Life is a Journey - Make sure you get the right roadmap to the universe

I'm quite sure I picked up the wrong one on my way out the door....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Double Entendre

Boxes.  Having to live a life in one is a personal dilemma.  Having others exclude you from their world because you don't fit in theirs is yet another.  That latter realm is not something I had even considered as I first started to explore who I was.  To me, there was a great sense of freedom in being able to finally accept who I am and to begin to come to break down the barriers of my own personal box which I had confined myself to live my life within.

My own box was the life I created and lived for others.  When you looked at my box, you saw a person who seemed, at first appearance visually, to be a man, but always had a little something odd about him that one couldn't put their finger on.  Women found me to be a sensitive person and not like other men they had come to know.   Gay males saw something in me that suggested I might be a potential catch, but alas, I am not interested in men in that way.  Women tended, for the most part, to like me as a friend, but I didn't have the physique, the build, the attitudes and the social aspects of a man they would be attracted to in a relationship.  I played the part as best I could, but not so convincingly that an eyebrow would not be raised by men and women alike as they came to know me.   I was always just a little bit different.  I was always considered just a bit off from the normative realm of being male.

I broke out of my box when I began to live at least a part of my life as female and realized that how I interacted with the world and socialized was as that of a woman.  To accept that in myself took a long time as I continued to fight back inside.  I reasoned that my presentation as a woman was just that.... a presentation and nothing more.  I believed that the woman I manifested was but a creation and a caricature of a real woman and that, as a male, I was really the more comfortable and natural.

But I began to see how wrong I was.   For, as I was able to get out more and express and live my life as a woman, I began to realize how natural it was in my being as one.  I was out and interacting in the world with both men and with women who did not know or realize my past.  They saw me as a woman and they treated me as such in the greater world   In return, I found it natural on my part to simply just be myself without pretense or forced thought.  And I began to realize more and more, in perspective from being so comfortable in that life, how much my entire life as male had been one created to satisfy others who wished me to be who they saw me as.

When I speak of satisfying others, I speak of my parents, my friends, my school mates and work mates and the whole life I built up playing who I was.  It was always uncomfortable and no one ever saw the panic attacks.  No one saw the nervousness I held within, or the tension or the lack of comfortability, because I played this role to their expectations and the audience was satisfied with my theater performance.  They did not see the actor behind the stage; the actor whose life was an emotional train wreck.   If they saw hints of my pain, they quickly shrugged it off as something else and I, myself, simply tried to hide it under the proverbial rug and to pretend that all in my life was alright.  In reality, my life sucked.  It was draining.  It was, at times, suicidal, It became a task to achieve to make it through another day.  It was those motions I went through every day to meet goals and achievements... putting everyone else ahead of myself and even then, "myself" was not even who I felt comfortable as.

That was MY box.  The personal hell of a box I created and lived in and which others could not see into.  They saw the wrapping on the box and the bow outside but they did not see the person inside.  I hid that.

As I began to allow myself to be the person I am, I freed myself slowly from that box for others to truly see who I am.   My spouse likes the person I truly am much more than the person I played.  He was often very angry and upset with the world and insensitive to others because he was not happy with himself.  For how can someone be positive towards others when they are not happy with themselves?

And as I freed myself from my box, I began to realize that I was being placed within other boxes not of my own, but by others.    Having lived a huge portion of my life with others having known me as male meant that others who knew me as male either could not be a part of my life going forward.  Their boxes had their own exclusionary reasons for me not being able to be a part of their world.   Sometimes the reasons were personal and sometimes they were reasons beyond their own personal acceptance.  There are those who could accept me so long as they never had to see me and could deal with a phone call but nothing more tangible.

My sister told me she could accept me for who I am.  She had seen pictures of me and we spoke on the phone a lot as well.  Before I came out to her, she had invited my spouse and I to stay with her at her home.  After I came out, she changed that offer to one where she would be willing to put me up in a nice hotel downtown.  She would say it would be nice to get together but then would come to the very town I was in and never once call to meet.  My sister's nephew told me that she really did have a problem with me being transgender and even more so with the image of shame of having to explain to others and her friends and family that I was "different".  I was excluded from her box.

My sister's nephew said he, however, was fine with who I was.  We talked on the phone.  I shared pictures. and promises to get together.  A year later and we have still never gotten together.   My sister later told me in a phone conversation, that he is really NOT OK with who I am and can't deal with me being transgender.   My sister and my sister's nephew both claim to be fine with me but each points the finger at the other as being non-accepting.   Another box I am excluded from.

