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.
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.