26 March 2010

A New Girl In Town

Tonight, as I was walking from the bus stop to my apartment, I heard someone call my name.

She was a young trans woman whom I met, by chance, at an ATM the night our second blizzard of the year began. We've talked a couple of times since then.

Marta hasn't been in town very long. She came here from the Philippines, by way of California. She's been trying to get work and her boyfriend just got a job. One thing she knows: Things ain't easy when you don't have work.

Whenever I meet young trans people, I feel a combination of envy toward, as well as fear --and hope--for, them. My envy comes, as one might expect, from my own experience of starting my transition in my 40's. And the fear is, perhaps, also a result of my own story: As much as I would have liked to transition when I was younger, I can hardly imagine what it would have been like. I had fewer emotional and spiritual resources--or, at least, I didn't know how to access them--in those days. Plus, the world was a very different place for LGBT people. That, paradoxically, is what gives me hope: More people understand us, at least in some way, and more also accept us. So girls like Marta (and young trans men) may come of age, and make their lives, in a more tolerant environment than we've had.

Even so, it's hard to start a new life in the gender of our spirits--which so many of us have suppressed--and in a new city. I've done both. I can't say which was more difficult. On one hand, when I lived in Paris, I had some (albeit limited) command of the language and the sheer bullheadedness young people have when they're trying to show that they can do things their elders said they couldn't. But I knew no one, and officials in the City of Light sometimes act like Princes (or Princesses) of Darkness. I don't know what, if anything, I had going for me, save for the fact that I'd been travelling by bike and was therefore not seen as a "typical" American tourist.

On the other hand, when I started my transition, and to live full-time as a woman, I had online as well as face-to-face networks from which I could draw upon other trans people's advice and experience, as well as those of our friends, families, co-workers and those whose missions--whether voluntarily or professionally--are to support us. Those networks didn't exist in my youth. Even so, finding out how to navigate my new path wasn't always easy.

As far as I can tell, I am one of the first parts of the network I hope Marta will develop. She's nervous because she still needs to develop the sense that she has the same right to be who she is that anyone else has to realize themselves. I just hope she doesn't become embittered by other people's hatred and opprobrium. At least she won't get those things from me.

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