Posts Tagged ‘ trans ’

Hi, my name is Wes…part 3

“Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” -Frank Herbert

The internet is a wonderful thing really. From inside the relative safety of our homes we can reach out and chat with people hundreds of miles away. Through social networking sites, we can interact with people we never would have even met otherwise. It was through some mutual friends and the wonders of internet connectivity that I met a woman who I’ll call Andrea (of course, it’s not her real name). She and I began by commenting on a mutual friend’s blog posts and eventually struck up a friendship, which over time, blossomed into a romance. We spent hours chatting and exchanging bits and pieces of our lives. Our debates and discussions covered everything from politics to sex to gender. You see, as I mention in my last post, Andrea identified as transgender. She was born male and transitioned to living full time as a woman.

In my exploration of sex and kink, I had come to realize that I wasn’t the kind of person who cared about the configuration of my partner’s genitals. In fact, really the only thought I would give to genitals was to find out what type my sexual partner had so that we could discuss what type of sex we’d like to have with them. As I often said, if you had the bits I wanted  – great, if not we’d just go shopping. When Andrea revealed to me that her genitals didn’t match her presentation, I gave it no more than a cursory thought. After all, not only was she located in the United States, neither of us had enough extra money lying around to take a trip. The likelihood of this ever becoming an issue we’d need to deal with was remote, at best.

I will eventually learn not to make sweeping pronouncements about relationships. At that time however, I had not yet learned the lesson. While I was confident that Andrea and I would never meet, the fates decided that my confidence would end up being misplaced. In May of 2009 I went to Montreal for four days for a romantic getaway with her

Although I was still living with my husband, functionally our marriage had collapsed some time ago.

Full of excitement and not a small amount of trepidation, I took the train to Montreal to begin what would end up being the final few weeks of living as a woman. My partner and I were involved in a fetish relationship and part of that relationship was built around my ‘alter male identity’ which I was going to have the luxury of indulging for the next four days.

The trip to Montreal turned out to be sheer bliss on several fronts. Not only did I get to enjoy the beautiful city, more importantly I had a chance to truly bring my masculinity out of the closet in an unapologetic way and simply see what it would be like.

It was fantastic. I felt freer and more relaxed about things that entire weekend. Part of that I attributed simply to being in Montreal (one of my favourite cities) and part of it I chalked up to not having to watch myself or try to fit into this preconceived notion of ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ that I’d constructed in my head. You see, I had spent the last few years trying very hard to find a notion of femininity that worked for me. I thought if I read just one more woman’s magazine, or learned how to pick the latest colours, or the prettiest makeup then everything would fall into place and I’d get the hang of being a girl. I was certain that women around me possessed some secret to liking their basic femaleness that I had not yet discovered. I truly believed that although I had missed it as a child, I could acquire this secret by indulging in the best, and worst, that feminine culture had to offer. This trip gave me the chance to set aside that quest for a few days and just relax. Relax and talk to Andrea about what her experiences were like growing up as someone who came to identify as transgender.

They were conversations that had repercussions that last to this very day. As she talked, I heard thoughts and feelings that were mine coming out of her mouth. I heard my pain, confusion and loneliness echoed in the stories she told about her isolation and rejection. Immediately, I dismissed the thoughts I was having as simply my own feeble efforts to grasp at any reason to explain my constant, subtle discomfort with my life. I tried to tell myself that the only reason I wanted this to fit is that I was tired of feeling miserable. I was certain that this couldn’t be the real reason. After all, I was a wife and the mother of a beautiful little boy, surely there was no way this profound issue could be the cause of what really looked like nothing more than a mild depression. I had felt grey and dull for so long, I could no longer see how truly depressed I was. No, I decided that I was crazy (again) and simply pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind, determined to just get on with life and stop this nonsense.

Two weeks later, with the thoughts still rolling around my head, two books arrived on my doorstep. Sent to me by Andrea with a note saying how she thought they’d be very informative in helping me understand where she was coming from. Only later did she tell me that she sent them to me because she had a very good idea that this was what I was struggling to come to terms with.

