My Transgender Day of (in)Visibility

Friday, March 31st was International Transgender Day of Visibility. The premise is simple: be out there, visible, and proud to be trans. Many people ‘come out’ for the first time – or reaffirm their status as a member of the greater transgender community. The idea is that greater visibility can only help us to be better accepted in society.

If one takes the (not too) long journey through my blog, they will find that I am out and ‘visible’ all the time. I identify as ‘non-binary’ and lean towards the feminine side of center. For many years, it has been a toss-up as to how I will be gendered by other people – and it has waxed and waned over the years. No one at work ‘mistakes’ me for a woman (they know me as Gary,) but my presentation makes it clean that ‘gender normative’ is not a label applied to me. Truth be told, I don’t really know what most of them think, but as long as they are respectful, it’s all good.

I had planned for TDOV several days in advance. I knew just what I was going to wear: dark wash blue jeans and a thin plum / purple flowy top with a black cami underneath. Here is a pic of said outfit:

I have been working up the nerve to wear it to work, and TDOV seemed like the perfect opportunity. Over the past six months or so, I have started dressing more feminine – especially in my choice of tops. Here is an example from a couple of months back:

My immediate coworkers, plus a few others with whom I’ve shared more personal details about myself – have all offered a lot of support and encouragement. My wardrobe ‘upgrade’ has been well received which had done much for my overall sense of self. Given this, my choice of clothing for TDOV would not have especially out of the ordinary for me.

That Friday morning, I woke around 4:30am – a good forty minutes before my alarm. This has become a semi-regular occurence: waking early, lying there, eyes open, thinking… It even happens in the middle of the night: sometimes for a minute, other times longer. The longer times can feel like a weight, bearing down on me as I struggle to get back to sleep. My head fills with an all too familiar noise that makes it all but impossible get back to sleep. And in the darkness of the bedroom – thoughts bubble and pop like thick oatmeal – images swirl, morphing one into the other – and the weight of it all just keeps on pressing me deeper into the bed. That was how I woke early that Friday morning – laying there awash in what was, undeniably, an all too familiar feeling.

If I look back to my early childhood, when I was maybe four or five years old, there were indications that I was wired a bit differently. However, my transness did not really manifest until I hit puberty, and even then I didn’t know what was going on. As I grew, I learned to deal with these confusing feelings by suppressing them secretly cross-dressing when I could. I know now that my parents ‘knew’, but it was never discussed. I would find out later in life that they just assumed that I’d figure it all out at some point. Throughout my adult life and all the rationalizations I have made to cope with this, those ‘feelings’ have never left me. They are that ‘noise’ buzzing in my head – the noise that wakes me at night – the noise that keeps me awake – the noise that woke me Friday, March 31 at 4:30am.

I do not spend much time discussing how much this weighs on me all the time. I could describe myself as ‘highly functioning’ in some sense, as I have learned to just keep pushing it down – pretending it’s not there – and going on with my life. I do not come across as ‘depressed’ or moody, and I maintain a generally happy disposition. I think the price I pay for that is at night, when my sub-conscious allows to run free that which I work so hard to contain.

The noise – that constant tugging at the back of my brain – is Gender Dissonance. Gender Dissonance is a term Julia Serano coined to describe “the cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment between our gender identity/subconscious sex and our assigned gender/physical sex. Gender dissonance differs somewhat from the psychiatric term gender dysphoria, which typically conflates this cognitive dissonance with the mental stresses that arise from societal pressure to conform to gender norms.”

On that Friday morning, the noise was simply too much to ignore. That with which I struggle to keep contained, refused to be locked away. Insecurity took hold. Instead of ‘out and proud’ and visible, all I wanted that day was to be invisible, and so I was. I stayed home, in the house – hidden, sullen, and ashamed. The explanation to my wife for staying home was simply “It’s Friday, I’m working at home.” She had no idea of my previous plans for TDOV, so for her this was just another day. But for me, on the one day I felt it most important to ‘do’ what I do every day, I felt that I failed miserably.

Being trans is difficult; being middle-aged and non-binary doesn’t make it any easier. I know that there is ‘no right way to be trans’ and as a rule I’m proud to be out and visible. Still, sometimes I am left with the feeling that perhaps there is a ‘wrong way’… It is when I wake in the middle of the night – my head buzzing with what is now a lifetime of repressed feelings, emotions, hopes, dreams, self doubts… It is all in there, buzzing around – looking desperately for a way to break free.

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What the hell did we just do?

When I got to sleep, Hilary had just gotten Washington, Oregon, and California – it was close but I had a modicum of faith in the citizens of the United States to see through Trump’s bullshit and do the right thing.  Tired, I turned off the TV and headed to bed.

