Max and Michelle

Seven years ago, I wrote this short piece in a writing workshop. (Originally, the name in the piece was “Michael” but I’ve changed it to “Max” as that is my chosen name.)

“Maxwell stays like a wish”

Max is always there, my best buddy in the world, friend to the end of the earth. He’s a part of me. The tall, strong man, gentle and kind. I can almost imagine us sitting in a booth at the diner, he chooses Depeche Mode, or maybe The Clash to listen to on the juke box (if they have it. Otherwise, the Rolling Stones.) He’ll order steak, or maybe just a burger, since it’s a diner, after all. I’ll just have the salad, not because I want it, but because it seems the right thing to do. He’ll be happy with the burger slopped with lots of cheese, and grilled onions, of course. We talk about life, about my parents, about women. We talk a lot about women.

I can almost imagine calling him up, talking about that woman I just met. He’ll always have something stable and wise to say, in the place where I’m all a fluttery and nervous about the whole thing. He knows me, deeply. As deeply as I can know myself.

He’s the one who buys the iPhone games, of course. Especially the ones with the orcs or catapults or cars to race around. He takes over while we’re in the BART, steering the car while my ears pop from the tunnel. He was the one that bought the big-ass TV, and I was the one who sold it a year later. But he didn’t mind. He’s the programmer, the one who can sit for hours on end looking deeply at code, seeing patterns emerge and putting them to work. I’m the one who is always putting up with clients, that is, until I get so annoyed I let him take over.

He’s always there, he stays like a wish.

I have been talking to a new friend about this conversation and relationship (between Michelle and Max) and he asked me how this conversation/relationship would look like now. So I thought I’d spend a little bit of time exploring it here. The narrator above, and below, is Michelle.

Max has taken over the role of our public face, which feels good to me. It never really fit me, that public face, that embodied living in the world. I’m all etheric and air, heart and spirit. Max is solid body – grounded in space and time, problem-solver, thing-mover, work-doer. He’s more than that, of course, and I’m more than ether, but that comparison seems to fit right now.

Sometimes I’ll peek out, see the world a bit through his eyes, the way he’s been doing that through mine for years. It looks differently, of course. Things that seemed obvious to me are a little more mysterious, and things that were mysterious (especially men and their ways) are much more obvious.  Sometimes I’m the one who has to feed him the emotional words he needs, and then he’ll remind me that he has some of those words, too, but it just takes him longer.

He’s so happy living in code these days, and I’m happy sitting “inside,” contemplating life and what it means to be human.

We make a good pair – complementary qualities and skills – together we get to be a heart-full, embodied, conscious person-becoming-man, but it took our rearrangement to make that happen fully. We’re both happy now, when we used to both be unsettled and at times unhappy with our old arrangement. Of course, Max wishes we’d been born with a male body, but then I have the sense that if we had been, this deep integration between us might never have happened, given the way our society is.

He still wants steak, I still want salad. We have both.

 

Coming out

I came out publicly as a lesbian in 1985. And it was largely a non-event. My family accepted me fully, I lost a couple of friends, but it was largely painless. It didn’t effect my work life, thankfully.

And as time went on, and I kept living out and publicly as a lesbian, there have been only a few moments where it’s mattered. Mostly because I have always chosen settings, places to live, and people to hang out with where this wasn’t going to be a problem.

So, unlike many people, my coming out as queer process was basically painless.

I don’t know how I’m going to look back at this coming out process – coming out as trans. Perhaps I have rosy-colored glasses looking back more than 30 years, but this process has brought up a lot for me, in surprising ways.

I think I know a lot more about myself now than I did at 25. And I know that one of my core wounds is the fear of not being accepted or loved for who I am. And as I affirm, really, who I really am in a more full way, that wound is being activated, big time.

And, on the other hand, so far, I’ve been met with a lot of support and love. I have great friends who have been great listening ears, and sweet, and understanding.

I have a lot of other people to come out to over then next few months, and so there’s a lot of fear there. So I’m taking a deep breath, and taking it one step at a time.

Ch. Ch. Ch. Changes

I’ve been on T (Testosterone) now for just over 4 weeks, next week will be a month. Some people have asked me if I’ve noticed changes, and there are only a few, at the moment.

One thing I’ve learned from reading and talking to people is that the changes you experience have a lot of individual variation. Some changes happen more quickly for some people than others.

