The Trans-Hero’s Journey

There have been some really awesome posts from fellow bloggers in the last few days and they’ve really got me thinking about this journey that we’re all on together and separately.  Each of us has our own unique road with sometimes similar and sometimes very different destinations.  Sometimes, the destination isn’t quite clear to us.  But, seeing this as a journey made me think about the idea of this being a sort of Hero’s Journey that we’re all part of in some stage or another.  Often we find other would-be heroes at similar junctures as ourselves.  Others are further ahead or just getting started.  We help each other navigate on this solitary journey to ourselves.  Our True Selves.

After just a little research I found some very interesting correlations between the standard Hero’s Journey and my own current path.  The journey has several stages and cast members.  In the beginning of the journey the hero lives in the ordinary world as an ordinary person but doesn’t quite fit in and feels somewhat out of place.  The journey begins as they are called away from their ordinary world to embark on a fantastic quest (transition or whatever your path is to authenticity).  The hero must leave the ordinary world in order to go on this quest.  Often the hero resists leaving their comfortable world and people they know.  The new world is strange and different, full of “treasure and danger” for the budding hero.  The hero is given a quest that only they can accomplish.  At first, the hero refuses.  They’re not prepared, strong enough, smart enough, worthy enough.  Many excuses come to mind for refusing the quest.  And, sometimes, the hero never does accept the quest, their destiny, but this only brings trouble for the hero in the end.  Once the hero accepts the quest they can move on to the next stage.

The hero embarks on their journey and enters into the new, strange land (the land of gender identity which only the hero can define for themselves).  There are many tests and trials awaiting (coming out, name changes, pronoun changes, therapy, letters, surgeries, hormones, etc.).  They meet some helpful people who aid them in their quest along their path (doctors, therapists, fellow trans* folks, friends, family).  These are their Talisman and Allies.  Sometimes these helpers seem to have supernatural powers.  The hero progresses through a series of tests and trials that makes them stronger and smarter for their final obstacle.  This final obstacle is The Supreme Ordeal (this could be a surgery, or being accepted as our true self or something else entirely) which, once surpassed, the quest has been achieved.  This is when they receive their rewards for passing the Supreme Ordeal (Living an authentic life).

The journey is not over though.  The final stage is the journey home.  The journey home often has a few obstacles as well but are handled easily with the new knowledge, wisdom and strength the Hero has gained from their previous adventures.  The Hero’s quest is life-changing for them as well as others.  They return home a master of two worlds and often bring with them special powers that helps them heal or improve their home world.

I started thinking about this concept quite a while ago.  I was watching the movie A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger at home one evening.  Heath plays a poor squire who wants to be a Knight.  He trains hard to win tournaments with the help of a few of his friends.  He enters the tournaments, which only nobles are allowed to participate in, by pretending to be Sir Ulrich and has forged papers to verify his nobility.  Eventually he is found out as a fraud and is about to be captured.  His friends and allies all urge him to run for his life and tell him how he can hide and get away with his deception.  He listens to them and simply says, “NO!  I AM A KNIGHT!”  That moment in that movie, even though it’s not that great a film, hit me hard.  It was like all of the people telling me my whole life, mostly myself, that I am not good enough, strong enough, tall enough, whatever enough to be who I really am were silenced.  I can hide for the rest of my life and pretend I’m really a woman…sort of.  Or I can claim who I really am and pay the price for that.

I don’t feel like a hero most days and I bet most of you don’t either.  But, the truth is, we’re all heroes in our own right.  We’re out here fighting every day for our right to be seen and heard and acknowledged for who and what we really are.  The battles may be small or seem insignificant like asking someone to use your preferred pronoun or name but each battle matters in the end.

Keep fighting the good fight and journey on my fellow heroes.  Stand proud!

* information and some language in this post came from mythologyteacher.com

Middle Ground

I’ve been thinking a lot lately that I’m stuck in the middle of the binary genders at this point.  I’m not really female and not really male.  But, I think I’m actually edging off into the male area more than I really know.  Even without binding my chest I was called sir 3 times today in less than an hour.  One man called me “bud”.  OK.  I’ll take that over miss any day.  I was on a quest for something called Naval Jelly.  It dissolves rust.  I went to three stores and never found it.

