Category Archives: Ongoing Memoirs
Family is a wonderful thing. And I don’t mean exclusively blood-related family, but that sense of community and “you can count on me” that you get from a group you consider yourself to be a part of, be it comprised of relatives, friends or any other type of person.
But, as transpeople, can we always count on our families to be there? The harsh reality is that we can’t. Many of us live in fear of our families. Still others, like myself, have faced disappointing attitudes despite being from tightly-knit families that otherwise have had no significant problems.
When I first began my transition, my grandmother wanted to have me visited by a pastor because she thought I was insane and her antiquated solution was to drive that insanity from me through spiritual warfare, which to me, seemed much crazier than anything I was doing. The real obstacle was a lack of understanding and dialogue. But sometimes, despite numerous attempts at fostering that kind of open dialogue, there will be people who are unwilling to or are not yet ready to listen. That kind of stone-cold silence can breed a resentment in both parties that ofttimes isn’t easy to shake. People don’t remember words or actions, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. Still, it’s important to let go of resentment eventually. It’s fine to be angry, and in our situations we need to allow ourselves the benefit of being mad, but it’s equally important to not stay angry the rest of our lives. For me, my anger was channelled through isolation and self-improvement. I’d read, do exercise, watch old films, study how-to videos. My only ally in those days was my mother. As is so often the case, family can be a double-edged sword. Some members will protect you through thick and thin, while others can’t wait to cut you down.
I am blessed to say that I had the benefit of a truly loving mother, whose compassion and empathy saw me through those days of isolation. Some might say that isolation was self-imposed, and in a sense, it was, though it’s also true that I was driven to it. From my own experiences, I can say that isolating yourself is one of the best things you can do in these situations. Walking away gives both parties time to reflect and examine their own biases. It always helps to have friends who understand, but not everyone has that luxury. And during a transition one really needs to rediscover oneself as one’s own BEST friend. Whatever you do, don’t let your anger drive you to self-destruction. So often in our community, we resort to drugs and alcohol and other vices that will only hinder our chances at a successful transition and mar us forever.
During my transition I recall another family member’s attitude. How she told me she didn’t want me to come over her house dressed as a female because I ran the risk of confusing her two year old regarding gender identity. So I stopped going to her house, there was no compromise. And I think it’s important, that we as transfolk, establish not only a firm identity as our true selves, but also a firm sense of what we are and are not willing to compromise. Understanding is great, but only when it’s reciprocal. Sometimes, this will entail conflict and accusations of being selfish. Guess what? That’s okay. It’s alright to be selfish. This is something that’s taken me years to realize, sacrificing yourself doesn’t gain you anything, it doesn’t make you noble, it makes you a puppet, controlled by the whims of others. As a transperson, you’re your own ally and advocate. Fight for your right to exist, without apology and without excuse. The people who truly love you just may come around eventually. But they may not. And learning to live without them is a harsh reality that one just may have to accept.
In my own case, they did luckily “come around,” but I realize it’s not so simple for other transpeople and my heart goes out to you. It’s never easy, but know that you are worth it. There’s only one life and its yours! Whether family ties are meant to be double-knotted or unravel themselves completely, depends not upon you, but on them and the place they’re in emotionally. The inherent urge for freedom is never an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such…but hatred, bigotry, fear…those are very real illnesses and we shouldn’t let them infect, control or hold us back from achieving our own dreams and strengthening the most important tie we have…to our souls and to our selves.
Okay guys, so you basically know my whole life story now what with the multiple entries I’ve written about it, and the video project I did called “The Lady-In-Waiting Story,” but now there’s a condensed version for all of you who think I’m too long-winded lol. I wrote it for this really great GLBT-Straight Alliance called Swish, and I’d really love it if you’d read and pass it on to all of your friends.
Here’s the link: http://www.swishpride.org/community/voices/the-carousel.shtml
Hi there, so glad you’re here…on to my memoirs. I was alone, unemployed and going through a second puberty by way of transition and my ridiculous hormonal spikes and dips. Which led me to on-line dating. Now, as a trans-woman this is your safest bet to find someone. The internet grants a level of security that real-life encounters can’t. So…being a young and pretty trans-girl; silly, desiring attention and not knowing any better, I posted my pics on a dating website for trans-people. And of course, they were sexy. Not nudies by any means! But as I recall, in one picture (that my grandmother took) I was sprawled out across my bed wearing black vinyl pants with a red tube top and I thought I was just the bee’s knees. And men, visual creatures that they are with hardly any regard to what constitutes good/bad fashion, responded in kind. Before I knew it my date book was full and I was going out every other night with a new guy getting free meals and loads of attention. It was delightful. I was young, I was carefree and it was a way for me to distract myself. I wasn’t happy though. A lot of the men you meet who are interested in trans-women want us for one thing and one thing only, as is the case with biological women. Now, there are many men out there who are wonderful people intent on developing relationships that are full and all-encompassing, but there are twice as many who want you to act as their side-dish, dirty little secret, sugar baby or some lurid combination of all three. It’s embarrassing! No one wants to be treated like a freak, not worthy of simple little things most people take for granted in relationships, like meeting one another’s families. Mind you, I’m a very passable and very attractive transsexual woman (so I’ve been told anyway), but it still makes no difference, you can look like Megan Fox and still be treated as though you’re “less than” just because of what you are.
