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.

 

 

The Deeper Side of Transition

When I started to transition from a butch lesbian to something on the male side of the spectrum I knew I needed to take things slowly.  I needed time to wrap my mind around exactly what I was doing and where I wanted to go with hormones, surgeries, name changes and the like.  I knew I needed time to wrap my mind around the idea of not being a lesbian anymore.  Of not being a sister and a daughter anymore.  Of being seen as male.  A white, heterosexual male.  I knew that the social side of transitioning was going to be the hardest part for me to navigate.  I wasn’t really sure I could handle it, or if my relationships could handle it.  In general, it’s been easier than I ever imagined.  But it’s also been tougher than I ever imagined too.  The person who’s given me the hardest time about everything is myself.  I get in my own way.  I’m not comfortable talking about my personal life to even my dearest friends.  I still feel like I’m walking around naked a lot of the time and everyone can see all of my flaws, scars and short-comings.  I still struggle with coming out to people, especially face-to-face, or even telling someone I changed my name.

I’ve been fortunate though.  The hormones have changed my looks gradually, lowered my voice to a definite male timbre, and top surgery seemed to seal the deal of helping me look like the man I’ve always felt like inside.  Before top surgery, I probably was perceived as male about 70% of the time and could still use a women’s washroom without too much fear.  I had started to work towards using the men’s but still didn’t feel like I could go in there safely 100% of the time.  Post top surgery, something magical happened and I was suddenly thrust over into the male side of the spectrum and it became clear to me very quickly that I was now seen primarily (98%) as male to the general public.  Generally, I’m happy with this turn of events, but it happened so suddenly that I wasn’t quite prepared for all of the repercussions this would foist on me and my family.  Now I am Candace’s husband, even though we’re not married, and I am my brother’s brother, and Candace’s mom’s son-in-law.  I don’t know if I could manage to pull off a non-binary transition now if I wanted to.  Luckily, I don’t want that but it’s still a little uncomfortable and strange for people to refer to me as someone’s brother or husband.  There’s a part of me that feels like I should be ok with this and it should feel natural.  Sometimes it does feel natural, but mostly it feels strange.  I’ve gotten totally comfortable with being referred to as sir and he/him by strangers but the titles still throw me.  I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it and will take time.  My brother also has to get used to this, and thankfully, has been very gracious about it so far.  He stumbles sometimes, but so do I.  I still avoid telling people I’m his brother by saying that he is MY brother and leaving my gender up to them to decide.

Basically, though, I’m really enjoying being a guy in public.  I went shopping at a jewelry store yesterday and it was really cool that everyone assumed I was shopping for my wife.  When I made my purchase, another man and I had a fun interchange about being good husbands.  Living the role of man, husband and brother in the real world is feeling like it fits much better than woman, wife, and sister ever did.  I feel freer in a lot of ways.  Socially, with the exception of a few people, I’m out to everyone.  It’s still awkward at times and we all have some adjustments to make, but I would consider this transition a success at this point.

Transitioning is funny though because we can’t always count on how the hormones or a surgery will effect how we’re perceived.  Just like a teenager, we can have a sudden growth spurt or physical change.  You could wake up one day and realize that you’re losing your hair at a much faster pace than expected.  Or your beard could suddenly sprout like a lumber jack.  If we’re not prepared socially for these changes it can really play havoc with our progress and mental space.  Whenever we inject a hormone we have to be prepared for whatever side effect it gives us and often, we think we are prepared until it does something unexpected.  In this case, the physical transition moves faster than our mental and social transition and causes a lot of problems.  Sometimes it’s more than we can handle at the moment and we have to make the heart breaking decision to stop our transition, temporarily or permanently.  I can’t say that I started hormones willing to take all of the possible side effects no matter what.  As time has progressed though, I’ve become willing to take them all no matter what.  I don’t relish the idea of becoming a bald guy, but I accept that it could happen.  I’ve seen my hairline recede quite a bit in the past couple of years and I know that my hair is thinner than it used to be up top.  Baldness is creeping up on me and I know it.  I don’t expect to go completely bald, but I do expect to lose quite a bit of hair.

