Freedom to Be Who You Want to Be (or Alice steps out of the looking glass)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I’ve never had an easy time explaining gender dysphoria to people.  The experience of being male or female is so much what it means to be human that folks have a hard time wrapping their heads around the thought that experience just doesn’t make sense to some people, including me.

I’ve had the most success describing the first time that I knew I was different.  I gazed into a mirror and the person looking back was not whom I expected to see.  I expected to see a girl with shoulder-length hair, blue eyes and a bright smile.  Obviously that wasn’t the image.  And this is gender dysphoria.

What did I do about it?  Absolutely nothing, nothing but destructive behaviors, that is.  I knew I was different sometime in the mid 60’s.  I needed approval as an adolescent.  I could not have withstood the disapproval of society and family in those years.  The great paradox is that in the middle of this internal struggle and the need for approval, I rejected approval entirely.

We have indeed come a long way in the last fifty years.  We talk more openly about such matters as gender identity and we are better (not perfect) about encouraging a sense of worth not based upon an unhealthy need for approval.  As a people we still struggle towards a better vision, but we are on the journey.  We are braver these days about moving past that need for approval which usually doesn’t materialize anyway.

My family, church and community are important to me, but they all no longer get to call the shots.  I’m free to be who I am because that girl decided to step out of the mirror.
Love, Denise

Someone in My Corner

I remember the first time I ever went to lunch as Denise with some of my cis-gendered girl friends.  We’d gotten to know each other in a whole entirely different kind of group and unlike the majority of people today, they knew me both before and after I’d come out as a transwoman.

I really didn’t want to go.  I was certain everybody in the crowded place was staring at me.  And when they caught on that one man was staring and snickering, I thought they were all going to march over to his table and rearrange his nose.

Even if the statistics are better than 1 in 10,000 for MtF and 1 in 30,000 for FtM folks, we all just aren’t enough to impact society at large in matters of health and justice.  Sure, get us all together in one place and include all the gender-variant people, not just transsexuals, it’s pretty amazing.  But separately and outside a metro area, transitioning can be a lonely business.

I had visions of restaurant management calling the police to break up a melee.  Thankfully the yahoo in question wilted in the stares of a handful of angry women directed right back at him.  But I need to know other people have my back.  Every trans person (and for that matter, all LGBTQI folks) need neighbors like ours next door.  I walked past the end of their driveway last night at dusk.  M. and P. stopped searching for where they stashed their reusable shopping bags long enough to shoot the breeze with me.  They only call me Denise, they refer to me with correct pronouns and they are pulling for me to find work.  Wonderful neighbors.

I’ve given up on family in my corner in large part.  I’m luckier than some in that I even have a family left.  But into the emptiness comes a terrific variety of people who often don’t understand all this transgender business and aren’t overly concerned.  They actually like Denise.  They like this sober Denise.  When I talk to them about jobs, discrimination, access to public facilities, they listen.  Nobody recoils in horror at the thought I really do need to use female restrooms.  And I believe they speak up even when I’m not around.

I wouldn’t be half as brave as I am without somebody in my corner.

Love, Denise

PS: I believe this is also true of the entire LGBTQI community.  I need and expect LGB people to stick up for me and I stick up for them.  Enough division already.  And we all have allies who support us.  That’s the only way we’ll win the marriage equality battle in Minnesota.

 

An Open Letter to the People of Iowa

I mean this in all sincerity; how does this feel?  What does it mean to you to have a campaign run an ad on your television that was based entirely on the results of a pollster calling around to see if it would fly?  Is this what you signed on for, to watch political ads like some kind of pay per view where you control the content so you get to see exactly what you had already made your mind up about?  How does it feel to know that the person behind this has already accepted untold big bucks from the LGBT community – GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans, telling everybody that he wanted the LGBT community to get a fair shake out in the world and then moves on to another payday?

Somebody explain to me what difference it would make if the candidate wasn’t a live person at all, just a computer image generated to pronounce certain notions in response to what number you pressed on your phone.  You wouldn’t have to go out in the cold, spend a whole evening trying to exercise your political rights and obligations.  What would be that like?

Have you ever had somebody from the LGBT community treat you this way?  When your gay neighbors told you they wanted to get married, were they this cynical or did somebody tell you why he felt the way he did face-to-face even if you didn’t like it?

Just curious.

Things I Don’t Understand

I get a daily digest version of transgendernews@yahoo.com.  I get a lot out of it generally just from the sheer scope of diversity of trans people.  I see that trans people in such places as Indonesia suffer in tangible, unjust ways.  I also get to know trans successes in Britain, Canada, Brazil and sometimes right here at home.  But there’s something I just don’t get – the simmering animosity between some segments of the LGBT community over who is supporting whom, whose needs are being recognized and who is getting short shrift.

Yes, my issues with public accommodations (read “where I can pee”) are not something I always expect my GLB friends to get.  Being T is not exactly the same thing as being G and I don’t always get gay priorities.  But I don’t seem to experience anybody shouting at me or selling me out and I don’t feel compelled to confront the rest of the GLBT community.

Honestly, I’m a lot more bothered by the bizarre hate-mongering homo- and trans- phobic lunatics than anybody else.  Am I naive to want some kind of unity, some kind of communication and understanding between those with the common experience of the closet?  No matter who appears cross gender, no matter who somebody falls in love with and chooses to marry, we all know what it means to “come out”.  And the people of this world who hate G don’t hate L or B or T or what have you any less.  That much I DO understand.