Confessions of a Non-Dancer

like-father-like-son

Fred Astaire and Fred Jr. By coincidence, my dad’s first name was Fred.

I don’t dance. I refused to take dance lessons. Modern, ballet, or ballroom. I refused to let my dad teach me to Lindy or Waltz. It was too girly. If I had been allowed to learn how to lead, in pants, I might have done it. If I could have imagined myself as Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, I might have done it. But I was damned if I was going to pretend I was Ginger Rodgers. It was a short-sighted decision. To dance naturally you have to start young; it has to be in your bones.

I never learned to partner dance. I can barely dance solo to rock or disco – I shuffle my feet and flap my arms and try to sway on beat. I didn’t dance until I was in college. I learned on a tiny dance floor in the back of The Saint (Boston). There was a mirrored ball and cigarette smoke. It was too crowded to move.

Of all the girly things I refused to do as a child, and there were many, I only regret not learning to dance. I do not regret not learning how to sew, knit, do needlepoint, put on make-up, put together an outfit, walk in heels, flirt, do gymnastics, play jacks, or use a hula-hoop. I’m thankful that I thought swimming, ice skating, and cooking were neutral to masculine activities (life-guard, hockey player, and chef).

My parents met at a synagogue dance. I watched them dance at parties and bar mitzvahs. I was always surprised that they danced so well together. Dancing changed them from parents into a couple. They looked like they knew what they were doing. They told me that dancing was an important social skill that every girl should have. I didn’t listen.

I didn’t dance in front of the mirror. I sang along with the radio, my feet firmly planted on the floor. I didn’t dream about dancing with boys. I dreamed about being a boy. Continue reading

Top Surgery Revisions: Dog Ears and Nipple Reduction

frankenstein's-monster's-chest

Frankenstein’s chest.

After the drains came out, after the packing and the bandages were unwrapped, after the swelling went down, Dr. Weiss told me that he wanted to do minor revisions. He was unhappy with the dog ears in the center of my chest and with the size of my nipples. He thought my chest could look cleaner and more balanced. He told me to think about it; there is no charge for the revisions, they are in-office procedures, and they can be done at the same time.

I decided to wait and see. To let my chest settle in. My nipples are prominent, but in the range for middle age guys. I’m still a little self-conscious of them. The puckering in the middle that Dr. Weiss called “dog ears” is subtle; it doesn’t even show when I wear a close-fitting T-shirt. It is only an issue if I’m naked, or topless. It is purely aesthetic. A hard choice for someone not used to looking carefully in the mirror.

When I do look in the mirror I see the scars. Two long scars, one on each side, going from the middle of my chest to under my arms. They are much more noticeable than the puckering or my nipples. The scars are healing well, fading slowly from red to pink. It is hard to imagine that they will ever be invisible. The scars do not bother me at all. I’m adding them to the list of other scars: the one on my thumb from whittling wood (age 11), the one on my leg from climbing a chain link fence after too much beer (age 19), and the one across my “bikini line” from getting a hysterectomy (age 48). Continue reading

Why I Hate Filling Out Forms

filling-out-forms-while-transI ended up being listed as Queer and Genderqueer in Callen-Lorde’s computers (with no preferred pronouns). Callen-Lorde is NYC’s LGBT health clinic. You make an appointment, fill out the forms, talk to a nurse, get your blood drawn, wait two weeks for the results, and if everything is good, you can get a prescription for cross-gender hormones. Normally I’m pretty speedy filling out forms. I’d already put down my sex assigned at birth (F) and the sex on my insurance (F), but I was flummoxed by these two questions:

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If the questions were fill-in-the-blanks I would have answered Sexual Orientation: butch (attracted to femme women) and Gender Identity: trans. Instead, I held the pen in the air and just stared at the questions. Confused. Lots of choices, but none of them are mine. Continue reading

Surf and TERF

"And so castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually." Jimi Hendrix

“And so castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually.” Jimi Hendrix

An old friend of mine has become a hard-line Radfem. Donna asked if we could stop and visit with her on our way from New York to Cape Ann (she lives in the feminist stronghold of Northampton), and she said no.

She said a lot more than no. She’d read Gender Hurts by Sheila Jeffreys and agreed with everything in it. I sat on the beach, surfed the internet, and downloaded a copy (see notes below). I wanted to understand what I was up against.