Another, deeper, side to transitioning is erasure of our pasts.  Now that I look male, people make a lot of assumptions about my past that just aren’t true.  I did not have all of the opportunities handed to me that I would have if I’d been born with male genitalia.  I was not raised as a boy.  I never was a Boy Scout.  I never played Little League or any male sport growing up.  I grew up queer, a Tom Boy, a lesbian and I had to fight and prove myself every inch of the way to get where I am today.  I played girl’s softball and was a Girl Scout growing up.  All of that is forgotten now and definitely does not seem to fit with my current persona.  This can be very disturbing and upsetting if we’re not prepared for it.  Personally, I don’t care that much and I never really liked being a “female role model” anyway, so it’s sort of a relief.  I know my history and that’s what matters to me.  No one ever handed me anything and I’ve had to work my butt off to get what I have and I don’t care who knows that about me.  Others, though, could find this to be very upsetting and it’s something to keep in mind.

Balancing the emotional and physical sides of the transition process is tricky and not for the faint of heart.  There are a lot of days where I still wonder if I can handle all of this and even whether I want to.  There are days when I wonder if I made the right decisions along the way.  But then I think about the option of going back to living as a butch lesbian and I know that I could never do that again.  So, it’s onward I go as there is no turning back for me at this point in time.  What the future brings is anybody’s guess, but I know I will handle it to the best of my ability.

Double Agent

To most unsuspecting strangers I am just any other middle aged white man.  Candace and I are just any other middle class straight white couple.  Since the election concluded I have been painfully aware of the implications, both positive and negative, of our outer facade.  I’ve mentioned to Candace several times about my fears of hate filled bigots hurting us because I’m trans and she just laughs at me because she sees me as “safe”.  I don’t feel safe.  But what if they find out I’m trans, I ask?  You’re a man now.  They won’t care, she answers.  You’re like them.

NO!  I’m not like them!

I’m not straight.  Candace isn’t straight.  I’m a transgender man with a lesbian history.  I am part of the LGBTQ+++ community.  I don’t want to be grouped in with all the other middle aged white guys out there, many of whom may have voted opposite of me.

I think about changing my gender markers before it’s illegal to do so in order to protect myself and to further insulate myself from prejudice.

I think about Candace and I getting married legally now while we still have a chance as a same sex couple.  Just because we probably won’t be able to in the future.  I feel confident that after my gender is changed legally, said marriage would continue to be safe.

I tell Candace my thoughts and she says, “but what about Beth and Jane’s marriage?  It isn’t going to be protected.”  Ugg.  She’s right.  How can we get married knowing that we’ll probably be safe when our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters won’t be so lucky.

Then I think, maybe I should just keep my gender female on my papers and we should just be out and proud as lesbian/queer/trans people.  I don’t see Candace doing that.  I don’t really see myself doing that.

I’ve even thought about detransitioning, as if that is even an option for me at this point.  I can’t go backwards.  No way I could do it.

I think about going stealth as much as possible.  This is very hard to do in this information age we live in, let alone the small community we live in.

Then I realize I’m being self centered and selfish.  I probably am pretty safe.  I’m mostly invisible to most people.  Just a middle aged white guy.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

So that leads me to wondering how I can make it clear that I’m not just any old white guy?  I’m not really interested in putting bumper stickers on my car or pinning safety pins to my clothes.  I wonder a lot how other progressive white guys feel about all of this.  Do they wrestle with how the world perceives them?  I doubt it.  I think a lot of them get angry that women don’t trust them or see them as a possible threat when they know they aren’t.  Sorry guys, your anger is misdirected.  Get angry at the other white guys who have made women fear and mistrust you for good reason.

Which leads to my only conclusion.  I have to lead by example and speak out against discrimination of any kind.  I can’t wear a sign on my back that says, “I’m not a bigot or a rapist and I love my LGBTQ sisters and brothers.”  I’ve thought about getting a shirt made that says, “I’m not like other white guys.”  I have to admit that it really makes me sad that when I meet a lesbian these days they look at me like I’m the enemy.  I want to say to them, “Hey, I used to be a lesbian too.  I’m not like the other ones.”   But I can’t.  Instead, I let them carry the heavy package for me and show me how strong they are because I know they’re proud of that and then I sincerely thank them for the help.

