Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where to Go

No, not what you're thinking. This isn't more of me whining, it relates to me but in a more general way that it relates to all my brothers and sisters on this road.

On Facebook there's an application called "Honesty Box." I'm usually not impressed with all the crap that wants to bait you on Facebook but I was intrigued by the concept of giving people an chance to anonymously comment and it was an easy choice to ask "What do you really think of me?" in a setting where the reply was totally honest because the speaker had no fear of being identified. As you might expect, people can be a bit more nasty when they are in that setting.

I only got two responses, but, ditzy me, I never paid any attention to them until just a couple of days ago (they were posted in March). One of them touched on a subject that is probably one of the biggest worries a trans person, particularly a M2F, worries about - the dreaded bathroom question.

Then, yesterday I read an ongoing discussion in one of my Yahoo groups on the same subject and there were some compelling points raised. So the combination of all this mixing around in my brain had to go somewhere so, well, that's what this place is for.

My anonymous "friend"(whom I suspect was one of the few people who lectured me on how I was going to hell back in the early part of the year) remarked that she'd heard about my "stunt" of going in the ladies room and if she ever saw me do that she'd call the cops on me. That of course, is the thing that all of us are most afraid will happen. I've had one incident where the owner of a business confronted me and ask me if I was a woman and I didn't have the courage to dare her to prove me wrong. Pretty much specifically because I figured her next move would be to call the cops. Turns out I'd been clocked by a kid (so this lady said) on a previous visit.

Many, many, many other times I've visited the ladies room without incident, at least half those times passing by other women in there without any controversy at all. This is the #1 best indicator that you are passing because if you are going to be challenged anywhere, it's there - but it's also the place where the confidence that is so vital to passing is most likely to slip because of the sheer panic going on inside your head when you enter and find the room occupied. I do make a point of using the ones less likely to be occupied, I make note of any place where there's a one-seater which gives you leave to lock the door, I make a point of waiting if I've seen a child go in. but sometimes you are already committed (maybe you enter when it's empty and then mom brings her little girl in as you are leaving (which is how the kid I mentioned above happened to cross paths with me). And obviously, on those occasions when I'm "dressed down" while with my wife, I grit my teeth and use the men's if I just HAVE to go because in this town enough people know me that the odds are just to high against me.

I don't do these things because I think I don't belong there, I do it to minimize the chance of an ugly confrontation. Because there's a pretty big gap between what's logical on this subject and people's emotional reactions. But the truth is, the sensitivity on the subject (which, by the way, is the single biggest weapon used against trans people when laws are proposed to protect us from discrimination) is not at all rational.

The first way to really stop and analyze the subject is to focus on what the panic is about. Let's state the obvious:

1. NO ONE is worried about F2M transgenders in the men's room. the cis-gendered (i.e. born male and still male, for those who don't know what the "cis-" prefix means) man is not concerned if the person in the next stall doesn't actually have a penis.

2. No sensible person can be worried about the post-op transsexual (either F2M or M2F) in the room appropriate for their post-operative plumbing. You really can't because there's no practical way to prove on the spot whether this woman before you was born female or not. She has all the right parts, if you dare to challenge her you look like a fool. Perhaps the most bitchy among us might know for a fact who this woman was before her transition and complain, but such a complaint wouldn't stand because you can't reasonably expect the post-op woman to go to the men's room.

So what we are really speaking of her is pre-operative M2F transsexuals. The dreaded "penis in the powder room."

There are several false assumptions behind this worry. All of them obviously play to the worry either of sexual assault, or of "peeping." But to be worried about these things involves some assumptions for which there is no evidence. Some of them insulting even.

First, it assumes that transgenders have any more risk of being sexually abusive than the general population - the usual knee-jerk "all pervs are just alike" thinking. This despite the fact that there is no publicized case on record of a transgender person committing any sort of sexual assault (either physical or verbal or visual) in a restroom. In fact, where there has been assault, it has been when a M2F was forced to use a mens room and was assaulted. there are thousands and thousands of us across the country and the charge has never been brought.

Second, it assumes that there is in fact a sexual interest. Many M2F are not oriented towards females (estimates suggest at least 30-40% of those who have transitioned are not), beyond that, the VAST majority of in-transition M2F are on HRT which means that there sex drive is almost nil and after several months the ability to achieve an erection, unless regularly exercised, is no longer present. So the reality is that almost none of these women could even theoretically have any sexual interest in the person in the next stall.

If that's not enough, having a sexual interest doesn't imply a willingness to be abusive or insensitive with that interest. Tell the truth - how many of you women out there ever wonder if that other woman in your restroom is a lesbian? how many of you wonder if some aggressive lesbian will assault you while you are trying to pee? How many men are uncomfortable with a gay male in the same restroom with them? And if you are that paranoid, what do you suggest? Gay men use the ladies and lesbians use the mens? No. Even if they do make you uncomfortable you MUST simply deal with the fact that the technical possibility exist that you might share a restroom with a person who is sexually oriented towards your gender.

