I had such an amazing weekend visit to Los Angeles. Another step on this journey I’m on, filled with simple kindnesses and connections that feel wholly new. Grateful for a ride from the airport, a place to crash, and at one point a shoulder to cry on from a guy friend. A fun and inspiring reunion with newly transplanted Angelina trans-girlfriend and a lovely brunch with my mother-in-law. Feeling very lucky and full.
The trip was to attend the bridal shower for the incomparable Mela Lee, and to be included on her guest list of 20 beautiful and talented women was SUCH an honor and a gift. After losing touch for 25 years Mela has been one of my sisters and mentors in this last period in my life, providing me a warm welcome to the feminine, spiritually and materially as she simply UNLOADS her closet on me while dispensing advice and girlfriend philosophy.
Certainly this was my first bridal shower, and for a relative newcomer to the circle of women it was an opportunity to experience many feelings of inadequacy and being an outsider. I am grateful that I mostly declined that opportunity and simply showed up as myself and lived in the moment and enjoyed every single connection fully. Finding ways to be useful always helps, so I dived into helping decorate the space.
I went a long time without mentioning to anyone that I’m trans, which feels increasingly important to me. The further away I get from who I used to be the less comfortable I feel about disclosing it. Not because I fear rejection but I just want to be in the now as I am and not be reminded who I was and how I got here. But oh my goodness, I am still astonished at how far I’ve come in such a short time and how completely HERE I am.
Telling stories about my life is complicated. I come off as a straight woman and that’s mostly how I feel now. I have been intentionally using gender neutral terms to refer to spouses and past loves, because speaking about my ex-wife implies I’ve been in a lesbian marriage for 12 years, which is not quite what that was. But then I get thrown off when they ask about my husband and old boyfriends. Just talking about growing up is tricky. I can’t invent a girlhood I never had.
A conversation about how I met Mela and what that relationship was like just lacked the proper context before I explained that I had been a boy, so I disclosed, which led to a wonderful and extensive conversation about my life and experience. I sometimes fear that this will always be the most interesting thing about me. What else is there to talk about? I talk about my kid and they ask about his father and I just have to laugh.
So I’m still working that out. What are my stories. It’s nothing to worry about, and I’m now creating new stories.
National Coming Out Day still feels weird to me. Globally I think it’s great. If it’s safe to come out and it’s your time to do it, fantastic. I got your back.
Personally, it’s hard because for me finally coming out was the end of a long string of lies, deliberate and unintentional, that I told to myself and to people I cared about. That’s no way to live a sane happy life, but telling the truth comes with consequences, especially this case if you have been a man in a heterosexual marriage as far as everyone knew. Nobody wants to be THAT person, but it’s a fairly common story, hopefully one that will become less common if antiquated ideas about sexuality and gender recede.
It took me a LONG time to figure out and accept who I am, and I’m sorry for all the people who I hurt along the way in all the pain and confusion. Sorting out my various attractions and gender identities and how they work together seemed hopeless. I attempted being a gay guy, a bisexual cross dresser, an obese closet-case, and eventually went with being a straight cis man because that’s what I thought I was at the time.
Now here I am two years after coming out as trans. Effectively disowned by my parents. My 12 year marriage is over by mutual agreement and our house has been sold. I am living alone and co-parenting my son.
I’m in a rapidly changing body with a new face.
And I’m learning to date men as a transwoman, which is challenging on fourteen different levels.
After all is said and done it seems I’m destined to be a straight woman, more or less. That’s a very difficult answer to get to. It’s one of those “after you’ve eliminated the obvious possibilities the most preposterous remains as the final answer” kind of deals.
At least I think that’s the final answer.
If not I guess I’ll get back to you on some other Coming Out Day.
Photos by Bob Fischer, Oakland, CA January 2015/June 2017•Scott/Robyn•Demon/Angel
I hate that question, because to me it feels preposterous to say “Yes”, but if I say “No” it feels like it invalidates what I’m doing. So I say, “….Sort of…?”.
