Girl “Friends”

I think about my childhood a lot.  I don’t really mean to, but it seems to be something that a lot of trans people talk about.  When did you know you were really a ___________ (pick a gender)?  This question always takes me back to my earliest memories and no where in there do I think I knew that I was anything other than different.  I’m not even sure if I knew that.  I just knew that what I wanted was at odds with what the authority figures in my life wanted.  I grew up in the dark ages, before the internet and reality tv.  No one knew anything about being transgender and no one ever said anything positive about gay people.  All of this was way too taboo and exotic.  My small town upbringing did not prepare me to live 30 years as a lesbian who is now living as a man.  I was ignorant about all of this stuff growing up and so was everyone I knew, even the authorities in my life.  How could I have known I was transgender at 4 years old?  I knew that I liked boy stuff and wanted to be like my brother and uncles.

I was a flower girl in my cousin’s wedding when I was about 7 years old.  I had no idea what that meant until the day of the wedding and they put me in a little light blue dress and stood me next to my male cousin who was the ring bearer.  He was wearing a black tuxedo.  Suddenly the difference in us just smacked me in the face like a wet dishrag.  I wanted to wear that tuxedo and I was so jealous of him.  It was experiences like this that I can tell you about where I felt jealousy because the boys got to do or wear things that I wanted to do or wear.  But I couldn’t tell you why that was.

And then there are friendships.  Friendship, for me, was complicated.  From an early age (5 or 6?), I got crushes on girls.  But I was expected to play with girls and develop friendships with them and get crushes on boys.  I tried.  Really, I did.  I could play with a girl as long as we could do what I wanted, but if she wanted to do really girly things, like play Barbie where I had to be one of the girl dolls, I was out of there.  I could deal with being Ken, but not Barbie.  Luckily, there weren’t all that many kids around for me to play with when I was young.  I lived on a short street with big houses on it that a lot of old people lived in.  We did not live in a big house.  We lived in a tiny bungalow that belonged to one of the big houses.  There was a seedy apartment building up the street from my house that mostly had single people who could barely pay their bills.  The place reeked of cigarettes and booze.  I hated going in there, but my one friend lived there.  His name was Scott.  I liked Scott because he was a real boy’s boy and he made me feel like a boy when we hung out.  We did boy stuff, whatever that was, and I didn’t have to worry about being the Barbie with him.  Occasionally, my mom would force me to play with his little sister because I really shouldn’t be friends with Scott.  I guess the adults were worried that we would end up having sex or something.  I don’t know what they were worried about, but I hated playing with his little sister.  Usually I managed to wiggle myself out of it after just a few minutes of torture.  I remember, one day being over at his apartment and his grandmother was there.  She gave me the most hateful look I had ever seen anyone give me.  I had no idea why she hated me so much, but every time I saw her she looked at me that way.

Scott moved away after a few years and I really never saw him again.  I didn’t really have friends until middle school.  I met this girl in band class who was new to me.  She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen and I was immediately infatuated with her.  We became best friends and hung out together all the time.  We had sleep overs and participated in three-legged races and shit like that.  I would do anything I could to be near her.  This “friendship” of ours grew into a circle of girls who hung out together and did the sleep over thing and all that goes with it.  There was another girl in that group that I later developed a big crush on as well.  This circle of friends endured throughout high school and college, even though we all went different places.  Today, we are still friends and I’m out to all of them.

What I wonder about today is whether we were ever really friends and how different it would have been if I’d been born with a penis.  I mean, I was in love with two of them and what I really wanted wasn’t just friendship.  Of course, they had no idea how I felt at the time (or now, for that matter).  This was my big dark secret that I never told anyone.   I almost kissed one of them one time and I did tell her that I loved her, but you know, she just interpreted that as friendship love.  Life got really complicated when they were dating and going steady with boyfriends.  God that sucked.  I was so jealous of the boyfriends, yet I had to be nice to them and be happy for my “friend”.  I had crushes/feelings for these girls for a long time.  All through high school I was still obsessed with that original girl, even though she always had a handsome boyfriend.  And, to complicate things even more, I dated a couple of boys in high school on a semi serious basis.  It was, for me, way less serious than it probably seemed to my friends.  It was really just a cover for who I really was.  The boys I dated were nice guys that I liked as friends and had zero interest in as a romantic partner.  We never did anything more than kiss occasionally.

