That Is Not How the Universe Arcs, Good Friday 2018

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Post Script: After I posted the material below this morning I got a bunch of people “liking” it who are peddling assorted self-help nostrums, new-age nonsense, and Jesus Christ. Trust me, don’t waste your time. You could not possibly find a less receptive customer for what you are vending.

Original post:

Last night I got an email from the membership director at church. She sent me a link to an article that promoted thinking happy, loving thoughts and staying open and trusting and peaceful in the face of daily life.

It hit a raw nerve. I wrote her back:

No. Being open and trusting and peaceful gets you ridiculed, exploited, and killed.
We just had to bury one of my sisters here in town. She had been beaten to death and her remains stuffed into a garbage bag like the garbage that most cisgender people think we are. I was one of those women sobbing at her candlelight vigil.
Just in the last month I have had to deal with someone who was supposed to be a medical professional who went out of her way to be really nasty to me because I am trans and I had a similar experience in the office where I went to get my taxes done.
And I don’t even want to talk about my biological ex-family and the nightmarish weeks I recently spent because of how they treated me when I was  isolated and vulnerable and at their mercy.
I don’t have the privilege of living in a happy-thoughts fantasy as that ridiculous woman advises.
In order to stay alive, I must continually scan for hazards and assume that anyone I meet might want to hurt me in some way, because, all too often, they do.
My God, when you handed me that trans sticker for my car did you have any idea what you were asking of me?
If you put an anti-Trump sticker on your car the worst thing that would probably happen is that some jerk in a parking lot might call you a “libtard.” If I were in a parking lot at night with a transgender symbol on my car, my body could easily wind up in a garbage bag along a highway somewhere.
Perhaps I don’t belong at the church. Between the people who like to get in nasty little digs when they get a chance and think no one will overhear and the oh-aren’t-you-a-cute-little-token-to-show-how-enlightened-we-are types it certainly isn’t pleasant being there.
I see no evidence whatsoever that the arc of the universe bends towards justice.  My life experience has taught me that if  anything the universe bends towards cruelty.  I trust my experience, not wishful thinking.
Writing this now has me wondering whether my showing up at church has any point at all. I will have to think about that.

 

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Don’t Try to Imagine What It is Like to Be a Transgender Person, Ask them

Vertigo_1958_trailer_embrace

Trying to understand another person through imagining what it is like to be that person leads to profoundly misunderstanding them. You are most likely projecting your preconceptions or are imagining that they are the person you want them to be.

Asking someone to honestly describe their thoughts and feelings in real time in a shared space may lead to some genuine insights into who they are. Not guaranteed, but at least there is a fighting chance you could learn something.

But you must be willing to put aside what you think you know and listen.

Anyone out there trying to build a relationship of any kind with another person please take note.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/03/22/594023688/invisibilia-to-understand-another-s-mind-get-perspective-don-t-take-it?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social

 

 

 

Why a Transgender Woman Might Jump on a Car

marina on car in afw

Today I had a conversation about the film A Fantastic Woman with a cisgender friend. She said that she and another friend had seen it and the other friend didn’t find believable Marina’s behavior in the scene where she starts jumping on a car with Orlando’s family inside because up to that point Marina had been quite submissive to the cisgender majority.

Recently my psychologist observed of me: “In your soft way, you’re furious.”

When you are a trans woman in a society where most police departments don’t consider the murder of a trans woman worth spending more than a few minutes on before filing it away as unsolved–there was a real investigation in the recent gruesome case here only because the victim’s sister kept melting the phones of local police officials until they grudgingly started looking into her disappearance–where in 2018 medical providers and other professionals feel safe in sneering at you openly and misgendering you in front of others working with them, where you might find yourself on the receiving end of at least some nasty little smirk or comment–or something much, much worse–any time you get clocked, you learn to get quiet, to pretend not to hear the hateful words or the clearly intentional misgendering, to be secretive, and to avoid drawing attention to yourself by speaking up for rights that will most likely not be granted.

You learn your place.

But that constant drip, drip, drip of petty cruelties and little humiliations builds up an anger you try to pretend isn’t there.  Eventually it may erupt and you may be startled by the sound of a deeply wounded woman venting her hurt and rage.

And that furious woman is you.

So I for one find completely believable the scene in A Fantastic Woman where Marina–who has been robbed of her beloved and everything she shared with him in their life together, has been slandered and humiliated and even assaulted merely for trying to mourn a man she deeply loved–finally erupts and starts jumping on the car with Orlando’s family inside and demanding the return of the dog he gave her.