I didn’t spend 30 years wishing I could change genders. If so I’d have eventually given in. I had my moments when I was younger, I have the stories I can tell, but for the most part I refused to entertain the possibility and I made myself forget about it.
But I WAS really, really uncomfortable in my own skin, and I really disliked who I saw in the mirror. I just dismissed it as low self esteem.
Finally, when all possible explanations were eliminated I was left with the most preposterous one. So I stepped back into it and I immediately felt better, and every day since then I’ve felt better and stronger and happier. Even when it feels like my life is on fire I love who I am.
I didn’t know this was the answer until I let myself ask the question.
There’s been a lot of talk this past week around the “transwomen are women/no they are different” thing. I don’t have the words to have it all make sense to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s feels like a lot of pressure, having to prove your womanhood, especially when it’s barely a year old.
I shouldn’t have to.
I don’t have to.
It just is.
I know this much: If you took it away from me now, I would die. Does that help?
No matter what my gender identity was then or now…FATHERING HAPPENED. I fathered someone into existence. Nothing can ever change that and there’s few semantic tricks that can create satisfying words for me to describe what that means other than Father.
Still, I’d rather we not use that word or any of it’s related names.
My son doesn’t use any of the old names for me anymore. At first he insisted on the right to use he/him pronouns and to call me Dad and I didn’t argue with him, but asked maybe can we not do so in public, as shouting “Daaaaaaaaddddd” across the aisle at the grocery store drew a lot of funny looks.
In a lovely twist of support, however, he required his friends to switch to female pronouns which they used with very few exceptions. Kids are so cool flexible, at least the ones in our Bay Area circle.
Still, being misgendered can be an unsettling experience to say the least and the ONE person who has misgendered me the most during transition is my loving son. Eventually things started to change and for my comfort I needed to ask him for the correct pronouns and name, as being called Dad 100 times in a day began to wear on me. I tried to be very gentle with the correction, very patient, but sometimes it stung, especially when I was tired and stressed and feeling emotional, which accounted for many of my days in early transition.
I didn’t take it personally, it was never an intentional slight from him, just easy to forget. 8 and 9 year old brains are powerful things, but they also can forget where they are going on the way to the bathroom! So it’s a hard habit to break, calling your father”Dad”.
We never successfully came up with a replacement moniker for Dad. It was enough to get him to just call me by my new name. I dislike “Maddy” or “Moppa”, they don’t resonate. I pitched for “Dama”, which is a mix of Dad and Mama and has the added benefit of being the Spanish word for Lady. That never stuck.
So to my son I am simply “Robyn”, and it always makes me happy to hear my name, but sometimes it sounds disrespectful. My own Dad would threaten violence if I used his name, so I bristle sometimes. He’s solid with pronouns now. When he was ready, or maybe when I was sufficiently feminine?, or some combination of the two, he called me she and her without exception.
It wasn’t just a negotiation with my son, but also his mother. Any form of “Mom” was out of the question with my partner, and I did not fight her (much) on that. She felt that it intruded on territory she had hard-earned the old fashioned way. The words “male privilege” were used, as gently as possible, but firmly. I could see her point. As far as I was concerned, affirming my gender identity did not entitle me to claim the label of Mother.
That is what was right for myself and my family. There are not hard and fast rules, these are delicate questions with many personal, cultural and political layers to them.
For instance, I have a dear friend who felt very strongly about it and fought hard to get the “Mom”or “Momma”, and I support her entirely. Her spouse granted the request as a Mother’s Day surprise, it was the sweetest damn thing I’ve seen. She’s a Mom to her core in a way I am not.
I did not enter transition with maternal feelings. One of my wake-up calls early on was that I was going to have to be a Mom of…SOME kind; The colossally self-centered experience of becoming who you are and exploring a new life and sexuality was going to be constrained by being a feminine parent. It was a beautiful revelation that gave me a sense of purpose and gravity, but it was also a bit of a buzz kill, honestly. “Slow it down, Girl, you have responsibilities”.
As news began to get out that I was serious about transitioning, people would ask “What about your son?”. A ton of assumptions hung in that statement.
