Yes, its true. I’m back at it, after time off to heal. I have posted the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is part 3, and the last installmentof this feature. And tho I was coy with my disclaimers in the previous posts, this time i really mean it. This time I get personal, really personal and write some graphic descriptions that those with modest mores might find a bit over the line. As always I tried to keep it in good tastse. But your boundaries are your boundaries – no judgement here. You be you and I’ll keep it as real as my fingers can type. Without further ado.. Wait! Where were we? Oh yes, I left us at a cliffhanger? Good for me. Dr. Wylie would be proud. And that cliffhanger was… oh, yes, that I had just had the bandages removed from the surgical area and was handed a mirror to see for myself what had been under all that white guaze. Ready? It’s Raised by Wolves 21’s conclusion? Well, anyway, it’s part 3 of 3…
Scottie Jeanette Madden , June 2017
As I wrote last time, “I’m back on line” in more ways than one, after some time off to heal. I promised to post the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is part 2 and it contains some graphic descriptions that those with weak tummies might find a bit graphic for a place that takes pains to chart the psychological seas of transformation. I tried in as many case as I could to soften the blows, but then again, I made a pact with you waaaaay back at the beginning of our journey together to tell you all to the best of my abilities as a writer and a human. So, I do this with some… adherence to a growing sense of graciousness that I hoping comes with the territory, and so, without further ado… I present Raised by Wolves 21 pt 2
Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden ,Spring, 2017,
PREVIOUSLY ON… Scottie Jeanette has just come through “day zero” the first day of spring of the rest of her life and is surprising everyone, including her surgeon with her blooming radiance…in fact, she’s what some would call “that girl.” (and not in a flattering way) and she’s getting frankly, little annoying…
OPENING TITLES IN, READ: “Part 2 More That happens.”
I am starting to levitate in my very bed. The smell of fresh flowers and bouquet of balloons have taken hold of each cheek and stretch mouth into a pepsodent smile… Mylove has just deftly origami’d her fold-out bed from what is supposed to be a chair and stands over me to kiss me good night. She brushes the hair from my eyes… God, she is beautiful… She kisses me deepy and settles into her… nest, as I turn out the light.
The chime of my cellphone lets me know that I’ve received a text,… I look to my cell and see that My big Sister Alexandra Billings has checked in on me, and I read aloud for us both to hear:
“So much stardust and history rain on to you today. You move into a newness that is alive and glorious. Although it is filled with the unknown, there are discernible and recognizable parts to it. The fact that you are living in the center of what’s possible has been with us since Time breathed in its first space. And so the courage of who have always been rests in the knowledge of where you’re absolutely headed. That is close to you. Your courage to run into the fire; to blaze across the sun and to leave a trail of compassion and brilliance in your wake. When you do this, and when you do it out loud, others receive it and are reminded. No matter what the transition, they are saved by you.
I love you Angel.
Okay… so, it’s one thing when you feel these things in your head and heart… quite another when someone says them about you. It seems so much more, I dunno, tangible? I know, I know, we’re supposed to be self-reliant strong women, who do not require outside validation… still, her descriptions are waaaaay better than I would ever allow myself to use for myself. They carry substance. They have… an effect.
I drift off to sleep, with day zero in the books…
But my status as the star blazing across the sun is short-lived.
The next day comes and I’m even more radiant as the effects of the anesthesia are wearing off. Today’s task is to take me off of the intravenous pump for pain meds. Not sure how I feel about this. I’ve actually grown fond of the fact that I can push a button and feel pain-free instantly. In fact, I will confess that I have actually figured out (by counting beats of the pump) the minimum wait time that allows me to push it again and get another dose. My goal is to get maximum doses in the two hours I have left, before they’re going to take it away.
I said I was blissed out I did not say that I was not in pain.
I make a note to look at this aspect of my character later…
The first couple of doses of oral hydrocodone seem to be OK and so is my appetite. The hospital food isn’t really all that bad – a nice fillet of salmon, some green beans and green salad what’s not to love? And they are getting me as many Italian ices as I can eat, which brings me back to my grandmother’s stoop in Brooklyn one summer when I was a child…
which is actually happening a lot today. I’m tapping into a lot of childhood and teenage and young adult memories. With each one, I connect the dots from then to now, from there to here, and realize… OH MY GOD. Oh. My. God. Oh, my God, yes it’s true…
I’ve made it. I’m here! Amazing.
And I feel great – which feels like bragging as I hear how the other girls on the floor are doing. And you know me, I’m not one to flaunt what I got…
But that night. It’s dark, after midnight, Mylove is asleep in her itsachairitsacouchitsaloungeitsatorturedevice, and she’s actually sleeping for the first time in hours… And something is happening…
I can feel that feeling. My nieces call it the “mouth sweats” – that sudden watering of your mouth for a reason that you never wanna even think about. That dreadful feeling that tells you that you’re suddenly too far away from any bathroom… Now I have never, ever in my life liked the idea of barfing. I resisted it to the very last possible moment. I think I would rather be hit by a bus than throw up.
But suddenly I realize I’ve lost the ability to have a vote in this and I hit the nurses call button…
FREEZE FRAME. I have to back up. Of the nurses and assistants who have been tending to my every need here, 98% are women. There have been only two dudes. One, a nurse named Shane and the other an assistant named David. For some reason, David and I must have some karma because I’m relating to him like every dude on every team I’ve ever played. I still have the muscle memory of how to speak “dude.” And for every shot across my bow, I return fire in kind. In other words, we have a lot of snappy banter (I said snappy, not witty). Mylove is the first to notice this give-and-take, and she asks me what (the heck) I’m doing. Like I said, it’s my muscle memory and I thought I was just reacting to things he said, but the fact that I use words like “return fire” to describe this needs to be looked at.
I don’t know why David’s firing at me in the first place. Actually, if I think about it, I do know why he’s doing it. It’s how dudes relate to the world, and this world “in partic,” which is one of the top places for GCS in the world is all about women. It’s so all about women that that’s all there is in the surgical ward. My surgical team was 100% women. Many of Dr. Ley’s office staff visited me every day. The office staff is 99% women with the exception of the man whose name and reputation is the head of the practice, Dr.Toby Meltzer. Yes, David and Shane are outnumbered and are involved in a world of all women, all the time. So, as professional as they both are, Shane cloaks himself in crisp professional confidence, while David chooses instead a benign “trash talk” as his idea of bedside manner.
But I have no idea why I am relating to him in the way that I am. It’s as if I sense his “fishoutofwateryness” (what? It’s a term, look it up), and I’m trying to put him at ease by returning fire. I’m not cutting him any slack. And he’s not cutting me any either. Our banter has an edge like a pick up street basketball game. it’s competitive, it’s fast and you’re never gonna let your opponent see you sweat…
But it’s just about to backfire on me as my mouth sweats and my stomach churns and I stab the nurse call button and…
it rings and rings and rings and finally David answers but instead of asking what I need, or even why I called, David uses this opportunity to get a couple of jabs in, because that’s what we do…
And as I try to squeak out the words, “David. Nauseous,” for fear of what will happen when I keep my mouth open too long… but It happens anyway.
And I cover the call button, and I cover my bed, and I cover the floor…
… and it keeps on coming, and coming, and coming. Mylove is up instantly from a sound sleep, but I’ve created a moat that she can’t cross. She fumbles to get the lights on, and finally David comes into the room with Shane the nurse (it’s dude night) and they see what I was trying to say over the intercomm — a tsunami of my day’s worth of food and drink.
I stare at David. He reassures me – he’s got this, I can go back to sleep… He does smile sheepishly as he disinfects… well, everything. Our banter has no place here…
It’s a rough night, and the next day, I’m down a few pegs, both emotionally and physically, my comet streak may have gotten eclipsed by the dark side of the moon… but not for long.
Because for the next few days I’ve got a job to do, and I need to get serious. it’s all about healing doncha know, come day six, my life will change dramatically… again. The packing will come out, the bandages will come off, and I begin “physical therapy.”
So Mylove and I get up every morning and walk through the town of Scottsdale now Scotties-
Dale. It is for all intents and purposes almost like a vacation, except that I have to be back every three hours to the hospital (rules), but it’s a sweet time for Mylove and me. And we really have nothing to do except get some fresh air and then go back to the hospital to find a new bouquet of flowers waiting for us.
A quick note on that: it seems many of our friends have been waiting and planning for this time as well – our room is filled with bouquets of flowers and the balloons and a teddy bear and cards and well wishes all celebrating “it’s a girl!” It makes me smile, and it makes all of the nurses and assistants on the floor stop by our room just for a whiff of the amazingly beautiful fragrance of love, acceptance, and support. So much so, that one of the assistants, Amy, comes in after five days of this with yet another bouquet and says, “you are killing me with these flowers!”
Everyone on the floor agrees, they have never seen so much love in one room.
I’m not the first girl to go thru this experience with this team. I am Dr. Ley’s 44th since January. And Dr. Meltzer has been doing this for over 20 years. To say they got this down is an understatement – it’s a 10 day regimen that counts your surgery as day zero. Each morning a nurse comes in and writes on the white board that day’s “job.” And they are serious. Days 1-5 have simple tasks of healing and walking but on Day 5, Charlotte, my day nurse, gave me the pep talk for day 6 (I guess i needed a day to process it?), drawing on the whiteboard a crude drawing that would make every 7th grade boy titter with glee, of me with my legs spread like a porn star. In the newly created sacred area between my legs (which Weezie has dubbed the “Pristine Vagene”), Charlotte drew on the area a wide black oval and looked at me like a Sex Ed teacher, drawing a “black circle” for each as she says, “Scottie… there are four holes: your clitoris, urethra, vagina, and anus. Got it? Wipe from front to back always! And don’t wipe – pat, pat, pat. Any questions?”
As a matter of fact. Um.., yes.
I never thought of it before, but why did God but the ladies’ room in the middle of the playground? (This could be evidence that God is a man – guys never think these things thru, on the other hand, it cold prove that God is a woman, making the restroom centrally located, and never to far from anywhere…) I mused aloud this essential question as Charlotte left the room. Mylove stared at me blankly. She had nothing, smiling with amused dismissal, a certain “they’re so cute when they’re little,” kinda thingy.
But whatever. Right now all I know is that I’m the mummy down there, but tomorrow’s the big day… the big reveal and it starts early!
I don’t sleep a wink – It’s like Christmas and blessedly it’s finally morning. Meg, Dr. Ley’s head nurse, has given word she’s thirty minutes out. That’s Meg, my big sister, efficient, together and “on it.”
I stare at the yellow-brown rubber tube that flops out of the square of surgical tape that hides my… me. The me I’ve only dreamed, prayed, screamed and cried for, for over fifty FREAKING YEARS…
And then Meg is in my room – without a sound, she’s standing over me with huge smile and my bed starts rising up like Young Frankenstein toward the sky, so Meg doesn’t have to stoop to get to work. She winks at me, “you ready for this, Miss Scottie?” I realize I’m not breathing.
Meg tells me to use my “lady blow” – which, I learned is the magical connection between putting my lips together and blowing and the moving of muscles that open my vjay-jay,… (I know, right?) I follow her instructions… and she gently yanks the square of tape off from my abdomen and, as I wince from the warm sting of the tape’s protest, Meg starts to pull the packing that has held my new vagina open and in shape – and it’s just like a magician pulling endless scarves from a top hat… Then she says, “blow out your birthday candles, Honey.” And as I blow, she pulls the last of the packing and I feel like I’m turning inside out with her last tug… I’m blinded by a sensation that seems to light up my entire body with white hot electricity…
As I return to my body (timidly) and open my eyes, Meg smiles and says the last bit is always… interesting.
