07 December 2009

Five Months Passed; What They Don't Know About My Past

Five months already! That's how long it's been since my surgery.

I haven't had a chance to meet my new neighbors yet. Some of them have probably seen me walking around the nearby segment of Broadway, where I do much of my shopping. Many of the store and restaurant owners, and the workers at the nail salon--not to mention the guys at The King of Falafel and Schwarma.

Something occured to me about the people I haven't yet met: They don't know about my past. Neither does my landlady. As far as she knows, I've never been anything but a woman. I got a kick out of hearing her tell her son that she rented the apartment to "una dama sympatica--ella es una profesora." They're from Spain--near Barcelona, to be exact--and have, so far, been friendly and helpful.

And they don't know about my past. And I have no compulsion to tell them. I also have no reason to tell anyone else I might meet, unless that person wanted me to bear his or her children. I suppose I could simply say that I can't have children. For one thing, I'm old enough that such an explanation would be plausible. For another, it is simply the truth.

Millie and John have known me for seven years; they knew me as a man only for the first year. They never refer to me as anything but a woman--not among themselves or to anyone else to whom they might mention me. That is what they tell me, and I have every reason to believe them. In fact, it was Millie who told me, about a year ago, that I have no reason to tell anyone about my former identity. "You are a woman," she asserted.

The relationship I have with them probably is most like the ones I could form now. Bruce knew me as a male for more than twenty years before I made the "switch;" between us, it's been a non-issue except when he asks about how various aspects of my transition and current life have gone, or are going.

And then there are people who know me as a trans person because they met me during my transition or I met them among other trans people--in everything from the support groups to the advocacy events in which I've participated.

But now I have an opportunity to meet people who don't know about that aspect of my life. And I know I could form new relationships on that basis--after all, there have been people who were surprised to find out that I was a trans woman. On one hand, I want that. But on another, I want to maintain my ties to other trans people and our supporters and allies--and, of course, the people I met in Trinidad.

So I could end up living in two worlds after all. But at least it wouldn't be like the time I spent straddling the worlds of gender identity, as I did when I was going to work as a guy named Nick and socializing (and being something of an activist) as a gal named Justine. Now, at least, if I were to be known only as a middle-aged woman to some people and as a woman with an unconventional (for a woman, anyway) past, shall we say, to some other people, I don't have the same fear of being found out by one of those groups as I did when I did my boy/girl split. And, well, if someone who didn't know about my past were to find out about it, I won't deny or whitewash it. I don't want to form new relationships based on something I'm not, at least not anymore, but I'm not going to hide, or hide from, it.


EdMcGon said...

That does beg the question of when it's appropriate to bring up the subject of your past? I'm not sure there is a blanket answer to that.

If it comes up in conversation, that's easy. But what if it doesn't? At what point do you introduce the topic?

Just trying to put myself in your shoes for a moment, but I guess I would introduce the subject if I felt the other person was more than just an acquaintance. I would think your friends should be aware?

Needless to say, if you're in a dating situation, that is a "must discuss" topic. Say what you will, but the other person does deserve to know something like that, if for no other reason than a litmus test for you to determine whether to pursue the relationship further.

Justine Valinotti said...

I agree with what you say, Ed. Anyone who's close to me will know. If they don't already know, I will tell them when I feel the relationship is "safe" enough, and if there's a context for telling. And, certainly, I would disclose my past in a dating situation. Let me tell you: It's hard to find a better litmus test!

However, I'm starting to look forward to having day-to-day and casual acquaintances with whom I won't have to mention my past, unless it comes up.

EdMcGon said...

On an unrelated note, I noticed a poll over at CNN.com, and immediately thought of you. The question was whether you would want to be able to change the gender of your unborn child. I could just imagine people changing their boy to a girl, or vice versa, only to have their child go through a sex-change operation later in life.