I’m Coming Out

Right now, I’m playing the hit Diana Ross sang in the 1980’s (written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers) “I’m Coming Out.” It has been such an anthem in my life, as in the lives of many queer people. I can’t even count how many gay bars, marches, or events I’ve heard this song played at, or have danced to.

There’s a new me coming out
And I just had to live
And I wanna give
I’m completely positive
I think this time around
I am gonna do it
Like you never knew it
Ooh, I’ll make it through

Seems appropriate for this announcement. This has been brewing for about a year.

The image connected to this blog post is a hint, but I’ll lay it out. After living as an adult woman for 40 years, I’m transitioning to live as a man for the rest of it. The reasons for this decision are complex – I don’t have the standard narrative that “I’m a man born in the wrong body.” I actually identify as bi-gender – that is, I feel that both genders exist within me. That said, I’ve lived with gender dysphoria since puberty. I’ve spent many, many years working to love my body as it is. From therapy, to meditation practice, to embodied modalities such as Authentic Movement, all of which I deeply value and have made my life so much better. But they didn’t actually allow me the sense of being fully embodied and fully accepting of my body as it is.

What I came to was a full acceptance of the dysphoria, which is what led me to realize that the right avenue for me was to actually change my body and how I live my life. And, amazingly to me, once I made that decision, the embodiment I had sought for so long came to fruition. (To read in more detail about this process, and to keep up specifically on my transition process, you can read more at my other blog here.)

I’m legally changing my name to Maxwell next year. I’m having top surgery in early February.

In any big change, there are losses and gains, and I’m working to accept all of them with equanimity. One loss is one of community: I have been a part of the lesbian community for more than 30 years, and it feels weird to say “I’m not a lesbian anymore.” But it’s true – as I’m basically identifying as a man, I don’t get to be a lesbian anymore. I’ll miss that community, although I also have gotten to become a part of an amazing, loving, supportive community of trans-masculine folks, some of whom live right here in Sonoma County.

Life is quite the journey, and although there were many, many signs from very early on, I didn’t quite see this coming, so if you’re surprised, I get it. There’s more news, as well, and you can watch this video Ruth and I made for the Conscious Girlfriend Community.

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Coming out

I came out publicly as a lesbian in 1985. And it was largely a non-event. My family accepted me fully, I lost a couple of friends, but it was largely painless. It didn’t effect my work life, thankfully.

And as time went on, and I kept living out and publicly as a lesbian, there have been only a few moments where it’s mattered. Mostly because I have always chosen settings, places to live, and people to hang out with where this wasn’t going to be a problem.

So, unlike many people, my coming out as queer process was basically painless.

I don’t know how I’m going to look back at this coming out process – coming out as trans. Perhaps I have rosy-colored glasses looking back more than 30 years, but this process has brought up a lot for me, in surprising ways.

I think I know a lot more about myself now than I did at 25. And I know that one of my core wounds is the fear of not being accepted or loved for who I am. And as I affirm, really, who I really am in a more full way, that wound is being activated, big time.

And, on the other hand, so far, I’ve been met with a lot of support and love. I have great friends who have been great listening ears, and sweet, and understanding.

I have a lot of other people to come out to over then next few months, and so there’s a lot of fear there. So I’m taking a deep breath, and taking it one step at a time.

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Ch. Ch. Ch. Changes

I’ve been on T (Testosterone) now for just over 4 weeks, next week will be a month. Some people have asked me if I’ve noticed changes, and there are only a few, at the moment.

One thing I’ve learned from reading and talking to people is that the changes you experience have a lot of individual variation. Some changes happen more quickly for some people than others.

I’ve definitely gotten smellier, and I can already detect changes in my personal scent. I expected that, but I didn’t expect it to seem weird – like I can’t quite recognize myself. (I hear I’ll get used to it.)

My libido is radically increased. Also expected, but surprising in its intensity. I didn’t have a super-high libido before T, so another expected but kinda weird change.

My voice hasn’t changed a lot, but it feels different. It feels more gravely, and I definitely can’t really sing right now (not that I want or need to, but I’m noticing that.) You can judge for yourself. Here’s September 5th

And here’s this week:

I do have some fatigue, but it comes and goes. My appetite hasn’t seemed to change much, which is a little surprising, as it is supposed to.

I do feel very subtly more emotionally stable, and kinda more monochromatic , but given that it’s only been a month, I’m not super sure it’s the T – it could be the effects of having made the choice to transition, a choice which feels so solidly right.

