Monthly Archives: May 2011
Well…here I was, it was December of I-don’t-remember-what-year-but-it-really-wasn’t-that-long-ago-srsly, and I had nothing to show for myself really. I had just turned 18 and I was a high school drop-out, a college drop-out and most recently a beauty-school drop-out. Being trans makes it very hard to commit to things I’ve noticed. I feel like the whole theme of our lives is transformation, and at the base of any transformation is change. A lot of the times what we don’t realize is that when we change, so do the people around us and our environments. What I mean by that is, when you start displaying your femininity, people change the way they act towards you…some are accepting and supportive and some are full of nothing but venom. We as transwomen, however, have a power many cisgender people lack the ability to express…we have the power to say, “No, I don’t want this…now, I’m going to do something to change it.” A lot of people in our society are too frightened to even think of changing their lives in such a drastic way, but not us. Though fear may be there at what lies after the change, courage is the ability to stare fear down and say, “Guess what? You can SUCK IT!!” Anyway, that’s why I think I had so much difficulty maintaining any stable career/education path…how could that aspect of my life be stable when within me, there was a storm brewing? The one unwavering thing I had was my family’s support…and a boyfriend, but he was far from unwavering.
I had met my very first serious boyfriend who we’ll call “K” on the internet which is how most of us in the tg community meet people nowadays. He was a gay guy, kind of not my usual type in that he had lots of piercings, dread locks and smoked pot ’til the cows came home. At that point I was still confused about myself, identifying as gay, but still questioning whether there might be some truth to that whole “transgender” diagnosis my aunt’s social worker friend had sprung on me. Anyway, our relationship was marked by instability and awkwardness. He wanted a man, and at the time I wasn’t sure I was even male, but as I found myself quitting yet another thing in my life I held on to whatever was around and he was, more or less. So I tried to be that man for him…but something about it just felt, off. Intimately things were completely ridiculous and his requests were just too much for me to handle. As a result, neither one of us were satisfied. I think part of the reason why I had my hair (which I loved so much) cut off, was to prove to K that I was a man and I could be there for him the way he wanted. But f*ck it, looking back…my hair treated me a lot better than he ever did and if I had it all to do over again, I’d say to myself, “No, the hair stays, he goes,” and save myself a lot of time and money.
Anyway, he broke up with me in February…yep, the day before Valentine’s Day after my present was bought and wrapped and everything. He told me, over the phone mind you, that I was too “femme,” and that if he wanted to date a “real woman” he would be dating a “real woman.” I felt my heart shatter…but I knew I’d get over it and honestly, I have to thank K for teaching me something about myself. I was a “real woman” and that’s why it wasn’t working between us, I just hadn’t realized the technicalities of it quite yet. A relationship between a gay man and a transsexual woman will not work because a tried-and-true gay man wants to be with another gay man. Gay men, by definition, like other men. We as transwomen were never men, we just have the bodies of men, which we try desperately to escape from. What they view as an arousing form, we view as a death trap, a prison. Right there is where the definite incongruity lies and why gay men don’t date transsexuals. Gay men don’t date women and we are women, honey…gay men prove it.
Ok…last entry (for those of you who didn’t read it, hmph) was about my self-imposed exile from beauty school…I know…heavy. So, to keep things breezy and delightful this entry is going to be light-hearted, useful to some of you (hopefully) and full of pictures! In case you either didn’t read the title or just didn’t get it (really?!) this entry is about the top 5 cosmetics that I simply can NOT live without. These are basically the things that I would use even if I were involved in a high-speed car chase and had to get going post-haste! I’d always find time to use these because they are THAT good. So, let’s get started.
This is my go-to foundation, concealer, primer, panacea, etc., etc. Not only is it a convenient size, it also has that opaque coverage that transwomen sorely need, especially when we’re still in the “shaving our faces” stage. This tiny stick provides coverage that is comparable to that of Dermablend, the foundation used to cover up burns and tattoos at half the price. It’s creamy, goes on smooth, and if and when you do decide to get your face hair lasered or electrolysis-ed off, you can dampen either your fingers or a make-up sponge and create a sheerer coverage. Just a few dots on the cheeks, chin, forehead, eyelids (as a primer before you put your eyeshadow on) and neck and you’re good to go. For even better results, finish with a setting powder or a mineral veil like the one offered by Bare Minerals. Max Factor was discontinued in the US for God-knows-whatever reason and I nearly had an aneurism right then and there…but luckily, the internet magically comes through yet again as the transwoman’s staunchest ally! So, buy some in your shade now, here!
