29 September 2009

Loving What Never Was

Have you ever looked at a photo of someone in his or her youth and said--to yourself or whoever happened to be in earshot--"Wow! I wish I knew him (or her) back then!"?

Or, have you ever had such a reaction to the photo of one who's departed?

About the first scenario: I had such a reaction to seeing a photo of Francoise Hardy from around 1969. I also wanted a time machine when a woman I dated in my youth showed me a photo of her father in his Navy uniform. The French chanteuse was beautiful and stylish; my old flame's dad was just pure-and-simple hot. And she knew that's what I was thinking.

About the second scenario: After seeing a photo of Albert Camus on the cover of one of his books--L'etranger, I think--I had a fantasy or two about him. He wasn't particularly handsome, but he had, at least in that photo, one of the most intelligent, if tense and turbulent, faces I'd ever seen. I'd had a similar reaction to seeing a photo of Virginia Woolf.

Anyway...About the only thing stranger than being in love with your own memory of someone is fantasizing about a past life that you never witnessed.

I met Sara and her boyfriend Rob a few weeks before my surgery. We got into an interesting and rather intense conversation that led to our exchanging phone numbers. During the ensuing days I was busy and otherwise preoccupied, as you can well imagine. Then, a couple of weeks after returning home from the surgery, I was taking a walk near Socrates Sculpture Park when I heard someone call "Justine!"

Sara was out with her friend Dee, whom she talked about when we first met. They invited me to dinner at their place the weekend before Labor Day. And now we've been talking frequently by phone.

Now, if the L's and the G's can talk about having "gaydar," what's the transgender equivalent? Whatever it is, it was set off the moment I met Sara and went to multiple alarms when I saw Dee. I knew that Sara is bisexual before she opened her mouth and that Dee is a what I will call "man-que": someone who, in many ways, is even more male than I ever was. But financial and other considerations--namely, her medical condition and her age--keep her from taking hormones, much less having surgery.

When I was at Sara and Dee's place, I had the feeling that Sara was developing feelings for me. She talked about things I will not discuss with anyone else, and she took to my breast--and shoulders--as one might with a family member one trusts completely.

One thing no amount of hormones or surgery will ever efface is the width of my shoulders. They're not quite of NFL linebacker dimensions, but they still have the breadth--if not the strength--of someone who used to lift weights, as I did every day for several years. Normally, I draw attention away from them by the way I dress: I often wear long scarves or blouses or sweaters with long vertical lines or with soft fabrics around the shoulders. People who cry, or simply prop their heads, on my shoulder appreciate that!

But that night I was wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top. So there was nothing between my shoulders and Sara, a fact not lost on her.

Tonight, she called me from the waiting room at a hospital. Her landlord, who is a good friend, has been sick and now the doctors have found cancer in his intestines. And Dee is having problems related to her lupus. "I really wish I had your shoulder right now," she said.

"Where are you? Which hospital?"

"Don't do that. You're still recovering from surgery. We'll meet soon."

"Yes, we will."

"You're so gentle."

"The only thing better than a man who can make a woman blush is another woman making a woman blush!"

"Oh! You're the best!"


"I love you. But I would've loved to've known Nick."

"No you wouldn't."

"You're so sweet and gentle. He must've been, too."

I let it go. It didn't seem the right time to talk about relationships I aborted or otherwise destroyed through my anger. I even warned people I dated not to get too close to me because the monster within me would emerge. I was never physically violent with any of them, but I was probably one of the cruelest people, emotionally, that any of them had ever encountered.

Sara never had to experience any of that. And she never will. Furthermore, I don't think I want to talk about it with her, simply because, frankly, talking about it seems rather pointless. What would she--or I--gain from it?

Besides, while she and I may be turning into each others' friends, I don't envision a sexual or romantic partnership with her. Truth is, I can't have sex with anyone just yet, although that may change soon. But even more to the point, I am in such a transition that I don't want to entangle myself that way--with her, with any other woman or with a man.

What's more, being so involved with someone who's fantasizing about someone I never was, or even just someone she never met, would just be too weird for me.

28 September 2009

Singing for Every Tatter

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress.

Well, we know one thing about William Butler Yeats: He never wrote any ads for cosmetic surgeons!

So why am I thinking of this verse from his "Sailing to Byzantium"? Well, right now I am feeling those "tatters" in my "mortal dress." Actually, I might be feeling flab more than tatters: After all, it's been nearly three months since I've engaged in any meaningful (for me, anyway) physical activity.

That is why things that used to be so routine leave me exhausted. Such is the case now. All I did was my biannual switch-out. Some time around each equinox, I pack one season's clothes and accessories and unpack the other's. In this case, of course, it meant putting away my linen suit and dresses, my shorts and tank-tops and those wispy cotton skirts and tops, and taking out long-sleeved sweaters and blouses and my corduroy pants and wool skirts.

John, Millie's husband, was a huge help: He took me to the storage space I rent and did all of the lifting I would have done otherwise. Everyone should know at least one couple like them!

Still, just the packing and unpacking were as arduous as those climbs up the Alps and Pyrenees and Sierra Nevadas were on my bike. Well, I take that back: At least here, I'm at sea level, so oxygen (0r lack thereof) is not a problem.

What's odd is that I really don't mind feeling so tired: I guess you could say that it is a minor milestone for me.

I'll confess something: I've done a bit of shopping. And I'd forgotten how many articles of clothing I still had! Then again, at least a few things will wear out or end up in the Hour Children thrift shop before I make my next "swap." So, I guess it evens out.

But, as Nick, I never imagined I would have so much clothing as I have now! In fact, I think I have even more now than I did when I had two wardrobes (one for me and one for him).

So what am I going to do? I don't know. Right now, I'm laughing at the situation. I mean, what else can I do? I'd always wanted to be a woman, but who knew that I would become, in the words of Carol (Marci's partner), "such a woman" ?

Actually, Carol is not the only one who's called me that. And she's also not the only one to say it with exasperated affection, such as one feels for someone who is doing, for better or worse, the inevitable.

If I'd known that my current life--even with moments of fatigue like the ones I've experienced today--was inevitable, I would have....Oh, what can you do about the inevitable?

Well, I'll tell you what you can do: As long as it's not tragic, embrace it. I don't know how many times Bruce and other people have advised me to do exactly that. I wonder whether he or they knew that a moment like this was inevitable.

Sing, and louder sing, for every tatter in your mortal dress...Now there's advice Dr. Phil or Dr. Joyce Brothers would never give you.