I have friends as well who are transgender.  In many cases, they are not out about themselves to their family and friends.  Although my transgender friends accept me for who I am, they oft cannot allow me into certain realms of their lives because if their friends or family saw me, it could cause suspicion for them as others ask why they are hanging out with me.  As a result, it could t out them in the process and it becomes for me, by proxy another box in life I am excluded from.

I don't really concern myself these days as to who wants me to be in their lives or not or in what aspects they are willing or are able to share.  If there are conditions, then so be it.  I will respect their wishes and realize that being who I am comes with both direct and indirect stigmas attached.   In the cases of my friends and others, I understand that they may be alright with who I am but that they may be worried that through association with me, others might realize or perceive something in them which they are not ready or able to handle within themselves.  Fear of their own friends, family and acquaintances reactions and the possible losses they may endure as a possible effect of knowing me becomes, itself, a chain effect...... and so I am excluded.  So be it.  I have learned however, to be proud of who I am and to not take it personally any longer..

It is a testament to their own weaknesses, prejudices or fears of what my acquaintance with them would have for their public image would do to their world.  To me, that is still a conditional which is enabled through shame fear, prejudice or in some other condition which makes me only a person who can be an isolated  part of another's  life.   These are relationships built upon the self-preservation and not an acceptance in sum of the whole of who I am.  If I am not someone who is worth being loved and being seen with for who I am as a person because of the image perceived either by them or by others, then I am not someone who wishes to be a part of their life either.  I do not wish to play my life as a game where others set the rules of who I am.  I do not wish to be excluded simply because others do not have the fortitude to take a stand and to say...."This is my friend; this is my brother, now sister; This is my uncle, now aunt..... and I am PROUD that they are strong enough to be who they wish to be in life and I love the person simply for who he or she is".

A double entendre is defined as "An ambiguity of meaning arising from language that lends itself to more than one interpretation".   Likewise, I do not wish to live my life with such ambiguity that I am perceived in a way different from who I am inside.  I do not wish to any longer live a life which is, in itself, a double entendre....

There is something to be said to dropping out of this world as my former self and re-emerging as a woman somewhere else.  A woman with all her records changed and simply living life without any of the baggage which being transgender brings about.  It is something I would do if my spouse wished to have a full time Christen, but it is not in the cards for now.   My spouse's happiness is realized in the sum total of the two aspects of the whole of the person I am and not in either the male or the female singularly.   And it is for her that I maintain this delicate balance.  In the process, however of my attempts to maintain this precious and precarious balance, I live a life in two worlds and..... there are many who cannot love and accept me as the whole of the person I am for it.

In conclusion, it doesn't matter in the end, as they who would not accept me are not the reason I wake up every morning to face a new day.   That pleasure is mine to behold in the smile on the face of my spouse each morning for the gift I give in this way to her - of being the sum total of the person I am.  For everyone else who does not wish to allow me to be a part of their lives, it is their loss and not mine.  I will move on and I will live my life.  There ARE those for who my life on this planet makes a positive difference in their own, and it is solely for them, the ones I call my friends, who join me in celebrating who I am and what I do to make this world just a little bit better for us all.

 I am fortunate to know so many who accept me for who I am, who allow me unconditionally to be a part of their lives, and to you who are.... I am so very blessed!   Hugs to you all who are, and thank you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Explaining the Concept of Transgender

It's so hard sometimes to quantify in concrete terms, what it is like to be transgender and how it is to feel "out of sorts" with the world I live in as the gender I was born as.  I realized this all too well just last evening as I sat in a room and tried to explain this to others who were not transgender themselves.

The environment was a support group meeting known as PFLAG, which stands for "Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays".  Although the original formation of the group primarily dealt with support the gay and lesbian population, it has, more recently seen an inclusion of the transgender realm to some degree.  The name of the group however, has remained unchanged.

Of the eight individuals in the group, really only one other besides myself identified as transgender.  As we went around the room and introduced ourselves and spoke a little about each other, it became clear as my turn came around, that I was finding myself adding a little bit of extra effort to try to explain what it means to be transgender.

I started with the premise that there are four basic realms of identifying who we are.  I listed them out and explained each to the best of my ability...

1)  Biological Sex  -  This is the plumbing one was born with

2)  Sexual Identity  -  Who one wants to BE with.... a man or a woman or perhaps both.