Seriously, eyeliner is like f*ckin crack to me. I recall trying to use number 2 pencils when I was little to achieve the same brightening and defining effect my mom’s eyeliner had on her eyes to disastrous results, obviously. Eyeliner is really amazing in that it can change the shape of your eye, making them smaller, bigger, feline, almond-shaped, whatever you want. I usually line the upper lash line before putting my liquid liner over that, the upper waterline and the lower lash line from the outer corner of the eye to just below where your pupil is. The inner waterline I line with a white or light-gold liner to create a wide-eyed effect. But for beginners, this a very easy-to-wield pencil which goes on smooth and creates beautiful definition. Order here.
I love NYX because their colors are awesome, their prices are even awesomer and they’re just a pretty happening company. Anyway, this lip color is a new addition to my collection of NYX lipsticks, but has quickly become one of my favorites. It’s a neutral shade which means it goes with pretty much any color outfit and pretty much any skintone. Works for everyday looks, but can easily be turned into a nighttime shade with some heavier eye-makeup. Creamy texture with just enough shine to keep things fresh and interesting. Pucker up!
For girls with steady hands and some experience applying make-up, liquid liner can be a godsend. It defines and pops and it’s just beauty in a tube, honestly. You can do so much with it, dramatic looks, slight re-shaping, everything…only unlike eyepencils or kohls, liquid liner will not smudge or dissolve over time (especially if you use a primer beforehand). Make sure to close your eye when applying and allow a few seconds to dry completely before opening your eyes again or blinking. Walk that line girl!
One of the most affordable and effective mascaras I’ve come across. It’s just wonderful, two coats on the upper lashes, two on the lower and you’ll look like a total glamasaurus rex. It’s seriously amazing with or without any liner to back it up, and it’ll make lovely fans out of your lashes. Nothing says feminine like long, lustrous lashes. If you’re in a serious rush, just this, some foundation and lipgloss would be all you really need.
Well…I guess that’s it for now. I hope you all enjoyed my fluffy little list and I encourage you all to try the products I mentioned…just remember with cosmetics a little goes a long way, especially if you’re trying to pass in public. Stay tuned for the next entry…where I discuss my sordid love life. Well, it’s not that sordid.
So anyway, back to my life story. After I listened to my aunt’s husband’s drunken old cousin, I decided to beg my parents to enroll me in a cosmetology school because I thought that’s just what people like me were meant to do. How wrong I was! I was the only male in my class, though no one knew that until the scratchy-voiced, teacher-lady, Miss Martini called my name aloud. My long hair and tight pants made me look like a female to everyone in the room but that just made me seem colorful to the rest of the girls. Honestly, I just wanted to learn a trade and have something to fall back on and had been more or less misled into thinking hairstyling should be that trade but as usual, I was sidetracked by insecurity and fell into the “I must be a character in order to be liked” mental trap, so after realizing I had no hair styling aptitude whatsoever, I basically just absorbed everyone else’s expectations of me as a class clown and became the resident entertainer of the group. I stuck around because it was a place to socialize and make other people laugh with my antics, but hair was not my passion at all. I should have known this as I’d never felt a desire to do anyone’s hair, except my one Barbie doll’s, but even that was just limited to brushing.
One day, one of the older girls from the class above us decided she was going to use me for one of her hair assignments. At that point, my dark hair was halfway-past my back and I loved everything about it. I loved the freedom of finally having long hair after all the years of being forced into wearing my hair short. I loved running my fingers through it and flicking it back like I don’t know, some sort of sexy horse. Either way, I, as usual did what others wanted, not what I wanted and I let her cut my hair off…and like Samson, I felt the power drain from me with each falling lock. To me, that hair represented a semblance of femininity in a body that was still largely male-oriented, to see it fall before me shattered the early beginnings of my true self and caused me to once again assume a persona that others were more comfortable with. I’d been wearing girl clothes…but stopped after my hair was cut because of some of the girls’ comments and “suggestions” about what looked good. Who the fuck cared about what looked good? I wanted to look right! Right for me! But that was something I lacked the strength to express until some time later.
Eventually, I ran into some problems with one of the older ladies who attended the school. She was extremely large, balding, had a thick Brooklyn accent and wore white spandex stirrup-pants. She had been my first friend at the school, but quickly turned very jealous when I became friendly with two sisters who were also in our class and decided to go out to lunch with them instead one day. Anyway, the whole thing quickly snowballed into a very messy ordeal and that, coupled with my utter ineptitude and lack of interest in doing hair, led to me becoming a beauty school dropout. It was also around this time I met my first boyfriend…though that’s a story for later.
