Monday, May 30, 2011

A future that doesn't match the past

I break things for a living!  I take big problems, things too big to fix, too big to see, and break them into smaller and smaller pieces until you can see each unique piece.   To keep simplifying the problem until we can find the one critical piece.  Look at that one piece from a different angle and sometimes you'll find that changes everything.

So I'm still breaking apart the question from the last post.

   'What kind of woman do you want to be?'

The last post transformed the question into 'Who are your role models?'.  But after pondering the question some more I'm not sure the question has a purpose.  I'm breaking apart the question trying to find the piece that's confusing me. 

Let's face it, I'm 50 years old.  I grew up a boy in the 60's.  I came of age in the 80's.  I asked M to marry me and be her husband.  I was a dad to my two boys.  I grew a business into what is by being a member of the men's club. I did all of these things as a man.  My past is what it is, I can't go back and change it.  I'm never going to be a teenage girl. I'm never going to be asked to marry someone. I'm not ever going to be a mom.

With 50 years behind me as a man, is it even fair to ask what kind of woman I'm going to be.  Is that what I'm going to become?  A woman?  Now I'm not so sure about that.  It's the label 'woman'  I'm struggling with.

If I take the premise of the question and label myself a woman, what kind of impact would that have?  I'd me a mom to R and K.  I'd be M's wife.  I'd be my parents daughter.  M and I would be lesbians.  I'm not sure where my career would be but it wouldn't be where it is today.  R and K will never see me as their mom, I will always be their dad.  I raised them as their dad would.  M married me to be her husband, to be husband and wife. 

Mom, dad, wife, husband, lesbian, daughter, and woman.  They're labels we use to communicate a place in the world, and put context into situations and communications.  We use these labels to describe to others where we fit in the web of life.  How the subjects of our communications fit within the story.  With these labels we can describe 99% of the people in our lives and how they fit into our life.  With just one word I can describe to a complete stranger that M is the most important person in my life, 'Wife'.  With one word you understand our relationship, our past, our future, how we relate, who she is to me.

And, yet that's the problem.  Woman, with one word you know her past, her upbringing, her place in the world, her future.  You build a picture of her in your mind that for most part works to describe her.   But that's not going to be me.  That picture is not who I am, that's not my past or my place.  A woman with two boys is a mom, I'm not the boys mom.  A married woman is her husband's wife, I'm not M's wife.  From the one word woman, you build all the others.  Mom, wife, daughter, lesbian, they come from 'Woman'.  If you take away the label woman, then all the other labels fall away and serve no purpose.  If you simplify the one piece and look at it from a different view point it changes all of the other labels we use.

A man, that describes my past, my relationships, my upbringing, my place in this world right now.  But it's not my future.  It's not who I'm becoming.  Soon, if not now, you won't be able to describe me to a stranger as a 'man'.  The image of a man doesn't represent me as I am today, or as I will be. 

The harsh reality of this path, is that there are no labels.  As hard as it is to accept, I am neither a man or a woman, there is no one label that describes my place in the web of my life. 

M struggles with our place in the world now.  How to describe me, us, our relationship.  How to justify her staying.  What to call me, how to reference me to the outside world.  She struggles with all the labels.  But if you break it down into smaller and smaller pieces.  If you remove all the shortcuts the labels provide.  If you look at each piece individually, our marriage, our boys, our life together, our past, our future and if you remove all the labels, you will find the one critical piece that everything else is built from.

  I love her, and she loves me.

That's it, everything else stems from that.  You can build our entire world from that one piece.  Just because we don't have a label, a shortcut, to describe us doesn't change the root premise.  Our world has a past of a man and a woman, and a future as two woman.  Yes, that will be confusing to some.  One word labels won't describe me or us. 

The hard part of my job is not breaking things apart.  It's not looking at things differently or seeing the big picture.  It's the building of something bigger and better from the one critical piece. 

The hard part of this path will be building a future that doesn't match the past from the one critical piece...

  I love her, and she loves me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

'What kind of woman do you want to be?

200 Hours, that's about how much of my life I've spent on some therapist's couch. You don't keep these struggles for 40 years without spending a lot of time there. I've had some good ones and I've had some that were in way over their heads. In this latest round of therapy I was only looking for 'The Letter'.

In case you don't know there's a whole protocol for E. Before you can even see a Doctor for E, you've got to get 'The Letter'. 'The Letter', well you get one from your therapist and all it really says is you're mentally ready to change genders, you're not crazy, and you know the risks.