So when I finally met a man who was willing to put all that aside and just focus on me as a person, I jumped on him, but he was gay (despite his assurances that he was bisexual) and also immensely confused about pretty much every facet of his life, so it didn’t work out. After that, I began dating again…which is really just like picking through the garbage, isn’t it? I dated a cage fighter, a naval officer, a cop, all sorts of stereotypically macho guys, all good looking, all nice enough…but all for whatever reason eventually cut off. In the case of the cage fighter, he wanted a f*ck buddy which he could talk to whenever the need arose, in the case of the naval officer…well, he just couldn’t kiss…plus he was an alcoholic and he broke my car’s air conditioner vents by playing with them too much, and in the case of the cop he wanted a penis attached to a pretty woman. Which is what a lot of “admirers” want. It dehumanizes us and reduces us to a single body part. Seriously, if you want to suck on something that bad, buy yourself a lollipop. So, after much searching I gave up. And when I wasn’t looking, someone wrote me out of the blue requesting we meet up for coffee because I seemed cool from what he read on my MySpace profile (I know, I’m old right?!) and after that we met up. He hadn’t known I was trans and as it turned out that’s exactly what he was into. So a friendship formed, which later blossomed into a relationship and here I am four years later still with the same guy. We have our ups and downs like any couple…but above all he sees me as an individual, not a commodity and if you admirers out there reading this ever want to make it with a transsexual of any substance, then that’s really what it all boils down to.
Sorry I haven’t had a chance to update in a while, I’ve been super-busy with work and various other mundane activities that are hardly as fulfilling as this blog, so for that I must apologize. Now, where was I?
Oh yes…it was December of such and such year and I was working at a well-known department store as a cosmetics “expert.” Anyway, there was this bulldog of a lesbian (closeted, of course, and therefore quite nasty), who decided she hated me because I didn’t want to associate with her. There were two reasons for me not wanting to associate with her, 1) She was positively the crudest thing on two feet at that mall and 2) she always talked absolute garbage about my best friend at work. “Unacceptable!” I declared and henceforth never spoke to her except for the occasional “Hello.” Now, this pushed her to the limit and I also think the fact that I was by now very free and open about what I was doing (transitioning and all) kind of miffed her too, because she was adamant in her claims of being straight, though really it was quite obvious that she was anything but. My openness bothered her, as it bothers most people who are not open for whatever reason. Our openness is like a bright, shining, neon light that we’re flashing into their dim, dank, dingy closets. So…she hated me. And the feeling was reciprocated. One day, things boiled over when she tried rudely telling me what to do (she’d recently gotten promoted to a customer service rep, but that gave her no authority over me) when we were closing down the store and I told her I wasn’t intimidated by her or the little walkie-talkie she was issued, to which she replied that I walk around like a princess and should choke on my own dick. When she wasn’t promptly fired, I decided any business that retains employees who are capable of such low thinking don’t deserve to have me pushing $30 eyeliners and mascaras for them, so I walked out during my next scheduled shift. They tried in vain to get me back, but I’ve always been a woman of strong principles, and when something leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I refuse to just choke it down like most people.
Here I was, a new year beginning, a new me beginning and no job prospects in sight. In a way, though, looking back it was the best thing that could have happened at the time. Transitioning while on the job is very difficult and to be without the hassle of having to explain your motives to other people every five minutes or deal with constant harassment and strange looks is a blessing. The downside of unemployment though is boredom. And I was bored! So what did I do? I used the internet to fill my boredom. At first it was great, sleeping in, and wasting time, reading, writing, shopping; well, window shopping (as you might expect, since I abandoned my job I wasn’t privy to receiving unemployment benefits). Eventually though, it wasn’t enough. I was lonely since all my friends had jobs or school to keep them occupied and for most of the day I had the company of my cats and dog and that was it. My parents were a great emotional and financial support even giving me money for my hormones which I purchased via website (which is not recommended at all until you’ve seen a doctor and had all your levels checked, but back then I didn’t have that luxury). Still, I longed for fulfillment on a different level and that led me to on-line dating, which is arguably, the best way for transsexual women to meet men and the safest. However, the kind of men are open to interpretation as you’ll see in my next entry…
Ok, so it’s time for memoirs again. After I dropped out of beauty school, my family and I were faced with a bit of a dilemma; that is, the bill. I had to pay the school back for the few months I was there and I think there was also a penalty fee of some sort for not completing the term and giving them even more money. Anyway, whatever, I’ve never been too gifted with finances, but luckily I have a mom who is, so she basically figured out everything that needed to get paid when it needed to get paid and told me she and my grandmother would help me, but I had to start looking for a job so that I could help out too.
