Tag Archive | Transphobia

Rigid Memes to Justify a Personal Story: Our Inability to Acknowledge the Elephant in the Room

I had a friend I knew from junior high school, when we were both 12.  We did our homework together and were really close, and we were really heavily into video games.

Elephant in the Room

Elephant in the Room

By the time I finally transitioned in 2011, we had been friends for 20 years.

He didn’t take it well, but concealed it well at first.

But I caught on…

When I finally had to see him in person last year, when my computer crashed, he was very sneaky about what he said.

While we waited for my computer as we reinstalled Windows, we put in the old Street Fighter 2 cartridge on Super Nintendo, and played the game just like old times.

I picked the same character and fought the same way.  I was still the same person, after all, except I was presenting as myself, as a woman.

He muttered distinctly: “You’re still the same, nothing has changed.”

He said it in a way that affirmed for him that I was still the same, and that gender transition didn’t do anything for me.  To him, crossing and breaking the gender binary was too much to handle.

I had known Kevin for 20 years by last year, and I knew his political and personal views quite well.  I knew that being a very conservative person, it was hard for him to acknowledge that his best friend had done this, had changed her gender.

His ego would not let him let go of the image and categorization he had put me in, and so he seized the first opportunity he saw to confirm his erroneous suspicions, to uphold his old memes: that gender transition, in his mind, was something foolish that I did, and I wasn’t fooling anyone, and that most of all, I wasn’t fooling him.

He could see the emperor had clothes on…

Or so he thought.

So the question is, how do we go about informing people that gender isn’t a strict binary?  How do we go from convincing people we are who we are, rather than fooling them into thinking we are who we are?  Where’s the balance?

How do we convince people that who we really are isn’t about if we keep our old habits or not?  How do we affirm who we are in a world that doesn’t give us any leeway in finding our new identity?

How do we own our new truth and present it proudly, even if it associates us immediately with our past?

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Being Herself Helped Me See Myself

A few months ago, I got a call from an old high school friend who I’ve only seen twice since transitioning my gender.  He’s always been a very close friend and is accepting, as far as I can tell and what his actions have proven, although he has kept in touch far less often than before I transitioned.  But in all fairness, he has made an effort to keep in touch and he reached out to me for a get together. aunt_and_niece

I agreed to it.

We ran some errands together and then went to my new place to relax, and he congratulated me on taking the initiative to move out.

But then some questions came about if I was dating anyone, and I told him it has been difficult to date due to safety concerns, my own fears, and that I’m not quite ready yet to date men again (despite dating multiple people since 2011, including men).  The truth is, I want to be in a better place and more stable/solid and have something more to offer before I venture out there again.  He didn’t seem to get that and he kept going on about how great his relationship with his fiance is and how he wants to start a family.  He then concluded with a statement that went somewhat like: “And I can see how hard it is for you.  When we went outside today, people were staring at you from afar and they didn’t start shit or do anything but I can see how being read as trans can wear you down in time.”

Gee, thanks a lot.  And I’m one of the beautiful ones, according to him?  Get the fuck out of here.

I let that one statement deflate me.  I let it take all the air out of my sails, and I got incredibly jealous that he could have a “normal” (I hate that fucking word) marriage and relationship and I have to decide when and where to tell my future partner, if and when the time comes to date.

Part of me desperately wants to just live like a hermit, a recluse, in my new place, plant veggies in the backyard, and say fuck dealing with the world.  Fuck interaction.

But to me that would feel unacceptable.  It would feel like I waved the white flag.  And that’s so not me.

But I’m tired of fighting.  Of constantly having to stay strong to live and fight another day.  I just want to lay down and rest in peace already.

The other part of me wants to continue fighting for equal rights.  And be active, be social, be happy, interact with meaningful people and touch some lives.  I know I’ve written some of these sentiments before.

I know I am and can be a wounded healer, a ShamanGal.  My wounds don’t define me, but they are a valuable aspect of my history that provide plenty of wisdom for me to serve others and help others in the time of need.  And that truly is a noble cause.

I went to visit my mom afterwards, and my niece, Sasha, who is almost 3 years old, was wearing the cutest tutu dress and came up to me and said “I missed you.  You’re back!”  And she hugged me.

I literally broke down.  On so many levels it was overwhelming.  It was the biggest rush of simultaneous emotions I’ve felt in quite some time.  I was so jarred upon returning, but her genuine, simple actions laced with pure intent, completely stripped me of any anger, disappointment, and sense of loss.  She was nothing but pure acceptance, no judgment.  She showed her love and affection towards me with unbridled and unbiased ways.  It was so beautiful.