So is that what the kids are calling it these days?
Meg hands me a mirror… It’s time. As I reach for it a lifetime of inevitable rises on my horizon, brilliant rays spear the lingering mists of dysphoria. The last clouds of a storm that passed forever just six days ago. The spring breeze of the bloom of my life left fills my heart, my mind… and now, miraculously, even my own body. My fingers wrap like new shoots around the handle as I look to Mylove. She nods, “it’s time.”
Time to see just what inevitable looks like.
Next time: The Conclusion of “Well, that happened.”
As I wrote in my book, I was/am part of a group of television professionals who hail from San Diego State’s Department of Telecommunications & Film, TCF for short. The Telecom part was, I like to think, a recognition of the efforts of one great man, Dr. Don Wylie, a professor at SDSU, who, as a Naval Reserve Officer, was instrumental in guiding our military satellite technology into the civilian commercial broadcast world. The truth is, by the time I entered the BS program in 1980, the technical aspects and this engineering discipline had given way to the glamorous world of TV and Film production, but the name stuck to remind us of our legacy… maybe. Either that or the University just didn’t get around to updating our name. And, so TCFers we were. Proudly.
But Dr. Don, Dr. Wylie, Wylie, or the Old Man (which was how my father, a Navy man himself loving referred to him) was the Spiritual Leader of a “Cadre” (his name for this dynamo production unit) of 9 men and 2 women. We immersed ourselves in the “act” of television production with such religious fervor, that not only did we create a renaissance for this previously sleepy breeding ground for the local Channels’ Daily News broadcast talent, but we are still friends, nay brothers, and sisters – truly family to this day.
This group is so tight that I faced coming out to them with more trepidation than I did to my own blood family (which was, I learned, a huge miscalculation on both sides of that equation). But unlike my blood family, from which you begin concealing your high risk behaviors, the Cadre had truly seen me and I them, at both my best and worst… and we were still friends.
This very boy’s club had only two very great women, one of whom married one of our boys. And for those of you just now joining my journey, the revelation that we were actually 8 men and 3 women sent shockwaves through our cadre.
Since I systematically came out through a series of personal heart-to-heart phone calls (we are spread out across this great country), I have had the great opportunity to see in person 8 of my brethren, with four hold-outs. Since I seem to be keeping score, two of the four holdouts had at least agreed to meet when I was in their areas (and had to postpone for different reasons) but the other two have to this day ignored any requests by me to connect. So, we’re 8-2 with 2 ties.
But, tho’ the sports metaphor is very much our dialect (having cut our production teeth on covering the Aztec’s teams, we shot and aired anything that bounced, was thrown, kicked or hit with a bat), in matters of the heart, it breaks down when I try to use it now. Maybe I have higher standards, but since I no longer have to “keep up appearances,” I can tell you the “wins” ain’t wins but the losses are truly losses… and the ties… even worse. Just knowing that we talked is not good enough, and knowing that we hadn’t talked yet is only slightly better than refusing to talk at all. As I said, this is family. The family that you get to choose. Tho’ we all are bonded by our addiction to television, love is our real drug of choice.
So yes, by phone, everyone was amazing and supportive and touched, said all the right things, and pledged uninterrupted love. I was to be “business as usual,” albeit my bond with the women was instantly a little deeper, so pleased were they to have a sister. And the guys? Well they went out of their way to make sure that this was “no big deal.
“but that was then…”
And this is now. Of the five who live near me in Southern California, three make as much effort to see me as I do them. Which means that, barring our productions schedules throwing our social calendars into the blender every other month or so, we see each other at least once a week at a “taco night.”
These three men are very dear to me. I will use their “Ski-trip names” handles they earned from an annual weekend of what used to be skiing until old-age started whittling down the reason for spending money on plane tickets to famous resorts to three days of whiskey, cards, and fart jokes.
First, there’s the infamous “Puff Daddy,” and next, there’s “CF” (which stands for Chin f**k, a reference to a self-inflicted injury suffered while under the influence). Both live here in LA LA Land with me, and finally, there’s “Bigsley” who still hails from our native San Diego.
I have always been closer (emotionally) to Puffy, having sold him the first television series I created, as well as truly holding each other up in darker times (cancer for him, my father’s passing for me). Now, this is not to say that CF and Bigsley are distant seconds, they are most certainly not. CF has bent over backward and, of all the guys (Puffy included), is the only one who calls regularly to check in on his new baby sister, me. Bigsley,, it turns out, is my knight in shining armor, apparently defending my new honor (in my absence) with the other guys right down to the pronouns. As I said, in my absence, and I’d trade a little of that chivalry for seeing or talking with him more frequently, but what’s a girl to do?
So, you can imagine that, close as I am with all three, it would still be a surprise to learn that they, well, are struggling. That is, they are struggling with the enormity of my journey. They are still trying to take the abstract thought that the “transgender thing” that seems to be the hot topic “out there in the world,” and fit it onto our real lives. And, that it would be me. Mad Dog, The Madman, their wild child. Sure Scott was a free spirit and seemed to be in touch with “his” feminine side, but, really? “He’s one of those?”
And these are not my words. They have all shared with Marcy Mylove, when I’ve left the room, that they aren’t as cool with my transition as they are trying so hard to be for me. Especially Puffy. He’s one of my biggest supporters. He has already dried my tears. He can and will listen to me as I work my way through some of the narrower rapids of my journey. But, when he’s sure his candor won’t hurt me (because I’m out of earshot), he confesses it’s huge. It’s enormous. We have so much lived life together and he’s not sure he’s “there” yet… sigh.
This is something I want my trans sisters and brothers to hear. Yes, they have accepted me. But I want our love to continue to grow without any glitch. And I’m sure they do too. And they are trying. They love me so much they would never hurt me by even admitting that it is hard. They are committed to diving on every grenade that rolls out from their own psyches, every subconscious stumble. They will always support me… even if they don’t or can’t understand me.
And that should be enough.
And, even without having heard this intel, I know this. As I wrote in a recent posting on this blog (The Wire, December 16) this is the psychic piano wire that is strung between all of our hearts and I knew I “twanged” this chord so hard that the pegs damn near broke off. And I knew it needed to be tightened on both ends. I am tightening my side, and Patience is the wrench. And time. Oh, and laughter.
Yesterday, Bigsley was driving back thru town. He had been further north with his son at a college Fraternity’s Father/Son weekend, so he asked Puff and me to dinner. CF was working and would be missed.
Now, something that is changing is their manners. Right from the start, they are genuinely treating me like a lady. Opening doors, letting me sit first, etc. We hadn’t even gotten thru the pleasantries and ordering when Bigsley asked,
“So Ms. Scottie, what are you up to? What are you doing?”
The standard answer with these guys is to rattle off the various shows and projects and “gigs” that each of us has in play. Puffy produces movies for Lifetime network, Bigsley followed in Dr. Wylie’s footsteps (he’d be so proud) teaching TV production as well as producing documentaries. I have always been the freelancer, running other people’s shows, and pitching my own, but this time I answered by waiting demurely for the waiter to leave to get our order and saying…
“Well, I’m getting ready for surgery, which will be next month.”
Neither of my brothers flinched. They are seasoned poker players. But the earth did skip a beat as my words continued to hang in the air. They knew without any further detail or embellishment exactly which surgery I’m talking about. Yes, that surgery, The surgery. This is the milestone that not one of us (me included) ever knew was even on the table. And now, in this moment here it is… Puff breaks the silence first with,
“Can I fill this uncomfortable silence with a totally inappropriate joke now?”
I must’ve said yes. Because we began, with hearts now wide open (and their minds completely blown) to discuss the mechanics of surgery. Educational as it was, it’s still a fertile field to fill even more uncomfortable space with more inappropriate material. As you now have surmised, this is their very boy way of dealing with intense… with, well let’s face it, life. And… well, I’m admitting right here, that I used this opportunity, knowing that Puff was struggling, to lean in… and ask point blank if he is cool. If he’s okay. With this. With me. With this big step.
He put his dilemma into words:
“Look, man, you’re in my heart. And I love you as you, as you are now… a woman. But I’m trying to get over the fact that my bro Scott… will never come walking thru that door… ever again. You’re going to have to get used to the fact that people loved Scott. I love Scottie. But I really loved Scott. And Scott was my brother. And I… am never going to see him again. Ever.”
Now, my mind is blown. A white sheet of rain washed all my thoughts away – all I knew was that I was so very sad for my dear, dear, brother’s loss. I was, oddly, detached from being the object of his grief. I did not feel compelled to correct his view of the truth of my experience. I felt no hurt or frustration for my part in this. And, tho’ this was seemingly directed at me, I felt no blame from him, that I was the agent of his brother’s destruction, I only felt that he looked to me in that moment as one who would hopefully understand his loss. And the one who would hold him as we had held each other thru times of challenge and loss. My heart was breaking for him.
Bigsley broke what felt like a lifetime of heartache by man-splaining Puffy’s point, “Scottie, guys are black and white. We used to relate to you as a dude, and now we have to relate to you as a woman. By the way, you are rocking the woman thing. But that doesn’t make it easier. “Sorry we’re just… dudes”
In essence, since I speak “dude,” Bigsley was saying that Scott had to die, so Scottie could live.
In Puffy’s world, Scott was already gone. And Puffy was trying to mourn “on the fly” as he welcomed Scottie with open arms.
Now this is something that the trans community faces all the time. Many women (and I’m assuming the guys do too, they just don’t write about it in their memoirs) in the older generation would stage funerals for their male lives. I confess that this is not the first time my own coming out and the transition has been referred to as a death in the family. My sister Kiera still hasn’t gotten over losing her cherished big brother. And my dear friend, Merrie-Lynn, actually encouraged me to conduct some sort of acknowledgment/ritual of the ending of my male past. With surgery right around the corner, I’d be silly to ignore these signs from the Universe to realize that this part of my journey is demanding more of my attention.
Maybe it was because I was raised by wolves that I learned never say “die.” I think I met these previous signs (Kiera’s and Merrie-Lynn’s) with a total dismissal. A death in the family? C’mon Kiera! A ritual Merrie-Lynn? That’s a little too woo-woo for this girl. But really in both cases it was my desire to cling to the notion that even considering this as a death was a negation of… the truth.
I always had been, am and always will be the same me. I had always been a woman. How could I acknowledge, my past with the wolves as my “boyhood” and “manhood,” when I had never been either one myself?
There was never someone other than me to let go of. There was only me and I had no intention of leaving.
But seeing the loss in Puffy’s eyes made me realize another essential thing I have learned in this life… funerals are for the living. They help the living let go of their hold on the past. They allow their loved ones to move on.
So, now, I’m torn. I feel compelled to help cis people understand that trans (in my experience) is not that you “were one gender” and are now another. Sorry to start sounding like a broken record, but with 45’s recent order to dismantle protections for trans youth in public schools, this firestorm of misunderstanding has been stoked anew. Those who support this cruel and legal discrimination cite their belief and conviction that transgender is a lifestyle choice or even a mental illness. Denying the facts. Denying those who have experienced it. No one would ever in their right mind choose derision, discrimination, pain, trauma, violence and misunderstanding. Can we please put that one to bed?
