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Posts Tagged ‘autobiographical’

I write this as an act of catharsis, or perhaps in vain hope-a concept that I generally skewer in others-that someday someone will read this and truly grasp the pathos of my life as a Trans person. But since I don’t believe in hope….there is just some shit-and I mean that in a visceral sense-that needs to come out.

For example…I think too much about the fragility of life. I think about the temporal ephemeral nature of consciousness and how I might die. Or who will die first-me, my soulmate, or the dog.   I’m gamblin’ on the dog.   I do this as a reflex, and a weird sort of balm that prioritizes my existence  And I keep repeating in a low breathy whisper, “Everything dies. It’s okay. Its one of the three things that every sentient being on Planet Earth shares without qualification:  We are born.  We live a while.  And we die.”  Then I take a breath and come back.   Back to center.

And when I do reside in my center I realize that I am perfect.   Perfect in the sense that to be human is to be flawed. Perfect in the way that as a Trans Two Spirited woman I am connected, and therefore one with everything.   Sadly, I seem to be the only one who groks this concept.    Now I ain’t saying that I’m physically attractive. I might even appear unusual to some people. But despite the fact that I am a woman by most current standards   [42 B+ bra size] ,  people still call me ‘he’ on the average of once a week.   I attribute these incidences to bigotry and/or religion and in my mind the terms are rather synonymous.

The other day I walked into a small office supply store. The clerk was helping a woman with her back to me about thirty feet away. He said he would help me in a minute.  Then she said “Oh that’s okay.  Go ahead and help him.” Last week the bass player for a band  I was playing in called me ‘he’ on the second night we met.     I told him that he probably didn’t know that I was not only a drummer….but that I was also a homicidal maniac [ I’m not really homicidal ].  And that if he didn’t want to find out the hard way that he should refrain from the aforementioned gendered slur.

But it didn’t help.   He did it again. So instead of a more satisfying form of revenge I just left.

It was a good day to die….or be centered.

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April twelfth, nineteen -fifty-one dawned over the town of Dayton, Ohio like any other spring day. A few wisps of clouds, a light breeze and plenty of sun. Generally speaking it was a day without distinction. Unless you happened to be Roland or Doris Schneider. For them this day was portentous. This was the day of the birth of their first child. Doris wanted a boy, Roland a girl. Everything seemed normal as they took their first tentative steps toward building their all American post-war baby-boomer family .In nineteen fifty-one life was good and the future looked even better. The fifties were pregnant with possibilities Roland and Doris could afford to have high hopes for their firstborn. Boy or girl, the Schneider’s didn’t care that much. As long as it was a healthy, happy child. What they did produce would inevitably far exceed their parental expectations.

The first five years of my life were the happiest I’ve ever known. . I was too young to understand the contradiction that would eventually haunt me. Unaware of the shame that would eventually be heaped upon me, I lived a relatively normal childhood Societal judgment had not yet been internalized. Happily ignorant of the struggles for life and sanity that lay ahead, I lived in prophetic dreams.. It was in these dreams that I felt most comfortable because in my special dreamtime I was a little girl.

In early Native American culture, the kind of dreams I began experiencing in early childhood would have been a sign from the Great Spirit that I was destined to be a berdache. Most all-indigenous Native American tribes believed that the Great Spirit chose certain special members of the tribe to be “two spirited”. These two spirited people, also known as berdache, exhibited preferences for behavior outside the boundaries of the normally gendered early in life. The most convincing indicator of their special status was revealed to the young berdache in the form of dreams. These dreams set in motion a specialized regimen of training designed to guide the young berdache toward their future roles that ranged from healer to mediator to substitute wife. Their legacy, now largely forgotten, was one of value and honor in their respective tribes. By comparison, my experience would be the very antithesis of theirs..