I hugged her and could only imagine that what I felt at that moment was similar to what parents felt when they’ve had a rough day, and upon returning home, the power of their innocent child dissolving the memory of a hard and bad day, reminded them that their real priorities were intact.  That everything truly is okay, no matter what the loss, what the scoreboard may say.

It made me wonder if that moment will define the closest I’ll ever get to standing side by side with the feeling of what it feels like to be a parent.  To have something so undeniably special, someone in the world that can take away any pain by simply being themselves.  And Sasha herself, seeing me for who I am, appreciating and loving me for who I am, without the societal labels imprinted in her mind yet.

There was such a beautiful exchange of care, it forced me to deal with all the other emotions that were trapped behind my defenses.  She melted the first wall and everything subsequently had to follow suit.  I cried for a while, just letting myself feel the anger, the anguish, the loneliness, the despair, the regrets, and the joy, the fondness, the love I have for this child as she somehow was able to turn my afternoon of emotional mess into something that seemingly made some sense and reminded me that the hope had never left.

Perfection Not So Perfect of a Path

I wanted to tell you about a girl I knew at Chinese school.  Her name was Margaret.  Margaret was perfect in every way.perfectionist

I had really good Chinese speaking and language comprehension as a kid.  I was always in the advanced classes and had classmates who were in junior high or high school when I was only a 5th grader.

I didn’t understand the maturity and behavior of those older kids, but I did see that she was perfect on everything she did.  Every single test she scored perfect on.  I eventually gave up on keeping up with her, as she was untouchable with her test scores and everything else that we are evaluated on in life.

The entire Chinese school gossiped about how she scored perfect on the PSAT, SAT, and that she was going to MIT.  She was on full scholarship and was just perfect in every way.  Even her stunning height and model-esque features of physical beauty went along perfectly with her academic resume.

***************

Fast forward to 2010, my other classmate, Cathy, told me that Margaret had committed suicide.  I was in disbelief at first, because Cathy and I were a mess on the outside.  I always got in trouble, and she was always a social misfit who didn’t fit in….yet, we were the last two standing in the 3 girls from the original class.

Upon pondering it further, I wasn’t surprised.  I looked at how much energy and work it took for me to be perfect, and I wasn’t even close to measuring up to Margaret.  I think sometimes when one is perfect, there can be enormous stress and self demand imposed on oneself.

Personally, I truly believe Margaret wanted out.  She wanted all the madness and exhaustion to end.  And I don’t blame her.  She was operating a perfect framework of upholding her reputation, and it had to be tiring.

I’ve been trying to look at how I run my life, and I realize I have many nuances of my life that are “Margaret-esque.”  I’ve been very unforgiving of myself in the past, and incredibly demanding.  I’ve listened to the critic far too long.

It’s time to free myself.

A good friend of mine also said something incredibly deep about all of this, something definitely worth sharing here:

“Do you want to hold your humanity on the outside of who you are, or on the inside?

Do you want to work hard to submerge your queerness under a veneer of perfect or normal, or do you want to let it be on the surface and keep what is within strong and potent?

There are lots of reasons people choose to look right on the surface and keep their own human quirks buried, but it’s usually to meet the expectations of others who are so shallow that they can’t see the depths of humanity.

Demanding denial to show a face you believe others will love means that you can’t love the messy, human you at your heart.

Listen to yourself, gorgeous.  Breathe and listen to your instinct, your wit, your heart.”

Very wise words of wisdom to live by and follow.

Aligned with My Inner Feminine Diva at Hamburger Mary’s

I have been living fulltime as a woman, as myself, for a little over 2 years now.  inner_diva

What an amazing journey it has been.

And a lonely one at times.

I have since lost contact with many former friends, as the ability to relate to some of them has significantly decreased, as the dynamics of our interactions have diverged.

Our outlooks on life and the way in which we conduct ourselves have changed enormously, and I have been living in mainstream society, while many of my pre-transition friends, unfortunately, still haven’t transitioned due to jobs, families, and other obligations.

Furthermore, there truly are no transgender templates or role models for us newly transitioned folk to follow, in addition to transition being such an individual and unique experience to begin with, that trying to categorize transition into an individuated template would be dangerous anyway.  But nevertheless, it’s still been a lonely journey.