The fact that I’m still friends with my high school group is unusual and awkward now that I’m awake and knowledgeable about who and what I am.  Since they know I’m transitioning, I wonder whether they ever put pieces of our pasts together and truly understand why I was part of their group.  There’s a part of me that feels like I did something wrong all those years ago.  I know that I understood on some level, even back then, that I was not like them.  I feel like our friendships were built on a lie, or at least a falsehood.  It makes me feel like my whole life was built on a lie, like every relationship I had was false.  I was always just doing the best I could to pretend to really be a girl, but deep down I knew that I wasn’t.  I didn’t understand any of this at all, so I don’t blame myself.  And I don’t blame the world I grew up in either.  We were all navigating in the dark without a map or compass.  We were all ignorant.  Still, I wonder.  What do they think when they see me becoming my true self?  Do they realize that the thing that drew me to them was that I had a crush?  Do they wonder if we would have been friends if I’d been recognized as a boy?  Would we have dated?  I know for sure that I wouldn’t have been invited to the sleep overs.  And then I think that there was attraction on their part too, because, even in friendship, there is an attraction that brings people together.  I can honestly say that I did and do feel true friendship for these women and I cherish our long standing relationships.  I enjoy visiting with them and even like their husbands quite a bit.  Of the five women in my circle, I only had a crush on two of them.  One of them I don’t even really like at all, but the others do so we make nice with each other (it’s mutual).  I give this group of friends a lot of credit for helping me through my weird and awkward childhood and adolescent years.  They were my lifeline.  I don’t have any idea how I would have gotten through high school without them.  Still, I feel like I deceived them and that eats at me, even today.  I don’t still have those feelings for any of them and haven’t for a really long time.  At some point in high school I made a conscious decision to disengage from the notion of them as romantic partners.  It was too difficult to see them with their boyfriends and not even be able to tell them how I felt.  That’s probably when I started to date boys a little bit.

Unfortunately, I thought my story started and ended with my physical attraction to girls, so when I finally kissed a girl my freshman year of college and declared myself a lesbian, I thought that was the end of the story.  It took 30 years for me to realize that that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Unraveling my past and discovering who I really am has been like peeling the layers of an onion.  It’s taken a long time to get to the core of my onion and I’m not entirely sure I’ve arrived there yet, but I’m pretty close.  Processing through my relationship with these women, some of which I’ve known since kindergarten, has been just a small part of it.  Small, but vitally important.

You’re a Super Hero

These days I’m pretty busy just living my life but I do take time everyday to reflect on where I came from and where I am now.  Most days I am in awe of the life I lead today compared to even a couple of years ago.  I’m here to tell you, if you doubt that you can flip your whole life upside down, inside out and survive it, that you absolutely can.  And, in fact, you will be a much better, happier person for doing it.  Your friends and family may fight you every inch of the way but at some point even they will admit that you are a better person now than you used to be.  Will it be hard?  Yes, of course.  Everything worth doing is hard.  Will it get worse before it gets better?  Yep, most likely it will.  Can you do it?  I have no doubt.

Why am I so confident in you?  Because I did it and I was just like you are right now.  Scared, terrified even.  Absolutely sure that I’d lose everyone and everything that meant anything to me.  Convinced that I’d have to live in my car and eat food from the dollar store to survive.  Afraid that no one would ever love me again and pretty sure that I’d never be taken seriously in my real gender.  I was the kind of person that would say, “well, that’s ok for other people but not for me”.  I have too much to lose.  I’m too this, too that.  Too old, too fat, too feminine looking, too dependent on my partner, too scared, too weak.  I didn’t think it would be worth all of the turmoil I’d have to put myself and my family through.  I was wrong.  Very wrong.