At the moment I’m still angry about the election and pretty scared about what will be coming in the next four years in this country.  I feel pulled between wanting to protect myself and my family and fighting for what is right and putting myself on the line.  I don’t want to be a casualty of this war, but I don’t want to sit idly by and do nothing either.  I intend to fight, but I also want to protect myself and my loved ones and I don’t want anything I do to endanger them.  I have a pretty healthy dose of paranoia running through my veins at the moment too and wonder if just writing this blog post could come back to haunt me even though I keep it pretty anonymous.  I’m not naive enough to think they couldn’t find out who I am if they wanted to.

I’m really wrestling with whether to change my gender markers and whether this will help or hinder me and our cause in the coming years.  Overall, I think it’s necessary.  It was on my agenda already as part of this year’s goals.  I suppose I shouldn’t let the election interfere with that.  I’m still trans even if my markers are changed.  I’m not safe and I certainly don’t feel safe.  I can only imagine what other people who aren’t as safe as I am are feeling right now.  I want to wrap them all in a blanket of white protective light and insulate them from the harsh realities that lurk outside.  In the meantime, I will continue living my double agent life as an enemy in the enemy camp and keep my eyes and ears open.  Be safe out there!  Stay strong!

Heading into the Storm

storm

I didn’t stay up all night watching the election results.  Around 11pm I pretty much knew Trump would win and decided to head to bed feeling defeated and angry.  Apparently, Mother Nature was also feeling pretty nasty this morning because I awoke to a cloudy, stormy day.  How appropriate, I thought, as I made my morning coffee.  All day I’ve been trying to make sense of what has transpired in my country and in this election.  It’s obvious to me that people here were willing to over look a lot of personal flaws and deplorable misconduct in order to get the change that they seem so desperate to see in their government.  I was not one of those people.  Yes, I want change.  Positive change.  I didn’t truly think that Clinton would give us the change we need, but I also didn’t think she would set us back 50 years in our cultural evolution either.  I felt confident that she would not lead us down a road of mass destruction like I feel Trump is itching to do.

But, the people have spoken and like it or not, no matter how distasteful and disgusting, he will be our next president.  Now it’s time to figure out what’s next and how to handle the new regime that will be taking over the White House in just a few months.  I look at the actual numbers of the results so far and I see hope there.  Clinton actually won the majority vote.  In my simple mind that should be enough, but it isn’t.  But that means to me that more than half of our population is not aligned with Trump and his agenda.  On top of that, I personally know many people who voted for Trump who are not misogynist, racist, homophobic, xenophobes either, so I would estimate that at least half of the Trump votes came from sensible people who are just so achingly hungry for change that they saw no alternative but to vote for him.  This gives me hope.  The majority of the population of my country do not hate me and what I believe in.  We do disagree about many things, but that doesn’t make us enemies.

I do agree with the Trump people on one thing.  This country needs profound political change.  I would have preferred to see the kind of changes that Bernie Sanders was pushing for (still is pushing for, by the way).  Things are definitely going to change.  How is yet to be seen.  This defeat does not leave me feeling defeated though.  It emboldens me to be stronger and braver and to speak my mind more about the things that are important to me.  It emboldens me to live my life fully out there with no apologies.  It emboldens me to stand up for my rights and those of others and not let the bullies win again and again.  I hope others will join me and not let this election sink our ship in this storm we’re heading into.  Now is the time to come together for what we believe and make our voice heard and start our own revolution of sorts.  More than half of the country voted against Trump.  MORE THAN HALF!!!!!  Let that sink in for a moment.  We are NOT in the minority here.  We have strength in solidarity and shared purpose.  Do NOT let hate and fear win.  Fight on!  This war is just beginning.

