When the Best Label is Dog Lover

Sweet Corner Bakery on Hudson Street

Sweet Corner Bakery on Hudson Street, sidewalk service.

Thanks to Brannen’s post on Undefine Me!, I now proudly claim the label of Dog Lover (more on sustainability and labels in another post).

The day that I adopted Gracie, I told her to be patient. I told her that when I retire we will hang out on the couch and read, go out for long walks, head up to the dog run, and take naps together.

It hasn’t exactly turned out that way. I’m a little too anxious to just relax and hang out at home. I’m restless. When I’m not on the computer, or in the kitchen cooking, I like to keep moving. It is not easy to take her with me when I run errands. Gracie’s behavior in public spaces is not impeccable. There are only so many places you can take a dog in New York (food trucks, banks, and bookshops are the best). When I want to fulfill my promise to her I fill my thermos mug with coffee and we walk.

I grew up in Manhattan and I’ve always walked wherever I was going. It is not unusual for me to walk eight miles in a day. It is good exercise and it clears my head. I’m a brisk, heads down walker. It is my thinking time, unless I have Gracie with me. When I’m with Gracie I am on dog time. She wants to stop, sniff, and socialize. Continue reading

Which Side Are You On?

David Bowie in a man's dress, 1971

David Bowie in a man’s dress, 1971

David Bowie said it best “You must understand that it’s not a woman’s. It is a man’s dress.” If a dress is made for a man, or bought by a man, it becomes his. He owns it. The dress has no gender; the person wearing it does.

There was a cold snap and I broke out my favorite flannel shirt. It is a classic L.L. Bean, a Black Watch Plaid, in a women’s large. It used to look really good on me, before I lost weight. Now it is super baggy. I can still wear it, but I’m hesitant. It buttons to the left (the girl’s side).

I’m struggling with this. My weight is down from 175 lbs. to 140 lbs., but my height is still five foot four. My eyes have not adjusted. I can only see how much weight I’ve lost when I try to wear my old clothes. I’ve downsized my jeans several times and replaced a few worn out T-shirts. My button-down shirts are between two and five years old. They are between big and too big.

I stopped buying dress shirts because I knew I was going to stop working. Then I went on a self-imposed flannel hiatus because I have slew of old flannel shirts. It didn’t last. Then I decided to completely stop shopping for shirts because I want to wait until after I have top surgery. If I need to shop, I will stick to sneakers and hiking shoes.

It is almost impossible for me to buy a women’s shirt off the rack. I’m petite (I hate that word) and I won’t touch anything that has darts, princess seams, funny collars, or odd plackets. I’ll wear clothing made for women that looks like it is made for men. There isn’t much out there. It is also almost impossible for me to buy a men’s shirt off the rack. I like the styles, but the sleeves end below my fingertips, the body is too long, and if the chest fits it doesn’t close over the hips (and if the hips fit it is too big everywhere else). Continue reading

When I See Pink I See Red

why-i-hate-pinkI have an aversion to groups of girls. It is deep seated. The girls at P.S. 40 Manhattan were a mean bunch, a nasty clique. When I see a group of girls together, I flinch. I don’t see them as adorable or playful. I don’t trust them. I can’t remember back to when girls were just girls.

I went to school, from kindergarten through sixth grade, with the same twenty or so girls. Line up, recess, lunch, dismissal. Outside the classroom I was a target. Push, elbow, poke. Eww, keep away from me, you’ve got cooties. 

Teased and shunned. For being fat, for wearing ugly clothes, for being a misfit. Eww what’s that smell? Get away. There were two ringleaders who kept the other girls in line. They weren’t girly girls, they weren’t rich girls, they weren’t smart girls, but they were good at what they did. I had no friends at school. Wendy and Julie saw to it.

Don’t let her touch the ball, we’ll have to decontaminate it. I did not want to play their games. I did not want to sit at their table. I see London, I see France, What is in your underpants? I did not want them to police my behavior or my gender (if I’d only had the terms to describe it then).

