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Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

I’ve hated my body in varying degrees from mild disorientation and annoyance all the way up to full-fledged thinking that being a brain in a jar would be preferable, as long as I can remember. There have been a few stretches where it let up: one in college, when my health was better than it had ever been before and better than it’s likely to ever be again, so that I didn’t have all the weight of life with systemic disease, and again in my mid-30s when I was doing a lot of live-action roleplaying and to do a lot of costuming. Other than that…let’s just say that I felt an immediate bond with Clive Barker’s early short stories and their sympathetic portrayal of the monstrous as a superior alternative to the normally human.

I’ve been shaving my face more carefully and closely, and finally got through the last of the very thick accumulation above my upper lips. Wow. These are, if I do say so myself, not bad lips at all. When I learn to make them up properly, they’ll be quite the adornment.

Now I’ve added shaving of my arms and legs. Tonight was my first time getting them really pretty much all the way smooth. There are, of course, some nicks and cuts, but I’ve gotten worse just trying to hold my cat still long enough to trim his nails. And tonight, as I sit here drying off…I’m not loathing my limbs much at all.

I am not, or at least I hope I’m not, subscribing to a too-vigorous endorsement of an oppressive standard of femininity. I’m aware of some of the traps involved in succumbing to stereotypical goals. Rather, I regard this as a sort of notional clearing of the decks – the equivalent of plowing a weed-filled field down to pure dirt, then planting something fresh. I have years of effort ahead of me, and I’m treating this a happy step that is mostly good for my morale during the slog to come.

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I have a history with camellias. They grew in glorious abundance around our family home, and I always loved their blossoming, for itself and as a sign of spring in general. But they also play a part in a memory I’ve never confided to anyone until now.

It was spring of my senior year of high school, and I was at a party with a lot of classmates. It was a small-ish high school with a great overlap between the academic geeks, the theatre crowd, the music crowd, and several other scenes, with what I gradually learned was a remarkably low level of clique-ishness at the high end. That’s probably a subject for a post of its own, but for now, back to the party.

The family hosting the party was quite a bit wealthier than most of ours’, and genuinely nice people, gracious and generous. They had a great backyard with a very fine pool, and our class had quite a few gatherings there. So there I was, one of the (as I thought) somewhat shy and awkward guys, listening to the conversation, not contributing a lot, dabbling my feet in the pool. A couple of the girls had been braiding backyard flowers into other girls’ hair. Suddenly one of them came up to me with this huge camellia and managed to find some way to make its stem hold even in my short hair. Then she was off again.

I felt like I’d been shocked by lightning.

I felt appropriate. That it was right for me to have this decoration, that it was something more than a passing joke or fancy. (I’m quite sure she didn’t mean anything mocking by it; she was and still is one of the good people in my world.) I felt like I was missing something I should have been having all along by not being one of the people who could expect to enjoy it.

But I was one of the boys, and that’s not a thing boys of my situation and era did. So I never got it again.

This blossom is now sitting on my desk, and I believe I’m going to google up advice on braiding it in.

From 2009 Random Moments

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I grew a beard when I was college and kept it up until early this year. In retrospect I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t pick up on the gender dimension of my more or less constant body horror earlier on, but that’s how it goes sometimes – I got distracted by the disability dimension. Anyway, I used to say in jest that I kept the beard up so that I wouldn’t have to look at my whole face, but there was more truth in that quip than I fully knew.

I’m still getting used to seeing what my face actually does look like now. Do I like it? No, not especially. But I think that in time I’ll come to like it better, and be able to change some of what bothers me now.

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I’ve been posting with my new identity to a few places I’ve been active at before, and find myself enmeshed in all the usual arguments about unrecognized privilege, discrimination’s existence without consciously bigoted intent, all the Awareness 101 stuff. At the same time, I’m reading and thinking about the discussions at trans places about moving past all that to other discussions, and also about the practical application of that desire to prejudice in women’s place online and off.

I’ve been here before!

This is just what it was like when I started taking part in disability exchanges. I could probably play Mad Libs with a lot of posts.

So I’ve realized the awful truth: we notional young ones, just out of the self-realization, we’re the massed levies that let the veterans consult about higher matters. I am a spear carrier at last!

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I’ve never been as good as I should have been at listening without rushing into comment. I think I’ve improved with the decades, but still…one of the hardest things for me about my new situation is recognizing just how often I still need to hush up and listen to others, because I don’t yet have any foundation of experience of my own on which to stand and talk.

But I hope to get better at it.

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This week so far, four of my long-time friends have told me some flavor of, “Wow, you seem a lot less stressed this week.” So far I’ve replied with something along the lines of, “Yes, I made some big progress on old personal stuff. I’ll tell you more when I get a bit more sorted out.”

I’m just impressed and happy that it shows even to people who have no idea yet what it is that I’m up to. This lays some more good foundation for a more general coming out, I think.

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One of the really big turning points in my life came about a decade ago when a female friend whom I often chat with online demonstrated to me, kindly but firmly, with lots and lots of quotes, just how much I was hitting her with classic male dominance behaviors: cutting her off, not answering questions but replacing them with my own, treating declarations as invitations to advice, the whole nine yards. It was shocking to me, and I needed to be shocked into awareness of it.

I’m better about that these days. Not great, I don’t think, but improved and improving. I continue to appreciate the lesson, and others like it, because they get me outside my own head and its guesses and internal fables into the world of practical consequences. Some journeys the soul takes alone into pre-verbal numinous realms. Some the soul takes toward a dictionary, vocabulary list, and clue stick.

For most of my life I was one of those people who was driven to take charge of things. I was out there organizing, supervising, helping make group decisions, all that stuff. I started losing my enthusiasm for it a few years ago, in parallel with starting to think a lot more seriously about my gender identity. Leadership was for me a way to get around the barriers of self-loathing and shyness, dodging engagement with the signals my body was sending me about being out of whack.

Just as I needed – make that “continue to need – to learn how to listen better, I need to learn how to follow better. It’s all part of learning the general stillness that comes from being not so much at war with myself.

I’m making some progress here, too. Just in the last couple of weeks I succeeded in sitting on my hands and not volunteering for some oversight chores that wouldn’t have been very rewarding and would have been very time-consuming. I don’t really know if the groups will manage without someone else stepping up. But the tasks aren’t all that urgent anyway, and I really need more time that isn’t assigned, so that I can think, read, practice some early steps toward a feminine presentation. It feels good.

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