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.

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11 thoughts on “Middle Ground

  1. If you could write your own script what would it be?

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    • I’ll have to give this some thought Jamie because I really just hope that they don’t use a gendered word when addressing me. I like it when clerks call me hun or sweetie or nothing at all. There is a distinct southern mentality down here so some people actually do say things like that. Thanks for the food for thought.

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  2. I have just finished drafting a post in similar vein. I hope writing about your emotions have helped a bit. You sound like a determined person with a vision. I would have loved to have had you as a friend. Dig in your heels and make that dream come true. I’m rooting for you.

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    • Yes, I read your post Kris. It was inspiring. Writing about this stuff does help me to work through my emotions about things. The internet allows us to make friends with people we’d never get to meet in real life, so with that in mind, please consider me a friend on here. I’m flattered that you feel this way about me and having you pulling for me makes me feel great! Thanks!

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  3. There are no easy answers. I dont know if you are into this idea at all, but personally I really like mindfulness meditation for alleviating these feelings, and I highly recommend giving it a shot. The obvious answer is “don’t worry so much about what others think” but that’s incredibly difficult to put into practice.

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  4. My experience is that as the mom of a transgender person so while I don’t know how it feels, I know what I have watched my son go through. Too many people are not educated in what it means to be transgender or anything dealing with gender issues. I’m sure you are afraid. Well, people fear what they don’t understand and you will see that all around you. The ones that want to learn and want to try to understand – and all they can do is try because they don’t know what it feels like to be you- they are the ones who matter. The others just plain don’t matter.

    What you are dealing with is major and you need to listen to your heart. Don’t push yourself unless you know it’s right for you. You are brave too.

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    • Thanks Kat, this is great advice. I’ve always been uncomfortable about my gender perception but this is taking it to a new level of uncomfortable. I feel hyper-aware of people now and a bit paranoid I think. I find myself trying not to make eye contact and sort of wishing I could just disappear. I know it’s a phase and only temporary and that it’ll get better. I just have to work through it. I appreciate your comments.

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  5. These are familiar feelings to me. There are lots of people here, at all stages of transition, or non-transition. I read “It makes me wiggle and squirm, yet feels normal at the same time. It’s a very strange mix of feelings.” and I think, that is exactly how I felt, about two or three years ago, but still how I feel on the rare occasion today.
    You will more beyond this stage where you are at now, to some other reallity which you cannot yet predict. Remember that everyone is in some sense always in the middle. There is something to be learned here.

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    • It’s nice to hear from others that have been through this stage. I guess, in a way, it’s why I wrote the post. I know that it’s just a stage I’m in and will fade away gradually as I adjust and my body changes but it’s still very uncomfortable. I always enjoy reading your take on things. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. I remember that phase well. It takes so much energy. Constant patrolling is what I called it. The only words of wisdom I have is that one day it will just stop. You will be comfortable enough with you and that is what will make this all worth it.

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    • You’re right Tam, it is a type of “constant patrolling”. My mind is hyper aware of how people are looking at me or what they’re saying to me. I’m looking forward to it stopping and feeling comfortable. Congrats on you surgery, by the way. I’m hoping everything is going really well for you and that you get the results you’re wanting. Thanks for sharing your perspective with me.

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