The Middle Aged They

My name is Jamie and my pronouns are they/them. This sentence does not come out of my mouth easily. I get flustered when I’m asked which pronouns I use. I don’t like being referred to as she/her. I never have and I never will. In the past two years I’ve made some half-assed attempts to request they/them pronouns, but then I backed off. I never interrupted the conversation to tell someone they made a mistake. This week I have to get over it. Superman had a mental block against Kryptonite. I’ve got a mental block against changing my pronouns.

dont-assume-my-pronounsThey/them still sounds forced and artificial to me, but it goes with Jamie. Both are neutral, both simultaneously raise and answer questions. Both are chosen by me, not given to me at birth. Maybe I forgot how hard it was to change my name, but shifting pronouns seems harder.

I regularly attend a transmasculine support group at The Center. Each meeting starts with a go round of names and PGPs (preferred gender pronouns). The assumption is that everyone knows what they want to go by. Most use he/him, some use they/them, and no one admits they use she/her. Augie says “My name is Augie and my pronouns are Augie.” I’m stuck in a rut saying that I’m Jamie and I am pronoun challenged. Continue reading

Born Blatant

malefemaleMy mother used to ask me “Why do you have to be so blatant? Why do you have to let everyone know that you are gay? Why can’t you keep your sexual life private like everyone else does?”

Her next line of defense was to ask “Why can’t you at least dress nicely when you visit or when we go out in public together?”

The subtext was that I should try to look normal so that no one (i.e. my grandmother or the neighbors) would know and so that my mother could pretend that everything was fine.

My mother knew that everything had gone wrong. It was only possible to deny reality. To hide the truth. To keep other people from seeing what she saw. To control what was visible. My mother believed that gay people should stay in the closet.

She tried to get me to look like the daughter she wanted. I couldn’t do it. I was born blatant. I will die blatant. Continue reading

Getting Over The Shock

trump-shockI thought I was mentally prepared for a Trump victory, but I was wrong. I knew the odds. I knew he had a chance. I’m glad he didn’t win by a landslide. I’m glad he didn’t win the popular vote. I can’t believe he won the election.

I’m trying not to pin the blame on anyone. I don’t find comfort in saying if only Bernie Sanders had run, or if only James Comey hadn’t sent the letter about the emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer. I have a deep anger at everyone who voted for Trump, everyone who stayed home, and all the people who tell me “Don’t worry it won’t be as bad as you think.”

I can’t gauge how bad it will be. It looks like all the worst aspects of American history wrapped up in one administration. I look at Pence, Giuliani, Bannon, and Gingrich and I think about the Comstock Laws, the Palmer Raids, Executive Order 9066, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, COINTELPRO (FBI Counter Intelligence Program), and the Patriot Act. I think about the Justice Department ignoring burning crosses and lynchings, ignoring the police shooting at “rioters”, ignoring the murder of trans women.

There is a good chance that Trump’s appointees will define being butch, queer, transgender, or gender non-conforming as “un-American”. Deviant. Degenerate. Perverted. It happened in Russia under Putin. It could happen here. I am expecting to hear a lot more right-wing Christian propaganda. I am ready to fight against FADA (First Amendment Defense Act). Continue reading

Reasons To Be Cheerful

transgender-for-hillaryI’m writing this post right before the election. I’m trying to stay optimistic, but I just want it to be over. No one I know will admit to voting for Trump. I’m sure some of them are lying to me. Part of Making America Great Again is making America straight (and cisgender) again. It will never happen in New York, no matter who wins, but there will be a backlash in the conservative states.

I’m voting for Hillary, without much enthusiasm. I’d rather be voting for Bernie, or for Elizabeth Warren, or for Obama. I’m a little embarrassed to be lumped in with Hillary’s “what a great moment for women” supporters, but I’m in, fingers crossed. I am repulsed by Trump, and by the angry straight white guys, contorted with hate, who attend Trump rallies. I do not want to be like them. It rattles my sense of my own masculinity that so many men support Trump.

Most days I feel like I’m OK the way I am, in the middle, masculine enough. Then I get Ma’am’d. Or Donna and I are called “Ladies”. Then I think about the unopened box of testosterone gel in my dresser drawer.