I’m not telling you to transition.  That’s your decision to make.  But I want you to know that you can do it.  You absolutely CAN do anything you want to do.  I did it and so can you.  I’m not special.

Well….

Actually, I am special.  And so are you.

You see, people like us, the misfits and maladjusted freaks of society are the most amazing people.  We’re superheros.  We grow up being taught that who we are is wrong and we get beaten down into submission until we can’t take it any longer.  I look at the general population now and I feel pity for them.  They don’t know what it’s like to grow up the way we did and have to pull ourselves out of the abyss and rise above our upbringing.  I am stronger than they will ever be because of what I’ve been through.  They whine and moan about their aches and pains and every day worries while we’re out here reinventing ourselves into the superheroes we were born to be.   Once you find your truth you are unstoppable.  Take your truth where it leads you and don’t let fear stop you.  Feel the fear but do it any way.  Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Fear is a liar.  You’re not weak or worthless.  Quite the opposite.  You’re one of the strongest people on the planet and you are special in ways others can’t even imagine.  Whatever your deal is that makes you feel like a misfit, turn that shit around and make it your greatest strength.  Think of all of the crap you’ve had to deal with in life because you’re not like all of the sheep in the world.  You’re not a sheep.  You’re a fucking lion.  You’re a fucking superhero.  All that crap has made you stronger and stronger.  Your muscles are popping out every where from all the heavy lifting you’ve done in life.  Now put it to good use and start living your wildest dreams.  Be your own hero and I bet even the person closest to you that tells you this is crazy will thank you for it one day.

Why I’m not a Butch

A couple of my readers have asked me to explain how I came to the conclusion that I was actually a Trans Man and not a Butch woman.  I’ve tried to write this post several times now and I keep running into problems with it.  It’s a complex question to answer.  The first problem is that I really never embraced  the identity of Butch.  Most of my life I identified as a Dyke or simply as a Lesbian.  I knew some older Butch women who dressed like men and had Femme wives and to my young feminist mind that was just too much like heterosexuality for my taste and I was turned off by it.  I was even in a relationship with a Butch for about seven years and she very much wanted me to be her Femme.  I didn’t have it in me and we mostly just stayed together because we loved each other as friends and enjoyed the company.  My current partner is a feminine woman but she isn’t really into Butch women.  She really was looking for someone who’s also a little feminine with a Tomboy side, what she refers to as CatFemme (her own category that she made up based on a woman named Cat that she found attractive a long time ago).  I guess she thought she might be able to mold me into more of a Femme but that didn’t really work out for her.  Instead, I got more masculine as the years went on.

Also of note is that I really didn’t know anything about the T in LGBTQ until about 7 or 8 years ago.  I didn’t understand what it meant to be Transgender until I had a friend who was MTF and she spent a lot of time educating me.  What I realized from talking to her over a period of time was that we were a lot alike, except the opposite.  Where she had hated having a beard, I’ve always felt jealous of men for their beards.  I hated dresses and frilly things and she dreamed of being able to wear them.  Pretty much everything I hated about being female she coveted and everything she hated about being a guy were things that I had always secretly felt envious of.  One day she asked me to read some psychological website that listed symptoms of transgenderism.  I related to pretty much every thing on the list.  After, she asked me what I thought and I told her that it sounded a lot like me.  This is how I realized that I was Transgender.  At the time, I kind of shrugged it off and said that it didn’t change anything.

