Saturday, October 29, 2022
Friday, August 12, 2022
Look at the history of this blog. Across its reach, strewn over this improbable fourteen years, you'll find trauma and abuse and upheaval and tumult of a sufficiently visceral quality to make your hair stand on end. Some of what I chose to share here is shocking, both in its quality and in its honesty--so much so that I've been dimly aware for a few years now that I might want to go back and do some judicious editing of the more jaw-dropping entries. I came to you all in the spring of 2008 as a literal teenager, and, basically, as a child, one who carried with him the legacy of intense and unrelenting hardship.
Is it any wonder, then, that I didn't entirely know myself? Any wonder that healthy processes of exploration didn't happen? Any wonder that escape into the opposite gender looked more attractive to me than did accepting the version of me who already existed? How could it not, when society had done so much to tell me that that version was distasteful? Disgusting. Contemptible. Wrong.
This is not to say that I wasn't on to something or that I'm not transgender. If one takes "transgender" to mean a person whose physiology and neurology are out of sync in terms of sexual presentation then I'd still say I more of less am a transgender person: my body is male in form whereas my personality, world view, communication patterns, and overall orientation are, always have, and always will be essentially female. That will never change. But to unambiguously be the opposite gender is one thing and to have substantial elements of it another, as I discovered to my own surprise and chagrin.
I was looking for easy answers. A single checked box that would put me squarely in the category of "normal" when for my entire life I'd been an asterisk on every single list where I appeared. The exception. The anomaly. The odd one out. And as a woman, I thought, I'd simply make so much more sense.
That was how, after four years of personal reflection and more than two years in therapy, I made the choice to begin a month-long trial of estrogen at the end of May. I'd explored and explored, and all I could do beyond that was take the leap. Granted, I took that leap with life-preservers firmly attached. I began on a low introductory dose of the hormone and planned from the beginning to assess where I was at the month mark. And then I waited.
Waited for the peace, clarity, and sense of rightness that so many transgender women report upon beginning a course of hormone-replacement therapy that floods their bodies with the substance they believe they ought to have had all along.
It didn't come.
Instead estrogen was, for me at least, a rollercoaster ride of emotions that saw my inherently anxious and neurotic nature ramped up dramatically, with the lows but not the highs enhanced and the overall volatility of my moods heightened in a way that made me feel as though I was constantly driving down a rickety country road with no seatbelt or shock absorbers. Which is not to say that nothing about estrogen was positive, because other changes happened. My, oh my did they happen.
Over a course of weeks I experienced developments that every medical guideline I'd consulted said would take months to occur. My body hair thinned to the point of being basically gone around two weeks in. My skin had softened and grown far more sensitive by about the same juncture. My libido died within literal days. And one day, three or four weeks in, I caught myself in the mirror and did a double-take.
Who was that? That person who looked so soft and beautiful and so clearly, unambiguously female? All my life I'd longed to be a pretty girl. And there she was, staring right back at me. A pretty girl. Her eyes were slightly more prominent and almond shaped than mine. Her skin was clearer and lighter. Her lips were fuller and their color a touch more vibrant. The face was mine, still, but mine in a way I'd never seen. Friends made comments. My gender therapist, who'd been seeing me for two years by that point, expressed outright shock.
"My daughter has long blonde hair like you," she said in a text. "When you sent me that photo of you I thought for a moment that it was her."
Medical guidelines are unanimous in saying that changes to facial composition on estrogen should not manifest before about a year. I was at less than four weeks.
The moment of truth for me came days before I completed my first month on HRT. I was getting dressed that morning, trying on a cute new slinky pink thing, when I realized that my nipples could feel every groove in the fabric as it slipped over my head and fell down my chest. That increased sensitivity, which an inspection immediately verified, was the very first sign that my breasts were beginning to develop. As with so many other things, this wasn't supposed to happen for half a year at minimum. But here we were.
If you let this go on much longer, I told myself. You'll have to buy a bra. And you'll have to wear that bra for the rest of your life.
