I opened a window back to his world
A world of “I could be’s” and “maybe”
A world of prattling prayers and possibilities
That the “me” in the mirror could not yet see
Maybe I could be a Queen…that steals all the boys’ hearts
Maybe I could be a Queen…that’s completely off the charts
That zigs and zags every which way…just like they do in all the chess games
Maybe I could be a Queen…enthroned and scheming to fill her humdrum days
Maybe I could be a Queen…of riches…all of which, I’d give away
Maybe I could be a Queen…that trades her crown for love
Maybe I could be a Queen…that never bites her tongue
Maybe I could be a Queen…dipped in blood and hard as stone
Maybe I could be a Queen…armor-clad and barbed-wire bad…to the bone
Maybe I could be a Queen, a Queen and not a pawn
Maybe all my rights of manhood could be willed away…long-gone
Maybe I could be a Queen…a lion turned to lamb
Then maybe I remember…I already am.
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.
You, yes you…however you got here and whatever your circumstance in life…pay attention. This message of mine may not be worth much to you but I piece it together from pain and triumph and send it forth on the sharp wind of reminiscence.
Life is too short. That is such a cliche, isn’t it? But what is a cliche if not an overused truth? Overused, because within is contained a rather universal sentiment. Length of time can be relative, varying from one person’s perspective to another, but I think we’re all in agreement that however long it seems to us, it is, ultimately, never enough. I’ve been miserable in life, and thought erroneously at times that life was too harrowingly long…too full of suffering. I’ve also been happy in life. And I’d much rather be happy. So the real crux of anything I post or say during my speeches to caseworkers and other interested parties is this: never waste what you’ve been given. If you’re in an unpleasant situation, REMOVE YOURSELF FROM IT. If you’re around people you can’t stand, REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THEM. Don’t make excuses, don’t tell yourself tomorrow will be the day. Wake up and grab every minute by the balls. You may not get another chance. Life is your canvas, paint what you will, but don’t waste your colors. I’m at an age where I’m seeing and hearing of old family friends who were such a fixed part of my childhood just fade away. Slipping under the soil as yellowed pages slip under worn book covers. Even my cats, (for I have always had a surplus of cats due to my mother’s innate compulsion to “rescue”) are here today and gone tomorrow. Lively beings. People that dressed up and made small talk and ate finger foods and cried about their loved ones passing and smiled at familiar films and got stressed about bills. Cats that stalked the shadows and played with their toys and followed laser pointers and made messes. All of those moments that make up an individual person (or cat) just fade away. And we don’t really know where they go or whether there is a second chance, though I choose to believe there is, because the alternative is just too bleak for me to want to grasp. Still…this knowledge lies there, swept up beneath the delirium of daily living. Forgotten, until the day it happens to us and we can no longer ignore it.
We saw an old family friend today to celebrate her birthday and laughed with her and remembered all sorts of things from “back then,” like her penchant for Cheez-Its and the magnificent knickknacks in her home she used to let me play with when I’d visit (my favorites being a collection of miniature houses which she sadly, no longer had). About this friend, she’s an 80-something cat lady and completely marvelous. And the last time she saw me, I was a plump little boy she baby-sat during the summers who played with my action figures as if they were Barbies while watching “The Facts Of Life” re-runs. Within seconds, she “got me.” She “got it.” And she was celebrating my (for her) new-identity with exclamations of, “Oh she’s gorgeous! You’re you finally! You’re not a phony! You’re female goddammit!” Remembering things makes me want to stop time so that I can’t stockpile any more memories. As if that would make it any easier when I can no longer make memories with those who pass on by.
Still, seeing her streaking each day with regret-less life, a woman who’s witnessed a world war, the birth of the internet, and a plump little boy turning into a “lady-in-waiting” it just makes me so adamant about forging ahead and making the most of every second. Never wasting it on anything that isn’t absolutely marvelous. Like my old cat lady friend.
A sea of primaries
Swells the city-streets
Narrow canals – blazing blue, roaring red, yelping yellow
Streamers and floats
Too proud not to gloat
And today at least, that’s okay
Flaunting and flouncing
Bouncing higher than sky-bound balloons
I march and I step
Pound the black pavement
On three-inch heels
Fanning myself in fawning frenzy
Dainty as a Chinese maid
As the road we traverse
Simmers and the sunbeams burst
My fanning picks up steam
I’m a monsoon now,
Riding a wave under the pyramidal slopes
Of my scarlet paper parasol
United under this umbrella
Vivid with verve,
Livid with nerve
Shielded from the reverb
Of those who don’t quite ‘get’
Folk who bleed rainbows
Folk who weep wonder
Bear becomes brethren,
Trans becomes trooper,
Nudist becomes neighbor,
Pride becomes all…
Together we walk, over and under,
The brightest umbrella
On a day without rain
It’s what I am, for it’s what I’ve proven myself…to be
Groomed myself…to ‘she’
Longing for that proclamation of justification
The feather kisses of a man who’ll never stray too far away
So I prune my legs like twin bonsais
Color and contour, pad and tuck, pull and strut
Swallow down these tiny purple pills
That grant new life, even as…they threaten death.
It is what we are
Neither hunters nor gatherers…but carriers
Of life, of secrets, of tiny miseries and shallow disasters
Of benedictions and curses, of light and of shadow
Of your story and mine
Woman, twice born