So, back to my memoirs. Well, after the initial dismissal of the possibility that I might be transgendered or transsexual or whatever (back then I had no idea why there were so many terms), I went back to my usual flamboyantly perky self, partly because it was in my personality…and partly because I wanted acceptance and if I was more of a character than a real person, I felt it would garner me that quicker. At the time I was going to community college and also lending my services as a work study student to a manic depressive drama professor…who was a republican to boot! Oh the horrors…actually she wasn’t that bad, and that’s something I want to touch on. Being trans has taught me many things in life, but one of the most important lessons learned is that we should not close ourselves off in cocoons of self-imposed mistrust and segregation from people who don’t fit the right labels for us. I still fall into the trap of thinking all Christians and Republicans and WASPS are out to get me…but I’ve found that some of the most caring family and friends in my life have been Christians, Republicans and WASPS…they’re just a little misinformed, which is annoying but if we explain things and really have the patience to see things from their point of view and calmly explain why and how they’re flawed, great strides can be made.
Ok, forgive me, if something comes into my head I have to repeat it, but anyway…I was 17. And although I loved college life and hanging out with all my newfound neo-hippie lesbian friends, I felt like I wanted to do more…to stretch myself if you will. So…another chance meeting at my aunt’s house brought me in touch with her husband’s cousin, a retired hair-stylist and salon owner. For the sake of having a name, let’s call her “Barbara,” or “Babs” for short. So, Babs was and is a very nice lady, but she’s one of those people I mentioned earlier who are quite flawed in their thinking. Not to the point where she thinks people like me should just stop where they are, drop to their knees and stroke out…but she has a very one-dimensional idea of what being trans, or gay for that matter means. She thinks being gay (and at that point, that’s what she and most everyone assumed I was, including myself) automatically gives you hair-styling, fashion design and make-up application genes in your DNA and that everything you say is unbelievably funny…even if it’s like, “I gotta take a leak, see you in a few, Barbara,” or “Could you pass that napkin Barbara?” Hysterical. Not really. But anyway, this is what she is and the way she thinks, and despite my prodding she’s a tough nut to crack. Plus, every time I see her we’re always drinking so, really how serious a conversation can we possibly have? Either way she somehow convinced me that I would excel in hair design. Having smuggled some Pinot Grigio from my auntie’s fridge made me even more impressionable than I was and I thought, “Hey why not? Maybe it’s my calling.”
So I went to hair school….and hated it! But that’s a tale for next time.
And oh there are many! I figured I’d take the time to write a little side-note entry, deviating just a bit from the sequential “story of my life” format I’ve decided to use for this blog. I honestly just started searching for other tg or ts blogs on wordpress and found that many of them, although well-written and informative, sounded either a bit too activist-y or too pedantic. I still think there are great resources out there for activists and people researching trans-issues from a more intellectual point of view, but I want this blog to sound and feel saltier and more approachable…instead of like a prickly activist or an erudite, yet somewhat icy clinician. I think there is an activist within each of us, and I also think there is an educator within each of us…the very act of falling under the transgender umbrella necessitates it at varying times within our lives. When deprived of basic rights, the inner activist comes out…when probed about our journey, the scientist comes out explaining the whole thing in detail with an air of exasperation.
Despite considering how multi-faceted we, as members of this loosely-knit community can be, I can’t help but feel we sometimes try too hard to cling to these archetypes and lose that approachable part of ourselves. Honestly, it pisses me off when someone asks me a question about my genitals because it’s none of their business…I don’t walk up to Sally on the street and say, “Hey Sally…you have a vagina, right? How’s that treating you? Where do you put it?” And yeah I do wish I could calmly and eloquently defeat any argument against trans-issues soundly and fully….but, isn’t it okay to be a little selfish and just enjoy the lives we’ve tried so hard to craft to our own true feelings? Life is a battle…and a lesson, but it’s also an experience. One of the biggest gripes I have is the inaccessibility of most other trans-people because they fall into one of those two modes full-time. Many others are fearful of being exposed or targetted, which is understandable, but the veil of anonymity that the internet provides can be a great comfort and its open forums can be a wonderful coping/venting tool. So if you’re trans and feeling frustrated because you feel like you’re the only transsexual in the greater northeast who isn’t picketing or debating, I encourage you to use the internet to vent and connect with others about whatever. It certainly makes me feel better 🙂
Oh, and one last thing that just popped into my head…is anyone else bothered about how overtly-kinky a lot of trans people tend to be? I mean, sex is great and everything…but I’ve found that many of the other transwomen I’ve encountered in my journey have either not been authentically transsexual and have been transvestites who enjoy dressing up because that’s how they get their kicks or whatever or have been COMPLETELY sex-obsessed…like it’s all they talk about. Sorry, but that’s gross no matter who you identify as. I think a lot of our community members and those who mistakenly believe they are part of the community try to create this highly sexually charged aura which I find completely repelling because they think it makes them more approachable when really it just makes you look skanky. That, along with the aforementioned reasons are why I think it’s so difficult to establish any rapport with many of the other members of our community, and I really wish that weren’t the case This is all just my opinion, of course, but how do we expect to be treated with any class if we don’t display any? Think about it! And that’s a lesson for all you cisgendered hoochies too…you’re just embarassing yourself…so quit it!
