Authenticity

A response to a list post from a transwoman whose year of euphoria at being out (as Joan Roughgarden calls it) just ended with a health challenge and the realization she is cut off from family and old connections.

For me, the challenge isn’t figuring out what box I fit into, man or woman, but rather how to live my life with authenticity.

For years I hated that the only way out seemed to be to lie.  I could either pretend to be the man that people assumed was connected with my male body and lie about who I knew myself to be, or I could be the woman that I understood myself to be and be called a liar by the people who claimed that woman meant female bodied.

It was understanding the traditions of other cultures where spirit was valued over flesh, and those who crossed lines were seen as gifted, walking between worlds, shamans, that helped me understand.

It is almost impossible to be a woman if you have never been a girl.  And being a girl always means being one of the girls, with a community of other girls, the social pressures that a girl is exposed to, and the expectations from men and women.  The experience of girlhood is the foundation of womanhood, and anything built without a solid foundation will always be shifting and fragile.

For me, getting past the years of performing as a man meant immersion in the world of women.  Chick flicks, Oprah, women’s spaces on-line, all that and more.  I had to get naked again, washing away the assumptions that attempting manhood had taught me, and letting some other way permeate my performance of self.

That takes many years, at least in my experience.  And it is hard.  I know many transwomen who wear their modified skin as armor, staying defended, and not assimilating.  That seems to mean they push off womanhood.  You know the final tranny surgery?  It’s when you pull the stick out of your own ass and let yourself start to flow.

I’m happy that other women now hear me as speaking “woman.”  Now, they may well know that I am an immigrant to woman, learning the language later in life, and not a native speaker, but as long as I am fluent in the cultures, conventions and assumptions, we can get past most things.

My status as an immigrant is important to me, too.  It means I can speak for change, to help younger transpeople, yes, but it also means I have the power of crossing worlds, a power valued in so many cultures in human history.

It’s easy for me to feel the sadness for how much of my life and energy was wasted dealing with stigma, keeping my light under a bushel, but I also know that in the long run, the only choices I have left are in my present and my future, and that’s where I have to spend the rest of my life.

I hope that your health challenges are just a small bump in the road of your life.

May you find your own authenticity beyond one box or another, finding your own expression and shining in the world.

In the end, that is what everyone on any spiritual journey is called to do.

– – – – – – – –

When you first come out as a transgendered person,
you spend your first year in absolute euphoria.
Then reality sets in, and you have to make a life and deal with the stigma.
Joan Roughgarden, NY Times Magazine, 9 May 2004

9 thoughts on “Authenticity”

  1. >It was understanding the traditions of other cultures where spirit was valued over flesh, and those who crossed lines were seen as gifted, walking between worlds, shamans, that helped me understand.<

    This always infuriates me, probably because I have no way to grasp this for myself.

    I don’t live in one of those cultures. I don’t live in a world where “between” is important. I live in a society that values dichotomy, and if I want to be part of it, I have to find the parts of me that pass as female. I don’t assume that has to be the case for everybody else, but I know it is for me. I don’t want to be valued as a half-woman, I don’t want to be valued as a partial woman, I don’t want to be valued as a Mystical Energy Source. I just want to be a *woman* and nothing more, just play the line between mousy and perverse in my own little way.

    Maybe my fury is simply at myself, I don’t know. I don’t even care.

    I just want to pass, and people keep telling me not to stress about it, as if somehow the Magic Passing Fairy will be showing up on Giftsmas.

    I don’t get people who talk about how valuable the experience has been to them. Experience is a consolation prize, in my book. I like results; telling myself I enjoyed the journey usually sounds like self-delusion, because the destination sucks. “Well, it sucks now that I’m here, but the scenery was pretty on the way!”

  2. Just for the record, I still want to pass.

    Or, more precisely, I want to be passable, choosing the moments to reveal my history and biology.

    I want people to assume I was born female, rather than waiting for the third gotcha. I think it would help me relax.

    But my biology and my history are written on my body. Every tranny has a passing distance, and while for some of it it might be very close — FTMs often pass until they drop their drawers, for example — we all need to let some people in sometimes to see all of us.

    I would never tell you not to stress about passing. But I will tell you that if you do stress about it, you miss a lot of the fun.

    I want to be pretty, attractive and confident. But like any woman, I have to be able to get naked, look in the mirror and say the serenity prayer: “Give me the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    Changing your bones and your history, well, not really. You can dress them differently, of course, bringing a new view, but change? I don’t think so.

    I understand the desire to have an appearance that doesn’t raise uncomfortable questions of biology and history. I really get that.

    I just don’t know any way to make it happen for most of us.

    And as I said, it was knowing about the power of walking between worlds that finally helped me.

    I know that you will eventually find something that helps you.

  3. I hold my deepest hope — and I apologize now — that you are simply wrong; that within a decade or two I will at *least* be able to get my shoulders and feet reworked, or even have my body replaced entirely with a mechanical one.

    I have no fear of death, only fear of life in this body.

  4. Don’t laugh too hard…someday there’ll be ways to get implanted compartments.

    But more importantly, I dream of that body someday…this one is just what I have to live with for now.

  5. Personally, I don’t know how to live a human life without making assumptions.

    Now, the willingness to change those assumptions when they are proven misleading, that’s very important.

    But living without assumptions?

    Impossible.

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