And I'm tattered only for now. Hopefully, a good night's sleep will help me mend a bit.

26 September 2009

Flying On The Ground Is Not Wrong, Just Inevitable

Tonight Millie and I went to a dance recital at LaGuardia Community College, where I used to teach.

The irony is that the only people I knew who were there were the choreographer, two of her dancers, her husband and, of course, Millie. None of the students, faculty or staff members--at least none that I recognized--were there.

Michio "Tami" Tanaka staged Nest Egg, a work in progress. It followed two other works--one abstract, the other a tragedy of sorts--and I liked hers best, not only because she's a friend.

One thing about Tami's work: Her dancers always seem to have great empathy, not only for whoever or whatever their portraying, or for each other, but also for whatever is the source of their movement and their vitality. They seem to have a kind of empathy, if you will, with the means as well as the subject of their expression. This, I think, is something that Michelangelo and Rodin also had in great abundance.

Nest Egg opens with a group of seemingly-pregnant dancers in a something that wasn't quite flight or a glide, and certainly wasn't fluttery. They were not quite earthbound, either.

Each of them deposits a very large ceramic "egg" in one of the nests. After some time, "chicks" emerge: Three black male dancers. I mention this because they, like their female counterparts, are very beautiful yet do not fit the stereotype of dancers, or at least the stereotype Balanchine articulated: "as white and thin as an apple's core." At least one of the female dancers was white (or seemed to be, anyway). She wasn't fat (as if I should say that about anybody!), but she looked as if her diet consisted of something besides yogurt. And, apparently, she retained at least some of what she ate.

Anyway, in the "nests," the female "birds" peck at, cajole and demonstrate such life skills as flapping wings to the "young" male "birds." Then, the latter are pushed out of their "nests" and the females resume their earlier movements, except that their "flights," while covering a wider range of ground than their earlier ones, also seem to have more discernible patterns. Then we see the males, finding their "wings" and wandering about and later returning with other young "birds." And one of the young females leaves an "egg" in one of the nests...

Sounds like a typical story. But the dancers weren't (thankfully!) wearing bird costumes. Rather, their outfits, while in avian shades of red and yellow, looked like some sort of Native American ceremonial outfits. And their movements were entirely human. So were their wordless interactions with each other.

I'm not a dance expert, but the piece seemed more emotionally than technically complex. And that is more than satisfying to me.

I wish I could have taken some photos or a video. But, as in most shows, flash is not permitted, and neither my camera nor my skills are good enough to take a photo that would look anything like what I saw in that environment.

As Millie and I left, I was about to lead us down a hallway that would have taken us to the doors through which we entered. But it was closed off, and we had to take the longest possible path to the entrance, where Millie's husband John picked us up. That wasn't so bad, though, because I took us down another hallway, where there was a ladies' room that none of the other spectators could've found, and which was cleaner than the others. Nothing like a ladies' room without a line, right?

And, for a moment, I felt like something between a spy and a ghost. I taught at LaGuardia from 2002 until 2005. During the first year I worked as Nick (and was spending most of the rest of my time as Justine); I returned as Justine for the first two years I lived full time in my true identity.

But it's wasn't only the four years that have elapsed since I last worked there, seeing no one I remember from that time or having had the operation that made me feel as I did. For one thing, at the time I was working there, I didn't yet know Tami. Also, I feel that I've changed in other ways since my days at LaGuardia.

You might say that in those days I was still embryonic. I was just learning what it would mean to live my whole life as a woman and how different people would react to my "change." When I started at LaGuardia, the only people to whom I'd "come out" were Jay, the people in my support group and Tammy. And, of course, "coming out" to Tammy put an end to our relationship, which is how I became a neighbor of Millie and Tami.

My feelings last night had an odd parallel with ones I had in my early days of living as Justine: that I was surviving on someone else's knowledge and life experience. Back then, I was drawing upon what Nick left me, if you will. I had some education and job skills, as well as other kinds of knowledge and memories, because of things Nick did. And, last night, I was navigating the school--and, I realized, so much else!--with what I learned from those days when I was making my transition and from the ensuing days when I was starting to create the life I had envisioned for myself.

It's still a work in progress. There's nothing wrong with that. After all, that's what Millie and I saw last night. I want to see it again.

25 September 2009

Submission To A Small World

Today I met with the Director of Community Services of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). Seeing Tom didn't make me woozy with deja vu; rather, I was energized by seeing him--again!

Turns out, we met long ago. Seven years ago, to be exact.

It was cold and rainy during that last weekend of October. Still, the girl's summer camp on the North Shore of Long Island was beautiful, but not just in a romantic enveloped-in-the-mist sort of way. Rather, the sky, which seemed at times to be moving in currents that reflected the gray-blue waves of Long Island sound, seemed to soften the light in the small cabins in which we slept and the larger one in which we participated in workshops and other activities.

So what were we doing in a girls' summer camp on Long Island, you ask? And what were we doing out there on a raw weekend when we could've been shopping, watching Sweet Home Alabama or--at least in my case--reading students' papers?

Well, an organization that was part of the LGBT Community Center of New York was holding a retreat that weekend. SpeakOUT was populated by and dedicated to LGBT people in recovery of one sort or another.

I found out about that retreat and SpeakOUT by accident: I picked up a flyer from the floor of the Center late one evening. Registration for the retreat ended that day; I hastily called the number on the flyer and left a message. The following day, the director of the organization called me back and said, "Of course!"

Almost all of us in SpeakOUT were, at that time or some time in our pasts, involved in at least one of the twelve-step programs. And we found them to be helpful in recognizing, admitting and working through our addictions (in my case, alcohol and, to a lesser degree, other drugs) but found that we needed to learn and evolve in ways that the twelve-step programs couldn't help us. And, some of us found that maintaining our anonymnity--an integral part of the twelve-step programs--hindered us in our recoveries.

Furthermore, our anonymnity keeps us from advocating for those who need help of one kind or another. And it keeps us from discussing the particular problems LGBT people have in beginning or maintaining sobriety (e.g., that so much of gay social life, particularly for the young, centers around bars and clubs).

Now, of course, none of us recommends indiscriminately telling anyone and everyone about our past. For example, most of us wouldn't want to talk to our employers about such things. On the other hand, I can't think of any difficulty that was negotiated, much less overcome, through silence.

Furthermore, I am a writer and educator. Therefore, I feel I have a responsibility to voice what hasn't been voiced and sometimes for those who have no voice. If I am not teaching or otherwise reaching people--or, at least, making the effort to do such things--what am I?

