“I am just wondering why I feel so all alone, why I’m a stranger in my own life, jump in let’s go, lay back , enjoy the show. Everybody gets high, everybody gets low these are the days that anything goes….I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.” Every Day Is A Winding Road Sheryl Crow
This may or may not come as a surprise to most of you but do not feel welcomed in so called “women’s only spaces.” On the surface I get treated somewhat nice, but I am also made to feel as if I am at a party and that I am that one underage person that is allowed to attend that party that should be for adults only. At this party everyone is having cocktails and having great conversations. I am allowed to stay at the party so as long as I don’t get in the adults way. Many of these women that make me feel this way often identify themselves as liberal.
First let me say these are my thoughts alone. I do not speak for the LGBTQ+ community, transgender community, or even transgender women in general. These are my opinions only. Also this my life and my life alone put on display. If there is something that I say that you don’t like, only criticize me. However, other transgender women may see themselves in my experiences, but that is purely coincidence.
One of the most frustrating things that I have to deal with these days is how people seem to have an opinion about how my life has gone so far versus what I tell them. Can you image that you are telling the story of your life when you say that you fell down and skinned your knee when you were 5 years old, and the stranger looks at you and says, “no you didn’t, it didn’t happen that way at all.” That is sort of the way it is for me. I tell someone about my life and often they will say, “no, it didn’t happen that way at all it happened this way…..”
Not only do we not own our past, many times we don’t even get to own our present. For some transgender women, such as myself, when we medically and socially transition later in life be our true-selves we are automatically suspect as to our motives. Like I had some kind of grand plot to reel everyone in and then “pull a fast one on them” by choosing to be a woman. No I did not choose to be transgender, even though I sort of did choose when I would transition. I can’t tell you how many times I was told,” I don’t understand.” To those people I would say, ” you don’t have to understand, only accept me as I am”. A few people even told me that I was downgrading my life by “choosing” to be a woman. Ugh!
Others quickly figured out, like my wife, that I was going to be the same person that I was before this “coming out as my true-self.” The only difference was that I was out and not hiding anymore. “Why don’t you just keep this private and stay in the closet,” was the message many conveyed to me. I know that I made them feel uneasy. It was my fault that I was making their life hard some how some way by living my life. There was no celebration of my coming out. “You should just feel lucky that we even act like we know you any more,” many told me with their faces and actions. As if I was suppose to say, “oh thank you for tolerating me.”
I have heard some people say about transgender men, well of course they “want” to be men, men have all of the power in our society. Strangely enough many times transgender men are accepted into women’s only spaces. That is because the women in these spaces will often say that they have shared experiences. The perception that some have is that transgender men are still women, and this is wrong. The perception that transgender men have transitioned only to “upgrade” is wrong also. They transition for the same reason that I transitioned, to be their true-self. They are not women and have never been women.
What always floors me is that I have always been a woman. My insides did not transition only my outsides. “But you like women,” I am told as if that disqualifies me from being a woman. I have said on more than one occasion, “you have heard of women who like other women, it’s really not that new of a thing.” Then they say, “but you have penetrated a woman.” My response is, “I am sure that I am not the first lesbian to do that either.” I will insist to my dying day that I did not change, only people’s perception of me changed.
When I was a little girl my two older brothers made it their life mission to beat the girl out of me. My dad was a lot more subtle but still very insistent to make me act like a little boy. My dad would use words like, “you’re too sensitive, you better toughen up, and no one will want to hang around you if you act like this.” My brothers took a more direct approach with their physical and psychological torture. Since I really didn’t care for the abuse or disappointing my day I buried my feelings. I also buried the fact that I was a little girl who just didn’t look like other little girls. I remember being scared to death to even show a hint of being a girl. No emotions, nothing that would resemble anything femme, and showing no weaknesses or fear(my brothers and friends saw that as a “girly” trait.) I only got to be me in my dreams at night.
When I was a teenager I did mostly teenager boy things. But I also explored my sexuality and my gender very low-key. I broke down and told my mom that I like to wear girl clothes, which came as absolutely no shock to my mom. She would just say, “I know.” She really just had advice to give me so she would just listen. I told her that I just wasn’t sure of who or what I was but I was hoping to find out some day because it was killing me on the inside. Like a good mom she would listen to me and just say, “I know.” When I married a woman I am sure she thought that I had some how been cured of my “illness.” The next time we would talk about this part of me came 12 years later when my wife and I separated and my mom ask me, “is it because of your girl problem?” My answer was of course, “yes mom, we are separated because of my girl problem.”
I won’t get into the middle part of my life except to say that it was always a work in progress. I ended up hiding my true-self for most of the rest of my life to everyone but my wife until recently. This part of my life receives the most of the harshest of all criticisms from right wingers, left wingers, gays, lesbians, and especially other transgender people.
If I describe my true-self during the period of my middle years many start to feel uncomfortable. Some even get down right aggressive such as the woman in Cincinnati at a Women In Writing Lecture that questioned why I was there. I was actually just in the audience listening to the lecture and panel but she told me that since I had live as a man most of my life that I shouldn’t be there. I told her that I had hid my whole life but that I was just as much a woman as she was and I didn’t live it as a man, I only looked like one. She went on to tell me that she had a degree in Women’s Studies and that I was completely wrong about what I believed about my lived experiences. Really!
I am constantly fighting for my own voice to be heard over the noise. I have even told several of my closest best friends that I never had male privilege. Some of them it seems have made it their life mission to prove me wrong. I stand fast in my conviction. I’ve debated right-wing religious zealots, been kicked to the curb by my own church of 40 years, abandoned by many close friends, not accepted wholly in women’s only spaces(it is like I’m on double secret probation), not accepted fully in to groups made up mostly of hetro people or gay people, ect. ect. I am sure that you get the picture that I feel as if I am an island.
I have had people come after me in restrooms, the last one sporting a gun. I’ve been attacked on-line by a well know transgender activist( she told me I should kill myself rather than expressing my opinions.) I’ve been stared at in stores by people clocking me too many times to count and laughed at almost as many times. I’ve had my motives questioned by other transgender people when I try to help or speak out against something that is going to harm transgender adults, youth, or myself.
I have come to the realization that society is not going to change their perception of me or most other transgender people in my lifetime. I am never going to be accepted into women’s only spaces as a full participant. There is just not enough time left for me to “win” people over. There is no long game here. That will be up to the younger generation to educate the rest of you. Some only want to talk about the increased visibility that transgender people have now. As if visibility alone means a better life for us. Somewhat like if you would just leave your car in the shop it will just miraculously fix itself. Visibility without activism is useless. So I will keep talking and educating. I am sure that I will make some uneasy, some pissed off, and a few of you actually think of how to be more inclusive.