My dreams have always been a part of my consciousness. From an age before I could understand their significance or future import, they were the mainstays of my nightly bedtime routine. For the years prior to entering elementary school, it was the means by which I achieved sleep. Each night I would put on my jammies, clutch my stuffed dog to my chest, close my eyes and become a little girl in a perfect world. In the bliss of my youthful innocence, there was no contradiction, no shame, no guilt. I dreamt I was a little girl and I was happy. At first it never occurred to me to tell anyone because it was such a natural part of my consciousness. Just a few years later I realized that to reveal this component of my personality would lead to most tragic consequences. What if they tried to make me stop? What if they sent me away? The possibility was too much to bear. I kept the dream to myself.

My adolescence was filled with swirling, powerful, wordless emotion, much like a tornado whose fury I first sought to suppress then fled from in fear of disintegration. As my child hood progressed so did my awareness of some apparent contradiction between the way that I felt and the way I was perceived.. Identifying as a little girl seemed quite natural until I gazed at my reflection in the mirror. As my self awareness progressed I would spend much time crossdressing and posing in front of a mirror. And eventually all mirrors became my unforgiving captor. No matter how hard I tried, no matter what frilly foo-foo thing I wore, the mirror was a constant reminder that regardless of what I felt in my heart, the reflection was that of a little boy. Here was the dark genesis of my dance with madness. Here was the first sign of stress fractures in my fragile eggshell personality. As I matured the stress fractures eventually combined to create one huge schism that threatened psychic destruction.

On the first day of my first year in kindergarten, September 1956, I experienced the first assault on my innocence. I learned my first lesson in social intercourse when it became necessary for the class to be divided into boys and girls It immediately became obvious to me that really big mistake had been made when I was put into the little boy’s group. I was mortified and vowed to take action at the first opportunity. I saw my chance at naptime. Laying my head down on my desk, I dramatically beseeched God to change me into the proper feminine form by the time I woke up. Profoundly disappointed upon awakening, I saw that my wish had not been granted. At that moment a young atheist was born I would gradually give up all hope that this god cared a pittance for the misery of a young transsexual.

By the age of ten, I had developed a growing fascination with girls and all things female. This fascination would create in me a keen observer of human behavior. I found myself studying the girls in my peer group with a passion. I felt inexplicably drawn to them. Way deep down in my young psyche I secretly shared their adolescent need to express themselves in the way that only girls were permitted. To skip rope, wear dresses, grow my hair, and attend pajama parties. This was my secret passion. This was the real desire that dare not speak its name.

Then on one particularly poignant spring afternoon circa 1962, I experienced a profound epiphany that seemed to certify my status as a pariah. I remember it as clearly as it was yesterday. I had been experimenting with my mom’s clothes and make up for a couple of years. I used any and every opportunity to stay home alone and indulge myself in the contents of her closet. I never questioned my behavior and my parents never suspected. I had begun crossdressing as a natural progression of the dreams. On this particular day my mom was at her therapist and my father was at work. I was sitting on the floor of our living room in my favorite full-length crinoline petticoat. The kind often worn under a poodle skirt. The sun was shining and a warm breeze blew the sound of boys playing through the window. As I sat there and listened to those happy sounds, sadness overwhelmed me. I remember thinking ‘That’s what it must be like for normal kids‘. Slowly my gaze dropped to the petticoat then returned to the scene outside. Sudden realization raised the veil of youthful innocence from my vision and tears fell from my eyes. How melancholy I felt to be so different.

At that moment I felt the first inkling of the isolation that would eventually both protect me and drive me to the brink of suicide. I was struck by the gravity of my predicament. The sun was still bright overhead. Breezes still blew and birds still sang. But for me a subtle shift had occurred in my self-perception. I was a little boy whose idea of fulfillment was staying home alone and wearing my mother’s clothes And from that day forward, a part of me knew for certain that I was headed for stormy seas in a leaky dingy.

Thus the strangeness of my neophyte transsexual life had begun in earnest. Without fanfare or tickertape parade, with shaky faltering steps, I had embarked on my transsexual path toward an inevitability that I could not have imagined. And this benign ignorance was perhaps the kindest gift that cruel fate would ever bestow upon me. Painted on the canvas of my future was a portrait of despair; confusion, fear and loneliness. Somewhere it is written that the easiest way to rob a person of their humanity is to place them in permanent isolation. Transexualism is the epitome of isolation. It is the transexual’s body that betrays the spirit It is the body that imprisons and isolates our true selves. It was our bodies that offer the pretense of masculinity, forcing us down a path we would gladly forsake .

