Sunday, April 28, 2024

The Perspective from Another Horizon


Theory is one thing, fact another. 

Do you remember those old personality tests you'd take online? The ones that asked you questions like, "You're in a relationship and you learn that your partner has been talking to their ex behind your back. Do you: A. Confront them about it. B. Ask them if..."? 

Those drove me crazy as a kid. I had such a burning desire to understand myself, to know not just who I was but what type of person I was, combined with a dearth of life experience that made the hypothetical scenarios maddening. The invariable result of attempting those quizzes was realizing I didn't have the context to knowledgeably complete them and that therefore I couldn't get an accurate answer. Buzzfeed would never be able to tell me what my inner substance was. Not if I didn't know it myself.

This blog has been my growing-up space. Across the years it's chronicled when a great many milestones that were previously what-ifs became concrete realities, lived experiments from which I could draw conclusions and formulate new hypotheses. What would it be like to live on my own? I found out in Alaska, and discovered that I am a fundamentally weird person who always should have had plenty of personal space--but not too much of it. The theoretical version of me who basked in the glory of dominion over a whole apartment collided eventually with the real version of me who found that the endless days and nights of freedom quickly became infected by loneliness. 

I'd never again want to deal with having to live at someone else's whims or under someone else's rules. But I wouldn't mind dealing with having to share the television. Or having to keep quiet after a certain hour. Or having to leave some hot water. Not if it meant I had someone to come home to. 

But what about an adult job? my 28-year-old mind wondered as I flew hard northwest en route to an Alaska encrusted with ice and snow in the spring of 2017. Won't I just crumple under the pressure?

I adjusted.

But what about having to be in charge of kids? How can they trust me to do that when I'm practically a kid myself?

Duty is a powerful thing. The nurturing instinct is, too. I rose to those occasions. Over the coming years I learned what I'd do if I had conflict with a supervisor, what I'd do if I shifted to a different specialty in my career field, what I'd do if I visited a foreign country, what I'd do in a serious relationship. And what I'd do in another one

In August 2023 I left Alaska, in September began my probationary period of employment at the job I'd been half convinced was too good for me, and in February boarded a flight bound for Europe. One night in Albion was followed by another travel leg, this one diving deep to the southeast--such an odd inverse echo of the journey to Alaska all those years ago--and then in the early hours of February 22, 2024, I disembarked in the place that will be my home for at least the next year: Konkan City.

Being here has allowed me to answer a number of other heretofore-philosophical questions: What if I were wealthy? How would I handle that? What if I had servants? Would I be kind? What if I no longer got my treasured summers off? Could I possibly endure?

The truths gleaned from those queries are mostly good. On the work front, I have more resilience than I thought I did. On the wealth front I've not suddenly become a conspicuous consumer flashing his bank account to the world. No garish cologne or bulky cuff links. No gold-plated toilet seats here. 

And as someone who now pays the salaries of several other someones, and whose patronage is a regular and welcome boost for a few local businesses, I've discovered that the slight irritation I feel at so seldom being truly alone--between the guards at my residence, the drivers who take me around the city, the housekeeper who tends to my domestic tasks, and the cook who prepares my meals I am constantly in the company of people whose livelihood depends on my pleasure and who are eager to signal their concern with my comfort--has not diminished my inclination to treat staff fairly and pay them well. I'm friendly toward these people without being overly familiar, if only because social fatigue will burn me down if I don't have some time when I'm not on a stage. But I'm good to work for.

This place is very different from Alaska. Some things, though, are surprisingly the same. Iceport has just cracked the freezing mark while Konkan is veering closer every day to 100 degrees, and the quarter-million people who had the audacity to call my former home a city look quaint compared to the 25 million crammed into this section of the Sindhu coastline. I make double here what I did as a teacher. I somehow work less. Report cards have been replaced with expense reports, parent conferences with executive meetings where I say little as people astronomically higher on the income ladder than me lay out strategies for sales and engagement and whatever else we must do. But here, as there, I'm far from home, doing work my family doesn't really understand in a place they find exotic. Here, as there, I'm buoyed by a rewarding job. And here, as there, I leave that job to return to an apartment I inhabit alone. 

