One of the things that I think makes me a terrible transgender person, is that I have a hard time accepting the tropes and cliches of my culture and community. Among these tropes that I loathe is the obsession with clothing. To give you an idea of how much I loathe it, the closest thing I have to a “Designer Label” is Eddie Bauer thermals I get at Sam’s Club. That’s right, I don’t even shop at the haute coture warehouse stores. Jewelry? Do leather cuffs count and hemp bracelets count? Only if you’re transitioning into Johnny Depp. Obsessive levels of feminist activism? I barely comprehend gender equality issues. I would go so far as to say that I get about as far as being pro-choice, but then I waffle about the complications of that too. However, I think the one trope of being transgender I hate the most is the lamenting of being transgender. Not the trope of de-transitioning and then calling other trans people mentally ill and perverts, instead I’m talking about the cliche of lamenting not being born the gender I identify mentally as.
I think I just heard a few select transgender bloggers and activists heads explode.
Somewhere in the formation of the trans community identity, the idea we are supposed to mourn who we are on some level became ingrained. It’s almost like we’re Jewish or Catholic or something. Imagine how bad it must be being a Jewish trans woman. Oy vey, all that guilt! Trans people are taught to mourn for the childhoods they never had, or the children they will never get to bear. They wail for not being uber-feminine or tall butch men. Ash is heaped for experiences impossible to have. Hair shirts are worn to punish themselves for the things they could never had or were lost.
Basically, trans people have almost formed a cult around lamenting being who they are and their lives.
No wonder so many of us are no fun at parties. We train ourselves to be miserable.
I’ve never bought into this trope because I’ve had so many other things in my life get completely fucked up, that to mourn being transgender would make me so emo, I would form an angst singularity from which no Morissey could escape.
Let me explain; as a kid, I had my dad die while on a Boy Scout trip with me, a week later my mom told me she had stage “write your will” breast cancer, and a month after that, moved to a strange new town where I knew no one. That was my summer when I turned 13. That was the worst summer of my life. Though to be fair, that was the most interesting “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” I ever wrote. In one fell swoop, I lost the only person I truly ever considered my hero and role model, my mom began to emotionally fade away, I was torn away from my few friends and lost much of my faith in God. This happened around the time when I began to feel that my sexuality and gender wasn’t normal, that I felt so awkward, shunned, and out of control that my parents thought about sending me away to a Catholic boarding school. I was so bullied that I had to hide during my lunch breaks in the counselors office. For as smart as all the tests said I was, I was so miserable that I failed 7th Grade English and ended up in summer school that year. I had gotten fat, I had a rotten temper, my brother picked on me mercilessly, I couldn’t concentrate in school (undiagnosed ADHD) and hated being compared to other students who I was clearly brighter than, but clearly failing to compete with. I wanted to so badly be a soldier and assert my dominance I day dreamed of a fascist take over of America where I would thrive because my talents were finally recognized and I could exact my revenge on those around me.
Yeah, I was just a Marilyn Manson album and a few violent video games away from being a school shooter.
I spent most of my teenage years listening to other kids bitch about how unfair their dads treated them, when I just wanted to have mine back. I hated my brother lashing out in his emotional frustration at my mother, and my mother no joke asking me one day, “Just hit your brother for me please. He’s scared of you, and it’ll make him stop.” I remember my mom fluctuating between healthy and sick because of the chemo. My mom so much wanted to avoid the bad she would disengage from creating conflict and even parenting in a way. I hated seeing her cry when she thought about my dad. I would retreat into my room so I wouldn’t have to deal with my brother fighting with my mom.
I’ve rarely told this story, even to my army of therapists. When the cancer came back in force, and that combined with the chemo began to take my mom’s mind and health away, it became so much worse. One time, it was just me and my mom at the house, and I heard her just wail, “KERRY! COME HELP ME!!” I dashed out of my room and found that she had fallen to the ground and couldn’t pick herself up. I helped her up and hugged her while she wept in fear and embarrassment. I think that was the first time my mom felt smaller than me, even though I had a good four or five inches and a hundred pounds on her. A month or two later one evening, it was just me and her in the house again. I was watching something late at night when I heard my mom calling out, “KERRY! COME HERE!!” I rushed into her room where she was curled up in bed with her sheets pulled up around her, eyes wild with terror. “Kerry! Get your hamster!” She literally cried.
“Mom, what are you talking about,” I asked in terrified bewilderment.
“There! Get your hamster! It got out!” She pointed to the corner of the room. There sat a bathtub handle with brown suction clamps on it. She thought the rubber clamps were my hamster.
“Mom, I haven’t had a hamster in like a year.” My last hamster died over a year earlier and I never had gotten another.
