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.


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.

Coming Out As Trans

I’m still not sure I identify as “trans”, although I’ve slowly but surely begun to realize that perhaps I’ve been avoiding that identity because it scares me. I’ve identified as genderqueer pretty much the moment I heard that term, in the mid-late 90s. Before people began to talk about gender fluidity and multiple gender identities, I didn’t really have language to talk about what was going on inside of myself.

As I said before, I don’t have the narrative of “a man trapped in a woman’s body.” I’ve never quite felt that, even as I’ve felt, for a very long time (as long as I can remember) a boy, and then a man, somewhere buried inside there.

I have had gender dysphoria for as long as I can remember. In all of my years of working on getting to be friends with my body, the dysphoria has only gotten worse, not better.

And fully accepting my dysphoria is what has allowed me to come to the place of wanting to do something about it – wanting to present differently in the world. And presenting differently to the world, in this world, at this time, means, basically, that I am trans.

And perhaps that’s the problem. That’s the rub. Because our society is so divided by gender, I can’t just choose to present another part of myself that’s so present for me without changing my relationship with the world.

I’m getting used to that – used to this idea if I want Maxwell to have his time in this world, the world will not see him in the same way as it sees Pearl (not my real given first name). Max can’t live in exactly the same way as Pearl has lived in the world. The same spaces will not feel safe to Max as they did to Pearl . And, more importantly, in many ways, Max will not feel as safe to some people as Pearl does.




I have to start somewhere – although I don’t really know where. Do I start at the point where I hated wearing girl’s clothes when I was a kid? Do I start with the running battles I had with my mother about what I was going to wear? I’m wanting to lay it all out – explain it all, even though at some point it’s unexplainable.

First, I’ll give you a little background to get you oriented. I’m 57 (I’ll be 58 in about a week.) I’ve lived for 35 of those years as a lesbian, and lived what I might say was “to be determined” before that. I never considered myself straight, really. I grew up in a different age. Straight was the default, you didn’t think about it much, until you had to.

Gender has always been complex for me – ever since the beginning, but it has gotten more and more complex as I’ve gotten older. No, let me revise that. I have gotten clearer and clearer about the complexities of gender inside of me. I’ve never had the narrative that I was a “man stuck in a woman’s body.” That said, there is a man in my body, and has been since the beginning. He’s not alone in there, but he’s there. And he’s been in the background of my life for a long time.

And not. I’ve dressed in men’s clothing (including underwear) since I could buy my own clothes. I haven’t bought an item of women’s clothing in over 30 years. There are other ways that I express male gender, and I’ll dive into that later.

This blog is meant to be a chronicle of a big change I’m going through. After living as a woman for my entire adult life, I’m considering living as a man. It’s a scary process, as well as a damned exciting one.

Where am I now? In some ways, I’m at the very beginning. In other ways, I’m toward the end of a lifetime arc. And I’ll be here, writing about it.

For now, this is anonymous. The name of this blog, Maxwell Pearl, is the name I’ve chosen for myself as a man. I don’t know that I’ll legally change my name, but if I do, that’s the name I’ve chosen. Maxwell B. Pearl, to be exact. The ‘B’ is still to be determined.

So if you happen across this blog, who I am besides a 50-something-person, and a few other details I’ve shared, will be a mystery.  I want to have a chance to write about this publicly, but not personally. When I’m ready, I will attach this blog to my own online presence.

If you know me, and are here because I’ve pointed you here, feel totally free to share this with others if you are so moved, but please don’t tell anyone who I am. I appreciate the space and time to talk about this process without it being connected to me.

[UPDATE: As I have now come out as Trans, this is totally public. Feel free to share it with attribution.]

I’ll probably be weaving between the past and the present, and perhaps the future. I don’t know how this is going to unfold, in the same way as I don’t know how my own process is going to unfold.