Until I went to that retreat where I met Tom, I didn't know that there were other people who felt the way I did. For that matter, I had never even been involved with an LGBT organization before that weekend.

And there were other things I didn't know until that weekend. I always knew that I was a pretty good teacher, as much as I tried to efface that. But I never knew that part of what made me a teacher--a communicator, for that is what any effective teacher is--was a kind of spiritual power. Some might call it charisma.

I learned of that power, and the responsibility that goes with it, because, well, Tom and a bunch of other people wouldn't allow me not to learn it. You see, he and I were part of a sub-group during the workshops. And he and the other group members decided that I would be the leader and spokesperson of that group.

Mind you, neither Tom nor any other members of that group had ever met me before that day. Only one person at that retreat--Jay--had ever seen me before that weekend. And, it was the first time that I got in front of a group of people of strangers and said I am transgendered and in recovery.

At that time, I was only two months removed from my life with Tammy, with whom I had lived for several years. Just a couple of weeks before that weekend, I had just begun the medical screening that preceded my prescription for hormones.

At that time, I was still going to work as Nick. And I was still trying not to be noticed by my neighbors when I returned home from a day or night out as Justine.

Only a couple of months before that weekend, I "came out" for the very first time: to Jay, the intake counselor at Center Care. As I mentioned, she was the only person at that retreat who'd met me before that weekend.

When I said to her, "I am female. I always have been, even though I've been in this body," I felt that it was the first time I'd ever told anybody the truth about anything. A few weeks after that, I knew that there wasn't anything but the truth--or my truth, anyway--and that she and Tom and the other people--who, by the end of that weekend, were seeking me out for advice and looking to me as a leader--wouldn't allow me anything else.

Now, there have been times since that weekend when I tried to shirk that role. I have always been a somewhat reluctant educator, mainly because I was always a reluctant student. And sometimes being a leader of any sort is a little scary--and very inconvenient.

Then again, one lesson of my life has been that convenience isn't what makes life worth living.

Another lesson, if you'll indulge me one of the greatest cliches of all: It's a small world!

The funny thing, in retrospect, is that when Tom and the other people on that retreat were looking to me for leadership and guidance, I was actually submitting not only to their need and desire for those things, but also to the imperative of my spirit to be the person who could offer the sort of strength they wanted.

It looks like something like that is about to happen again.

23 September 2009

More Giddy-Up; Where Did The Anger Go?

So fall has just begun and what did we get? Summer weather, of course! It was warm and humid, though at least it stayed sunny through much of the day.

I've been really tired the last couple of days. That's why I didn't post yesterday: I got home late and couldn't do much more than dilate and take my bath. And, of course, taking a bath when you're already tired isn't going to keep you awake.

The funny thing is that nobody seems to notice my tiredness. Maybe it's because I've been rather giddy, too--about nothing in particular, really. Well, things are going well at school, but that doesn't seem reason to be almost giggly sometimes.

I remember when I started to get the "giggle fits" around the same time I started to experience the crying jags--a couple of months after I first started to take hormones. But now I wonder where these titters and wider-than-the-Grand Canyon smiles are coming from. Maybe my body is going through another sort of chemical readjustment, which of course may have been brought on by my recovery from the surgery.

Truth be told, I got tired yesterday after doing more than I probably should have. I got rid of some clutter and did my laundry before going to work. I probably should have done only one or the other. In school, I noticed that the students were more attentive and laughing a little more than usual. One young woman assured me that I didn't have any visible wardrobe malfunctions or makeup mishaps. So I guess they were responded to their normally witty, intelligent, good-humored professor, who just wasn't making any sense at that moment. Maybe they didn't notice any difference.

What's really strange is that I used to get angry and cranky when I was tired. I used to feel that other people, and even life on this planet itself, was draining me of all of my energy. And, when I didn't have enough anger for myself (which wasn't often), I used to borrow it from other people. I'd spew venom and bile over their grievances, or simply internalize them. I fooled a few people into thinking that I had such concern for other people and wanted to be some sort of champion of justice, when in fact I was merely finding rationales for being angry. And getting tired, whether physically or mentally (I hadn't yet acknowledged spiritual fatigue.) was sure to raise my wrath.

When I've told people who didn't know me back in the day, they can't believe I was so enraged. And the ones who've seen photos of me say that they can see the anger (or sometimes sadness) in them, but can't connect it with the person they know now. Not that I'd want them to!

Oh well. I guess I should be thankful that my big problem is giggle fits. It's certainly better than what I had before.

21 September 2009

Changing Seasons

Summer's about to end, at least officially. I've seen it coming: The days are getting shorter. However, the weather has been sunnier and a bit warmer than it was through much of the season. So go figure.

I remember that in the early years of my transition--and in my "cross-dressing" days--I looked forward to the coming of fall, as I did to the coming of spring. The problem with the summer was that summer clothes left more of my body exposed, and I felt that the only way I could "pass" was to cover myself.

Now, I must say, I lament the passing of this summer if only because I had to spend most of it indoors. I would've liked to have seen what it would be like to go to the beach and not worry about what my bathing suit would reveal. Now all I need to do is to lose some weight: Swimsuits really do reveal every bulge, wherever it may be!

But I will miss the passing season for another reason: I feel that it was one of those times that was intense, albeit in a wonderful way, because I learned so much in so little time. Of course, I've learned about my body, and a few things about myself. And I also learned what it means to have a community, even if it's not all in the same geographic location.

Well...I guess it's time to apply those lessons. If I do say so myself, that's what I've begun to do. I'm finding that I've always had some sort of charisma within me that I never could or would acknowledge. Now it seems that I can't help but to show it.

Yes, more former students have stopped me in the hallway or come to my office at the college to wish me well, or simply to talk with me. So have a few of their friends; so have some students and others I'd never before met.

And today, I realized that I was completely wrong about one of my colleagues. I'd always assumed she didn't like me, or was just generally a snob. Once, when I was running the tutoring center, she made a comment about my position that I really didn't appreciate at the time. Or maybe it wasn't a comment; it may have been a facial or bodily gesture. Anyway, I felt she was being dismissive of anything that wasn't a faculty position.

After that, I made no effort to communicate with her. I told myself that she didn't like me; the truth was that I didn't want to like her.