Dysphoria comes of being in a body that will never, not ever, no matter how hard you try to deny it, match your truest, deepest “sense” and awareness of your very own self. I say this without the words “believe yourself to be” or “think that you are” that others have used to describe this phenomenon because they both imply an intellectual attempt at interpreting the experience that humans have of being human, that only each human can ever experience of one’s own self.
I have never not known that I wasn’t me, a girl, a woman. I had this sense before I had words. I had this sense despite the organs that this body had. I had this sense despite what my parents and then my teachers and then my society told me. I had this sense despite what I tried to reason and then discipline myself to disprove.
Even as I grew up, took my place in my family, made friends and started a marriage and a career, constantly creating a life for myself and a chance to love and be loved it was through an outer armor that looked like a dude named “Scott.” But the wearer of that armor was me.
And tho’ this body, despite being, well let’s just go with incongruent with the rest of me, has always been my trusty armor, a worthy vehicle, a true friend that has gotten me through thick and thin, and certainly deserves the utmost care and respect, I’m not sure a funeral for my armor would seem right… for me.
But for Puffy? Hmmm. Maybe? I would do anything for him.
I’ll have to get back to you on that.
But… I do feel a need to do something to recognize the crossing of this mystical, physical and very very real, threshold of my life. I do recognize it’s huge. I do feel a need to keep it as one of the most sacred moments of my life. Yes, it’s huge, but in a way that only I can ever know fully. I’m not alone as I do this, but I am the only one who will be doing this with this life called Scottie.
One thing that I am doing is allowing any and all emotions to come up – I’m trying not to stop any of them. Emotions are already a new and amazing experience for me, but in these last few weeks, as I get closer to the threshold, it’s been like a roller coaster in the dark. I have no idea when the turns are coming. And some of these have no names or essences that I’ve ever felt before, or that even make sense. But instinctively I know they have a special value whether they are connected to my stepping across or not.
And then there’s Mylove… My lover. The person who’s heart and body and bed I’ve shared for close to thirty years. Yes. This is her journey too. Equally intense – but specifically unique in that she didn’t get a say in going on this journey and more than I did. But I had 45 years to contemplate its significance and test its validity. No one can ever prepare for this, but I had close to a four decade head start on her. She had to get up to speed instantly, flying completely on faith in me and our love. And she does it every single day. She never saw this coming; didn’t want it wen it did, but… she wants me and our love. As do I. So we are figuring this out. If anyone had the right to mourn for the loss of her husband and her lover, her white knight, her king, it’s she. But those were all “flavors” of her honey, me. She’s the one who chose the name Scottie for me. I wasn’t changing who I was in her heart, I was evolving as a person.
What you need to know is that ALL of the above flashed through my heart and soul between chicken fried rice and the stale fortune cookies. Bigsley brought this night to a close by summing up his “men are black and white” theory by saying, “Look, men are stupid. Women are crazy. You were always … really crazy. Suddenly everything makes perfect sense. We should’ve seen this, you, coming.”
And there it is. My chivalrous knight Bigsley actually does get me. Despite even his own protestations. I’ve gone from black to white (again) over Chinese food. And maybe this is another bread crumb (cookie crumb?) I can leave for my sisters and brothers as they follow this path: just as you are constantly relearning things about yourself, and reexamining your every move, so too are your family and friends. They aren’t taking a step backward, they are refreshing their grip. And that’s a good thing.
Then, we’re outside and it’s time for hugs and kisses goodbye. We have always been “huggers” in this boy’s club, but this time, as 6 foot two Puffy bends down to hug me, we… kiss. It’s natural and sweet, the kiss you get from your daddy, your uncle or your big brother. It’s reassuring, and… reaffirming. And it catches me off-guard. Because…
I got lipstick on Puffy’s cheek.
Every lady knows “you don’t share colors!” and I whispered my apology in his ear as we hugged. But while I was worrying about his cheek, he was whispering in my ear:
“I do love you, Scottie.”
And his hug went straight to my heart. As we let go, I did what my aunts and other great ladies had taught me by example and I wiped the pink smear demurely off like an Audrey Hepburn movie. I think I also lifted one foot behind as I did it… no idea where that came from…
After blessings for our various safe journeys home, I drove away in tears.
Tears of gratitude.
It was said by more than one reader of my book (which spans a year in the life of my extended family that stretches across to Europe and Australia numbering well above 200 people), that my life and journey and the people in it are some of the most amazingly generous, loving and supportive people ever gathered. I strongly agree. My journey is our journey. And tho’ they didn’t ask for it, it has given all of these people the chance to show to me, and themselves, that we are the noble, loving and best humans we hope and aspire to be. Even if and when we don’t know what we’re doing. We love first, ask questions later. And yes, it’s messy. But so is life.
I have never actually been grateful that I was born trans, but I can see that my trans journey is a profound and precious gift. A humbling and amazing immersion in love that fills me to overflowing every day.
Who knew that a little bit of lipstick could change the world?
Each morning my workout is to “power hike” (no other word for this – it’s not quite running, and way faster than hiking) in the hills that are the northern border of the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy. Locals here call it “dirt Mulholland.” It’s the stretch of the infamous Mulholland Drive between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Havenhurst – a fire road that’s the mother artery for hundreds of smaller trails that feed off of this idyllic length of paradise between ocean and valley.
It’s a favorite for a morning cult of dog walkers (I’m one), mountain bikers (one of those too), trail runners, casual strollers and… well, it’s as a diverse a group of humans as the wildlife that call it home.
Why am I telling you this?
To put you in the same morning-sunshined, ocean-caressed, crisp-aired, rosy-cheek-kissed bliss that could only be made better by Return to Forever’s, “Romantic Warrior” pouring from my earbuds and marinating my soul…
You there? Ahhh, yes, there you go… now, breathe in and…
Cue the hawk. Her shadow kisses your face first and you look up – she waves with a curt tip of her wing as she soars out over the valley. And… something else passes by … and before you can even ask yourself what…?
She backs up and re-enters your field of vision, blocking out your hawk’s majesty… and as Stanley Clark’s bass line seduces your attention like warm maple syrup, a bright-faced, blond, brilliant light of a woman is talking… to you… she doesn’t seem to notice the earbuds…
So, you pull them out, and you hear her say, “… and would it be okay, I know this is terribly forward, but my daughter is a film student at USC, you see. And she’s making a film about a transgender police officer…”
Now, I am, and have always been, really good at inference. Sometimes to my downfall. All I need is a seed of a thought to deliver you a forest of a story. But as I struggled to hang on to this woman’s breathless story about her daughter, and the efforts she’s making, and the support she’s getting from the LAPD, and the officer himself who served in the Marines as a woman but transitioned after a distinguished tour of duty and is now quite happy as a male police officer, and the rest of the officers have been great with accepting him…
… my own thoughts were starting to drown out her voice. I realized I was desperately trying to figure out why is the woman, whom I have never met, who seems very nice and earnest, and proud of her daughter…
… why is she telling me this?
And when I still hadn’t heard a question in this waterfall of information and detail, nor even a request, a cold shiver went through me that I could not stop. I heard myself asking her,
“How did you know I was trans?”
Instead of a direct answer, I heard instead that she actually has other friends who transitioned years back and struggled, and are very brave, and after two in-depth stories about these friends, she confesses that she has seen me many times up here.
Now, for those of you who have never seen me. I am working very hard to reclaim a body that spent 50 years being Raised by Wolves. I’m happy to report, it’s working. And so is the estrogen. I have hips, and I am starting to get an hourglass figure. A woman is emerging In place of all the sweets and carbs I have given up. On this day, in fact, I am looking quite cute (ask Mylove) in athletic tights and red trainers (way better word than sneakers, I think) and, my hair is pulled up into a cute top spray. I’m wearing my Audrey Hepburn oversized sunnies… I tell you this so you too will have the same vision that she had. That way, you too should see my crest falling…
Which makes her talk even faster, and I hear her say:
“But really honey, you are so close, you are at least 80 percent. Yes, 80 percent for sure.”
Now. I don’t want you to misunderstand me. First, yes I was thunderstruck. And we’ll talk about that in few paragraphs, but I need you to know that I was so blown away by her blunt honesty and matter-of-fact brightness, that I kept talking to her and actually walked the rest of my morning hike with her (albeit more the stroll mode).
We parted ways at my home trail. I agreed to talk to her daughter and help her in any way that I could and when the subject of my career path came up (30 years in television, I know a thing or two about documentary filmmaking), she was overjoyed and proclaimed this meeting “meant-to-be.” I can’t lie, I felt that way too… I found out all kinds of interesting and wonderful things about her and, yes, we could be friends.
When I got home and told Mylove about the whole encounter, just as I was about to say her name, Mylove said it with me in stereo, “Oh, you met Lenka. She’s amazing, isn’t she? A brilliant light.” Hmmm, where have I heard that before? I guess it was meant to be, just as she said. And so I followed-up, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It feels weird after all that to confess that, as wonderful as it was, I was still… “unsettled.”
Okay, I promised, so here goes…
Eighty percent? Eighty? Eight-o percent-o. A solid “B.” A nice, “thank-you for playing” rating?
Eighty percent of what? Of womanhood? Of physical femininity? Of you’re almost there, but not quite? I’ve heard of measuring up… but really?
Why did this number rock my world? Well. It couldn’t have come at a more intense time or as they say, happen to a nicer girl. In the week leading up to this, I’ve had to endure whispers behind my back that the timing of my “choice” to be a woman was ill-timed. (This was from someone who should know how wrong at all levels that thought is.) I had direct in-my-face accusations that I haven’t “paid my dues – by working at sh*t jobs, like most women.” With these, I have no idea where to even start to correct these misconceptions. They are deep judgments that all my good deeds and my past efforts can’t seem to cleanse.
I was accused of conflating make-up, hair, and clothes with being a woman.
It doesn’t matter how many disclaimers I put out, this is the gum on my shoe that I can’t shake for love nor money. And, if I’m honest with myself, I have to confess that the number of references I make to the above, with all their requisite rationales and justifications, don’t quite add up to making the case for acquittal.
But, this was flung at me like the bag of trash that sprayed the feet of the teary Iron Eyes Cody, and… it hurt.
Do I celebrate my femininity every day with the way I now freely present myself to the world? Oh, heck yes! Do I still have a sense of urgency to make up for lost time? Without a doubt. Does it matter how I look? Well, yes honey, it does. Just as much as it does for the next girl: okay, maybe a little more enthusiastically than the average middle-aged woman, and just shy of obsessed, but not for the psychotic reasons that would land me in therapy. I care because I can now fully, freely, care about how I look. I can look into a mirror and see me. Caring and taking the time to do something about it does not define or confirm my womanhood, it glorifies it. My womanhood. Not yours or hers or Mylove’s. Mine. It also doesn’t say a thing about your womanhood. It doesn’t comment on what you should do or not do, just as yours doesn’t, mine.
Especially since it’s apparently only at 80%, anyway.
