Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Need versus Desire

I have spent much time contemplating these two concepts as they relate to me being transgendered. It would seem a good thing that that which we desire is also that which we need. And imagine if that which we both need and desire could also be the greatest wish of those around us. I believe that if it were possible to have those three concepts line up, then we would truly find peace in our lives.

I have long desired to be female. I have long desired to be a girl. I have long desired to have the childhood of a girl, rather than the one that I experienced. I would have to say that I have been aware of my "desire" for the longest amount of time. It truly does form my earliest memories. I can't think back to a time in my life before I desired this. Which is a considerable amount of time.

It's only been in recent years, however, that I have discovered my need to be female. And that need has been something that I have underestimated. Dangerously, I thought that I could ignore it. It's possible to ignore desire, and I had done that many times. I had successfully ignored the desire to be female, and to function as a "male". A desire is something that would be nice to have, but not necessary. My need to be female, however has been dangerous. Ignoring that need, has caused me to descend into a dark place within myself. Perhaps it's as the proverb says, "a hope deferred, makes the heart grow sick". I have experienced the sickness in my heart. It's not a nice experience either. I can understand why so many don't survive this condition. It does have a high rate of related suicides which is incredibly sad and tragic.

I have often thought of this condition like a tooth ache. It's something that, if we're lucky, we can ignore for a while. Put off that "visit" to a place where we would rather not go. But in the end, we know it is inevitable. It's only possible to avoid the dentist temporarily. For someone with a toothache, it is never a permanent solution to avoid the dentist completely and entirely. At some point the visit needs to made. The longer we leave it too, the more damage that could and the risk of loss become greater. Still, even though we understand that damage can occur, and the risk of loss is greater, we still avoid the dentist.

Being trangendered is a condition that has it's own dentist. When you think about it, why do we visit medical practioners usually? It's either to check that everything is okay, or possibly more common, because we know that something isn't right. I don't know too many people that regularly visit a dentist, just because it's a good idea. I know lots of people who haven't been to a dentist for years.

I knew something wasn't right with me. In truth, I have known all my life, well for as long as I can remember. But, I have avoided doing something about it. I have wanted it to be something else. I have imagined that my "toothache" would go away. But it doesn't. And the pain becomes greater, and the burden becomes heavier. It is often said that pain is a great change agent. We don't change until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the fear of change.

My pain has been becoming greater all of my life. And I need to do something about it. To not do something about this, is to not survive this.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Halloween and Oz

My first Halloween occurred when I was ten years old. I was going to school in Calgary, at Dalhousie Elementary. I hadn't been there that long. My family had moved, again, from Columbus, to Toronto, to Calgary. I guess it was time for my brother and I to get back into school.

So my first experience with Halloween was mixed. I remember bad plastic costumes. I remember doing the whole Trick or Treat thing around Silver Springs with Shawn. I also remember a boy named Greg. It was custom in school for everyone to come back to school in the afternoon dressed in their Halloween costumes. Dalhousie was the only school I attended that made the students to go home at lunch. And that was a challenge for me, because Silver Springs was probably about 30 minutes away by car. Way too far to walk obviously. And in all honesty too far to drive home and back. Lunch was an hour. That's all I had. I remember my mum used to drive to school every lunch time and pick me up and we used to drive somewhere nearby where we would have a sandwich and a drink. Mum was good to me. I have so many memories of my mum as someone who really knew how to, and did in fact take care of my needs.

On the afternoon of Halloween, Greg came back to school dressed as a girl. And for that matter so did David Miller. But it was obvious that David was having more fun making fun of it, making fun of being dressed as a girl. But Greg wasn't. He took it more seriously. As seriously as any boy could who was only 10 I suppose. I wondered how he felt that day at school. He was dressed as a girl. Some of the girls gave him a hard time. I think that was because he was wearing make up, and at that time, they probably weren't allowed. I studied Greg that afternoon. I resolved to have the courage to do exactly what he had done the next. I never did. I wanted to. I wanted to have the courage to do that, but I faced two significant hurdles. One I was scared to do it, even though I was becoming aware that it was a desire that wasn't going away. And I had a suspicion that my mum wouldn't want me to do it.

