Tuesday, March 14, 2006

man's man, ladies man, man about town

One of the best things that was said at group last week was "You can be any kind of man you want to be. You can be any kind of person you want to be."

It was good to be there, hearing those words, after two weeks away and definitely missing the company of my compatriots. We didn't really stick to our topic for the night- in fact we barely addressed it- was meant to be Passing & Invisibility. Still I think the notion of choosing to be someone is important, particularly when it comes to challenging the (too common) trans narrative that in order to pass you need to mold yourself in the image of the everyman, who is the sort of man that many of us are uncomfortable with, and uncomfortable becoming.

And it's also an affirmation of my agency in my own life: I (rather than biology) have control over my destiny, and if I don't like who I am, or how I'm manifesting in the world, I can change that and shape it.

So it was good to hear that sentiment offered by multiple people, because I get the feeling it's the bottom line for a lot of us. For me, certainly. That's why I'm doing this. And by this I mean any of this- transitioning, but also living in New York, and working in a library, and taking an astronomy class, and shining my shoes every week. All of these things I'm doing in order to be the kind of person I want to be, and it happens that the most intense thing I'm doing right now is transitioning in order to be the (male) person I want to be/am.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to the time when my gender is no longer the star rookie of the starting lineup of my personality (to use a very awkward sports metaphor, but I realized that I keep writing about manhood without using any sports metaphors, and I really don't think that's allowed).

This ties into thoughts I continue to have about disclosure, and the relative positions my various identites have as they jockey for space in my brain. Because to disclose (or not to disclose) my trans status is a choice that currently seems enormous, primarily becauseright now I'm focusing so intently on my masculinity.

And with disclosure we return to the idea of being one's own man, but to an important variation on the theme: one must ask not only what kind of man do I want to be, but what kind of man do I want to be known as? The intersections of those notions have been dancing in my brain lately.

Because while I certainly want to be a transman (and a good thing, too, since I am one), I'm not always sure that I want to be known as a transman. Or rather, I don't want to be known only as a transman, which I fear happening, since, let's face it, transsexuality can be a rather overwhelming character trait.

This was brought up for me last week when Fleury + Pons + I were talking about fundraisers, and Fleury said "Well, and you have to decide how public you want to be about this. Because I'll totally invite all my coworkers to come and donate, but I'll have to tell 'em why, and then it won't be just "yeah, I live with a guy, his name is Eli" anymore." Having a benefit is a very public acknowledgement (announcement!) of transness, which I'm fine with. What I'd be concerned about is more along the lines of other people, like the aforementioned coworkers, or the regulars at karaoke, subsequently not being able to diminish that announcement enough to see me anymore...only seeing that trans guy.

Because I think what's going to make me happy is when I can fully metabolize the thought that I don't need to divorce myself from my status as trans anymore than I need to cling to it, and I definitely believe I'll be able to do that with some more time and practice.

I came to that realization right after group. One of my friends from group is a painter, and he's doing a series of portraits of transmen, and he asked me if I'd participate. He mentioned that he wanted to be sure that I'd be okay being a part of a project that was described portraits of transmen- in other words, would I be okay being painted as "Eli: transguy."

Yes, I am okay with that. I'm okay with that, because I think it'll be a picture of me that tells the full truth of who I am. It'll be a portrait of me that's brought together with portraits of other guys, all of whom happen to share a common theme.

It'll acknowledge that it's the first part of my identity (me = Eli) that's the most important, both regardless of and because of the accompanying long string of modifiers, of which "transguy" often happens to be first and foremost.

Happy Pi Day!

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