Posts Tagged ‘ self ’

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 . . .

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.

A rose by any other name?

As some of you may know, I occasionally go out into my local community and provide information sessions/educational presentations to our local universities and colleges regarding transgender issues. I often talk about my experiences before and after transition as well as some of the obstacles i face in day to day life. My presentations are open discussion styles and I always encourage my audience to ask their questions so that i can address the needs of my audience, rather than just rambling on aimlessly.

I also provide at least one interactive component to my presentation to get my audience engaged and thinking. At this last one, I asked the folks to write down three things that are related to their gendered identity starting with their name. Once they’d all indicated they were done, I asked everyone to hand me over their names. I explained that they didn’t get their names anymore as part of transition. They looked startled and I explained that often when one is transitioning, one of the first things given up is your name. Granted, there are some folks who choose to keep their name, or alter it ever so slightly however if one is planning on going through the Gender Identity Clinic (GID) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one needs to realize that the name they pick will be subject to just as much scrutiny as everything else about that person and if the name is found wanting, it could result in denial of service.

Names are also how we identify ourselves to the outside world. They can immediately indicate to people very important things about our identity and possibly even how we wish to be addressed. Most people who hear the name ‘Lisa’ are going to assume they are dealing with someone who is female/woman. Likewise, most people who hear the name ‘Wesley’ are going to assume they are dealing with someone who is male/man. I was at the doctors the other day when the nurse came out and asked for ‘legal female name’. I sat very still for a moment seeing if she would correct herself. Rather than that, she went back to the receptionist, looked at my chart/file and called ‘legal female name again’ only then pausing and asking for me by name.

I was infuriated. It’s very clearly set out on my file that I am transgender and that I prefer my ‘use name’ to be used. By way of apology she said “I’m sorry, I looked so quickly I didn’t notice”

I was restrained and polite. Very, very polite. I simply nodded and said I see.

She indicated very vehemently that it wouldn’t happen again from her. I’m willing to believe she won’t make that mistake again. However, this is the second person in this office (and the second appointment in a row) who has made this mistake. This is not ok.

Before you ask, I didn’t bring the issue up with my doctor. I’m trying to find a way to approach it that doesn’t go straight for the jugular while also not being so passive as to have the point missed. It’s a delicate balance. How do I explain to them that outting me that way could potentially be a fatal mistake? How do I explain that slowing down and actually reading my name isn’t really going to take any more time than going back to check the name on the chart? I understand they are busy however names are one of humanity’s defining features. I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect that if you go back to check the name, you actually read the whole of it.

I ask you dear readers, how do you make the transition from your birth name to the name you want used. What do you do when you can’t afford the legal name change? Do you educate folks as you come in contact with them or do you just sigh and answer to your legal name?

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