How would it affect his own sense of identity?(it didn’t, and why would it? You couldn’t talk this kid into being something he’s not anymore than you could convince him to like televised sports. It ain’t gonna happen and I am resigned to watching football without my boy.).
Will this warp him somehow? (How can honest and age appropriate information delivered thoughtfully possibly warp someone? I’d propose that whatever “warped” me way back when was due to the secrecy and layers of taboo that came with it.) As my wife pointed out, there unspoken statement is the fear that we are doing harm to our child.
The fact is kids adapt to this way better than adults. Our boy said he was fine and didn’t like to dwell on the subject. Just to be safe we had several sessions with a child psychologist and got the thumbs up from her and congratulations on being loving and responsible parents.
The objection that hit me the hardest was the one that came from my own father: His suggestion that I was abandoning my responsibilities to follow a selfish and deluded idea and that as a father it was my job to make a sacrifice and keep my commitments to my child and his mother.
This advice was colored by his own shame and having done the opposite with me when I grew up. My parents divorced and my dad fled to the wilds of Alaska, literally the other side of the planet from us, only to be seen on bi-annual holidays and summers. By contrast, I was moving heaven and earth to stay as close to my son as possible, continuing to love in the house and co-parenting through a decidedly rocky period in our life. To have been able to make this transition in the house every day with my son was very important to me and I think it minimized the loss for him.
It’s a loss, of course. Of all the arguments against me, the one that tugs hard at my heart is that I stole his father away. That one day he will look at that handsome guy with the goatee and the big smile and be sad he lost that person. But that is probably more my fear than his. I hope. Whatever the case, it’s part of his life history now, there’s nothing I could do to prevent it and I have to honor the truth of what was and the loss that may be felt. I was a cool Dad.
And I still am, of course, we have the same relationship. Nothing prevents me from engaging in light saber duels and Nerf gun firefights in a dress. He and I are still nerds together, obsessing over the details of Star Wars or Pokemon or whatever he’s into at the time. I still read to him at night, I just use my new voice (it’s great practice). When the time comes I will have the Father-Son conversations he needs and I will share my experience of life as a young man, because that is what I knew and that is what I can give him.
When it’s called for—or when I get pushed–I can still bust out the DAD VOICE, which is not so much a problem in how it sounds than how it feels. Sometimes that feels a little hard for me, running that Father energy is very gender-ing, and for me brings up irritating memories of my own father, whose masculine modeling left a strong and unwelcome impression on me. I feel like my lifetime performance of masculine was just a mimicking of my Dad’s for good and bad. I hear him in me and I cringe.
Still. I’m very proud to be a Father, even if we never use that word. I’m intensely grateful that I had the experience and that I have this person to witness me and love me as I go forward. My goal is to live up to all of my responsibilities to him while being true to myself and taking care of myself. Changing gender was an act of self-care and preservation. On the airplane they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first and then attend to your child. It’s my job to keep myself healthy and strong so I can be at my best for him.
So today I claim Father’s Day for myself. I do it filled with joy and that I no longer have to be the man who did the Fathering, and deep gratitude for the role that man passed on to me.
There’s this story going around about a student union at a Canadian college apologizing for playing Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side at an event. It’s being put forward as another example of leftist PC culture gone awry. Please don’t buy into it. Nobody is censoring Lou Reed.
The real worry is the way the alt-right uses something like this to divide us and further isolate the trans community from support. The right works very hard to encourage radical feminists, for instance, in their assault on trans people. And if the crazy trans people are attacking saint Lou, screw them! The headline does the job and the nuances of the topic are lost.
My first thought when I saw this was irritation at the younger generation for attacking what for some of us may as well be a liberation anthem that encouraged us to come out as well as immortalized Holly Woodlawn who should be on a postage stamp as far as I’m concerned. I’m 100% positive I shaved my legs listening to that song. It’s canon. When I was asked to do a page in the Queer Heroes Coloring Book she was my choice and the lyrics are right there in the picture.