 

That Broke My Heart

Louis-Jean-Francois Lagrenee La Melancolie

I am still unable to write a full account of a terrible experience I had over a period of about a month early this year. Every time I try, I end up sobbing. I have decided that I am over being sad, but I do want to say something about it. Yes, it is relevant to being trans.

All you need to know is that I was asked by my biological family to come and help out during a crisis. This involved me traveling about 1,500 miles and staying for weeks. I went hoping to repair some severe strains in our relationship.

Instead I discovered how much I am resented, how much hostility there is towards me, and how they have no interest in the real me. I was no more than a convenience because I was the only person they could find willing to come.

I was there for a month and not once in that time did anyone ask me how I spent my time. Not once did anyone ask me about my hopes or my fears or whether I had anyone special in my life.

I made a number of attempts to tell them about my life now, but they made it clear they weren’t interested in the least.

Much of the hostility directed at me was rooted, I believe, in my inability back in the day to function as a father, to fill that role. Unlike some of my sisters who learned to do passable impersonations  of men, I was never able to pull it off. I am far too passive, too diffident, too girly. I let down my kids because they needed someone strong and masculine and protective. I failed to protect them. I failed them utterly. That will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Often the hostility erupted into drawn-out episodes of sarcasm and rage. It was horrible. The visit was a miserable experience for everyone.  Even if you are the person discharging long-held resentments and anger rather than the target of it, the experience is hardly pleasant.

After I got back, I had a session with my psychologist. Transgender people have made up a significant fraction of her clients since the 1990’s. She told me that she has heard variations of this story many times.

Transgender people are usually so desperate for acceptance, for being forgiven for being unable to be the person that someone needed, that we are willing to go to extraordinary lengths for our biological families.

It doesn’t work. No matter what you try to do, people who aren’t going to accept you just aren’t going to accept you.

Your adult children are not going to forgive you for not being the parent they needed so badly. That ship, as they say, has sailed.

However, they may be all too willing to use you as an exploitable resource, as a mere convenience, to vent their frustration and rage and resentment on you, and then contemptuously toss you away when you are no longer required.

I won’t make the mistake of trusting them again. I don’t dare. And that breaks my heart.

A Happy Sequel to an Outing

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Some very painful things happened over the last month that I am just not ready to blog about.

So, I will make a happy post!

To recap, there is a very nice man at church with whom I had engaged in conversation several times. He thought we had a connection. So did I.  One of us would say something and the other would reply with the perfect response. (See Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.) We found the same things funny or sad or beautiful.  Taking to him was so easy and comfortable. It felt right. He was intelligent and funny and not-bad looking, and he stuck me as a kindly, gentle soul who would never hurt me.

I have been hurt so many times in my life.

He thought I was sweet and gentle. I hope so. He also found me attractive, and he appreciated my femininity. (Hint to you guys out there: it isn’t unusual for the trans women at a social gathering to be the most feminine women in the room. We had to go through hell to get to be openly feminine, so we don’t hold back! If it’s femininity you are seeking, think about that.)

So one evening I got a call from him. He had gotten my number from a mutual friend.  He wanted to take me out dancing.

You have no idea how tempted I was to just go for it! Being led around a dance floor in a man’s arms while wearing a nice dress,  a lingering goodnight kiss, perhaps another date the next weekend, or perhaps we stay in, and I fix dinner, and we snuggle on the couch and watch a movie . . . sigh.

Living a little of the life I should have lived, but couldn’t.

But I didn’t want to hurt him if his feelings deepened, and then he found out I’m trans and I hadn’t told him. I didn’t want to embarrass this sweet man if–when–my past got revealed somehow.

I have hurt so many good people because I wasn’t honest about who I am. I don’t want to hurt anyone ever again.

So I outed myself.

He was upset, not angry, still polite, but clearly thrown off balance. The call ended, courteously, about two minutes later.

Today I ran into him again at church. We talked for about 20 minutes. He had only the sketchiest knowledge of transgender women, so he asked a lot of questions. Good ones. He was courteous and friendly and curious.

I don’t think that cisgender people can grasp gender dysphoria, but it impressed me that he was making an effort.

He said he likes my personality, my sweetness and gentleness and sensitivity and wants to be my friend.

A real friend is almost as good as a lover.

Isn’t he?

Then he chuckled. “You can see why I was so attracted to you. You are so very pretty!”

Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Had a Moment There, But . . .

