Today was the first time I ever went car shopping as a woman!
Prior to transition I generally got read as an effeminate gay male. Since I honestly don’t know much about cars (zero interest, now or ever in the past), when car people realized that I had no idea what they were talking about a sort of not-quite-eye-rolling-at-the-faggot sort of crept in.
Walking in to car dealers today as a sort of genuinely bewildered older woman tightly gripping a copy of the Consumer Report issue on cars a friend loaned me, they quickly realized I was clueless, but were nice enough to treat me like their befuddled aunt who needed things carefully explained to her.
On balance, I think I prefer a little sexism and ageism to homophobia! At no point did I sense any thinly veiled hostility or wanting to hurt me, which I used to pick up on occasionally in testosterone-laden automotive environments.
We live in a society where my right to exist–or even, for some Christians, whether I even DO exist because they take the position that I am lying about what I experience in my inner life because their god would not create an abomination like me–is considered a topic that is up for debate.
My cisgender friends, imagine that whether your neighbors might be entitled to slowly torture people like you (whatever demographic you happen to be included in) to death were considered a notion seriously worth considering by your state legislature and possibly acting upon. If you can get your head around that, you have some idea of how it feels to have tens of millions of your fellow citizens think of you as annoying, disposable garbage that should be made to vanish.
In other coverage I have seen some of the comments that were used to argue that lower courts had an anti-religious bias. Some of the people involved in those decisions noted that many evangelical Christians are strongly biased against queer folks. Apparently stating facts about the real, often hateful and ugly, behavior of Christians is considered bias. I have experienced up close and personal hostility from evangelicals. The intensity of that hatred was chilling. In a few days, where I live, there will almost certainly be the usual “God hates fags” protesters out in force at the Pride parade. This is not mere dislike, this is active hatred, and we are not imagining this.
“We lose when our rights are considered debatable. Even if the Supreme Court had ruled unanimously against the baker, in fact, L.G.B.T.Q. Americans would still be considered second-class citizens in many aspects of civic life.
We can still be legally fired or denied housing in 28 states. More than 300 anti-L.G.B.T.Q. bills have been introduced in the states in the past three years. In Oklahoma, gay and lesbian couples can be denied the ability to adopt children.
Masterpiece wouldn’t have changed any of that, just as Obergefell v. Hodges didn’t change any of that, just as rescinding the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy didn’t.
The only thing that will truly enshrine equal protection under the law for all Americans, including L.G.B.T.Q. people, is an amendment to the Constitution.”
I recently added a photograph to the pictures that currently sit on the mantel above the fireplace in my apartment. These photos include pictures of friends, an inspirational image or two, what I think is a really good recent photo of me, and, now, a picture of the semi-fictional person I used to hide inside.
I should stress that I do not mean this literally. But I am now making a habit of practicing gratitude, and the only way I can think of to be grateful to myself is to employ literary license and speak as if I were someone else.
He was a deeply, if quietly, unhappy person. In some ways he could express aspects of my personality that were close enough to “normal” to be socially acceptable, at least among intelligent adults. My interest in the fine arts and literature and classical music is something that, at least once we escaped the hell that is adolescence, he could channel without getting ridiculed. Some of my “bleeding heart,” pacifist-leaning politics. Some of my inclination to be formally polite in a world that has abandoned such things. Much of that came through.
Aspects of me that had to be tirelessly monitored and suppressed were distinctly feminine body language that always came naturally to me, an unconscious tendency to speak in italics (using shifts in pitch to emphasize words, to speak in a slightly sing-song manner, and to do quite a lot of emotional expression), my tendency to ready tears when moved by something beautiful or sad, the overall feminine tone of the woman that I am.
His existence was painful. Every day was a struggle just to get through. Pretending to be someone that you are not is hard work, draining work. It exhausts you. It makes you sad. It makes you want to just give up and check out, stage left.
Yet he held on for many, many years although he wanted to die. He held on because he worried about what his suicide would do to the people he loved. He knew that was the only thing keeping him alive.
But there is more. He didn’t know it, but he was also staying alive for me.
Rather than die and take me with him, he stayed alive until I, his real self, was able to emerge into the sunlight.
I am so grateful. I am so grateful that he lived through such misery for such a long time so that I could live the joy that I now have.
Thank you, my half-unreal brother. I, your sister and true self, owe you a debt that I can never repay.
Christine Jorgensen was born May 30, 1926. When on December 2, 1952 the New York Times reported on her having undergone what was for that era an advanced medical transition in Denmark, she became the first transgender person to come to the attention of the American public.