As I said, I've had some good therapists and some bad ones. Some have allowed me to see myself for who I am and come to terms with it all. Some have taught M and I how to live and thrive even with these struggles. And some just took our money...

Just as a side note, 'How'd that make you feel' If you hear that in therapy, just pack up your stuff and leave. That's Psych 101 and he's got no idea what you're going through. He had to say something and that's all he's got.

... So anyway, I spent most of last year in therapy just to get that letter, and I'm just killing time with her and trying to say all the right things to move on in the process. It's the typical back and forth and she's not telling me anything I don't already know. Most of the time it feels more like a Q and A session with an interviewer. The questions are asked and answered and we quickly move on. One question though stops me in my tracks. "What kind of woman do you want to be?"

Wow, never thought of that. Simple little question really, this is one of the few times in your life you get to start over and become a whole new person. The question lingers for a moment and I make up some answer to keep moving down the path.

But it gnaws at me. It lingers and grows inside me.  Now, more then a year later it resurfaces and bubbles out. This is one of those simple little questions with big, deep, and troubling answers.

After thinking about this for awhile I've decided to think of the question from a teenage girl's point of view. I mean really, the only ones who usually have to answer this question are teenage girls growing up to be young women. How do they decide? How do they mold themselves into the women they want to be? When I reframe the question like that it becomes obvious, role models. Their lives are filled with role models. They have their Mom to show them how to love unconditionally, how to raise a family, how to be a good wife and mother. Dad to show them what to expect out of a marriage, what kind of love to demand from there future husbands.

But just as important are their friends and everyone surrounding them. They see their peers who they want to be like, or not like. They see other girls just a little older and a little further down the path and they think to themselves they could be that girl. Your whole life is guided by those just in front of you on the path you've chosen. How to dress, how to behave, what to ask, when to move on. Everyone around you influences who you become. You imitate ones you like, and avoid things you don't. Each interaction with those near you influences the steps you take next.

But, and here's the catch, the most important roles models are the ones most like you. Those closest to you on the path you're on. The ones you look at and think to yourself I could do that, I could be her. With just a little bit of work, effort, thought, I could take a little piece of her and make it mine, become that woman.

And here's the problem for me. 'What kind of woman do you want to be?' . Turns out it's a trick question, a question which only hides more questions. What it's really asking is 'Who are your role models?'

There, that's why this question bothers me so much. It's not that I don't know who I want to be, it's because I'm alone on this path. There are no role models. There's no one around me where I can look at them and think to myself, I could be her. There's no one showing me what's possible, there's no one close whose walking a few steps ahead of me on this path. How am I supposed to evolve without some guidance as to how to move forward.

Just like the atom, I split the question and out pops 'Who are your role models?'.

Some times I look around this path and wonder is this even a path? Has anyone ever walked this way before? How about a little light, a few footsteps, but that's not to be I'm afraid.

Monday, May 9, 2011

100 MPH

It's going fast, a lot faster then I had thought it would.  I thought I'd transition slowly from male to female.  Take my time and give everyone a chance to recover from the shock. Just a few months ago that's how I thought it'd work out.  I was wrong, very wrong.  This path is not a slow steady climb to the top of a mountain.  It's a jump out of a plane.  You're either in the plane, or you're falling out of it fast.  There is no in between. 

You're either a female or you're a male.  There is nothing in between.  I misjudged this.  Not only did I misjudge the speed of the transition, I misjudged how people would react to the news.  I'm finding that once they know the truth they try hard.  Everyone tries hard to help, to get to know the real me.  They try hard to become comfortable.  They try hard to make me comfortable. 

I'm sure it's all new to them.  I know each and every one of them are confused in some way, in every way, about this path.  For as long as I've been on it, I'm confused, I'm lost.  How can it be easier for them?  How could they possibly know the right thing to do, the right thing to say?  How could they know what to do and when to do it?  To fight the urge to say Rick, him, and his.  To not do a double take when Dana walks in and not Rick. Or worse, to have Dana walk in around their coworkers, friends and family.

And yet, I'm confused too.  How do I make them comfortable?  How can I possibly tell them how much their love and compassion means to me?  I'm at once extremely grateful for all they are trying to give me and yet embarrassed that I'm putting them through this.

I'm confused as to how to ease their concerns. How could I possibly ever repay any of them for the effort they give me.  I doubt any of them will every ask anything of me even approaching the magnitude of all this.

