Not in My House!

Last night someone shared something with me on Facebook that sparked a lot of memories, a lot of recollections that I’ve kept locked away in that part of my mind to which I never wander. I would not call the memories repressed; I would, however, say that they were unconsciously avoided.

The first one that returned was one that I’ve actually thought about a lot through the past year: when I was 12 or so, my grandmother (snooping, as she does) found women’s clothing hidden between my mattresses. There were a few pairs of underwear I’d pilfered from my sister, a skirt I’d taken from my grandmother–it’s not like I had a way to get my own. This is one of the things that makes everything so bloody obvious in hindsight.

The fallout was enormous. My father took me out back with his belt, and, though he didn’t whip me, it was only because one of our neighbors happened to come outside. I’d forgotten that detail, but I never forgot the disgust, fear, and almost hatred in my father’s voice when he asked in exasperation, “Why are they there, son? Do you wear them?”

There was no window of opportunity to answer that question honestly, because I overheard my dad and grandmother’s conversation before he took me outside, and she wanted to send me to a home, saying that she was not going to have that in her house, and that she’d send me to a home for troubled youth. When you’re in danger of literally being kicked out of your home at twelve years old, honesty isn’t a luxury you’re afforded.

 

I’ve often fantasized what my life might be like if I’d answered honestly. I’d have been kicked out and/or sent to a home, but maybe some reasonable couple disgusted by such horrendous behavior would have taken me in and fostered, rather than stifled, my development. But it’s idle fantasy, because that wouldn’t be how it happened. I’d have been sent to what we colloquially called “The Village,” which was a sort of foster facility run by extremely religious people and funded by local churches. However bad my situation was at my grandmother’s, it would have been infinitely worse there, with no way to hide anything.

It did get better in high school, when I moved in with my father. I stole clothes from my cousin next door, because I had no other way to acquire them still, and there were also some left in the house that had belonged to my great grandmother. Despite all his flaws, my dad is an extremely loose parent, and he worked swing shift at the nearby Burger King. Another thing that I’d forgotten: the sole reason that I wanted to move in with my dad was to have that time to myself, to dress and be as I chose instead of how other people chose.

And I wasted no time. I recall clearly spending nearly every night dressing appropriately, talking on the phone with friends throughout, and finding great solace in video games, particularly those that let me play as a female. Like I said, in hindsight it’s all so obvious.

But in those days, it was largely a sexual thing for me. It had taken on a taboo nature of necessity, which pushed it closer to being about exploring the sexual taboo than addressing the larger issue. Plus, this was the late 90s and early 00s. There was no talk of transgenderism, at least none that would have reached a high school student in Mississippi. All I knew was that I liked cross dressing, which was a difficult thing to accept about myself when “That’s evil” came from every direction. Even then, I had already abandoned the dehumanization of organised religion, but indoctrination runs deep. Years later, in my early 20s, I had sex with a guy, and the overwhelming sense of shame and feeling that I’d sinned crippled me even then, and I had for a decade or so rejected the mantras of Christianity. But they indoctrinate children for a reason: because that’s how it sticks.

The first person I ever told was J., and she was just the right type of chick to handle it wonderfully; she thought it was the most awesome thing ever. Hell, she had me try on her prom dress before she did. So I did have that refuge. She gave me clothing and was tremendously helpful, but, as high school relationships do, it came crashing down and I handled it very badly. Very badly.

But it’s nearly impossible to hide things of this scope indefinitely. One day I accidentally greeted my cousin at the door while I was wearing jeans I’d taken from her. I don’t believe she ever said anything to anyone, but she did point to them and ask about it. I ran back inside and changed clothes, then denied that it had happened.

So much could have been different, and I’d just about give anything to have had different circumstances. And the doctors I’m dealing with don’t seem to grasp this. Yes, doc, I am in a hurry. No, doc, I’m not willing to wait two months for you and an endocrinologist to give me permission to move forward. I’ve lost 29 years that I’ll never get back. I’m not willing to lose another month. And since the hormones in question can be acquired legally in the US without a prescription, I don’t need a therapist’s blessing or an endocrinologist that I can’t afford anyway. I just need people to get the hell out of my way and let me be me.

Those who know me also know that I have nothing but vitriol for Caitlyn Jenner, but it’s not out of envy. It’s partially because of the supremely ignorant shit that she said a few weeks ago, and it’s partially because she still talks about playing roles when, for myself and the majority of transgender people, it’s about CEASING to play a role, not picking a different role to play.