So what?

Of course one can't discuss this without mentioning the scare-tactic that if it were allowed, some perverted non-trans guy would put on women's clothes just to get the chance to get into the ladies room. Except of course that this never happens or, if it does, no one has ever committed an assault or been otherwise detained by law enforcement for obviously being a "peeping tom" under such a pretense. No one can, of course, be certain no one has ever tried it and managed to see...uh...well...what? How many of you ladies disrobe in the "public" spaces in the ladies room? If a "man in a dress" came blundering in for a peep show, what would he see? This isn't your home bathroom where you might be in any sort of state of undress.

Still, do we make all our laws based on the technical possibility of some radically unusual event taking place? do we require that everyone keep their kids on a leash because once in a while some perv snatches a kid? One of the requirements of public policy is reasonableness. There's no reasonable likelihood that a M2F being in the ladies room for any other reason than to use the commode. On the other hand, there's a pretty strong likelihood that if the same person went into the men's room there would be a risk of confrontation and possibly assault.

Another aspect of this which must be remarked on is the whole business of "protecting the children" - whatever else people might tolerate they get even less rational when you bring a kid into it (my other anonymous commenter even said she "tried to keep her child from seeing me") but this, again, goes back to the assumption that to be trans is to be, by definition, a pervert who can't be trusted to not molest a child. Besides being heinously hateful to imply, one has to ask - are convicted sex offenders barred by law from using public restrooms? Those are people we KNOW have an issue with that offense and they are not, yet we - without any evidence - are PRESUMED to be dangerous to your children?

The bottom line is that there is not one shred of proof of any sort that a M2F transsexual in a ladies restroom or locker room is ANY sort of threat to anyone's safety. it's nothing but a base emotional reaction based on irrational false assumptions. That's not to say I don't understand the emotions behind it, I do. I get the instinctive urge to worry, but you can't base the law on what worries people. And you can be asked to base your worries on something a bit more rational. Worrying about the potential that you'd be assaulted by someone like me in the restroom is about as rational as worrying about a hurricane destroying your home in Chicago.

Just for reference, here are the two comments that sparked some part of this train of though - just so you can see how some good christian folks talk when they can't be identified:

"I think you are a very sick person. And i heard about your little stunt of going into the women's bathroom...if I ever see you in there...prepare to get the cops called on you. NASTY!"

She's a real sweetheart, eh?

"I think you are a freak. My stomach turns every time I see you, and I try to shield my child from you. God does NOT like what you are doing/living, and you need to get on your knees and beg Him to forgive you and make in you a clean and new heart and go back to being a MAN, a HUSBAND to your wife, and a FATHER to your sons."

One wonders why anyone would think it's a good idea for anyone who's a "freak" to be anyone's husband and father, eh? Things would be a lot easier if you could discuss these things with rational people.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Life and Love and Death

No long bloviating post tonight, but I just wanted to do my small part to put this out there.

If you are not involved in some way with the transgender community, you probably don't know who Christine Daniels is. She was once Mike Penner, a longtime sportswriter for the LA Times. In 2007 she came out to her bosses and the world as transsexual (her wife, who also worked for the Times, had apparently had some idea for some time before).

Christine enjoyed widespread support at the Times and across the industry and became a mild celebrity in the trans community which was and is always looking for positive high-profile examples to counter the "drag queen" stigmas. Everywhere, that is, but at home. Her wife flatly rejected her transition and soon filed for divorce, which, after the initial rush of support susided, left Christine increasingly depressed and lonely. In late November 2009, 19 months after her first column in her new identity - and one year to the day after her wife divorced her (and several months after de-transitioning back to "Mike" in an effort to reconcile the marriage), Christine Daniels sat in her car and breathed exhaust until she was dead.

Last week the LA Weekly ran a lengthy story about the rise and fall of Christine Daniels. obviously her story has more complexity than the average persons. Few of us transition in a fishbowl as she did, not all of us face rejection by our soul-mate for who we are (though most do), many of us do not get the support of our employers.

But the take-away in that story for me, no matter the circumstances, is how those who profess to love us seem to not realize the depth of damage that can be caused by flat out rejecting and withdrawing from their transitioning loved ones. I've heard it said (actually read a transcript of one e-mail that said this) that some have actually said "it would be better that you had died than done this" but I have to assume that's the tiny minority. How many parents who disown their trans kid REALLY consider the possibility their beloved child will eat a bullet within a year because of that rejection? How many brothers, sisters, spouse, children, best friends....how may of them are really aware that it might be THEY who drive their loved one to the place Christine ended up?

