Hi, my name is Wes and I’m three years old…part 2

“Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. You will hate yourself for it and the effort to maintain the façade will exhaust you.” ~ Larry Winget

I came across this quote today and just had to laugh. The truth of it hit me like a truncheon in the stomach.  I wished someone had sent me this quote some 14 years. ago. With that being said, I don’t believe I was in a position at that time to truly understand what I was doing to myself and to the people around me.  I had weathered a rough childhood marked not only by parental alcoholism but also sexual assault, abusive relationships, stalking, homelessness and street life (the last two in downtown Toronto, no less). Sure, I had days where my paranoia could be said to border on unhealthy; where the movement of a small shadow would bring flashbacks of some of my past but honestly, who would blame me? All in all, I thought I was doing fairly well with the lot life had handed me. Little did I know the first of many explosions was about to occur.

You see, I had discovered the internet. In particular, I had discovered a subset of folks who professed to enjoy pain with their sexual pleasure, who would play various roles during these ‘scenes’ and who were not afraid to take societal norms and muck them up a bit. I found that a hard charging executive by day could become a pliant submissive by night and that the meek secretary who got the boss’s coffee every morning could become a hard line Top who didn’t take flak from anyone. Even more importantly, I was introduced to the concept of gender play. My explorations lead me to understand that, in these particularly constructed scenes, one’s gender did not have to be about what biology you were born with. Towering men could be called girls; diminutive women could be called Sir or Master. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea that your biology did not absolutely have to dictate the way you moved in the world.

In retrospect, this was an inevitable step along my journey through gender. In my childhood, I was often mistaken for a boy, even well into puberty, so long as my back was to the speaker or I hadn’t opened my mouth to speak.  You see, I had favoured short hair and boy clothes for years; and in fact, wasn’t at all bothered when I was mistaken for a boy. Rather, I would often smile and feel just the smallest bit of joy, as if someone had truly touched something intrinsic to me that was deeply buried. Realizing, through the discovery and interaction with the leather community (even if it was only in online form at that time), that biology was not destiny, gave me the tiniest bit of permission to start building space for my masculine side to come out and play.

For a very long while (round about 5 years actually) I was more or less content with playing with these ideas in the context of anonymous chat rooms. From a physical standpoint, I just wasn’t in a position to go out and seek these people down, having lost two pregnancies and dealing with the assorted fallout that can result from such losses. As a result of some fairly significant events in B.C., I ended up moving back to Ontario in about 1997, still with the father of my first child. By this point, we had begun to experiment with bringing in some of the things I had been thinking about. It worked with only moderate success at best. Again, looking back, I realized I was in the very early stages of uncovering what turned out to be the very core of most of my issues. No matter how much we tried to make things work, we eventually parted ways after I disclosed to him that I was interested in seeing someone else, and that someone else was a she. After all, that’s what lesbians do right?

A stint at home, a move to Kitchener and the dissolution of that first lesbian relationship brought me to a point where I could interact fully and completely with the kink community I had been slowly building ties with. I had decided that although I wasn’t a lesbian, the dyke community called to me in a way I couldn’t articulate and so, as a result, I would tell prospective partners that even though I identified as a dyke, I wasn’t at all hung up on biology. The last half of that statement is, still to this day, a fundamental part of my sexual orientation.

I was reasonably happy in the kink community. I was known as Spike, had developed a relatively masculine persona to go along with it and by and large was OK with keeping that side of myself firmly within the context of kinky relationships. I thought I’d had it all figured out. I’d met another gentleman who would later become my husband and the father of my only living child. We had agreed that my masculine side could safely come out to play when I was out at play parties (he declined to participate in my kinky explorations) and I had come to realize that in addition to the ADD I had been diagnosed with in my early 20’s, I had also been dealing with the effects of bi-polar disorder. I would proudly claim that I was crazy and had papers to prove it. Life, as it was, was humming along more or less nicely… that is until I met my first transgender partner and she blew the door right off the closet.

To be continued . . .

Hi, my name is Wes and I’m three years old.