So what a blessing it was to visit Hamburger Mary’s the other Saturday for my friend’s birthday.  It had been over 2 years since I visited the transgender clubs, as most of my time was spent in the vanilla world, admittedly often at the malls ^_^

Except, there was a small problem.

I knew my former friend, Louann was going to be there.  We used to have a photography business together, and upon me going fulltime, she insisted that I stay behind the scenes, as she didn’t want our business reputation to be “tainted” by a transsexual.

I really didn’t want to see her there, but I also knew I wanted to go out and have a good time.  So I went, and reminded myself that I’ve achieved so many milestones, and this was merely another one for the record book.  I also reminded myself about San Diego, 2012, when I was one year into my transition and visited a bar, and the first realization I had was how far I had come, and how much my confidence had grown.  There is something amazing about cultivating experience and strength out in the vanilla world as a trans woman, such that when we visit the old venues that we used to go to, it seems like going from our jobs back to our junior high school campus to pay a visit.

So I went with my friend Monica, and when we got to Hamburger Mary’s, it was still a bit slow, as people were still trickling in on “tranny time.”  We grabbed a seat, and I saw my friend Naomi, one of the first transgender girls I met in Los Angeles when I first started going out in 2002.

We started reminiscing about my journey, and how she has watched my entire process of self discovery unfold, and it was such an awesome, strong, and potent moment for me to realize how far I’ve come along my journey, and the amount of courage it has taken.

Then we both heard a song that had a good beat, and she asked if I wanted to dance.  I hesitated at first, but I knew I came for my friend’s birthday and to dance.  So I headed to the floor.  If I was going to enjoy the evening I would have to get over the scrutiny; I would have to be comfortable being a naked performer.

I began moving my body slowly to the song “Too Close” by Alex Clare, and I reassured myself about my physical appearance and dancing ability.   Then Naomi whispered in my ear, “You look fantastic, keep moving girl!”

Her compliment jolted me into another state of mind.

The next thing I knew, I was in a different world, on a completely free, uninhibited and present state of mind.  I let my inner feminine energy flow, and I was completely unrestricted, channeling beauty and divinity through my aura.

I began dancing like no one was watching, even though all the men were focused on me.  I touched my lips sensually, traced the contour of my body with my fingers, and moved like I hadn’t done so in years, completely owning the floor, taking over with unbridled self expression like Janet Jackson at Superbowl halftime.

It was such an amazing experience, potency, power, grace, elegance, sexiness, all displayed in a few minutes.

I finished and was breathing hard, exhausted, but absolutely satiated as my soul was allowed to breathe and replenish for all the lost time spent as a boy.  It was amazing.

I sat back down with my friends, and a few of them commented “I’ve never seen you dance like that!” and “When did you learn to move like that?”, to which I replied:

“I found and aligned with my inner feminine diva.”

Even if it was only for 4:17 minutes.

My Old Guy Friends had a Dynamic with Me Resembling a Heterosexual Relationship

All my former friends were bad boys.

They were all like Tyler Durden: handsome, very athletic, and extremely multi-faceted in their competence.  Many of them were extremely rebellious, made their own rules, and were good at sports, fixing cars, and hooking up with women.  Another words, they were studs.

But the most interesting aspect of my friendship with these friends would have been the fact that our interactions were more like a relationship between a boyfriend and girlfriend than 2 men hanging out as homies.

Even though I was presenting as a guy when I hung out with all of these friends, the dynamic resembled the frequency typically found being broadcast by that of a heterosexual couple.

Other people, including my friends themselves, thought of our interactions as a very close and tight knit friendship, almost like “homies,” or family.

But I knew.  The entire time I was friends with these individuals, I knew deep down inside that I enjoyed the attention and care I got from these men.  I appreciated feeling needed, and being a good listener for these friends.  I also was caught up in guy privilege with these friends, but even in my most masculine moments of disguise, I was still aware of the man and woman dynamics, the undercurrent of their masculinity shadowing over my femininity in a caring manner, packaged and labeled as friendship when shown to the world, but visible to some of my gay and transgender friends who knew my real identity or to those who were meticulous in their scrutiny.

Take my interactions with Sal, for instance.  I knew him for many years, and we even ran a martial arts dojo together.  He was probably the closest guy friend I’ve had in my post adolescent years.  We did everything together, from chasing after women, crashing parties, sparring, working out, and doing other activities of questionable legality.

During the times we hung out, he was typically the one driving, or he’d be driving my car.  I was almost always in the passenger seat, and he almost always came up with the idea or activity we were going to do for the evening.  I was just the gal that hung onto him, and supportively stood by his side.  I was always agreeable with whatever he decided we’d do for the evening.  I was Bonnie for his Clyde .