When she returned to the U.S. in 1953, she was met by a media circus that ended any hope of her ever living quietly like any other woman. Some years later, she was engaged to a man, but they decided to end the relationship after the press got wind of it, and he became the object of bigoted attacks.
By all accounts she was polite and ladylike (in old clips such as the one here she reminds me a bit of Mary Astor in the Maltese Falcon) and was shocked that many Americans saw her as some sort of sex-obsessed demon and her transition as some extreme kink.
She simply wanted to be able to live as who she was.
By the way, that original newspaper piece from 1952? The video got some things wrong. She didn’t announce her transition. Someone working in the hospital in Denmark saw a chance to sell a sensational story to the press and outed her with no consideration about what that might do to Miss Jorgensen.
Much of what the Christian right’s political activity is about is trying to make it impossible for LGBTQ people to live our lives in peace. I have had Christians of this ilk go out of their way to get in my face and to be as nasty as possible to me. Some of them, I have no doubt, would have assaulted me had we not been in a space where that could get them into legal trouble.
They want to see people like me fired, evicted, and denied medical care. Some of them are quite open about wanting people like me to die. They do not want us to exist. Period.
If you are not part of some marginalized minority group, try to image what it would feel like to watch a well-funded, politically formidable movement on the march with the intent of making you disappear from the face of the earth.
I can’t find the exact quote, but I think H. L. Mencken once observed that God must not be very powerful if he requires the protection of a state legislature.
“The idea behind Project Blitz is to overwhelm state legislatures with bills based on centrally manufactured legislation. “It’s kind of like whack-a-mole for the other side; it’ll drive ‘em crazy that they’ll have to divide their resources out in opposing this,” David Barton, the Christian nationalist historian and one of four members of Project Blitz’s “steering team,” said in a conference call with state legislators from around the country that was later made public.
According to research provided by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, more than 70 bills before state legislatures appear to be based on Project Blitz templates or have similar objectives. Some of the bills are progressing rapidly. An Oklahoma measure, which has passed the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature, allows adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate on the basis of their own religious beliefs. Others, such as a Minnesota bill that would allow public schools to post “In God We Trust” signs on their walls, have provoked hostile debates in local and national media, which is in many cases the point of the exercise.”
I am sure that no one will be interested in this. Jenny Boylan, who has experienced sex both with male and female anatomy, weights in on the differences.
By the way, due to privacy issues, I will never discuss specific things I have heard in support groups for transgender women, but it is worth noting that as a conversational topic bedroom sex doesn’t come up much, at least not in the groups I’ve been involved with. It isn’t unusual to have a two-hour meeting with lots of lively discussion among fifteen or twenty trans women where that topic never gets raised at all. Mostly we talk about our difficulties in our personal relationships and how we feel about things. Sex-obsessed Christians please take note.
“There are big differences in male and female orgasm, though: female orgasm is longer — over 20 seconds, on average, compared to three to 10 seconds for men. And men have more orgasms — reaching climax in 95 percent of their encounters, compared to 69 percent for women. Another major factor, when it comes to the measure of pleasure, is the type of sex that’s being had: straight men and gay men, for instance, have about the same number of orgasms. Lesbians, meanwhile, have about 20 percent more than straight women — perhaps because lesbian sex tends to go on longer (30 to 45 minutes for the average lesbian couple, compared to 15 to 30 minutes for straight ones).
As for me, I have almost 20 years of female orgasm under my belt now (since transition), and before that I had an equal number of years of having male ones. Without going into detail, I can attest that the experiences are distinct. Sometimes I think of it as the difference between Spanish and Italian. Sure, they’re similar. But jeez, che differenza!”
In New Hampshire, the key was getting cisgender people to understand that they run into us all the time (we are probably at least one person in 200) and that we are just people trying to live our lives in peace. Just like them, we have hopes and fears and dreams and hearts that can love and that can be broken.
The faith-based conservatives (unfortunately, that’s probably 90% of organized religion in America) know that they lost in their long war to destroy the lives of cisgender gay and bi men and lesbians–except for older adults and younger Bible thumpers, most straight folks really don’t care anymore about whether co-workers or neighbors are LGB– but they are working hard to promote hatred and violence against transgender people while what most of the straight general public thinks it knows about us is mostly misconceptions rooted in slander and seriously stupid “entertainment” written by clueless cisgender writers and performed by clueless cisgender actors.
While I certainly don’t walk around starting conversations with, “Hi, I’m trans!” I don’t hide it either unless I view the situation as dangerous.