usta-was, so you can grasp the full brilliance of “the after. “

Again. And again.

So, if that’s the price to pay to open one human heart…

We’re all in.

But it’s important – when I recall for you what I usta-was, and regale you with the dizzying romancing of a beautiful woman who would take my hand in marriage…

Or when I relate the ways I cared for, protected and earned the respect and love of those I led, was in charge of, or served… or when I confess to you the dreams yet to be realized…

… please know this-

It’s all the part of usta-was that I still am.

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“It’s weird because it’s not weird… am I right, ladies?”

One of the surprising side effects of estrogen is the melting of a chain that I tried to keep ignoring for my whole adult life. This chain was short by design and the links felt lighter than the other restraints I had used to chain my heart into its dungeon keep. They were lighter, so I would almost forget I was wearing it… but it was made of some seriously strong stuff.

I tried to convince myself that I had several tools that helped make up for the lack of mobility because of this chain, that I had ways to get the work done despite this chain.

I used to talk about this chain metaphorically, because that made it easier to dismiss that I was the blacksmith that forged it, that I probably had the strength to break it, and that I did know where it leads, what it was restraining, and that I even knew why it had been forged in the first place, and therefore…

that I was the only one who could break it.

This chain? Let’s call it Miss-direction.  And it restrains the raptor of self-inquiry that hunts the smaller rodents of denial that gnaw on normal, everyday reality.

No, I am not on Molly, hang with me, I can stick this landing, I swear.

You would think that a woman who has been able to claw her way out of the dungeon, past the fire-breathing dragon of dysphoria should be able to deal with the little critters of everyday reality without so much as breaking a sweat. And you would be right.

You would say that a yogini who had dedicated her entire adult life to the practice, study, and pursuit of self-realization, after removing the large boulders of identity and fear with Grace, should have weeded out these pesky weeds in the garden of self-awareness in the process. Again, you would be right.

But the iron chain of Miss-direction was a rusted relic that I discovered as I was redecorating the deeper chambers of the temple of myself. As I said, I was surprised to discover it – it was carefully camouflaged by a thin veneer of “been there done that.”chains.001

I wish I had found it through an intentionally targeted search because that would mean I’m on my game. But the truth is, I only saw the rust marks on the floor when I pulled up the carpets that I had used for years to sweep things under.

Along with the skeletal frames of bravado and crass, it had been dissolved when estrogen began to scour the inner walls of my heart.

I guess what I’m just now realizing is that the chain had been unnecessary for a very long time – the raptor it had held captive had given up long ago – the muscle memory from her initial tests of the restraint was still there, she had thought that she was forever chained. But when I threw open the drapes and let light flood in, she could see that she was no longer clapped in iron.

And her tummy was rumbling… she was hungry.

She is stretching her wings in the sunlight, and it couldn’t be a moment too soon.

“Transition” (a noun in our community spelled with a capital T) can be so… what’s the word here, full?  Sure that works. So full of both physical and emotional experiences and tasks, that it can be a full-time job just keeping your footing as your entire world shifts on its axis. This “fullness” can be all you could possibly do in a 24 hour day, between trying to shed these “Post-Surgical Pounds” and fending off the impulse to engage with that idiot who thinks their opinion on whether having transgender military personnel will affect unit cohesion is somehow more accurate or pertinent than what the Joint Chiefs already took years to know.

Yes. Good ol’ life can seem like a full time job.

Oh and then there’s getting a job. Keeping the projects that are in progress progressing. Nurturing the new ideas. And none of this takes into account the time that life is really here for, loving and caring and living with the most amazing person in the history of persondom.

That leaves about 7 minutes per day for self-inquiry. That usually comes in the shower.

But one has to take it when one can get it, right?

But as I said, I realized that the biggest restraint is gone and lo and behold, in its place is a strength and refreshed sense of… is that wonder? Why, so it is… okay, a wonder at…

how am I doing?

Well. Yes. How. Am. I. Doing?

To understand the gravity of this question, I think I need a breath here. I have not only dreamed of being “where I am now” – on the other side of GCS, but I fantasized about it (two very different things) like forever, even though I never believed I would ever really get to here. This fantasy was as painful as much as it was temporarily liberating…

until finally it just got depressing.

Too painful.  I knew it was just vapor. A future that would never be. A pall on my present. And, if I’m going to try to be brutally realistic, a waste of my time to “even go there.” Which was the shillelagh I used to pound myself with when my commitment wavered.