This was the frame of mind that was my “plus one” as I went to my friend Tarrah Von Lintel’s Art Gallery for the opening of Mark Seliger’s “On Christopher Street” Photography Show. My iPhone crapped-out on the way there, killing my GPS and sense of direction so much that I got horrifying lost. (I actually had to resort to orienteering survival skills, thanks, John Hudson.) Finally, I arrived 15 minutes before it closed (I missed about 80 percent of the show?) and, together with close to 300 people, I was taken by the portraits of transgender people who live in the Christopher Street neighborhood of New York. These portraits were stark black and white, with the soft-focused background urban textures, like armor worn proudly by these people. There were singles and duets; a quartet my favorite. They were from all walks of life, and all pure New Yorkers. The camera caught their steely, worldly, been-there stares. They are Loud. Proud. Out. 100 percent there.
The crowd appeared to my 80 percent perspective to be 50-50 percent “cis” to trans split. There was a spectrum of the trans community present. So many faces I had never seen before. I glommed on to my new BFF Ashlee (whom I met thru Tarrah), and she was a friendly life raft in a sea of anonymity. Ashlee,who was live on Facebook as I hugged her hello, spent the rest of my fifteen minutes introducing me to everyone who came with ten feet (she’s like that). And I met some amazing people, doing amazing work for our community. It was a vibrant, happy, hopeful vibe, and I was sorry when the lights began to go off, effectively “brooming us out “of the gallery as the show closed. As I drove home, I had to admit to myself that I haven’t really been involved in the LA community maybe as much I should be. I’m an author and speaker, darn it, helping the world understand our experience – and the world out there is so… big.
A few days later, I had lunch with Tarrah and we talked about this. Now, she is a solid pillar of grace and calm wisdom. She admitted she had never had such a happy, hopeful vibe at any of her openings before. As the conversation got deeper regarding my experience of the portraits, I confessed that as amazing as they were “technically,” some of them were actually a bit “on the nose” (LA speak for “expected,” i.e. clichéd) with regard to the transgender “narrative.” (Also LA speak, but also used by many to describe the commonly held belief that we think we invented it. But really, it’s a collective story we tell ourselves to document and ascribe meaning to our various groupings.) And by this I mean that there are several “tropes” (this one is ours – LA speak, I mean) such as “trans street walkers,” “trans overcompensators,” and “trans body alteration.”
To be transparent (I couldn’t – but maybe shudda – resist), the niggle in my tummy was that too often these tropes become truths – that is, they become “prejudices” or, at the least, “preconceived notions” about any sector of society. In this case, our trans community that can impede equality. That’s the fear anyway, and, I admit, it was sorta mine. It’s why GLAAD exists. It’s why we try to bust stereotypes of all kinds. It’s the first steps toward (my fingers are gagging on the word as they type), normalization. We’ll talk later about why, if I take a breath, I try to never buy into this fear or oversimplification, but for this post, Tarrah is the hero…
So without further ado…
Tarrah defended her choices (after all, she is the curator for the show, and those were her choices) saying that that was precisely why she chose the more provocative shots (a few were the professional sex workers in the neighborhood). These photos asked us all (especially trans people) to confront internalized transphobia. We are not the choices many of us have had to make to live – and we certainly better not be judging those choices as the measure of character. In our community, the hard options between life and obliteration are never easy, never cut-and-dried, never the easiest path. Our choices are never between being what we are and hiding. but rather, how we will live as who we are with the world often not only in our way but actually conspiring against us.
And, all of that, our history, our journey, our legacy, in the glare of the streetlamps was on display in all it’s glory in the denizens of Christopher Street. As Tarrah says, “These people completely owned their authenticity, 100 percent.”
Really. 100 percent.
Well then, and tell me you saw this coming if I’m 80 percent…?
Was that what Lenka was talking about? Did I just presume (shut-up, Tarrah) that she meant I was 80 percent woman when she meant I was 80 percent … trans?
80 percent authentic? 80 percent both? (Um, ain’t that 160 percent?)
Nah… I’m sure she meant… well, she must’ve meant… Come on, as a cis-woman, she had to mean… (Gosh darn you Tarrah! How dare you make me… think!)
Shoot, okay, so now, I’m confused. And why am I allowing myself to fling myself down this rabbit hole? Well, actually there’s a very good reason. Because that’s also who and what I am. When I realized that my real survival mechanisms weren’t the ones that had me believe that I could finish out this precious gift of life from God as “half of a man,” but were the ones that finally, blessedly kicked in when annihilation seemed truly imminent to live life as a whole woman.
But if Lenka’s right. Let’s say I am 80 percent. That means I still have work to do. What 20 percent should I start on? The woman part? The trans part? Both? (And never mind that I am already devoting all of me to working on both. As my writing partner always reminds me, the biggest room on the planet is the room for improvement.) So… it’s a poser, yes it is a real stickler.
Maybe Tarrah is right. Maybe I should get to work right away on that part that cares too much about what other’s think.
And in that case, maybe Lenka is right… I’m almost there.
My Godson’s name is Sam. He’s 24 years old. I have watched in awe as this precocious child grew to be an amazing man. Not so special, you say? Well this man was dragged through a knothole backwards called “Autism.” As I wrote in my book, through his parents tirelessly, selflessly (well, there’s just no adverb that adequately describes how they, and Sam) wrested his life from the cul-du-sac of society’s narrow-minded ways. Maybe it’s because they worked for Sam to live, instead, a rich and wonderful life. And lo’ and behold, when all was said and done (and yes, that word done is elastic too), Sam and fam live what some might actually accuse them of living,… a normal life (tho’ that’s a four-letter word in our world).
But, I won’t lie, we all had to learn how to live this life with Sam. There wasn’t a map and they were making it up as they went. But, it wasn’t hard to zip left or slide right as things changed. I myself have asked the world to change how they live with me. So, Sam and I, well, we’re alike that way.
Sally Joy, Sam’s sainted mother, has patiently guided me in my interactions with Sam until, I as a big girl, was able to do my part and develop my own relationship with Sam.
Now, I, or at least my work, have always had a special place in Sam’s world. My syndicated children’s TV show, “Pug And Zero’s Field Trip” was, for a long time, Sam’s “stim.” “Stimming” (some say it’s short for Self-Stimulation) is a term which refers to the default behavior that some on the autism spectrum use when social situations become confusing or uncomfortable. The person tries to calm themselves by making repetitive sounds or hand and body movements. In Sam’s case, he would recite an entire episode of P&Z from start to finish, including the commercials. Flattering, huh? It was until I realized that, if I tried to interact with him during these episodes, he wasn’t looking at me, but rather through me. If I interrupted him, he would start over from the very beginning.
But, as I said, Sally & Ed (Sam’s father) turned their entire life into learning how to be in Sam’s world, rather than allow his round peg to be slammed into the world’s square holes. And it started to work. Luckily, Pug and Zero would eventually become just another one of Sam’s favorite TV shows and it turned out to be a bit of inspiration (what every artist hopes for).
Sam became a filmmaker just like me, and earned the basic techniques of stop-motion animation and creating cartoons. He wanted to follow in my footsteps. As a teenager, Sam took on a gargantuan task of producing a “making of” featurette for the home video version of my indie-horror feature film, “the kiss.”
As one of his Godparents, of course I would make use of any opportunity to show my Godson how our business is run. Sam stood up for himself creatively, and threw tantrums where appropriate (that’s my boy!), and showed both potential and a maturing as an artist. The end result was a pretty good half-hour of television – with no excuse for his age or experience. The best part of this was being involved with Sam on a regular basis. And our relationship also started to mature.
The fog swept in, and Mylove and I had to deal with our own lives. Gender Dysphoria. Cancer. Turmoil… a tiny bit of chaos. Marcy and I had to circle our own wagons and cling to each other for dear life as the stagecoach careened passed the “bridge-out ahead” sign. We were heading for the… (sorry, I’ve run out plum out of western movie metaphors to paint the hardest years of our marriage with a sardonic wash). What I’m trying to say is that, as we braced for impact, we didn’t have a hand left to reach out to family and friends.
I was sad when Sally Joy confessed that they were hurt (tho’ they understood) by our silence. I realized, almost too late, that they were one of the inner circles that I forgot to have “the chat” with. (The chat is the formal, “hey, I’m a woman” phone call or, when lucky, face-to-face discussion, where we start the process of changing the pronouns for me in the hearts, minds, and mouths of those closest to me.)
I’ll just blurt it out right here: Sally Joy had a rough time processing my transition. So much so, that she had to paint me in order to understand me. (Her portrait of my FB profile pic, which announced my transition to the world, is on the cover of the first edition of my book, “Getting Back To Me”.)
But Sam didn’t have a rough time. It took him about 15 seconds to transition me in his heart. It blew me away how fast the speed of love is, and how much it bends the trees when it passes…
Fast forward to 2015.
Sam posted on his FB page – “Congrats to Bradley Whitford for his supporting actor Emmy as Marcy in Transparent.”
Now, you need to know that Sam has quite the connection to Bradley – dating back to his “The West Wing” days. Sam will say that it’s Bradley and his support of Sam back then, that made Sam want to get into acting (which he also does professionally, B-T-Dubs). Sam went on in his post to say that “here’s also a painting my Mom did of one of my Godmothers, Aunt Scottie, who is a trans woman.”
Insert crack of thunder here…
Why did I just feel the world shift on it’s axis?
Why did it strike me so hard?
I told both of us (you and me) how well Sam took the news about me and immediately recoded me in his wetware. I had already celebrated his acceptance.
So, why did this benign posting hit me like the proverbial “ton of bricks?”
Part of it was my survival software kicking in… “Captain! Radar shows extreme risk of negativity from a direct Facebook outing.” Battle stations? What? Permission to engage? Are you kidding? Do I still need to worry about the world knowing about me? Am I not over this? Should I be over this? Why does it matter?
Sam’s posting forced me to look at the dichotomy of my feelings. As I said in GBTM, I am a woman (no trans qualifier/prefix). I want the world to know me, regard me as a woman. When new people meet me, I don’t shake their hand and say, “Hi, I’m trans.” I want them, after meeting me to say to themselves, what an amazing woman. Or, hey that chick is pretty cool. Or, that lady is freakin’ smart. Or who’s that girl? Heck, I’ll take anything that celebrates and recognizes me for the woman I am.
AND, at the very same time, I always stand with my sisters and brothers in the trans community. I respect everyone’s right to identify as they see fit, just as I want that same respect from others.
Granted, to stay coherent in the dialogue, I do use the term trans as a short cut to describe my experiences when appropriate. It’s why I usually just say, speaking as a woman who was “Raised by Wolves,” I yada yada yada.
So I called Sam to have a chat about “it’s okay for me to say I’m trans, but it’s better if someone grants me the courtesy of asking me when they want to refer to me as trans, especially in print. Trust me, my words were already falling apart before I even said them. His posting was not only innocent, it was respectful and, freakin’ celebratory. My Godson was proud of me.
Sam, of course, was wonderful, and he got my dilemma right away – it clicked for him even as I fumbled and stumbled to make sense. He said that he faces a similar quandary when he gets described as an “autistic man,” rather than “justa” man.
We both agreed that we are proud of our pasts, but that we are not our pasts anymore. I admit that I do feel a little weird looking back or if I get reminded about my past. In the end, it was a fruitful. and heady, terribly intellectual conversation with my Godson, now a man, and we connected in a mature way – each bringing our experiences to the table as equals. It was truly magical and I was proud of my Sam.
But nothing prepared for the floor dropping out as I decided to steer the conversation into more personal waters.
I asked Sam about his girlfriend. She and Sam have been dating for almost two years. And I will confess, I, like most people, didn’t take young “relationships” in the family, seriously. I mean, they last for a semester at best, right? But when Sam & she passed the two-year mark, it got my attention… and Sam is smitten with her.
Sam has that amazingly, wonderful and dizzying relationship with “first love” as much as he does this particular young woman. As a young man who hasn’t had the traditional childhood and teen years of most people his age, Sam hasn’t ever had a serious relationship until she came along. And that means he hasn’t been tainted by heartache or by cynicism or by gender politics, and I hope he never is…
… but I was absolutely mesmerized by the timbre of his voice as he described how she makes him feel. I felt a buoyancy in my body that went straight to sweet and exhilarating vertigo, late summer sun sneaking through the clouds of an unseasonal rain, a fresh breeze blowing Zuzu’s chimes and Sam’s first love sparkling in the air like stardust, kinda dizzying.
I didn’t want what he had, I was just happy that he had it!
I wasn’t wishing I had that first love – I knew I had never lost it.
No, this was an “elder auntie” joy at reveling in her Godson’s joy.
And this was a new feeling –an incredibly subtle, yet amazingly powerful feeling that ripped through my entire body like lightning, and ocean waves, and morning breezes, and maple syrup.
And this is something that feels weird to admit out loud. We in the trans community try to explain our existence to a world that already doesn’t, for even a moment, get how or why we are. Explaining something with “born-again fervor,” like it’s the first time that emotion has ever been felt in the history of humankind, seems as if we have been in a sleeping beauty slumber, until estrogen’s kiss wakes us. Which seems at odds with the “I’ve felt this way my whole life.”
Well, if we did, then, why does it feel so new?
And why am I worried to say that out loud?
Because we are judged up one side and down the other more than many other groups. We already are confusing and don’t fit into anyone’s box. So, when our stories don’t add up, we are vulnerable to being dismissed, discounted and just plain dissed… each one a spokesperson to the circle we’re addressing of the entire trans experience. Talk about pressure. Talk about the exposure. Talk about inaccurate.
Yes. We are snowflakes. No one speaks for us all… but that doesn’t stop our being put in that position. By your mom. By your boss. By your neighbor who knows everything.
Your family & friends are trying their absolute best (mostly) to understand something that they have been told by life and society is un-graspable. So, when you hit on something that shines a light on an aspect that becomes clear for them, it’s understandable that they would try to apply that across the board.
That might work in almost every static case of circumstances, but never works in practical one-on-one human relations. Even those in the fields of psychology realize that the only thing they can predict about another human is that they will be unpredictable. Still, the human mind wants to hold them accountable for knowing.
We have watched our every word for our entire lives – weighing, worrying, dissecting. Will our words stand up to scrutiny? Will I pass muster? Will my words “out me?” Will I put everything I hold dear at risk; will I put my life at risk?
So… yes, it’s a tough habit to break. But it gets easier everyday.
Because I now live everyday in the pure light of sunshine’s embrace. And I grow a little more everyday. Watered and tended by the love of Mylove. Of my Sam. And those around me.
So, yes, Sam, I am:
One of your Godmothers.
Your Aunt Marcy’s love.
Your Aunt Scottie.
Sam, I am, Yours.
Well, well, well… 2017. Here. We. Are. And, B-T-Dubs, welcome! To my regular readers, thank you for the little Christmas break. If you missed the ending, it’s in the archives. Thank you for indulging me, letting me wax a little nostalgic and, most importantly recharging. Now, back to this blog, eh?
I will confess, that this experience can be a little like having an “online diary” that the world is welcome to peruse to their own peril. I am surprised at the things I will say with my fingers to seeming stranger, but you’re no strangers, you’ve decided to follow me. So I need to “bring it,” as they say, and make this worth your time. Opening a window into our marriage and the transformation its going through is hopefully worth everyone’s time. So, we have fearlessly put on our crash helmets and pulled down the roll cage, as Bette Davis is often misquoted as saying, ”it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” So with that, let 2017’s wild rumpus start!
Beauty & the Breast –
One thing I need to make sure every reader understands of my experience is that it is (proudly) the perspective of a woman married for coming up on 28 years.
Marriage is everything everyone says it is.
And if you’re like me, you’ve gone through some very interesting stages and changes (okay, I hear you snickering – I’m talking about the “expected changes” – oxymoron if never there was one – that everyone faces over the course of a human life, silly). These stages or changes have certainly changed the lens through which I view life. I had an arrogance about our accomplishment at ten years of marriage that was way gone by year 20. The longer I’ve been married, the more talking about it or thinking about makes even less sense… and, yet, paradoxically, it makes oh-so-much more (sense).
I can’t imagine not being married.
Really… and I have been making a living imagining the impossible into existence, dreams into reality and (with reality) foretelling the future. Seriously. (But then, foretelling the future with today’s reality show “talent” is like shooting fish in a barrel, and is not even on par with a good card trick.) So reality, I just cannot imagine not being married.
And that’s only because of Marcy. Mylove.
I can’t imagine not being with her for even a day, and with all the powers of my imagination, I certainly just can’t conjure a world where she and I are not in it, together.
Through fighting her cancer, and lovingly transforming our marriage that started as a seemingly cis-hetero “traditional” marriage into a love affair between two women wedded in more bliss (if that was even possible) than ever before, everything we’ve done, was done together. Including the creation and nurturing of the greatest relationship in human history.
But as two middle-aged women, this isn’t as easy as anyone wants to make it. Nor is it something either of us is proud to admit. And surprisingly (at least to this girl), the big things have always been easy – the choices are clear and the action (or inaction) relatively defined. Sorry, newlyweds, but it’s the small things that trip you up. Maybe It’s that, as you get older, you get less willing to put up with less, more willing to expect more, and you both know how to get it, from each other – both good and bad. The danger is that we are also quicker to slip into the kindergarten mentality that less for you means more for someone else, and vice reverse. Marriage is the knowledge that that “zero sum” bullshit is just that, and has no place in marriage. Less for you is never more for her. And yet more for you can mean less for her – and why oh why would anyone in love want that?
Okay, so, now you can add the layer of our transition (see what I mean? We do everything together). As I continue to grow into the woman I am, blossoming and developing and yes, changing right before her very eyes, we’ve stubbed our toes on some surprising bumps in the road.
And since the cat is literally out of the bag (at least here) that I am going to have GCS, this example takes on a certain poignancy that has us both nodding and scratching our heads.
First of all, some context for those of you just joining this show. Yes, I am physically changing and nobody has watched this with as much fascination and, let’s be real, trepidation, as Mylove. Her knight in shining armor has already been riding sidesaddle. The arms that have held her, the chest that has pressed against hers, the face that she studied, the hair that she has run her hands through for all these years – the man she thought she had married has curves and softer skin, hips, a waist… and yes. Breasts.
Soon, there won’t be anything male left.
And as dramatic as all this is to Marcy,When I stare into the mirror the woman who stares back at me is … well, let’s say, yes, she’s working very hard, and God has blessed her with certain, “charms,” but…
Let’s take a moment here to look at that “but.”
Because it’s a “bone of contention” between trans women and cis women, that frankly seems very odd to me. And this is important because in the abstract, every cis-woman seems to agree with us trans gals – we all have physical “flaws” we either wish we could fix, or, have stopped looking at (or, yes, even really figured out a way to just not care about). Our physical appearance is a bizzillion dollar industry fed by media, society (and yes, biology). That this is true is the subject of countless books, films, talks, and mother-daughter chats, and is usually not in dispute. In 2017, this is something that we as all women have started to make some in-roads into getting men to understand. The ugly truth is we as women are just not raised not to care about how we look. And despite everything Gloria taught us, and we are trying to make true about our worth, we are still objectified, judged, sexualized and scrutinized for it.
Trans women have all that AND we are coming from behind the power curve. Our bodies have been saturated in testosterone – our bones and muscles, skin and everything else has been bombarded into an image that for many is a massive mountain to scale toward feminine form. Not only is that a hair on our chin, but it’s a chin chiseled by testosterone! To top that off, we haven’t been raised or taught any sort of acceptance of ourselves, only complete and total surrender. And lastly (unless we go the showgirl route), we aren’t taught the tools to “make-do” with what we got.
Try accepting that.
It’s not possible (for this girl anyway), and it’s why the walls eventually fell.
A confession here – some cis-women try to make it “okay,” with any efforts we make toward feminizing our appearance, making exceptions to beauty’s rules for us because, well, for all the reasons above. Yes, thank you, and we love you for trying – but… no.
So, that’s the backstory when I or my sisters say… I really need to change this about me…
And as I work to retake my body from the ravages of testosterone through hormones, exercise, diet, and eyeliner, and yes, surgery, I guess all I’ve ever been asking is please understand what that really is – or rather what it’s not – vanity. It’s not a misunderstanding. I’m not misguided.
No. A surgeon won’t make me a woman. God already did that. An endocrinologist can’t make me a woman. God already did that. Cosmetics and wardrobe don’t make me a woman.
God did that.
So, with all that in mind, we now return you to our regularly scheduled marriage. A marriage that was love at first sight for both us. But, she was married at the time. So, instead we got to know each other as friends, and when fate thought it was finally time to intervene, it struck us like a thunderbolt. Throughout our marriage, just like the very first time I laid eyes on her, Marcy’s beauty would always bring tears to my eyes, and over time my regard for her physical beauty and sexuality and sensuality has been burnished deeper by passion, love, respect and is and always has been – as brilliant as a thousand suns.
As I transform, I’m learning that she was enraptured by the little things about me – the strength in my hand as it effortlessly balanced and (simultaneously operated) a broadcast video camera on my shoulder. The ways my eyes focused on any obstacle, the way light played across my “cute Lil Polska nose” (don’t ask – I’m Polish and Finnish on my mother’s side… and well it’s a long story). But, and here’s the punchline – she admits that I’m way cuter as a woman.
That said, she has never been attracted to women, whereas I have only been attracted to women. So my transformation right before her very eyes, tho’ interesting, is not what she ever wanted in a partner. And tho’ she wasn’t blown away by masculine form, she was attracted to the overall package.
And here’s where it gets surprising and… a little dicey. Because as I start to mature into the woman I am, and get more confident with what I want and how I want to be, I’m developing my own sense of style and self.
Previously (and by that I mean, over close to three decades of romance and daily life), Marcy had been the arbiter of all things woman. She had set the bar for what was and was not desirable and acceptable in the world of femininity. And, this, I can say, is how it should be. Yes, there are too many times when a woman will give up what she wants to make her mate (man or woman – we’re not discriminating here) happy. We’re talking about maintaining the laws of attraction, right? It’s a two-way street. But someone is driving the car if you catch my drift. In a perfect relationship, both are driving together in the same direction… what someone is or has or wears or accentuates or whatever is attractive to their lover.
I will confess that this did take me a few years to figure out. Early in our marriage, I bought what I would want to see Marcy in (and soon to be out of) which was not always how she would want me to see her (and certainly not what she wanted to wear or take off. Period). Over time, she helped me see how she views her body and her beauty, which like many women is both the product of trial and error, personal taste, and a dash of history. And, like many women, is defined as much by what she wants to wear as by what she would never be caught dead in.
Because I am a woman, tho’ she didn’t know it at the time, I understood… perfectly, eventually. Remember, a lot of a woman’s upbringing isn’t done out in the open, certainly not in our day. Propriety and modesty are hallmarks of the feminine world. “A lady has her secrets.” “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” “This is just between us girls.” Mystery cloaks the things that boys frankly think are too icky to want to know.
