Read this. Read this now. I’ll wait.
To borrow a line from Helen Boyd’s essay: I am and always was Jolie Laide;* it just took some effort to make that visible. Need to refer to me “before”? Use Jolie Laide 1.0.
Yes, I sometimes refer to my pre-transition male persona by the name I was assigned at birth, when I need to talk about that aspect of me. He was very real part of me, but not the real me. The best analogy is how Method actors create a character that may be very different than their off-stage self, but it’s drawn still drawn from aspects of their own personality.** Just as my stage persona that’s a larger than life version of my muggle self.
(FYI, “Dead naming” is referring to someone by the name they used prior to transitioning, usually the name they were assigned at birth.)
* Yes, Jolie Laide, is a nom de plume. It allows me to be freer about talking about intimate things here, and with bigots doxxing trans people, I prefer to keep a bit of separation between here and my offline self.
** And yeah, I also find it a bit weird to talk about myself in the third-person, but it’s a convenient shorthand.
Today’s celebration of my transition was moving and much needed. Being sidelined with the pinched nerve for the first half of the year meant I never got a chance to mark the change at the time.
Thanks to all the amazing women who attended, and all the even more amazing women who helped make it happen.
Got another reminder from Facebook’s “On This Day” about a major milestone last year.
At the time I couldn’t say anything publicly, but I’d just gotten out of a meeting with my immediate managers to tell them that I was transitioning. (Part of the early notification was that it was going to take about 3 months to find a suitable contractor to fill in when I was out post-surgery.)
I was still extremely nervous about the reaction my co-workers would have when I came out in December — nervousness that proved to be utterly unwarranted — but knowing management was wholeheartedly behind my transition was a relief. I’m extremely lucky, too often that’s not the case
And, damn, I have gone through a lot during the past year.
Helen Boyd put it well: “It’s hard to see sometimes because trans people seem to be made of steel. They amaze me regularly with their ability to hide their fear and their worries.”
We don’t have a choice, especially these days. It’s not about “being brave” — as cisgender people are so wont to say about us — it’s about survival. We armor up just to make it through the day. But underneath… a wise friend of mine said that in the face of what society throws at us, every trans person has at least low-level PTSD. But we can’t show it, sometimes not even to ourselves, lest it overwhelm and crush us. Trans kids who don’t have supportive families have a 41 percent risk of suicide. 41 percent. Those who don’t have enough armor don’t survive.
There was essay recently that made the point: don’t forget to check on your strong friend. Because sometimes they want, rather they need a chance to not to be the one who’s strong.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends! Like, I would give my life to protect them. But some days, I don’t want to be the strong friend. Sometimes I need someone to tell me, “You are strong. You are powerful. You are beautiful.” Sometimes I need someone to tell me, “God hears you.” Sometimes I need someone to wipe my tears when I’m having relationship problems. Sometimes, I don’t want to give life advice, I want to sulk. I want to be the crazy friend who needs someone to edit my text messages before I emotionally send them off. I want to complain about my career. I want permission to be weak.
Don’t forget to check on your strong trans people, your “brave” trans people. Because sometimes they too need someone to to carry a shield for them, someone to care for them, someone who make them feel safe enough to let down the armor for a bit. And yes, that includes me.
Still resonating. Even more so. Last year, I was starting into the tunnel vision that a countdown to transition typically brings as it takes over your life.
This year I’m starting to settle into my “new” life, now that I’m past the physical difficulties over the first half of the year. Transition can be more than just an opportunity to live one’s life congruently gender-wise, it can also be a chance to reinvent oneself and one’s life.
“Living as your authentic self” goes far beyond gender, and I’m still finding my way — but that’s part of the adventure. Thankful for the chance to hit the reset button in a way that most people don’t get.
”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.
Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.
Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”
~ Brené Brown
During today’s session, my speech therapist had me experiment with using a character voice as a way of getting out of my usual speech patterns.
I broke out the “Southern belle” voice that I’d developed for m y stage persona — and I do declare that my voice improved dramatically!
The slower pace of a Southern accent helped me avoid pitch drops that occur when I’m speaking faster. It improved the legato between syllables and words (which women typically use more of). Most surprisingly, I was able to raise my pitch almost an octave without straining — taking my voice from the top end of the typical male pitch range, solidly into the typical female pitch range.
(I’ve been frustrated in recent months because my pitch had dropped back down as I was focusing on the other vocal characteristics that typically differentiate women’s voices from men’s. Pitch and resonance are the big ones, and the only ones that are physiological, but there’s half a dozen others, most notably, huge differences in inflection.)
My homework is to practice switching into my Southern belle voice and dialing it back into my normal California-accent voice, while retaining the vocal improvements.
So if y’all hear me slipping into a drawl, now you’ll know why.
I’m grateful that the second round of hair transplants started growing in far sooner than expected. The transplanted hair goes into “transplant shock” and falls out because the follicles go into their dormant cycles, and typically it doesn’t regrow until about three months afterwards, i.e. for me, the end of June. But a few never fell out, and the there was some regrowth starting as soon as a month after the transplants. The bulk it did start regrowing in the past t month. But it’s growing extraordinarily fast — my acupuncturist, who hadn’t seen me in two weeks, remarked on what a different there was.
There’s still a long ways to go, but:
- It’s covered the lengthy scar running across my forehead from the facial surgeries in January.
- I now have enough of a “typical female” underside down U-shaped hairline (i.e. no more male baldness recession on the temples) that I’ve been able to start wearing my hair pulled back when I want to.
Still short, and still thin. But time will take care of that. So glad I did it.
Appreciative of all the cisgender allies who’ve stepped up during the past 24 hours, in the wake of Trump tweeting that he was banning trans people from the military (and presuming booting those currently serving). Especially those who worked to educate others so that trans people didn’t have do 101 labor on a very trying day.
“Ally” isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. It’s also a title that’s not self-adopted, rather it’s an honorific for meritorious service, bestowed by the folks on whose behalf an ally is acting on.
I say this more in sorrow than in anger, but I just had to unfriend someone on Facebook who I’ve known for a long time over that damn Klinger photo, and his doubling and tripling down on it.
I don’t care if Klinger was your childhood hero, he’s not an appropriate poster child to oppose the ban on trans people in the military. Why insist on using a fictional character who wasn’t trans, when you could use photos of actual trans veterans, such as Carla Lewis.
I know you’re trying to be supportive on what’s been one of the roughest day for many of us trans people in a long time, but….
Klinger wasn’t trans. In fact he was donning the dress to get a Section 8 discharge from the Army for being mentally unfit for service. I.e. someone who was actively trying to get out of the service, rather than someone fighting to serve as their authentic self.
Equally important, that photo reinforces the notions that 1) trans women are just “men in dresses” and 2) that trans identities are something just casually put on and taken off at will. Both of which are used as justification to discriminate against us.
It’s inappropriate comparison to trans members of the services and trans vets at all times, and right now, it’s just salt in the wounds.
I’m serious about this shit, don’t try me.