So, I finally got myself to just stop dreaming.

I built wall after wall after wall to seal off the dungeon so the light would never get in, because even just one deflected ray could pierce my heart so deeply that it would take weeks to recover.

But… back when I did dream…

Despite knowing that it would end back in drab reality, I would sometimes be able to soar… and it was giddy, euphoric, blissful (have I made it clear, yet?), ecstatic.  A wonderland of gold and pink light, of sparkling newness, and glistening, scintillating… normalcy.

My life as I hoped to live it would be as normal as yours. A life with no questions that started with “how come” and ended with “why me?” In this vast and glorious queendom, I would no longer deal with the body of some guy; I would no longer have the life of that dude. I could drop pretense and fear. I could let fall the shield of appearance. I would reallocate mental energy from navigation and defense to creation and nurture. My fantasies were not of riches and creature comfort but of my family seeing me and accepting me. MyLove loving me as a woman.

I wasn’t some super heroine, but a normal, average ordinary girl.

Yeah, I know. It was just a fantasy.

So, the other day when Mylove asked, “ So… how are you really?” Which for those of you who read GBTM might remember, was a question I would dread hearing, usually about once a month from Mylove after I came out to her.

It’s a question that I also used to ask of myself, not really wanting to know the answer.

And now, as one who has made it to this side of the river trans, I confess to knowing that if I were to ask this of myself, and if that answer were to ever be negative, there would be nothing I could do about it.

So it might be better not to ask?

Yes, I know, I know, to not ask this question of one’s self is (normally) to have doubt that one may not have made the right decision in the first place. I tried to threaten the raptor with a new chain by saying to myself that I would not have this question if there was nothing to question.

But srsly girl?

And that’s why it’s important that I realized the raptor could fly the day before Mylove asked. Because I did it under my own power and direction. I didn’t relegate it to the “so what department.” I actually walked right toward this question and stared it in the face and that’s when I first discovered that the tell-tale tug on my ankle that would have stopped me from going any further “down this road”…

never came.

I wasn’t afraid to ask this question and hang around for the answer.

And it was, I’m admitting right here, a bit disorienting because as I went searching for “how” I was. I realized I had been trained to look for only two things – the pink and gold blissful sunshine of my fantasy future life, or the dank and choking fog of regret.  I wasn’t prepared for what I found, and that’s why it confused me… I wasn’t sure what it was, at first.

Because it was so… um… well, this is a bit embarrassing, to admit, but… it was so… real. Realer than real. It was as if this was, and had only ever been my experience.

Because it was, you silly.

I was almost disappointed. Where were the flocks of rainbow doves? Where was the golden sparkle of reality, the crystal ring of each moment? Where was the ecstasy of “finally?” Where was the euphoria of “inevitable?” Where was the radiance of angels’ singing welcome?

I had had amazing peak experiences during the days right after (gender confirming) surgery, so now that I was healed, and starting to return to my workout and feeling physically good for the first time in like forever, why wasn’t I still floating in bliss?  Why were my days just like any other days… uh! Oh…

… does that mean…?

Yes, girlfriend, it means your dream came true. Your life, your living, your reality is…

normal.

It happened so gently and gracefully that I almost missed it. Now, my everyday life looks anything but normal. I didn’t sign-up to have a sitting President try to institutionalize discrimination by not only dismantling long and hard-won rights and protections such as Title IX, the Civil Rights Act, and trying to ban transgender people currently serving in our military, or  from ever serving.  So there’s that.

But that’s not the normal I’m talking about. I don’t feel like a stranger in my own body. I don’t feel like a charade trying to be “okay” so you can be okay that I’m okay. I don’t think about how to get through another day, despite feeling like any moment I will be swallowed by “the hijacker” (my pet name for the dragon that came as bouts of dysphoria that stalked me for fifty years).

So when Mylove asked me how I was doing, I knew neither she nor I had the time to say all of the above, and I immediately remembered my sister Kimm’s words from a text she sent me after seeing her big sister (me) for the very first time:

“I finally figured it out. It’s weird cuz it’s not weird. Am I right ladies?”

Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe our genes view reality through a “Seat-o-the-pants” filter, an instinctual jedi–scan that looks for disturbances in the Force, that pings under the crust of appearances to scrutinize the heart of the matter to heal what needs it. Whatever you call it, it was the only thing that accurately described… how I was doing.

