I wrote this to a correspondent, and thought I might share it here.
For me, maybe the hardest part about being trans is having to be a woman without ever really having a chance to be a girl.
I watch pop TV shows and I see a few things. First, I see people age, people I first knew as young and who now are old, and I know that process must have happened to me too.
But I also watch the girls and young women on TV play out their own explorations and stories. They learn how to be in relationship, with other women, with men, with everybody.
That exploration seems to be a big void in my life. Gendershift requires a new adolescence, finding new ways to take power in the world, ways that honour both potency and vulnerability, but if you are doing that while people see you as an aging adult rather than as a kid, you lose both the indulgence people have for puppies and the peer group who also need to play at growth, who need to experiment. We also go at the second adolescence without the exuberance and innocence that lets kids try something, fail and bounce right back.
That’s the effect of stigma, of course, freezing us out, and I know it will change as kids get to explore what it means to be a transperson in the world as a primary adolescence, rather than having to do one shtick and then coming back to try and unlearn that and do it all again in a new way.
If you have figured out anything about me, it’s how much I love the voice. I may not be able to shape my body, but I can shape my language, both styles and stories. It’s why, when I meet someone, I will as often as not ask them to tell me a story. It’s really not important what story, because while I do remember details, I’m much more interested in their approach to situations, and to the themes they hold in their life. What delights them? What do they find funny? How do they defend themselves? When we open our mouths we reveal ourselves, not just revealing what we want other people to see, but also revealing much we want to conceal.
What does this mean for my adolescence?
It means I loved speaking in tongues. I would try new voices to say new things. I would experiment with just taking a new approach to the world, having fun with it. After all, the first adolescence is all about play, trying on new looks and attitudes and behaviours to see how they work for us, then taking the best bits to create a new collage of expression. How the hell are we gonna become new if we never try new things?
I used to have dozens of e-mail addresses. I would joke that on the internet you can’t change your shoes, but you can change your address. And these addresses would let me play with different personae to respond to different challenges.
The most important thing to me, even more than seeing how others responded to these voices, was seeing how I responded to these voices. It’s like this note; I am writing to myself as much or more than I am writing to you. I want to hear what I have to say about these challenges, hear my own themes and priorities. I talk about it as “seeing the back of my head,” which one can only do with a mirror, though seeing the inside of my head (and my heart) is more like it.
The point of the old site was explaining myself to other people, back in the day when it was important to know what I thought, to put out a contextual framework for trans. The point of the blog, though, is to explore myself, to say what I need to say. It’s my art, my Greer Lankton statement: “It’s All About Me, Not You.” That’s why I never put tags on it, never tried to follow a pre-defined structure to communicate what I thought I wanted to say. I just said and that’s it. Very Julia Cameron “The Artists Way” kind of stuff.
Now, I had fun with the voices. I had a number of runs on Usenet. Jim Fouratt went through this whole thing of negating transpeople because they didn’t stand up as gender variant and instead wanted surgery as a cure, so I played with that. By the end, with The Golden Penis I was challenging the whole transsexual separatist mindset that was a big thing in 2000. People lashed out horribly, but my underlying message was clear: If you don’t want to be one of the transpeople who are seen like that, well, don’t act like that.
That kind of play and rehearsal was really important to me, even if I would have rather been able to play in character. I just didn’t have the space locally
I’ll attach something from February 1993 about one version of this play that I only touched a tiny bit. (The editor of the local newsletter boggled, as it was the first FAQ style piece they had ever seen. The style wasn’t common even then.)
So, how do you play? How do you pull on a new experience and find a bit more of yourself?