I also constantly called him out on things he forgot, reminded him, and groomed him when he was a mess.  I would pick up specks of dirt or lint off his jacket, feed him, and take care of him emotionally.  He grew up without a mother, and the energy and support I provided for him touched him on numerous occasions.

Whenever he would argue with his girlfriends or break up with them, he would call me and we’d go to 7 Eleven and get some sunflower seeds, and loiter in the parking lot while talking things over.  The dynamic between his latest long term relationship with this girl named Patty further emphasized how much my relationship with Sal was a girl interacting with a boy.

Patty absolutely hated my guts, but she could never put her finger on why.  She just knew she hated me, and wanted me to stop calling and to stop coming around.  She wanted nothing more than me to leave him alone.  But because I was still presenting as a guy, she couldn’t outright tell me to leave, and she had no words or tangible way to explain why she didn’t feel comfortable with me around.

And despite me having no attraction to my guy friends, she was incredibly jealous when I hung out with her boyfriend.  Sal was very caring towards me, and there was a bond that I had with him that Patty couldn’t understand, that Patty wasn’t privy to.  She could never be in the circle with the boys, and I, at the time, wasn’t truly allowed to mingle with the girls yet.  But I did have more access with the girls, enough experience being myself, with odd nights here and there in Hollywood or San Francisco, and I had been Natalie long enough and often enough to know what it felt to be a girl around the presence of other men.  And I knew how to be a guy better than anything else at that point.

I had a double pass and they only had one pass.  I had more access.

So here I was, with a huge advantage that all of my friend’s girlfriends didn’t have: I was allowed to be one of the boys, to hang out, privy to all the conversations and interactions that their girlfriends were cut off from.  I always had a legitimate reason to “steal” the men away from their girlfriends for the evening, and because the assumption was we were just homies, there were no rebuttals available for these women to use against me.  We obviously weren’t going to have sex, and in order to appear as a secure and supportive girlfriend, they would have to let their boyfriend go out with the other boys and homies for a guys night out.

Eventually, when both genders were mingling in group outings, the girls usually either despised me or loved me.  They would either feel my energy and sense something wasn’t right about me, and call me phony, or they would interact and talk with me, creating intimate conversations and form a bond and deep friendship.

“You’re the easiest guy I’ve ever talked to, sometimes easier to talk with than my girlfriends!” one of them said to me.

The girls that were involved in a truly loving, inclusive, and spiritually aware relationship with my friends were almost always supportive of our friendship and really close with me.  They shared conversations with me, allowed me to stick around in their group of girlfriends during intimate conversations, and called me often to talk.  They were happy when their boyfriends spent time with me, because whatever made their boyfriend happy made them happy.

The possessive, jealous and immature girlfriends who came from their ego always despised me.  Patty was a good example of a possessive, manipulative, and immature girlfriend who wanted Sal all to herself.

Looking back now, all of it was so funny: how all of my former guy friends fit a mold and class of men that Natalie would have dated; how pre-transition MtF transsexuals can straddle both sides of the fence and benefit from having access to both teams; and how the area where the girlfriends were limited in their access to their boyfriends is how I am now limited when I’m around guy friends.

Giving up guy privilege had its price, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

At least before I gave up my guy privilege, though, I made the most of it and captured some awesome memories that will forever serve me and be with me.

Sal, Adrian, Rigo, Ryan, Alistair…

Thank you guys.

Relating to the Feeling of Not Feeling Like Being Scrutinized

I walked by the copying machine at work today, and spotted Christie wearing a gorgeous green knit sweater.  I complimented her and we struck up a wonderful conversation.

She mentioned how she was a bit stressed out from moving, and how glad she was that it was over.  We began swapping stories of how stressed out we both were from moving, and how we both relied on one chair in the entire house, and how we needed to move it from each room if we decided to sit somewhere else in our home.  That was funny.

Then Christie said she wanted to just relax now that she was settled in, and I asked her how she usually relaxed when she was stressed out.  I wanted to know what her practice was, and her methodology to relax when she felt down, stressed, and not herself.

“I go for a walk around my neighborhood, that usually helps a lot.  Or I put on one of my favorite DVDs and watch it by myself.  Oh, and ice cream helps too!”

“I do that too!” I said.