It’s not weird. It’s not euphoric. It is not “not normal.”

Which is weird.

I just had major surgery. I’m still trying to get the hang of lipstick. I can’t remember the last time I even watched a war movie. I walk through my daily world, where I had previously walked as a relatively high profile “dude” (albeit a flamboyantly independent Hollywood freak) gracefully, unapologetically, and even, dare I say, tastefully feminine. Not a trace of “guy” anywhere. It’s not so much how I look that I’m reveling in, but more the acceptance that greets me. Most of my people do know that I was raised by wolves, and they either don’t care, like this version much better, or are too polite to make a fuss. “It’s” not weird, am I right, ladies?”

Yes. I notice that I am different. I think twice when I feel a string of expletives revving their engines while the catapult prepares to hurl them from the deck of the carrier into an aerial dogfight. But, I flinch at the use of explosive violent adjectives to describe a benign human interaction. (example, I don’t SLAM anyone, I’m COUNTERING their opinion). I used to cringe at the assumptions of patriarchal misogyny in all human endeavors, and resort to “workarounds.” Now I (either it’s estrogen or age) weed them out.  Even my sense of humor has gotten different – the jokes I now tell I either modify on the spot or let die a lonely death, unsaid. I don’t need to be the “jokester,” I can graciously just smile at the ones I’ve heard a million times (daughter of a car salesman-bartender – I grew up on the classics) knowing that every comedian needs an audience.

And… yes, I still practically dare the a**hole in the Camaro staring me down at the red light to give me an excuse to… to… to what? My adrenaline still spikes from the same stimuli, but the second part of that is when my brain kicks back in and reminds me that I was never a fighter at any time, in my life and I for damn sure won’t turn into one now. So I can stop “frontin’” here and now. When this does happen now, I spend the next hour probing my psyche for the accelerant that still wants to turn a spark into a backdraft. Before I just wrote that a**hole off without a second thought.

I’m not sure if other girls think this much about thinking.

I’ve come too far to not go all the way. But navigating the way forward by measuring the distance traveled is a cumbersome way to sail. And truly speaking, now that I’m in the seas of normal, it’s getting harder and harder to recall the weird past. The pain suffered is only a vague concept now. I made land driven by winds that came from the original desire to relieve the cause of that suffering almost… um… gee… I guess that would be… well, a few months ago. With that cause now gone, so too are those winds that filled my sails.

ship-001.jpeg

Which means that other winds can now take me in new directions.

I guess I will still be of service to others in the sharing of the charts from my journey. And I guess, if I’m really transparent, that’s what these writings are. The reality is that watching this raptor of self-inquiry hunt her prey is not the moment by moment experience that ignoring her had once been. She’s free to hunt. But I am free…

I’m not worried what she will find.

I am strong. I am in my body. Nothing is weird or strange. I have a lot of new in my life. I have a lot of unfamiliar. I have a lot of “really? Me? You mean I can, I am, I will, I don’t have to…” And yes, some of that recalls the vague memories in my muscles of the ways and whys of my time running with wolves, when the opposites were true, “I can’t, I am not, I won’t ever…”

I am doing all right. But that’s now, finally, wonderfully an assessment that comes by measuring the way forward rather than looking back. I’m no longer defined in the negative. Wow.

Am I right, ladies?

Yes. I’m right. I’m all right.

Actually, I’m just…

Right.

 

 

“Does this skirt make my butt look trans?”

I’ve been putting this one off for a long time. And yes, those of you who’ve read my book will want to remind me that I’ve said this before –

it’s not about our looks and it is about our looks but not in the way that most mean when they say that to us, or about us. Please allow me to explain.

You hear a lot of confusing things when people talk about the T in LGBTQ. The most mystifying of these is Dysphoria. As in “Gender Dysphoria,” which is the medical diagnosis that has been the gateway to all of the things that made my life livable. (Despite an amazing marriage to the most incredible woman in human history, a loving family, and “normal” childhood upbringing, college education, etc.) More recently, you’ll see the term “Body Dysphoria” used as well. I never thought about it before, but when used accurately, Body Dysphoria may be a more relatable term for a huge segment of our Pink & Baby Blue community, I’m speaking of those for whom even the word “gender” can sometimes send the conversation skidding sideways. And before we go any further, we’re okay with this ambiguity in our community, so you can be okay too.