Before I started kindergarten, before I knew the jargon, before some of the jargon existed, before I could formulate the words, I knew I was not like them. I was a boy and I was attracted to women. If I didn’t have the thoughts concurrently, I intertwined them quickly. Continue reading

Hiding from the Camera

girls_with_vintage_camerasThere are only a dozen family photographs of me as a child. There are a handful of elementary school portraits and class pictures. My high school yearbook. Then I disappear from sight.

There are no pictures of me between 17 and 24; between when I came out and when I met Donna. I hid from the camera. I felt fat, ugly, and awkward. I didn’t want to be reminded of how bad I looked.

Donna came with her camera. She loves to take photographs.

I hated my childhood pictures. They were proof that I was a girl. There are no candid photographs. No happy, relaxed shots. I am posing. Stand up straight, look up at the camera, smile, don’t move. Continue reading

Why I’m Still Butch

Why-I'm-Still-ButchBecause I can not picture myself as a middle-aged straight guy any better than I can picture myself as a middle-aged lesbian. I can’t see myself. Either way. A butch buddy told me that “the difference between butches and trans men is that butches want to be boys and trans men want to be men.” There is some truth in that statement.

Three years into accepting that I’m transgender, I’m still hanging in the balance. I’m not a girl, I don’t feel like a woman, I wish I were a boy, I’m not sure I’m a man. I still identify as butch. I can see myself as butch. I can see myself after top-surgery. Butch doesn’t have to qualify a noun. Neither does transgender.

All of the terms that I use to describe myself are masculine or gender neutral (with masculine as the default) – gay, queer, butch, genderqueer, non-binary, transgender. I avoid using the ones that are female specific – lesbian, dyke, even female-to-male.

My rejection of all things feminine, my rigidity about masculine gender expression, and my lack of gender fluidity keep landing me back on the trans-masculine spectrum. I know there are butches out there who are comfortable being female, but I am not one of them. It doesn’t mean I am not butch. Continue reading

How Martina Navratilova Saved my Life

This-butch-drank-too-much.JPGMy mother put me on my first diet when I was eleven years old. It was probably the Stillman Diet, but I called it the “cottage cheese and TaB diet” because that is all I remember about it. I didn’t lose much weight. I ate whatever she fed me plus whatever I could get my hands on. For years I wouldn’t touch cottage cheese, but I became a TaB addict.

I ate compulsively and unconsciously. I ate prophylactically, and opportunistically. I just ate. I couldn’t say why. And I washed it all down with TaB. Two cans for breakfast, a can with every snack or meal, a can when I was anxious or restless. Leaving a pile of bright pink cans in my wake.

I tried to switch to Diet Coke, but it was too sweet. There was something acrid and chemical in TaB that had me hooked. I drank so much of it that I stopped tasting it. I kept track of which grocery stores and deli’s carried it; I kept a stash to make sure I never ran out.

The incongruity of being masculine and drinking TaB was not lost on me. I ignored the screaming pink cans and sexist marketing campaigns. I wanted my fix. Continue reading

I’d Like to Talk to My Dad

My 6th grade graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

My elementary school graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

It was a simple question, an ice-breaker at a meeting. If you could invite anyone over for dinner, dead or alive, who would you choose? We were going around the circle, and I wished I was more imaginative. My immediate reaction was “I’d like to talk to my dad.”

I could have said Emma Goldman or Magnus Hirschfeld. John Lennon or Rosa Parks. Would Mahatma Gandhi be looking at his watch, wondering if he had to stay for coffee and dessert? Would Audre Lorde have to feign interest in my writing? Would she wonder why she was brought back for this when there were so many more interesting things she could be doing?

My dad would be tickled that I choose him. He was forty-three when he died; I was thirteen. I wish I could talk to him. I’ve got questions. Continue reading