Exhausted

Lately I feel so exhausted from dealing with my life.  I live very close to where I grew up and went to college so there are a lot of people around here that have known me a long time.  In some cases, they’ve known me most of my life.  Most of these people I do not consider friends, but acquaintances from the past.  Yet, I find myself hiding from these people and constantly worried that I’m going to bump into someone that I used to know every day.  Last month, two women I went to high school with decided to have lunch at the restaurant that is two doors down from where I work and they called my shop and asked to speak to me.  I told my employee to take a message.  The message was that they were two doors down and would like to see me.  Great, I thought, just what I wanted to do, go have lunch with two people I used to know 35 years ago who were never really good friends to begin with.  I hid in my office and didn’t go.  My mind went to thoughts that they just wanted to lurk and poke at the trans “friend” from high school to fulfill their own curiosity about me and my transition.  I couldn’t deal with that and the questions they might ask.  One of the women is very direct and I was pretty sure she would try to dig into what I consider private space in my head and I just didn’t feel like being probed.  I know they’re hurt and disappointed but seriously, I was at WORK people!!  If you want to have lunch with me why can’t you try to arrange that ahead of time and not surprise me at my place of business and sort of ambush me into eating pizza with you to satisfy your own curiosity.  No thanks.  This all happened while my brother was in the hospital and that particular day I was only there for a short while before I had to head to the city to go see him and I had a lot to do.  I should have called them and told them I couldn’t take the time to meet but I know those two and they would have pushed me to take 5 minutes (which would have turned into an hour) with them and I just couldn’t do it.  This stuff happens to me quite a bit.  I never know when one of my employees is going to show up in my office and tell me that so and so from high school or college is in the store and wants to see me.  Immediately my blood pressure sky rockets and my palms get sweaty.  I have to steel myself to walk out there and greet them with a smile and act nonchalant about their unplanned and unwelcome visit.  I guess they figure it’s ok to just pop into someone’s work place to say hi.  Personally, I’d call first and make sure it’s ok to pop in because I don’t like being surprised like that.  Anyway, I know people don’t mean any harm but it unnerves me and annoys me and makes work more stressful than it has to be.

My mind tries to work out a solution to this problem.  Every day I fantasize about moving to some place where people don’t know me and starting a new life with a fresh start.  It’s such a strong desire in me lately that it’s actually causing some depression.  I feel like my new self as Shawn is always butting up against Dawn’s past and it’s kind of pissing Shawn off.  It happens all of the time.  I went to the dentist the other day.  They have my new name but the last time I was there I didn’t pass as well as I do now so I was nervous about how they would treat me.  It was fine but the hygienist started out using female pronouns and ended up using male for me at the end.  Why did she switch?  I never said anything about the pronouns either way.  Which leads me to the other question bouncing around in my head these days.  When and how do you decide to disclose that your gender has changed?  Legally, I still have that F on all my records.  I keep dragging my feet about changing it.  It’s the last little step I need to take.

I can’t move though for too many reasons, at least not now.  Maybe in the future we can relocate but it’s just not possible at the moment.  So I think about how I can give Shawn a fresh start without physically moving to a new place.  I could get all new doctors.  I can’t use a different daycare place for my dog though.  I guess those people, since I see them every day, really do need to be told what’s going on with me.  The other day Candace told me that they use she and he pronouns for me and don’t know which one is right anymore.  Did she help me out and tell them for me?  Nope.  So I’ll have to do that.  I could move my business I guess.  I have thought about it many times.  I’ve thought about separating the two major aspects of the business and moving the part I take care of on my own to an undisclosed private location that only my employees know about so that these so-called friends can’t just pop in on me.  The thought of doing all of that is exhausting.  The thought of continuing to go to work and worry about impromptu visitors is exhausting.  The thought of having to disclose to the doggie daycare workers that I’ve transitioned is exhausting.  I don’t want to deal with any of it.  If I were single and unencumbered I would just move and start fresh.  That’s what I want to do and what feels the most refreshing to my spirit.  But I can’t.  I have too many obligations here and Candace can’t so easily just up and move her business.  I’ve even thought about moving to a new area and keeping my business here but coming back once a week to get and return work and take care of any situations that I need to be here to handle.