It was in Dalhousie Elementary that I read a book. I wasn't a great reader. I certainly didn't turn the world on fire by the number of books that I read. But I did read. I liked the feeling of getting lost in a story. I also used to be amused that as an young reader and young writer, I noticed that my writing style would emulate what I was reading at the time. I wish it still did that. How handy would that be? If I had to hazard a guess as to why that was the case, I would say that it was because I was still unformed in my personality and style.

When I was in school, a couple of times a year we used to have the opportunity to buy books through some catalog thing. I remember doing it in Australia, and I remember doing in Calgary. I still have a copy of "101 Elephant Jokes".

I read slowly. When I started "The Marvelous Land Of Oz" by Frank L. Baum I had no idea of what would happen. In the story, the main character's name was Tip. If you have read this story, then you will know what exactly I am referring to. The main character through the story discovers that he was transformed by a witch. The story ends with him undoing the effects of the transformation allowing him to return to his original identity. And of course, his original identity was Ozma, the Princess of Oz.

It's hard to read a story where you relate to the main character and follow them through their journey only to find out that the character changes so much they in effect cease to exist and are effectively replaced by another. That's what happened in this story. And it was disturbing for me to read as an 11 year old. I think it unnerved me most because it was so close to what was going on inside of me. At the time i remember talking to my mum about it. She said something, though it wasn't memorable, and I can't remember really what she said. I think she fumbled with her words something about "how unusual".

I have wondered if that is what is happening to me. It's like reading my own story and discovering what I was almost afraid to discover, that I am not who people perceive me to be. And I can't be that person. I have tried. And I have failed. Maybe that failure hasn't been on the surface where people can see, but I have felt it. It has definitely been a failure deep within me.

Is it an unforgivable sin for a writer to so drastically change the main character of a story? To a point where they are unrecognizable? Is it forgivable of a person to do the same thing to themselves?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First Memories of being TG

I grew up in a pretty conservative family in Sydney Australia. We went to church, first to a presbyterian church, and then later to a baptist church. Apparently when the presbyterian church decided to become a part of the Uniting Churches of Australia, my parents made the decision to stop attending. I don't really know why to be honest. It wasn't like we were overly spiritual. My dad certainly wasn't spiritual in that sense. Or perhaps I should clarify that by saying that my dad wasn't religious. And that would prove to be a bain in my family in later years resulting in the breakdown of my mum and dad's relationship.

My Nanna was religious apparently. She went to an angligan church. The church of England. It's probably the first church I really have memory of to be honest. Though apparently, according to my mum, Nanna wasn't always a church goer. My mum was taken to church by her grandmother when she was a child. Her attention to the Anglican church was recent, though at the time it felt like it was well established.

So, I guess you could say there was somewhat of a christian / religious upbringing. That is what I experienced. Just before I turned 10, my family moved to the United States of America. My father, ever the entrepeneur, decided that there was money to made in selling australian style cakes and pastries. It was a failed exercise for sure. What did I get out of that experience? I learned what it meant to be homesick. I missed Australia in those first months that we were away. We moved in October or around that time. My birthday fell in December.

I remember going out to Farrell's Icecream place on my birthday. In typical american style, they served a free ice sundae to anyone who had a birthday. They also banged on a drum, made lots of noise and fanfare, and sung happy birthday. My problem with that was that I didn't like fanfare, wasn't sold on the idea of icecream, and really didn't want to be the centre of attention. My dad said to me in the car ride home that night something to the effect of "I'm disappointed in you. You won't be getting any more birthday parties".

I did get more birthday parties though. Not true to his word. I have had many birthday parties since. Funny what parents will say to their children. I remember at the time though, swearing to myself that I would never want a birthday party that he threw me anyway.

Some of my memories wouldn't necessarily fall into the category of being "transgendered aware". As a matter of fact, I didn't, and couldn't accept this part of who I was for the longest time. But, I do have memories that "stick out" for want of a better way of saying it. One such memory, one of my earlier ones was remembering that there was a girl in my class in preschool whose name was Holly. I don't remember actually considering her a girl to be honest, because she wore boys clothes. She didn't wear dresses. She wore pants and tshirts. I remember the teacher, on the request of the mother, asking her to put on the dress that she had sent with her daughter that day to school. I don't know if I have that right exactly. We're talking over 30 years ago to be honest. But what I do remember, what does actually stick out was seeing this person having to wear a dress that never did. And seeing her discomfort in that.