Whether I liked it or not, that July 4th, my world had been turned upside-down. I started to question all the choices and declarations I had made previously. Was I really just a fabulous gay boy as I had thought or was this slightly unstable social worker right about me? Was I “a transgender?” The word brought up all sorts of associations, most of them terribly flawed by society’s misconceptions. I thought of the freak-outs on daytime trash tv shows like Jerry Springer and of the “from he to she” shows on Ricki Lake and Jenny Jones. Sadly, that was really the extent of my exposure to anything remotely trans back then…that and my favorite movie “To Wong Foo,” a tale of three fictitious drag queens driving cross-country. The talk shows sensationalized trans-individuals and made their stories something tawdry and steeped in misinformation. For example, many of those shows presented drag queens or female illusionists as transgendered individuals, which many of them were not. For those that were genuinely transgendered, a mockery was made of their circumstances and oftentimes, audience members at the end of the show would say some tripe little blurb about God making Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve and the crowds would hoot and holler wildly.
I knew even then living as an ultra-femme queer boy that I was different, and often when I’d go out in public and be mistaken as female, I would get upset. Later I’d realize that this was because although I longed for acceptance and stability, other people longed for conformity and a sense of normalcy, which I would upset with my presence and which in turn would make me feel freakish and unsure of the identity I was putting forth. I think deep down I knew even then that my gender identity was always a rather contentious issue, I just hadn’t been ready to admit it and when people probed or made errors by calling me a “she,” it forced that issue up in front of my face and I didn’t like that.
After that talk on the steps, a spark had been ignited and I decided to use the one resource I had to investigate this deeply personal matter further. I searched (on yahoo! at the time) for whatever information I could find on being trans and what the process entailed. One of the best discoveries I made was this website and I would urge anyone even considering this journey to go there and read up on everything you can. At first, being only 17 and more than a little lazy, I felt inundated by the whole process. It seemed so terribly involved; hormones, surgeries, document changes, etc. It was just overwhelming. I had no money and was being supported by my mother and grandmother who were still trying to get their heads around me coming out of the closet as a gay boy, and a flamboyant one at that. That had been a bombshell in and of itself, if I sprung this on them it would be completely ATOMIC and I couldn’t have that. I just couldn’t cope…so for the moment, I decided I would try to wash my hands of the idea that I was anything but an ultra-femme boy who happened to liked womens’ fashions and cosmetics. And I did. But the tricky thing about washing your hands, is that they will always get dirty again. And they would, in the most delicious way…sooner than I’d expect.
It was July 4th. My aunt always threw elaborate parties celebrating the holiday at her spacious home on “the heights,” mostly because from the elevated height of her house, the fireworks from the city’s numerous parades could be observed clearly and we would all gather on her deck and watch them exploding in a cloud of color, streaking the sky with reds and yellows and bright royal blues. The greatest journeys tend to unfold as a result of ideas, and the idea that was presented to me that day hit me like a firework.
I was 17 and so confused about who or what I was and wanted to look like and wanted to date, like most 17 year olds. I was an extremely effeminate boy, and as a teen I had grown my hair long, painted my nails clear and put on just enough eyeliner to not cause a huge splash but still enough to know I was wearing it. My aunt had a social worker friend, a very zany, up-in-the-air type who said the most random things without regard to whether or not it was awkward or made people question her sanity. Perhaps she was in the wrong career field, but I still liked her and tended to gravitate to her as I did towards most eccentrics. We were sitting on the staircase talking before the fireworks began, discussing our lives. At 17, my struggles were already unique…I had dropped out of high school after a botched suicide attempt and was just starting to accept myself as being gay. I had thought I’d been able to close the door on those pesky sexuality issues, I’d come out to my family and started expressing myself through my physical appearance and thought that was that. This lady, however, stirred up a storm with a few words that would linger and make me think about things I never thought I’d question. “Are you sure you don’t just have a distorted view of what it means to be gay? Maybe you’re transgendered.” I had a very vague and convoluted idea of what that word meant at that point in my life, but it set in motion a journey that would span the rest of my life. Though I couldn’t see it then, that day marked the beginning of my journey…and it all started with an idea and a chat on the steps.