13 September 2008

X and Y on a Quiet Saturday

A slow day today, as they say. Should I complain or boast about that? Probably not. It just turned out that way, and I needed it.

Why? So I could get stuff done, of course! Like laundry. And going to the farmer's market on Roosevelt Island. And cleaning up.

So slow days are for getting things done, and rush hours are when trains crawl and traffic comes to a standstill. I'm so glad I became an English teacher!

And what else did I get done today? Sleep. I even took a longer-than-intended nap. Actually, I didn't intend the nap at all. But I was nodding off in my chair, so I figured it was time.

On days like this, there is no past or future. I begin to understand why so many people live through what I like to call the Eternal Present. It's entirely different from living in the moment, or even for it. EP is, as near as I can tell, a continuation of some life you were handed and were taught never to question. Sometimes I think it's what causes people to get married and have kids, and goad you into doing the same even though they can't tell you why.

All right. I'm not going to re-write Macbeth's "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy, as great as it is. While life may be as banal as Macbeth seems to see it after one too many killings, I don't want to become that cynical about it. I mean, I'm never cynical, are I? Just ask anyone who knows me.

Anyway, I find myself now thinking again about how living as Justine has changed my perceptions of time. Of course, after you've changed your name and gender, you can't see life in the same way again, so EP is simply not possible. Some trans people I know have essentially revised their pasts: "When I was a little girl," etc.

Perhaps you think I've done the same thing in seeing my past experience as having been lived by Justine. Actually, there's a difference. I don't try to act as though I haven't experienced anything that I have experienced, and I don't turn all of my male experiences into female ones. I can no more deny that I have been an altar boy, Boy Scout and Army reservist than I can say that I had my first period when I was twelve years old. A former friend cites that last fact as "proof" that I am not, and have never been or will be, a "real" woman. This former friend is, simply, the female counterpart to the Angry White Man (remember him?): She thinks everyone else in the world got special privileges and favors she should have had because, well, she is and they're not her.

She has a Ph.D. in Gender Studies. Now do you wonder why I don't want to pursue anything like that?

No, I did not live as a girl or a woman until five years ago. But I feel that I have every right to say that Justine did all those things most people would still attribute to Nick. One reason is that my mother would have named me Justine had I not been born Nick. (She told me that when I was about fourteen years old, in another context.) So, in a sense, I have simply given my real name to my old experience.

You see, being Justine is not only about gender or sex: it's much more basic. The latter is mainly a matter of genitalia and actual (or perceived) body shape; my identity as Justine is at the level of all the fluids that make up a body. According to the tests I had before I started taking hormones, my estrogen level was almost three times as high as what's normal for a man. While that's still much lower than what any woman has naturally, it was enough to affect my perception of myself without my even knowing why or how.

But even that is not the whole story. Of course, if you go deep enough, you find my maleness: the X and Y chromosome. That will not change. However, I feel that, in me, those two chromosomes were always at war, and I gave all the ammunition I could to Y.

So there were X and Y, going at it with each other, while my body fluids--and my emotions--were rising and ebbing, just like the tides, to the moon.

I suppose the conflict will always be there. All I know is that it had a lot to do with making me Justine, even before I took that name and began to live by it. Even when I was out of place and time, I was Justine.

And today Justine had a quiet Saturday, sort of like the ones she had when she was a boy.