Life and Queer/Trans* Identity

I introduced myself here and then immediately went silent, which is pretty much my MO for every virtual community I’ve ever been a part of. Life got in the way, as it usually does. Neville the pup has made an almost full recovery (he’ll always be a gimp). In large part, my silence has been because I’m still waiting to hear back from two grad school programs, and it’s making me (more) neurotic and (excessively) ill-tempered. I decided to spare you guys the temper tantrums my girlfriend cannot avoid. You’re welcome.

The past few days, I’ve been watching FtM videos on YouTube. It’s one of my favorite topics to watch videos on, and I have a hard time pinpointing why. I’m so impressed with these trans* men and the courage they have to transform their lives. I also happen to find many of them exceptionally attractive before and after transition. I just find the whole journey fascinating, and watching the physical and mental metamorphosis is completely enthralling to me.

But it also instills in me a vague, achy sense of yearning. Yearning for what, though? I never know if the dysphoria these videos cause in me is due to gender identity or weight and self-perception. If I lost a hundred pounds and my breasts and hips and ass all shrank, would I still have that whisper in the back of my head telling me “this isn’t it either”? I don’t know where weight dysphoria ends and gender dysphoria begins, or vice versa.

When I first came out, my mother asked me if I felt like I might be trans*. I told her I felt like God flipped a coin and it landed on “girl” but it could’ve landed the other way just as easily. I’m not sure that answer worked for her, and I’m honestly not sure it works for me. I don’t want to be a coin balancing on its edge or flipped the wrong way.

The thing that worries me most is that I think about being trans* the way I thought about being gay before I ever really acknowledged I was queer. I think of it in “that is so great and I wouldn’t mind it if I turned out to be that, but I don’t think I am” terms. But I’m betting I think about it more than I would if my subconscious weren’t trying to gently tell me something.

I would like a dick and a beard. I would like to be slim and fit and trim with abs and broad shoulders. I also want to keep my ability to bear children and to get called “sweetheart” by adorable old men. I do not think of myself as a woman. I cannot imagine myself as a man.

Perhaps the drawback to finally having the science to change ourselves is the fact that with that power comes choices we might’ve been able to avoid before– questions that went quietly unasked. Now every coin has two faces, and you can call the toss.

Heads or Tails?

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Video: Ash Beckham describes how to use the word ‘gay’

I had intended to write tonight, but the words weren’t in me, and would’ve fallen far short of this eloquent, intelligent, and frankly sexy individual’s stab at a topic I (and many of you) have struggled with. This is so spot on and clever, I may have clapped at my computer screen. Enjoy.

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Fat Butch

In the past three years, I have done an absurd amount of changing. To say nothing of the internal, my external presence has undergone a significant makeover.

March 2010:

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March of 2013:

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(My hair only ever looks that sleek right after the stylist is through with it, of course.)

 

I’ve finally given up the clothes and hair and makeup that always made me so claustrophobic and miserable in favor of the jeans and polos and style that feels like an extension of myself, not a mask over it. It’s freeing, exhilarating, and wonderful…

except for when it’s not. 

Continue reading

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Alphabet Soup

Two months after I came out to my mom, I came home for summer break. One of the first conversations we had started this way: “I told Teresa about you being gay. She’s completely fine with it!”

We were on the back porch, standing out in hot June sunlight. I was still dealing with the aftereffects of mono and a tornado that ravaged my college town, and was mostly numb to everything. But this happy declaration caught me weirdly, like when you nick your leg shaving; I didn’t feel any pain, but I saw blood and knew something wasn’t right.

“Well that’s…great. But I’m not gay, you know that right?”

She waved it away. “I know but it’s just much easier to explain it that way.”

It was an opening for an argument, but I let it pass. It wasn’t intended to dismiss me– my mother would never do that to me. But labeling me “gay” immensely simplified her burden of explaining my orientation to others, and I could respect that. (Couldn’t I?)

Later that same day, she asked if Dee, my best friend from high school, was also gay.