She groaned and shut her eyes. It was like she shrank two inches right there in front of me. There was no doubt she was becoming delusional and weak. She knew she was dying. In that moment, I think she knew how weak she had become, how frail and helpless. Then she said something to me, I don’t think I have even told my sister, and would never share with my brother, no matter how much we dislike each other to this day. “Don’t tell your brother about this.” It wasn’t but two months later that my mother was essentially comatose in a hospice bed, being eaten alive by cancer. One Friday, while I was in class at the local community college, the English professor told me to call home immediately about my mom. I knew what it was about. My mom had died. I sat through the rest of the class, though I don’t remember what it was about. I then left since it was my last class and drove home to meet with the people who had gathered there as they do when someone dies.
I didn’t go with my brother and sister to the funeral parlor to plan the burial. I went to my National Guard drill instead that Saturday. I let the other guys in my unit fuck with me like they always did, hazing me because they knew I wasn’t the macho alpha like they were or ever would be. That Sunday, we buried my mom. I didn’t cry. I don’t think I’ve ever cried over my mom dying.
To this day, I still have that grief. I still keep from my brother the secret that my my mom, didn’t like my brother, that she might not have loved him anymore. No matter how much we still dislike each other, I could never tell him that. How could I? While I was awoken by my Scoutmaster to be told my dad had a heart attack and died that summer that I was so miserable, and needed that man who had come to every play, who came to every talent show, drove me to every talent competition and field trip, the one who sat down one evening with me on the floor to write down a list of things I was good at, only to be left bewildered and helpless when I broke the pen before I wrote anything down and fled the room; at least I didn’t watch him die right in front of me like my brother did.
This all was before I was 19 years old.
I lost both my parents, lost my brother, felt loathed by my aunt and uncle who thumped their Southern Baptist bibles at me. I had failed Army basic training the first time I tried, despite it being my life’s dream to be a soldier just like my dad. By the time I was 25, I had drank my way out of college twice, became disowned by my relatives, started doing drugs, and realized that I would never be an Army officer, or even a good soldier. I hadn’t even fully accepted that I was transgender, and I had had every good thing, every hope, every dream I had ripped away from me or shattered due to my own failures or fate. I still can’t form healthy emotional relationships. I’m terrified of loneliness. There is an unshakable feeling in the back of my mind that I have that I was born to suffer, that goes back almost twenty five years.
And yet, I think I’ve cried over being transgender once in my life.
I think it was after a bout of heavy drinking and one of my first times out dressed as a woman, and being stared at like a freak by a guy at the gay bar. That was it. That was the only time I think I have ever cried about it.
I’ve felt trapped by my body. I know that the likelihood of me finding someone to spend the rest of my life with diminishes every year. I’ll probably never be famous like Laverne Cox. I’ll never be as sexy as Bailey Jay. I’ve got big man hands. My hairline’s receded some. My shoulders are broad and my feet are huge. I get “sir’d” on the phone regularly. By now I’m functionally sterile, and I have no sperm on ice. This means I’ll never have biological children of my own. I doubt I can ever afford surgery, and I know I can never become pregnant because the science won’t ever be there for me. I’ll never get to go to prom. Never got to play with dolls. Cheerleader? Forget about it. Mother? Doubt it. Feminine and graceful? Hardly.
As miserable as these things make me from time to time, I don’t and refuse to wear them as a millstone around my neck. Even if I was never trans, or were “cured” of it, that doesn’t change what has already happened to me. The loss of my family, the missed opportunities, the faded dreams. It’s just another burden in my hand.
The pain of all these events has made me jaded, cynical, and honestly sometimes a bit cruel. However. Because of all of it, I know that I can say that I’m tough as fucking nails, and enjoy the good things I have so much. Because of all of this, I have the good friends that I do. I have stories that top most anyone’s at the bar. People talking shit just amuse the fuck out of me, because my life is one long string of “Been there, done that.” Hell, I probably did most of it before I was 23. I’m old and grizzled, and not easily impressed anymore. I’m also not dead.
I still hope that I’ll meet that perfect person. Getting a better job and more money is all on me to push for it. I love my friends like family and would die for them. The family I do have still in my life, I wish I could be closer too. I don’t have much in this world, but I can look at all of it and think, “Damn, this has a story to it.” I look in the mirror some days and see a guy who needs a shave and a haircut, but most days, I see a 37 year old woman who still looks pretty decent for the shit she has been through.
I can’t lament and wail for all the things I’ve missed out on being born in a male body and living as one for almost 30 years. I don’t hate the old me. The old me sits in a trunk in the closet that I dig out from time to time to look at. That old me, is still me, just in a different wrapper. Why should I lament never getting to wear a prom dress, when I know that so many other women at birth didn’t either? I shouldn’t mourn for not having parents abandoning me, when I know that when they were here, they loved me.
Why should I cry for being transgender, when I have known for so long, that life is going to hurt at times? If it wasn’t trans, it would be something else; something that is going to happen anyway. Shitty things and raw deals are part of life. A necessary part of life. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. There’s no point in choosing to take it up like a cross because you think you are supposed to. Happy “never were’s and terrible are’s” is simply life. Giving any one more special meaning than another, doesn’t change them one bit. Acceptance of that is the first step toward healing and coming to peace with existence.
So no. I do not cry that I was never born a girl, because it’s just the life I have.