Invisible Men

Invis2

Invisible Men was story I did for the Prism Comics “Alphabet” Queer Comics Anthology edited by Jon Macy and Tara Madison Avery. I started the story when I was still in the midst of struggling with what it means to be a bisexual married man and to give some feel for the discussions and conflicts I had with my wife. By the time I finished the story I was already into transition and moving into a completely different category of person which I do not address. I leave my character in his life as bisexual cis-male and wish he and his partner luck and peace whatever they decide to do. I think the story does a great job of distilling most of my thoughts around being a bisexual man in a monogamous relationship and in the society at large. I’m proud of how the story is structured and how the characters are revealed. I am glad to be out of that particular closet and gender, but I am a big believer in bisexual liberation and in bi-men in particular being more visible and seen with honesty and compassion.

Read the PDF story here and please consider buying the Anthology, it’s filled with work by amazing queer artists. I was flattered to be asked to contribute by my longtime friend Jon Macy. It dragged me out of retirement from queer comics and I am hopeful I will manifest some new stories soon.

Sexuality In A Nutshell

Social media can be useful sometimes for boiling down complicated thoughts like this one on the question of how my gender and sexuality work together. A recent comment I shared in a discussion:

This has been the great struggle of my life, sorting this confusion out. Functionally, I am very bisexual, but I had a very hard time connecting romantically with men as a young gay man. I concluded I was mostly straight because I easily ended up in long, complicated, emotional relationships with women including a recent 12 year marriage.

I NOW understand my overall attraction to women has more to do with wanting to be like them. Since transition I have chosen to date only men as I feel that is where my truth lies. I certainly prefer them sexually, especially now that my body makes sense to me. I am learning the puzzle of being emotionally connected to them, which is still not so easy but I am open to it now in a way I was not before.

I prefer being a woman who loves men, however difficult that may be.

Two Year Tranniversary

TBT, Tranniversary* post.

Two years ago this week I first used the word trans to seriously describe myself. It’s breathtaking how much changed from that day forward, but it doesn’t feel at all to me like things moved that fast.

I had been circling around it for awhile. Mainly I was bothered by my sexual orientation, but the more open I became the more was revealed. It was like unpacking a very large trunk and discovering buried underneath the denial and regret and rationalization there was this whole other person waiting to be reborn.

I thought “Well, maybe I’ll do some cross dressing, have some fun, play with that again”. I chose a cross dressing event to go to in the city, Halloween themed, I did modified Red Riding Hood. My wife helped me find an amazing red sparkly dress on Haight street, and I had picked up a decent wig at a local shop. I got ready at my friend Amy’s salon in the city. It was the first time in 25 years that I’d put myself together en femme.

The event itself was kind of unremarkable. A few nice people in various states of feminized disrepair. A tall trombone playing cross dresser, a short fireplug-shaped truck driver in an overly lacey babydoll nightie, and a married guy I had corresponded with online with who maintained a stunningly complicated life as a closeted cross dresser.

It certainly WAS NOT the kind of event that leads one to completely upend their life and declare themselves to be transgender.

But there was a moment. A very sweet transgender woman noticed me looking at myself in the mirror and she said “You are just the cutest thing”.

And just I said, “Yeah. I know…”

————————–

I thought Robyn was DEAD. I had killed her. Suffocated her under 200 pounds of weight gain and an ocean of alcohol. And then miraculously I had become someone’s husband and father and that was amazing and all was forgotten.

And now here she was looking back at me in the mirror. And it wasn’t “Oh, this fun. Oh, this is sexy. Oh, this brings back memories.”

It was like finding out your lost love or your best friend or your twin sister had come back to LIFE. I can’t overstate how happy I was to see her and how heartbreaking it was to remember losing her to begin with.

The next day I began to seriously question whether the answer to years of discomfort and unhappiness were due to being transgender. Each day after that the answer was yes and yes and yes even as it set my life on fire and burned everything to the ground.