A big effect which I’m betting has more to do with the choice than T, but I can’t be sure, is that my mind is a lot quieter than it used to be. It’s hard to explain, except if you’ve been in a room with a refrigerator, and it goes off, you notice the lack of sound. You  might not be able to describe what the sound was like before, but you know it’s quieter. It’s like that. And I think it’s something I’m noticing really because of my years of Buddhist practice – I’m not sure I’d notice it otherwise.

Anyway, I’ll periodically update you on how things change over time.

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Always Queer

Some transmen love other men, and some love women. Having been attracted to, and loved women my whole life, I can’t quite imagine testosterone changing that, although I guess it’s vaguely possible.

Anyway, what that means is that  the external world will see me, when I’m out with a woman, as a straight man. And in fact, many transmen consider themselves straight.

But I can’t do it. I can’t for the life of me call myself straight. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ve lived my life in queer spaces and places for too long to do that. I don’t want to take anything away from transmen who feel that way – if they feel straight, more power to them. I just can’t embrace it.

And, that said, I also know that I will inherit heterosexual privilege at the same time as I’m gaining male privilege. But, as I eventually intend to be as out about being trans as I am now about being queer, those privileges are pretty tenuous. (And male privilege for black men is tenuous  in it’s own way.)

One of the things I’m very aware of is a loss of community with queer women. But thankfully, I’m gaining a new community in the process, which is making me happy.

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Liminal Space

One of the things our society doesn’t do well is honor liminal spaces, even though we go through many in our lives. Puberty, coming of age, giving birth, celebrating a romantic union,  and dying are all liminal spaces.

In many cultures and spiritual traditions, liminal spaces are holy. They are a place of reflection: looking back and looking forward. They are also places of change and stress.

I have been through a few kinds of liminal spaces that I have been consciously aware of, but this space, this space of making such a big transition, is probably the most profound liminal space of my life.

I’m impatient. I have 151 days until my top surgery. I have been on T for 3 days (in an hour or so.) And part of me wants to hurry everything up – I want the time to fly, and the changes to happen fast, so I get to where I’m going.

Except I realize that if I don’t pay attention to this liminal space, I will miss an opportunity.  An opportunity to pay attention to the holiness of this change. All of the ways that it’s so right, and the ways that it’s huge, for me and for the people I know.

I want to use this time, this in-between time, to appreciate myself, both in my feminine aspect, which I’m not eliminating, or putting aside, but greatly changing its place in my life, and in my body, as my masculine aspect comes front and center.

I want to use this time to reflect on all of the complexities of this change I’m undergoing. I don’t want to rush through it – I don’t want to miss the wisdom, learning, and holiness of this time.

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Tracking Change

I started T today. Yikes. Anyway, before I left for my appointment I did two things: took a selfie, and recorded myself reciting a poem, and a metta meditation.

Each week, I’ll do that. And then, in a year or so, I’ll have a lot of things to use to make some sort of montage. It will be interesting, and I can’t wait.

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Embodiment

I have spent a large chunk of my adult life seeking embodiment. For some people, that might seem odd – they just feel embodied so naturally, to question what that means might not make sense.

But for me, my body has felt other, and my enemy since I was a teenager, when I went through puberty. Or, I should correct, I was forced through puberty. I didn’t go through it naturally. By 16, I hadn’t had my period, or developed breasts at all, and I spent a month in the hospital undergoing tests as to why. And they didn’t find an answer except my pituitary wasn’t putting out the hormones my body (supposedly) needed.

I wish I’d known then what I know now, but of course, that’s impossible – that was 1977, and the only thing anyone knew to do was give me estrogen to make me go through puberty. And I allowed it.

That was a digression. Since the mid 80s when I realized that my relationship with my body was not good for me or my mental health, and I was miserable, I started a really long series of things to try and mitigate that. I started therapy (I did about 10 years of therapy total.) I started a meditation practice in 1990. In 2012 or so, I discovered Authentic Movement. I also worked with a somatic therapist.

And it got better – all of those things were incredibly helpful. I didn’t have the open warfare with my body that I’d had for so many years, just some quiet battles. I didn’t come to love my body, which was my ultimate goal, but it got better. I wasn’t miserable in my body. And then I hit a wall last year.

Last year I pretty much gave up. I decided that my relationship with my body had hit a plateau – it was where it was going to be – I came to fully accept this flawed relationship with my body. I’d plucked all of the low-hanging and medium-hanging fruit I could. And now, looking back, I realize that that moment was an important one. It was the beginning.

The point of this post is not to actually trace the history of my realization that I wanted to transition – that’s for other posts. But it’s to talk about how simply deciding to transition embodied me, almost instantly.