I first heard the term “body dysphoria” when a dear new BFF was sharing with me that though she was cis-woman, she could relate to my experience. She too knew what it was like to be trapped in conflict with her own body. She had suffered from Anorexia. Her own body dysphoria had ruled her life from puberty through her early twenties. And the subsequent work that it took to alleviate the trauma and the health effects that are collateral damage, had become her daily experience.

Yes. She could understand me and my experience. She could relate to the utter exhaustion and trauma of living under the tyranny of the mirror.

Those who have never had this (and God bless you) will never “get it.”

I still hear even well meaning people wondering aloud how come no amount of will power, affirmations or good intentions can ever remove the elephant’s foot from one’s head, neck, and chest. Neither of these dysphorias (gender nor body) are our imaginations. Neither are “psychological” in the lay-man pop-psych euphemism. Neither dysphorias are a curse or punishment for past wrongs or missing Sunday mass. Neither dysphorias are God’s… anythings.

They are medical realities with cures.

I will leave my friend’s reality here because I can only relate to her experience as she did mine. But the lesson learned is that “body dysphoria,” is not our community’s cross to bear alone. Other communities know this, other communities deal with this, other communities beat this. We’re in good company.

It’s important for me to try to lay to rest once and for all, that we’re not talking about “confusion” about our bodies like it’s a mental exercise that can be cleared up by restating the issue in a different way or diagraming its formula or elements.

No.

We have never been confused.

Bewildered. Blindsided. Betrayed. Maybe. Confused as to why this happens, sometimes. But, confused that this is true, or so, or real reality?

No.

We are not confused.

We each (all humans) learn to develop coping mechanisms to deal with things that are  “not right,” when we are children. No matter what the “not right” thing is. Everyone eventually cobbles together a defensive strategy pretty quickly.

Or they don’t — and become a statistic.

A tragedy.

You know these numbers – 41% of our community have attempted or contemplated suicide.

Dysphoria (at least in my case) came from the psychological trauma of trying to suppress messages from my body that were contrary to my heart and mind. That sentence seems benign enough, right? And maybe that’s why the confusion in the cis-community exists. In an effort to articulate our experience in a succinct way, we end up sanitizing words — which makes them seem so… I dunno, almost benign, certainly surmountable.

Which is something Dysphoria is not.

For me, it was like lying on a live grenade for every moment of of my life. And knowing that someday. It will explode.

Now, try imagining that for even one minute. Go ahead… I’ll time you.

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Not easy is it?  A minute, under those circumstances is a very long time. Now pile on top of that the tension of feeling that you have to do it every minute of every day of every year of your life.

Now add on to that the feeling that it will never end.

Your nerves are permanently frayed. You are mentally spent trying to keep this tidal wave of grief and despair at arm’s length.  You are physically spent because this requires every nerve, every muscle, every breath. You are spiritually exhausted from trying to believe that God and life and nature are worth having faith in.

That’s the tricky one, spiritually. Try staying afloat in the beauty that is a human birth despite bathroom laws and an asshole in the White House who just threw 15,000 valiant members of our military to the wolves of right-wing Christian hate. (Make no mistake, our brothers and sisters in the U.S. Military are taking the assault on behalf of us all… this will only embolden the idiots on the state level who have already been trying everything they can, to institutionalize their hate.) It drains the soul of a community that has had to keep the faith despite being hunted for sport, despite our own families “turning their backs” on us and disowning us and disavowing us.

Try to remain engaged with God, despite a constant feeling of bile that arises because you’ve been biting your tongue when those who claim to “have no grudge with you” look the other way because our fight is not their fight. Try to stay happy despite being told that everything you’ve been taught to accept as moral and just and good, is not for you. It’s for everyone. It is your divine birthright. It is for all… except you.

If you can imagine all of that, like my friend who survived anorexia, then you can begin to understand dysphoria.

It’s a medical reality with cures. I use the plural because, for some like myself, the cure was hormones and GCS. But there are many in our community that need nothing more than love and acceptance to lift the toxic smog of Dysphoria.

And here’s the part that seems to mystify the cis-community. No one needs to know “which is which” and “who is who.”  You really don’t need to know why I had to have surgery and some of my sisters and brothers do not – just like I (and my sisters & brothers) don’t need to know why you (insert what you have or have not done to your own body). It’s no one’s business but your lover’s and your doctor’s.