If you are unfamiliar with the Radfem perspective, this is my brief summary based on reading the book:

  • Gender is a caste system constructed by the patriarchy to oppress women.
  • Gender should be abolished.
  • There are only two sexes – men and women. It doesn’t matter how you identify, what hormones you take, and what surgeries you have; there is no escaping your original genitals and chromosomes.
  • Changing your sex (Radfems don’t believe in gender) is an illusion, a delusion, or a fantasy.
  • Trans women are not women; they are men who claim they are women. They are out to destroy feminism and lesbian/women only spaces (by invading them and insisting on their right to be in them). Radfems believe that only “women born women” can know what it feels like or what it means to be a woman.
  • Trans men are women who claim they are men. They have mutilated themselves to gain male privilege. They are unwittingly destroying feminism and lesbian/women only spaces (by leaving the community and taking their partners with them).
  • Radfems do not recognize/use the terms gender binary, cisgender, non-binary, or genderqueer; you are either a Radfem or a dupe/puppet of the patriarchy. They consider the word cisgender to be a slur because they believe that women are by definition “women born women.”
  • Women should choose, as a political act, to be lesbians or remain celibate.

Whew. Radfems are a small (tiny) segment of feminism. I would say fringe, but I know that many mainstream feminists also sit in judgement. They doubt the authenticity of trans women’s lives (without demonizing them) and think that trans men are butch lesbians who drank the Kool Aid. On a really bad day, when I am wracked with self-doubt, those thoughts cross my mind, but then I talk myself out of it. All gender identities are valid, including mine. Continue reading

Buoys and Gulls

woodman'sI am happy as a clam. The long form of the expression is “happy as a clam at high tide”. Clams are dug up in shallow water. They are safe in their beds in deep water.

The clams I ate at Woodman’s were not very happy. They were deep-fried. If you are from the North Shore of Massachusetts you are probably rolling your eyes because Woodman’s is a tourist trap. Everyone has their favorite clam shack or place to go for lobster in the rough. There are about a dozen places to choose from between Rockport and Ipswich. Woodman’s is a treat for me, and everything I ate there was delicious. Once you get over the prices there is a lot to enjoy ($30 for a humongous plate of fried clams, homemade french fries, and onion rings).

Woodman’s is chaotic and confusing if you don’t know how it works. It is huge. It is self-service. There are three stations, each with their own line (one just for whole lobsters, one for drinks (in my case beer), and one for fried clams, fried scallops, fried haddock, french fries, onion rings, lobster rolls, clam fritters, corn, and cole slaw). If you come with less than four people (one for each line and one to grab a table) you have to do some juggling before you can eat.

GullsBuoysWhen Woodman’s is busy there is also a line for the restrooms. The restrooms are signed for Buoys and Gulls. It is hokey.

On this trip I felt more like a buoy, although I ate like a gull. An adult gull will consume over 20% of its body weight everyday in food. I think I came close to that at Woodman’s. Unlike the gulls, I didn’t  have to go dumpster diving or eat off of someone else’s plate. Continue reading

Greetings from Cape Ann

Cape AnnI’m on vacation and I promised Donna and Gracie that I would not post or write while I am away (two or three weeks). However, a blogging friend, Mrs. Fever, invited me to write a guest post on her blog Temperature’s Rising, and I invite you to read the post (link is below) and also to hop around her blog.

Before you link, some of Mrs. Fever’s writing is NSFW! It is however, excellent and often hot. So be forewarned. My post is pure vanilla,  and discusses various aspects of my coming out stories. Plural.

The link is here. Happy reading, happy July. See you in a few weeks.

Mr. Jones

“Because you know something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” – Bob Dylan, from The Ballad of a Thin Man

Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn, Christopher St.

My parents managed to miss the 1960’s. We lived in the city, but we might as well have lived in Podunk. My parents were as conventional as Ward and June Cleaver in Leave It To Beaver, except that they were Jewish and lived in a small apartment.

My parents didn’t listen to Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones. They listened to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme sing the classic American songbook. They liked the 1950’s, when everyone knew their place and stayed there. They tried to keep up with the Joneses, but they couldn’t afford to.

Once a year my parents took me and my brother to the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. We gawked at the hippies, listened to the folk singers, looked at the paintings, kept an eye out for the homosexuals, and had Italian Ices.

I wasn’t told much about homosexuals (as my parents referred to them) except that they lived in “The Village”, and did things that were illegal and unnatural. Any man who didn’t get married was suspect, including my mother’s cousin, who didn’t get married until he was in his late thirties. He remained suspect.

There were men on TV who wore dresses as a joke. My parents loved Milton Berle and Flip Wilson. Cross-dressing was hilarious, as long as it was clear that it was a man in a dress. A daughter who insisted on dressing like her brother was not funny. I vaguely knew about Christine Jorgensen; the most famous transsexual in the U.S.  I read about Renee Richards when she came out in 1976. It didn’t occur to me that someone could transition the other way. Continue reading