During the first few days of this semester, I scarcely even looked her way, even though her office is directly across the hall from mine. But over the past week or two, I've noticed that the "good mornings" and "good nights" have turned into full-blown conversations. I've asked about her classes and some of the research she's been doing; she's not only been willing to talk, she's done so without condescenscion. I'd say she's speaking in a "friendly learned" matter, which I much prefer to "learned friendly."

And then she, out of the blue, expressed admiration for my rapport with students. Two of my former students are in her honors seminar. She said she's seen me talking with both of them and "could see that they trust you, they love you."

"That's how I feel about them."

"And they know it."

"Well, I'm sure they're ready to benefit from what you have to offer them. And that's quite a bit."

"Thank you."

Hmm...It looks like this fall might reveal a few things I hadn't anticipated.

20 September 2009

The Power of Privilege

Today was another one of those gorgeous days that I wouldn't mind, oh, about 300 times a year. It was on the high end of mild, almost warm, with hardly a cloud in the sky and a breeze off the East River. In other words, it was a great day for a long walk and to spend more time envying everyone who was riding his or her bike.

And now I find myself thinking about what an odd combination of privilege and suppression my life had been. Until six years ago, one would assume that I had it all: I am white; I was perceived to be male and presumed to be something within the spectrum of heterosexuality: Yeah, he's kinda weird. But he's got a girlfriend, though she's not what I expected, either.

Yet...There was so much I could not express, even if I had the means for doing so. Yet...There was so much I could leave unsaid. Yet...I was acquiring the means, as the necessity developed and began to float like a bubble from the depths to the surface. Yet...I had the means to make that necessity not- so- apparent. Yet...

When you have privilege, you don't have to be particularly bright or articulate. Does anybody remember George W. Bush? When you don't have it, you are painfully aware of not only your own limitations, but those of the means that you've acquired, or have been given to you, up to that point in your life. And for those who, for whatever reasons, don't develop an awareness of the gaps in their means--in other words, those who know only that they're desperate and alienated and angry--the results can't be anything but terrible: a life of Emerson's quiet desperation if they're lucky, violent or otherwise pointless death if they're not.

I could walk around with a woman on my arm and not say a thing. But I could not tell her why--as I told more than one--she should get as far away from me as she should if she wants to emerge with her sanity intact; that no matter how much she loved me, she could not keep at bay the jaws that were closing in on me.

Why am I thinking of these things now? Well, this afternoon, my walk took me through Socrates Sculpture Park. There, I encountered Rick and Linda, and their two young kids. They're a very sweet-looking family: If the plumber's union put out a calendar like the firefighters have, he'd be on it, and she is adorably cute, as are their kids.

In other words, they're a picture of what most people envision when they think about what type of family life they'd like to have--the blue-collar version, anyway.

They're also about the most unpretentious people you can imagine. They've lived in the neighborhood all of their lives and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Every exchange I've had with them in the seven years I've lived in the neighborhood has been friendly and folksy. I don't know what they told their kids about me, but they, like their parents, have always related to me as however I was presenting myself, and never questioned my transition.

Rick had just gone on a kayak ride offered by a local club. Linda said she'd never do it. I said that I've paddled a kayak before and would do it again, but I couldn't today: I've just had surgery, I said.

"So that's why we haven't seen you this summer," Rick realized.

I nodded. And I anticipated the next question one of them might have asked: "Yes, that surgery."

"Well, you look happy. How do you feel?," Linda wondered.

"Tired but ecstatic," I said. "I haven't had any pain. I went back to work, and have just enough energy to do that. But I'm fine."

They both expressed their happiness for me and Rick mentioned that he saw a program about the operation "with a woman doctor who, at the end of the show, said that she had it herself."

"Dr. Marci Bowers. My surgeon."

Their eyes lit up. "Wow, you went to her?"

And we talked some more. I realized that his position in this world is not so different from what mine had been. Yet I did not begrudge him for it, mainly because he's a nice man and has always treated me well. And Linda has the privilege of being a pretty white woman who has had the choice of devoting herself to her children. She works part-time and has returned to school, but she is able to arrange her schedule around her kids: Even if she loses some income, they can live on what Rick makes. I am happy for her.

Now I realize the reason why today I don't begrudge anyone his or her privilege, whatever it may be-- wealth, social background, looks or simply being born in the "right" body. It is this: While those who have privilege may not understand those who do not, their privilege gives them the opportunity to learn. I realize that, very often, my ability to learn and to empathise with other people has been constricted by the anger I felt over my own situation. I suspect that is also true for many whose lives have been circumscribed by that over which they have no control. We are so consumed with our own predicament, and must spend so much of our emotional and possibly physical resources simply to survive it , that sometimes we can't or don't empathise with those who may just be willing to make some effort to do the same for us.

This is not to say that I blame us for our own problems. What I mean is that experience can lead to knowledge, but it doesn't always lead to understanding--or, more accurately, the means to understanding--much less empathy. All you have to do is look at how much violence (whether physical, emotional or otherwise) the disenfranchised commit on each other to see what I mean.

Those who are not in those dire situations can reflect upon it from another perspective, with different eyes, if you will.

Now, I'm certainly not saying that all people with privilege will use it in the ways I just described. I know that as well as anybody can. However, change happens from one person to the next, not through mandates from above. Every time someone with privilege--however that is defined--sincerely relates to someone who doesn't, or at least makes the effort, that is a victory, however small. Every time a cis-gender person treats a trans person as a member of his or her real or figurative family, it's a step forward. That, of course, is the lesson I've learned from the relationship my parents and I have developed. And, of course, from Millie and Bruce.

So I have come to realize that instead of resenting those who have some privilege that I don't, I can use that privilege as a resource: If nothing else, their relative serenity of mind is a good starting point for an honest conversation in which there is at least the hope of finding understanding.

People like Rick and Linda may not have seen all of the spiritual and emotional storms I've endured. But they understand that I endured days filled with them before meeting them in the park on a day "excellent and fair." If their privilege, such as it is, allows them that understanding, I am happy for it.

19 September 2009

The Cold--Already?

I couldn't believe how cold it was last night. I woke up to shut one window, then another. Finally, my place was hermetically sealed. Then I put on a pair of socks, a headband and an extra layer of clothes. It was easier, as I stumbled around with my eyes half-opened, to pull out my terry sweatsuit, socks and a headband than it would've been to unpack my heavier blankets.

I'd left my bedroom door open. So I should not have been surprised to find Charlie and Max curled up at each side of me when I woke up this morning: I think they were cold, too.