3)  Gender Identity  -  Who one sees themselves AS (male, female, or a little of both)

4)  Gender Presentation  -  How one presents to the world  (dressing as male, or female or a combination)

The first two were and always seem to be easily understood.  They are tangible entities which in the instance of biological sex we can physically confirm, and in the instance of Sexual Identity, we can affirm by seeing a person with another person and in love with that person.  The act of loving a person is something others can see tangibly.

Gender presentation is also a relatively easy realm to understand as we see women who may dress or groom themselves in a more masculine manner perhaps or men who choose to present in a more androgynous fashion perhaps.  Within a certain amount of societal "leeway", one can present to a certain degree in a manner contrary to the gender they were born as.  Certainly, it is without question in my mind that women may dress in a more masculine manner to a greater degree with less question or qualm by others more than a man may dress effeminately without drawing due amounts of attention in the world, but this is another topic of discussion regarding male privilege and societal hierarchies which may be better left for another blog entry.

Still, the point within the realm of Gender Presentation is that a woman who may dress in a more masculine fashion or a man who may don a more androgynous look does not affirmatively mean that the person is, themselves, unhappy with the gender they were born with and must therefore be transgender. 

Now we move on to the last and, what I feel, at least to me, is the most difficult realm of all for others to often understand (let alone onself)....the concept of "Gender Identity"

Gender identity.... the concept of who one feels they *are* inside - man or woman -  is not so concrete a thing.  It is a feeling of belonging or of not belonging in a specific place in the gender continuum.  It is not something that anyone easily sees or can diagnose, even though that is changing in the medical community as we come to learn more about the way in which the human brain develops, forms and works.  But for now, it is primarily something which one's own interpretations and revelations come to ascertain through a process of self discovery which is unique to us all.

I tried to explain how, for me, it is more the social construct of how I fit in with the greater world that correlates to who I know I am.  Aspects such as how I interact socially, how I communicate and how I interpolate the world and others were points I made.  Self realization became affirmation when I first began living parts of my life as a woman.  It became very clear that how I was being perceived and how others inter-related to and with me were in line with the female realm.  I found myself able to freely communicate in ways and about topis which other women normally do between each other but for which as a male, wondering and confused looks by others were often given.

The female realm allowed me to slip into the world I felt at once comfortable with and the stress of years and years of repression were suddenly, in that instant, gone.

So then why is that I do feel the need to dress as a woman and to "pass" without question or thought that I was born male?  Why then is that still an omnipresent need if one could simply just "feel or behave socially as a woman without having to dress as one"

The answer became clear, at least to me the moment I started to take those first steps out into the greater world presenting as a woman.  It became apparent that to behave as a woman or feel as one or attempt to socialize as one but still looking as a male.... garnered seriously odd reactions from individuals and cold rebukes by both men and women who could not equate the behavior or submit to allow me to inter-relate.  I was in a "No-Mans Land" of sorts so to speak.  Because I did not feel comfortable nor ever in my life find it easy to socialize as male meant that most men found me an odd person and so I was often left alone.  The vibes I put out were attractive, however, to most gay males who found my effeminate side to be attractive to them.  As I found my sexual identity to be aligned with women, I was not at all interested in their advances whatsoever.   This meant I was the "odd person" out of this group as well.   As for the women, they found my conversations, my talk, my mannerisms and my whole being to be out of step with that of most men, yet I was not considered a woman enough to speak my mind, my thoughts, and my feelings and to inter-relate as one either.....and so I was left out of this group as well.

I was not or ever able to interrelate strictly to the male world, not interested in the gay male world, and not allowed to be at any level, a part of the women's realm.   It was a lonely and very disheartening place to be.
I explained to the group that I could not play the game any longer as a male and that the charades and the act I played, and did convincingly well, were causing me stress and anxiety beyond belief and to the point of calling this life quits... abruptly.

Gender, I began to realize, and the socialization of men and women were vastly different and in many ways exclusionary.  Gender, I explained, is then in practice, a social construct and that the two "boxes" of male and female do not always fit with a person's biological sex.

The words of Shakespeare, "To thine own self be true" resonated within me as I came to understand the dichotomy, the dysphoria if you will, and had a total nervous breakdown which lasted for longer than I wish to retell here.  My personal awakening began with an act of determination to test the waters of the female world, as a person interpreted by the world as female.... and the result of the experiment determined who I was..... as I smiled and laughed and for once in my life.... for the first time in my 44 years on this Earth felt happy and at peace within.

I am sure there are many other ways to explain gender identity to a person whose gender is congruent with their body, but, at least for me, this was my story and this was how I awakened within myself, discovered, and learned.  Hopefully I made something of a positive difference in helping others to grasp what it means to be transgender.