But the “yous” of the world still try.

They announce their misunderstanding and ignorance publicly, saying really stupid things like, “I just don’t understand…” (which, if it was an invitation for someone to come forward to clarify, wouldn’t be so bad, but sadly it’s the sound a wall makes when it goes up to end the discussion.) “Where I come from, there’s just men and women” “Or we just agree to disagree.” “We just have different beliefs, that’s all,” Or, my favorite is, “You’ve chosen to live this way…”

I, and my sisters and brothers, are not your opinion, belief or agenda. We are people, citizens, your neighbors, your bosses, your employees and your sisters and your brothers. Your nieces. Your nephews. Your children.

Period.

Our stunted President has already dismantled Title IX protections, excluding trans youth from services that every person is supposed to be entitled to, citing that transgender people were not entitled to protections under the civil rights act. In Texas, they used a special session to pass a bathroom law to keep trans people out of going to the bathroom with less than 10 hours of debate citing “daughters over dollars.” How hate-filled and messed up is this — how can you tell a transgender person, “give me your tax dollars, but YOU can’t use the facilities that they pay for?” How can you say your daughter is more important than the Trans child? And this is not just about where we pee. When the child is ostracized by the Federal and state governments, the child is subject to vilification and bullying ONTOP of discrimination.  THIS IS AMERICA PEOPLE!

We’re still fighting down these down all of these like whack-a-mole.

It’s the height of ego. Because the yous of the world can not, will not even try to regard us an individual people. It’s safer for them to regard as a faceless mass. Easier to built a wall around us. Easier to legislate us into oblivion, Easier to erase us. Forget us. Forget trying to get them to walk in our shoes. They think their view of the world is shared by all. That everyone thinks the way they do. That there is an inherent logic to their argument. It’s like talking to a child who keeps repeating the same question over and over despite being told the facts. They aren’t really asking for an answer, they’re looking for validation that they are okay.

But, and here’s the weirdest thing of all, they have made us a cause – the transgender community must be erased. Our existence tramples on their freedom to discriminate and exclude. Our right to live somehow infringes on their right to hate.

With these conditions waiting for you as you step into the world, you might be able to see why we step cautiously. We have been taught that the world thinks we should feel shame and confusion about something that we are born with. Many of us follow the world’s lead and deal, succumb or hopefully cast off this shame and confusion (not of who we are, but how we are to live with it and you) to simply live our lives. This hatred is the backdrop of our lives. Look, we know we are a minority of every minority. The color of our skin intersects with our identities and our sexuality to push us from our families and tribes. A huge segment of the cis world believes it is their divine right to hate us, be confused by us, and works to forget us because of our race, gender and sexuality and all of the above.

And another segment of the cis–world allows this to happen by their silence and indifference.

Is it any wonder then, that this potential disconnect between not only what I see, when I look at me, but also what you see when you look at me, makes me work so hard? I have to get it right. I have to thread the needle between dignity and experimentation. Between self-expression and self-preservation. If you don’t see me as a woman, then I have you constantly reminding me (with both subtle and overt messages) that something about me is “not right.” It’s one thing for someone to say, “You look pretty today,” and quite another for someone to say, “You look like, oh bless your heart.”

So, the more visual clues I give that tell you I regard myself as a woman, the better chance we both have that you’ll get the message and at least not make it more awkward than it might be.  In some places this isn’t just a potentially awkward thing – it could be the difference between life and death.

Hopefully, you can see that for us beauty isn’t merely skin deep.

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For girls of my age, “the ability to pass” was a holy grail. It’s an impossibly high standard for a community that has been sculpted by testosterone. I’m not sure if I do, (Mylove tries to reassure me all the time) but (knock wood) since my transition, I have not been misgendered or even looked at with so much as a raised brow, so something is working in my favor. Even so, there are those people who knew me before, who spend the better part of a conversation trying to peek under my mascara. I guess I should take even that as a compliment.

But… when I see myself in the mirror, I still go right to the “tells”…

Yes, I see a woman. Thank God. But I can’t ignore the “too strong” jawline, the back that has trouble staying in any slinky dress, the wide ankles, and feet that spill over my size elevens and don’t get me started on my arms… thankfully, electrolysis has finally taken most of the hair from my face, and estrogen has softened the easy parts. With a curling iron, eyeliner and a touch of lip gloss, I look like…

…  the me that is looking out from my own eyes.