A lot of the language in the song is out of date, of course, and I think it’s similar to older trans people using the word “tranny” and getting blowback from younger more “woke” folks. The idea that being with a trans woman is a walk on the wild side is indeed discomforting now, as is the casual “he was a she” line which kind of goes against current thinking.
What this song means to ME is different from what it means to a young person, and for that matter what it means to a transphobic bigot who finds things in the song that support their view of us as subhuman freaks. But that’s the deal with art, of course. It’s available to all to use and appropriate and you can’t control what the bad guys do with it. Ask Richard Wagner about that.
Mostly, I say cut them some slack, they are working it out. College campuses get a lot of grief for leftist PC censorship, but they are also currently cesspools of toxic 4chan masculinity and vicious transmisogyny and when we tell these kids to toughen up and deal their “widdle hurt feelings” we really don’t know what level of awful bullshit they are dealing with.
I have been wanting to start doing more video and this was my first on Facebook to promote the Louise Lawrence Transgender Archive. I was ready to let more people see how I look and sound in the world beyond what they see in my well-crafted selfies. I loved it. My voice is one of my best assets and I love how I sound and act here. I love being me and it shows. People really get a lot out of it when we shine.
“I do not believe that one requires justification to live and identify as one chooses. When I decided to start hormone therapy, I did not do it because I hated my body. I did it so the world would see my gender closer to the way I do. I did it because I loved myself, because my body is mine, and because I am the one who decides how to navigate it through this complicated and violent world.”
I rediscovered this article tonight when a friend mentioned the author’s name in a post and I went poking around. I read it at one point last year and found a lot of truth in it. The old trope of being born in the wrong body, all the justifications and stories we had to tell to get what we needed from the establishment, thankfully those are falling away. I didn’t consider transition for years because I didn’t think I was SUFFICIENTLY miserable in my body and identity, I wasn’t a REAL transexual.
I thought I didn’t feel” trapped in the wrong body”…which is bizarre because actually I was imprisoned for years in a painfully obese, and grotesquely male body…and then I was freed and I put myself in a healthy and healing masculine body which was such a miracle I refused to question if it was the “right” body.
Body is the wrong word anyway. Gender is the word. The whole mess of social behaviors you have to adopt because of the body you have. I was in MY body, it just wasn’t expressing how I really felt.
Honestly, I didn’t realize HOW unhappy I had been until I finally allowed myself to step across to the other side and I found such a shocking sense of rightness and comfort. I HAD been very unhappy and I really DIDN’T like who I saw in the mirror,….but I didn’t think it was gender dysphoria, I just thought it was just really bad low self-esteem. It wasn’t until I stripped the hair off of it that I realized how disgusted I as by the hairy man in the mirror. The feminine aspects of my body were no longer flaws, they were gifts.
Every single day now, even the very hard ones, I love myself….and I never had that before.
I went to see Amma this weekend. The Indian guru, the hugging saint. Look her up if you don’t know. My wife had taken us to see her a few times, but this time I went of my own volition. I needed to be there. After this last month…this year..this life…I needed that hug.
I sat in the crowd for hours waiting for my turn as the music and mantras played on a loop, chatting with an Indian American woman and her teenage daughter about how they’d come to Amma for years, asking them questions about growing up in America and how they practice their spirituality. An older Indian man sat next to me and told me all about Krishna and the cosmic mysteries and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t begin to follow but that delighted me to no end. Everywhere I was greeted warmly. I picked up a book called the 1000 Names of the Divine Mother. Seems like it’s time to get serious about some goddess energy, you know?
At various points I felt very emotional. It’s an emotional time for me, (and I am, frankly, very hormonal…). I watched and I wept. Just because. Who I am and what I’m doing. What I’m gaining and…what I’m losing. How hard and it is to change so much in body and soul. How big it is. How good it feels. How strange it is that it feels so good. How the amazing things I love about myself horrify some people and breaks their hearts.
I cried about my Mom. She can’t deal with this, with me.
I understand. I forgive. But it hurts and it makes me angry.
You shouldn’t go through something like this without your mother, if it can be helped.
How can you become a woman without your Mom’s help?
