I’ve known Ms. Monica for over twenty years now. We met again at the same bar that I came out in, though then it was an active gay bar just being touched by AIDS and now, a quarter century later, it is a sleepy jazz club kept as a hobby by the owner.
We have gone different paths through these years, with me falling into the stories while Monica has just spent day after day living where she grew up, in a rural area around here. She’s still doing the same work as then, a concrete contractor with crew, just as a transwoman. She is a long haired blonde butch who takes pride in her nails, wears jeans and a well cut top, parents a 16 year old boy, and is going out to Vegas for the NASCAR this coming weekend.
She has maneuvered through the details enough to live in the liminal, just who she is. “It’s hard to be trans in a rural area, but once you do it, it is easier than in suburbia. People know you through your networks, and you just get along as an individual.”
Over the years, that means her goal has been the same as mine: to live an integrated life. As we reminisced the stories often went to those who had the opposite goal, to compartmentalize & separate. From crossdressers who thought they could control how other people saw them, ending up decietful & petulant, to transsexuals who are now in the “closet at the end of the rainbow,” keeping their heads down and blind to how people see them, we remembered the people who set out to cut their lives into what they wanted to be managable pieces.
We agreed that the one thing that all transpeople we had met shared was being stubborn. Once they were out enough to meet us, they had decided that expression of who they are was more impotrtant than playing along, being what others expected of us. Just to get through the walls of stigma intended to keep us normative we had to be stubborn. I recalled young Kim in Germany, who had to convince her parents and her doctors that she was a girl, even before she was eight years old. That takes a kind of subborness that just isn’t in the life of people who play along.
Maybe that’s why I love Kiki DuRane so much; she is the kind of stubborn broad who has kept her world intact whatever the world threw at her. How could we queers not idolize her, even if she is the creation of Justin Bond?
If you want to claim your own expression beyond the normative, that deep stubborness is required. But, as Monica has found, that intense stubborness also makes it hard to fall into relationship with someone else. Most people want to cast you as a player in their own drama, fulfilling their own expectations, but once you have moved beyond playing along, we don’t make easy partners.
Sitting with Monica, I remembered what I really want, what most transpeople really want.
“Well, my wife saw me in a dress before we were married, some twenty years ago, and she said ‘Never again.” said one crossdresser at the gathering. “So she knows that I wear panties 100% of the time, that I wear pantyhose in the winter, and over the past five years or so, that I have nights out with the ‘boys,’ but she has never seen me in a dress. Still, I know that I am getting sloppy, leaving clothes, makeup, jewelry where she can find them.”
It’s the worst way to get outed, becayse it allows other people to control your story, but I understand the urge. We all, as Kate Bornstein said, want to be discovered, found and seen by someone who values & understands us.
And that was what Monica and I gave each other. We understood the challenges, the choices, the complications of living a trans life. For example, the simple act of not saying “I am Joe’s brother,” but saying “Joe is my brother,” leaving space for both truth and assumption is something we have had to learn.
I didn’t have to explain or just “let it pass” with Monica. She gets the joke, understands the experience, knows the lay of the land.
And that means she sees me, almost as stubborn as she is, although she isn’t the black sheep in her family; they have other yardsticks.
Monica set out to show her truth, and that led her to living and integrated life, nuanced and full.
Quite a reward for being stubborn, whatever the cost.