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.
Super Late Bloomer, my early days in transition, by Julia Kaye.
I bought Julia’s book at Bookshop Santa Cruz, where they have a really good LGBTQ section. Sometimes I get tired of reading about people like me, it’s as if I turned into one of my impatient older adults from childhood. But Julia’s book is a series of illustrated one-page stories with a cutie pie of a character having daily observations on life in transition. I discovered that I could relate with almost every experience, which surprised me a bit (I thought I was uniquely hypersensitive, which sometimes turned me agoraphobic). So, in a sense, this book is a great investment that saves me time with a therapist, so we can focus on the ghosts rather than the world with potholes to maneuver around. That’s it! Go buy it, and relax: you are not alone.
I filed for a name change at the county court this morning! In my own way, I am adding the feminine name to my masculine name, blending the two to signify non-binary. Or as if two bits of binary code were ON at the same time to give the number 3.
I cannot believe I have done it! This morning, I wanted to resist, first in the form of a stomach knot, then in the thought I could delay until the afternoon to avoid a crowd. It was raining, and staying warm inside with a cup of coffee between my hands felt like the best option. But I poured the coffee into my travel mug, shaved, put the form in a plastic folder (to protect from the rain), took the book I’m currently reading (Trans Like Me by CN Lester) in case I would stand in a long line… Stopped by the copy shop (yes, they still exist) because the instructions said to make a copy (frankly not necessary), caught the next BART to downtown Oakland… I was thinking there would be obstacles of the sort that one encounters at a government office, like this is the wrong form, or whatever. No. This was one of the easiest official things I’ve ever done.
Somehow we get used to the convenience of doing everything online, so I get lazy as soon as I see an obstacle. In my pathological way I expect rejection by people, who just happen to be actors in my well-rehearsed story that the adults in my childhood created. The reality is completely different, I keep finding. Even the policeman who checked my bag and the absence of metal on my body was nice and welcoming. The gray walls felt so neutral that one wonders if the people behind the windows are trying to hide from you. But at window #2, the indicated first place to check in, I obtained a ticket with number A064 that also said “Name Change – Please have your documents completed and/or your case number ready.” And then it was super easy. The county clerk (to whom you actually make the check!) had that smile that mostly women have when they see me. She entered all the data, stamped the forms, and gave me a copy, telling me that I should hear from it in about 6 weeks, and then I’d be able to get certified copies for all the places I’d want to use them.
That was it! How should I celebrate? I announced it to my closest friends on WhatsApp and via e-mail. I look forward to holding a drivers license with my new name and the X gender marker! I start rehearsing a new signature (who remembers those days when we first signed something, and how it has changed over the years?). There’s some kind of lightness in me, that is hard to describe, but this is the first time for me that I am using a name I have crafted and chosen.
Why did I bother going through formal channels when I could just tell people to use my nickname? It was that moment, when I signed up for a 5K run, that I thought there would be a discrepancy between the name I gave, and the name on my driver’s license when picking up the bib number. Yeah, that simple. People probably wouldn’t notice. Last time, the one giving me a woman’s t-shirt resisted, thought I was mistaken. But I signed up as M (judging that I had the biology to classify my body in the M group) and asked for a W t-shirt (which fit my gender better). Still it will be awesome in the future to still sign up for the biological category while all the rest will be customized for my very own person.
Let me have a moment of gratitude for those who were there before me and fought to have an easier process for name changes that are to conform to one’s gender identity. It feels welcoming now.
sometimes I wonder
when I walk from the market
on a sunny day
in my black skirt
proud of my shadow
does the person checking
me out, revising expectations,
make it an anecdote?
sometimes I wonder
what’s on the mind of
the white driver honking
for the black middle school kids
to get out of his way
(a right he doesn’t have)
if he’ll make that an anecdote
or confirm his bias?
walk more, kids
“wow, are you a dancer?”
oopse. Maybe I showed off by stretching. I stretch that way every morning, up on my toes to reach the ceiling some day, and then down to touch the floor.
“uh, no,” I said shyly.
“You’re very flexible, for a guy…”
The mirror reveals to me what she says. I am a stick figure.
I should have said thank you, but all I thought was, I look like a guy. I had forgotten.
Until, finally, the class started and I could focus on following the teacher, get on my tippy toes, get my long legs up on the barre and stretch. Ballet barre is great, there is no performance in it. I don’t need the mirror. I am flexible, for a person who was barred from ballet by gender rules.
“Ma’am!” says the voice calling me for attention.
“Sir!” says the same voice once I show my face.
You could say it’s my fault for not applying make up, neglecting to wear earrings, what else?
I was happy at “Ma’am”
And “Sir” sounded like a correction I didn’t need.
Welcome to my new blog! I hope to find something to say about my journey, but sorry if I bother you, you don’t have to read anything here!
“Sorry to Bother You” is also the title of an awesome movie filmed near where I live. In it, the protagonist learns that if he changes his voice when making telemarketing calls, he can sell people anything. It is funny and sad at the same time, because he becomes rich and famous while losing his identity. It resonates with me because I find that I have spent most of my life making sure that I conform to expectations, and I expect to be rejected if I don’t. My version of “sorry to bother you” is, when approaching someone, to approach silently and submissively until the person notices my presence.
But recently I have come to realize that I am happier if I define myself without conforming to the expectations that I have learned since I was a child. Especially because the people who have implanted those expectations in me are long gone (yet I have siblings who carry them on as well). Also because I see (and read about) younger people who showed variances in gender expression when they were little, who have been able to build (to varying degrees) their own gender web (that’s a term coined by Dr. Diane Ehrensaft in her book The Gender Creative Child – I think everyone should read it!).
Last Thursday I had the chance to be at a poetry reading by Ari Banias, and I thought I might resume writing poetically, which for the purpose of this blog would be an ideal form. However I will warn readers (sorry to bother you) that everything is going to be a draft. Hey, it’s free, and the words may be read more widely than if they were printed in a book. If and when I choose to publish something (in print, or the equivalent), it will have been revised several times to the point it won’t be the same at all.
Thanks for reading! I’ll make sure you can write back in comments!