“Sort of?” My mother looked genuinely confused at this, but I knew it would be easier on her than the alphabet soup of specifics. The minute I started in with LGBTQA (and all the other optional letters) I knew her eyes would get wide, and I would see TV static begin to fuzz out her brainwaves.

“What does ‘sort of’ mean?”

I hesitated, then shrugged. “She’s…well, probably bi-gendered, panromantic, grey-sexual is the best way to describe it.”

Her mouth hung slightly open as she stared at me, not blinking. “What?” It was a fair question with a thirty minute answer that still didn’t quite explain things.

And it is that question that has led me to accept the “simplified” labels of my fluid sexual and gender identity. I am in a long-term relationship with a girl, so if you want to call me gay, fine. Want to call me bi? Also cool. Want to call me a bi-gendered pansexual who can never see themself in a relationship with a male and occasionally flirts with the idea of a trans* identity and the line between andro and butch? That is also great, but it’s pretty hard to fit into introductions and tends to kill a mood pretty quickly. Call me queer, if you like. Or better yet, call me Spence. The rest is just extraneous descriptors. Even if you try to call me straight, I’m still Spence and everything that comes with it, so how does your labeling change that?

To clarify, I understand the societal importance of claiming labels. I understand the implications of the battle for the trans* community to be recognized by the proper pronouns. I understand that unless people push to be called by a label, that label and the way of life behind it will not be recognized or validated.

But so often on the web, I see people arguing labels past their point. In the proper setting, it is appropriate and even necessary to discuss and clarify the particulars of personal identity.  If you are trans* or have a variable pronoun preference, a correction there is perfectly appropriate. But my mother telling her friends that I’m gay when that’s not how I identify is not up there on the top of my list of things to get pissed about.

In my mother’s white heteronormative experience, gay = not straight, and it’s the same with her friends and the same with a lot of people learning about the queer community. So, my mother embraces my “not-straight” identity, and so do her friends. “Gay” is the label they use to understand that, but the label is just a vehicle isn’t it? Acceptance is the goal. So with time and appropriate education and discussion, the correct terms will be applied more often, but honestly, “gay” is fine with me. It wont affect who I love or how I think any more than being called “straight” ever has.

The alphabet soup of Queer is invaluable as a teaching tool and a means of self discovery. But at the end of the day, just give me your name and buy me a beer and we’ll figure out the rest from there.

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My Father’s Temper

This post is turning out entirely different than I intended when I sat down to write it. I wanted to tell you about my new puppy, Neville Longbottom (yes, really) but I guess that’s going to have to wait. Instead, I’m going to tell you about my father’s temper and how I inherited it.

But first, you do get a picture of Neville:

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(d’awwww.)

This sweet little pup is a stray with some injuries that are going to take 4-8 weeks to heal. He’s bright-eyed and happy, though, and settling in nicely. Even our cat loves him. Meanwhile, he’s been living with us for 48 hours and I’m about to flip my shit. Why?

  1. I’m a control freak. You can’t control a puppy, or a cat, or how they’re going to interact with each other.
  2. When I’m worried or concerned, my default way to show it is by getting insanely pissed off. I have a darling bedside manner, as you can imagine.
  3. The puppy is fucking with my sleep schedule. I am a sub-human roaring fireball of cranky rage when I’ve slept too little, too much, or been woken up a ton. This is Neville’s favorite hobby.

To clarify, I won’t hurt my animals. I will love them and I will get through this. But this is exactly the way I was when Zoey was a kitten, and exactly the way I shouldn’t behave if I ever want to be a parent, because I know exactly how much it will damage my kids. I know, because in these moments of frustration and helplessness, I am the spitting image of my father. 

When I first came out to my mother, her immediate question was “But you’re still having kids, right?” She asked with a desperate, wine-fueled fervor, and what could I do but say yes? The truth is though, I don’t know. Most of the time I feel like I can barely manage myself, and though I know I’m young yet, I’m not sure these less pleasant aspects of my personality are ever going to soften.

