Saturday, November 25, 2006

Got ID?

I've mostly finished getting all of my new pieces of ID in order. I'm still waiting for my driver's license and credit card to come in the mail, but I got my new social security card and bank card. And I've got my temporary license, and heck, probably best if I'm not using my credit card right now anyway! I also got my new work ID, and called my cell phone company and I called my union about getting a new health card issued, which would be just about my last step. It's funny to feel like I'm reinventing myself, but perhaps also just clarifying/reducing in the sense of distillation.

While visiting relatives for Turkey Day, someone apparently said something about how I look "more like yourself than you ever have." Which seems to be a common response and is one that I'm a little cautious about it (how could I look more like me than I used to? I was me then, and I'm me now, and I look like me both times.) but I know that's just me being contrary, because really, it's a very lovely and affirming sentiment to hear, and it's something that I certainly feel, too. I'm more familiar with and friendly towards myself and my appearance as it becomes more solidly, comfortably masculine. I certainly have been enjoying a selfesteem boost lately with the realization that I'm a reasonably good looking guy. But it's funny to think about because if this is my "true" self, if I look "more like me" now, then what was I before?

Immature, I guess, in every sense. I said something terribly self deprecating once to a lover about feeling like a dented can, in that I didn't feel fit for consumption, because I had such tangled up insides when it came to myself (my gender/identity). A better metaphor, perhaps, would be unripe fruit...still inedible, but not intriniscally busted, just not ready yet.

I'm going to stop myself efore I get too unberably gay with this transition-as-ripening metaphor, but I have to say that transition has brought (and I hope will, along with time, continue to bring) me a measure of maturity that I certainly appreciate. Fitting, considering that adolescense is in all ways a time of maturity. I wonder what it's like to transition later in life, as a truly second adolesence? Because really, at the age of 20, I wasn't quite finished with my first one by the time I started this second.

Anyway, all that is quite off track because what I meant to discuss was myself now and myself then, and how we relate, especially considering the recent official/legal replacement of my old self (name/gender markers) with my new one. As a friend put it, I want to hang on to my history, but I want it to be just that- history. So I want to put it behind me and live my life for who I am now, without being tied (shackled?) to my innacurate/immature history, while still allowing that history to inform who I am today.

If that sounds like a complicated dichotomy, it's because it is one. Definitely complex feelings here, since I want to simultaneously honor my past and keep it firmly distanced from myself. I think some of the desire for distance is because for a long time my history was refusing to cede gracefully to my future. Or rather, other folks were refusing to let go of their (historically more or less accurate) visions of me as female, in favor of seeing me (much more accurately now) as male. So I've still got my guard up, still used to fighting to be seen. (I think trans folks will always be fighting to be seen, especially those of us genderqueer types who want to be seen as something that the world doesn't know how to see.)

So I'm still wary and defensive, which makes it even harder to tread that complicated, weaving back and forth line between acknowledging/honoring my past (not making it secretive) and living my life as it is now (sometimes being seen as male without any additional nuances). For instance, the other night I was out at a bar with friends and friends of friends, and one of those acquaintances, upon learning that my sister goes to Smith, asked me. "Oh, did you go to Smith?"

The question, on the face of it, is not such a bad one. She knew my twin sister goes there. But it was painful to me because it brought up a flare of Dammit-Smith-is-a-women's-college-so-she-must-think-I'm-a-girl!!! panic, which was probably partially evidenced in my startled/emphatic "No!" response.

But then I took a second, and a breath, and realized (duh) that Smith is NOT a college of only women, and that all it meant is that this person knows that I'm not a non-trans man. So I carried on in a calmer tone, explaining where I went to school, etc.

But that interaction is emblematic of issues of disclosure that crop up for me all the time. I don't want to be ashamed of being trans, I don't want to hide it. But I don't want to be OUT about it ALL THE TIME. Put in caps for emphasis...I want to be out, but I don't want to be only known as trans always. I suppose this wouldn't be so much of an issue if being trans weren't such a big huge deal in this society, but while I'd like to be casual/not anxious about disclosure, it's not something that can be casually dropped into conversation.

I'm the last person who'll say that I don't ever make a big deal out of it, but even if I weren't the one making the big deal, being trans tends to...make deals big.

Like when a woman in my psych class says to me, when I don't understand a reference of hers "Oh, it's because we did that at slumber parties...boys' slumber parties must be different!"

I could say, "Well, actually, I went to girls' slumber parties when I was younger, because I was [sort of] a girl then, and I still don't know what you're talking about."

But no one in that class knows I have a vagina, and none of them really need to know, I guess, but they don't need to NOT know, either, but it's not really something that you can just drop into conversation. Partly because being trans is still [made to be] so much about one's body, specifically, one's genitals, and you can't casually discuss genitals in most conversational settings.
So anyway. Having new documentation brought this up for me because I no longer have forced disclosure at bars and other ID situations, but while I think that's good, I also worry that it'll feed the opportunities to be stealth, and I (clearly) have not made up my mind about being stealth vs. being out vs. being discreet. I'll never be a non-trans person, but I couldn't help feeling like my history is evaporating a little with each new piece of when I was at the Social Security office, and the woman was sliding all of my pieces of paper back under the plastic divider to me, one at a time.

"Here's your temporary license, and your name change order, and your doctor's letter."

Then she held up my old social security card "And this isn't you anymore."

And threw it away.

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