Before I started I thought the way around this was to walk slowly.  To ease my friends into this slowly, to give them time to come to terms with all of it.  Yet, that's not how it works.  They don't want to see me slowly transition, it's a binary to them.  Male or Female, pick one, but only one and exactly one. 

People only see one gender, you must be a female or a male, and you can only be one.  I started this post by commenting on how fast everything was going.  Just a few weeks ago Dana's world was limited to K and M and a few good friends.  Dana was alive for a week or two a month.  To be Dana was thrilling, a novelity, a glimpse of the future.  Now she's here.  I'm 'she' and people refer to me as her, and I stand back amazed, smiling like a kid wearing his first dress.  The glimpse of the future is replaced by the reality of now.  Rick yearned for Dana, strived to be Dana, practiced being Dana for years.  Dana has no such desire, she's happy with Dana, and happy to put Rick behind her.

Now Rick is here for only a few days a month.  Soon, he'll be gone.  I can't even begin to put into words how this could be.  How can the one you've been for 50 years be gone?  How can he just stop being?  How is he just replaced by Dana, so easily and quickly  M is still grieving for Rick.  I know this.  I know her pain of having Rick gone is far worse then the joy of having Dana.  I only hope that she grows to love Dana as she has loved Rick all of these years.  Rick was a good husband, a good lover and a good friend, but he was fatally flawed.  He was perpetually tortured, never sure of who to be. 

I hope I can be all that Rick was and be just one, Dana.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Well this is strange

I'm in a strange place, I've been on the other side of that door my whole life, but I've never seen it from this side.  Quite odd, the rules here are all new and different.  Here I sit in a strange place struggling to understand all these new customs and ways, and not be pegged as a strange foreigner in a foreign land. 

Some of the customs here are just strange; smile and say hi, wow how very odd, never in my 40 some years was that done before.  Some rules apply just to me; don't be nervous people can spot nervous a mile away and that just raises alarms.  The sights here are all familiar, and yet totally different.  It's like someone changed just enough of the details to throw me off and make me pause.  Things are cleaner, lined up better, there's no strange smell, some pieces are missing and some things I've never send before, the people here are friendly and on their best behavior.

Some of the new rules just make sense, always sit NEVER stand.  The locals here don't have to think about all these rules.  They've been here their entire lives.  Me, it's just all so new.
I travel a lot and I go to extreme lengths not to be here, but I'm stranded in O'Hare and I've drunken to much of the free wine at the admirals club and now I've just got to pee. 

Yup, my first time in the woman's room.  To say it's odd is an understatement.  When I travel I go to extreme lengths to avoid this very situation.  At my home airport I know where every family restroom in the entire airport is, a lifesaver for all TGs.  I set an alarm on my phone to go off just before landing which reminds me to take advantage of the safety of the plane's restroom before I land.  But I'm stuck in O'Hare, been here a full day waiting for the weather in the deep south to clear up so I can head off on the second leg of my journey. And yeah, I've got to pee.  There's no alternative to the Woman's room, I'm never going to get away with the Men's room.  Yeah, that'd be bad, the hair's too long, the heels are too high and the blouse to colorful.  Nope that option is gone. That only leaves the Woman's room. 

You'd think it'd be easy.  In, out and you're done with no one the wiser.  But I'm sitting here like a kid in front of the shoe store waiting for all the customers to leave so he can go in and buy his first pair of heels.  But just like then, it's never empty and I'm just going to have to do it.  I really should have no problems here, I've been full-time for days now without a single sir, Rick, or even a double take.  The waitress says ma'am, the men hold the doors open for me, you'd think I could just walk in.  But 40 years of programming says to stay out, no trespassing, no men allowed. 

But, I'm not a man anymore, I've left that behind.  Those rules don't apply to me anymore. And here's the rub, I'm not a woman either.  I don't know the new rules, the new customs, the ways and means of being a woman.  Every thing here is new and strange. 

So what happened? Well I bite my lip, go in the woman's room, sit down and pee, head to the mirror and fix my makeup.  A nice woman smiles and says hi and I'm on my way.  That's it, no drama, no issues, all very much normal.  Like I've done a thousand times before, but completely different. 

So here I stand in a strange place.  It all looks so familiar but yet it's completely different.  I'm lost and when I ask for directions no one knows what I'm asking for.  They understand the language I'm speaking but the questions just don't make sense to them.  I try to explain all the new sights and sounds of this place but they just stare at me with strange looks and say that's how it's always been here. 

For them it has always been, for me it's where I've always wanted to be.