I’ve definitely gotten smellier, and I can already detect changes in my personal scent. I expected that, but I didn’t expect it to seem weird – like I can’t quite recognize myself. (I hear I’ll get used to it.)

My libido is radically increased. Also expected, but surprising in its intensity. I didn’t have a super-high libido before T, so another expected but kinda weird change.

My voice hasn’t changed a lot, but it feels different. It feels more gravely, and I definitely can’t really sing right now (not that I want or need to, but I’m noticing that.) You can judge for yourself. Here’s September 5th

And here’s this week:

I do have some fatigue, but it comes and goes. My appetite hasn’t seemed to change much, which is a little surprising, as it is supposed to.

I do feel very subtly more emotionally stable, and kinda more monochromatic , but given that it’s only been a month, I’m not super sure it’s the T – it could be the effects of having made the choice to transition, a choice which feels so solidly right.

A big effect which I’m betting has more to do with the choice than T, but I can’t be sure, is that my mind is a lot quieter than it used to be. It’s hard to explain, except if you’ve been in a room with a refrigerator, and it goes off, you notice the lack of sound. You  might not be able to describe what the sound was like before, but you know it’s quieter. It’s like that. And I think it’s something I’m noticing really because of my years of Buddhist practice – I’m not sure I’d notice it otherwise.

Anyway, I’ll periodically update you on how things change over time.

Always Queer

Some transmen love other men, and some love women. Having been attracted to, and loved women my whole life, I can’t quite imagine testosterone changing that, although I guess it’s vaguely possible.

Anyway, what that means is that  the external world will see me, when I’m out with a woman, as a straight man. And in fact, many transmen consider themselves straight.

But I can’t do it. I can’t for the life of me call myself straight. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ve lived my life in queer spaces and places for too long to do that. I don’t want to take anything away from transmen who feel that way – if they feel straight, more power to them. I just can’t embrace it.

And, that said, I also know that I will inherit heterosexual privilege at the same time as I’m gaining male privilege. But, as I eventually intend to be as out about being trans as I am now about being queer, those privileges are pretty tenuous. (And male privilege for black men is tenuous  in it’s own way.)

One of the things I’m very aware of is a loss of community with queer women. But thankfully, I’m gaining a new community in the process, which is making me happy.

Liminal Space

Liminal definition

One of the things our society doesn’t do well is honor liminal spaces, even though we go through many in our lives. Puberty, coming of age, giving birth, celebrating a romantic union,  and dying are all liminal spaces.

In many cultures and spiritual traditions, liminal spaces are holy. They are a place of reflection: looking back and looking forward. They are also places of change and stress.

I have been through a few kinds of liminal spaces that I have been consciously aware of, but this space, this space of making such a big transition, is probably the most profound liminal space of my life.

I’m impatient. I have 151 days until my top surgery. I have been on T for 3 days (in an hour or so.) And part of me wants to hurry everything up – I want the time to fly, and the changes to happen fast, so I get to where I’m going.

Except I realize that if I don’t pay attention to this liminal space, I will miss an opportunity.  An opportunity to pay attention to the holiness of this change. All of the ways that it’s so right, and the ways that it’s huge, for me and for the people I know.

I want to use this time, this in-between time, to appreciate myself, both in my feminine aspect, which I’m not eliminating, or putting aside, but greatly changing its place in my life, and in my body, as my masculine aspect comes front and center.

I want to use this time to reflect on all of the complexities of this change I’m undergoing. I don’t want to rush through it – I don’t want to miss the wisdom, learning, and holiness of this time.

Tracking Change

I started T today. Yikes. Anyway, before I left for my appointment I did two things: took a selfie, and recorded myself reciting a poem, and a metta meditation.

Each week, I’ll do that. And then, in a year or so, I’ll have a lot of things to use to make some sort of montage. It will be interesting, and I can’t wait.

Embodiment

I have spent a large chunk of my adult life seeking embodiment. For some people, that might seem odd – they just feel embodied so naturally, to question what that means might not make sense.

But for me, my body has felt other, and my enemy since I was a teenager, when I went through puberty. Or, I should correct, I was forced through puberty. I didn’t go through it naturally. By 16, I hadn’t had my period, or developed breasts at all, and I spent a month in the hospital undergoing tests as to why. And they didn’t find an answer except my pituitary wasn’t putting out the hormones my body (supposedly) needed.