Looking back to my earliest realizations two things stood out. I knew there was something very different about the way I felt and that I was the only person in my little world who felt the way I did. I did not question for a minute the rightness or wrongness of my “unusual” impulses. I did what I did for the same reasons that fish swim; it felt right and natural to do so. But as I was also a product of my environment. Wherever I encountered moral judgment and bigotry I internalized those feelings.. Tragically then at such a tender time in my life I was doomed by a paradox of staggering proportion. What I felt to be completely right and natural was perceived by my society to be immoral and perverted. Eventually an expression would be coined that put all of this misery into a neat little box . The name for my particular brand of madness is gender dysphoria

I still believe it to be a measure of my parent’s infinite capacity for denial that they never once suspected or perceived anything untoward in my unusual behavior. I also believe that it was one of my innermost desires to be found out. As dangerous as it seemed at the time, discovery still seemed preferable to living in fear and isolation. As I entered my teens, I began nursing an invisible little emotional bruise. But as with all wounds that do not get proper attention, what had begun as a tiny little innocuous hurt had begun to fester. The gnawing pain in my heart would eventually find expression in a litany of neurotic behaviors that ranged from alcoholism to near fatal risk taking behavior.

At the apex of adolescent need for attention I went into a department store, grabbed four or five baby doll nighties and brazenly threw them over the door of a locked dressing room. I then asked an attendant to let me into the room where I stuffed the nighties under my coat. If this was not a cry for attention, then I don’t know what would qualify. Naturally I was apprehended as I exited the store. The security guard was a little confused but he sent me home with a promise to notify me of a court date. Terrified as I drove home I quickly came to the conclusion that the best course of action was to tell my parents so they would know why I would be summoned to court. Admittedly they did appear momentarily perplexed. They did ask some superficial questions such as “ Why woman’s lingerie?” But I mumbled a few ‘I don’t knows’ and the issue was quickly forgotten. Ironically for whatever reason, I was never called upon by the justice system to explain my heinous behavior. The whole incident did teach me another valuable lesson. Apparently my parents capacity for denial far exceeded my need for parental attention.

High school. Or Dante’s Inferno as I have come to think of it. While so many of my peers were apparently adapting to this final stage of their public education, I was becoming obsessed with my pubic frustration..The full onset of testosterone signaled the real beginning of my darkness. From a male to female transsexual point of view nothing epitomizes hopelessness like the burgeoning presence of virilizing hormones as they invade our bodies, creating all the wrong changes in all the wrong places. I had always been at odds with my male body. I appreciated it as a pretty decent male body,. It was simply the wrong one for me. If I was condemned to live in this male body so be it but the chest hair would have to go. Thus began a thirty year struggle to rid myself of body hair

High school was for me felt like being tortured on that famous device known as The Rack. Drawn and quartered by forces I barely understood at the time, I often feared my own dissolution in the midst of a psychic tug of war. With no real self to operate from, I did the best I could to fake it. My grades were above average, my teachers liked me and all together I’m quite sure they had no clue as to my inner turmoil. The only exception to the rule was a psychology teacher to whom I shall be forever grateful. It was the tenth grade. The stress I was feeling was so great that I can only assume that my subconscious was operating on it’s own when I wrote an “anonymous” note to this teacher. In my pain and confusion it never occurred to me that he could match my handwriting with other papers I had written When he approached me about it the next day after class and asked me if I wanted to talk about I froze in terror. I was paralyzed by the desperation to speak my truth and fear of the consequences of telling the wrong person. I quickly denied authorship. The subject, to my relief, was never brought up again.

