Many Roads to Rome

I transitioned in the early eighties in my early twenties.  I guess that makes me an early transitioner.  It was a time of gatekeepers and group meetings.  I had beeDivided Highway Signn seeing my family doctor to start hormone replacement until he became uncomfortable with continuing the treatments and he referred me to the local Dallas psychiatrist that ran a group of people transitioning.  Dr. May would be my first gatekeeper.

One needed to meet privately with this elderly doctor before you were allowed to go to the next step of the process.  He had a set number of private meetings which was pretty straight forward.  Much like the initial meetings I’ve had with the many doctors that my parents had sent to me in the past.  The first was a conversation about current status, then a meeting for the tests and the final meeting was his final judgement.  He approved the next step, and referred me to an endocrinologist and the transsexual group meetings that Dr. May held on Tuesday nights.

This group meeting would be the first time I would meet other people going through the process.  I didn’t have a clue about what to expect.  I guess that I thought everyone would be just starting out, and that there were several groups meeting on different nights for those at a different point of their transition.  Of course, I was wrong.  The group was a small set of people in different places of their transition and going different directions.  As the newest member of the group I was also the one earliest in transition.  The group very clearly expressed their disappointment that I had come straight from work and I was still in male clothes.  They quickly judged my commitment to completing the process.

This group of people represented every stereotype you could imagine.  There was the post-transsexual woman acting as one of the Grand Dames instructing everyone on the one and only path to transition.  There was the drag queen trying to decide if she needed to go the next step and lose her career.  There was the butch lesbian working the best man impression she could muster.  The other Grand Dame was a what would be called a non-op.  She didn’t see the need to go for that surgery, but continued to come to the group for the hormones.  The two Grand Dames constantly argued and fought over who was a real woman and who wasn’t.

Also in attendance were a couple of female to male transitioning clients.  These guys were amazing to me.  They were well along in transition and looked very handsome to me.  They were also much more understanding of the many paths than the two Grand Dames.

The group meeting was actually in two parts; the first part was the hour-long meeting in Dr. May’s office where we discussed success’s and failures of the previous week, and the second part which was when everyone would go to local gay friendly bars for drinks and ridicule.  During the office group meetings everyone was on their best behavior because the good doctor was there, and he was the keeper of the path, or so we believed.  It was the meeting after the meeting that I learned the real lessons this group had to offer.

Once free of the monitoring, the group would really let you know how your transition was working or not.  First, they would not even allow you to come to the bar if you didn’t pass well enough.  The Grand Dame’s of the group would go item by item until you felt like a small wart on the ass of a frog.  Secondly, once they deemed that you were presentable (meaning that you wouldn’t embarrass them in public) each of them would lecture us on the proper way to go through transition.  Each member of the group’s path was the only and true path.  All others were wasted time and money.

Oddly enough, even though each person of the group believed they were the true gatekeeper, none of them were.  I learned two main lessons from this group.  One, everyone comes to this point in transition from a different place, and two, everyone leaves this point at a different pace.  There isn’t a single path to a place of “completeness.”  There isn’t even a single destination where everyone must end.

Whether it is today’s transsexual versus transgender wars, or like it was in the eighties Dallas group fight of the Grand Dames or even like the  during Dies Sanguinis (The Day of Blood) on March 24th in Ancient Rome.  There will always be those true believers that argue with the unfaithful.  There have always been those who believe that their path is the only path.  Their ideas are the only good ideas.  Their pain is the greatest pain.  Everyone has a path, an idea and their own pain.  There is a saying “All roads lead to Rome,” but in the case of human beings reaching that place of self understanding and wholeness, there are “Many roads to Rome.”  And Rome is where your heart lives.

Obligatory Cotton Ceiling Post

It has been a long time since my last post, and I’m sure that no one has missed this small insignificant part of the blog world. None the less, I feel it is time for me to offer my thoughts on the “Cotton Ceiling” issue. There have been hundreds or even thousands of posts, tweet and comments about this issue. I’m sure that I’m not going to add a single new idea to this, but I need to go on record about my position.

Let me first state that I disagree with the whole idea and motivation for the “Cotton Ceiling”, and I’ll expand on that later. It has taken me a long time to finally write about it, and to be honest, I’ve struggled during my thought processes. Those thoughts have crystallized into something I can articulate. So here goes….

The “Cotton Ceiling” is a harmful concept. As I understand the concept, it was conceived because a group of non and pre-op transgender women didn’t understand why lesbians didn’t want to have sex with them. The trans women argued that if a lesbian was willing to use sex toys that are penetrative, then that lesbian should have no problem with the transgender women’s working penis. The transgender women who forward this idea seem to forget that the use of a penetrative sex toy is light years different from a working penis that is attached to someone. The risk it too high not to be mentioned. There is the risk of STD’s, bodily harm, emotional trauma and pregnancy.  None of which is worth just to help someone feel better about themselves.

