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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Another person, not a changed one

I have been to dinner, the past few weeks, with a succession of old friends and former lovers. The food was good and the company superb in each instance.

There were questions and observations.

"Are you happy now?"

Yes, very much so.

"You certainly look it ... you weren't happy before? You certainly had us fooled."

I had myself fooled. There is nothing so desperately masculine as a Southern transwoman born in the forties or fifties. And to stave off depression, I kept myself very, very busy.

"Are you a Lesbian?"

I thought I was going to be. I think it's turning out that I am a straight girl. Polarity switch. Some people will label this gay, but I think there is a difference. I can smell male pheromones now. I couldn't before.

But in a way it's all moot. I see no reason to leave Beloved and she's saying the same to me. And at my age, in my condition, the prospect of celibacy, if it came to that, is not the horror that it would be if I were younger.

"What else is different? I mean, besides your looks?"

Besides my outer shell? My new skin, reduced muscle mass, slightly new shape? As in, inner differences ... I dislike separating "psychological" from "physical." The body is where the mind is; remove the body and there is no mind. "Soul" as it's generally understood is for me entirely theoretical; though that doesn't preclude, to me, some form of resurrection.

Yes, vastly different. Hard to explain, though. I'm calmer, more observant, more likely to follow through on thought-of kindnesses, a bit addled in my thinking, not so good at maps and negotiating curves as before. I have a huge universe of awareness of the feelings and likely intentions of others compared to before. I'm fascinated by small children and want to take care of them. I'm better at dealing with injured or sick people.

I suddenly know how to cook. I've developed a distaste for spectator sports, and don't get me started about boxing. I'm unhappy about dirt under my fingernails and it's hampering my lifelong affair with gardening and fishing. I've lost my hunter instinct. I want to sit around indoors making notecards. Say something nice to me and I fall apart. When I notice competitive behavior it dismays me. I no longer obsess about acheiving things.

"Sounds godawfully stereotyped."

Mmm, hmm. And I really didn't expect it! I have experienced, with psychologists, that when I report these things to them they like to theorize that I'm re-enacting my mom, but she's not a match for the above description. I grew up around women who were strongly masculine in many ways. I'm not imitating her or them.

I don't think my experience proves anything innate about women as opposed to men. I don't know where it comes from, other than the correlation with HRT.

"You did some really hurtful things when you were a guy."

I know it sounds facile, but: I just don't know much about it.

I'm having problems with both short and long term memory. Some things that you remind me about will genuinely be news to me. On the other hand, I hope I can accept responsibility for "his" behavior, and apologize, and, when and where feasible, make restitution...

"You really are different; I mean, another person, not a changed one."

Ah! You get it. That's right; the me you knew was a manufactured and disposable persona. I had no intention of being there when the grenade went off, so to speak. I'm sorry for that; it was all I knew to do in order to survive. It had served me well in childhood. I've shed him.

"He was real for me. Where does that go?"

I don't know. He was as real as he knew how to be, given that something was very wrong, and even mentioning it seemed dangerous.

People say this is like discovering that someone died. I can only hope they discover that someone has been born -- reborn -- and that the gain is worth the loss.

"Did you love me?"

Yes.

Deeply.

Still do.

Think of me as the angel who watches over you.

"Are you going to keep writing?"

Things are changing fast. I'm blogging, sort of. I'm an activist and that uses up most of the time I had devoted to art and culture. And as I'm another person, I might have most of the same skills "he" had, but a different perspective, which makes it hard to carry on with projects he left unfinished.

"Like Iron Buddha? I was a fan of that one. It's been a long time."

Yes. I don't know to write that one; I'm not a man. I don't know how that's going to turn out. Understand, though, that that's not sad for me. I'm not feeling the pressure that he did to do something like that.

"How's your job?"

I've been really, really lucky there. Some things have happened that I wouldn't be happy about if I were ambitious, but they're not about my condition. From what I have heard of other transpeople's lives, I'm having one of the top ten easy transitions.

"Would you like some more custard and fresh strawberries?"

Yes, please. Thank you so much!

-- risa b

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