 Ok, that’s not exactly true, my body is 36 yrs. old however the person everyone knows as Wes has existed for only about three years. You see, I identify as transgender and spent much of my life living, loving, socializing and interacting as a woman.  When I was born, I’m sure the doctor said “Congratulations, it’s a girl” and from that perspective the doctor was correct. My body was born female, two X chromosomes and everything (and before you ask, yes it’s been checked. I really do have XX genetics) and as such, I was raised and socialized as a girl. Well, mostly as a girl anyway.

In many ways, I was lucky in that my parents by and large left me to my own devices as I was growing up. They let me hang out with whomever I wished (boys for the most part) and I was expected to do all manner of tasks around the house from getting the firewood to mowing the lawn when I was old enough. I was the oldest of three kids and we were expected to help out around the house period. It didn’t matter that the youngest child was male; I was expected to learn how to help around the house and do all kinds of useful things from starting a fire in the fireplace to where the dishes go when they’re dry. In fact, all the kids (three of us in total my youngest sibling being my brother) were expected to learn these skills as my parents simply considered them the price of living in the household.

I would like to say that I had an idyllic childhood, but I’d be lying through my teeth. My mother drank and my dad worked, a lot. Life was tumultuous at best, and downright nasty at its worst.  I suppose it didn’t help that I was dealing with ADD (something I didn’t find out about till I was in my 20’s) and that as far as my parents and the school system were concerned, all I had to do was pull myself together and BOOM, all would be well.  If only it were so easy.

I spent my childhood, and in fact a large portion of my adulthood, thinking there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I knew I wasn’t like the other kids around me, and it wasn’t just because I wore glasses and had a heart condition. No, I knew there was something fundamentally different about me; I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I was pretty smart, loved to read, hated school and had a hard time physically keeping up with the other kids at times; however that wasn’t it.

As I grew older, I left the small town I was raised in and landed in Toronto, my own personal City of Hope.  It was the first time I’d ever had exposure to the ‘rainbow’ community and boy was I shocked! I saw other girls who dressed like me, who seemed to think and move like I did.  I was able, at least on the surface, to see myself mirrored in faces around me. The tough looking butches that strutted down the street, the leather clad dykes that hung out in bars resonated in very deep places within me.  I felt like I had come home…and yet, there was still something I couldn’t put my finger on.

Looking back with retrospectively perfect vision, I can see that what wasn’t resonating was the fundamental acceptance these women had of their biological ‘woman-ness’. Granted, like every female growing up, they had absorbed images of what was acceptable and what was ‘allowed’ with respect to being a woman in society however these women had stepped outside those boundaries. By the simple act of being in love with other women, they had begun to disregard what society said was acceptable and carve their own paths. This was what appealed to me; this sense of self determination.  These women (because let’s face it, the gay men scared me for no sensible reason) embodied the boldness, the fearlessness and the sense of adventure that I wanted to have or rather, that I did have but needed to become comfortable with. Seeing these women live their lives gave me permission to start living my life the way I wanted. 

There was only one, small, tiny problem. You see, I wasn’t exactly consummately sexually attracted to women. Fact of the matter is I rather liked men. I liked their smell, their bodies and the general way they carried themselves. I felt at home with men, comfortable and in many ways, felt like I belonged. You think this would have set off warning bells right? No such luck. I tried very hard to fit myself into the straight girl mold while at the same time, to others I looked more and more like a butch lesbian with each passing day.  I didn’t know it, but I was setting up an internal dynamic that would take nearly 14 years to resolve.

 

This was first posted at PositiveLite.com. The second part of this story will be available there on the 29th and will be posted here a week later.

Disclosure

I want to fuck.

When I say I want to fuck I mean I really REALLY want to fuck. I want to fuck and suck and roll around and get sweaty and dirty and in general, enjoy my body and it’s physicality. Yet, I don’t. I don’t really do any of those things because I’m stuck in this female body. I want to feel his hands pushing and pulling at me. I want to feel bodies sliding against one another all angles and curves mixing with tautness of muscle and softness of skin. I want the smell of raw, powerful sex to fill my senses and I want to shut my brain off and let my body do it’s thing.

