Thursday, July 03, 2008

to infinity, and beyond!

Well, not really. That's me on the Staten Island Ferry, and I thought it a nice illustration. In about 8 hours, I'm hitting the road with my sister to head home for a week, to Portland. I'm super excited, of course, but as always I'm feeling a little irrational nervousness about whether I'm quite up to snuff.

There's no place like home, and sometimes no place that feels quite as judgemental. This is almost entirely in my head, of course, but I feel more of a need to prove myself (as happy, as successful, as unquestionably male) when I go home, probably because I know that it's the people at home who have the strongest memories of me as female.

It's my hope that those memories are fading, as they are in myself and the folks I interact with every day. More and more, it's starting to seem strange that I was ever not male. But my extended family I only see twice a year or so, and it probably takes longer for these sorts of things to sink in. So I always want to make sure that my stubble is even and my hips are slim and my voice is uncracked, just to nicely remind everyone that my reality now still trumps the 20 years of memories that may or may not still be bubbling up in people's minds, much to my discomfort.

I'm much better about this now than I used to be, of course, when I was still quite uncertain about my masculinity, used to having to defend it vigorously at every turn. No longer!

Now it just remains to be determined how folks will react to my latest look- Mr. Bleach Blonde Goatee Man, as Rochelle calls me. I haven't done anything this goofy to my hair in a while; I used to be real crazy in college, always dying my hair different colors, shaving it into mohawks, etc. But I straightened up upon graduation, and I hadn't done much in a while. Part of that was my post-college concern about entering the workforce and looking respectable and employable, blah blah.

But I know there was gendered reasoning behind my conventional haircuts, too. I wanted to be consistently read as male by strangers, and I found it easier to make that happen with a preppy/conservative traditional haircut than with a purple/blue mohawk. Before my physical transition, I felt like I had so much less room to maneuver, because my masculinity was not being appropriate perceived by the world. My 'natural' masculine inclinations in combination with my perceived-female body when taken together weren't enough to convince people that I'm a guy.

This wasn't fair, of course- none of us should have to work to be 'convincing' versions of ourselves, or have to withstand interrogation about our genders. That is (or ought to be!) the first goal of the gender revolution, if you ask me.

And it's also not the (only) reason that I pursued physical transition. Yes, I know transition was the right decision for me because now I'm recognized as male on the street, and I recognize myself as male when I look in the mirror. It probably would've been a more complicated decision making process for me about starting T, etc, if I'd been accepted as male unquestioningly from the moment I declared myself so....I wouldn't have felt such urgency around obtaining the necessary medical care to 'fix' myself. But even in such a thought experiment, I feel strongly that I'd have pursued transition, if for no other reason than the subtle rightness that I didn't even realize was missing from my life.

That's a sort of woo-woo statement, I realize.

But someone once said that for trans folks, the proof is in the pudding: the only way to figure out if someone is a transsexual or not is for them to transition, and if it relieves their dysphoria and angst then hey, they must be trans! It's a somewhat silly statement that has weird and slightly uncomfortable echoes of "if she sinks, she's innocent, if she floats, she's a witch!", but it has rung so true for me. I know I'm trans because transitioning has lightened my shoulders even as it has introduced myriad complications (emotional, medical, financial, blah, blah) into my life.

All this to say that the novelty of going home as a man has not worn off, and I'm looking forward to going home in a body that feels more like home each day.


Jory Dayne said...

"This wasn't fair, of course- none of us should have to work to be 'convincing' versions of ourselves, or have to withstand interrogation about our genders. That is (or ought to be!) the first goal of the gender revolution, if you ask me."

Can I just say how much I love your insights!? I feel like every time I read I have these 'aha' moments that just leave me reeling for the rest of the day.

Your blog alone has convinced me to take Gender Studies classes this next semester, and I'm really excited, although I doubt if it will be half as eye-opening as your work here. Thanks again!

Eli said...

glad to be of service! I hope you enjoy yr gender studies classes.