Marcy was and should be in charge of her. And that was the standard of beauty in our home. She took great pride in her natural beauty – very little make-up, comfortable clothes, health, sunshine and yoga lifestyle. Now, let’s be real here. She looks freakin’ amazing even if, as my father would say, she wore a burlap sack. Nobody can ever guess her age. But her beauty comes from meticulous care of herself for over fifty years – and great genes. She has eschewed the beauty trends throughout five decades because she never wanted her beauty to be depended on any technique or product. No hair coloring, no nail polish nothing toxic in anyway. She never needs much to light up a room. And this is not just my opinion… tho’ it is my experience. She is beauty incarnate.
But now, there’s two sets of hands on that steering wheel… in that car careening down Beauty Blvd.
And the other set is an enthusiastic newbie who never, ever thought she would live this dream come true and is going to make darn sure, she gets the most out of every moment she still has left.
I never thought I could rock a set of acrylic nails.
I never dreamed I could color my hair to a color I actually wanted.
Tho’ I am an artist, I never believed that I could draw a black winged swoosh on my eyelids, or that it would actually look… darn… adorable? Nah… it’s, dare I say… actually… sexy?
Yes, I could wear pants. Women do wear pants. Yes, Katherine Hepburn looks killer in pants. Marcy rocks pants like nobody’s business, all my women friends wear pants! But I’ve worn them every day for fifty years – four-letter-word, pants, and dayam if I… holy moly, I got my mother’s gams! Gimme the miniskirt!
And yes, heels. Hell yes heels! I hear all the essays about how they are a symbol of this and that but, FOR ME – they represent freedom. So, yes, I can wear them, thank God.
And… yes, I’ve been blessed with being Monday’s child and will not have to resort to FFS. But, and here’s another confession, I did draw the line after permanent lip liner, well I didn’t draw it – Layla my aesthetician did – and my lips are fuller now (I also got my mom’s lips, can’t have everything, I suppose).
But… here comes the surprise. Marcy actually liked the lip liner. That’s not the surprise. She does roll her eyes at some of my skirt lengths – but she will admit, if pressed, that I do actually have the legs to pull most of them off.
No, the surprise came when I announced that I was going to see if I could also get breast augmentation when they did my GCS. (This a common practice for a lot of trans women – same recovery time, but one less trip under anesthesia, and it gets done all at once.)
Now, this, for every woman is a very personal decision. Hormones have done a very good job at giving me “the girls,” but, they are still on a skeleton that was constructed with testosterone for many years. And proportionally, they could use some… well, augmentation.
Marcy was silent for a very long time.
I know, this is never a good sign.
But also, I’ve (THANK GOD) learned something very important during this transition. My words aren’t ever going to change her feelings. And I’m an idiot if I think that’s even desirable – really. You win the fight but lose the support – now, how bad did you really want what you were fighting for?
Finally, she confessed that I can do what I want, but she’s saying this out loud – she’s not sure she can deal with touching ‘fake boobs.”
So… I swallowed all of the stuff that was wrestling to be the first to shoot out of my mouth… she is okay, even supportive, and really understands how critically important it truly is that I will undergo GCS. A major, life-changing, world altering irreversible surgery. But… and, there’s that but again, she is not okay with “cosmetic” surgery.
I decided to try to understand what she was saying.
- She really means it. She never thought she would ever touch breasts, let alone artificial ones. Her imagination ruled her feelings. Arguing this was ridiculous. I didn’t even try – I truly had no idea what it would feel like to have them, how could I argue how they would feel to her?
- She was also subtly displaying transition fatigue (I just made that up – if it isn’t a thing, it should be). I know I’ve pushed her waaaaaaay past her series of “nevers,” the seemingly endless series of my finish lines that seem to be pulled right out in front of her as she is desperately trying to just break the goddamned tape. Yes, it has to suck.
And while both of those are true – what’s also becoming clear is that I’m becoming (or at least heading in the direction of) the woman Marcy adamantly swore she would never be… and, in fact, for many years this was something we both agreed on. Now, She’s not judging women that do any of the above. They do that in their lives, and we “used to never” do that in ours. But, here we are, her love, her own “honey” is swan-diving into all things never…
I get it.
Woman to woman, I appreciate that this could be taken as a slight of the woman Marcy is. As if she’s somehow not good enough. Like she’s not the kind of woman I admire enough to want to be. She could say that she has “brought me up right” – teaching me the things that only women know about their bodies and beauty and self-image. So, why wouldn’t I honor that by being that same kind of woman. Her kind of woman.
Instead, it would seem, I’m the other woman.
But we’re in love. And in her defense, this is unlike other relationships – she didn’t “pick” me (in my current form) as people pick each other in the so-called “normal” way. Normally, two people meet each other, see something they like on some level, fall in love and decide to be in a relationship. Marcy met Scott, fell in love, decided to get married 27 years ago, and um… well, Scottie, well, let’s just say that she became “not the man” Marcy married. But she is, and always will be the person Marcy fell in love with.
So, yes, I’m the other woman. The key here will be balancing my drive to be the woman I always swore I’d be, while remaining attractive to my lover. Yes, she will (already has) accepted me fully and totally. But that’s not attraction. Attraction is that x-factor that gives love a place to sing and dance. How do you change what you are attracted to? Women have had to do this throughout our existence. In traditional marriages, we’ve had to be okay that our men got fat and bald (while maintaining our figures for him), so it’s a skill we’ve developed. But that puts it on Marcy, and that’s not how we do things around here.
All I can say at this point is… this isn’t settled by a long shot. Work in Progress as they say on the set.
Work in Progress, indeed.
I’ve been trying to come up with an elegant way of starting this week’s post… but it’s hard to type as outrage and incredible sadness arm wrestle for access to the launch tubes…
And… like a horrifying number of women in this country who’ve had to deal with having their scars suddenly and unceremoniously ripped open during these past two weeks (two weeks?????), I have to speak up. We have, without coordination, nor cohesion, all come to the same conclusion, and realized that despite the pain, and shame, and, for god’s sake, please get this! fear, it’s time to step forward.
I too, am a victim of sexual abuse.
As a trans woman, I kept this buried so very deep, because I already have to battle the gnats and mosquitos of the misinformed, the ignorant, and the downright idiots who believe that their beliefs somehow overrule my existence. They think they can deny me and my identity. They can ignore science (look, we all get why there are climate deniers out there. You make your money from fossil fuels – we knew that. So we’ve never ever given credibility to your denial. But unlike your sick cousins, the trans-deniers, your denial is “just business”). But you both can stop now; you can stop ignoring the U.S. Government, the world’s health and medical minds – you can stop trying to somehow use your beliefs to make fiction into fact. You can stop thinking that your opinion is right and valid when applied to me and my existence. Just stop.
Knowing that I am already helping push Sisyphus’s rock up that hill, I am loath to let any armchair psychologist weigh-in on or re-write my origin story. I was trans before any abuse. The abuse was not, and could not be, responsible for anything other than the pain of being abused.
I am also compelled to help explain to the non-humans out there that the reasons why victims don’t come forward when it happens is…
Their own fucking reasons!
In my case, I was reading Janet Mocks’ book, “Redefining Realness,” and it opened that door that I closed so long ago. Tied-up in a knot of identity and sexuality and childhood confusion, I had been successful at convincing myself that there hadn’t been sufficient evidence to accuse him; that it was probably a “one time only” thing for my abuser. I had to face the fact that, tho’ my gender dysphoria was able to blow down the walls of its prison (once a month it turns out), I had been successful at burying my sexual abuse so far under that prison, that I almost forgot it was there…
Except that it was there. A crack in the foundation that makes every strut bend a little out of plumb. Casts a little bit of a shadow over things. A thorn in my heart where love is supposed to be.
But I must have gotten stronger through my transition, because I was able to say it out loud. I was able to tell Mylove. My lover. The one with whom I share my body and soul. I am…
This… happened to me.
It was a trusted man. My family trusted him, allowed him to take me and my friends places, sleep over at his house. Now, this man was in his twenties. He was a role model, or so my parents thought. He studied hard and became a paramedic. I went to his family’s house many times, and all of my friends would come too. We went to the movies and camping and all the things that are “great things” for boys.
I knew him for about 5 years when, one night, my best friend T and I spent the night. And he suggested that, rather than camping out in his living room (like usual), why don’t we all share the bed? T came from a family with brothers and didn’t seem to think it was weird. So why should I?
I woke out a sound sleep to feel someone moving my hand. When I realized what was happening, it was too late. I jerked my hand back and felt a reassuring hand stroking my forehead saying I had just had a bad dream… just go back to sleep. It happened again, and the same reassuring hand caressed my forehead, the same whisper, once again telling me I was the one who had a bad dream… and all this without a word from me, as I lay there shivering…
The other part I buried, and I still can’t believe I did this, was that my best friend was also a victim. The next morning, T was curled up on the couch in the living room. I asked, “when did you leave?” But his reason was mumbled as our host made breakfast. It wasn’t until the following day that T could tell me that he had woke up with his hand where it shouldn’t be. And he immediately sought refuge in the living room.
Needless to say, things were never the same after that.
I realized after talking to Mylove about it, I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Mylove said all the right things I guess I was craving to hear – It wasn’t my fault, etc.
But the truth was, I never gave myself permission to be the victim, because I didn’t think I had a right to say I was “Abused,” since I’m not sure how far my bad dream went. And in retrospect, I’m not sure how much I actually buried… was it a single night? Did I let this happen more than once? Why had T been strong when I had not? He took control, I pretended to sleep. He never saw our friend again… I… can’t be sure when I stopped seeing our friend. Geezus, how much have I buried? And why am I still trying to downplay it?
I have to hold on to the handrail of rationale – the ways we all react to each situation are our own – there is no way anyone can ever say, “you should’ve done it this way,” particularly in the realm of abuse.
The criteria for credibility was not created by us – it was imposed onto us by those WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN ABUSED – WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO JUDGE??????
There is no statute of limitation on pain, on suffering, on the degree of pain or suffering. There is not a GOD DAMNED THING THAT WILL EVER EXCUSE OR FORGIVE THIS ABUSE OF POWER.
And before you start handing out ironic “thank yous” to some candidate/abuser for bringing the public’s awareness to this hideous problem, just stop that too. This has been going on for centuries, but it can stop here. We should all join hands with the brave women (and some men) who’ve stepped forward. And while we’re at it, stop playing partisan games. This is not a political issue. This is a fundamental human issue. We have to teach our children that this abuse of power is never okay. We cannot allow the abuse of anyone to continue, not even one more second. And we cannot allow the abuse to be swept into the other political issues that will be the first things we’re happy to ignore once this presidential race is over.
So what will we do? How will we heal this?
In a world where Brock Peters only gets 6 months for the brutal campus rape of Elizabeth Smart because he’s “suffered enough” losing his Stanford swimming scholarship and being labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life. In the wake of that, a Montana man, Martin Blake, gets SIXTY DAYS (????) for repeatedly raping his daughter, because he, too, had already “suffered enough” with 17 days in jail and losing his job.
I wonder what that really is?
As many women across our country, I am dealing with the torn flesh of an old wound.