And that did it. I stopped estrogen within days, and within a few more days had flushed my remaining supply down the toilet. Which begged an awful question: Where do I go from here?
For years I'd pinned my hopes, my validity, my self-actualization, on moving forward through life as a female, but the moment she began to come out I panicked and slammed the lid shut on the process. What did that say about me? Did it make me a fraud? Deluded? Someone, as I feared in the darkest and loneliest moments following that choice, who was incapable of happiness in either gender?
At some point in the days of crying and cataclysmic depression that accompanied the end of hormone therapy I remembered words that a friend, Raven, had spoken to me when I was living in Point Goldlace.
"You know, it doesn't have to be one thing or another," she told me when I confided that I was struggling with gender identity and considering transition. She was Athabascan, the mother of two of my students, and informed by both ample life experience and a cultural grounding that saw past traditional Western views of male and female. "We have a word for people like you: Two Spirit."
Two souls in one body. Not wholly one or wholly the other. Not in between. Both.
I think I knew on some inherent level that Raven was right even back then. I didn't want to see it because I associated malehood primarily with all the ways in which I'd failed to be a man, and femininity offered a welcome framework in which so much about me made sense and met cultural expectations.
But the thing is, I liked certain parts of being male. Fit with certain parts of being male. And always had. My cluttered, messy nature. The ability, as a guy, to get out of bed, throw something on, and stride forward into the world with absolutely no fucks given. And my sexuality. God, my sexuality.
Male genitalia is fun. Gay sex is fun. The feeling of vigor, power, confidence, and vague arousal that comes after a session in the gym is fun. The way that lust can, in moments, absolutely overpower you is fun.
So much of who I am interpersonally is female and when I was considering transition I naturally focused on that. But that focus caused me to overlook very real fears about not being female enough in certain particulars and equally valid fears that the male elements I'd have to sacrifice wouldn't be worth the trade-off.
What if, I asked myself in a moment of startling clarity about two days after stopping hormones. You're just a really feminine man? And what if it's okay to be that?
And I cried and cried and cried. Tears of joy--and of relief. For in that instant it was evident that the male form was indescribably more beautiful to me than the female form could ever hope to be and that I'd very narrowly avoided robbing myself of that form forever. I wouldn't have to move forward as a transgender woman, passing but always wondering whether I'd be girl enough for a man to love me or a crowd of people to believe that I was who I claimed I was. I'd move forward as a gay man. Boyish, soft, youthful, androgynous. As I always was before.
And good Lord, isn't that a glorious thing? To be the asterisk? To be the homosexual male who's a shade too pretty? Not many people sit in that spot, but I do and it's what I was made for.
Monday, May 31, 2021
It finally happened: that job in Iceport. The one I dreamed of over four successive dark winters. The one I gunned for hard with desperation and then with ruthless, cold focus. It's mine.
And somehow all I can think about, as I walk the rose-strewn streets of Triantaphilon with Anthos, is throwing it all away to begin anew in this sun-drenched city. With bookstores and coffee shops and quirky little stores. With warmth and vibrance and endless waves of emerald-green trees beneath banners that proclaim welcome to people like me. With this man who looks at me through astonished eyes and tells me how beautiful I am. With his lips that say he'll want me, no matter what I decide.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
A whole lot has changed in five months.
I'm not even referring to the election, though I would be remiss not to take this moment to address the on-the-fence equivocators who so kindly informed me that "life goes on" no matter which side wins: life didn't "go on" for the people who died in the Republican coup attempt on January 6. Nor for the half-million who perished in the pandemic. Nor for the hundreds of families permanently destroyed by acts of incalculable cruelty carried out on our southern border on the order of a failed one-termer who does not dignify being named. Remember when armed traitors were prowling the halls of Congress, hunting the Speaker of the House and the Vice President of the United States with the express intention of summarily executing them?