I feel that but for this damned body, I could do those things. I hesitate being naked in front of people because I am ever reminded that the vision I see of me in my head, doesn’t even come close to matching what the world sees.
I am all curves and softness, not flat planes and wiry muscles. My chest is heavy with two breasts that I neither need nor want. The space where my legs join is hollow and receiving. Even my hips betray my biological sex with their gentle swell instead of unremarkable narrowing.

The guy I saw last night, last week, last month. The cute one with the bubble butt, or dreamy eyes, or beautiful smile, will see me at first as I see myself. If the clothes come off however, it is then he will see how my body has betrayed me, continues to betray me.

If I’m lucky, or smart, or well prepared, we will have already spoken about that reality and there will be no shock. If I have been afraid, or less than careful…the shock may torpedo any further intimacy.

Not disclosing soon enough may get me badly hurt or even killed. Disclosing early may get me politely shut down or rejected.

I walk a tightrope in which I balance the need for physical deception with emotional honesty.

When, where, how? I wish I had the answers

On Death and Dying – transition and the loss of self

This post has been a long time in coming because of its difficulty. The challenge of writing about my own grief process was a bit intimidating in and of itself however writing it after hearing my dad’s prostate cancer diagnosis became almost impossible. I’m not going to bore you with the details of my dad’s health anymore than to say that he’s had surgery and will be undergoing radiation. It’s very much a wait and see game. Oddly enough, it’s very much like my transition when I think on it.

I remember when I first came to realize (that is, had the language to explain) that I identified as trans my very first reaction was simple denial. I spent some time trying to convince myself that I was just searching for something to blame for the lifelong dis-ease I had felt. Maybe I wasn’t one of those happy people I saw around me day in and day out. Content to live their lives in the best ways they knew how. Afterall, I am a recovered alcoholic/addict and one of my recurrent lifelong themes is that I almost NEVER take the easy road so I simply figured this was another way for me to avoid dealing with things.

That only lasted a couple of weeks and then I decided that MAYBE this was just a phase. Something for me to try out and try on while I got my bearings. To that end, I packed away all my ‘girl’ clothes and said that if I hadn’t gone back to them for very practical reasons within 6 months then perhaps this thing had legs. That was 18 months ago…….and I only went back to the clothes once for a sweater. I dont’ think it’s a phase.

I’d like to say that everything from there on out was all well and good. I want to tell you that I lived happily ever after in my new tranny identity and it was all smooth sailing. If I told you any of that, I’d be lying through my teeth. As much as I talk about the physical and social challenges of transition, I very rarely talk about the emotional ones.

Transition has a price and that price is my life, my identity and my past. In order to become the person I believe I am, I must in many ways walk away from the person I once was. I must die to myself and my past in order to become the person I am becoming.

I grieve the loss of my identity. While I have all this history locked up in my head, sharing it with new people in my life becomes an exercise in anxiety and trust. Do I trust the person I’m talking to enough to reveal my other gendered past? Can I share that history in a way that removes all gender references? What happens if they find out?
The loss of self that I grieve isn’t just for my past, it’s also for my present. Here I am, presenting as a fully grown (but still short) adult male and I have almost NO points of reference from my childhood to fall back upon. For better or for worse, we as parents often raise our male bodied children with certain social cues. Even if we decide not to, society will provide the male bodied child with reminders and cues about how male bodied children should behave.

I’m not here to debate the rightness or wrongness of this. At present, it is what it is and what it is not, is the cues and lessons taught to me as a child. I am a man without a boyhood and I grieve this. Growing up female as I mentioned in an earlier post, the best compliment I could receive from a roomful of guys is that I blended right in, and rendered invisible. Now, I’m expected to participate and I have absolutely no idea how to do that ‘as a guy’. My female identified friends tell me ‘you’re such a guy’ while some of my male bodied friends say ‘you still socialize like a girl’. I struggle to make my place in the world and leave a legacy of strength, flexibility, sensitivity and warmth in my wake. Often I don’t strike that balance and I lie awake at night wondering when I will learn.

I must put my past to rest for I am not that person any longer and yet, those experiences have shaped me into being the man I am today.

I grieve and I fear.