My search brought me to the nearest mall where I instantly caught the eye of the HR lady at this very prestigious department store. She was a soft-spoken, fashionable, chain-smoking cougar who lived for young, foreign men. Unfortunately, as I would come to find out on many a cigarette break, these young, foreign men were seldom very good to her and usually ended by soaking all her money up like a sponge, beating her or a combination of both. But anyway, this memoir’s about me, so let’s get back to it 🙂 So, HR lady hired me and I began working at this department store in the children’s section as a part-time associate. Part of the dress code was having to wear a suit and tie. My grandmother bought me two suits to start out with (I’d acquire more later), one was a gray double-breasted one and the other was black. I’d always pair them with ties in a dazzling array of colors and patterns. As time went on, I was promoted during the summer to a Coach specialist (basically I just sold pricey purses). By then, I’d acquired many more suits and also had a habit of wearing satin-y shirts in very bold colors like royal blue, gold and scarlet. It was at this time, I remember missing my feminine ways…the eye make-up, the nail polish, the long hair (especially). It was more than “missing,” it was yearning. So, even though I knew I’d get flack for it, I began pushing the envelope little by little, day by day. I started wearing clear nail polish, though my nails were still kept at a reasonable length for a boy. I took up the black eyeliner I loved so much again, but used only a tiny bit on the lower lash line so no one would notice.
But people were noticing. I remember the week of July 4th that year, I was working and a little girl shouted up to her dad, “Is that a boy or a girl?” I hadn’t heard comments like those since my school days when I was first beginning to cross-dress. At that time, hearing those things was an everyday occurrence. This time though, instead of annoying me, it filled me with a feeling of wonder. Wonder at how easily I’d be able to pass if I did decide to go all the way with this. I mean, here I was in a suit and tie with the barest trace of make-up, short hair and nails and still people thought I was a girl. This little incident prompted me to do something more. One day, during inventory, I removed my tie. I was sick of wearing it by then, it was just another symbol of my slavery to this male body and everybody’s perception of me as male. So I tore it off right there and didn’t put it back on. There were a few raised eyebrows and one older lady I worked with told me I’d get in trouble if I kept breaking the dress code and I did. I remember breaking down one day because I just couldn’t take it anymore. The frustration of everyone around me being so close but having no idea what kind of thoughts were swirling around inside my head.
By the fall, my manager could see I needed to be shifted somewhere else. As luck would have it, a good friend of mine who worked at the nearby Lancome counter, decided she was going to leave to become a flight attendant, and she recommended me to her mananager. I had to interview with her even though I already worked for the store, and she seemed icy but pleasant enough. She hired me of course, and as I moved into my new position I was able to breathe easy in knowing the suit and tie dress code no longer applied to me, as I was a make-up artist and we basically just wore black anything. As a make-up artist, I learned so much that would help me out on my closely approaching transition, but I was also tempted on a daily basis being so close to all those cosmetics! Sometimes I’d take some lip gloss from a nearby juicy tube sample and just put some on with a q-tip and see if anybody noticed. Then lip gloss gave way to lip color…and soft eyeliner, to mascara and eyeshadow. My nails and hair were growing out and I knew something was happening, coming forth if you will, whether I wanted it to or not. Eventually my manager, who turned out to be a very nice lady and fairly tolerant of my antics, told me I had to “tone it down.” Such trite advice would be handed down to me over the years more times than I can count, but I didn’t want to “tone it down,” I wanted to “tone it up!” She tried to give me some excuse like make-up artists shouldn’t have long nails because they might poke someone in the eye while applying foundation, but I knew it was just her way of telling me, “You need to cut your nails because you are a boy and boys shouldn’t have long nails.” So, I refused. In my hotheaded youth, I saw it as a hindrance to my journey (although admittedly, I wasn’t quite sure what that journey was or where it was taking me). Despite this, though, I was happier doing make-up than I had been the whole year prior, peddling children’s clothes and then Coach bags. It was just something I enjoyed and enjoyed learning about. But my “education” was about to be cut short by an obstacle that was already at that point, very familiar to me, the schoolyard bully. Though that’s a topic for next time!
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.
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.