New Shoes, Old Hometown

It was like… I don’t know, Christmas? I am in Montreal, which would be my “hometown” if one can call it the city where they grew up, but I grew up in the suburbs. A few years ago, from the far suburban home of my sister’s TV, I had learned about an organization whose founder had died. My ears perked up when they said it was “Aide aux Personnes Trans” (roughly “Trans People Help”), so I looked for it on the web. At that time, I had found from its resource list a store that carried shoes in larger sizes, and made a point to visit some day. Several years later, here I am at that very store, a full aisle of shoes in my size and preferred styles! So it felt like Christmas. I even said something like that to the young person helping me, that I was overwhelmed by the sight of it.

The photo doesn’t come up right, but it gives you an idea. One is in a pink tone, the other is really red, while the photo suggest it’s a tan color. It took me a long time to decide, because my old feet are a bit peculiar, they’re different sizes, and the right foot has expanded a couple of times, so it’s better if I wear my custom orthotics. That just means I’m always wearing running shoes #2, the older version of running shoes #1 which I use exclusively for running (see my other articles about running, which is one of the things that keep me alive and well). But when I want to wear a skirt, they don’t quite look right. And right now, in Summer, my feet yearn for something with a lot more ventilation than running shoes. Yes, I have old Teva’s men’s sandals, but no, they just don’t look right…

It’s the end of a nice summer Friday, and I just walked to the store in the red sandals, a black skirt, a daring hat (so rare these days that I wonder if everyone is waiting to be told they’ve got melanoma). I was in heaven. So after the Christmas experience, I just couldn’t believe that I had arrived in my “hometown” in the gender expression that makes me so relaxed and happy. I’m quite sure if anyone looked closely at my face they would see many markers of my birth assigned gender, but now I’m going to ignore the possibility that in this crowd someone is going to raise hell about it.

But the shoes… Is it possible that they would transform my self-image in such a significant way? Why do I look envious when I see my friend at the running shoe store with shoes in the color I want, while I get men’s shoes that are optimal for my feet and my aspirations at winning the next 5K in my sex and age category, which is not the same as my gender? One reason is that for now I run faster than most men of my age, and definitely faster than women my age. It’s a matter of body shape and composition (and I think, quite frankly, the ideal categorization would be a matter of your most recent running history, not just what sex you are – this way we might encourage people to show up in new categories unheard of before).

So this is an incredible moment. The moment in which I am myself where I thought I wouldn’t ever be.

The shoe store is here: https://www.chaussezengrand.com on Rue St Hubert, which I discovered also features lots of fabric stores!

 

 

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I Am Transgender!

So many little things have happened that I was not going to talk about on this blog, but over time I think I have seen significant changes in me that would be fun to share here.

When I traveled to visit friends and family, and also with my niece to Italy, I somehow lost a bit of enthusiasm for my quiet transition. With older people, a group that now includes all my siblings and friends, every bit of change is just more difficult. Add to this that when I travel, I resort to very practical clothing, and I rarely have private space, so I become somewhat neutral, definitely risk-free. With hair loss as I have it, a flight attendant will call me Sir regardless of what I wear. Also I haven’t changed my travel documents, as I have not yet reached the confidence to switch to the other binary gender (there’s no X gender on international travel).

But just today, a few hours ago, I went to the DMV and got a reissued driver’s license with gender X (they call it sex!), and my new middle name and signature which uses the middle name. I was ecstatic, even laughing at the confused DMV person calling me Mam/Sir, Sir/Mam, Sir, Mam. I also updated my weight and height (I may have grown!) and since my friends have told me I have blue eyes, not gray, I updated that too!!! Since I was catching a bus from the nearby mall (by the way, access to DMV buildings aren’t pedestrian friendly!), I stopped at Hot Topic to get some new hair color…

Some time ago, I wanted to warn the youth who feel offense at being misgendered: it happens a lot, even to some cisgendered people! Yet I totally understand. Every time I am called Sir, I feel like I failed, that it is my fault not to pay attention to how I can pass, that I really should make more phone calls (I hate phone calls) to get laser hair removal, that I should reconsider hormone replacement therapy even though I am afraid of the side effects at my age… They make me believe that there’s no life possible outside of the binary, but also that they are afraid not of misgendering people, but misgendering men who could be upset and angry about looking like they may be perceived as women.

But these past few days, I became more enthusiastic about who I have become. I volunteered with Gender Spectrum for a couple of days, and found an environment in which I was perfectly comfortable. There were others like me, of all ages. I reimagined myself at a younger age, and thought I was doing quite alright given the circumstances around me at the time. I discovered that others showed any comparable level of imperfection (because somehow we’re led to believe the magic of transition depicted in movies featuring non-trans people).

And then I read two novels by Meredith Russo, both supposedly for a younger reading public, but so very significant to me because I could identify with the young protagonist. One very late night I was reading her most recent novel Birthday, and I cried at the climactic moment when she must reveal to her best friend:

I am transgender!