The true-love thing emphatically did not work for me. I thought I found it with Anthos, but what I found led eventually to me sleeping with an oversized show pillow so I could trick my brain into a few hours' relief from the crushing grief that followed his leaving. It took me a year after he was gone to return to a basic level of functioning, two years to let go of the flame I kept lit for him, the door I kept open. Just in case he realized how good we really were together. Just in case he one day understood that he loved me as much as I loved him. Just in case he came back. Just in case. A year and a half with him and two years wanting to be with him. I mourned us longer than there was us. And I never want to find that particular kind of pain again.

Once in a moment of levity I said to Gavril, whom I dated before Anthos, that I didn't feel fireworks with him but that if we found ourselves stuck together in an arranged marriage I'd be all right with it. And his goofy Chinese ass, rather than being offended, responded with authentic surprise and joy. 

"That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me," he beamed.

At the time I worried my relationship with Gavril, which had so much in the way of common interests and temperament but so little in the way of unbridled passion, was too comfortable. Too sedate. Too much like...well, an arrangement. But a scarce two and a half weeks after my thirty-sixth birthday I've decided that what I feared developing with the partner I affectionately called "Chinaman" is now precisely what I'm looking for.

I want an arranged marriage.

Or, at least, a marriage that is an arrangement. A marriage in which, to quote the great Clarisse Renaldi describing the dynamic to her granddaughter Mia, "we grew very fond of one another."

I'm not seeking, to be sure, an economic understanding or something equally detached. But I'm thirty-six. Thirty-six and tired of walking through the world by myself. Thirty-six and aware that each of us only gets so much time. Thirty-six and mindful of the ever more perilous math around how old I'll be for the milestones of prospective children if I have them next year, or the year after, or the year after. Thirty-six and ready to build a life, with a partner who wants to build the same thing and who is tired of falling asleep by himself. I require a man of agreeableness, similar tastes and outlook, financial stability, and goals similar to mine. Those qualities being present, and a basic level of mutual physical attraction with them, love can happen along the way.

This feels like a tall order in a world of hookups, foot fetishists, and men in their thirties who write "ur" en lieu of "you're" in text messages, so I've enlisted the services of a professional matchmaker to help arrange this arrangement. Such a solution is expensive and might not work, but hey: I can afford it. And when we're all running out of time, time spent trying is time spent well.  

I've been so blessed in so many ways. Maybe someday soon I'll have someone to share it with.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

A New Life


It's a strange thing when your dreams come true. Then they're not your dreams anymore, are they? They're just your life. Good and bad, thrilling and infuriating, exceptional and mundane. Your day-to-day routine is shot through with these moments of surreality, little thrills that make your stomach leap like you're on a rollercoaster while a little voice in your head squeals with glee. And then you remember that you left your lunch in your apartment. 

It's been a long, long time since October 29, 2022, when I last posted here. A bit over a year in chronological time. Something on the order of a few centuries in terms of lived experience. Back then I was in Alaska, contemplating the master's degree in special education I'd begun working on the previous summer, and actively mourning the man from whom I'd been separated for nine lonely, excruciating months. His spectre was with me all the time then, haunting the kitchen where we made chicken-noodle soup together and the bed where we laid and the empty present that was supposed to have been our beautiful future. His was the face of a million wonderful possibilities lost. 

But time, as they say, heals all wounds. I'm not sure how much stock I put in the fullness of that convalescence, though it's undeniable that with enough distance, enough months, enough years, the hemorrhage turned into a trickle. The blister became just a sunburn. And in my broader life, as I've always done, I kept planning and striving and building. Hoping that one of my many glittering dreams would spring to life and carry me to something new. As it happens, not one of them came true; two did. 

In April, just in time for my thirty-fifth birthday, I learned I'd been offered admission and a full scholarship to a university in Scandinavia that offered a master's program about which I was very passionate. I duly gave notice to my school district, put in extra hours with after-school tutoring to shore up my bank account, and was knee deep in a student-visa process when a second e-mail found its way to my inbox at five in the morning on a beautiful June day. I read it over and over again, scarcely daring to believe the words were true. 