I now understand something I hadn’t grokked – what it’s like to be at peace with my body – even love it. I have to admit, I don’t love my breasts, but I’m getting rid of those, so that’s fine. And there are still parts that, well, perhaps, I wouldn’t mind being different. But I actually love my body now. I want to take care of it. I want to eat good food. I want to go to the gym. I want to feel things in my body, even if they aren’t super comfortable. The battle is not only over, a love affair has taken it’s place. And this is the gift that I could never have imagined being given. And for that, I have deep gratitude.

 

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Not a Lesbian Anymore

I came out in 1984ish at 25, a little later than some, sooner than many. I’ve lived as a lesbian since then, an identity that I valued, and a community I’ve enjoyed.

Being a lesbian has been a safe haven for me – I’ve been able to be gender non-conforming in ways that are not only tolerated, but celebrated. I’ve watched the community grow and change, and in many ways, assimilate into society, while still maintaining some sense of identity as a community.

But as I transition to male, I kick myself out of that community, which seems both appropriate and unfortunate. Yes, it means I become part of the trans community, part of the larger LGBTQQIAA umbrella. And frankly, the “T” has been in a somewhat uneasy alliance withe the “L” and “G” (as has the “B” and the “I”, and both “A”s – frankly all of the letters can be a little uneasy together.)

I’ll miss being a lesbian, frankly, just as there are a few ways that I’ll miss being a woman. I want to find a way to embrace what’s been great for me from that experience as I move into this new phase of my life.

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Big Decisions

This has been a very interesting step-by-step process, in a way, but it all sort of came to a head a few days ago, and I think I’m finally caught up with myself.

That is, I’ve made the decision to partake of most of the menu I mentioned. I had a date for top surgery for a few weeks now (Feb 6th.) And now, after a lot of consideration and spiritual exploration, I’ve decided to do testosterone,  socially transition, and change my legal name and gender markers.

Some people I know aren’t surprised, but somehow, it surprises me. I’m not quite yet used to it.

But it feels totally right – and also fucking scary. The fear isn’t a surprise, really – but it’s something I know I need to companion as I move through this process.

It’s funny – I had another one of those experiences where some guy called me “sir” and then saw me more fully and felt bad – and I almost said “no, you’re right,” but I said what I usually say, which is, “no worries.”

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What I Have to Say Today

I’ve been triggered, greatly, by the events of the last two days. Not because I didn’t expect it. Not because #ThisIsNotUs. But because I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t really want to believe that it would. I’m not including any pictures on purpose – I’ve been way too triggered by them, and I don’t want to make it worse for anyone else.

I am really a Gen Xer, even though supposedly demographically, being born late in 1959, I’m a boomer. But I say that because the country I grew up in was different than the one boomers grew up in. I was barely 4 when the Birmingham church was bombed. I was still very young when the schools in the south were desegregated. Because of the class I grew up in, I grew up in a world of opportunity, even as I could see that it wasn’t one that all black people shared.

I’ve been a student of history for the past 20 years or so – intrigued by the past, and the ways the events of the past not only have echoes now, but actually create what we are looking at right now.

I’m not sure the Civil War ever really ended. I think perhaps we’ve been fighting a cold civil war since 1865. There have been great strides since then, as the quality of my black, queer, genderqueer life attests to. That said, there is a relatively small but significant number of people in this country that would happily return us to a time when blacks (and all POC) are subservient, women are in the kitchen, and queer people are shot on sight. And there is a much, much larger number of people who might not say they want this, but frankly wouldn’t mind so much. Those are the people who voted for Trump.

There’s been all sorts of strum and drang from the GOP about what happened in Charlottesville. But what you’re not hearing is them repudiating 40 years of stoking the flames. My bet is, that if Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” was never started, first, the GOP would no longer exist, and second, we wouldn’t be dealing with a strong white supremacist movement. Stoking the flames of white resentment was the survival strategy of the GOP, once the Democratic party became progressive around race.  This is the continued survival strategy of the GOP. They can’t win without racist gerrymandering, racist voter suppression, and turning out their base with either “dog whistles” or outright racist rhetoric. They can’t repudiate their survival strategy and keep going as a party, and they fucking know it.

And on the progressive stance on the 2016 elections, I’m sorry, but right now I have to say that some of us told you so: Clinton and Trump were not just as bad. Trump is a white supremacist, ran with clearly white supremacist rhetoric, has white supremacists on his staff, and covers for white supremacists. This is only the beginning. With a DOJ run by a neo-confederate, which will happily stand by idly while other neo-confederates kill people (and make themselves busy investigating “discrimination” against whites), local police, many of whom have plenty of these people in their ranks, “leave the area” when neo-confederates stage rallies, and the fact that these people are the most well-armed private citizens in the United States, this is only going to get worse. I just hope we can make it through the next 41 months.

 

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