But I was in denial.  Everything had changed.  How I saw myself and my future changed.  How I looked at my past changed.  I started to question my sexuality and my relationship.  Was I ever really a Lesbian?  A period of intense introspection began where I read everything I could about being FTM and Butch.  I thought about trying to embrace being a Butch to satisfy my emerging masculinity in order to avoid transitioning and keep my relationship safe.  My friend said to me once that she thought living all those years as a Lesbian had actually kept me from realizing I was Trans sooner.  She was right.  What had actually happened was that identifying as a Lesbian only answered part of the question for me.  It identified who and what I was sexually attracted to.  Women.  I thought that was the end of the story but it was actually just the tip of the iceberg.  It didn’t answer a deeper question of why I always dreamed of being male and fantasized about a life as a man constantly.  It didn’t answer why I occasionally felt like me and my Lesbian friends were different somehow.  Why I couldn’t relate to them on some levels.  It didn’t answer why I was so against the idea of ever being a mother or why I was so disgusted when someone referred to me as my partner’s wife.

Back in those days I remember thinking that this was like an onion.  I would peel a layer away and digest it and then another layer and digest that.  I didn’t know how many layers I’d have to go through to get to the heart of the matter.  Really, the heart of the matter boiled down to one thing.  I had never in my whole life ever felt like I was really female.  From my earliest memory, I had wanted to be a boy.  If I could remember further back I’d probably be able to tell you that I actually thought I was a boy until someone told me otherwise.  Every instinct in my mind and body was to be a boy when I was a little kid.  It was the adults who stressed that I was a girl and should act and do differently that taught me that I wasn’t a boy.  They brainwashed me to go against my own natural instincts and thought processes.  So, as many trans people do, I made the best of it and did what I could to play along and keep the peace.  I made a lot of compromises.  Living as a Lesbian was a compromise, even though I didn’t think that at the time.  It was as close as I could get to where I needed to be in order to be happy.

So it should be pretty evident at this point that I was never a Lesbian and I was never a Butch.  I was born a Transgender Male.  I just didn’t know it until I was about 47 years old.  There’s no way I could have known about what I didn’t know existed.  Once I understood, though, everything made a whole lot more sense to me.  I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether I was a Butch or a Trans Man but, honestly, I think I was just in denial and trying to find a way around transitioning.  The bottom line is that Butch’s are women.  They are happy being women and being seen as women.  They are masculine women.  Their gender expression is masculine and sometimes very male appearing, but they are women and do not wish to change that.  Trans Men do not want to be seen as women and are not happy being forced to live as a woman.  This is the line in the sand as far as I’m concerned and for myself.  Lesbians are women and enjoy being women.  They might not love make up or dresses but they are still women and proud of it.  There are Butch women who elect to have Top Surgery to remove their breasts and some even take a little testosterone, but most do not want to transition fully to male.  They want to still live as women.  Masculine women.  Are some of them Transgender?  Possibly, but that is for them to decide.  I think there’s a fine line between Butch and FTM and the deciding factor is how you want the world to see you and how you see yourself.  Personally, I came to the conclusion that I was really male my entire life and that I’d been brainwashed into believing otherwise, so I was never really a Lesbian or a Butch.  I just got tired of hiding my masculine side as I got older and let it out more which made me appear Butch, even to myself.

This really is a complex issue and there is a lot of over-lap between the two identities at times.  What I wrote here is purely my opinion and reflects my own experiences.  I know that others will feel differently about this subject and that is their right.  I was asked how I came to the conclusion that I was Trans and not Butch and I have tried my best to answer that question as clearly and thoroughly as possible.  It is my hope that this helps someone figure out who they really are one day.

 

P.S. I want to say that I actually loved being a Lesbian in a lot of ways and it’s been really hard to let go of that identity.  It was hard to embrace it initially, but once I did, I found it to be a very enriching and enlightening experience.  I feel fortunate to have gotten to live those years as a Lesbian and get to know so many great women.  I was able to attend the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival twice in my younger days and still feel a deep appreciation for those experiences.  Lesbian culture is rich and diverse and delicious in so many ways and I truly miss it.  I often say that I was raised by Lesbians.  My own mother did a poor job of preparing me for “real” life and my circle of Lesbian friends from the 80s and 90s really taught me the skills I needed to survive and thrive in society.  They also gave me the space to be myself and never told me I had to be a certain way to be their friend.  They were my chosen family for a long time and I miss them.