I can find comfort in Mylove’s arms. Mylove, who has dealt with those times when men crossed the line with her. A child of the sixties, Mylove grew-up with every other woman (and man) believing that “boys will boys” and women just have to be okay with that. But she’s also the woman who had her nose bloodied by an ex-boyfriend and turned into a wolverine, wiping her blood on his shirt as she proceeded to shred his chest with her nails.
She has had to deal with a lot of revelations from me and about me. And this one about my abuse, I’m sure, was maybe as heart-stopping as discovering that she had married a woman. As I laid bare my wounds, as I came forward to speak up about how I had been sexually abused, she looked deep into my eyes and soothed my hurt and confusion, shame and guilt, with a simple salve.
She listened and held my hand as I looked at the fear in my shadows. She stood beside me as I gathered my courage to look all the way at it.
She asked what could she do? She hugged me while I cried.
No judgment. No should’ves, could’ves, or would’ves.
And then she asked if I thought maybe I needed to check in with T and let him know I had been abused that night too… as the tears began once again to well up. Once again, she knows me better than I know myself. She knows that this would tear me up. She let me cry it all out.
It’s a weird wrestling match between anger and sadness. And the tears come in waves. And when it looked like I was running out of steam… MyLove started throwing pecans down my cleavage to lighten me up! I can always count on her to bring me out of the tailspin…
She’s right. The pecans are a gentle way to bring my attention back to the present. A way to ask, “what now?” Really, what now? How will we all heal? How do we make sure this can’t happen again?
Well, we can start by saying we don’t support this, don’t condone this, never, ever will we excuse this…
… at the ballot box on November 8th.
Last week was one of my favorite Indian festivals; Navaratri, The nine nights of the Goddess. I don’t have space to go into what it all means, but the point you need to know is that it celebrates the Divine Feminine, and as one of the newest girls on the team, I’m all in. Finally.
So, there are lotsa ways Mylove and I celebrate this sacred time in our house, but one of the simplest is mere “remembrance,” a yogic practice of holding someone or something sacred in your heart and mind and allowing the blessings of the memories and thoughts to reverberate through your entire being. You can do this in even the most mundane of your daily activities, turning each one into a sacred ritual, rich with meaning and experience.
One morning, I was using my ab(dominal) wheel and truly relishing each time I rolled out into a pranam (a reverential bow) and realizing that I was actually doing it toward our MahaLaxmi Puja, the altar in our bedroom devoted to the Goddess of abundance, wealth, and beauty, and smiling inside that I am that Goddess. It hit me, I’m checking off all the “never woulds, never coulds and never shoulds” almost every day since I came out. There is now, nothing out of my reach or forbidden to me – if I wanna cry at movies, call everyone “honey,” wear an evening gown, go window shopping at Sephora, or be President of the United States, now I can, because I’m a woman!
Now, those of you who’ve been with me here at “Raised By Wolves” since the beginning, know that I wrestle with the sublime to the ridiculous almost every day. And anyone who knows Alexandra Billings knows she’s set the bar very high about what and where we place our attention. But you also know that I’m going thru my second puberty and reveling in the simplest freedoms like wearing lipstick and lace, and any of the other previously forbidden fruits. I am the biggest cheerleader for “a little extra sumpin’- sumpin” a touch more bling, a bit more sparkle… you might not only live once, but this is the only version of you you’ll get this go around and, as many have said, life’s too short for bad coffee, no lipstick, or pulling back for any reason. We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog…
I’m using the ab wheel, remember?
I was really feeling the deeeeeeep stretch of each pranam, and wallowing in the glory of really feeling, not only comfortable in my skin, but great in it. Here I was, 45 pounds lighter and yet waaaaay stronger and fit and maybe, just maybe, able to wear a… bikini soon. It’s the first time I’ve ever, ever dared allowed myself to even allow that thought to form…
As I looked up from one more amazing, deep stretch I saw my long manicured nails (rocking a rather bold mother-of-pearl finish) and giggling with glee that my hands looked so… so…
…and it hit me, or rather rumbled from deep inside of the bottom of the deepest vein that runs to the depth of the physicality of my being… an earthquake of joy and love and gratitude.
I am a woman… I… made… it.
Deep wracking sobs kept rum-tumbling out, over and over and over. I’m talking snot-bubbles, burning eyes, the whole shootin’ match… not even trying to avoid the drool pooling on my yoga mat, I let go of the wheel and curled into the fetal position.
I felt my subtle being rising above my fetal self.
“Look at me, I’m crying that deep cry that I’ve waited for an entire lifetime!”
“Wait, what are we doing out here? Don’t wanna miss this… get back in there and let go, girl!”
“Is this what they would call deep soul cleansing? (And where did phrase come from anyway? Some cheap novel?)”
“NO! It’s what they say when… what are you doing?”
“Shut-up! You’re missing this!”
“Right, good idea, okay, I’m heading back in there…”
“Well, stop talking and go!”
And then, I was able to really let go. And I swan dived backward into a waterfall of tears… and it was… amazing. I have no idea how long I was there, I can only mark time by the river of tears spilling from my mat to the floor.
When I finished, I stood up and staggered upstairs and looked at Marcy like I’d both stepped out of a torrential downpour and a two-hour mediation…
What happened to you?
So I told her.
The physical changes of gender transition are sometimes the only part that anyone seems to care about. I’ve had my theories about why this is, for others, and for me. Those are the measuring sticks for the “one little victories” that literally track the progress of all of the hard work, and I mean hard (oh, honey, just one of the procedures would horrify the strongest of the strong), that is now, part of my daily life. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s… worth it.
Once you begin to understand the mind-body-heart connection as deeply as we do, you’ll understand why this is one path of the journey that many of us have to take. It’s the only way to remove the thorn that’s festered in our psyche for most of our lives.
But that’s not what any of this is really about for any of us. It’s an odd lot. Our maturity gets kicked into hyper drive as our bodies step into a wormhole of our second puberty. Yes, it’s like Syfy. And there’s nothing that can prepare you for what that feels like. But it is what we signed up for. And learning to dance with biology while trying to be who we’re supposed to be: both true to ourselves, as we are true to the society that hates us, doesn’t understand us, objectifies us, reviles us, AND loves us, supports us, is intrigued by us, learns from us, is inspired by us… makes daily life a non-stop adventure.
And the who we are is, as Alexandra reminds us, the most important and interesting to talk about.
This is the number one topic around our house, lately. And Marcy and I are continually looking at all the things that have changed in the last two years. Now, before we proceed, many people refer to this as “Scottie’s transition,” which is inaccurate for a number of reasons – chief of all, as a married woman of close to 30 years, it’s our transition if anything. But we all like to have something to mark time with, so just between us girls, we call it “since vitamin E” (for estrogen). This doesn’t connote when I came out because the chaos and false starts that all crashed into one another at that time have blurred the start of it all, except, of course, the ending of that chapter of our life and the beginning of now.
“Since vitamin E” marks, instead, the beginning of feeling good, feeling right, feeling like me. Truly me. The me without an asterisk. The me without apologies, compromises or masks.
We always joke that, after almost 3 decades together (29 years, last April 29th, for the mathemagicians out there), it’s about time some of those little annoyances that plague every couple, were gone by now. But something (stubbornness?) in both of us, keeps many of them alive.
Not so, however, on Vitamin E.
The other day, Marcy came out of the bathroom with tears in her eyes, “Oh my God!” I asked, “Mylove, what’s wrong?” She shook her head and stammered, “Not only did you replace the toilet paper, but you put it on so the sheet comes over the top!”
And before you ask, the toilet seat is always down in our house (but it has been since my childhood, a mom and three sisters in the house, I wasn’t stupid back then either).
I put out the trash cans the other night, and when I came back in, Marcy was thunderstruck. “Oh, my god! You were quiet!” I was a bit bewildered, apparently, the “dude” that used to live with her (some arrogant schmuck named Scott) thought it didn’t matter if you made a ruckus late at night in the neighborhood. How inconsiderate…
I’m kidding, sorta. In a marriage or long time, committed relationship, theses seemingly inconsequential events are the shorthand for decades-long debates and decisions.
And as funny as those things are, the real changes since Vitamin E to our relationship are subtler, yet incredibly powerful. As a woman, I feel every change of the winds well before we get around a bend. And tho’ I’d love to think I was always attuned to Mylove’s frequencies, Vitamin E has cranked up the volume, and I can sense her shifting moods from three area codes away. But importantly, I know why her moods shifted in the first place, why it’s a big deal, what the ramifications could be, and most importantly, I know what is necessary for me to do with all of this. (Hey boys, take note here, sometimes it’s nothing).
Now, am I saying that Vitamin E is like sapho juice, giving us increased superpowers? Thufir Hawat would say heightened potential (Dune anyone? Anyone?). But for me, who’s first and only natural dose came in utero, the reintroduction into my life of “E” has shut down the panic-stricken screaming that I had to strive for decades to become deaf to, the pleading and, eventually, faint gnawing whisper that came from being imprisoned in someone else’s life. It vanished almost the moment estrogen returned to my veins. And with it, the entire security apparatus built to contain the prisoner’s mere existence was also gone – freeing up about 70 percent of available energy resources.
So, call it operating (finally) at full capacity.
But, even more than that, I have a clear view and no pebbles in the fertile soil that is my consciousness. My petals are fully opened to the sun’s rays, and now I have so much more to give to the one I love. And so much more to receive. And that’s the biggest change in our relationship. We both are so much more there for each other. We, who were already a model of a loving marriage, no longer are pretending we don’t, or can’t, understand each other. We have always been speaking not only the same language, but the same exact dialect. But, I could never admit that before, and Marcy could never pretend to understand.
So, if we suddenly stop making sense to each other, we each know it’s because we won’t understand each other.
And that’s a horse of a different color altogether.
Luckily, neither of us has, especially since vitamin E, had the patience, desire or tolerance to waste whatever precious time we have in each other’s arms and hearts, especially if it’s because of any self-inflicted stupidity.
And I guess, I’d like to think I’ve always been that kinda girl. But then again…
… I did use to put the toilet paper on backward… just for fun.
I said, used to.
I’m on a plane flying out of Burbank airport. It’s Wednesday, September 21st. We shot down the runway heading west and as we lifted into the sky we took a graceful sweeping, high banking turn to the right and headed east…
I’m heading to Arizona. I’m a blender of emotions. Joy. Excitement. Tears. Fears.
I’m not turning back; I’m heading in the right direction.
I’m hours away from talking to a surgeon. My surgeon. For my surgery. Yes, surgery. The surgery. That surgery. Gender Confirmation Surgery.
I am writing this in real time. This is a day… well, it’s a day I never thought would come. I’m not using those words lightly. This isn’t a day long looked for, a day, like Christmas, graduation, or even my wedding day. No. This is a day that I never believed could ever come.
As the cabin pressure clutches my head, I feel a need to sleep (the natural Madden safety “override” when things are beyond intense), but I’m also driven to document my state–heck yes, this is big decision. Mylove and I just gave a lecture that took extra time to make this politically/emotionally/intellectually-charged subject as plain (as could be) to a class of 100 bright-eyed, budding psychologists at Cal State Channel Islands only yesterday…
… I guess it’s on my mind.