As I eased, or uneased, into the eleventh grade I felt hormone driven changes happening all around me but not to me. For me sexual development was an abstract concept. The big lesson I learned about sexuality was that it could not exist when the body and soul are at odds. My hormones only forced me deeper into despair. Hopelessness grew daily. I knew, based on observation, that certain behaviors would be expected of me. I knew that most of these behaviors were masculine in essence and that I had better start studying and fast. The two male behaviors hat I passionately abhorred were concerned with various aspects of male aggression; fisticuffs and sex.

The matter of physical confrontation was not as much of a concern as matters of the heart. I was not physically imposing in any sense of the word nor was I inclined towards aggression. So keeping my head down and staying out of the line of fire would be fairly easy. The other problem though was going to be a bitch plain and simple. Behaving like a male was the toughest role I would ever attempt. The consequences of being found out in the enemy camp were unpleasant to say the least. But like the dedicated actress that I was, I studied hard and succeeded. Some might even say that I over did it but I survived. Looking back now I often joke that I was a double agent, an undercover transsexual agent stranded behind enemy lines. Deep cover for I alone knew my real identity. There were no reinforcements no manuals, no maps, and no survival kit that described the intricacies of being a male imposter. I studied hard and faked it

For the next two years until my graduation in June of 1969, I was the consummate actress. I played my part as if my life depended on it. I ingratiated myself into the company of men and listened to their braggadocio. I tolerated their young sexism with tacit disdain, nodding and occasionally grunting for effect. But my sympathy inevitably lay with the recipients of their crude unpolished advances. The young women who were the subject of so much salacious gossip could never have guessed that I listened for them and defended them when possible. To them I was just another high school boy trying to find his way through the morass of sexual vagaries that boggled the mind. I even went as far as to date a couple of girls who seemed to like me. I tried really hard to do the “ right thing” but the truth is that I was lost at the moment when most men seemed unstoppable. I simply did not have what it took to do the manly thing and I knew it. I just didn’t have the words or the heart to tell them.

So to all the girls I’ve known before, I would take this opportunity to apologize. I knew from the look in your eyes, the smile on your lips and the sensual toss off your hair that you were ready for me to do what came natural to a boy. How could you have known back then that I was dying to be one of you? How could you have seen that the only lust in my heart was to be one of you and that every that happened between us only reminded me of the hopelessness of my situation?

As my senior year came and went, I glided through the halls of good old Colonel White H.S. like a cipher, bereft of hope, friends or plans for the future. There was a period of months during the latter half of the year that I thought I had a friend, knowing full well that friendship with a ghost like me was impossible. Still for a short time friendship seemed possible and then like everything else in my young life it too faded away into the mist of disillusionment. As my peer group focused on their plans for the immediate future, graduation found me surrounded by family turmoil, seething neurosis, enough self hate to float an armada, and a really bad case of hives. I wanted to die.

Fortunately I remained alive long enough to learn another really important life lesson. In the absence of positive planning, fate can throw a monkey wrench or two into the proceedings. One of those wrenches turned out to be my personal sword of Damocles. At first it appeared more like a panacea for every single thing that I thought was standing between success and me. Then it would become the noose with which I almost succeeded in almost committing suicide. Alcohol and I began our twenty five-year affair in the summer of “69, not coincidentally immediately following graduation from high school. We got close really fast. So fast in fact that I would become a burden to the few people who could tolerate me until they embarked on their own life. I took to drinking like a drag queen takes to high heels and it did for me something that no one or no thing had been able to do up to that time. It erased my pain. Unfortunately, it also exacted a toll on my self-respect, integrity, honesty, physical coordination, and memory,

Alcohol was also the culprit responsible for a most egregious case of bad judgment on December thirty-first, 1970. That’s the day I married Nurse Ratchet the Dominatrix. In a state of screaming denial I married the first person to come along with a car and a job. All I wanted was to leave home but it cost six years of my life to escape the clutches of Attila the Hun. I’ll not waste precious words on the debacle save to describe it as odious from beginning to end. Remarkable in one and only one respect; that a reasonably intelligent, responsible woman would voluntarily marry a neurotic, confused, unmotivated, unemployed, alcoholic, drug abusive, self-loathing transsexual. Then incomprehensibly produce two children using my drunken sperm, divorce me and sabotage any possible future relationship with these children by filling their heads with hate for me. Nuf said!