When I began to take estrogen, I was warned that I would feel the cold more than I did before. I used to be one of those guys who wore shorts if the temperaure was above freezing and no rain or snow was falling. Although I am still (or, at least have been) more resistant to the cold than most women, I still feel it (and temperature changes generally) more than I once did.

But I don't recall ever previously feeling as cold as I did last night, not even on camping trips in the dead of winter. I don't think I'm sick: I don't feel any aches, nausea or weakness, and after I was out of bed for a few minutes, I no longer felt cold. In fact, I was peeling off layers and, after I dilated and took my salt bath, I put on a lacy tank top and skirt and felt fine as I went for a walk and picked up a few groceries and a dinner of chicken and rice from those wonderful Palestinian guys who aren't merely bragging when they call themselves the "
King of Falafel." If you're in Astoria, pay them a visit: I don't think you'll ever eat better street-cart food anywhere. In fact, what they make is better than most restaurant food.

It's late at night now, and I'm still not feeling cold. Maybe it has to do with the spices in that chicken and rice! But I wonder how I'll feel later tonight--or this winter. Could it be that the operation has further sensitized me to the cold?

I don't recall reading or hearing anything about that. Still, I wonder...

18 September 2009

A New Writing Process?

I've been writing a poem. I know it's dangerous to talk about a work in progress; sometimes you can talk it away. But I feel that the act of writing this poem may be teaching me something even more important than the poem itself, and learning it is probably more important (at least for me) than whether or not I finish the poem.

Then again, Jean Valentine once told me that we don't finish poems; we abandon them!

So far, the poem looks like a sort of epistle. I've always liked that genre of literature; in fact, my second published piece of writing after I started living full-time as a woman was a letter (actually, an e-mail) to a friend who suggested that I publish it. In case you're interested, here it is:

5 October 2003

H-e-e-y-y b-a-a-a-be (I can still do the butch voice, sort of!):

Always great to hear from you.

I’m so tired after doing the sort of bike ride I used to do before breakfast. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve ridden about a quarter as much this year as last.

It was nice, though. I pedalled the promenade under the Verrazano Bridge, out past Bath Beach, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst. Men in long dark coats and women in loose-fitting dresses tossed bread into the sea. I have witnessed this ritual many times before: The followers of Moses symbolically cast their sins away as they begin anew on Rosh Hoshanna.

Somehow I identified with this spectacle even more than ever. The past few months have included many episodes of tossing away or leaving behind old parts of my life; this has been a time of starting again.

I continued down Cropsey Avenue, past a chrome and glass diner that elongated reflections of splintered houses and cindery garages, toward Coney Island. Kids, still in the light shirts and blouses and dark pants or skirts they wore to church, circled doorways, ran and skipped on concrete lots or darted across streets.

In front of Sea Gate, I turned left and grunted up the ramp to the boardwalk. Weatherbeaten slats clattered and thumped under my tires; wind whipped sand around my face and the only other person (who was pulled by a squat tan dog) I saw as I teetered to the pier in front of the Parachute Jump.

On a day much like this one--sun and wind pushing away summer haze and whipping the first October chill against my skin--I parked my bike by the boardwalk in Long Branch, New Jersey and shuffled through sand that seemed to stretch as far as the ocean. Further, really: At least I knew that if I could follow the ocean I’d end up in Portugal. I knew that the beach in Long Branch spilled into the ones in Deal, Belmar, Elberon, Asbury Park and Ocean Grove; beyond them lay more beaches, but for how far? To Key West? Beyond?

Just how far, I wondered, was it possible to walk where footsteps faded into shadows of the wind?

I was a senior in high school; I’d just begun the process of applying to colleges (among them, West Point and Annapolis). Although I’d had vague ideas of becoming a doctor or a marine biologist, I felt I was envisioning some person I would never meet, who existed only in the hopes of parents and guidance counselors. Those hopes were no more real to me than my father’s idea of my becoming a general or an admiral, no more plausible than any plan to grow up like him, my soccer or wrestling coaches, the parish priests, President Ford, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Bruce Springsteen. Or to become a man of any sort.

I couldn’t describe this dilemma to anyone I knew, in any language I knew at the time. It’d’ve been dismissed as a condition of my adolescence, or worse. I sought the answers in solitude; perhaps, like characters in stories I’d read or movies I’d seen, I’d find the answer echoed in wind and waves or shadowed in the sand. Or perhaps those people who stayed after Labor Day would know--about something. Somehow or another I was supposed to grow into a man, because I had that kind of body. Of course: There was no other choice, I thought.

Twenty-eight years later, I realize I was right. There was no choice, at least not for my male body as it shuffled through sand that echoed the receding sea foam. But as a woman in her mid-forties pedaling along weather-beaten planks, I could continue if I chose. Or I could make a turn. And, perhaps, let that seventeen-year-old boy know that he would be all right, that I would never leave him any more than he would ever lose me.

Oh well. It’s getting late. See you soon.

Love, Justine

I've always allowed the freedom of expression a letter like the one I've shown affords me. That comes about through the relationship I have with the recipient of my letter. And, because I feel the way I feel about whoever receives my letter, I want to write something that's moving and interesting.

And the poem I'm writing is pulling me in that direction: a sort of letter to my parents. It may show them something about me they never before understood, though that is not necessarily the purpose of what I'm writing.

Right now the conflict--which is where the lesson I may be learning lies--is between my "poetic" impulse of being highly metaphorical and imagistic, as many of my poems are and my impulse toward intimacy, which would make the language more direct but could strip it of its metaphors and imagery--or at least the ones that are in some lines of this poem.

Now I'm wondering whether this poem--whether or not comes to be--is going to teach me whether or how the ways I use language--or anything else, for that matter--will change. Will this poem--if it is indeed "born," if you will--be a departure from what I've done previously? Or will it be a modification, or continuation?

I just hope that whatever comes about, for the poem or for me, is more interesting than what I've written here!

17 September 2009

I Can Be Healed; I Wish I Could Heal Them

Today I saw Dr. Jennifer again. Every woman should have a gynecologist like her. And I really hope that some day she teaches somewhere: She is so good at explaining--and, even more important, anticipating what you might want explained.

She says I'm "almost there." About my healing, she says, "Everybody's should be like yours." The bacterial infestation is gone and now I have to wait for the perineum area, where most of the pressure would be, to heal. That is the reason why she still recommends that I follow Marci's advice and not have receptive sex or ride my bike for another month. At that time, I will see Jennifer again and, if my healing progresses as it has been, I should be "good to go."