The first book Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg was so very, very difficult to read. Although economically I had little in common with the main character, I could relate in so many powerful ways to the narrative. I couldn’t read more than two pages at a time simply because I had to process what I’d read and find some emotional equilibrium before I could go on. My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein was the literary nail in the coffin. Through her use of humour and with an irreverent style, she asks the reader to examine their concepts of gender and, if the reader is willing, play with those concepts. I took the challenge, and realized with a miserable, sick feeling that I fell very squarely on the male end of the spectrum.

It took me another couple of weeks to come to a place where I could face this conclusion and move forward. My world had blown apart internally and I felt utterly shattered. Everything I’d known for nearly 34 years was turning out to be no closer to the truth than a shadow is to the real object. The person I had constructed over the years was largely what I thought I was supposed to be. Sure, there was some core elements of me in that façade however the outward expression reflected what I thought I was being asked to be. I was a good (ok, not so good really, actually quite miserable) wife and a good mom. I wore stylish clothes, tried to read the right magazines. WHY DIDN’T THIS WORK? I was furious, I was frightened but most of all, I was confused. If I wasn’t the person that I looked at in the mirror every day then, who was I?

Once I made the decision to move forward and explore this issue I felt an incredible lightness inside me. It felt as if a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I talked with my therapist about what was happening and even though she didn’t have any expertise in this area, she remarked that she felt a sudden rightness when I told her that I believed I was living in the wrong body.

Nearly three years later, I have to say that her hunch was right on. I packed up all my overtly female clothing and decided that in order to test this, I was going to see if I could ‘go male’ for at least 6 months. There was to be no going back to the ‘girl’ clothes unless I was naked or needed to appear at a family function. As it turns out, I ended up giving the clothes away and haven’t once regretted my decision.

While my life has radically changed, those first few painful months quickly gave way to a sense of authenticity and ‘rightness’ that I had never felt before. I could finally look in the mirror and see reflected at me, the image I’d always carried of myself in my head. Day by day, I was shedding old images and habits and forging a new and better path. With that said, the path has not always been easy to walk.

Stay tuned as I talk about some of my day-to-day experiences and struggles living as an openly transgender man.  

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 The second part of this story will be available there on the 29th and will be posted here a week later.

A life without hope

Yesterday i had the opportunity to share my story with a group of students at a local career college. It was a fantastic group full of good questions and honest curiosity. As part of an course on becoming an addiction counselor, the topic of addictions in the trans community came up and the teacher (who knew my history from previous presentations) asked me if there is a higher than normal rate of substance use/abuse in the trans community.

I laughed and asked the teacher if he knew something about me (which he did). I then went on to tell the class that I am recovered alcoholic/addict and that I believed that part of the reason I used substances was because I was trans.

Earlier in the presentation I had explained to the class that I had always known I was different but was utterly unable to articulate what exactly it was that made me different from everyone I knew. I could only point out and say that I wasn’t like everyone else and eventually came to the conclusion that it was just me and that i was crazy.

I talked about how I used substances to escape the pain I was feeling; a pain that never really went away. I asked them if they liked how they felt when they were hurting. Predictably none of them indicated it was a feeling they enjoyed. I pointed out that neither did I but that every single day felt like a struggle and the only way I knew how to cope with that struggle was to anesthetize myself with substances.

The rest of the presentation went well and I was thanked profusely for my time and I went on my merry way.

Then last night, as I lay in bed with my partner, I fell victim to a panic attack. Now don’t get me wrong, they aren’t fun and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone however, they are not unknown to me and by and large I just wait them out. As I was waiting it out I was talking about some of what’s going through my head and out came the phrase “ I can’t keep doing this…..this death march”

I realized this morning that I’ve traded one struggle for another. Instead of struggling to figure out what’s wrong and put a name to it, I’m now struggling for recognition and legitimacy. I’m struggling against a health care system who wants to label me crazy. They want to tell me that in order to get medical treatment for a condition I had nothing to do with, I need to be crazy.

I struggle to find the resources it takes to keep myself employed, fed and housed. I panic in interviews because I haven’t had the funds to change my name legally and so am outted every time I need to reveal the discrepancy between my legal and common names. I struggle against a society who says I’m sick and wrong for believing that biology is not destiny and that they are NOT always in agreement.

This struggle leaves me living a life without hope. It’s a pretty miserable way to live don’tcha think?

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