Some days I feel that I am in a gender stalemate. Not ready to move forward, unwilling to stay in the same place, needing to do something else, but I don’t know exactly what. I don’t want to push myself to change pronouns or take hormones just to get some traction. I’d like those decisions to come organically, not out of frustration or as a reaction to being Ma’am’d.

To buoy (or boy) my spirits I made a list to remind myself how much things have changed in the five years since I first started to think about being trans. Despite the negativity, I’ve got reasons to be cheerful. Here is the list: Continue reading

Terra Firma

Urbino, on a sunny day.

Urbino, on a sunny day.

I told Donna that no one wants to hear that she was disappointed by our trip to Italy. No one cares that it was rainy and cold for 12 days in a row, or that her intermediate level Italian wasn’t as fluent as she hoped (she eavesdropped, but she was unable to follow conversations). No one has empathy for someone who spent three weeks traveling in Italy and then complains about it.

I had a good time, especially in Venice. We stayed there for a week. It is a walking city, and late in the afternoon, while Donna napped, I went out for an hour stroll along the quiet back and side canals. It is possible to get away from the hoards of tourists; they mostly stick to a few major thoroughfares and the area near Piazza San Marco. Near Piazza San Marco, even in October, the crowds were overwhelming.

veniceshipleaderThe Venetians are trying to put some limits on tourism, especially giant cruise ships. I can relate to their anger. I live near Chelsea Market, which is mobbed by tourists. It is too frustrating for me to shop there on the weekend. Some days I just want to knock the selfie sticks out of my way and tell them that they are in a market, not Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Continue reading

The Werewolf of Venice

grand-canalBy the time you read this post, Donna and I will be on a direct flight from New York to Venice. It is a trip we planned to take last year, to celebrate her recovery from open heart surgery, but cancelled when she broke her ankle. Right now, the trip is more of a challenge than a celebration. Donna has less energy than she would like, and is anxious about walking long distances. We are both a little apprehensive about the little packets of testosterone left behind in my sock drawer, but we are going to try to not think about them while we are away.

Almost as soon as we became lovers, Donna tried to get me to go on vacation with her. At first I resisted. I didn’t understand her desire to travel, and it was expensive. She persisted. I was so infatuated with Donna, and felt so lucky to be with her, that I gave in.

Venice was the first place we went to together. I don’t remember why we chose Venice, but I was smitten.  I’m excited that we are finally, after over 30 years, going back to Venice, together.

I prepped for the first trip by reading guidebooks and regional cookbooks. I went to a store in Little Italy and brought home the cheeses and cured meats of the Veneto. I drank only northern Italian wines for months before we left. I read Italian novels and learned to count in Italian to 100,000 (before the Euro there were 1400 lira to the dollar). I didn’t want to look like, or act like, the stereotypical crass American tourist. I didn’t want to embarrass Donna. I didn’t want her to wake up and realize that getting into a relationship with me was a big mistake. Continue reading

Chest Hair and Happy Trails

happy-trail-transgenderThe barrista recommended the Sumatra Mandheling Dark Roast. He filled up my thermos cup and I told him that “I like coffee that puts hair on my chest.” It’s true. I like coffee that has a little oil and a little sediment. At home I drink Mountain Java Supreme French Roast brewed in a French Press.

The idiom came out of nowhere. I’ve never uttered that line before. I haven’t even allowed myself to wish for chest hair since I was a child. At the time, I wanted a chest like my father’s (slightly pudgy, and hairy, but definitely manly).

There are other things I could have said. That I like coffee that could strip paint off a car. That I like coffee as thick as mud. Coffee that builds character. Coffee strong like bull. I half wish that drinking coffee would put hair on my chest. Or that eating spinach, would make my biceps bulge.

When I was seven I wished for a hairy chest. While the other girls were dreaming about being blonde and wearing a bikini, I was hoping for a happy trail to go down to the top of my (imaginary) navy blue swim trunks. I still thought it was theoretically possible, but I knew not to talk about it. Girls only talked about removing body hair. Continue reading