Having Marci do my surgery and Jennifer for my gynecologist makes me wish I were better at things like biology and chemistry. Both Marci and Jennifer insist that I should not wish for such things; they both say that I'm a "lovely" and "beautiful" person. But they perform miracles: They help people to live, live well and live better. In my case, Marci helped to make possible the life I always wanted--no, was always meant to live--and Jennifer has been helping me through its earliest days.

I wish I could do for someone else what they've been doing for me.

That's how I always feel when someone heals or nurtures me. I don't think that anyone can do anything more important or beautiful. Of course that is the reason why nobody will ever be as important to me as my mother; after her, in there are Marci and Jennifer, Bruce, Millie and Kevin (my first AA sponsor) and every cat I've had. There are other people who, for brief periods of time and in smaller ways, helped me to get better or to develop in some beneficial way. But I simply don't have the capacity to do for anyone what they've done for me.

It's not just a matter of the gaps in my education or talents, although, as I said, I would need to have more aptitude for science to do the kinds of work Marci and Jennifer do. What I lack is what some people would describe as a "touch": I might feel someone else's pain, but I don't always do the right thing for them. And, as much as I aspire toward the spiritual, I am not any sort of medium or holy person.

I'm thinking again of the course I took last semester: a PhD level (whatever that means) English class called "Literature, Gender and Sexuality." I was going to take a course in Mandarin, but a couple of people suggested that I take a course like the one I took. After the momentary thrill of deciphering convoluted essays and books, I couldn't think of anything that I gained by taking it. And I still can't think of how it will benefit me, much less anyone else. I mean, if reading those unreadable texts couldn't change my life, how could I use them to anyone else's benefit?

Even if you enjoy solving things that are made to be puzzles but needn't be so, the sheer pretentiousness of the enterprise and the people involved in it can choke you. Any of the people I named earlier are far more intelligent than anyone I met at the Graduate Center of CUNY, where I took the course, and Marci is the best at the kind of surgery she performs and has been named one of the 100 best doctors in the United States. If someone like her can explain complicated ideas and procedures without condescenscion, or if she or anyone else can respect my humanness as I struggle to learn one thing and another, why do I need to be around people who can't offer me much more than their attitudes and jargon.

As long as I understand something, I can explain it in plain English. And that's all I've ever done for most of my students. For a few others, I have listened to whatever they've entrusted to me. One such person is Sarah, who "came out" to me last year and, when she saw me in the hallway at the college--for the first time this year--ran up to me and hugged me. I am glad she felt so confident, or at least comfortable, with me. But I wish that I could help her with the pain she's endured--some of which she described, and still more that I could simply see.

In other words, I can give someone like her relief and solace. I can also give those things to other people. But I don't have the sort of hands, if you will, that can transmit healing and create nurturing.

At least, I don't think I have them, or the sort of intelligence one needs in order to use them for healing. I'm not talking only about the academic knowledge; I'm also talking about a kind of spiritual intelligence.

At least I get to experience it in other people. That I have such people in my life is certainly reason to be grateful. But that doesn't stop me from wishing...

16 September 2009

What's With Kanye?

Dorothy Parker once said something to the effect that the problem with democracy is that in it, a practical joke can be elected.

I wonder what she would say about a joke that makes the rounds on the Internet and seems even more plausible than an actual news item.

Today someone sent me an e-mail that, it seems, all of my students and half of the people I see every day have also received. It goes something like this:

Kanye West interrupted Patrick Swayze's funeral and announced that Michael Jackson's was better.

What is it with Kanye? First he tries to live like a gangsta. Then he has a near-death experience in a car crash and gets religion. Then, I must say, he made some really good--or at least conscious--music. And now this? It's like he's copping a gangsta attitude again. But this time, he's fooling no-one.

More precisely, he's not convincing at being famous for being famous. He--thankfully!--won't be a male hip-hop version of Madonna, or even Michael Jackson. But I hope that he doesn't share another part of their fate: Becoming a cariacture of one's self and having one's best work more than twenty years in the past. Of course, Kanye isn't yet old enough for the latter. But it could happen, and I think he will seem even more like a parody than MJ or Madonna, simply because he's not the entertainer either of them is or was. I mean, at least for a time, it was fun to see Madonna being, well, Madonna and Jacko being a kind of Peter Pan. I simply can't imagine what makes, or could make, Kanye similarly compelling, apart from his music--or at least what he was doing about four or five years ago.

Now I'm really glad I never bought those Kanye West pills!

15 September 2009

Twenty-Five Years Ago in Soho

Today I had lunch with Bruce. He works in Soho and we went to a very Soho-like restaurant that featured high ceilings with lots of wood and brick. It's a bit like standing in one of those mirrors that makes you feel taller because it makes you look skinnier but is only about six inches wide.

It's a pleasant, if sometimes noisy atmosphere. And the food is also pleasant, or sometimes even better: a dozen or so varieties of Asian noodle soups. Bruce had an Indonesian curry; I indulged myself in a fragrant Vietnamese soup with beef and bean sprouts.

Afterward, we walked along Spring and Prince Streets to Broadway. Along the way, we passed a lot of trendy shops and recalled the days when they weren't. At the northwest corner of Spring and Broadway is a kind of sidewalk mural that looks a bit like something Keith Haring might have done had he picked up a chisel. According to Bruce, there is a series of such murals on various corners in the neighborhood that are aligned with each other. They were done by an artist that neither of us has seen in about twenty years.

That artist used to hang out with me, Bruce and a writer who used to work with me in the Poets In The Schools program when Bruce was the program manager. That was back in the days when one could run into a prostitute along one of those streets, as I sometimes did when I was going to leaving my job at American Youth Hostels when it was on Spring and Wooster Streets. Many of those stores were studios, some of which housed the artists themselves as well as their work, as well as galleries.

The writer who used to hang with us was ostensibly an art critic as well as a poet. I don't recall whether the guy who did the sidewalk murals had a day job. Anyway, we--sometimes all of us, other times some combination of two or three of us--would go to the exhibits and openings that lined those streets the way sales line them today. Our writer friend could get us into the more "exclusive" ones with his press credential: the one and only thing that made me believe he might actually be an art critic.

We would spend some time looking at the paintings or sculptures. Bruce, although not always as outgoing as I sometimes am, would get into a conversation with an artist or some other interesting person. Meantime, the writer and I would load ourselves up with wine and cheese, and then some more wine. Then, another glass of wine in hand, the writer would hit up on some woman who had absolutely no interest in him. I might spend more time looking at the paintings or sculptures, but I would definitely drink some more.