I woke at 3:00am this morning, because the time change still has me messed up.  I made the mistake of looking at my phone to see the results – and my heart sank.  I’d like to say I was surprised, that the impossible had happened, but I just kind of stared at it.  We did it – we elected the nationalist, bigot, racist, misogynist, hate-monger – who creates his own reality – as our next president.

I shuffled back to bed where I tried to get back to sleep.  I spend the next hour tossing, turning, and staring at the clock before getting up (again) at 4:00am and putting on the TV to watch the aftermath still being reported live.  I check out Facebook feed and it is filled with post after post from the trans groups to which I belong.  Final posts from people who have left the group, posts from people going back into hiding out of fear of what is to come under a Trump administration, post from people desperate for someone not in the US to please take them in and protect them.  It was hard not to be upset reading then.

There were of course posts that encouraged us to remain strong, to not be defeated, to not disappear into the shadows, to be more vocal, to fight – and rationally this is the right attitude, but at 4:00am rationality is not where one heads first.

I know that nothing will happen or change in the immediate future.  However, once the now all republican political machine gets moving, it is anyone’s guess as to just what will happen, but no one is anticipating it to be good for the LGBT community… or women… or immigrants… or…  ::sighs::

So at 8:00am, five hours later, I start my day – much like any other Wednesday – but with an unshakable, pervasive looming sense of dread.

My Two Minutes of Fame

So that thing I did – where I was interviewed for a news piece about the LIRR gendered ticket policy?  The piece is up and can be found on the WFUV website, linked here:

SHOULD THE MTA GET RID OF GENDERED PASSES?

I originally asked that ‘they’ be used as my prefered pronoun, but the editor thought that might have changed the impact of the piece. I tend not to get too fussed about pronouns as long as people are being respectful, so I agreed to ‘he’ in the piece. We had agreed to ‘gender nonconforming’ as the description for my gender identity which is accurate – well as accurate as single lable can be. Besides, “Male-bodied non-binary gender-nonconforming trans-feminine” sounds like I order my gender at Starbucks. 🙂 Also, I wasn’t thrilled about the “… when he started wearing women’s clothing and makeup …” as I don’t think I had described things quite that way, but it was minor to the story.

Overall I was pleased with how the piece turned out – especially as this is the first time I had done anything like that.  Thanks to Suzie Xie for contacting me and allowing me to be a part of her report.

So, have a listen if you like and maybe let me know whay you think. 🙂

So I did a thing today…

Perhaps there has been an unknown reason for my little social experiment; the one where I have saved my LIRR train tickets for the past eighteen years. (If you are just tuning in, read: Riding the Long Island Railroad, Conductor Confusion, What would you like to be today?, She’s Back…)  Up until now, the main (i.e. only) reason has been to provided a tangible record of how, once a month, I am gendered by the conductor du jour.  It has allowed me to look back and see how over time, I have moved from a predominantly masculine presentation, to one that is perceived as more feminine.

It has made for some interesting conversations over the years: discussions about why there would be gender markers on the tickets, as a lead in to how I identify and why, about why I present as I do, and some larger discussions regarding the ‘non-concentual gendering’ everyone does to everyone else…

I have clearly been trying to get my money’s worth out of these tickets. 🙂

Then this past Sunday evening, I received an email:

Donna,

I hope this email finds you well. I’m a reporter with an NPR-affiliated station based in New York City.  I’m working on a story about the gender-specific designations on LIRR and Metro-North tickets and whether they can be considered discriminatory toward gender-nonconforming passengers.

I came across your blog a few weeks ago.  The fact that you’ve kept your monthly tickets over the past decade provides a powerful illustration of the issue, and I wanted to ask if you’d be willing to share your story.

I’d be more than happy to tell you more about what I’m working on.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Someone wants to interview me – to share ‘my story’ – for a news piece.  That’s never happened before…

I spend ten minutes laying in bed considering this before replying:

Thanks for your kind email.

It was an unintentional experiment, but yes, I have tickets going back to 1998 in various states of being punched male, female, in the middle, not at all and ‘corrected’ – the latest correction posted here.

I’d be interested to hear about your project – and if you think I have something relevant to contribute,

I look forward to speaking to you soon. 🙂

Regards,
Donna

I pretty open about all the trans stuff and will speak about it with anyone who is respectful to me.  My feeling was, “Why not?”

And so today, I did. 🙂

I was interviewed about the tickets, my feelings about the policy, and about being ‘gendered’ in general.  It lasted almost an hour and it was all recorded.  I’m a bit unsure about my talking possibly being broadcast – just because that’s how I am.  It’s one thing to speak to one or two people – but it’s done now.  All that’s left is to see how the story turns out.