"We are pleased to offer you..."

Everything. They offered everything.

I first applied for a job with Global Company, an international public-relations firm, in 2019. I had a successful interview with them the following year, but then the pandemic rolled through everyone's plans like a boulder through bowling pins and the corporation whose lifeblood was international travel found itself dead in the water. An indefinite hiring freeze accompanied a general battening of hatches. An apologetic message informed me I'd interviewed well and that they'd be back in touch when things settled down. I simply forgot about it because they never reached out again. 

Until they did. 

The starting salary in the June missive was so eye popping I had to double and triple check it to make sure I had the digits right. And what about that comma? Was it supposed to have that many zeroes? I called my mother in tears because everything I'd wanted my entire adult life had just been handed to me in a few short paragraphs, but the tears of joy lasted only moments before a thought boomed loud as thunder in my head: I have so much to do.

I returned the scholarship. Rescinded the letter of acceptance. Cancelled that visa appointment at the embassy, because my little blond ass certainly was not going to Sweden. A fully funded master's degree sounded nice, but doubling my salary to take a job I'd dreamt of since I was twenty sounded better. And with those decisions made I closed the door on an entire life. Packed up my beautiful apartment in Iceport, said goodbye to countless friends and colleagues, spent an achingly gorgeous Alaska June teaching summer school to a group of high-schoolers who made me grateful for the gift of being an educator. And then got on a plane. 

It's difficult to describe how bizarre that takeoff was. I began this blog as a 19-year-old college student who wondered if he'd ever have a career or independence or personal dignity or even his own living arrangement. I achieved none of that before Alaska. And Alaska gave it to me in spades. In a very real way Alaska defined me as an adult entity, because it was where the grown-up version of me emerged and where the entirety of my professional life prior to last summer occurred. I'll always hold that place, and those six years, close to my heart. Even as, from an aisle seat on an eastbound Delta flight, I bid them goodbye. 

The next few months were downright unreal. I spent August visiting family and friends, then in September moved into a fabulous corporate-housing unit for the probationary period of my employment, when I worked with domestic clients so management could view my output in real time and ensure I'd be up to snuff when the stakes were really high in an international context. Apparently I did okay, because after a Southern State fall so magnificent it routinely brought tears to my eyes and after the inestimable privilege of Christmas with my family, the word came down from admin last week: all systems go. 

I passed the tests and checked the boxes. Now it's time to get aboard another plane. I'll be going farther away than I've ever gone before, to a land of beauty and antiquity and pride (and, as it happens, a growing tech industry, which is why there's a role for me there in the first place). In the midst of this enormous victory, I'm struck by the degree to which our stories can shift and, with them, the self-definitions those stories give us. Two and a half years ago I was BB the teacher, whose passion was special education and whose greatest dream was to build a future with Anthos in Triantaphilon. A cozy little life in a cozy little city. Me with my stacks of papers to grade and my boyfriend zipping through work I could barely understand on an expensive computer screen. 

Is it weird that, even with the possibility of that reality long dead, it's an image I still find so wonderful? Anthos had his faults but he was an amazing man, and making pennies as a SPED teacher didn't bother me if we had his huge paycheck to fall back on. Now Anthos and I have been split for two years, that cozy little city has been replaced by one of the most massive metropolises in the world, and Anthos's paystubs aren't quite so awe inspiring. How could they be? I make more than him. 

Now, after all this, I don't really know what I expect out of life. And increasingly I'm not trying to expect anything in particular, which is difficult given that I've obsessively plotted next steps and new aspirations since I was about fourteen. A few years ago, though, I really thought I had it all figured out, and then that lovely frame collapsed and reconfigured in ways awful and awesome. 

Do I want to meet a man? Sure. Do I think I will eventually? Uh...sure. But there's a lot to enjoy right now about just being BB, and a lot of new responsibilities on my plate besides. I'll find the right person eventually. At present I'm preparing for a move to the other side of the planet, readying for an on-site role I'll assume very soon, and enjoying the freedom that six figures on a W9 offers.

