Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why now? Why not?

I've got a lot on my mind right now. As I type this, it is my third attempt at this particular entry, but I am determined to finish it this time.

As I said, there's lots on my mind. I've got expenses, and not near enough money to cover it all at once. I love my brother to death, but if he doesn't find some sort of work, and soon, I fear we'll be living out of a box before too long. I told a friend a couple of weeks ago that I cared feck-all about the national financial crisis, and it's true. I've got much more personal problems, and the moving and shaking of banks and auto manufacturers doesn't touch me at all. To borrow a phrase from George Thorogood's landlady, "That don't confront me."

With serious mundane matters like that on my plate, I shouldn't worry about anything else, right? Well, here I am. My big issue now is how much longer I can continue as I am. I tried to live as a man, in denial of my true self, and all that came of it was pain. I'm tired of pain.

Almost from the start, I lied to myself and everyone. From my earliest memory I was drawn to femininity, but I didn't dare to show it. Little boys who did girly things got beaten up, and I didn't want any of that. It's not that I went out of my way to be manly or anything; I was too bookish for that. I did strongly resist doing anything that would make people think I was a sissy. When I was in the second grade, Mom wanted to dress me up as a girl for Halloween. Oh, how I wanted to do that. Alas, I whined about being called a sissy, and Dad made me a robot costume out of cardboard boxes and dryer hose (I took first prize in the school costume contest!).

I started dressing in my mother's clothes when I was eight or nine. When Mom found out, she went through the roof. When the phenomenon lasted into my tween years, she sent me to a psychologist. My doctor was a nice enough fellow, but I don't think he got it. He told my mother it was an adolescent masturbatory thing, and that I would get over it.

Along came puberty, and my child's body grew into a man-thing seemingly overnight. All of a sudden, my body became a strange thing, and I was very out of sorts with myself. I still wasn't much of an athlete, but in high school I threw myself into track and cross country. I found a sport I was actually good at. It is only now that I see the irony in being good at running. I've been running away from myself my entire life.

From the earliest, one of the things I always wanted was to have a child. Not to be father, but to bear a child. When, as a child, I first heard of a sex change, I thought, "I can have a baby!" Then I learned the reality of it, and my joy turned to sorrow. What use is a wish to be a woman if she cannot bear a child? That's what I thought, then. It seemed better to try to be a man, even if I was only pretending. So I labeled myself a crossdresser, and tried to content myself as a man who sometimes dressed as a woman.

I had some good times with some amazingly open-minded people in my early twenties. One thing led to another and I met "D", a woman who I would one day marry. D made me open up, about everything. She took me under her wing as a "summer project". She encouraged me to dress, and accompanied me on shopping trips. She taught me to do my own makeup, and hair. She coached me on feminine mannerisms and behavior. For Halloween that year, we went to a costume contest at Bennigan's. It was my first major outing en femme. I thought I looked good. A guy tried to pick me up. The judges made a point of calling me up to their table, because I had written on my entry that I was a man dressed as a woman. They disqualified me from the competition because (they said) they thought I was a professional female impersonator.

That event led to another chapter of my life. We started going to clubs to watch drag shows. A couple of visits in, D suggests to me that I should try out. One of the clubs hosted an "amateur night" once a week, and she got me to enter one. At this point in my life, I was what Gene Kelly called a "triple threat". I couldn't act, sing or dance. D's background was in theatre, so again she started coaching me. I entered one show. I didn't win, but I placed. All it got me was a free drink, but it was a nice feeling. I didn't know it at the time, but there were never more than one or two "amateurs" in any contest. The club would always fill the rest of the slots with established performers. That made it hard for girls like me, but I learned a lot about the drag show business. One of the older queens took me under her arm, so to speak. She tuned up my makeup, coached me on numbers and got me into a few real shows. That lasted a little over a year.

In the meantime, my relationship with D had gotten serious. D's eight years older than me, and I was pretty young then. I didn't know it at the time, but D is a control freak, and an attention whore. She was all for me doing shows when I needed her help to prepare, but once I started going off on my own, she didn't want me to do it anymore. It took me a few years to catch on, but this was to be the pattern for our life together. About a year after I stopped doing shows, we got married. Do a Google search for "A faire to remember" and you'll find the old Pilot article about our wedding.

I won't go into all the gory details of eight years of marriage, but it was both fun and not. She made me stop dressing up. "I don't need you to do that anymore," she'd say. I think she knew what I was. D was really perceptive about such things. When we went to see a counselor four years in, she made me tell the counselor that I was a crossdresser, and that was all. The counselor probed a little, to see if there was more to it, but I bit my tongue and told him no. When we split up eight years later, she told all of her friends, and anyone else who would listen, that it was because I was a crossdresser.

After D left, I was out on my own for a couple of years before I felt comfortable enough to start dressing again, and it was another six months before I got up the courage to go out. In March of 2006, I contacted the local chapter of Tri-Ess, a sort of crossdressers' sorority. At my first meeting, and most of the subsequent functions, I was the youngest person there. Most of the members were in their 40s or 50s. They were my people, but they were of another generation. They were set in their ways, too. A regular meeting consisted of meeting at a hotel, dinner at a gay sports bar and later drinking at another club. It was the same all the time, and it made me sick. I started to venture out on my own, whenever I wasn't working. I'd shop, run errands, go out to eat or the movies, all the normal stuff. I'd occasionally run into a little hostility, but the majority of the people I've dealt with have been cool.

Now it's a couple of years later. I've been through some major upheavals, but I'm slowly getting back on my feet. Or not. At the beginning of this post, I was almost frantic. I guess I have my ups and downs. The point of all this is, as I've grown more comfortable with myself, and expressing my true gender, the harder it's gotten for me to switch back. I came out to my employers back in July, and I started coming to company functions en femme. I expressed an interest in working that way. My employers politely told me "No." People have been telling me that all my life, and I'm tired of it. A lot of people wait until they've attained a measure of financial security before they change. If I wait for that time, it might never come. I can't wait for much longer. Before she died, Mom told me she wanted me to be happy. I'm trying to honor her wish.

1 comment:

  1. If I had waited until I've attained a measure of financial security, I'd still be waiting. That being said, I've had my fair share of my transness leaving me down and out (like when I came out to one of my employers in Ohio and was let go the next day), and it definitely helps to have at least a little safety bubble to go on when times are tough.

    The ways in which the world is skewed against us leaves us in this terrible place where we have to balance being ourselves and being safe. It's a position that leaves us wondering how we can make it, how things could be better, knowing that the path to being yourself is extremely risky and sometimes you have to extremely make hard choices to what should be an easy to answer question: How am I going to make it to tomorrow?

    I wish I had advice to offer, but I'm limited to my own experiences. You get to make the decisions about your own life, no one else does, and no one else has the right to, because you're the one living it.