Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. –Oscar Wilde
Some of you will have noticed that I have not posted for several weeks under the heading of “Transgender University,” and that this admittedly somewhat pretentious heading is now missing from the current title. Rather abruptly I have come to the conclusion that I have passed on most of the information which I think you will find helpful to understanding transgender identity. Of course having nothing to teach and having nothing to say are two different things altogether, and the latter will probably not occur anytime soon. If it is within my power, the final words on my deathbed will be, “And another thing…”
I intend to continue blogging on transgender issues, but I now shift gears, conceding that most of what follows will increasingly consist more of personal experience and opinion than anything truly educational. But who knows–you might still enjoy reading it, we both might learn something by accident and with any luck the weather will improve to the point where another astronomy post or two will creep into the mix.
Bruce, we hardly knew ye…
I confess that I have not kept up with the Kardashians. Accordingly, I was rather chagrined to discover that the quintessential athlete of my formative years is now only known to my son as “the dad on that show.” Worse, Christian had never even heard of Wheaties. Vey iz mir.
I hope some of you got a chance to watch the Jenner interview. For me, it was the first opportunity to see someone about whom I had formed a masculine mental picture now presenting as feminine. This is as close as I have come to what you have already done in having to reimagine me. Oddly, I didn’t have nearly so much difficulty in adjusting to the gender shift as I did to the peculiarities of speech–speaking about himself1 in the third person, punctuating statements with “okay”, etc. I presume these are the stigmata of life in front of the camera. Still, knowing what he faces, I don’t worry that this is a publicity stunt. The personal cost of gender shift tends to discourage frivolous pursuit. Jenner’s transition will almost certainly be more public than anyone’s since Renee Richards or Christine Jorgensen, but I see this as cause for pity, not suspicion. I can’t imagine a lonelier way to transition than to do so in front of 20 million people.
Jenner’s saga reflects my experience more than many of the transgender biographies I have encountered. To the casual observer he seemed happily male, even epitomizing masculinity for a season.2 Now, at 65, he reveals an enduring “female soul” despite appearing stumbling and unconvincingly feminine. If I don’t know what to make of Bruce’s story, it is only because I don’t really know what to make of mine either. Shit happens.
I once marched in a transgender parade at Twin Cities Pride Festival. It was my first Pride, so I kept a fairly low profile and just soaked it all in.3 At the head of our phalanx, some beautiful human toted a large placard saying, “I [heart] Being Trans.” This remains one of the enduring images of my journey, and I have spent considerable time pondering how one comes to carry such a sign.
The parade in question set off from a small park to which I arrived by cab. The only way back to Loring Park was to continue to put one foot in front of another and assume that someone else knew the way. This was a new sensation for me, and one that lingers with me throughout transition. That I cannot yet feel the jubilation of the sign bearer is not the point. There are others like me, and they are moving forward.
Last month I had the opportunity to meet with a transgender support group in Rochester. In so doing, I probably doubled the number of transgender people I know. We are rarea aves, even in these recent days of trans visibility. When we do manage to gather, we are like ostriches, auks, bobolinks and blue footed boobies, as similar to each other as any dozen people whom you might grab randomly off the street are to you. Nevertheless, we are united by that one thing which so sharply demarcates our existence from that of everyone else. That’s enough for now.
Thus I welcome Bruce, and anyone else for whom the proverbial shoe does not fit. We are so few. We should be good to one another.