I feel triumphant in this moment. But also scared. The elation of my arrival here has since been mixed with a healthy dose of "Holy shit, what did I do?" even though I'm happy with my choices and know I made the right ones. I visited my younger brother Thomas over the weekend and it was hard to say goodbye. I pulled him into the closest version of a bear hug I could manage, laughable with my slender body and his huge frame, and couldn't help the tears that started to flow as I pressed my face into his shoulder. 

"I'm going to miss you," I croaked. He's twenty-eight years old now and a professional in the medical field after a youth that looked perilously unmoored. He has a girlfriend, an apartment, a professional progression in front of him, the whole shebang. I couldn't be prouder. 

"It'll be okay," he responded. "Now remember that you have a horse cock and pull yourself together."

"You have to come to Albion," I said. "It's halfway between us. I'll take time off work and we can meet there."

"God," he said, shaking his head with a laugh. "'Let's meet in Europe, halfway between us.' How is this your life?"

How indeed? 

As to this blog, who knows? I thought I was done with it, and then today I just wanted to write. Maybe I'm too much of a storyteller to ever really stop. But in keeping with my evolution where such things are concerned, I'm going to let it unfold as it will. The kind of monthly updates I did in previous years feel unlikely at the moment, but anything could happen. 

As the Spirit moves me, so I'll do.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Dear Jon

I lied, love
It's always you
From that first week
When you were beautiful words on a screen
(“I think," I said, embarrassed because I never get swept away, "I just met my husband")
To the last
When you were words again
A string of characters
Vulgar black on white
Inadequate binary
Yes or no
Good enough or not
Here or gone
Two banal colors
Concealing glorious heterochromia
Explosions of glittering prismatic hue
That bathed us in Portland
Where the vista of a whole life unfolded from your living room window
Where a panoply of treasure and trust billowed across the bed we shared
Where I teased you about the thermostat and enfolded you in my smooth skin
To warm you when you were cold
Where we laughed at the mess our loving made
"That table's ruined," you sighed
And I'd destroy it with you again and again and again
A thousand times over
Until I got perfect at the demolition
That bathed us in Baltimore
Where my grandmother said you had kind eyes
One of the last things she'll remember is that you made me happy
That bathed us in Virginia
Where the store clerk smiled because we gave her good vibes
Where my best friend took me by the elbow
With a sharp smile and knowing eyes
And whispered so you couldn't hear: "I like him"
That bathed us in Georgetown
Where fireworks and Prosecco and your kisses made a golden haze
My favorite 4th of July
Washington will always be ours
Sparkles on the river
Mimosas and smoked salmon
Train rides and hot days and gentle drunkenness
The first place you told me you loved me
By saying you couldn't say it
But that you felt it
So we came up with that ridiculous euphemism
A code word
That meant not just "love"
But OUR love
The love you bore for me and I for you
Silly and knowing and flexible
Stretching to account for my fears and yours
Pliant enough to absorb the sharp edges and render them soft
That bathed us in Christmas-morning snow
When you held a mirror to my doubt and showed me I could be wonderful without changing
The first inkling of my beautiful boyhood came from your mouth
Not mine
I love you for so much
But I love you especially for that
And for your laugh
The way it hitches in disbelief at me
For your mockery each and every time we go to the grocery store
Because I never know where I'm parked
For how you sputter at the mere suggestion of spicy food
For the absurdity that you're an Indian who can't eat curry
For our first date in a carwash
And our second in a candy aisle
For insisting I be treated well
Even when I didn’t
For when you used me as a thesaurus
For when I used you as a calculator
For when we dreamed of the desert
And then of the pines
And then of Vancouver
And then of Berlin
For Netflix nights
For scandalous asides
For the article you sent me---when I was already reading it, too
For knowing me so well you could guess my mind
Even a thousand miles away
For when you still missed me
And longed to see my face
For how you wept
When you read my Christmas card
For "Your presence makes me calm"
Because that was all I ever wanted to give you
For every answered phone call
For every returned text
For your hands dancing down my feet
And over my body
For your lips on mine
For the fierce hug at the airport
For, "Don't worry, Love. It's only eight weeks."
But then it was never.
For the tears you shed the first morning you woke up without me
Yours have dried
But mine just keep flowing
"You have to move on"
When so many say it
Mustn't it be true?
No white after Labor Day
Wait half a week before texting
Nobody can pull off bangs
Marble countertops are passé
Everybody knows
You certainly did
When you repeated their mantra:
"You have to move on"
So I told you I did
To give you that closure
And pretend I had it, too
It's the line I recite when people ask how I am
That we're better as friends
That I'm happy this way
"You have to move on"
So I told you I did
But moving on means letting go of hope
Not of you
Now hope is long gone
And it’s just you who lingers
I release everything else
Yet can never unclench my hands from your memory
"You have to move on"
So I told you I did
To acceptance of this absence
To peace with this ache
To the dating game
Where I look for the man who can be second best
A substitute for the only one I've ever loved
Pepsi Cola
Palatable if you don't think about it
Never the real thing
You promised I'd find someone right
But I already have
You promised he’s out there somewhere
But he lives in Portland
I’ve been in his apartment
I’ve counted the grey hairs in his glossy black mane
And the fears behind his crinkling dark eyes
And each time he was strong enough to overcome them
And the slowly ticking minutes
Since we began leaking away
And each bailout bucket
In succession they all overflowed
And the endless accumulated leagues
Since Mile Marker 21st of January
When he drifted beyond my soft touch
And each thudding second
Since the one when I knew I lost him
You asked me to believe
So I told you I would
"You have to move on"
So I told you I did
I lied, love
It's always you

