Ava knew who she was in high school. Back then, she called herself Carmen, was young and pretty, and showed the world she was a girl.
But things got difficult. Am intense Latin father, a troubled Irish mother, financial pressures, so many pressures.
So it was just easier to be a gay boy in beauty school. She met the love of her life, and they have been together, in some form or fashion, for over thirty years.
They are roommates now, tension between them. Her roommate misses the man he fell in love with, but Ava knows that was no man, that was a screwed up façade.
The crash came. A shaman gave her the gift of being centred as her business crashed down around her and the façade shattered too. There was failure and rejection and new exploration
Ava’s life was always backwards. As a child, dyslexia haunted her, trying to translate the world’s right and left into her own flipped understanding. The struggle to fit into a world that seemed topsy-turvy was always too much, but she got through it by relying on the kindness of others, a sweet, shy gay boy who knew how to listen and gave great hair.
Now, like many women her age, being a part of someone or something else is no longer enough. She has to claim her own power, the power that kept her connected to the heads and hearts of clients and friends, the power she had to both hold and deny.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t filled with longing for the days she lost, the days when she could have been a pretty girl playing with all the guys. The woman in the mirror often isn’t pretty enough for a girl who wants to be loved. And the changing of a once intense sexuality feels like a loss she may not be able to endure.
Ava is beautiful, but her story is shattered. And a fractured story makes it hard to build a future. Between the tethers to her past and the faults of her experience, she has trouble finding solid ground.
She has struck out inside the gender communities but found few handholds. Transfans and crossdressers don’t want to be men, but the don’t want to be women, either, and their fantasy partners have to be with them, stuck somewhere in the middle. Ava isn’t a creature for closets and fantasies, she is a woman for the world. It’s impossible to be that inside a gender box, but outside that box, Ava needs stories and strengths that feel impossible to her tender experience. How can she both be brave and broken, a woman with a boys name on her credit card, a gal with a bisexual roommate, all that?
Models are scarce for Ava. The transsexual path demands she deny her sexuality, sexuality that has always been the way she explored the world, but the transgender path demands she deny her womanhood, something that feels wrong. “I take so long to warm up nowadays,” she tells me, “and the transfans don’t understand that. They don’t understand me, because they never had to learn to listen like I did. I don’t feel the intimacy, the passion, maybe because they all have to keep it so boxed up.”
Ginger Rogers, it is said, did everything that Fred Astaire did, backwards and in high heels. Now that Ava has the heels, her backwards experience of the world is beginning to make sense. Her heart wants to dance, but the other part of her backwards experience, having to reclaim a lost girlhood so many years after her youth, make that challenging in the world.
Flirting with guys on Craigslist is fun and enjoyable, but it doesn’t replace the experience of being a girl on the town waiting to find a solid man who wants to build a solid relationship. But with a fractured story, Ava doesn’t yet feel strong in the wider world, strong enough to break the tethers of a hard fought lifetime.
If you can’t trust your story, you can’t trust your power.
There are so many reasons why our stories are difficult. We bring so much to bear, have such a twisty path, and know that any story which demands we sever important parts of ourselves, covering them with even a lovely façade makes us twisted again. It’s the kinks in my story that leave me believing I am too something for the room, a big transwoman with an x-ray brain, and it’s the fractures in Ava’s story that leave her believing that happiness eludes her as a woman without a girlhood.
I see Ava, beautiful, stylish and brilliant, and know her power will attract what she needs. When Ava sees Ava, she sees the twists in her life, her losses and her struggles, the challenges that haunt her, and can’t imagine that she will ever have the grounding to be loved in the way that she needs.
So Ava plays and explores and leaves her light under a bushel because she feels her story is too fractured to trust.
And she reminds me that I do the same thing.