It has impressed me so much that at least twice in my journal I have ended my entry with the same phrase. And then the other day I said it to a friend in the middle of our lunch conversation, as a matter of fact. And then I was at a sewing class in an all-women group, presenting myself in my transitory imperfection, feeling completely accepted.

The lesson learned is that I can find the right environment that will be affirming. I should not waste any time wherever people question my journey, or question my appearance. I go around road blocks, instead of bumping into them. I shall also not listen to (mostly old people’s) arguments against pronouns (I’ll just point out that oh, I use they, and I’m happy about it), and really develop strategies to ignore the voices that criticize us for resisting the order of things as established in their heads.

It’s a good day. I will end with:

I am transgender!

 

So Tired of the Vatican

I just spent a wonderful week with my niece in Rome, where I had been maybe 30 years ago “in a previous incarnation,” and surely we ended up entering a couple of churches where we were told to either cover ourselves or discover ourselves according to the guard’s gender assessment of us. It made my niece nervous to enter, as if she had to pass a test. As for myself, they presumed I was male and requested a removal of my cap, which is the easiest sun protection to travel with, but it demonstrated to me that these rules were no different than the head and body covering rules of other religions that some people (especially Catholics) are quick to judge as wrong. In fact, entering the basilica at St Peter’s (the Vatican), they had a barrage of men scanning the visitors and running to confront offenders, in a manner reminding me of the Taliban. Okay, they didn’t have guns and didn’t threaten to kill or torture people, but they were rude, and masculine. The nuns we saw seemed unhappy, as if they had been asked to wash the floors for these men (maybe they had been).

Anyway, I vaguely remember, having been raised catholic, that these were supposedly personal rules of respect for the god that was in there, but they became rules of the society that attended church. In that respect, I’m sure it’s the same with other religions, and if you’re a guest anywhere, you abide with their requests such as taking your shoes off when you enter… But at a catholic church, the rules are different according to your sex (and one of the assigned genders), so if you’re somewhere on the trans spectrum, expect to be judged on appearances.

So much for the Vatican, we were both confirming that this institution didn’t need us. But a few days after I was back home, some press release from the Vatican came out to tell everyone how they didn’t approve of gender fluidity, which they seemed to confuse with sexuality, and even marriage. Everything in the same strictly binary concept of the family they’ve been peddling since… I should research that, but so many have who had an interest in it, I don’t think it’s always been so strict with these rules. Of course, they hardly changed anything over the centuries, while civil society has. Even the parallel patriarchal structure of the military had to change (I still disagree that only cisgendered women can wear a skirt, and they’re given a different hat). But while floating along the incessant flow of tourists in the Vatican museum, I saw a reference to the birth of the concept of the virginity of Mary being invented by a pope not too long ago, something like the 19th century, not surprisingly, Victorian times when all things male were starting to be challenged.

Anyway, I was triggered (as we now say) by the catholic church’s reaffirmation of their strict belief-based rules that there shall be no gender fluidity, because that is exactly the kind of ideas the priests put in my mother’s head. Were she alive today, she would remind me I’ve been having bad influences, and the priest told her to tell me. I recently got rid of my lifelong self-destructive ideas by figuring out that my mom was a bad influence, and she failed to act out of love. Once I figured that out, and now that I consider myself as a person and not an anomaly, statements like those of the catholic church reinforce my understanding that they are just trying to preserve their institution by keeping their people ignorant. To me that means they should not be given any attention, and especially the people as represented by their governments shouldn’t give churches charitable statuses unless they are truly inclusive and charitable.

That was on top of my mind these days, blurring my thoughts. I had wanted to ignore the church, but the church made its way to my newsfeed to insult me, so remaining silent wasn’t a good choice.

 

Week End

The rain was one reason to stay home
Resonating loneliness inside
New thoughts seeking
Entry in the bouncing house
Colliding with a body that isn’t new

Mourning the girl that didn’t flourish

The wind blew the clouds and the thoughts away
The day after I could run in a bright shirt
And I could like who she is becoming
Having a moment on Clair de Lune

Welcoming her to a new world

The Hurdles are Higher for us Introverts

Somehow I know I have made progress in many ways, but then it’s amazing how hurdles swing in my mind after crossing them. And in a sense it is to be expected that going over a hurdle will make it swing a bit, even if the runner doesn’t touch it.

Last night’s hurdle was a meeting filled with people I didn’t know (my university alumni), but also a group where I am known (even by a name badge) in my male name. Earlier in the week, as I anticipated the event, I imagined I could wear a skirt, and that would be really OK. But finally I settled for an elegant mix of women’s pants with cute socks, one of my favorite women’s top over which I wore a super-elegant silk jacket from a men’s suit I had 30 years ago. Oh, and a fancy hat, which in the words of the friend who made the hat, is not very gender-specific. Let’s say an androgynous look in a rather strictly binary environment.