Like it or not, I guess the bottom line is that I have to buck up and deal with my life.  I can’t run away from it even though every fiber of my being wants me to.  I chose to transition here and now in this place and time and I have to learn to be proud of my transition instead of ashamed or timid about it.  I need to get my gender changed on my IDs and push people, including Candace, to use the proper pronouns for me.  When people refer to me as she it hurts me now in more ways than one.  Yes, it grates on my nerves and frustrates me but it also confuses other people and outs me as trans.  A side note about when strangers realize I’m trans is that they no longer see me as male and revert to female pronouns and honorifics.  Come on people!!!  Do I really look like a ma’am and do I look like I want to be called ma’am?  NO!  I have to try to get that to stop.  In the mean time, I really wish I could just take a really long nap because just thinking about doing all of that has already exhausted me.  All this really does make it clear to me why so many people live stealth and are so concerned with “passing”.  It’s a huge pain in the arse to constantly have to worry about being outed or explain your transition to strangers and acquaintances. It just adds another draining layer on top of a life that is already challenging enough and who needs that?  No one.

Role Models

The question of what male role models we looked up to growing up and now as we’re transitioning showed up on one of my message boards recently and it really got me thinking.  Currently, I don’t think I really have any role models of any gender.  I look around my life and it’s not that I don’t admire certain traits of some people I know, but I can’t point to any one person and say, “I want to be like them.”  But if I think back to childhood and my teenage years I definitely had some role models.  In fact, what I find disturbing about this whole question for myself is that I didn’t just look up to some of those people, I got obsessed with them and tried to be like them as much as possible.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I was going through a complete identity crisis and had no idea who I was or I was disassociating from who I was by trying to be someone else.  I often confused some of these obsessions with crushes and thought that my fascination with them was sexual in nature when it wasn’t at all.  When given the opportunity to have sex with one of my “crushes” I quickly said no thank you.  He was confused why I would not want to have sex since he knew I had crushed on him for several years.  I was confused too.

But the thing I know now is that I didn’t want to be with them sexually.  I wanted to BE them.  Or at least be LIKE them.  I wanted to look like them and act like them and have other people treat me like they were treated.  Most of my crushes were on male pop stars of my youth.  I’m ashamed to name them because it would show everyone what a sap I was back then.  But, I’ll be brave and name a few here.  First there was Joe Namath of the New York Jets.  Sonny of Sonny and Cher.  The Captain from Captain and Tennille.  Shaun Cassidy.  David Cassidy.  My trumpet teacher from college.  The tuba teacher in college (different college).  A couple boys who played trumpet in music groups I was involved with.  All of these guys/men made an impact on me in some way.  When I was obsessing about them I would become them and in my fantasy world I WAS them.  I can look at some of my school pictures and tell you what celebrity or real life person I was obsessing about at that time.  Ninth grade picture, I’m in a navy blue turtle neck.  If I had been able to wear a captain’s cap and round sun glasses I would have.  Tenth grade I had grown out my hair and was trying to pull off the David Cassidy look.  Eleventh I was channeling one of the boys in the band and then, as some of you may remember, in 12th grade I had turned into a man with a mustache.  Haha, kidding, but my senior picture got replaced with a picture of a dude in the yearbook.  Senior pictures for girls at my school entailed stripping down to your bra and trying to keep this velvet drape thingy over your shoulders to look like you were wearing an evening gown.  Somehow I pulled it off and it wasn’t too bad.  Then in freshman year of college I was crushing on the tuba teacher who wore Frye boots and suddenly I wanted Frye boots really badly.  Sophomore year I was doing my hair like my trumpet teacher wore his and dressing like him.

Where was I in all of this?  Hiding, I guess.