It’s awesome, and it’s terrible and it’s hard to believe, but it’s the truth. Once you finally know the truth what else can you do but try to live it as best you can?

————

*I got some blowback about the term Tranniversary. I think it’s a witty and apt description of the event. I also believe Tranny is our term, not “theirs”.

Ladies…

Yesterday I finally got the nerve to join a gym. I’ve had this vision of taking a spin class. All very ordinary but not at all. Presenting female while sweating and not being able to rely on hair and makeup…I did fine, it was really fun.

Everyone was very nice, so nice, in fact, the ladies invited me to take their extra ticket to the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Holiday concert and join them. The spin instructor is a member of the choir and she insisted I come.

So I went! Me and 4 cis women plus two husbands had dinner beforehand and it was quite lovely….and my mind was continually blown away by how I am perceived and I am worrying a lot about the appropriate way to introduce myself to people with dignity and integrity.

I always assume people know I’m trans but that doesn’t seem to be the case mostly, but you can never tell. I certainly don’t start conversations with that disclosure and yes, of course it’s nobody’s business, but it doesn’t take long before it gets sticky.

So last night I had a conversation about our kids with a woman who had no reason to think I hadn’t borne mine. She was telling me how much she loved being pregnant and could
assume I could relate. I didn’t find a natural way to set her straight, I don’t know how to even construct that sentence? But I need to work on it because it comes up. I punt and later casually mention that my son now lives with his mother but I’m not sure that registers and even if it does I’ve now outed myself as a
lesbian when I am not. That’s a whole story I don’t want to get into with her. But I guess it doesn’t matter because she forgets and later asks me where my husband is. I don’t have a husband. That was an easy one to answer! But she looks a little sad for me that I lost my husband. Oy…

It all feels very validating of my femininity. Holy shit, I’m successfully passing as an adult woman and I didn’t think that would happen. That’s fun for a minute but then it starts to feel scary, like I’m going to get called out for being dishonest or pulling a fast one. One lady in the party seems like she’s maybe clocked me. Kind of a funny sideways look. Maybe she just thinks I’m odd, maybe she suspects I’m trans. What’s that conversation like after I leave? If she points out I’m trans do the people who didn’t realize that feel violated or something? I hope not. I’d really like to be friends with this one lady.

Given time and opportunity I’d happily tell her. But then that makes me sad too. I like blending in and being one of the girls. I’m a Piedmont Avenue lady (which is as much an illusion as anything else with my funky in-law apartment and deluxe hot plate stove). But getting to know me is tricky. I have all these years of life that don’t jibe with the person in front of them and the simplest conversations skate on the edge of a lie and a casual question can lead to a whole messy and confusing biography that isn’t required.

I just am trying to figure out the right way to play all of this. I’m not a stealth transperson, but I don’t have to inform everyone I meet either.

I’m really glad they invited me. It felt really good. I really like who I am but I guess I’m still grappling with feeling like it’s not okay to be who I am, one way or the other. In the extremes I’m either a fraudulent liar or an honest freak. The truth is I’m a good person navigating a complex situation and trying to do so with some dignity and integrity.

Meanwhile the concert was nice but there was an air of doom as America is rapidly spiraling to the ground. I’ll figure myself out just in time for the end of the world.

Ladies Attend Bridal Showers

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.

This was a good one.

On National Coming Out Day

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.

Sheesh.

“Did you feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body?”

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?

Transparent On Father’s Day

I am, and will always be, a Father.

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.

MTF Transgender Father's Day Card, trans father names
A Father’s Day card I designed for myself as a transgender woman.

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”.

January 2016: Returning from my trans group having met another trans-woman with young kids. Holy shit, I'm gonna be a "Mom".
January 2016: Returning from my trans group having met another trans-woman with young kids. Holy shit, I’m gonna be a “Mom”.

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.

Transmom TransDad MTF Father's Day Card
Father’s Day card honoring MTF Transgender Fathers and Mothers.

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.

Happy Father’s Day, Ladies.

 

 

 

 

Walk On The Wild Side

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.