I hadn’t ever thought about wanting her to call me daughter, I couldn’t imagine making such a request. But now the idea that she might never give me that name, the gift of that name, seemed unimaginably unjust.
I didn’t get up to Amma until the end of the night. After midnight. I knelt down and she embraced me. That scent of roses fills your senses.
She always mumbles something when she gives her hug. I can’t always understand it, but this time I did.
She said, “My daughter, my daughter, my daughter, my daughter.”
In the run up to the 2016 Election I was one of millions confident that Mrs. Clinton would win. I could not believe otherwise. This is what I posted on election Day in the Pantsuit Nation group.
After many years of internal resistance I made the decision to transition genders this year at the age of 47. It’s been a difficult year for my family and I and while I am happy in my body and in my world for the first time in forever, life is uncertain and the future looks daunting.
I will vote for a woman President one month before my official name and gender change.
I do this in the East Bay of Northern California, where things are not perfect, but where I am legally protected from discrimination in the workplace, in housing, other public accommodations and certainly in the damn public restroom. Obviously, my tribe in other parts of the country are under siege and we will be among the first to suffer should this democracy fall into the hands of demagogues. Certainly, appointing liberal justices to the Supreme Court is alarmingly important to me.
Further, the recent increased visibility of trans people is in part fueled by Obamacare provisions that make life saving medicine and medical care for trans people easier to get and more affordable.
We are here and more are coming and we could use your help and support.
President Hillary Clinton’s success is vital for our very existence. Full stop.
I’ve been with her since they came after her for not baking cookies and I’ve watched in admiration as she has withstood all of their attacks and come out smiling and fighting and I cheer as she continually hands them their lunch.
Thank you for all of your stories and the hope you are giving all of us. This group has been one of the best things to come from this election.
Alas, I have no pants suit! You’ll forgive me, I’ve still got a lot of shopping yet to do.
Updating: I feel like I woke up this morning with two million new close friends. To step away from a lifetime of male privilege and ask to join a sisterhood in some ways feels like the height of hubris. I’ve learned from you all my life and I’m gratified by the welcome. I know we will dance in the streets tonite!
Alas, it was not to be. I posted again the next day.
Yesterday I posted in this group in hope, optimism and a sense of shared purpose and destiny. To have that vanish so completely and be replaced by everything we all feel is truly beyond words.
I am transgender and I will not belabor my own fears today or the impact on my trans sisters and brothers, nor my Cis sisters, not my Muslim, Latino, sisters and brothers. We spoke so much about that leading up to yesterday and those arguments did not persuade a shocking number of people. All we can do now is hunker down and prepare to defend ourselves, families and communities and never give up our vision for America.
My first impulse was to stop transition for my family’s sake. My son….my young, sensitive, artistic little Jewish boy whom I must care for and protect…must he also live in this world with a transgender parent?
The joy and optimism that I began my transition with seems unsustainable today.
But being yourself and speaking your truth cannot stop when times get hard. Maybe that is when it matters most.
I took America at it’s word that I was free to be myself.
Today I am in Beverly Hills visiting family. This is an interesting place to be a newly transitioning trans-woman. Even the loveliest cisgendered women can feel intimidated here in comparison with it’s flawless, high-priced examples of conventional beauty that populate the place. I noticed I got “clocked” here faster and more openly than at home. I noticed several people blatantly look me up and down, head to toe, a few smirks, and I caught one dude laughing to his friend before he noticed me looking at him.
You know what’s remarkable about this? How little I care.
It’s one of the things I feared most. How would I handle the self-consciousness and the awareness that others might be judging me? Would I be able to feel those feelings without giving in to it and attacking myself with self-loathing. I’ve had my moments, to be sure, but to my surprise…I’m mostly cool.
I have, as the kids say, no more fucks to give.
I’m really glad to be myself today, I’m glad to be strolling through beautiful Beverly Hills with my son on a gorgeous sunny day. I’m glad to be having lunch with family that loves and supports me. And I’m very grateful for the surprisingly large number of people who were kind and gracious to me today, who went out of their way to call me ma’am and to correct their pronouns.