Then the meat and potatoes of this conversation.  She said something that totally caught me off guard, but was so familiar to me as I only recently began understanding this aspect of what women go through more often than men: “But, sometimes I don’t feel like going around the block because there are days I just don’t feel pretty or up to letting people see me.”

I was surprised, as she’s an attractive woman who is very well liked by our co-workers.  But I felt relief, inclusion, and a sense of belonging the moment she said that.

Of all the times I’ve felt self conscious, I often forgot to remind myself that other women would feel that way too, for the same reasons.  I often feel self conscious not because I am a transgender woman, but because I am a woman, and that’s how women feel from time to time.

Christie reassured me on this facet of living as a woman, and it was such a relief.

Just then, a nice cherry on top of the cake was presented by my Mother in the Sky.

PJ, a recent father of his newborn daughter, came by to make copies and heard the last part of our conversation.

“I will never understand why women make such a big deal out of being seen,” he said.

Christie and I tried to tell him just how much pressure society puts on women to look good, and sometimes, when we fall out of balance with ourselves, we can buy into the bullshit and erroneous notion that we aren’t good enough just because we may look a certain way or be dressed casually.
I also emphasized how our emotions sometimes get the better of us, and there are simply days where we don’t have the strength to face the outside world.

Then it hit me.  It hit me that I truly know what it feels like to be on both sides.  I did have a hard time understanding women back when I was still presenting as male.  I never fully understood, to the extent that I do now, until I transitioned, in my head, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and allowed myself to truly present and flourish and thrive.

But from an empathetic viewpoint, I totally understood what PJ meant too.  When I was living as a spy, an undercover agent presenting a male, I bought into my role.  And I was so out of touch with my feelings that I truly didn’t care what other women around me felt or thought, I just went about with my male privilege, and took advantage of sweeping my emotions under the rug.

Although those days caught up with me eventually, I did have the luxury (if you want to call it that; I now see it more like a loan, or a shortcut that we pay for in the future) of experiencing the seemingly carefree attitude that many males conduct their lives with when it came to emotional processing.

What a blessing some moments are as transgender individuals.  We get to experience so many sides of the fence and go to territory where others will never venture.  We get 2 movies for the price of 1 admission.

And in this scenario, it truly allowed me to see things from an elevated, diverse and rich perspective.

From Princess to Queen: No Sir, I’m Not Pregnant

I’ve been trying to choose differently lately, looking at the positive side of things, working hard to remind myself that I hold the power between stimulus and response, the power to see the silver lining in all situations where I am a participant.pregnant

So I’m currently in the process of finding a good hip surgeon to fix my cartilage so I can function somewhat normally again.  It’s been an ongoing injury that has taken a toll on my ability to live a somewhat active lifestyle, in addition to affecting my ability to wear those precious and sexy heels that I adore so much.  But on the other hand, where I’m at right now is a place where I have been forced to face my hip issue, and deal with it, and I think it will go well, and at least I have a chance to get back on my feet and be healthy, in less pain again.

Instead of going into old patterns of the whiny princess, I’m trying to own up to being the queen I know I can be: take responsibility for where I am and meet myself where I’m at in life right now.  Be empathetic and compassionate towards myself for the choices I’ve made in the past; you know, the choices where I overcompensated while living as a male through rough sports and abuse of my body, which is what got me here, to my current predicament today.  And trust me, despite being born and raised here in Los Angeles, the Chinese American upbringing didn’t help me, culturally speaking, in terms of being forgiving towards myself.  But I am trying.

I found myself in a good mood today despite seeing my orthopedic surgeon in Santa Monica.  I sat in the waiting room for over an hour, and finally got called inside to one of the rooms.  When the doctor finally came inside, we discussed the my biology, the geometry of my hip, and my options.  I was reassured with some of the things he said, and felt confident we can pull through this together successfully.

But the golden nugget of the day was still waiting for me, still waiting to happen.

The doctor requested X-rays and upon entering the examination room, the technician, Serge, asked me:

“Before you get on the table, I need to know: Are you pregnant?”

I chuckled, and said “No.”

I couldn’t help but giggle, as his question was so multi-layered, for obvious reasons as I do come from a background where I am a woman of transgender history.

He asked me a few other questions that were non-medical related, and I went back to the waiting room.

That made my day, and I have been giggly since this morning.

Even though my hip is hurting like hell, and I have imminent surgery lurking around the corner, at least I was asked if I was pregnant today…..maybe that’s what I will choose to focus on, I think that will be much more productive and healthy for me.

And it has been…..

……priceless ^_^