Is it REALLY worth it to take your moral stand if that is the result?

Please understand, I'm not suggesting one compromises what they believe, I'm talking about the WAY you interact with your transgender loved one. You don't HAVE to build a wall and be hateful and cruel (even while claiming you do what you do out of love). You can be gentle in spirit while still saying "I don't agree."

But the reality is, a higher percentage of trans people kill themselves than any other demographic group. This happens for a wide variety of reasons (though too be clear, it's practically non-existent, statistically, that a post-transition person is depressed because they fell they got the gender identity wrong - where there is depression it's because of other circumstances which are "collateral damage" to the transition) but very very often it's because a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend chose to show contempt instead of love. It may be harsh to say, and surely she didn't know at the time, but Christine is dead today SPECIFICALLY because of how her then-wife chose to react to her transition. I wonder, sometimes, does she realize that?

Do you? or will you simply comfort yourself by rationalizing that "he was obviously nuts anyway" and pretend she didn't die of a broken heart.

(to be clear, YES Lisa (her wife) was surely heartbroken too - but she's alive, isn't she? If you read the article, the cruelty is not in divorcing Mike/Christine - the cruelty is in the WAY she avoided her, shut her out, disrespected what she was going through. there is a good way and a bad way to part, a good way and a bad way to treat your ex. whether it be a spouse or a parent or a sibling or a child - This is not an appeal to you to just "roll over" and accept them - though that would be the ACTUAL loving thing to do - it's just an appeal for gentlness and compassion and understanding, even crazy people deserve that, right?)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Working on it

I know that perhaps some of you are concerned about the state of the recent and ongoing crisis. I really don't have any specific report except to say that if everything spoken this evening was sincere, and my use of "if" should not be construed as an accusation that it was not, then we have something of an understanding about what we're willing to do in order to at least see this through until the kids are older. I'm defining "older" in my mind as when you younger son gets to 17 which is a bit over 3 years away.

I cannot, of course, be certain that what has been said will be done - it's well documented here that I'm five months into the last compromise and feel like it was on balance a colossal failure, except that it bought five more months (which is not inconsiderable but not what I had hoped for). Perhaps I am being gullible in taking the current agreement on good faith, but my kids deserve our last best effort and I cannot lightly turn away from a proposal which will be for their good. Within a few months, at the most, I'll have a reasonable idea whether we can find a livable situation, at least, if not some rekindled affection.

But that's not what this post is about.

I filled out an application for Toyota today, the latest in a long line of applications for employment Ive done in the last six weeks or so. Well, not the latest - there was another tonight. But I have to note in passing that some of the places I've applied to, including Toyota, have explicit language in their employment policies which prohibit discrimination based on gender identity along with the other so-called "protected classes." so do Lowe's and Wal-mart (at least) among other places I've applied.

This is good because I have resolved that when (IF!) I am hired, I shall be clear up front that my employer is hiring a woman, despite what the legal name says. If I cannot be employed under that circumstance, then I cannot be employed. The truth is that my appearance and in some cases my situation precede me. There's every possibility that my appearance would be unacceptable in many jobs if I presented myself as a male. But beyond that, it is dishonest and unfair to "man-up" for an employer only to come around at some point and say "next week I'll be a woman." It's an excellent way to get yourself fired, even if the official reason is not on account of the change in your presentation.

And the alternative - to be trapped in a half-way existence because you are in a job you can't afford to lose and can't transition in, is too daunting to even consider. There HAS to be some place out there where the hiring is done by a compassionate and accepting person who will not bar the door to me because of my status, If not, then I'm doomed. Some will argue that I should make any sacrifice, including de-transitioning, in order to support my family. But the harsh reality is that I was having huge problems finding a job before I began this journey and there is no guarantee that wearing that mask gets me any job anyway, especially given the rather high profile of my transition thus far.

Ultimately I have to be true to myself - if she needs to find a better provider she has my endorsement on that, I've been a poor provider for a lot longer than I've been out of the closet. If I end up living on the street rather than compromise my soul, so be it.

I said there was another application tonight. it was an ad for a part-time position and it asked I submit a resume by e-mail. which I did, with a full explanation of who Tammy was in relation to the male name on the resume. They will hire, or not hire, Tammy. But I am not ashamed of who I am, and will not hide it from anyone. let the chips fall.

Friday, August 13, 2010


So I'm weak. In every way. so shoot me and put me out of my misery then.

I said I wasn't going to do this but I'm weak.

I'm told I should stop trying to have it both ways and move on, but if not doing so makes me weak, then I'm weak.

I'm told by others that I should sacrifice my own happiness and even sanity for the good of others - and because I cannot apparently I'm weak.

I have moments when I'd very much like to erase myself from this world and somewhere some fool would say that holding back shows I'm weak.

