Every Shirt Tells a Story

My favorite T-shirt, even though it does not fit.

My favorite T-shirt, even though it does not fit.

My oldest piece of clothing is a heather blue wool sweater vest. It is over fifty years old and belonged to my Dad. I can’t wear it. My freshman year in college I washed it and threw it in the dryer. I didn’t know any better.

I can’t throw the vest away. I can’t fix it. It shares space in my closet with other articles of clothing that are symbolic. There is a beautiful striped men’s T-shirt from J. Crew that is about 20 years old. It never fit. I ordered it pre-internet, from a catalog, over the phone. I’ve hardly worn it. For many years it was too small, too tight across the bust and hips, and too long. Even when I tucked it in, it didn’t fit right or look right.  I held onto it because I wanted to wear it.

I lost weight and now the T-shirt is too big and too long. It will always be the wrong cut. Twenty years ago guys wore their T-shirts baggy and tucked in. It was designed for someone who is six feet tall. Yet I can’t imagine throwing it away. It represents a hope I used to have. That a piece of clothing had the power to change my life, to transform me from a self-conscious butch lesbian into a handsome teen age boy. Continue reading

My Last Mammogram

Photo by Wendy Thomas (see notes)

Photo by Wendy Thomas (see notes)

I had my last mammogram on Monday. I put it off for four years and only made an appointment because my surgeon required it before he would clear me for top surgery (bilateral mastectomy).

I’ve had other mammograms. This one was no different except that it was the last one. I was anxious in the radiology clinic waiting room. The TV blasted the Good Morning America show and it was impossible to read the book I brought with me (Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin). All the women in the room were quiet. They dressed up for their appointments, as if they were going to an interview. I felt overly self-conscious; a parody of a butch lesbian in jeans and a plaid shirt. I wondered what they would think if they knew why I was there. Continue reading

Sustainability

I’m not writing about Atlantic Codfish or non-GMO corn. I’m trying to balance my butch identity with my transgender identity; to walk the trans-masculine tightrope. It is about being honest in my relationship, talking in therapy, being open at work, and showering at the gym. It is about the long haul.

Philippe Petit crossing between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, 1974

Philippe Petit crossing between the unfinished towers of the World Trade Center, 1974

It isn’t about labels. It is about asking for, and accepting, support for who I am. I am not good at the getting help thing. Sometimes I feel like I am lost, without GPS, and afraid to ask for directions. I don’t know if I am just around the corner from my destination, or if it is still miles away.

What does it take to live as a non-binary (genderqueer, agender, or neutrois) person? I’ve been visibly queer since childhood, but it wasn’t always intentional. I couldn’t stomach the alternatives. What does it take to do it deliberately and consciously? Continue reading

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