I sure do. I remember it because I was one of many progressives who cautioned, for years, that the anti-democratic rhetoric being espoused by the one-termer was calculated--and likely--to provoke political violence if left unchecked. None of you wanted to listen. I hope you carry the weight of that smugness, of that determined and intentional ignorance, every day. I hope you know what nearly happened in this country and I hope you know that, on however infinitesimal a level, you played some part in it by refusing to see what was in front of your face and by disbelieving the people who shouted unheeded warnings again and again and again.
But I digress. And the failed one-termer deserves no more of our time or attention, does he?
Things have a way, once it seems they're fixed in place, of shifting rapidly beneath you, and I can't tell if that's effort or luck or some serendipitous combination of the two, but I sure am grateful. I was in a rut. A rut of many facets, some old and some new, but all converging to make me feel as though I was stuck. Wanting to leave the village system but unable to break out. Looking for a partner but coming up blank. Aware of my gender identity but too scared to act on it (and, by implication, consigning myself to a half-life wherein I saw my true self but never moved towards her). And then it broke.
The breaking came in phases, of course, and each one of them had in common my decision to push, unrelentingly and without apology, until something moved.
"The Bible says You give us the desires of our hearts," I prayed during one especially fraught night in October. "And that You don't put on us more than we can take. Well I've hit my limit. I'm done. I am tired of asking You for the same things over and over again and getting absolutely nothing. If You won't help me, then I'll find help elsewhere."
If my threatening the good Lord above to go outright pagan doesn't illustrate the level of exhaustion under which I was operating then nothing really can, and to say that I was at my wits' end would be to sanitize the situation considerably. I was lonely. Tired. Unfulfilled. Purposeless. And just not willing to do it anymore. We Christians are told to trust meekly in "the plan," believing--often despite significant circumstantial evidence to the contrary--that God has our best interests at heart and that He will enact them if only we have the patience and fidelity to accept that He'll give us what we need.
You know, I tried that. But The Plan™ seemed to entail me spending a whole lot of time miserable and isolated while the rest of the world danced in sunshine far, far away. So I decided it was time for a new plan, God willing or, well, not.
One of the first rungs popped in January.
Teachers operate on year-long contracts that are issued each spring in advance of the following school year, and as this particular district sends them out criminally early--within weeks of the New Year, whereas other localities don't send theirs until March or April--I knew pretty quickly that I'd not been extended an offer to return for the Fall '21 term. When my repeated good-faith questions about what exactly had happened and if I needed to improve somehow were met with conflicting--that is, dishonest--answers, I mentally moved on. Made some calls. Did some interviews. Viaborea wound up hiring me back after all, no explanation given--and then seemed shocked and shaken to learn I'd pursued employment elsewhere.
"Are you not coming back next year?" asked Mr. Coin, my principal. He'd shuttled me into an empty classroom and looked harried. "I just got a call from HR in Iceport asking about you."
"Oh," I responded, trying to hide both my surprise and my delight. "I mean, I didn't know if I had a contract yet with you guys, so I did sit for an interview. But I didn't think anything of it when I didn't hear from them for a little bit."
"Well, you know we'd love to have you back."
You know what they say, Boss Man: play stupid games--win stupid prizes. You should've loved to have me back on January 1.
The fate of that position, Iceport being the competitive place that it is, remains uncertain, but a handful of very complimentary phone calls with those involved in the hiring process has left me optimistic. I'll learn within the coming weeks if there's a spot for me in the city.
"And we can be roomies!" Miss Violet, a teacher friend from Point Goldlace, crowed into the telephone when I apprised her of the newest developments. "Boo, this is going to be fun!"
Another rung popped in October, or at least began to, and the thing that nudged it upward was--of all things--an instant message.
I honestly don't remember what I said. I was on a subreddit, not even a proper dating site, so whatever missive I typed out to the cute guy with the wavy hair and the kind eyes was surely a banal compliment--"Sweet t-shirt, bro!"--but pleasantries yielded quickly to deeper conversations that betrayed a startling level of commonality.