So yeah, call me weak - surely there are reasons which suit your point of view.

I'm told that if I go forward, that there will be a terrible, violent, frankly insane price to pay. Even if that turns out to not happen, the price which seems almost certain to be paid is one that paralyzes me with fear.

I'm told that I can make everything right if I just put my soul back in the closet and wear the mask of a man again. And yet even the simplest steps in that direction tear me heart out.

And every time that..."discussion"...is held, my love for anything - ANYTHING - in this life dies a little more.

I don't see a future worth living anymore - if I go, the crushing guilt will rob me of any joy, if i stay, the blackness of my heart will make everyone around me miserable.

There's no place for me in this world. The very most i can do is be an empty figurehead to my kids until they are grown, just long enough that they don't have to suffer from my pathetic weakness any more than possible.

Then fade away. I always knew there was no place for me in this life, I don't know why I lied to myself this long. Everyone who ever got closed to me is cursed by my existence. The sooner all of you forget you ever knew me the better off you'll be.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No Safe Place

Sometimes my better instincts undermine me. One of the things I have tried hard to do, in this journey, is NOT be deceptive, sneaky, or evasive. More than once I've walked into an argument by simply deciding to tell the truth, or not "cover my tracks" even when I knew what price would be paid.

More than once, I've been convinced that the desperation to change my mind, or at least undermine me, by any means necessary, might have provoked less . . . honorable choices on the other side of this debate, but again, I have made some effort to NOT point the finger of accusation because ultimately, the points made are small and the feeling hurt are much more valuable.

I must confess, however, that as the "cold war" (for lack of a better term) lingers on now into its sixth month, it does become more and more difficult to be open knowing that my openness will just get me an ass chewing (or someone else one). One of the things I had valued about some of my favorite places on-line is that they have served, many times, as a "safety valve" - a safe harbor place where I could speak freely without condemnation, even when someone disagreed. On the rare occasion when someone "took me on" to try and change my mind, it was still the sort of forum where views could be frankly and fully exchanged. I don't think I've made any converts and I can state with confidence that no one who's tried to "straighten me out" has made even a tiny dent (that's because all their clever arguments are things I've already thought of and cried over - perhaps I'll tell you about the latest attack someday). But truthfully, I sometimes enjoy even the attacks because it gives me a chance to lay out all the counter-arguments that are so difficult to get in edge-wise in the real world (and never do any good).

It's a myth strongly believed around these parts, that people on the internet have "got in my head" and filled me up with bad ideas that I'd never have had without their help. Does that mean every man sitting at a computer is in danger of turning into a chick someday? Jokes aside, I don't have to tell you again what I've said before about the history of this matter. Before I'd ever logged onto the internet the first time, I remember taking walks at night, down a deserted road and sitting on a wall or a stump and looking up at God and crying bitter tears and asking him why he wouldn't take this curse from me. I try very hard to be understanding but those who say such things ("people online are filling your head with shit") don't realize what a profound insult it is to be told all those previous feelings about yourself don't count.

Even if it were true - and it's not - that I only found the courage to do something about my condition because I became aware of others who had (I've been knowing about successful transitions for a longtime before that) - what is the argument? That I would have been just fine to have never had that courage, and to STAY miserable and self-hating? What kind of love demands that the one loved suffer on your behalf?

But I digress. The point is, that everyone needs some emotional release, and yes, even a sympathetic ear. And I am thankful for those i have found over the years. I'm even thankful for the hours I can waste arguing about baseball and, for a time, distracting myself from the soap-opera drama of my life. but my openness and transparency has, apparently, painted me into a corner.

I make it possible for her to access pretty much everything I do and say on-line. I don't point it all out to her but it's all easy enough to find if one wants to look. But the down-side of that is that I ask for trouble if I'm as honest as I tend to be. there's no point in writing a blog about this sort of thing and wasting a post talking about the new kitten or whatever, as if there's nothing important to say. But when you say the important stuff, there will be a backlash from those who disagree with your point of view.

So you get to the point where you say "Should I be more sneaky? should I slip around and hide what I have to say? Or, should I simply keep my mouth shut and not ask for trouble?"

If you read some of the recent comment threads, you'll see where I'm coming from. I can't, in good conscious, keep providing what amounts to fodder for arguments, both at home and on-line. I don't need any more reasons to fight here, and I don't see any upside in the sort of exchange that happen in the last thread.

So, for now, don't be surprised if you see a lot more posts here - when I post at all - about vanilla, ultimately meaningless, stuff. Oh hopefully it will still be interesting - I'd like to think at some point I could tell you I had a job and how that was going. But there's always going to be the self censor, until things are settled at home for better or worse. Until I let you know different, this is one fewer "safe place" for me.