So, yeah – I did a thing today…

And I have to admit, it was kinda cool. 🙂

She’s Back…

My poor sad neglected blog…  I have had such good intentions – so many things I have wanted to say…  But I cannot seem to be motivated to write them up.   I am hoping that this entry will be the reboot – my opportunity to start over…  Time will tell.

So what has happened of such a significance, to prompt me to tippity-type into the ether once again?

Read More »

My daughter, Caitlyn Jenner, and Laverne Cox

This is makes me all kinds of happy. 🙂

gendermom

As the mother of a young transgender child, my response to Caitlyn Jenner’s headline-grabbing announcement is a visceral one. Yes, I’m kind of put off by the hype. No, I’m not a big fan of celebrity culture or reality television. But when I look at the cover of Vanity Fair, and read the news articles that respectfully use Jenner’s new name and female pronouns, I’m overwhelmed by this new state of affairs, and by a world that might just be ready to accept my daughter. And that knocks me off my feet with awe and gratitude.

I called my friend Alice, a member of our support group whose trans daughter is a few years older than mine. “Did you see it?” I said. She knew what I was talking about.

“Of course,” she said. I could hear her shaking her head over the phone, as overcome as I was…

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Casa del Whopper

After my uncomfortable shopping excursion to get a sport coat, I stopped at the Burger King down the road to pick up a nutritious balanced meal for lunch.  One would think shopping at the ‘big and tall’ shop should have prompted me to find something healthier. 😦  I wait on line – get up to the counter – order my food.  As I go to pay, the cashier (the girl couldn’t have been more than twenty) asks me “Did you just get your nails done?”  I tell her that I had them done last week and she replies “Wow, they look really nice!”  I smile somewhat awkwardly and thank her before moving down so she can take the next customer. Read More »

Non-binary

From the other end of the non-binary spectrum, if that makes any sense.

I love seeing people identifying as ‘non-binary’ – we need greater visibility around this.

Genderweird

This past week I had a phone interview with a Washington Post reporter, off the record, about being non-binary in a binary world.  It went exceedingly well, but that’s not the point of this post.  What I’ve been mulling over for a while now is — wait for it — my identity.  Go figure, right?

So in my never-ending quest to figure myself out, I’ve made quite a few steps as of late to try and suss out who or what I am.  For as long as I can remember I’ve felt distinctly different, other, irgendwie anders.  Having an identical twin only further complicated things around puberty; she journeyed off into this magical realm called Womanhood, leaving me alone to figure out why I didn’t feel myself to be a girl, but also couldn’t conceptualize myself as a boy.

Now I’m at a point where, if I decide to…

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Out of my Element

I went shopping at a men’s store today.  It wasn’t really by choice: I have an event to attend and I’ll need to look ‘presentable and appropriate’.  And while I have several suits, none of them fit as I have gained too much weight. 😦  I do have black pants that fit (women’s, but not that anyone would notice) so I figured all I needed was a reasonable sport jacket to wear with them.  Easy-peasy it should be…

I walked in the store and I felt a wave of uneasiness hit me: looking around the store, it all seemed so wrong to me.  I found my way back to the suits and such and started looking for a jacket.  I realized that I had no idea what size I was, what the styles were…  I was, in a word, lost.  As I browsed, a sales girl came up and asked if I needed some help (perhaps I looked as though I needed it.)  I told her I wanted a jacket to go with black pants and she showed me a few choices.  She asked me what size I wore and I had to tell her I had no idea and that it had been years since I had shopped for anything.  I was acutely aware of how awkward this all felt – how silly I must have sounded, not even knowing what size I wore.

If I had been shopping in the women’s shop around the corner, it would have been a different story.  They know me there by name, I know how their sizes run, what works for me and what doesn’t.  There is nothing awkward about being there because it’s pretty much how I have been shopping for years now.  I felt a bit like your average guy in the lingerie department: dazed, uncomfortable – and wanting to leave as quickly as possible.  Funny thing (or maybe not so funny) is that I’m totally comfortable browsing lingerie – but today, looking for a sport coat?  I wanted to make my purchase and be out of there as quickly as possible.

I did get a nice jacket and as much as it kinda hate to say it, it looks good – and I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest.  On the one hand, I want to look good, to make my wife comfortable and to just have a nice time.  But on the other hand, I don’t like being gendered as a man – and that I (still) look ‘good’ as one evokes a feeling I am having trouble articulating.  I guess in part it makes me sad, and maybe a bit defeated…

::sigh::

And so it goes…

12 Things Every Gender Nonconforming Child Wants You To Know

Fantastic and spot on!

