31 December 2012

Lessons After Three And A Half Years

I've heard many other people say that they're not sorry to see 2012 go.  On the whole, I agree with them.  I've discussed some of the difficulties (which may well be minor in the Grand Scheme of Things) I've encountered, mostly in my personal life, as well as some health issues.  My doctor says that the latter are simply part of aging and, to some degree, the stresses related to some of the issues I've faced.  Others have said that the initial euphoria I felt in the wake of finally having my surgery is finally wearing off.  That, I suppose, was inevitable, and if it just started to wear off this year, it had a pretty good run.

Whatever the case, the question for me this New Year's Eve is "What's Next?"  Perhaps that's always the question.  However, it seems particularly pertinent now.  My old therapist and my gynecologist say that I have come to a point--three and a half years after surgery--when post-op transsexuals start to realize what kind of man or woman they are becoming, and how it is like, or different from, what they envisioned when they began their transitions.

I know that I weigh more than I expected to, and I am not (and may never again be) as athletic as I was when I was younger and full of testosterone.  I never expected to be beautiful--at least in the ways that, say, Angelina Jolie, Hallie Berry and even Laura Linney are--but I actually like what I see in my face and eyes, even if I've aged a bit more than I thought I would. But most important of all, I realize now that being a woman is, for me, different than it ever could be for the ones I've mentioned, or for my mother or any other woman who's been part of my life.  

What I have in common with them is that we all have become women.  The difference is that they were born female and I wasn't.  Thus, there is no way I could become a woman who in any way resembles them.  But, ironically, it's also the reason why I can learn so much from them--especially from my mother and my friend Mildred.  Among the lessons I've absorbed from them (mainly through their presence) is that everything I thought about femininity--especially those things I tried to emulate--have little, if anything, to do with being a woman.  That is not to say, of course, that the women in my life, or the ones who are cultural icons, are  not feminine in their own ways.  Rather, they have become women, embodying femaleness, in ways they had to learn mostly on their own.  And that is what, I believe, I am beginning to learn.

Popular culture can only teach a girl or young woman some men's idea of femaleness, which is really almost a parody of femininity.  And the education system only teaches the roles women have played and the places they have occupied.  (That, by the way, is why even very intelligent women of my mother's generation didn't realize they were capable of getting more education than they did and pursuing all sorts of careers and other options than the ones they followed, or fell into.)  If children born as females (or assigned that gender at birth) couldn't learn how to be women from their environments, how in the world could a female born in a male body learn what living beyond the boundaries of her flesh could, and would,  mean?

So it's no wonder that trans people like me find ourselves becoming different kinds of women from what we envisioned when we started our transitions.  The real lesson I've been learning, though, is that my conception of myself of a woman is changing because nobody and nothing could have taught me what it means to be a woman, never mind the kind of woman that I am.

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