There was a war going on inside me that I wasn’t even aware of.  My fantasy world was rich with all these characters I was playing in my head.  Male role models?  Umm…my uncles?  My dad that I didn’t even know?  I don’t know.  Before, when I thought I was female I would tell you that Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart were my role models.  Well, I looked up to them at least and I still do.  I could do a lot worse than to have them as my role models.  There are men I admire, of course, at least in some regards.  Hemingway, Teddy Roosevelt, Gene Kelly, John F. Kennedy.  In real life, I had a couple neighbors who were Navy men and I admire both of them very much.  One of them passed away a while back and his funeral moved me in a way that funerals never have before or since.  I’ve never seen so many grown men kneel down by a casket in Arlington cemetery (or any cemetery) and weep the way his friends did at the end of his funeral.  It chokes me up to recall it in my memory.  The Eulogy his best friend gave before the burial is something that Candace and I still talk about to this day.  It was moving beyond anything you’ve ever seen in a movie or on TV.  I left his funeral feeling like a changed person.  The other neighbor battled cancer at a very young age and it nearly killed him.  Somehow he has survived and thrived through it.  I saw family and friends from all over, including myself, come to his and his family’s aid during this trying time.  To make things worse, his wife had just given birth to twins when he got his diagnosis.  I’m happy to report that they are all doing great now and the twins are in 7th grade.  What’s extraordinary about him is not just the amount of respect and love that was poured on him and his family at that time, but also the strength and determination he showed to be here for his family today.  It was a bad time, but he always kept a light spirit and gratitude for the generosity he was receiving from others.  He’s a very humble man, yet he’s a Navy commander and is deeply respected by his peers and friends alike.  I respect both of these men tremendously.  If I have to pick male role models it would be both of them.  They are the kind of man I want to be.  And I don’t want to BE them.  Professionally, I look to several people who shaped me as a young musician and the joy and love of music that they infectiously shared with me.  They’re my role models too.

I can’t point to one single person as my “role model”.  Instead, I take the best of these people and try to integrate their morality, ethics, work ethic, value systems into my own and use that to upgrade what I already have.  People we’re attracted to are like mirrors of ourselves.  What we admire in them is already within us.  They’re simply here to show us how we could be better than we currently are.  No one person is perfect.  I admire Teddy Roosevelt for his determination, curious nature, and spirit with which he lived his life.  Benjamin Franklin is another man I admire for all of the amazing things he was able to accomplish in his lifetime.  A wiser man I couldn’t ever hope to find.  Hemingway I think of as a man’s man and ultra masculine in an old fashioned sense.  Many don’t like him for the same reasons I find him interesting.  That’s ok.  JFK, well, his handsome, youthful idealism is still intriguing to much of the population.  We all hunger for a leader like JFK again.  I’m nothing like him, but I still admire him and once upon a time I was a little bit like him.  Maybe.  Maybe in my fantasies at least.

Today, it’s scary to pick a role model or “hero” to follow.  We live in such a transparent world that someone can be a hero one day and a chump (or convict) the next.  Anybody here used to look up to OJ Simpson or Tiger Woods?  Nope, me neither.  But a lot of people did.  I used to really like Pete Rose.  Now he’s a chump.  Even a lot of my real life “heroes” have fallen off their white horse after I got to know them better.  Bill Cosby used to make me laugh and I thought he was a great guy.  Wrong!  I guess it’s best just to take the best parts of people and work with that and don’t look for one person to fill the shoes of hero in your life.  Be your own hero.  And remember that even heroes have flaws so don’t get too hard on yourself for not measuring up to your fantasy of someone else.

Brother Follow Up and Other Randoms

I finally was able to bring my brother home this past Saturday evening.  They had kept him about a week past when we thought he’d go home to observe some other, new issues he was having.  I had to put my big boy panties on and get pretty butch with them because they wanted to hold him over the weekend once again to get a sonogram on Monday, which had already been put off since Friday.  We agreed he could go home and get the sonogram done at his home hospital.  While they were “observing” him I had stayed away to try and catch up on my own life and get some work caught up.  When I arrived on Saturday I was surprised to see on his chart that they had me listed as his brother.  Feeling emboldened by my desire to get him out of there I embraced the idea of being his brother and introduced myself to his nurse that way.  I was in total male mode while I talked to her calmly yet sternly about the situation and somehow it worked.  I would not have suggested they let him go if I thought for a second that it wasn’t in his best interest.  He had sat around that place for an entire week while they ran blood tests and checked his vitals.  Enough was enough.

