Owning My Shame

shame-dogFor most of my life I split myself in two. A tomboy and a boy, and then a butch lesbian and a boy. Public and private. When I realized I was transgender, I imagined that the two parts would merge together seamlessly. A happy reunion. Instead, they are like disgruntled siblings strapped into the back seat on a road trip; neither wants to sit next to the other.

I carry a deep and irrational shame about my childhood. Shame that I was a shy, awkward, and unhappy girl. Shame that I could not transform myself into a happy and confident boy. Shame that I kept us from looking like a normal happy family. My mother was hell-bent on me being a girl, even though the screaming and arguing made both of us miserable. I hated getting dressed in the morning. I hated being picked on because I was weird. I hated myself for being a girl, for being unable to find a better solution than just being a boy in my head.

I started cultivating the split when I was six. I slipped into boy fantasy at night to put myself to sleep. I did it during the day when no one was watching. It felt right. In those fantasies, I was abused (beaten), and then rescued and taken care of. More than anything I wanted to feel safe and comforted. Something I rarely experienced as a girl. Continue reading

Taking Blue for Granted

The Green Mosque. Bursa, Turkey

The Green Mosque – Bursa, Turkey

There are hues of blue that speak to me. Cobalt blue glass. Iznik tiles. Lapis lazuli and ultramarine. I have a small collection of blue trinkets from around the world.

Before I started nursery school I knew I preferred blue. It is as if part of my brain stopped developing at four years old, stuck in the binary at blue. I wanted navy blue sneakers, blue and white striped shirts, blue overalls, and a blue tricycle. I told everyone my favorite color was blue. I refused to wear pink.

Blue doesn’t have a gender. We assign gender to concepts and objects almost as much as we assign gender to people. I assign a gender to everything; some things get thrown on the girl’s pile. Discarded. It is a hard habit to stop. I wear a lot of blue. I still have a hard time with pink.

I imagine myself coming out of the womb clad in denim diapers, but I didn’t get my first pair of blue jeans until I was twelve. They were a compromise; bell bottoms from the Junior’s department. My next pair was Levi’s 505’s. The exact same style of jeans that my brother wore.

I wear blue jeans almost every day. I also have black jeans, corduroy jeans, and khaki jeans. All from the men’s aisle. I assign jeans a gender, male, and I want to be gendered male by association. Continue reading

The Perpetual Search for the Perfect Shirt

Bodhi, the Shiba Inu model from Mensweardog.

Bodhi, the Shiba Inu model from Menswear Dog.

Winter is over. I went through the winter wearing the same baggy button down shirts that I wore last year. I wanted to wait until after I had top surgery to shop for new ones. I’ve always worn loose shirts to hide my chest. I don’t have to do that anymore. I need a new magic shirt. A shirt that can transform a bad gender day into a rainbow unicorn.

I’m still an odd size. I went to Macy’s and tried on men’s and boy’s off the rack shirts. Some were too big, some were too small, and none were just right. And it looks like I’m going to have to get used to my nipples showing when I wear a T-shirt.

I used to try to shop in the women’s department. This was self-defeating because it is nearly impossible to find men’s clothing there. I had a lot of rules. No darts, no princess seams, no little breast pockets, no frills, no ruching, no loud colors, no 3/4 length sleeves, no decorative buttons, nothing cut on the bias, and no polyester. In other words, I wanted a man’s cotton shirt. Sometimes I’d luck out and find something from Ralph Lauren, or I’d order from LL Bean or Lands’ End. I rarely found what I wanted. The lack of choices pissed me off.

There were thousands of shirts, exactly what I wanted, in the men’s department. Just out of reach. I tried to talk myself out of them. They never fit. If I got the chest right, the shirt was too big around the neck, too tight around the hips, and too long in the sleeves and torso. Tucking it in and rolling up the sleeves helped, but no amount of tailoring was going to transform it into a magic shirt. Continue reading

Does Your Social Construct Make Me Look Female?

