Posts Tagged ‘ transition ’

Delayed…..again

I wanted to write a post that was light, and humorous and full of good cheer. I was looking forward to highlighting some of the awesome things that have been happening recently. I planned to get my post in on time. I had the best of intentions and, as most things built with only intentions, they have failed miserably. Instead, I’d like to tell you about the last couple of weeks and how it’s affected me.

Two weeks ago, I headed down to see my cardiologist in Hamilton. I was born with a congenital heart defect and, although it’s repaired and I’m more or less stable, as a result I head down to a special clinic at least once a year for a bunch of tests and a chat with my specialist. The catch this year is, I had a new specialist.

After my last visit, about a year ago, I made a decision to fire the doctor I’d been with for nearly a decade. When I came out as trans to her about 3 years ago she pretty much pitched a fit. She was vehemently opposed to me taking testosterone and, in fact, badgered my endocrinologist (a man who is more than qualified to balance my transition with my cardiac status) about his choice to prescribe me hormones. At my visit last year, she had a student with her and, with me still in the room, repeatedly referred to me with female pronouns and using my legal name. All this despite having been asked to use male pronouns and to call me Wes or Wesley. I spoke to her nurse practitioner about her reprehensible behaviour and was delighted to hear that there was another doctor in the clinic I could see. As you may imagine, I fired her and signed up to see the new doc. This was my first visit with him.

What a visit it was. As part of my yearly check-up, I have to go for a bunch of test, which means interacting with all sorts of different staff members. Some of them do their level best to get the names and pronouns straight and I’m happy to cut them slack. Honestly, I can tell the difference between not caring and making an error. The former irritates me to no end, the latter is corrected with grace and a laughing smile. This year I had a new tech for my echocardiogram (a heart ultrasound). We’d never met before and so had no history to work with. I introduced myself as Wes and she left me to get undressed. She came back about 5 minutes later and promptly called me by my legal name. With a very, very sharp tone of voice, I corrected her and lay down on the table. I was hurt and angry. In that very brief moment, I realized she hadn’t even been listening to what I’d said in the first place. I truly was just another ultrasound for her to perform. This was the pattern for the remainder of the day, some folks remembered and tried, some folks didn’t even care.

Then it was time to see the doctor himself. I went to register and was informed in a very pointed way (after asking to be called Wes) that if it wasn’t on my chart, it wasn’t going to be used. Folks, if it weren’t for the fact I wanted meet the new doctor at least once, I would have walked out right there. Fortunately the nurse practitioner (this woman is a godsend, let me tell you) stepped up and ushered me in post haste. Turns out, they’d actually been waiting for me to arrive.

And the very first words out of the new doc’s mouth? “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Austin” I was pleased as punch that the doctor got it right on the very first try. As we chatted, we reviewed some of his concerns about my upcoming surgery. He was very clear in telling me that although my surgery is technically an elective procedure, he understood that it is a very necessary step for me to take and he wanted to support me as fully and safely as he could. This was the reason I decided to take his advice and postpone my surgery. The surgery I’d been waiting months for, was excited and terrified about has now been postponed for an unknown length of time.

I didn’t realize how much this meant to me until this week. This was supposed to be my last week to get things done in preparation for being out of commission for a few weeks. Instead, I’ve spent this week unreasonably irritated and downright angry. What normally would be a bunch of small things that would roll off my back have instead simply left me feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. I had to take my top off earlier this week in order to have yet another cardiac test performed, I was she’d as a result. Later that same day someone verbally attacked me, in what should have been a safe space. All because I asked someone to use ‘I’ statements to clarify who they were speaking about. Physically I’ve been in an enormous boatload of pain this week dealing with a shoulder that left me barely able to lift my right arm. Many little things piled up and I just can’t seem to cope. My urge to drown myself in alcohol (a very ineffective coping mechanism) has been strong and I’m thankful I’ve gotten good at just sitting and letting it pass.

I feel like this journey, this path I have to walk, is never-ending. I’m afraid that every time I get close to one of the goals I’ve set, something will happen to set it back yet again. Part of me wonders if I’m unconsciously orchestrating all these obstacles myself. I feel like I have no face-to-face support system who truly understands what kind of an undertaking transition really is. Mostly, I’m afraid I won’t have the strength to get there.

The post was originally published at PositiveLite

On Becoming A Man (expanded from On Death and Dying)

I wrote this piece for my own blog last June. As I review and expand on it I realize that at its core, it is still as true today as it was when I originally wrote it, in fact even more so.

What prompted me to write this post was hearing my father’s diagnosis of prostate cancer. I had already been thinking of writing a post dealing with grief. However after hearing about my father’s health, I was overwhelmed with fear, sadness and anxiety about what his future held. Writing this at that time was an impossible task for me. I’m not going to bore you with the details of my dad’s health any more than to say that he’s had surgery, has had radiation and is currently cancer free, so far as they can tell. At the time however, it was very much a hurry-up-and-wait game. These events resonated very strongly with me in light of my own transition.

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. After all, 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. Perhaps this was 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 almost 3 years ago, and I only went back to the clothes once for a sweater. I’ve decided it’s not a phase.

I’d like to say that everything from there on out was all fine. 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 however, 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 to 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 they 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 men is that I blended right in, and rendered invisible. Now, the men invite me 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.

Recently I’ve become involved in a men’s circle and the experience has been profoundly terrifying and rewarding at the same time. To my knowledge, I am the only trans man in the circle at present and this has brought no small amount of fear into my life in a way that stands sharply contrasted to the general fear I live with every day. The brave men who attend commit themselves to radical honesty, supported self-awareness and ask of themselves a level of emotional engagement that simply astounds me. There are men who are taciturn and men who are boisterous; men who come from many walks of life and bring with them years of accumulated shame and guilt and self-loathing. Within the circle, these men share some of those hurts and fears and hopes and ask the others in the circle to hold them safely while those emotions flood through them and are released into the ether so that peace, joy, love, honesty, openness and the experience of being present can enter in. Emotions and qualities I want for myself.

In order to become that man, I must first wrestle with my past. I must own my own history with its disjointed narrative and surreal feeling. I must become ok with experiences that, for years, are ones I raged against and tried so very hard to reject fully. Most importantly, I must learn to silence that voice inside of me that says I don’t belong. The one that chatters constantly to remind me that I am an interloper, a fraud and that I do not belong. I have told the men in my circle about my physical past. They welcomed me in my present self into the circle; I need to do the same.

I need to 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. It is time to let that part of me die a graceful death, to mourn and thank my past for giving me the gifts I bring to my every day. To do this, I must grieve. And that, my friends, is what I need to learn how to do

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

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?

%d bloggers like this: