It was 1999.
Bill Clinton was just cleared of being impeached for his Monica Lewinsky scandal, and I was miserably back at school as the spring semester started. The weather up at Berkeley was warming up, and my friend Calvin invited me out for an afternoon of tennis.
We rode our bikes through the hilly streets, and as we were locking up the bikes to head into the court area, a car pulled next to the curb abruptly, and a gentleman walked out to open the passenger door. A beautiful Asian girl walked out and stood there waiting for the gentleman to close the door, and she looked right at me. She could tell I was dissecting her with my eyes from head to toe, and she was noticeably upset. Before I could retract my observation of her, she came right up to my face, and yelled “What are you staring at you pig?!? Haven’t you seen a pretty girl before?!? Don’t look at me like that!!!” They walked onto the court, and I was stunned.
Calvin immediately consoled me, and said “You should know better than that….if you are going to look at a hot girl like that, you have to do it low key!”
I completely agreed with him.
But what I didn’t agree with, and what he didn’t know, was that I wanted to BE HER, not FUCK HER. Big difference in interpretation of desires. I stared at her because I just wanted to catch a glimpse of her, as if staring at her long enough would validate the person in me, the real person I had hidden for so long. I felt like a pirate’s forgotten treasure, locked away and buried until one day maybe I’d be compassionate enough towards myself to allow myself to be discovered. All the meanwhile it was me who forbade the discoverer, which was also me, to find myself. Quite confusing, to say the least, but only I could empower myself. No one could help me on this isolated island, where I chose to confine myself.
Yet Calvin was completely justified, given the cards I had shown him up until that point regarding my life and gender presentation, to assume his statement was 100% correct. And who could fault him? I was on my 19th consecutive year of producing an Oscar-worthy performance in acting and living like a boy, and no one was the wiser.
I just nodded in agreement and we headed to the courts. I made an extra effort to broadcast obvious body language to everyone on the court, especially that Asian girl when we walked past the benches, to clarify that I wasn’t looking at them, as if I was a child acknowledging feelings of shame towards a parent who had just scolded me for doing something dreadfully terrible.
This shame I carried for a long time, despite the incident seemingly appearing to be a benign situation to the general eye, and that would soon be long forgotten. But my neural pathways along my memory archives were set ablaze by the Asian girl gracing my presence for a mere few seconds. That was all the time I needed to get the categories sorted and placed back in the cabinet properly, with new references on this Asian girl’s wardrobe, makeup, hair, and overall presentation properly documented. For 19 years, unbeknownst to everyone around me, I was constantly archiving visual and verbal cues on how women behaved, dressed, and talked. I wanted all of the information, every last morsel, to indulge myself, my true self, which was so deeply suppressed.
I wanted to be the one in the skirt swinging my racquet, and then feeling the after-effects of my hair landing on the opposite side of my face, striking my flesh and cheeks with regularity from the momentum of my impeccable tennis swings. I wanted to have a reason to shave my legs the night before in order to show off my legs when I worked out in public. I wanted the gentleman, any gentleman, to open the passenger door for me.
I wanted to be the one to yell at a guy staring at me when I stepped out of the car to wait for my boyfriend!
And I sure as hell didn’t want to make any more surface oriented agreements with my friend Calvin, and the countless other people in my life.
Yet all of that, I assumed, had to remain hidden. There was a self proclaimed prison I built for myself. I was too scared to come out, too scared to be myself, too scared to EMBRACE MYSELF. Playing tennis and studying engineering at one of the best technical universities in the nation, UC Berkeley, was much easier. Putting each slab of brick up to wall myself off to the world was easier than coming out. Constructing the pyramids seemed like the easier path than coming out.
Because coming out then would have meant admitting to everyone, including myself, that I had been living unauthentically for 19 years. And that I had accumulated no real experiences while presenting as my true self, up until then. And the horror of that realization kept the bindings on my false facade even tighter; the fairytale had to end inappropriately, I thought.
It is now 2013, and I’ve been living as myself for almost 2 years. I transitioned my gender on July 4th, 2011. From 1999 to now, I have since gone through thirty four girlfriends and partners, played hundreds of hours of tennis, and traveled thousands of miles all over the world, and spent millions of minutes thinking about my gender, and billions of seconds reviewing situations just like the one I described earlier.
Imagine the heartache, the anguish, the resentment, the anger, the despair, the insecurity, the loathing, the jealousy, the envy, the sadness, and the occasional glimpse of hope that has coursed through my body, my soul, my essence since 1999. Imagine the conflict of fighting who I was since knowing around the age of 4 in 1983, and finally being able to be myself in 2011. Imagine the amount of fear instilled upon me by my environment, ingrained from a misinformed public, perpetuated through generations of erroneous cultural values, distorting and contaminating generations of children that just need a sliver of permission to know it’s okay to be themselves.
But never mind all that now……I’m finally living as myself, an accomplishment beyond my wildest dreams…..so who’s up for some tennis?