One of the things I spent a lot of time thinking about over the summer while I wrote a book for the umpteenth time was one of the things that I don’t talk about here but should at least once in awhile, and probably will once I release the book.
That thing is Rites of Passage. There are many, and for some people certain rites are more important while for others different rites are more important. I’ve identified around 20 or so of them common to most trans people’s narratives and experiences, but I really only focus on ten of them.
One of them it the rite that is marked for me indefinitely.
It was the day I said to myself that I needed to do something about this.
That day was October 10th.
Today. As in, the day this is published, ever so early in the morning, just like the moment that I made this realization.
It was about 36 hours later that I actually did something about it, following a series of emails and phone calls and all the rest, most of which, this many years later, is a single blended moment that has no marked start and no marked end, all one continuous stream of emotionally charged memories.
It was a pretty serious day for me. I had finished something or other after being stressed out over it for several days, and I was taking a break before getting back to work on something that I expected would make me tons of money and all the rest of the usual crap associated with that.
I’ve told the tale before of how I reached this point, noted in passing what led to it, and I still mark it, still feel the power of it. For several years, each year, I sent an email to the first person I ever came out to and told her what had happened in the last six months, not because I expected a response, but because I was grateful to her for not turning away and taking the time to respond.
That moment — that time when someone takes a huge chance and opens up — is so important, and she did it right. I’m not certain that I’m one of her marginally well liked people or not, but I don’t think so, and it isn’t important. I respect her and I will never forget the honor and courtesy she did for me.
At least not as long as October 10th rolls around.
It was one year late that I went “full-time” — that point where you commit irrevocably, and put away the old stuff. I had to, but that isn’t always the case and I tend to fit what the separatist idiots call a “true transsexual” way too well for my own comfort at times.
But all of it started with that one day, that first day, and on that day I realized, without having to look at any narrative by someone else, without having any knowledge of what a narrative was or what trans was or what cis centric would mean, a day when ideas about privilege and stigma and transphobia and all the rest of the crap we talk about were things so very far away and all I had was nervous fear and some strange sense of exhilaration over the knowledge that something that had danced around in the back of my head for as long as I could remember and beyond was going to finally happen, and that I was taking the very first, tiny, ultimately insignificant in the grand scheme of things step.
Because I came out to myself first. I said it aloud. I cringe today at the thought of how I expressed it and what I thought and what worried and concerned and filled me with dread. Passing and surgeries and tons and tons of money and lots of doctor bills and expensive sessions with people who generally would spend half an hour with me and pray to God they never saw me again because I knew way too much about human psychology than I should (even before I earned my first degree in it).
All the stuff that consumes pretty much everyone “new” or “newish” to this. The idea that hormones and surgeries are the most important part of the whole thing, for example. That once you get past them things are easy.
A lot of people are chuckling about that. It is so commonplace that it is a given that you can spot a newbie by how they think about the magic of hormones. You can spot someone in the early part of their transition by how they feel about themselves because of hormones. The list goes on.
And I remember that, and one of the first things I say to people is that all the medical stuff is about one 20th of the whole thing you have to deal with, and ultimately it is the easiest part of it.
They believe me about as much as I would have believed someone who had told me the same thing, which is to say not at all but smile and nod.
And yet, down the road, be it two years or five or whatever, they always come back to me and say “hey, thanks for that.” because it is true.
Even more importantly, I talk about all the stuff that they do have to deal with outside of that one small part, and I always come back to it because they don’t care and they aren’t ready.
I still feel all the things I felt back then when I think on it, which is probably why each year on this date I try to do something. To recall it, to keep me grounded at least a little in a place that so many people are in, so that I don’t feel as disconnected from them by time and circumstance, which is very easy to do.
I could, tomorrow, if I didn’t have the commitments that I have made to deal with still, simply stop. Yes, I would be recognized and all that, and no I wouldn’t suddenly be magically stealth, but I could just get on with the life I seek outside of helping trans people, and some days, as I was just reminded, that desire is strong and can overwhelm me, because I have a desire to be something other than what I am, which, now that I type that, makes me think that perhaps I should get a little zen and develop a desire to be what I am.
And what I am is a woman, and an activist, and an advocate and what I desire is to be a woman and an innkeeper and someone who doesn’t get involved in all the stuff I do.
Of course, life would suck just as much, but since it doesn’t really suck all that much (only one area is problematic), it wouldn’t be all that bad a lie and I’d be happy.
And when I started this, that first day, so long ago, I was an artist and a business woman online, and not very happy at all.
And if you are wondering about that, there is a story there, but I like to leave the story for in person encounters instead of online exchanges. Besides, it drives my detractors nuts when I say, quite truthfully, the above.
Yesterday I posted a link I stumbled across that makes a comparison of the costumes allowed for women in several categories across the age ranges for women. From little girl to middle school to high school to college. It shows, incredibly well, how we reduce women to sexual things over their lifespans.
Because October is the big month for me, there is, of course, Halloween for me to deal with. I didn’t dress up for my first Halloween. I wore my usual clothes. And my first Halloween I went as a guy. It was the last one I did that as. And it was the last Halloween that I really liked. The most I’ve ever dressed up was as a fairy, and I dread seeing that picture myself, even though some folks are polite and say it is cute.
I’m pretty critical of my appearance. Problem with being lookist, after all. Means I dislike most photos of me, as well. Once in a while I get a good one.
It wasn’t all that long ago, this first day. To me, it seems like it was just the other day, or even more accurately, it seems like it is part of some half forgotten life lived by someone else in a dream I had, because that person on that day bears little in relation to this person, who types this post today.
And yet, in the tried and true statement of the ages, I am still the same person I was. I’ve just had a whole set of new experiences, and I’ve been blessed to be able to follow my passions, to embrace Joseph Campbell’s call to authenticity, and that means that I’m more than just the same person, Im the same person with more to them.
So, in that sense, I am not the same person I was, but I am better, I am more whole, more real, for lack of a better term.
And that, in the end, is really what the problem was, all along…