These rough patches with cats and dogs last a year at most, and ostensibly the creatures only understand my tone, not my actual words when I’m demeaning their lineage and cursing their ability to breathe at 3am. But with a child, it will be eighteen years (or more) of  me having no patience for them to learn or grow. Eighteen years of me failing to be a nurturing source of comfort and guidance. They will get hurt and they will struggle, and it will shoot bullets of worry deep into my stomach, and the acids will but pressure on those metal balls until I spit them out as impotent rage directed at the wrong target: my child.

I’m my father’s daughter, and though age has mellowed him, his rage shaped my youth– and not for the better.  It’s true that my partner, Nikki, is much calmer than I am, but her different approach just fuels my control-freak temper, and she herself is pretty ambivalent about having kids. (“I won’t be the one carrying!” Is her lone caveat.) But with that ambivalence and my desperate need to control the uncontrollable and scream at what I worry over, I struggle to envision a child happy in my household, not because of their two gay moms, but because of one constantly shouting figure, raging in my own voice and using the words of my father. I wonder if the best thing I could do for a child is to not have one.

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Location Equation

Does changing your physical location make it easier to change your personal mentality? Does an external shift pave the way for internal transformation? Maybe more importantly, if you return your body to a past place, does your mind and spirit regress to that previous time/place connection, too?

It sounds like I’ve been drinking, I know. Instead, I’m stuck at work waxing philosophical, and worrying. (Worrying is one of my Key Skills. I excel in this area and list it on all applications.)I’ve been mulling over this one for a while, because it seems to me like life is leading me back to my hometown for grad school. For the most part, I’ve learned to trust the direction life leads me. I don’t necessarily believe in a higher power or a ‘destiny’ but I think a person’s subconscious and the outside world can give them a lot of pointers if they bother to pay attention.

So I’m trying not to stress too hard about the next phase of my life. But I’m worried. I’m worried what going back to my hometown will mean for me, for the “me” I’ve struggled for the past five years to discover and develop and learn to stand up for. Is going back home going to turn me back in to the angsty, depressed kid I was? Am I going to fall silent again when I should speak? Blush and apologize to the people I used to know for this new me they’ll be so unfamiliar with?

So many people I loved and looked up to as a kid won’t accept this new person with the short hair and the collared shirts and the confidence of someone who has quit trying to wear the clothes and makeup they hate. Or they’ll smile distantly and talk about me when my back is turned. Or say I knew it in a whisper, which somehow bothers me the most.

I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter. I won’t become a slave to the praise of my elders again , be it teacher or parent. I have my own life, my own love, my own pursuits of happiness. And if in the winter I go on long walks, kicking rocks across familiar paths of my youth, it will not be because I’m sixteen and don’t know myself or my place in the world. It won’t be because I’m hiding. It will be because I choose to.

I may end up going home, but maybe that isn’t the same thing as returning. Not really.

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Mission Statement and Hellos

Introductions are always stiff uncomfortable affairs and I usually handle them better with a drink in hand, so I’ll try to be brief and spare us all a lot of awkward turtles.

The name is Spence. I’m a recent college grad procrastinating fiercely while grad school application deadlines slink ever closer. I have a partner of two years that will go by “Nikki” within these posts, mostly because she will hate it. I love making people laugh, I’m a chronic over-thinker, and the only things I’m decisive about are hating cherries (the fruit, you filthy-minded wanker) and being unable to decide on anything, including who and what I am.

I’m queer. That much I can give. Everything else is too simple or too complicated and requires too many decisive labels and lines that try to put me back in a box after I’ve only recently jumped out of one. Maybe two years seems like plenty of time to figure out the ins-and-outs of my self-identification, but I think that’s a pretty fluid journey, and I’ll probably be on it until I die.

In the meantime, I’ll question life, love, gender, politics, why Harry Potter had to end, and whether or not I can rock a bow-tie. Maybe I’ll even get frisky and discuss suspenders. But only if you’re lucky.

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