The transgender women then expand the non acceptance into a belief that the lesbians do not believe that they are real women. Once again, there are light years difference between being accepted as a woman and someone wanting to have penetrative sex with specific person. The two concepts should never have been uttered in the same breath.

The further insult to all women was for these transgender women to then decide that they should get together and create a space to talk about ways to get around this barrier. It is bad for all parties that the creators intended to help. The idea that a group of people would gather to discuss why they are not having sex with another group of people is harmful and intrusive. Under no conceivable notion is it okay to hold a meeting to discuss forcibly or shaming anyone into sex. I can’t repeat this strongly or often enough.

As mammals we are sexual beings, and we have the capacity to decide for ourselves who, what, when and where we exercise that sexual nature. No one has the right to force or shame another being into intimate relationships. Our desires are ours and no one else’s.

I realize that there are plenty of supermarket tabloids and magazines that specialize in helping you to “get” the object of your affection, and there is a lot of money made by the ”Vanity” Industries to facilitate that effort. That doesn’t make it right. Everyone has the right to decide their own sexual experiences.

Over time, everyone evolves and everyone re-evaluates their preferences and attractions. Sometimes it is a minor thing like going from choosing blondes to redheads, and sometimes it can be a big thing like becoming a political lesbian. Either way, it is up to that person and only that person as to how and when that happens.

You have the right to write a book, create a blog or produce a video to state your case as to why others should not discount what you have to offer. You even have the right to host a discussion group. You do not have the right to develop schemes and tactics to force or shame anyone into changing their preferences.

Lastly, when the whole thing blew up about the wrongness of the Cotton Ceiling concept, many people went on the defensive and claims that it wasn’t really about sex at all. They claimed that it was about acceptance. This is just a smoke screen.

While the issue of acceptance is an important issue, it has nothing to do with another persons choice of a sexual partner. There is a whole world of people who I choose not to have sex with and I still accept them for who they are and who they claim to be. Likewise, I have been rejected by a whole world of people who I’m attracted to and they still accept me as the person I am.

There will always be groups of people who will never accept other groups of people. This does not automatically invalidate either group or remove their net worth or their class identity. No one can take away from you who you are. They may choose not to play with you or not invite you home for the holidays, but you will still be you.

The Cotton Ceiling is wrong and harmful on so many levels that I can’t even begin to cover it all. I’m not the first nor will I be that last to write about it. I know that my small little offering will not change anyone’s mind, but here are a few truths that I hold:

  • No one has a right to sex, period.
  • No one has a right to have sex with anyone that they desire.
  • Only you can decide for you and only you.

Gender is Not my Identity

Gender is not my identity, neither is my work, my family nor my possessions. I believe the things I create identify me.

Famous Optical Illusion

Famous Optical Illusion

Who I am and what I am is an amalgamation of different experiences, biology and education.  I use those to navigate my way through this world and create lasting works that define my identity.  These works of life help me to communicate who I am to the outside world.

Communicating with another human being is one of the most dangerous and fulfilling things we attempt.  The meager tools that we have at our disposal are crude and clumsy.  Lack of communication has led to the greatest wars, bloodshed, and destruction in human history. Also, the success of sharing concepts have created the greatest works of love and human achievement.

I state all this to try as best I can to describe why many people who don’t experience sex dysphoria have a hard time understanding our communication.  It is not a problem of the listener nor the speaker.  It is the lack of proper tools.  At best, we can only come to a point where we can trust the both sides coming from a place truthfulness and faith in the other person.

Although a trans man can certainly have a rich boyhood, he will still be at a loss trying to relate his experiences to other AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) friends.  There is not a real frame of reference.  Many try and fail to compare the childhood of trans men and butch women, but that is not even going to come close to having shared touch points.

Similarly, the lived girlhood of trans women and non-trans women share many commonalities.  Including forced gender roles and gender policing.  The assertion of these common experiences is either not believed or completely ignored.

This leaves us with a very difficult task of trying to connect on a human level.  This frustrating and clumsy process will lead to tempers flared and feelings tweaked.  I believe the reason is the lack of communication tools to facilitate that connection.  No matter how hard we try, I believe that we will never be able to completely communicate our most inner knowledge to another human being.

What then are we left with?  How do we connect with others and share our experiences and  motivations?  What is that tool?

I believe it starts with the act of sharing the externals.  These externals are the choices, actions and expressions we do in everyday life.  These externals are then used as  common touch points with others who have similar choices, actions and expressions.  From these touch points people are able to form relationships based on these commonalities.

It can be a simple as, “I really like the doll with the blue dress I got for my birthday.  What do you think?” Or, “I like to play football, do you want to play too?”  Depending on the answers to these initial questions, a link can be created between humans.

Similar interactions with others will then form groups, clichés and classes.  Further, rightly or wrongly, as these common touch points are reconfirmed and rejected, social stereotypes will be created in the individual and “in” group thinking.  This process is part of the socialization process that every human is channeled through.  All this from externals expressing our internal thoughts and motivations.

