My goodness it’s been awhile. I’ve been so busy writing for others that as per usual I’ve neglected my own personal blog…and…I’m also fairly certain this preamble has graced the opening lines of pretty much every post I’ve ever written, but what can I say? I’m commitment-phobic.
So, as some of you may or may not know…I’m a bit of an astrology nerd. I won’t say I’m super-knowledgeable about it because I’m totally too lazy for that and it can get rather complicated what with trines and conjuncts and all that other stuff BUT I do know this is the Year of the Snake according to Chinese lore and my, can I tell you, it’s been spitting plenty of venom thus far! Even still, viper up-chuck and all, I’ve learned plenty about how I handle conflict and, as one of my film profs pointed out, when faced with conflict true character gets a chance to shine. Or, in my case…explode.
I feel like everything that had to happen up ’til now in my life has and for a good reason, as cliché and “un-proveable” as it is. My journey’s never been easy, I don’t think anyone’s is, but even when things seem bleaker than black and you feel like you’re just the WORST person alive…you’ve got to keep believing in something. Believing that you feel that way in order to identify patterns that have led you there and neutralize them, so that in the future, the path you walk down is a lot less jagged. And also believing in the good you’re doing for others, though neither of you may see it that way at the time. Granted, if I’m honest I must admit others’ feelings were the least of my worries during times of conflict (the whole self-preservation thing, I guess), but in retrospect, I’m sure every single interaction, exchange, glance even…just…rippled. And who knows how many different windows and doors were slammed open by all that. As my friend Anna told me, “The problem isn’t that there are problems in life…the problem is thinking there shouldn’t be any.” Once you stop expecting life to owe you some modicum of “the ideal,” you can instead focus on building it within your own life from the dust and rubble of past mis-steps (or what you perceive to be mis-steps, anyway).
That’s what the snake has shown me so far…without the poison, there can be no cure.
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.
Alright. First off, I hate judging ANYONE, really I do. But I’m a human being, so I do it anyway. That being said, I’m really irritated about certain high-profile people in the TG community who shall remain nameless but who’ve been in the spotlight recently. I don’t want to come across as closed-minded, because I don’t feel that I am…but I am offended. Offended by some girls who think that what they’re doing, either in the adult film industry or as “burlesque” performers (i.e., strippers), is helping the community out. Despite your delusions, girls, having men view you as a sex object for your plastic parts is not doing me any favors, I’ll tell you that right now. Some of these girls even go so far as to insinuate that they’re helping to garner respect for all trans people everywhere through these public appearances. May I ask how? How can you garner respect when you’re devoid of respect for yourself…and when this utter lack of respect becomes painfully apparent through the choices you make in your everyday life, from what venues you decide to attend to what clothes you wear? Still, a lot of these girls are too caught up in the whirl of admiration they get for their “work,” that they really do think they’re, dare I say, positive role models. Many of them do have their own positive attributes, beauty or some less savory skill…but a pretty face alone does not a role model make.
A quote from Candy Darling comes to mind, said to a co-star during one of her first Warhol collaborations, “Why don’t you try developing your brain instead of your bust?” Intellect is the sexiest thing around. And intellect dictates, by virtue of common sense, that if you want to be viewed as a role model, you set a good example…primarily through your interactions with whatever target group you’re hoping to influence…not with rooms full of sex-starved fetishists looking for a good time and a glimpse of your under-bits. It’s not only in poor taste, it’s offensive to me. Personally offensive. I try to keep an open mind about certain people’s circumstances, but, I really feel there’s little justification for engaging in such a lifestyle in today’s day and age. My family wasn’t wealthy by any means, and as far as trans-girls go, I’m pretty damned cute…still I was never tempted to make “easy money” by exploiting that and debasing myself. How can you presume to call such money easily gained when it comes at the price of your very dignity?
Dignity. That’s what it SHOULD be about. Our journey to ourselves is a beautiful thing. We follow our paths, compelled by one of the strongest forms of loyalty a human being is capable of possessing…that undying, unflinching pledge to our very own souls that we will be what we were meant to be. Why cheapen such a beautiful experience? To “get there first” by coming up with money for surgeries? That’s all well and good…but then where are you? Where is it that you ‘got to?’ And what did you truly become? It is true that in many cases, desperation drives us, but ignorance should not. We should always be mindful of what we’re willing to sacrifice and what we’re hoping to gain, ensuring ourselves that one does not outweigh the other and that we can live with such choices after the fact.
Part of what I hope to do, both by studying at school and by going to different government agencies to discuss my past, is to put a very real, very human face on what science has labelled an aberration, under the heading of “transgendered.” I’m someone who’s done a lot of growing up, just like you…or you…or you. And it’s been hard, but I struggled through and did it right. Now, I want to give back to the youngsters by helping those who help them understand better what struggles they go through…and who knows, maybe I’ll eventually go back for my MSW and help these kids directly as a social worker. Either way, I help. Even now and as someone who helps, goddammit, I have a right to be upset…our kids deserve better and so do you girls, yourselves! Respect yourselves…it’s daunting to trudge this path with honor and self-respect, but it certainly is not impossible…and don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.
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.
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.