Yes. She needs more sit-ups, fewer carbs, and better fitting shoes. But her confidence glows brighter every day. Which helps her lighten up on herself a little more every day.

And here’s the thing… something almost all of my close cis-sisters say to me is that this self “critiquing” with its wild swing from dismay to acceptance is one of the not-so-good parts of “being a woman.” This constantly comparing one’s own body and physical self to some sort of “ideal” differs slightly for each of us but is there nonetheless.

And I know this – I don’t have to be told. What none of my cis-sisters knows is what it’s like to cry when another girl simply pulled her hair casually back into a pony tail without a second thought. And you can’t.

Or the conflicting war between grief and pride when your next door neighbor wore a “big girl’s dress” to high school for the very first time. And you never will.

Oh, trust me, I’ve been comparing my life to other girls since I was little. But the distance was measured in light years. So yes. I know.

But what I don’t know is what do you see when you see me? Do you see a woman who is desirable? Do you see a woman who is strong? Who is intelligent? Whois creative? Who is loved? What does Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden look like?

I ask this because, the other day, I was talking to someone who said, “Funny, you don’t look trans.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with that. Look trans? I had a train wreck of images in my head from the classic Catwoman-like-too much-plastic surgery taughtface to Jeffrey Tambor’s “Oh Bless her heart” Maura. Then I thought of all the trans women that I respect – Alexandra Billings, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Jen Richards, Ashlee Preston, Trace Lysette, Zachary Drucker, Rain Valdez…

Were they saying I wasn’t… drop-dead gorgeous?????

If trans looks like anyone of these amazing women, I’ll have what they’re having.  Because sadly according to this person, I’m not or don’t.

Or are they merely trans stars?  So, of course, they would be beautiful?  Now, I know Alexandra is roaring with laughter now and calling me playful yet derogatory names for including her in this group of super models, we’ve had this conversation a few times, and she has the appropriate amount of humbleness about her looks, usually deflecting any sort of praise or adoration. But let’s face it – she is beautiful, inside and out as are we all — some just more than others.

I don’t look trans?  I. Don’t. Look. Trans?

Of course,  my self-conscious self went to cynicism, taking “don’t look trans” to be cis-speak for “Now that you mention it, I can see that you were raised by wolves, despite that cute sun dress and pink acrylic nails.”

In other words, my daily fear that no amount of lip gloss will ever cover testosterone’s legacy.

Yes, I am maturing, getting stronger as I said, and on the days when I am self-confident, I like what I see. I like the me that is emerging. And I realize that I have… a different look. When I was growing up, despite not seeing my face as mine, the face that was there was never really handsome. It wasn’t not nice for others to look at, but it wasn’t particularly a man’s face per se… just a face. Now that I am seeing out my eyes and seeing my face, I’m starting to like her, even with her too strong jawline. She is unique. She is different. Is she beautiful?  Well…

I hesitate because…, I am a child and a product of the televised concepts of beauty.

I formed my views of femininity and beauty during my childhood and puberty just like you. I had a vision of myself as a woman that still had Farrah Fawcett surfer bangs and wore leather mini skirts and disco inspired slinky dresses. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and my inspirations were the sunkissed FF Jaclyn Smith and Michelle Pfeiffer (I actually placed a lavalier mic on the divine Ms. Pfeiffer, and was so nervous she had to steady my hand with hers… I nearly fainted).

Remember, I was never going to actually get to be my mature womanly self, so I could set the bar impossibly high.

And now that I am a mature woman in her fifties, the bar is still high. Too high. But not quite high enough for me to judge myself with it.

I don’t want the world to view me through cis-colored lenses. But I also don’t want to be seen as a woman with an asterisk.

I’m hoping that with my continuing maturity, I’ll lighten up on myself even more and see my beauty and accept it as the most beautiful me that it… is. That’s a little hard for me to do at this point. Maybe because I still have hope in my youth. I still have a chance. Everything I see in the mirror at this point is because of hard work. Getting up early to work out, almost 50 hours of electrolysis, and dieting. I’m at least willing to work as hard as I can to see where I will end up.

Just like the fact that you will have to be okay with the future versions of you staring back at you from your mirror, I will, because I’m no longer dysphoria’s captive be okay with the me staring back at me.

But will I look trans?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

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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.