I wish I’d known then what I know now, but of course, that’s impossible – that was 1977, and the only thing anyone knew to do was give me estrogen to make me go through puberty. And I allowed it.

That was a digression. Since the mid 80s when I realized that my relationship with my body was not good for me or my mental health, and I was miserable, I started a really long series of things to try and mitigate that. I started therapy (I did about 10 years of therapy total.) I started a meditation practice in 1990. In 2012 or so, I discovered Authentic Movement. I also worked with a somatic therapist.

And it got better – all of those things were incredibly helpful. I didn’t have the open warfare with my body that I’d had for so many years, just some quiet battles. I didn’t come to love my body, which was my ultimate goal, but it got better. I wasn’t miserable in my body. And then I hit a wall last year.

Last year I pretty much gave up. I decided that my relationship with my body had hit a plateau – it was where it was going to be – I came to fully accept this flawed relationship with my body. I’d plucked all of the low-hanging and medium-hanging fruit I could. And now, looking back, I realize that that moment was an important one. It was the beginning.

The point of this post is not to actually trace the history of my realization that I wanted to transition – that’s for other posts. But it’s to talk about how simply deciding to transition embodied me, almost instantly.

I now understand something I hadn’t grokked – what it’s like to be at peace with my body – even love it. I have to admit, I don’t love my breasts, but I’m getting rid of those, so that’s fine. And there are still parts that, well, perhaps, I wouldn’t mind being different. But I actually love my body now. I want to take care of it. I want to eat good food. I want to go to the gym. I want to feel things in my body, even if they aren’t super comfortable. The battle is not only over, a love affair has taken it’s place. And this is the gift that I could never have imagined being given. And for that, I have deep gratitude.

 

Not a Lesbian Anymore

I came out in 1984ish at 25, a little later than some, sooner than many. I’ve lived as a lesbian since then, an identity that I valued, and a community I’ve enjoyed.

Being a lesbian has been a safe haven for me – I’ve been able to be gender non-conforming in ways that are not only tolerated, but celebrated. I’ve watched the community grow and change, and in many ways, assimilate into society, while still maintaining some sense of identity as a community.

But as I transition to male, I kick myself out of that community, which seems both appropriate and unfortunate. Yes, it means I become part of the trans community, part of the larger LGBTQQIAA umbrella. And frankly, the “T” has been in a somewhat uneasy alliance withe the “L” and “G” (as has the “B” and the “I”, and both “A”s – frankly all of the letters can be a little uneasy together.)

I’ll miss being a lesbian, frankly, just as there are a few ways that I’ll miss being a woman. I want to find a way to embrace what’s been great for me from that experience as I move into this new phase of my life.

Big Decisions

This has been a very interesting step-by-step process, in a way, but it all sort of came to a head a few days ago, and I think I’m finally caught up with myself.

That is, I’ve made the decision to partake of most of the menu I mentioned. I had a date for top surgery for a few weeks now (Feb 6th.) And now, after a lot of consideration and spiritual exploration, I’ve decided to do testosterone,  socially transition, and change my legal name and gender markers.

Some people I know aren’t surprised, but somehow, it surprises me. I’m not quite yet used to it.

But it feels totally right – and also fucking scary. The fear isn’t a surprise, really – but it’s something I know I need to companion as I move through this process.

It’s funny – I had another one of those experiences where some guy called me “sir” and then saw me more fully and felt bad – and I almost said “no, you’re right,” but I said what I usually say, which is, “no worries.”

The Menu

Not so long ago, if you considered yourself trans, there was a transition process you were basically had to go through: first therapy, then hormones, then surgery, and somewhere in there  legal process of changing names, gender, etc.

Now, it’s more like a menu. You can pick and choose what you might want to do. Some do surgery only, some do just hormones, some do the entire package.

So far, I’ve only chosen one item on the menu: top surgery. I don’t know whether I’ll choose other items on the menu – I don’t know whether I’ll take testosterone yet. I don’t know whether I want to change my legal name and/or gender. I’m just not sure.  I’m taking it one step at a time – letting it all sink in, because each menu item has it’s own set of ramifications for my life.

And that feels OK, mostly, but here’s what Maxwell has to say:

I’m impatient. I’ve been in the background for years, and I want to be front and center. I want to learn what kind of man I might become. I want to experience the world from male eyes.

Sometimes, it feels like I have a bit of a split personality.  And that’s OK – I’m learning to live with that.