Since then, the hospital has called me a couple of times looking for him and I have told them I’m his brother and redirected them to his phone line.  I was definitely feeling pretty proud of myself for taking good care of him and helping to spring him from the hospital like any good brother (or sister) would do.  Pat on the back.  I want to use the word sibling, and maybe I will in the future, but somehow I never can think to say it in the heat of the moment.  I get flustered and mumble brother or sister or he’s my brother.  I need to get a grip on this because this problem is not going to go away on its own.

On another note, I’ve been having some in depth email discussions with an old work friend who I’m still in contact with.  She’s totally cool with me being trans but also curious and asks questions, which I am happy to answer to the best of my ability and based on my experiences.  I talked to her about how it’s really surreal to be seen as male all of a sudden.  It seems like top surgery really bumped me over into the male category in a very sudden way.  It’s kind of freaky and cool at the same time.  It’s taking my brain a little time to catch up with all of it though. I’m totally loving being called Mr. LastName and sir out in public.  There have been a couple younger guys (early 20s?) who have helped me in stores who seem to want to chat with me a little bit about random stuff or comment on my ball cap and that’s pretty cool.  My friend asked me how it felt to be part of a different sect of society now and I honestly don’t feel like I ever was part of any sect before, except maybe the lesbian community for a while and I assured her that I have not been welcomed into the men’s club yet.  Though I have noticed, instead of the lesbian nod that I’m used to, there seems to be a man nod that I get now and then.  Random men will nod at me and sometimes say hey as we’re passing in a store or a parking lot.  Maybe that’s part of the men’s club thing, if there is such a thing.  But, how does it feel to be seen as a man now?  Strange.  Disconcerting.  And yet, also comforting and relaxed at the same time.  Surprisingly, I used to worry that I looked feminine enough and that I might get dirty looks from women for being too masculine, even before starting to transition.  Every sir I got back in those days was a confirmation that I was not pulling off looking and acting like a woman good enough.  Now, I just go through my day being myself and don’t have to worry about passing as female anymore.  I can relax and just accept that people will see me as any other middle aged guy and pay me no mind at all.

I stopped in a grocery store this morning to pick up something I shouldn’t be eating (donuts) and on my way out two elderly ladies were coming in together.  I paused a few seconds to let them through the doors before I proceeded out.  It seemed like the gentlemanly thing to do.  One of the ladies looked at me and smiled and wished me a good morning.  It’s a little thing on both of our parts, but I could tell that she saw a respectful man when she looked at me and that made me feel proud of who I’m becoming.

I used to talk a lot about transition being also a transformation and I certainly still believe that to be true, especially for myself.  I see this as an opportunity to finally be the person I’ve always known I was, not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.  It’s a rare and precious gift to be given this chance at bettering myself and becoming whole in mind, body and spirit.  My mind has some catching up to do with my body and spirit but eventually it will get there.  There have been moments when I’ve felt like I’m splitting apart mentally and that I don’t know who I am anymore.  This has been known to scare the crap right out of me.  But, I think it’s part of the process of breaking out of the old programming and creating a new pattern for myself.  I ask myself sometimes, “who is Shawn and how is he different than Dawn?”  It’s a complicated and paradoxical question to ask oneself.  Technically we are the same person, owning the same soul and spirit, personality, body, history, possessions, talents, skills, knowledge, etc.  The differences are subtle.  Shawn isn’t necessarily a better person than Dawn.  Dawn was a pretty awesome person in her own right and set up a fantastic future for Shawn to traverse.  The difference lies mostly in the fact that Shawn is sure of himself in a way that Dawn was never able to be.  Shawn knows that people really see him.  Dawn was always afraid that people WOULD see her.  Shawn knows who he is.  Dawn was always searching for answers to questions she had never asked herself before.  Yet, Shawn has big shoes to fill in a lot of ways.  He can’t rest on Dawn’s accomplishments and just coast through the rest of this life.  He needs to make his own mark and accomplish his own goals.  This is where it starts to get really fun and interesting to see what he comes up with next.