It isn’t always darkest just before the dawn but it certainly seemed that way to me. As bad as my marriage had been, it had also functioned as a flotation device. But by 1976 huge gaping leaks had sent it plummeting to its briny demise. Nineteen seventy-seven found me adrift on the streets of my hometown. Everything seemed so unreal. I felt as if I was outside a bubble looking in, the warmth and spirit of life denied me. Again I was the specter on the outside where cold wintry blasts rattled my bones, ever reminding me of my wintry isolation and my frozen heart.

Perhaps it was a death wish or the desperate need to flee from the forces of imminent psychological and spiritual collapse that propelled me on a three-year hitchhiking odyssey that would eventually cover approximately twenty five thousand miles. Between 1977 and 1980, I ranged from Ohio to San Francisco, from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale then back to Ohio. With my personal demons ever hot on my trail, I sought nothing more than surcease on the open road. For a few years the plan worked. I found necessary distraction in long distance travail. My existence was simplified to primal elements. I slept outside in ditches, in fields and on mountains. I ate out of cans, was chased by wild dogs, and passed out pleasantly drunk under a million stars . I got into a car with anyone who would take anywhere. Looking back now on my abandon, I realize that I was lucky just to survive.

In 1979 at my wits end I found myself standing on the Golden Gate Bridge. I truly had nothing but the clothes I wore. I gazed longingly at the water over four hundred feet down and tried to will myself to jump. But something stopped me and I experienced a sudden epiphany. I had found something that I thought was lost forever. Hope. Nothing else had changed. There was no real reason to be hopeful but I had found its essence within and I would not question its arrival. Considering the state of my consciousness, just finding this little glimmer of hope was miraculous enough to keep me going.

So I went back to the only home I had. My family had all eventually moved to Florida and the climate was perfect for the life of a beach bum. I hitched to Ft. Lauderdale and lived for a year by selling my plasma, eating happy hour cheese crackers and sleeping on the beach or wherever I could. Ah, the good life! For a while it seemed as if the past would repeat itself. There were more itinerant jobs, more nights sleeping anywhere, and more drunkenness. In fact I had unconsciously changed my self-image from tragically transsexual to sadly besotted. I was a reprobate who wanted nothing more than to drink my life away in my favorite bar. That’s exactly what I was doing on a balmy night in April of 1980 when, ever so subtly, my whole life changed forever in the time it takes to open a door.

My new adopted home was an earthy sort of drinking establishment called the Draft House, Anyone who saw me sitting in that bar would have typecast me as just another beer drinking, pool playing, rock and roll biker type. My consummate disguise had become my reality. I had long hair, a beard. And bad teeth. I wore dirty jeans, a cutoff t-shirt and carried a knife purely for the sake of image, A 29 year old drifter, I had no friends no money, no job and no prospects. I was interested only in replacing a lifetime of pain with alcohol. In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous this is referred to as the jumping off place.

As I sat there with one eye on my beer and one eye one the entrance, I noticed a young wild child as she open the door and glided in. I quietly watched her as she lit the place up with an inner fire I had not seen in quite a while. She left after a short while but I was still in the same seat when she came back in two nights later. We struck up a conversation and I finally got around to asking her for a ride to my apartment. She stayed for a drink, then she stayed the night. And the night turned into weeks and the weeks turned to months. Miraculously, we recently celebrated twenty-two. years of marriage.

In a fairy tale, she would have kissed me early on and I would have turned into a princess but the truth is far less dramatic. It took all of those twenty-two years to explain to her that I was really a girl in disguise. For her to have come so far philosophically, from a Pentecostal upbringing to an agnostic lesbian married to a transsexual, is a miraculous feat and a tribute to the enduring power of love. She now says that she always knew that I was “special”. She just didn’t know how special! In 2001, she supported me while I worked and saved and flew to Bangkok, Thailand for sexual reassignment surgery. She is my one and only love, my soul mate.