Then, we--or I alone--would go to Fannelli's, which was still something of an Italian-American working class bar that just happened to be frequented by some of the artists. Some of those artists had tabs (Remember those?) there.

After Bruce and I parted, I realized that those days were now a quarter-century past! In other words, we've all lived (assuming the artist and writer are still alive) another lifetime in addition to the one each of us had lived up to that point.

But I didn't find myself becoming, as Kurt Vonnegut would say, woozy with deja vu. It's hard to do that in Soho these days: So much has changed! But more important, there didn't seem any point to it.

That's not to say I wasn't remembering some of it warmly. Soho certainly had an interesting "vibe" in those days and you could actually do quite a bit on little or no money. And, in working at American Youth Hostels, I got discounts on equipment and airline tickets. So, even though I wasn't making much money, I managed to take a bike trip from Italy into France that September and another trip to California at Thanksgiving.

But today I was neither pining for those days nor trying to forget or disavow them. I am not proud of everyting I did: Even the trips I did were a form of running away from what I actually needed (and wanted) to do; I guess I don't have to say that all the drinking I did in those days was a form of escape as self-medication.

Yet I found myself, today, wanting to embrace, to hold, that person who did those things. No, I don't want to be him again. Rather, I found myself valuing him for the things I was able to learn from having lived his life. It made me into someone who would like to see that writer and the sidewalk-carver again, just to know that they're safe and well--and, hopefully,doing interesting, productive, creative and helpful things. And, of course, I came out of that life as Bruce's friend, and with Bruce as a friend. Both have left me a very privileged person.

Yes, I am happy to have had my operation. I'm even proud of it: For a change, I didn't back down from something I needed to do. But I realized today that I have even more pride in the person I'm becoming. And I feel even more privileged to be her, to be Justine, to be myself.

After all, I had to live, literally, another lifetime after those days as a young man who drank and let his friends chat up artists and chase women. And I've had to learn that to move forward in life, there is no choice but to love whomever you have been, or lived as, as well as those who were part of the life you lived.

And then, after all that, I went to work: I was talking about poetry with my students. I love poetry because it is, and my students because they have helped to define the person I am and am becoming. After all, I didn't have any --nor did I imagine I would ever have any--hope of becoming who I am in those long-ago days in Soho.

14 September 2009

La Beaute Quotidienne et L'Esperance: Edwidge Danticat

Today I had a very long day, which included some exasperation but ended with joy. It was like being a kid who was forced to eat some food he or she doesn't like but was given his or her favorite dessert afterward.

And what was that "dessert?" A reading by the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. I must confess that I have not read anything by her. Shame on me!

She read a chapter from one of her novels, a selection from her memoir and a selection from a work-in-progress. Her soft, lilting voice conveys barely a trace of an accent, but her words evoke the rhythms of the place where she grew up and move her stories along with the logic of dreams. As a poet, that is exactly the sort of fiction I can appreciate best, I think.

But even if you aren't a writer and don't read or listen to language for its music, her work has another very powerful quality which, I think, is the real reason for the wide readership she enjoys. Her characters endure some very harsh realities--as, I imagine, nearly everyone in Haiti does--yet they survive because of their spiritual force. I'm not talking about Hollywood-type "happy endings" where guy gets the girl or Horatio Alger-style "success" stories. What her characters do is this: By surviving, and by achieving seemingly-small quotidian victories, they show that life is beautiful simply because it goes on in spite--or sometimes because--of their circumstances.

If I had lived in Cite Soleil and my family had been terrorized by the Tonton Macoutes and my uncle died in a Homeland Security facility, I don't think I could believe that my life would have one of those storybook endings because I'm not sure that, under such circumstances, I would have the capacity to dream, much less believe in, such a thing. But I could--if I were anything like the person I am now--believe in the possiblilty of, if not miracles, at least a kind of momentary redemption from despair. And I certainly would hope, and possibly believe, that there was, or at least could be, some sort of beauty to be found in, or made from, surviving.

Danticat offers that to her readers. For that reason, I think she could get away with being half as good a writer as she is.

Plus--You may have already figured this out--I can identify with what she's expressing. Maybe I didn't live in the kind of poverty or misery her family experienced. But I have experienced pain and alienation that I wouldn't wish on anybody. People tell me that I am brave and strong for having gone through my surgery; if that's true, I think those qualities were forged in me when I was surviving through all of those years that I made it through one day of not harming myself or anyone else, then another, then another, and sometimes performing or experiencing small acts of charity and creativity. Even at my most despairing, I tried to create, in whatever small ways, beauty--or to bring it into my life.

If I'd read or heard Danticat's work earlier in my life, would I have appreciated it? I don't know. But at least I had the opportunity to hear it tonight.

Now you know what I'm going to read next!

13 September 2009

I Thought I Was The Only Transgendered Libertarian!

Ed McGon asked me to post an essay Lew Rockwell rejected because he thought it might be "too advanced" for some readers. The only reason that I don't post it here is that I can't: It has been accepted for inclusion in a book of essays about liberty.

Briefly, in that essay, I mention that being transgendered and being a libertartian are inseperable for me. I no more want this government, or any other, to interfere with my right to be who I am than I want any other institution to do the same. If you don't have sovereignty over your own body and mind, how can you define yourself as "free?"

Also: I see one of my roles as an educator as helping people become more self-reliant. To me, it's contradictory, if not hypocritical, to embrace any philosophy that seeks to expand the role of government in people's lives. And I just happen to think that nearly all elected officials, whether they've got the D or the R attached to their names, or whatever else they choose to call themselves or other people call them, want to make the government larger and therefore more intrusive. Some want to do it by expanding social programs; others seek to accomplish this through making the military bigger and spreading it throughout the world. Sometimes I think Obama wants to do both.

I'm mentioning my political philosophy now because I had my bubble burst. You see, I thought I was the only person in the US (or possibly the world) who is both transgendered and openly libertarian. I've heard rumors that Ann Coulter was once a man, but I don't think of her as libertarian or even conservative, really. To me, her only defining principle is hate, and I think she tries to pose as more of a redneck (at least philosophically) than John Wayne because she's hiding something.

I just paid a visit to Facebook, something I've begun to do every now and again. Turns out that Andie, my roommate in Mount San Rafael describes herself as "libertarian".

OK...Some of you want to see a catfight, right? Well, since we're both libertarians--and somehow I think she's even more of a--or at least a better-- capitalist than I am, we'll claw and scratch only if you're willing to pay top dollar for the tickets! ;-)

But seriously...I don't want to scratch and claw: I just had my nails done!

