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!

 

 

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…

 

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.

Name Change!

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 20190322_163725A064 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.

 

You’re Very Flexible…

“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.