An example of the internal expressed in the external can be seen in the selection of  playmates.  Many girls do not choose most boys as playmates not because boys are “icky,” but mainly because boys and girls do not have common internal preferences in activities.  Whether these internal preferences are forced on people, innate or a combination of both, is not the point.  The point is that the internal preferences are expressed externally as a communication tool to the outside world.

That example can be extended to areas of choice in toys, clothing and behaviors.  Again, whether these choices are forced, innate or a combination of the two, is not the point.  It is the combination of these choices that make up an individual’s identity, and part of that identity is how a given individual relates to the internal knowledge of the sex of their body.

For the majority of people, this works out great and they never need to rethink or examine most of their internal processes.  For some, however, this process hasn’t worked out so well.  This is true for small and large internalized items and the need to externalize those preferences has caused confusions for both the person trying to communicate and the people they are trying to communicate with.

As a woman with a transsexual history, the only tools that I’ve had available to me is to share my preferences in choice of toys, clothing and behaviors to others.  These attempts mostly in the pre-transition days created stress for all involved because in their experiences, I didn’t fit into the stereotype they expected for me.

These clumsy tools for expression have been used to berate myself and others for their belief that we are “reinforcing the gender binary.”  I say that this is not the case; and,  just because only the external expression can be seen by others, this doesn’t mean that it is only a fleeting preference.

Looking at others through your own externalized tool does not give you special skills into another person’s inner knowledge.  All you can really do is try to project your own explanation onto the other individual’s expressions, and many times those come up lacking.

As my final thought, when a person is expressing themselves as best they can with clumsy tools that you do not fathom, please remember that you also have the same clumsy tools at your disposal.  Trust people to know themselves and they will trust you to know yourself (Wow, that sounds very familiar).

My identity is not just my gender.  My identity is everything that makes up who I am, who I’ve been and who I will be.

A Man Has Died in Texas

A couple of years ago I received calls from two of my half-brothers telling me that this man had died. I have wondered often how I would feel about that moment when it came. The moment has passed and I’m still wondering about what to feel. You see, I’m not sure if I’m actually allowed to feel anything about this man’s passing.

I’m sad to hear about anyone’s passing, and at the same time, I’m always a little envious. Sad because of the hole that is left in that person’s loved ones, and envious because of the great adventure that the release from this mortal coil launches. This man was my biological father, but I wasn’t one of his loved ones.

He and my mother was very young when they became parents. Too young to know better. Mom told me that she wanted a baby because all her older friends were having babies. Arlie, that was the dead man’s name, told me that they were just two stupid kids. That, my friends, was how I came to be; the product of a fit of stupid envy.

The only name I could use for this man was Arlie. It was made very clear to me that I had a father and it wasn’t Arlie. The man who I called my Dad was the man who took me in and raised me. That man will always be my father.

For whatever reason, Arlie choose to stay away from me and my brother. He and my mother separated when I was two years old and they both moved on to new spouses and lives.  Mom had two more children and Arlie had three. I guess he really didn’t want me as part of his life, and it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I made the effort to find this mystery man.

Found him I did, and this began long series of attempts to impose myself onto him and his new family’s lives. I know that I made it very difficult for all involved including Mom, Dad and everyone else around me. I was determined to find answers that either they wouldn’t or couldn’t give.

Over time we would drift in and out of contact, but it was always my efforts that would re-establish the links. Arlie divorced his second wife and after a while remarried. I don’t know about Mom’s and Arlie’s marriage, but I do know that both of the women he married after my mother were wonderfully loving people who I learned a lot from.

The last really long interaction I had with Arlie was when he allowed me to move in with him and his third wife while I returned to college. I lived with them for almost a year and a half, and they were very generous and open. After that time, we lost contact again, and over the remaining twenty years of his life I only saw them a handful of times. I was the one who reached out each time.

I do believe that in his own way he loved me, and he truly believed that staying out of my life was the best thing for me.  I don’t how much of that is true, but I do know that I’m sorry that I’ll never see him again. So, I guess I do know now how I feel about his passing. I’ll miss you, Arlie.

Goodbye, Arlie.  Godspeed.

On Being Stealth

For me and me only, stealth is about being a woman first and trans second. I don’t need to announce to everyone I meet that I’m trans (they can mostly figure that out on their own). I don’t need to bring it up in every conversation, and I don’t inform every customer that they were just served by a trans.

If and only if I feel safe enough to talk to people about my history, and if and only if they ask, will I begin the conversation. If that is trans-phobic, then I am sorry. I don’t think so.  That doesn’t mean that I hide in the woodwork, I don’t. I do my bit for our common causes. I donate to trans educational organizations, and I lobby for the American Equality Bill.

There was a time (way back in Texas) that you needed to identify yourself as gender-variant. Either with a button or at least one piece of “assigned at birth” clothing. To me, that was the same as the pink triangle of the concentration camps.

I mention all of that to say, If you want to be out and about wearing a trans button to show that you are serious about being a trans, fine. I don’t need to. My life that I live is my button. To me (and only me), living an authentic life is the best activism.