Yet some dreams refuse to die. Previously in this text I alluded to the only person in high school with whom I felt any kinship at all. His name was Paul. He was 5’8”, fair skinned, slight built and blonde. Paul and I spent hours talking about everything. I felt a closeness with him, a trust that transcended words. With Paul I experienced a degree of emotional intimacy that I shared with no one else. I was fairly certain that I knew why. Paul was gay or at least he was destined to be gay. It was a moot point in 1967. Don‘t ask, don‘t tell was the ethos. No one had to tell me. Paul was gay and I was a closet transsexual happy to have found an unwitting ally. Then one day, inexplicably, Paul pulled away from me and I lost the only friend I had in those troubled times. Later I would see him pal around with a female schoolmate whom I assumed was a lesbian.. I thought Paul was in youthful denial.

In May of 2002, five months after SRS I was visiting a website that provides a cyber place for alumni of high schools all over the country to find each other. When I saw the name that I had kept in my memory for thirty-five years my heart leapt with happiness. Finally a small chance for an even tiny bit of redemption. Expectantly I sent him my email address, using my high school name of course. Within days I received an enthusiastic return from Paul. My inhibitions were overwhelmed by my passionate need for resolution. My correspondence began “ Dear Paul; there’s no easy way to say this so I’m a transsexual”.

Oh to be a fly on the wall! When the poor man recovered from his seizure, we began a series of torrid correspondence that rekindled the flame of our youth and fanned it considerably. The story that emerged is a clear case of mistaken identity and unrequited love. In a convoluted plot befitting Agatha Christie, desire drew us in as intersecting tangents. As it turned out, Paul had a monumental crush on me back in high school. At first he thought I was hetero then he thought I was leading him on. I personally didn’t have a clue. I just couldn’t fathom the idea of having sex while stuck in the wrong body. Paul took it hard. He felt rejected. That’s when he faded out of my life

As we reconnected from adult perspectives, our realization of what had happened, and not happened propelled us to a greater understanding of the sacrifices we made in the name of self-preservation. Somehow amidst the social facades of our youth revisited, we emerged with a finer perception of the paths we had traveled together and apart. And while thirty five years hadn’t diminished our affection for each other there was one little matter that still required closure. And this was the most delicate issue of all. Apparently neither time nor space, nor GENDER had assuaged his ardor for the person he knew thirty-five years ago. I must admit that I was flattered yet puzzled. I thought he was gay but then he explained that he was bisexual. Oh! Even still it seemed to me that he was taking a big chance. Though I had sent him a picture, I knew there was a recently emerged version of me that he was not at all acquainted with.

Hi next communication to me was the apex of resurgent passion. We finally spoke on the phone and it must have been disconcerting for him to hear me as a girl. He said that he had a question to ask me via email and that he hoped I wasn’t shocked. Shocked indeed! Paul suggested that perhaps if our partners “loved us enough” they might understand our desire to consummate our long lost lust. Mostly his lust. So I decided that the least I could do would be to ask my partner. When wisps of steam began to exit her ears I adroitly retracted my question. Paul took it hard but made a speedy recovery and has promised to visit soon.

.The year 2002 was the year of my rebirth and a celebration of the first year of my new life. The ominously dark cloud of fear that once hounded me has broken apart and now sun shines on .my life every day. My self-image is radically improved. I am a spiritual warrior on my own path to a greater understanding of my self… By virtue of my life as a transsexual, I have learned many lessons about the world and myself I live in. I am fiercely proud of what I am and what I have accomplished. I held fast to my dream, nurturing and protecting it from forces that threatened destruction. I never gave in to fear even as I clung desperately to a tiny ray of hope. I survived drug and alcohol abuse. murderous sexism, religious intolerance, inept psychiatry, legalized bigotry and socially reinforced oppression. And despite all these threats to my sanity, I have emerged victorious. With the reconciliation of mind, body and spirit, my focus now rests heavily on the development of spiritual principles: integrity, humility, compassion. and gratitude. Especially gratitude. For today I am so very grateful to have something that I thought was lost forever. Today I have myself.

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