02 August 2010

Can I Stay Out And Move On?

The other night, I was part of a panel discussion that followed a showing of the film Trinidad.  

The other two members of the panel were a trans man and a trans woman, both of whom have much more of a history of activism than I have, and will probably ever have.  The trans woman, Pauline Park, is one of this area's better-known activists and was the Grand Marshal of the New York City Pride March a few years ago.  Jay Kallio, the trans man, has decided that activism and simply speaking up were the best way to "make the most" of the time he has left--which may not be much, given his medical conditions.

I met Pauline during the year when I was going to work as Nick and ducking into the coffee shop bathrooms to make my Clark Kent-to-Lois Lane change before going about the rest of my life.  I met Jay some time after that, when I hadn't been living full-time as Justine for very long.  

When I first met Pauline, I was only a few months away from living full-time as Justine, although I didn't know that.  When I met Jay, I saw the surgery in my future.  But I didn't know how far or near that future would be.

It was odd to realize that the thing to which I was so looking forward--actually, for which I was hoping--when I met Jay is now part of my past.  And the life I'd wanted to have when I first met Pauline is my life now, and when I think of my past, I don't think of Nick as the actor in it; rather, she was and is Justine.

During the discussion, someone in the audience asked us how we define ourselves.  Each of us mentioned an experience that showed us we were not of the sex marked on our birth certificates when we were born.   I said, "But I was a girl, a woman, even before that.  Most people think that I became a woman when I had my surgery and that I became transgendered when I started my process of transition.  But I was always a woman; I just had to live as male for much of my life."

Then, I had a very strange sensation.  On one hand, I was enjoying the talk, and people in the audience were mostly sympathetic.  But, on the other, a part of me was asking myself, "What am I doing here if I am a woman?"  At the same time, I realized that being a woman was the reason why I was there.

This is a dilemma, to say the least.  I can see why some post-op trans women completely leave the world of transgender activism (if they were involved in it) and the other vestiges of the trans community behind them.  Then again, I can see why some remain in a kind of transgender subculture:  We have histories that are different from those of cis-gender women--or men, for that matter.

Marci Bowers didn't approve of the fact that Sabrina Marcus allowed her kids to call her "Dad," even after her transition and surgery.  I can understand that, but at the same time, I wouldn't know what to call a transgendered parent.  As Sabrina's daughter said, she can't call her "Mom" because she already has a mother:  the woman who gave birth to her.  

So, the question is:  How much of a break can or should we make with our pasts?  Marci sees herself as a woman, and that of all the things she is, "transgendered is about eighth."  But everybody knows that she was once a man named Mark.  These days, no matter how much you distance yourself from your past, it's not that difficult for someone else to learn about it.  Even if I'd never written a word about my transition, someone with a little too much time on his or her hands would have  found me out.

Sometimes I am tempted to go to get a new job or to move to some place where nobody knows me.  But, even though I'll probably never be famous, I somehow doubt that I'll be completely anonymous, either:  It's hard to do that when the things you do for a living involve--or are--communication with other people.  And it seems that I'll always be doing that sort of work, whether or not I get paid for it--or whether or not I'm any sort of transgender activist.