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.

 

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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.

Super Late Bloomer

9781449489625_frontcoverSuper 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.

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.