pardon me, do you have a penis?

It’s getting to the point where I feel, if not the need, at least the desire to tell people something.  I mean, not just any something.  I feel like there are people in my life with whom I need (and want) to acknowledge the fact that I am transgender.  And I know I haven’t been very good at it up until now.  My basic confession thus far has been to say something like, “you might be interested in reading my blog” (preferably to yourself) and then texting them the web address.  The problem is that I know this important thing about myself that I am living and owning more and more, and there are people I like, trust, care about, who have no clue.  Or they do have a clue and have no idea how to talk with me about it.  The problem is, it isn’t their responsibility to bring the topic up.  The problem is, I don’t know how to either.    IMG_2854

The first person I told was someone I was close to and trusted implicitly.  I don’t know exactly what I said and I may have even posed it as a question.  I’m not sure if I used the word transgender (probably not because 7 or 8 years ago I didn’t know the word).  It’s entirely plausible that I said something about feeling more like a man than a woman and I was considering moving more in that authentic direction.  And maybe it wasn’t even that clear or direct.  I only know what her response was.  A spasmodic laugh slash cough and an exclamation of, “You want a penis?!” As if that was either the stupidest or funniest most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard.  Um, well yeah.  I mean, ah, no.  I, well, um, er… It isn’t exactly like that.

Traumatized by that exchange, obviously I didn’t bring the topic up to anyone for a few years.  But things have changed quite a bit in these last half dozen years.  Both with me and in the world.  I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, a lot of self-analysis, contemplation, struggling, working, growing.  I’m more comfortable with the fact that I am transgender.  And in the larger world, it isn’t such an obscure concept.  Chaz and Caitlyn were just the tip of the iceberg apparently.  Transgender people are making the news on a regular basis.  Harvard University has a transgender guy on their men’s swim team for goodness sake!  He was on 60 Minutes AND Ellen and he’s not even winning races!!!  And then there’s the whole (don’t get me started) bathroom law bullshit going on across the country, which has made *transgender* a daily word for too many people.

But once again I diverge from the topic at hand.  What was my point? Oh, right.  I feel the desire to disclose my true self to certain people.  But I don’t know (a) how to go about it, and (b) what to say after I tell them.  I imagine saying, “Hey, I’m trans.” And having friends say, “Oh, so should I use different pronouns with you?” And then me tripping over myself.  Because, well, no.  Um, ah, er.  See, I, uh, I’m not quite ready to be referred to as *he*.  Though to be honest, *she* is beginning to feel sort of weird to me.  But I don’t like *zhe* or *hir* or *they*.  So why say anything?!  What is my purpose of this big reveal?  What is it that I want from people once I tell them?  I wish it were as easy as it was with Beth.

{cue memory scene} A handful of years ago now, I was in a large shared office where Beth was working on a computer and I was doing who-knows-what.  A student came in and asked me how I handled answering residents’ questions about my spouse and their confusion around her being a woman and whether I tell them that I am a lesbian.  I said that it didn’t come up often for me because, truthfully, most of the residents I work with think I am a man and therefore, my having a female wife was not an issue.  The student pressed on, “But don’t you correct them?”  I said no in a rather uncertain, ambivalent manner (hinting that there may have been more to the story perhaps) and the student, perplexed, asked something about my gender identity.  I didn’t answer  because, in all honesty, I didn’t have an answer at that time.  In the meantime, I was aware of Beth, who I didn’t know well at all then (though she is someone who has become quite dear to me since).  I didn’t know whether or not she was even listening as she clicked away at the computer.  She was someone, based only on the very limited knowledge I had about her (straight, white, a Conservative Rabbi, living in an affluent suburb of Boston), I did not expect at all to *get* anything trans related.  But then, in the awkward silence of my conversation with the student, Beth stopped typing long enough to glance over her shoulder, fingers still poised in thought over the keyboard, and say in a quite matter-of-fact manner, “Oh, well then, just tell me when and if I need to change pronouns or anything like that and I’ll do my best.”  And then went back to working. {end memory scene}

My *wishter* (the sister I wish I had) Mary Ann had a response very similar to Beth.  We’ve always referred to and called one another “sis”.  As soon as I pointed Mary Ann in the direction of my blog though, she started calling me bro.  If I knew all my conversations would go like these I wouldn’t hesitate.  It’s the baffled near-accusation-response of, “you want a dick!?” that throws me.  I just can’t think of a good enough response to that other than, “yeah, why do you have an extra?”  Which admittedly isn’t all that classy, never mind accurate.

In the meantime, I have spoken with mother a second time.  Again, the ostensible purpose of the phone call was to check and cross check information about Peter in a bedeviled attempt to assuage our anxiety and dread.  But there isn’t very much information to share except that he is homeless and on the lam.  So the conversation floundered and stalled  into awkward silence pretty quickly.  She asked again if she could send me a friend request on Facebook.  I had given it some thought after the last phone call when she asked.  I saw no reason not to.  I post photos of things I make; soap, food, bread, knitted and other crafts and post about my hockey exploits.  Nothing very personal.  Reasons for denying her friend request as opposed to say, the other obscure friend requests I have accepted (people I have met once, hockey players I have faced and will never see again, someone in high school I once gave a ride to but don’t remember and random people I have met through work), I don’t know.  I found myself spending more time than I cared to considering whether or not to accept her Facebook friendship and decided to just say yes rather than waste more time.  If she misbehaves on my Facebook wall I will simply remove her.  In the meantime, on the phone she asked what I’d been up to in the last decade.

Aaaand, back on topic…. Anyway, on the phone she asked something about me, my appearance, why so secretive or something that just made me realize that I have done this dance of hiding physically from her for so long because, well, because I didn’t want to hear her judgments, her comments, her criticisms, her thinly veiled *teasing* about my lack of femininity (something that was a chronic critique from her growing up).  And in that split second on the phone, realizing I am sick of hiding, sick of being ashamed, sick of caring about her opinion, sick of keeping this secret, I blurted it out.  I said, “Because I am transgender.”  An actual thoughtful pause before she responded, “Oh Hali, tell me something I don’t know.”  What followed was the single-most bizarre and yet the most normal, acceptable, honest, real conversation I have ever (read that: EVER) had with my mother.

her: (after my stunned silence probably left her thinking we’d been disconnected): I mean it.  Tell me something I don’t know.  I am your mother.

me: You know?! I mean, knew?!

her: I’m not saying I knew for sure, but let’s put it this way, I’m not at all surprised.

me: (more awkward silence)

her: Can I ask you a few questions?

me: ah, sure (not at all sure)

her: Are you taking hormones? Is that what happened to your breasts, did you have them completely removed? Are you happy? Does Emily know? Is she going to leave you? Are you happy?

I answered her questions as best I could, while being completely flabbergasted that her questions were so well-informed and appropriate.  She told me that it would probably take some time for it to really sink in for her, but she reiterated that she was not at all surprised.  Which I have to say, was incredibly validating.  I mean, some days I wonder if I’ve made all this shit up and if I’m just crazy.  And I know she didn’t mean it to be validating (heaven forbid she validate either of her children intentionally).  But still it was.  She’s basically known all my life that I am a boy inside.  Holy shit.  Talk about needing time for something to sink in.  Anyway, before we got off the phone she said, “Oh, um, one more question… Do you have or do you want a penis?”  Really?!  I could have done without ending on that note.

About halitentwo

i am. god is. we are. as soon as i write something about me i change, am different, evolving. i am trans. i am a parent. i am a partner. i am a human. i am attempting to live a well-lived life in the spaces in between, beyond definition, fluid, dynamic, omnifarious and always changing. hopefully growing.
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