Another of my earlier memories was praying to God that when I woke up the next morning that I would be a girl. Pretty standard apparently from what I've heard and read. I remember trying on "prayer" when I was about 5. It didn't particularly work all that well. I remember being on a beach with my father and brother. In the course of events I happened to lose a sock that I thought that I was certainly going to be punished for. I remember falling asleep that night praying that God would bring the "sock" back. He didn't. I remember also praying that I would wake up and He would have turned me into a girl. He didn't. I remained a boy for a long time to come. And I had to learn how to cope in that.

My mum's clothes fascinated me when I was young. I am not sure exactly what it was about those clothes, but I just liked women's clothes. My aunt put some old clothes aside for her children and when I was at their house I used to play dress ups. I loved that. I remember asking my mum if she could do the same. She said she would, but never did. I remember asking her a few times after my initial request, only to be told that she was "getting to it". I learned later that it was her way of "non confrontationally" dealing with something that she didn't want to deal with. I am not sure that she actually remembers that occurance. Perhaps the memory is mine and mine alone.

I remember also, at one time, playing a role playing game with my male cousin who was about 10 months younger than me. We played mum and dad, and I was the mum. It didn't mean much, other than the label now that I recall. I think, for me, it was not really knowing "what to do next". I just knew that I wanted to be a girl. I had little idea of what that meant, or how I should behave.

Another time, I remember watching an episode of Here's Humphry. Humphry got to dress up as a ballerina. I loved the idea of that. I think I was at school when that episode aired because all I could remember for weeks after that was trying to stay home again to hopefully see it happen again.

When I was about 8 or 9, I'm not exactly sure when it was, I remember going into the third bedroom in our house. This bedroom was specifically for when my Nanna and Da came to visit from Nowra. It wasn't really used at any other time. My brother Mal, and I, shared a bedroom for the first ten years of my life. There was a big wardrobe in the bedroom that was stacked with all sorts of things. I have been told that I was a nosy kind of child. I must have been bored that day, because I went looking in this room, where I can't honestly say I ever really ventured in much when my Nanna and Da weren't staying with us. The robe had two sections, and in the section furthest from the door, I saw them. Two girl's dresses. Thinking back on this, it must have been significant because I didn't see girl's dresses in my house. I had only a brother, and no sisters. I remember looking at the dresses, tentatively touching them. They felt amazing.

For days to come when I was alone in the house, or when I was sure that I could get away with it, I remember sneaking into the room and just looking at the dresses. They were amazing. They were breathtaking. My recollection was that one was a darker colour, and one was lighter. I think the lighter one may have been a pale violet. I was to find out later that these dresses had been my mum when she was a flower girl in her own childhood. As much as I loved the look and feel of them, I never put them on. I knew that I just shouldn't do that. I think a part of that was knowing that it was wrong, and a part of it was almost wanting to preserve my "discovery" and leave them perfect.

When I was in Kindergarten, I remember looking at the uniforms that the girls wore, and wishing that I could wear them as well. I wanted the teacher to say that all the boys and girls were to swap uniforms. I wished that. I wanted it to happen. And interesting enough, may I say, that those uniforms were rather boring little tunics. There was really nothing pretty about them per se, it was just the idea of being able to wear something that was girl-associated, and not boy-associated.

In Grade 1, I remember one of my teachers, I think she was a student teacher. She was young and very pretty. She used to wear pretty clothes; dresses and stockings. I remember her attempting to teach us exercises one day in the playground. She made a comment to the class that she couldn't show us everything because she was wearing a dress. I just recalled thinking that I wanted to be her.

When I was young, and before I went to preschool, I remember going out for the day with my mum, and she was putting lipstick on. She looked at me and put a little on me. It was nice to be able to do that. When I think back now, I wonder if it was just chapstick. I couldn't really tell. Perhaps it was. It certainly does seem very much out of character for my mum to do something like that.

It's easy to question those memories; to wonder if they ever did in fact happen. Even reading back over them now, I wonder. In moments of weakness and doubt, and impossible not to wonder. But then that's probably the foundation of being transgendered; it's studded with moment's of weakness, self doubt. This is a confusion of identity.