31 December 2009
OK. So I said my previous post would probably be my last. The operative word was "probably."
Anyway...I thought this might be a good time to share a poem I wrote in September. In one of my entries that month, I mentioned that I was working on this poem. I'm still not sure that it's done. Jean Valentine, a wonderful poet and one of my teachers, once said that we never finish a poem, we only abandon it.
Well, if that's the case, I'll abandon it to you, dear reader:
The End Of What Never Was
I never could have been the boy
Who climbed trees and played football
While you waited for my letters of acceptance.
I only could have been that student
Who struggled with extra science classes
For a higher score on the SAT math
After I got the Academy's letter of rejection.
Even they knew I couldn't be that son
Like the one in the photo: the one
whose father stood proud, whose mother
Pinned stars and bars to his dress grays.
No, I never could have been a soldier
And I never could have been a sailor.
That young girl standing on the bridge
Exchanging vows under crossed swords
She could not have known she would never be
My wife, the mother of your grandchildren.
I never could have given her anything except
Your name, and a name that was never mine.
After that, I could only lie to her again.
No, I never could have been her man
I never could have even been her ally
Or on anyone's side, not even as a spy.
She will never see me; she has never seen this day
The way you never could have foreseen today.
None of us ever could have known
I never could have been your son.
So...This will probably be my last post of the year. It's a little sad to write this: This, the most momentous of my life so far, is ending. Then again, I'm about to start my first full year in my new life.
Tomorrow I am going to Millie's house, again. She seems to think the first day rather than the first second of the new year is more important--to the extent that she thinks of such things. In that sense, she's rather like me.
It seems that almost everyone is happy to see this year end. At least, the people I've heard talking about the topic have expressed such a feeling. At the same time, they seem more hopeful than optimistic about the coming year. In other words, they're hopeful in the same way as someone who comes to New York after his life has fallen apart in Nebraska. That, by the way, is the story of someone I talked with a few nights ago. Maybe I'll tell more about him later.
Anyway...They say that hope springs eternal. Maybe that's why people ring out the old and ring in the new year. Some--not all of them young--have visions of the wonders that the new year can bring. I'm thinking now of what Eva-Genevieve said in the wake of Mike Penner/Christine Daniels' suicide: Many people enter gender transitions with the idea that living full time in their "new" gender will be like a permanent drag ball. They think of the sense of release they feel when dressing up and going out, or the sexual thrill they get out of "kicking up their heels" and expect that the adrenaline rush they get from playing their roles will continue 24/7/365.
In a similar vein, on this night, many people are thinking only of the things they expect or hope to be better in the coming year. The mass media are full of that sort of thing: The economy is going to turn a corner, etc, etc. Of course, one should have hope. But if you've had some difficulty or another for years or even decades, is it rational to expect that problem to change, much less disappear, by turning a page in a calendar?
Back to transitioning: There are probably more things that don't change, at least in the circumstances of one's life, than there are things that change as a result of starting the process of becoming true to one's self. You still have to pay whatever bills you were paying before. In fact, they will probably be bigger and there will be more of them. You still have the same tensions over work, workplaces and living situations, which may be exacerbated by undertaking a transition. And, I've discovered, though the form of some of your relationships may change, the real attitudes of the people with whom you're in those relationships don't shift--at least, most of them don't. The ones who decide they want nothing more to do with you are really acting on attitudes and prejudices they had before you "came out" to them. The ones who change their attitudes either loved you or simply had open minds before you shared your "secret" with them.
The difference is that you may not have known these things about the people in question before you decided you could no longer live in as the person they believed you to be. The truth is, you didn't have to know them. That is part of what having privilege means: You don't have to know at least some of the truth about others. That also defines what privilege I still have. As an example, I know people who lived on the streets at one time or another in their lives. I admire them for having survived and becoming advocates, going to school or doing other positive things with their lives. But, at the same time, I can't even begin to imagine the realities of the lives they lived when their only shelter was whatever place they hadn't been chased away from and the only way they could make a home for themselves was to curl up in a fetal position, as if they were recreating their mother's wombs.
All right...I'll get off the soapbox. I'll tell you another way in which I have privilege. Happily, I acquired it during the course of my transition and surgery. You see, I didn't get a sexual thrill out of putting on female clothes or an adrenaline rush out of going public in a dress. To tell you the truth, I was scared to death when I first did those things. And I was for a long time afterward. Furthermore, I felt completely out of place the one time I went to a "drag" bar: I am a woman, not a cross dresser. The other patrons--most of them, anyway--went back to their lives as boyfriends and husbands and fathers, as horse trainers and construction supervisors and mechanical engineers. I had no such option of "going back."
That was eight New Year's Eves ago.
Today I made it to the appointment with Anna I rescheduled from last week. I had my hair cut a bit and had it treated to so that it's softer than it was. Other women were getting their hair done; two were also being made up by one of the stylists at Zoe's Beauty. I was there for the same reasons as other women; I simply felt normal there. And that is how I felt when I walked the strip of Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint and tried on shoes and clothes I didn't buy: It wasn't a thrill or a rush; it was simply life as I was meant to live it.
And, yes, I had a late lunch/early dinner at The Happy End. I began today's repast the way I've begun every meal I've had there: with their white borscht. This time, I had the grilled kielbasa with onions. The menu said that the kielbasa was "locally made;" it certainly tasted better than any other I've had. And today's meal is probably the only one I've ever had that included two servings of mashed potatoes. Plus, the sides were interesting and tasty: red cabbage, sauerkraut and a salad made of sliced carrots. I noticed once again that the proprietress, who's about my age, was friendlier toward me than to her fellow Poles. She's seen me before, and remembered me, but I'm sure most of those Polish patrons were repeat customers as well.
She was also friendly to two male hipsters who were eating at the counter. Oh my goddess--I hope that's not the end of the restaurant, or the neighborhood!
Then again, should I begrudge a couple of hipsters their privilege? I wished them a Happy New Year on the way out; they wished me the same.
And I hope you have a great New Year, too!