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Boy Returns


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.

This beautiful self-acceptance does not, to clarify, mean all facets of me are now resolved and that gender ambiguity won't--or doesn't--raise its head. The deep dive on transgender science I did in the many months prior to my course of estrogen led me to believe that the condition is basically an intersex disorder affecting neurology, and I still feel that way. I still feel, likewise, that if you popped me into an MRI machine and took a look under my hood you would see an engine that looked a whole lot more pink than blue. I don't think I'm not female. But I also don't think I'm not male. And I certainly don't want to undertake the course of surgeries, procedures, medications, and overall lifelong clinical intervention that would be required to let me live as a functioning woman.

All of that could one day change. Now, having experienced what I have, I know that estrogen therapy is always there and that I'd achieve extremely rapid feminization if I ever undertook the regimen again. But for now...I like my genitalia. I like the male hormonal experience. And I'm learning to live happily--maybe even, one day, proudly?--with my asterisk held firmly in hand. 

The path back to manhood is probably not as simple as a moment of profound personal revelation, if only because I don't seem to have quite made it to manhood in the first place. Even before estrogen I was smaller, weaker, softer, lovelier, than the other men I knew. Losing weight was like pulling teeth. Putting on muscle had always been impossible, even with rigorous diet and exercise supervised by personal trainers. My soft face had gotten me called "ma'am" since I was a teenager, which made sense given my female skull shape and lack of brow bone. My voice, androgynous and breathy when low, sharp and womanly when high, led to similar things on the phone. All of that felt incredibly validating when I wanted to become a woman. But all of it was still there when I decided to live as a man.

"The good news," my new doctor told me as she surveyed the blood results taken about three weeks after my estrogen therapy ended. "Is that your testosterone is already back to the baseline you had before you started estrogen. The bad news is that that baseline was not very good."

A gender doctor whom I'm likewise consulting scrunched her face in concentration as we discussed my situation over a Zoom appointment. 

"Have you ever been assessed for an intersex condition?" she asked. "I'd be really curious."

The path to male health has been eye opening and will have more developments yet. 

But I'm here. 

Me. BlackenedBoy who became BrightenedBoy, who's now a man but who will always carry something of boyhood--and girlhood--inside him. No path in life is perfect and mine has, perhaps, had more pitfalls and peculiar off-ramps than most, but I feel at last able to walk it in peace with how and who I was made to be. And I can find my calling, my partner, my place, without the immobilizing ambiguity that made these last years an agony of trying and failing to fit molds both male and female.