The Gift of Transition

I was on the bus headed to a BBQ the other night when I got to thinking about what kind of man I will be. As soon as that thought entered my head I mentally stopped dead in my tracks and smiled. Just the phrase ‘what kind of man will I be’ makes me smile days later. As I got off the bus and was walking to my final destination I passed by some beautiful flower gardens and thought to myself ‘ I will be the kind of man who cultivates beautiful things’ . It was then I realized that, by and large, I can consciously choose the type of person I will be. specifically, the type of gendered person I will be.

In my concept of reality there are two basic gender templates that people start out with; male and female and from those templates can spring an innumerable variety of choices about what gender will look like. Some people choose to live out the gender assigned to them (and yes, I do mean assigned), some choose to weave back and forth across gender lines, others decide that their assigned gender isn’t the gender that feel they are and in some instances people decide they really don’t want to deal with gender at all. The kind of gender expression we live out in our day-to-day lives is often unconscious and not thought out. Rather the vast majority of people simply accept the gender assigned to them and live their lives according to the gender expressions our society has said are acceptable for them.

By and large we receive information about what’s acceptable to our gender as we grow up. Our parents, our friends and the people around us constantly and consistently teach, admonish and reinforce our concepts of gender acceptability. Girls are subtly and even sometimes overtly told what’s acceptable for them to do and likewise boys are most frequently taught what not to do. While I didn’t get the overt messages that the activities I engaged in as a young girl were not acceptable, I was subtly and consistently nudged away from the things I loved to do and into the things that those around me felt would be better suited to a girl. What I did not receive however, were the messages we give to young boys about what is and is not acceptable. Rather I’m attempting to wade into manhood without the benefit of boyhood.

This does have some advantages however. By and large I’m not crippled by a lifetime of ‘boys don’t cry’ messages. While I do have my own emotional hangups, they are less related to gender and more related to my own life experiences. I’m also not prone to machismo for its own sake. Rather I feel it comes as a by-product of some of my interests. There are also some startling disadvantages too that often don’t show up until I’m at all all-male gathering such as I was the other night. Guys socialize differently when there are no women around. Now before you all go and roll your eyes and curse me for pointing out the obvious, let me explain. Until I began my transition, the best compliment I could get from a roomful of guys was that they would forget that I was there, that I just faded into the background. It’s no surprise that’s exactly what I was trying to do. As a girl, I didn’t’ belong and I was conscious of my difference and so I tried very hard to minimize myself and simply disappear. Now, living life full-time as a guy, I’m not as content to just fade into the woodwork. Rather I want to belong; and this is where I realize I truly have very little idea of how men socialize.

Here’s hoping I don’t get my ass kicked while trying to figure it all out, haha.

Thoughts on discrimination

Folks, let me tell you a story about how discrimination touches the lives of transfolk, and how almost no one knows about it.

I was sitting in the office of an employment counselor a couple of months ago discussing what barriers I face in finding employment. I listed off things like daycare, my health, my lack of education and so on. After the counselor wrote these down, they turned to me and asked if my being trans was something I had considered as a barrier to employment. I actually paused for a couple of moments to consider the issue because, as some of you may know, I’m generally not one to make a big fuss about not being accepted for who I am. By and large I figure if you don’t want to know me because of one facet of my wholeness, I’m likely better off not knowing or working with you. After some thought, I said that it would not surprise me in the least if I had not been hired on more than one occasion simply because I’m trans.

The largest reason I don’t bother making a big fuss about the issue is simply because it cannot be proven that it’s happened. I mean seriously, how are you going to prove a negative? It’s not like I could go back and say convincingly that I was NOT hired because I was trans or because any of their hiring practices are inherently discriminatory. All any company worth their salt has to say is that they’d found a candidate who was more suitable than I was.

Fast forward to this past Thursday; I was at the local office of a national company interviewing for a sales position. As part of the interview process, they require the candidate to fill out paperwork to submit to a third-party company in order to conduct a background check on the candidate. This wasn’t even your standard first interview; there had been no summons from this company. All I had to do was show up at the job fair. If the company decided I was a suitable candidate there would be a second and more in-depth interview. No what bothered me was that in the course of filling out the paperwork, I was immediately outed as trans and had to explain myself as such.