The first hurdle is that I’m a true introvert, and such social occasions can be really draining. Lately I’ve been wondering if I became an introvert in the same process of growing up in an environment where my gender expression wasn’t welcome, or if that was inevitable anyway. Judging from my siblings, I would say the latter, and I would even add that it came from my dad’s side. Anyway, for us introverts, a social event can be draining. I like to go with a friend who would keep the rest of the world happy in conversation, or if also an introvert, stand by the edge of the party and observe while drinking.

It went well for the first half of it: there was someone who knew me and wanted to talk, and then they had a panel. After the panel, little groups started forming, and that’s when I started to panic. I should just have looked for the organizers and said goodbye right then, but I thought I might as well try to say one little thing or two about my days in our computer science department. Big mistake. There are nerds who monopolize the discourse, and even sometimes they have a sidekick nerd to talk over your own discrete comment. So you realize you might as well withdraw, and finally just go home. The thing is, I can’t see how beneficial to me it would be to participate in those “discussions.”

Was there any difference due to my looks? I would say none. I will always be a unicorn.  The feeling today is just the same as with any such event: there’s more loneliness in social settings like those than in solitude.

So today I was back to my usual, I went to a class, but I felt drained, in the way I often do after feeling exposed socially. I need to be with friends who will recharge my gender batteries! In a way, they are the replacement of the interaction I didn’t have as a child. They help me figure things out, and also they seem to keep me afloat when I seem to be sinking in the impossibility of reaching the next level in building my gender web.  They seem to preserve my self-esteem, and that’s very precious…

 

Welcome Bobbin

I am of a time and culture that bothered more to count the number of children in a family than the care they received. My parents only had sex when necessary, and were guided by people like priests and family doctors who knew practically nothing of child psychology. We were born at hospitals run by nuns who were very suspicious of a mother delivering a baby while the husband was away. I recently determined there was not much love in our family, parents and grandparents were acting more out of duty than desire.

When my brother and his wife visited me with their very young baby boy, I was shocked that they still applied the “do not respond to a crying child” policy of our parents, probably learned from their own parents, which meant that we had to toughen up right from the crib. At the time, I took the baby to my shoulder, and the baby fell asleep in a matter of seconds.

Then of course when I took a Psychology class, I read about the experiment on baby monkeys and something like comparing a food dispensing machine which was soft flannel vs. one that was metallic, and figuring out that (of course, would you really need an experiment to figure this out) babies needed to cuddle.

In my process of figuring myself out, thinking about my early childhood, I knew that I had missed one of my first plush toys, a dog I had called Fido. Fido disappeared one day, and when I asked, I was told it had been thrown away because it was torn and dirty. There was no replacement. I think that is when I took the habit of hugging the pillow I sleep on, something that is very difficult when you’re camping, for example, or when the pillow isn’t soft.

bobbin 002a
Bobbin

So the other day, on my way back from the grocery store, I stopped at the toy store and bought myself a cat. I was initially looking for a similar kind of dog as Fido, a collie, I think, but there were practically no dogs… There were two kinds of cats, and I let myself be charmed by one. The cat made the trip among raw vegetables, but once in my apartment I let it out to reach my face, and suddenly I was taken by this emotion I could only describe as feeling like a child, but feeling loved.

I know this is odd, especially when you have family members who rejected your feelings when you tried to talk about it. Especially from the masculine group, who already sees you as suspect because you are different. Nowadays I see trolls on the internet just the same way: grown men who were told to hold their feelings lash out at random on the internet, most likely because they never got cuddled and were probably given G.I. Joe and toy guns rather than teddy bears.

My cat is genderless and has a gender-neutral name, Bobbin. So far it is wonderful to go to sleep and wake up with Bobbin’s softness. Who knows, if one day I would accept the more complex live cat, and then later maybe, a person whose motives I do not doubt?

 

Dismissing the Ghosts

I haven’t written for a while, and it wasn’t for a lack of personal news, but rather for having to process “my ghosts.” I felt it would be inappropriate to mix a narrative of transition with details of how and why it has been delayed. Regardless of what series of events my ghosts have enacted and repressed, I think it has been very useful to identify them and to find myself free.

It isn’t that I suddenly discovered them: this has been a long process. Ghost #1 was identified first, and much good came out of it. Ghost #2 has always been like a bystander, and ghost #3 has always been for me both the one setting behavior rules that made me a very gentle person, and the one pushing for self-destruction and self-loathing… It is just that as I tried to diminish and sabotage my efforts at letting my true self out, I discovered that they were the ones blocking my progress.

The unexpected catalyst in this discovery: I was helping (and here I am, doubting myself) someone process the death of an abuser, by saying what I thought was the key to the power an abuser has on the person, even after they have died. Then I understood I had adapted my story to a general pattern of abusive behavior. In it, finally, I said we have to realize there was no love, but that we spend the rest of our lives wondering how we failed to get that love. In my story, everyone including myself had excused the ghosts by saying they were just living with their times, and with their own baggage. That was not enough, in my experience, and I had to figure out that I had to stop looking for love that did not exist.

It is, I think, like jumping off a cliff with the knowledge that I have wings. The wings are kind of new, I need to try them in the different wind conditions that are coming at me, but only I can move them.