It’s because Caitlyn Jenner will never understand what it’s like to deal with the struggles that the ordinary transgender person goes through, yet she has the audacity to speak out on behalf of transgender people. She will never spend long nights laying awake and trying to figure out how in the world she’s supposed to have a job while transitioning. She will never wonder how she’s going to pay for all this. She will never have family and friends reject her, call her evil, and cast her from their lives. She was praised for being brave enough to do this in full view of the media, but that isn’t the case at all. The media protected her from discrimination. No one could insult her openly, no family member could call her a wicked sinner, and no company could refuse service to her, because the firestorm of an unbridled media backlash would have decimated anyone who did. Let’s see her transition away from the spotlight, where she wouldn’t be able to run crying to the media when someone insulted her, where she would have to do what the rest of us do: just deal with it.

Caitlyn’s transition was a walk in the park, not the least of which was because she could just throw money at whatever problems rose. I don’t mean to minimize her internal conflict, because that’s something that every transgender person faces and can’t be solved with money, but the internal conflict was the only battle she had to fight once she made her decision. For the rest of us, the decision to proceed is simply the first of countless battles. For her, it was almost the only battle. I don’t begrudge her for that, but I do think it means she doesn’t have the right to speak about transgender issues.

As alluded to, the transition in Mississippi is inordinately difficult, and employment is going to become virtually impossible very soon. I am doing everything that I can to resolve that: I write for a website, I’m writing a new novel, I’m trying to find an agent for the novel I finished last year, and I’m now considering “camming.” I’m not that kind of girl, and I don’t think I actually have it in me, but I’m gonna have to pay for things somehow, and it’s just a matter of time before every client drops me. Any help you could provide, even if you’re just sharing the page, would be appreciated beyond my ability to express:

www.gofundme.com/ariatransition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Not in My House!

  1. I don’t have a problem so much with what Caitlyn Jenner said if that was the case. If that is her opinion about the transgender experience then so be it. You have your experiences, I have mine and she has hers. Just because her experiences and therefore viewpoint is different doesn’t mean she should be put down for it. My problem is with how the community has made her into a spokesperson and representative of what it means to be transgender.

    All because she is someone famous that people know more than anything. That the community needed a household name like that so bad, that they where willing to take anybody that came along. Even if it is someone like her, that is really not representative of what the rest of us have to go through in life just to be ourselves.

    What the community needs is diversity not one person or group of people in the spotlight that reinforces the stereotypes of what it means to be transgender. People like you that are telling their story and what they go through and who they are. That will break down the barriers and stereotypes more than anything and allow people to see us for what we really are inside.

    • That’s essentially my issue with her saying that she thinks it’s better when people “play the role,” because people ARE taking what she says as representative, when she’s not.

      It’s interesting you mention that, though, because one of the main reasons I’m insistent on using the word “shemale” is because of the negative connotations it has. In the past few weeks alone, I’ve heard, “You’re a shemale and you’re not a hooker? That’s awesome!” Like that’s not incredibly offensive to huge swathes of people. Other people have asked, “Oh, where do you perform?” and either assume that I’m a drag queen or that I’m transgender and do DQ shows anyway. The whole thing is misunderstood and filled with assumptions and stereotypes. Aside from the fact that “shemale” tells people a lot more than “non-op transgender woman” does, it’s also true that the stereotypes around transgenders need to be broken down. I don’t do shows, I don’t sleep around, I don’t do porn, I’m not a prostitute… And even though it would probably be good money, I’ve decided NOT to try camming, exactly for that reason: I’m not going to feed into negative stereotypes. I hope you’re correct, and that this blog will serve to break down some of the barriers and stereotypes.

      • Who knows to be honest. I think with some people, your blog will break down the stereotypes and barriers. With others, they will stubbornly stick to the stereotypes no matter what you say.

        I think the important thing is not get hanged up on the people that do stick on the stereotypes. That there always people that define people that way. Better to just let them go. Better to concentrate on the people that read your blog and accept that is who you are because that is who you say you are.

        If anything that might break down the stereotype you have that people will have stereotypes about you. That you don’t have to fight to convince people of who you are, they actually try to understand you. That they don’t see you as a member of a group of say “shemales” and assume things about you because you are part of the group. But see you as individual with your own characteristics and aspects of yourself. That knowing there are people like that out there will help you.

        I think I am doing a very poor job of expressing what I am trying to say. But look at your blog as going both ways. Yes maybe in some small way your breaking down the barriers and stereotypes, but also that it helps you.

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