I will say that the only reason this came up at this point is because I haven’t had the money to apply for a formal change of name. After all, it costs money to do so and to get money one needs a job. You can see where this would be an issue if I truly am facing discrimination because of my gender expression. The whole process struck me as quite discriminatory in that even if I had gotten a legal name change, the company conducting the records check asked for any previous names. As I am not one to lie (as I know some trans folk do), I would have put down the name I had been given at birth. No matter how this was to play out, I would be outed as trans; and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

You see, if I refused to fill out the paperwork, I would simply be discarded as an unsuitable candidate. If I complained about the paperwork, same result; my application would end up in the garbage. With some of the luck I’ve been having of late, had I simply lied on the paperwork it would have been found out and I would be terminated for providing false information. So at the end of the day my only choice was to fill in the paperwork, out myself as trans and watch as a potential job evaporates in front of me and have no recourse but to watch it happen.

Yes, you could say I’m a little frustrated. Wouldn’t you be?

So I invite your opinion……….how would you have responded?

Transitioning in intimacy

I was having coffee with a friend this afternoon as we discussed our various historical relationships. At one point, the talk turned to the motivation behind relationships. I challenged them to find a way to meet some of those emotional needs outside the context of a relationship. This is not because I am heartless and think love never happens, but rather, if one can meet one’s own emotional needs in some way, shape, or form, then in theory, one would actually be a better partner. This is because there would be less dependence on the other to have those needs met.

This got me to thinking on the drive home about my own emotional needs, and how I get them met. I then realized something very, very profound: I am a terribly lonely individual. It’s not that I lack friends; on the contrary I have a surfeit of people who seem to like me and who I like in return. My social circle has people of differing views, experience, genders, orientations, and almost every other flavor one could hope to find. I have friends who are very well off financially, and others who struggle as much or more than I do to make ends meet. No, it’s not a lack of people I struggle with, it’s a lack of intimacy.

Now let me be clear what I’m talking about when I say “intimacy”. I am NOT talking about physical intimacy, though physical intimacy is often an outgrowth of real intimacy. Crudely put, getting laid is something I can get if I need it badly enough. What I am talking about is emotional intimacy. The kind of intimacy that comes when you can let down your guard, be yourself and feel certain that what comes out isn’t going to make people turn away from you; the kind of intimacy where you can let your guard down and be the kind of self you don’t even really allow yourself to see when you’re all alone. Yeah, that kind of intimacy.

What in the world does this have to do with being a tranny you ask? Everything and nothing. Like nearly every human being on the planet, trans folk everywhere struggle with achieving intimacy in their lives. The complicating factor is the dissonance between body and self. I speak for myself when I say that I pass as male reasonably well most days. My hormone therapy has brought significant changes in my vocal pitch and, though I still hit my old range from time to time, by and large I don’t give my biology away when I open my mouth to speak anymore. In fact, I can often obfuscate any questions that may arise simply by speaking. While it’s not basso profundo, my voice is now pretty firmly in the overtly masculine range. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself, haha.

Where I run into problems is with my body itself and my body history. For those of you just joining the game, I’ve borne a son (as well as lost two children borne by me) and when I talk about my histories and their still echoing effects, I feel I have to take care in how I phrase things from time to time so as not to confuse my audience or render them uneasy. I often try very carefully redact any indications of gender when I speak. Only once I’ve gotten to know a person well enough that I feel there will be no confusion or discomfort from my revelation of transness, do I use gender and begin to connect the dots.

The issue is even more pronounced when it comes to physical intimacy. As of this writing, I have not allowed any recent partner to touch me in a sexualized way. Of note, the prohibition only goes one way. I have no issues with touching my partner in an often very erotic, playful and intimate way. I have felt, however, very uncomfortable with the thought of that touch being returned to me in an equally erotic and intimate venue. As I came to realize this afternoon, it’s because I do not feel intimacy. I do not yet feel as if I can well and truly relax around my partner be myself. It’s a truly sobering thought and one that leaves me feeling very sad.

At the end of the day, we really only have ourselves don’t we?

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