There are truly few possessions that I consider precious to me but I recently acquired two of them.  My dad died when I was a baby and I have always felt a strange and wonderful connection to him that I can’t explain.  I miss him.  I love him.  I talk to him.  I need him.  But I’ve never met him.  I love someone that I don’t have any memories of.  There’s a hole in my heart from not knowing him.  He was a mechanic and a wood worker.  He made a very large tool chest where he kept all of his tools.  The chest sat on our front porch out in the weather while I was growing up.  It was my toy box.  I played with his tools and imagined what we could build with them.  I loved the smell of that tool box.  My brother has had the box at his house all of these years and used it to pile garbage on top of.  Now that he’s cleaned out his place I asked him if he would mind me having the tool box and he surprised me in telling me yes and that I could have the cedar chest that dad had built as well.  I was elated!!!

Both things are in bad repair and the tools in the box are rusted from the years of being outside in the weather.  The cedar chest survived a house fire that destroyed nearly everything else around it.  It was a miracle.  It too has been nothing but a junk collector at my brother’s house for many years.  I’ve finally cleaned the soot from it and am in the process of trying to get the smoke smell out of it.  So I need the naval jelly to help me remove heavy rust from my dad’s tools.  The toolbox has a place of honor inside my awesome shed where I work on my projects.

But this post isn’t supposed to be about my dad or naval jelly.  It’s about my gender presentation and perception.  Inside, I am not in the middle.  I am male.  I know who I am.  But outside, and in the world, I am used to being perceived as a woman.  As I walk around being myself these days I find myself feeling naked.  When people see me as male it makes me feel uncomfortable.  I’m not used to being seen.  It makes me wiggle and squirm, yet feels normal at the same time.  It’s a very strange mix of feelings.

Every store or restaurant I go into I wonder whether the person behind the counter will see male or female.  I’m never sure.  And this unsure part makes me uncomfortable and unsteady.  I wonder which bathroom to use if I’ve been gendered male by anyone.  And when I’m out with people who are not privy to my gender issues I get really nervous about how I’ll be greeted by strangers.  If I’m called sir will they correct the person and make me even more uncomfortable.  This process is making me feel like hibernating until my beard comes in and my breasts fall off.

I find myself being increasingly uncomfortable going out in public or being seen at work.  I worry about bumping into people that I’ve known for a long time.  I’m clearly not comfortable in the middle.  Or is it that I’m not comfortable being past the middle into the M zone?  I think I’m teetering between middle and M on the gender scale in my head.  My vision of the gender spectrum is a long line with Female on one end, neutral in the middle and Male on the other end.  I imagine that we all fall somewhere along this line with relatively few people actually sitting at the far edges of the binary genders.  I think the discomfort comes not from being on the male side of my gender scale because I’m really ok with that.  What I’m uncomfortable with is how other people will react to this change.  Will acquaintances that I’ve known for a long time think badly of me?  Will I have to explain myself?  Will I embarrass my partner and cause a scene?  Will I get humiliated by an ignorant clerk or fellow customer in a store?  Will I be harmed in some way?  There is fear.

I wish I was the kind of person that could sit comfortably in the middle and find enjoyment in making people wonder what gender I am.  I’m not.  I wish I was the kind of person who could go about my life and not worry what others think of me.  I’m not.  I want to make sense to myself as well as the world.  But my world thinks I’m a woman so now that I’m not looking like a woman very much how is that making sense in my world?  I wish I could just disappear for a year and come back looking like a man.  Boom!  Here I am!  This is me.  Or maybe I could just disappear permanently and go where no one already knows me.  Ah, but I can not do that.  I have too many obligations here in this place where people DO know me.  The escape hatch has been sealed and there’s no way out now.

So I have to stick it out and work through this awkward, ugly duckling phase of my transition.  I’ve been watching the new Amazon series, Transparent.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it as I think it’s very well done.  It’s a fictional story about a trans woman named Maura and her family adjusting to her new identity.  It’s funny, sad, and real in a lot of ways.  The thing that impresses me about Maura is that once she decided to transition she began living as Maura full time without much outward regard for how others see her other than her immediate family.  She’s brave and unashamed.  I am, undoubtedly, dealing with some shame issues here.  I want to be brave and unashamed too.  Intellectually, I know that there’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Being transgender is not a horrible thing.  But I know that the rest of the world does not share my feelings about this.

This post has kind of been all over the place and is symptomatic of how my mind is working these days.  I’m all over the place.  My mind races about how to deal with this situation I’ve created for myself and my peeps.  One day this will all be over and I won’t be worrying so much, but, for now, it’s my life.