Who am I kidding? Certainly not you, dear reader. You know better. You know me better. You, faithful reader, to whom I’ve spelled-out in my book, a word, the word, that has glimmered and winked out on the horizon of farthest reaches of the inner universe of my life. And this word is…
My relationship with this word is… well, it’s the chimera of my life. It’s lion’s head and dragon’s body, has shape-shifted almost as many times as the infamous “it” (dysphoria) that I also described in “Getting Back To Me.” It’s a word that started out as a known but distant throb. Then, for a while, became a siren’s call, threatening to dash my life on the rocks of doom. Then faintly as a distant beacon in the darkness, before finally shredding the clouds into vast ribbons, as courage and Grace blazed into my life.
But it does demand some attention as the giddiness of sunlight warms my skin. I have, as a student of yoga, been more than casually aware of karma, destiny, fate and kismet. None of these are the same, it turns out, for me or anyone. And with almost thirty years of study, I can’t confuse these. Karma, in the true yogic sense of the word, actually has three flavors. One you brought with you into this lifetime. One you created in this lifetime and are experiencing with every perceived new moment, and continue to create in this lifetime with every thing that you do with that moment. The last is the “bolt of lightning” that seemingly comes from out of nowhere, but that is still a reaction to your past actions. (I know, me, too. I have yet to understand the differences between number three and the other two, but then again, I’m “justa” student, I don’t pretend to be an expert). In simpler terms, karma is action and reaction, creating action… and reaction… demanding more action than reaction, if one’s on one’s game.
To me, the above mental pretzel is important because it’s how I’ve tried to understand this lifetime. The first flavor of karma was what I thought my life which had been, was going to be.
A sentence, if you will, a prison-term I could do nothing about. A destiny, if you will, that was going to be “as best as could be expected.” The spiritual equivalent of “bless your heart.” A mediocre life that would be marked by good deeds and noble acts, by the love I made, rather than received… that would earn me a better go next time. A better life could be mine next time in exchange for the effort I put forth this time.
But God did give me a mind. And a heart. And this life. The next life was a gamble. How could I sell this life and Mylove short? No. I couldn’t give up. I wouldn’t give up. And as many of you who have heard me write (hang with me), the she that is me staged an explosive escape. She didn’t just pick the lock on her dungeon doors, she blew up the castle.
But, as dramatic as that sounds, it didn’t solve all of my life.
Which brings me to the other two flavors of karma. And that’s where it’s gets murky.
Am I charging toward inevitable because of karma I created or karma I’m creating?
Was I always going to heed inevitable’s whisper or am I’m creating its call?
Was this path I’m now running down as fast as I can, making up for years lost, trying to live the years left by taking a hard right turn, always going to be my path?
Or did I just suddenly wake up and am now seeing the road clearly for the first time, and choosing this path consciously.
Well, Geezus when you put it that way, what idiot would confess to the former?
So there. I guess I just answered my own question. And I guess it’s so, cuz I have both duck bumps and tears.
Maybe it’s why I can’t help but be open, very open, almost too open about what I’m doing. I’m passionate about living this thing called life to the fullest. Now that I know what compromising oneself (I used to say checking my swing for you baseball fans) actually feels like–how insidious it really is as the water gently warms around you and you have no idea that you’re being lulled by this bath that is actually soup. And you are the main ingredient. Your life got past you. And you didn’t even know it as the ball went between your legs…
No. I won’t have it. At least I wouldn’t have it, which why the walls fell as the dragon who once guarded the hostage blew down the battlements, and this damsel jumped aboard the scaly back, took the reins and soared…
But here’s the thing. This is just me.
As I’ve gotten further out into the world as … well, as me, the girl who was raised by wolves (if you gimme a sec I think I can cram a few more metaphors into this before we get to the end), I find myself speaking about and to the issues of our community. In the readings and lectures Mylove and I have been devoting our lives to, I feel responsible when I’m at the megaphone.
So here goes:
We in the trans community are not our bodies. Yes, we love all that goes with glorifying and celebrating our physicality; from Buck Angel’s tats and pecs to Laverne Cox’s curves and hair, to Jenny Boylan’s specs and class, to Liz Bornstein’s bohemian flair…
… but none of those great people are their bodies. What they have done is what everyone who lives, does. They live. They have bodies. They care for them, clothe them, adorn them.
And for the outside world we know it looks confusing. We have been at odds with our own bodies for too long in most every case, so when we turn that around, it looks like we ourselves are consumed/obsessed by them. You have no idea how traumatic looking at (or not looking as was my case) my image in the mirror, because its reflection merely showed the walls of my prison. So now that I actually like how I look, I love that woman who stares back at me. It’s relief beyond compare.
So, we all fiercely guard our right to govern our bodies and our privacy. Let’s be clear. GCS is not a requirement. It is not an achievement or measuring stick. No one is “more trans” than anyone else—not because of hormones or medical procedures, suffering, trials or any other outside criteria.
And we can’t care if the cis world understands. It isn’t for them to decide anyway.
But here’s why we all politely demure to privacy or out-and-out call you out when you cite your curiosity as the excuse for being rude: when you ask that question you are suddenly making us inhuman. You are asking a question whose answer is reserved for lovers and doctors, and you are neither if you are asking. Because you would know the answer if you were one of those. You would have earned our trust to know that answer, and we would’ve told you.
We are not our bodies, but your question shows you don’t get this. You are making my genitals the subject of your curiosity. Cis people seem to be offended that we would keep this secret from them. Hmm.
So there it is… but my flight’s about to touch down at Sky harbor. More later!
As we wait to taxi to the gate (bizzy day at Sky harbor) I am also parked emotionally. I am on the verge of tears, but there’s an exhilaration in the water. I’m worried that I spent so much time writing the above disclaimer that I’m selling my own experience of now short. I am feeling like an astronaut about to leave the pod bay doors and step into the void. And on the other side is… is… is what? What do I expect will be my next… what? Step? Threshold? Milestone?
I don’t even know what to call it. I am getting surgery to take care of something that has… been what all my life? A problem? An issue? None of these seems accurate. That’s because, this has been a black hole in my consciousness. A place I don’t go. An area of my body I don’t look at. A part of me that I try not to think about… I have always felt… okay, dissociated in this meat suit.
Am I really wearing a boy’s body? and why?
Time out for an über-ride to Scottsdale…
And we’re back.
Inevitably, I got here. This here, right here. T-minus 2.5 hours to my first consultation with the surgeon and counting… I’m going to eat some lunch and pick up where I left off over chips and salsa and a taco salad.
But how did I get here is still numbing my mind. How did I ever get to here, despite my own body contradicting every thought and experience about who I really am for 54 years? This could be why I am so mentally strong. I can hold to the truth of reality despite all and I mean all odds. It’s why fantasy, as much as I, who had permanent creases in my jeans’ back pocket from the constant companion of Lord of the Rings, I who was the first DM (ask a geek) in my circle of D&D’ers. Yes, that I who would going to make a career in fantasy…
… just couldn’t take fantasy anymore in my own life.
I couldn’t take that being who I am would be a dream, a concept, a figment of my imagination.
So what was it other than inevitable?
And if so, then why is it… unbelievable that I could actually, really, finally be here?
Because the chasm between perceived reality (this body is… well, it has boy parts!) and inevitable, seemed farther than the nearest star.
And yet… across time and space, the seals on my pod have just been breached, oxygen has entered my body and I’m emerging from my suspended animation to step forth on planet Venus.
For reals? For reals. For reals!
I think, as I set foot on the Venusian soil, that it’s unbelievable because I never dared believe I would ever be here. I dreamed it, oh how I dreamed it, but never, ever ever dared to actually believe it.
Remember, I make make-believe for a living. I know how the sausage is made (too soon?). I know where the smoke ends and the mirrors begin… so why would I believe that my own dream could actually come true?
Because, honey… it’s inevitable. It was inevitable from the start.
This day has been coming to you since before you could dream.
And before I know it, I’m in the office and meeting with Dr. Ley. As a trans woman I feel understandably comfortable in her presence. She’s drop dead gorgeous. (I need to talk to her about her internet photos. Honey, they seriously don’t do you any justice) and basically, I’ll have what she’s having!
And she is all business, explaining in great and perfect detail, in ordinary terms, what will be my new reality. Depth of cavity. Aftercare procedures. Surgical reality and managed expectations.
And Mylove is here by speaker phone. Dr Ley laughs that she hasn’t looked at me the whole time, focusing her whole spiel at the phone. But it’s better than okay. This has to be a mutual decision. And if this is the compensation for her not being on the plane with me today, then so be it. And Mylove has questions: What is the recovery time? Will [my] age be a negative factor? How does this compare to other major surgeries? Like her hysterectomy or her colostomy?
That’s Mylove. She’s got my back even as I’m about to tharn. I am so overwhelmed I’m ready to just let it all happen. But Mylove would never let me do something that… stoopid. She would never let me go into this half-cocked (still too soon?), wouldn’t let me sleepwalk through the second biggest decision of our lives. This isn’t in the least “elective” surgery, unless by elective you mean lifesaving.
Cuz that’s the thing–as fucking mind-blowing, gobsmacking, knock you to you knees, crazy as this could be… as completely overwhelming brain-freezing full tharning as it should be (and is!), the alternative is still a spectre that looms out on the fringes of my consciousness… the utter despair of a life unlived, the splinter in my heart that would never let me rest.
So, maybe that’s my beautiful identity showing up for its day, finally. Finally, ready to step out and step up to… inevitable.
Cuz, after the doc pulls and tugs and examines what will be her raw materials to fashion me a new vijay-jay, she makes sure I’m really okay. And it’s here that I feel the most comfortable. She knows what I’m really going through–from the inside out. The tsunami of emotions and the sheer giddiness that will all be in our rearview mirrors very soon. She outlines the gory details and usually, this is where my nervous system shuts down, no exaggeration. Even the thought of cold surgical instruments and my warm flesh in the same area code will usually have me pulling the rip cord… but, I’m all in, so in, I stay. And I take in all the details that will soon be my daily (wait, daily?!) regimen. At least a year’s worth of intense, okay let’s say “making intimate friends” with my new… me.
And it feels important to stop and ponder that. I never referred to the organ down there as mine. it was it, that, and the, but never “my,” as if I knew on some level to become attached to it. But it will be my new me, and mine. It doesn’t go away. Just like me, it will be transformed into something beautiful and feminine and… right.
And then I get my second gobsmack – from Miki the business manager, wearing her hat as scheduler… And I have to hold on to chair… am I dreaming? Cuz she just proposed a date that’s a full six months sooner than everyone had led me to expect.
I am in the right place after all.
In fact, were it not for the natural cycles of my hair growth (downstairs), I could go sooner. Dr. Ley’s addition to the practice has relieved almost a year’s waiting list.
And then, I’m back in an Über, listening to my Phoenix driver extol the virtues of a city that I’ll soon be seeing a lot of.
But most important is the phone call I need to make now…
Mylove and I talk about the “other call” (it already has a name in our family) and we acknowledge, it’s actually a call from which we will measure time.
I listen as Mylove tries to keep her own emotions in check as she makes sure that I’m okay. I am. Torn between lying on the floor and crying and screaming and dancing for joy, I’m a hot mess. And she is… almost the same.
Yes, we still have a lot to do. Yes, with nothing on the horizon but uncertainty and promise, why not schedule it for then? And then there’s the second phase which requires three months of healing before it can be considered. So we opt for phase two for just after my birthday. A new me, but I’ll still be a Cancer!
So, together, we turn right into the winds of change and hold on.
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.