"You know, I really enjoy talking to you," he messaged one day.
"Talking to me would sure be easier if you had my phone number," I playfully pushed back.
Within a week, tops, I was aware of something that I found disconcerting because I am not, ever, the person who lets their emotions carry them away or who jumps into relationships.
"Black Dress Girl," I told one of my best friends from back in the Lower 48. "I think I might have just met my husband."
Monday, November 2, 2020
I’ve prayed and I’ve prayed. I’ve worried countless hours. In the morning I’ll cast my ballot and, after that, will have done all I can do. After four years of horror it seems unbelievable that things should come to a head in less than a day, but here we are.
Across the country businesses are boarding up, people are sealing themselves behind locked doors, and individuals are stockpiling weapons and food. It is difficult to envision any scenario wherein Trump’s backers are not moved to violence, whether of the exuberant or the enraged kind, but should he lose—and please, merciful God, let him lose—then both he and they will be incalculably worse. And then there are those, nominally on our side, who are all too eager to torch and destroy should the vile man remain in office. I hope each and every one who would pillage takes the time to vote instead.
It feels like the entire future hangs on the precipice and yet all roads lead to catastrophe anyway. I don’t know how we got to this point. I just hope we can get past it.
Monday, October 19, 2020
If one word could define my life right now, that word would be "impermanence." Or maybe "unsustainable." "Precarity." "Transition." "Crisis."
Take your pick.
However you slice it, the inescapable conclusion is that I'm living in a moment which cannot persist. This is a pause at a threshold. A foot hovering above a gas pedal. An eagle-eyed crouch at the starting line. It cannot be, shouldn't be--mustn't be--a way of life.
But I don't know what replaces it. Having figured out, at least a little bit, where I am, I can't work out where I'm supposed to go. I pinned a lot of hopes on a path forward with International Organization and was overjoyed when they selected me for an interview, but all that has been placed on ice owing to the pandemic. As has, it seems, much of the world.
It is bizarre and temptingly egocentric that my personal entry into an existential waiting room has coincided with the rest of the global population doing the same thing. At least up here, things seemed to be getting better throughout the late summer and into the early fall--until, suddenly, they weren't. Until, suddenly, the sickness was everywhere.
On Monday, October 12, I returned from my lunch break around 12:30 in the afternoon--returning from my apartment, as it were, which is one of the benefits of living in the same building where you work--to find the students stuffing backpacks and slipping on jackets.
"What are they all doing?" I asked Mr. Coin, my newest principal.
"It's in the village," he responded, eyes dark. "The busses will be here at 1."
And then they were gone.
No one seems to know for sure when they'll come back, but the outbreak spreading in the community is clearly uncontrolled--even some of the teenagers are becoming really ill--and the inclination seems to be that we should opt for caution over quickness. We may, Mr. Coin confided, be expected to work remotely until the middle of January--which inspired a brilliant conclusion on my part followed by an equally swift moral torpedo.
"So, if we're not going to be in the classrooms until January...can I just peace out to the East Coast?" I asked. "There's not really any point to being here."
"I don't see why that would be a problem," he answered. "If the work is remote it makes no difference where you do it from. Let me ask around and I'll let you know if we're good to go."
We're not good to go.
Because even as I imagined the joys of an extended holiday homecoming--hanging out for a month with my grandmother, popping over to see my best friend and her son, surprising my sister amid the stresses of her senior year of high school--I saw the pitfalls following close behind. My grandmother is 78. Aunt Crazy, the redoubtable loon whose admonitions that "it's hard out here to be a pimp" and questionable professions of fondness for cocaine have long enlivened family gatherings, is around the same age and in poor health.
And then there's Sweet Aunt.
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
It seems masterfully selfish, irresponsible even, to write about something as prosaic as my new place when large parts of our country are literally on fire. But I'm here. Here in Viaborea, settling into a routine, decorating my apartment, devising lessons plans and activities and, potentially, a sharp exit across the border that's ninety miles away.