A boy and his dog, circa 1900. The dog does look a little like Gracie.

A boy and his dog, circa 1890. The dog does look a little like Gracie.

When I look at my body, I do not see a female body or a male body. I see my body. In my own little world I am myself. I am Jamieish, boyish, butch, transgender, and quite comfortable.

I have made myself in my own image. I wish more people could see me this way. Strangers, even those who initially “Sir” me, eventually read me as a masculine woman or a butch lesbian. How they see me is their truth, not mine.

Nobody knows what a non-binary person looks like. My face, voice, and body shape contradict my clothes, haircut, and demeanor. I don’t easily pass as either female or male. In a binary game of rock-paper-scissors, the social construct of sex crushes the social construct of gender. I am pigeonholed into female.

When I’m out in public, and I have to choose between the door labeled Men and the door labeled Women, I choose the default, Women. It doesn’t always go well.  Continue reading

Mail Is Not a Gender

I stopped opening my mail. I let it pile up. From December until now. Three big piles.

Roy Rodgers and his mail. I think Bullet (his dog) is under there somewhere.

Roy Rogers and his mail. I think Bullet (his dog) is under there somewhere.

I have a secret streak of irresponsibility and procrastination. When it surfaces I know something is going on. Years ago, I procrastinated filing my taxes. One year, then two, then I stopped opening the letters until the IRS took the money out of my bank account. The weird thing was, if I’d filed on time, I would have gotten a small refund. Instead, I had to pay a penalty and hire a CPA to straighten the mess out.

All the forms I need to file my 2014 taxes are in those piles, and whichever ones aren’t, I’m going to have to track down on-line. I should make an appointment with my accountant. I have phone anxiety. If I don’t call now I could procrastinate for another five years, paralyzed by shame. Like a bad child on my way to the principal’s office, I can’t believe I’m here again.

Telling a procrastinator to just do it is about as effective as telling an overweight person to use willpower or a depressed person to cheer up. I muster up my adult self, pick up the phone, and place the call. I know I won’t blow off the appointment. I will come prepared because I don’t want to look like an idiot. I want to look like a responsible adult, even if I feel like a terrified child. Continue reading

Transitioning While Butch

I’m three months post top surgery and I’m happy to report that I’m as comfortable in my body as I can ever remember myself being.

If I could do 100 of these I'd be buff.

If I could do 100 of these I’d be buff.

This morning I did push ups in the privacy of my living room; I was only wearing boxer briefs. The push ups were hard, but it felt great to have nothing bound, bra’d, or flapping around. I will do them at the gym when I can crank them out faster and in better form. Vanity.

I’m writing this post because I don’t know if the feeling is permanent, or fleeting. I’m writing this post to remind myself that right now I feel good; if I slip back into dysphoria I will still have proof that this happened. Continue reading

Everything I Know about Being Trans I Learned before I Was Six

Transgender-at-sixBy the time I turned six I knew I was a boy; I did not want to be a girl. I also thought about it the other way around. I wanted to be a boy, and I knew I wasn’t a girl. I knew what felt right and what felt wrong. No one could convince me otherwise. I was a boy. I wanted to be a boy.

I knew I only felt comfortable in boys clothing. I was ecstatic when people called me young man or son or buddy. I knew that not all boy’s bodies were the same. I knew that some boy’s bodies looked like mine. It was frustrating that no one believed me.

In 1964 I could see that the world was split into two separate spheres; girls and boys. So much of what I wanted was off-limits. I did not understand why I had to look and act like a girl. Why couldn’t I choose between the two? Why couldn’t I be an exception to the rules?

I refused to believe that how you peed or what was in your underpants determined anything other than how you peed and what was in your underpants. I believed in what you wore, and how you acted, and who you said you were. If I wore boys clothing, acted like a boy, and said I was I boy, then that should prove it. It made sense to me but not to anyone else. I wasn’t pretending to be anything. Continue reading