As I emerged, I would often be challenged to deal with things that weren’t particularly feminine as a woman.
When I had to do a bit of dirty work, my little mantra was: “I’m not the first woman who had to _______,” and fill in the challenge. Not the first woman to have to change a tire, for example, or not the first woman to have a runny nose, or not the first woman who had to fight with a clerk.
For people raised as girls, this is obvious. They do everything as a woman, be it bailing out a flooded basement or shoveling a driveway. But those for whom woman was a special performance, there was always a man to do the dirty work, even if he had the same face as us. Karen Taylor may have a character who just calls out “Man! Man! Man!” when faced with a messy challenge, but for women of a transgender history, we don’t have the same expectation that men will find us attractive enough to do our bidding.
I’m not the first woman to do whatever challenge I need to face.
Lately, though, I am realizing that I am not the last woman either. Whoever I am today, I am not the last woman I am going to be. There is another woman with my face in the future, and she is making other choices.
I was amused yesterday. I sent a note to TBB and Ms. Rachelle about some things I am going through now, and as a reference, I included a “The Rainbow Speech” that I wrote in early 1994, 15 years ago now. It was written as what I needed to hear someone say to me at the time.
Both of them were moved by the speech. Ms. Rachelle wanted to forward it to a newly out FTM, and TBB remembered hearing it back then, but it touched her much more now. She put it down to a weak performance back then, but I remembered the quote:
We don’t see things as they are,
we see them as we are.
TBB isn’t the same woman as she was back then, and todays woman gets it in a whole new way. I suspect that even the beautiful Grace will have a different response to that piece as she grows more confident in her own gifts than the negative response she first had.
Last night I met a woman who I didn’t recognize, even though I met her last year as she was just starting to emerge. This year, she was much more pulled together and confident, away from the cartoon of imagined woman and more towards being a real woman in the world.
This is always a challenge for us. Nobody emerges from a lifetime of stigma induced darkness full blown. One crossdresser was talking about how her college age kids got crazy when she came out.
It’s odd, but the best gift we can give others is getting sane and new and together as fast as we can. They just want us to know who we are so they can know who we are, and when we keep slipping, it’s hard. For example, the classic “Now I am Biff! Now I am Suzy!” crossdresser model usually involves such wild swings that we can’t find our center, and that means we are kind of scary to others.
I’m not the first woman to face these challenges, even the messy ones.
I’m not the last woman I am going to be. There is a new woman to come, for each of us.
And somehow I find that knowledge that I am not the first and not the last to be comforting.