I'll return, soon, to offer details on how other parts of my life have evolved since the entry I left here last May. Thank you so much for your patience.

It's good to be back.

Monday, May 31, 2021

With Him


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. 

With him.

I have no idea what's coming or where I'll be when it does. What I do know is that I'm tired of living for other people's expectations, or for duty, or for the long game. I want to live for the moment. For the desires of my heart. For, at last, my happiness, which I've neglected so long in the service of literally everything else. For the right now.  And right now, walking beside him in the sunshine makes me feel more whole and more hopeful than I have in a very, very long time. 

This emotional rollercoaster is headed for a destination I'm not yet able to divine. Once it stops, I'm getting off at a port of my choosing--Alaska and career be damned. I've been so obsessed with following the path and climbing the ladder, with doing the responsible thing, that I've missed a beautiful and elegant truth: at any point, you can burn it all down. Start over. You don't have to continue investing in a choice that no longer serves you just because you've invested so much in it already. 

So many decisions. Now I just have to work out what I want.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Tides That Shift So Suddenly


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."

Anthos, this man who's introduced so much possibility into my life so quickly, is thirty-two years old (his birthday is four days after mine, a fact that will prove insufferably adorable if we wind up together in the long term), and that may account for the cautious approach towards our dynamic that he was happy to share with me. Both of us were aware of the high level of compatibility we shared. Both of us knew the implications such compatibility could have. And both of us chose to take it slow. 

We talked remotely for five months, at one point consciously skipping out on meeting during the Christmas holidays, before he got on a plane to Alaska in the second week of March. I was off school for spring break and his job was remote, so we AirBnb-ed it for a week and decided to see how things went. 

The result: a resounding okay. 

"I don't feel those fireworks for you," I told him during one of our frequent conversations of refreshing insight and candor. "I mean, I like you. A lot. I just don't think those fireworks are something I feel."

"I don't feel them for you, either," he said. "But I've been in relationships where I did feel the fireworks, and I can tell you: it doesn't last. That ends really quickly, and then you're left with the person and whether you can deal with them."

I check a lot of boxes for him. He checks a lot of boxes for me. We have similar life goals and similar ideas about what a relationship should be. 

"You know what my favorite part of this week has been?" I queried him towards the end of our stay. 


There had been plenty of romantic or at least romantic-comedy moments, from the stunning drive down the Seaside Highway to the afternoon spent at a resort to the moose-evasion we'd had to pull in the neighborhood where we'd rented a place. But any of those instances would make too much sense.

"We were getting ready to go somewhere and I was still in the bathroom doing my hair, so I called out to ask you to start the car. And then I realized, 'Oh, my God. There's someone to start the car. I don't have to do everything on my own.'"

He crooned with laughter as the words hit home, his eyes glittering knowingly. 

"My favorite part was cleaning the kitchen," he confessed. "You were just like, 'You do this and I'll do this.' We just really tackled that as a team. Neither one trying to avoid helping. We went after it together."

I'd unloaded the dishwasher and he'd gathered the trash. It was magical. 

We decided ahead of time that we'd talk at the end of the week and decide whether we wanted to proceed with a formal relationship. We did. So when on Sunday, March 21, I drove Anthos to the airport, we parted as boyfriends. This relationship is not perfect and there are certainly obstacles to making it work, but we've both reached the same conclusion: that we'll overcome those barriers if we decide that doing so is worth it. That creates decisions to be made, but not to be made right now. I'm flying to his West Coast city next month and we're taking it from there. Step by step. Self-assessing along the way. 

And it's a good thing we're being so flexible, because just last week the universe dropped another bomb on me: a year after my interview was indefinitely postponed because of Covid, International Organization reached out to say that they're resuming the hiring process and want me to come to Marble City this summer. 

"It seems like for the longest time I had nothing going on," I told my father by telephone not long after. "And don't get me wrong: I'd rather have too many opportunities than not enough. But it's a lot to juggle."

"That's how it goes, though," he said. "One week there's nothing and then the next you have five job offers. When it rains--"

"I know. It pours."