Raising My Rainbow

  • When most people are born, their sex (male or female based on their genitalia) and their gender (male or female based on their brain) are usually in total alignment.  Mine aren’t.  Get over it.  I was born this way.
  • If you are confused and can’t quite tell if I’m a boy or a girl, just know that I am a person, please treat me that way.
  • Sometimes I notice that my gender nonconformity makes you uncomfortable.  I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable; I’m trying to make myself comfortable.
  • My gender nonconformity is a way of expressing myself.  A way of being true to myself, true to the way my heart beats and my blood flows.  I allow you to express your gender your way without being bothered; I hope that you will allow me to do the same.
  • It’s silly when you think, say or feel that colors, clothes…

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Little Things

So I got my nails done last week.

For the past five years or so I get a manicure every two to three weeks.  It started with just clear polish, giving my nails a nice clean look.  Eventually I moved up to getting clear Shellac (a UV cured gel type polish) which has the advantage of lasting about two weeks with no chipping.  I then progressed to a clear sparkly finish which is a bit more fun but still doesn’t attract too much undue attention.  Then, about a two years ago, I started getting a sheer pink color under the sparkly finish.  It added a hint of color which was noticeable if you really looked at my nails but still relatively neutral.  I wore that for about a year before choosing a less sheer pink base.  So for about the last year now, my nails are noticeably sparkly pink.  Not screaming across the room pink, but enough that they can no longer go unnoticed while sitting a table with other people. Read More »

So, I have this blog…

…which has not been shown love in over a year. I have things to say, thoughts to share – I’ve just been lazy about it. Maybe lazy isn’t the right word: unmotivated is a better one.

I had lunch with a friend last week. She’s transitioning after many years of telling herself why she couldn’t do it. I told her that I am a bit envious. The truth is I’m very happy for her, as I am for any of us who are dealing with this. But as we chatted, the discussion turned to me and to what has kept me from ‘moving forward’ as it were.

I told her that in some ways, I wished that being trans was more of a problem for me. I don’t wake every morning hating what I am. I don’t spend my waking hours consumed by this. I don’t feel I need to ‘transition or die’. I many ways these are all very good things. I recognize this and on some level I am quite thankful for it. But it doesn’t change the fact that underlying it all is the continual dissatisfaction I have.

I need more than this.

‘Shit or get off the pot’ as the saying goes. I always have a reason to put off discussing what I need. The time is never ‘right’ – but honestly, is there ever a right time?

I need more and I have droned on about it for years and years.

And this is perhaps the reason for my lack of motivation to write. It’s an old story now – one I have told for so many years that even I don’t want to hear it any more.

So, I have this blog…

I think it’s time I start writing again.

Worth a Thousand Words…

… that’s what is said about a picture. More telling than any narrative, a picture has the ability to lay bare the truth of it’s subject. Sometimes, that truth is more than we want to know or accept.

I was kind of excited for our holiday party this evening. Enough so that I went and had my make-up done. Nothing outlandish, but just something a bit fun for the evening. So, I skipped out of work a bit early and headed off to be ‘made up’. Read More »

Whinging

I’ve not written in a while. It’s not for a lack of topics (I have a lot I want to write about) but more a matter of time and motivation. I have been insanely busy at work – and not in a good way. I don’t mind busy – I can even thrive on it for short spurts – but the busy is there is rooted in stupidity and confusion and I have no tolerance for that. It’s become a place at which I really do not want to be. That’s a problem as ‘work’ has become a bit of a haven for me these past years. It’s where I ‘get to be me’ more or less. Read More »

Post Sandy Thoughts

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving a mess in her wake.  Some were pummeled, others hardly effected.  At my home, this is the state of things at the moment:

  • We are on our fifth day without power.  We lost it Monday at 3:45pm EDT. Read More »

Becoming Human

In 2007, I posted The Impossible Human, where I discussed a bit how transpeople continually are forced to assert the reality of their existence – to assert that they themselves actually are people. Read More »

Cool (and Somewhat Awkward)

I was in a meeting yesterday with five other colleagues – four of whom I know well, one who I have seen in the office but never had the occasion with which to speak.  We were discussing what needed to be finished in order to do a small demo showing the end to end integration of our respective systems.

The guy who I do not really know was talking about how everything needs to be passed downstream to my process, “… because she needs to generate … uh … he needs to generate the extract files …”

:: Donna smiles a bit ::

It is the first time there that that has happened to me and for a moment I felt very awkward, wondering what (if anything) the other people in the room thought.  No one reacted in any way and we continued our discussion without incident.

I couldn’t help but walk out of the meeting smiling just a bit to myself.

How To Be A Trans* Ally

Reblogged from Facebook

What should I do If My Friend is Trans?

Reblogged from Genderfork

13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans-women

A fantastic article by Natalie Reed (who blogs at http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed.)

13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans Women: Part One

13 Myths and Misconceptions About Trans Women: Part Two

Please read!

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