Actually, what's even more dissonant from my political and economic philosophy than my gender identity and the way I express it is the milieu in which I work. In just about any English department in this country, most if not all of the faculty members are the sorts of Democrats who will continue to vote for Ted Kennedy even though he's gone. Nearly all of them support some version of the single-payer healthcare system and want to see government programs expanded. (Not the least of their reasons, I believe, is that so much of their research and other work depends on government largesse.)

To be fair, such is the condition not only in English departments. From what I've seen, the vast majority of faculty in every discipline save for business and related subjects shares a similar philosophy.

So...I had a plan to stir up all sorts of controversy and get myself book contracts, appearances on The View, etc. And now I find out that Andie shares what I always thought to be my claim to uniqueness.

And have you seen her photo? I'm supposed to compete with that? (Do I sound like Joan Rivers, or what?)

Oh well. Looks like I'll have to get by in this world with my charm(!), wit and erudition. And by glowing and being radiant and all of those other things people say I am but which I make absolutely no effort at being. I'm just enjoying my life and, well, I smile a lot, I guess. If people want to recognize me for that, I'll let Andie be the libertarian tranny or the libby transgender (The former sounds better, I think), if that's what she really wants. Then again, she hasn't said anything about that.

And if they ask me about my political philosophy, I'll just say, "Keep your laws off my body!"

12 September 2009

What Are They Seeing?

More rain today. Still, I took two long walks. The first took me to Roosevelt Island, where there's a post office that's open until 3 pm on Saturday. I mailed a package to Abby, who underwent her operation a few days after mine and inspires me with her grace under circumstances far more difficult than mine. Mike, who usually works Saturdays at that post office, said that it was the first package to Montana he's seen in a long time. He also commented on the fact that he hadn't seen me in a long time. "I've been away," I said. After that, the post office manager called him away to perform some back-room task or another, so he couldn't ask me to elaborate.

Roosevelt Island also hosts a farmer's market every Saturday morning. I'd shopped in it almost every week for about three or four years leading up to my surgery. It's more expensive than the supermarkets in the area (though not the Gristede's on Roosevelt Island) or even the greengrocers, but their produce is so much fresher and therefore tastier. At this time of year, most of what's sold there is grown upstate, in Pennsylvania or in South Jersey: all within a radius of about three or four hours' drive from the city.

Plus, the people who work it--some of them are actual farmers, others are Mennonites who live in a mission in East Elmhurst, just up the runway from LaGuardia Airport--know me. And they all commented on my absence. "We missed you," said Brad, one of the farmers who, with his gaunt but kind face and beard, looks the part. "We thought maybe you'd moved away."

"No, I just kind of slipped out of town."

"I'm glad you're back. Are you still teaching at the college?"

"Yes. In fact, I went back last week."

"Good. I know you're a fine teacher."

You heard it here: Farmers have a way with the ladies! ;-)

The fact that they're so friendly and their fruits and vegetables are so tasty are ample reasons to shop there. But there's an even better reason: It reminds me of what I loved so much about the markets in France and Italy. Because the farmers at Roosevelt Island know me, they tip me off as to which fruits or vegetables are best that week. As a result, I bought some nice red plums and some very sweet (and beautiful!) concord grapes, among other things.

The difference between this market and its French and Italian counterparts is that at the ones on the other side of the ocean, you don't pick the fruits or vegetables yourself. Instead, you ask the merchant for the fruits or vegetables you want, and he (almost all of them are men) picks it for you. When I first encountered their way of doing things, I feared that I might get spoiled fruit. However, that never happened to me: The merchant picks something that's ready to eat that day, unless you ask him to pick otherwise. As Europeans have traditionally purchased fresh produce every day, the way these merchants do business makes sense.

Anyway, I had planned to buy only a couple of items, as I still can carry only so much. However, so much looked so good that I filled up my tote bag. I realized that while I probably could have done the walk--about a mile--with that full bag in hand, it probably wouldn't have been the best thing to do. So I stood at the foot of the bridge back to Queens, where I figured I could get a cab.

I saw one of those yellow cars making the turn toward the bridge entrance. I hailed it, but a black Lincoln Town Car with Taxi and Limousine Commission plates turned in front of it. Although I wasn't happy with the driver's move, I got into the Town Car, as it and the cab were blocking traffic behind them.

The driver's conversation and demeanor turned from pleasant to obsequious. Then, he asked "Where are you from?" and I asked the same from him. "Moan-ray-al"--the Quebecois French pronunciation of Montreal--was his reply. To which I responded, "Vraiement?"

Indeed, he hailed from that city. I don't know it well, but he spoke of it in enough detail to convince me. Then he started to ask about my personal life, including this: "Comment vivez-tu? Seul?" In other words, did I live alone?

He's the third male stranger in the past week to ask whether he could meet with me again, "au cafe." Now, I like what I see in the mirror, but I know I'm not beautiful or a sexpot. And, having been home for the past two months, my skin is rather pasty and what I wore today is what I threw on this morning, which is what I threw on yesterday. And I wore no makeup besides some lipstick. So, what was he seeing? What were those other men seeing?

As irrational as this seems, I started to wonder whether they know that I've just had my operation. I mean, I am happy, and maybe I am as radiant and glowing as people have said. But I haven't made any effort to be noticed: I actually want to wait before I get involved in a relationship. For one thing, I probably still need to heal a bit more before I can engage in sex safely. For another, I am still learning a lot of new things about myself, and I feel it's more important to focus on those developments than to give myself over to someone. And, well, I simply don't feel lonely. In fact, I now feel more integrated--which is also to say free of alienation--than I have ever felt in my life. I don't feel that I need to have a boyfriend (or girlfriend, for that matter) to feel connected to other people or in touch with my own body and spirit.

Finally, as confident as I feel, I still need nurturance right now. Most men who are looking for a sexual relationship are not going to give that. In fact, I had the feeling that the driver I saw today, as well as other men I've met, want their women to cater to them and at the same time make them feel as if they are in control. I simply don't have the resources--or, perhaps, simply the desire--to engage in a game like that.

I hope this doesn't sound like man-bashing. Eventually--possibly soon--the time will be right for me. That time just happens not to be now.

Could that be the reason why men are trying to get dates with me? After all, don't we want what we can't have?

For now, I'm happy to take walks, have lunches and barbecues with friends, read, write and learn about the person I'm becoming and the life on which I've embarked.