Charles Haigh Wood - The Patient Competitors

I had my radio tuned to a classical music program–they were playing something by Domenico Scarlotti, a harpsichord piece that was not dissimilar to my ring tone–so I almost missed the call. I was also in the middle of my post-aerobics yoga routine, so I was a touch out of breath when I grabbed my phone.

It was a nice man whom I had met at church and who had asked for my phone number. I honestly didn’t think he would ever call.

We chatted for a few minutes. I told him that I was breathing hard because I had just been exercising. (Tip for trans women: it’s much harder to do “the voice” if you are low on oxygen.) He told me that he was going to start exercising to lose weight and become thinner–I thought he was fine–and become slim and attractive like me.

I must admit I was enjoying this. When we first met, he told me that I was really sweet and pretty and nice and that we had made a connection.

Let me assure you that when you are someone like me and you have waited a lifetime to finally be living as who you have always been inside–as the sort of woman with whom straight nice guys might flirt–this is like catnip!

Besides, he was not unattractive. He was funny and intelligent. I liked him, too.

He asked me what area of town I lived in. He started talking about perhaps me coming to his place to hang out and eat and watch television or something.

You must understand that I have gotten quite reluctant to “out” myself unless there is a good reason, but this was moving in a direction where things might get out of hand. I certainly wasn’t going to show up at his place on Saturday night and do the Big Reveal while sitting alone on a couch with a man I knew only slightly.

So I told him that I was transgender. You have no idea how much I hated doing that.  I was also hoping that he would be fine with it.

Hope is a trickster god.

A few seconds later, he came back. I could hear the strain in his voice. I don’t think he had seen that coming.  The poor man then said some things like, “I felt that you were transgender in my soul” and “life does have a way of throwing you strange curves.”

He wished me well, said we could be friends, and got off the phone in under ninety seconds from the moment when I had “outed” myself.

It makes me a little sad.

I am a nice woman, I really am. I cook well and keep my home clean and tidy;  I have good taste in clothes; I’m well-read and know my way around concert halls and art museums; and I try hard to be polite and kind and considerate and to the extent that I can support a couple of worthwhile charities.

I am a lady. However, I fear that I may forever be doing that solo.

Now I need chocolate.

The picture is Charles Haight Wood’s The Patient Competitors.

 

 

I Am So Sorry, But I Am Not the Person You Want Me to Be

25 Dec 2015 Molly wondering

This is my cat Molly. I adopted her from an animal shelter and have done my very best to take good care of her and make her happy. A few minutes ago I added a little water to her wet cat food and microwaved it for a few seconds to make it slightly warm because the food has been in my fridge. Yes, I am a crazy cat lady!

Unlike the last cat who lived with me, who wanted to cuddle up with me whenever I sat down and made it clear that she adored me, Molly is not affectionate. She wants me to scratch her ears and run a red laser light over the carpet that she can chase, but rarely responds to my ongoing–hope is eternal–efforts to elicit a little affection from her.

Someone said that the reason women are usually the ones who live with cats is that women are wired to be willing to do a great deal of work and go to an awful lot of trouble for creatures who almost never do anything nice for us in return. Babies and men, for example. And cats.

My last cat was so marvelous, such a loving friend, that I hoped for the same from Molly.  I do love her and will continue to try to make her happy, but I no longer expect her to be an affectionate kitty. That’s not who she is.

Before I came out as transgender, I spent my life having people pressuring me to be someone they wanted me to be: a masculine son, a masculine brother, a “normal” husband, a strong father, a guy friend.

They projected their needs onto me. I spent decades trying as hard as I possibly could to be the person they wanted and to meet their needs. I was terrible at it, but I tried.

And it was killing me. Constantly having to pretend to be someone you are not will make you crazy. Eventually you reach the point where you want to die rather than keep up the pretense.

Yesterday I learned that someone who has on the surface been supportive of my transition ever since I came out is furious at me for being myself. The person that they thought I was filled an powerful emotional need they had.

The furious person is someone I care about, worry about, but I can’t be what they want.

That isn’t who I am. It never was.

This discovery makes me wonder how many people who knew my now-dead brother–so to speak–and have made supportive noises and been superficially friendly are quietly resentful of me–his sister, so to speak–who suddenly appeared in their world a few years ago.

Do they see me as some strange woman who came along and murdered someone they needed? Do they wish I would go away and let them cleanly mourn their loss and move on?

I am beginning to think that, yes, some of them do.