Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Time and Perspective

Good lord, it's amazing what chocolate can do.

Hey, look, the margin keeps narrowing. You never know: the as-yet-uncounted absentees may be incredibly enlightened individuals (and particularly numerous).

And oh, look at that: the high-speed [potential] boondoggle may just pass! Despite the risks involved, I'm excited. Yay rail!

*sigh*. I should have known better than to get invested in an election. they always leave me all torn-up with angst (for the chasm between me and my society) no matter how well they end.

Sad and ashamed. Anger later.

Right now, as the last quarter of results trickle in, and the gap fails to narrow on the constitutional amendment that says my wife and I cannot be who and what we are, I feel a sick, stiff knot grow in my gut. Tonight I am sad and ashamed to be a Californian, born and raised. Tomorrow we will take our daughter to daycare, then have our full-term unborn son measured for a probable induction this weekend. I do not know when or how the anger will find a place, but it will, as I am Californian; I love this state, and I love its potential.

I know that the hate fomented across these great valleys was heavily funded out of pockets thousands of miles away (though certainly not entirely so). I know that this travesty of discriminatory doublespeak was made possible by a profoundly broken popular-initiative system. I know that I am not alone, and that this will be fought, tooth & claw, in whatever way possible. In fact, I do keep reminding myself that the remaining 20% could close that 2-point margin. All the same, there's a fury at the potential passage of proposition 8, a rage. How dare they do this to my family?

But, for now, exhausted and apalled and impotent, all I can do is write. And eat some chocolate chips and drink some milk and hopefully get some sleep.

And yay for our 44th president! It's not all gloom and doom. Goodnight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

a whimper in the dark

My little girl took a glow stick to bed, tonight. It's not the first time -- she thinks they're just the most fun thing in the world, sometimes, and she's recently discovered Star Wars, and can't get enough of telling me how they look like light sabers. However, it will be the last time for at least a year or so. She got a little bit overzealous with the twisting and cracking to evenly free the catalyst from its little rigid compartments, and cracked the tube. I woke to a confused sort of whimpering (my wife being doped-up on codeine cough syrup and solidly out for the night) (okay, let's face it, I'd be the one doing the wake-up-and-check-on-the-kids routine even were she sober and awake, that's just who we are).

It was an interesting sight -- thank goodness it had been a green stick; had it been blue I'd probably have been distracted by weird memories of American Zombie (great film, except I can't even handle horror spoofs) and much too creeped-out to empathize. The poor dear had managed to spatter her blanket and bedsheets and pajamas with luminescent fluid, and had (in the dark, probably on the verge of falling asleep) rubbed her left eye, causing sudden, lasting stinging and burning. O Pathos! Sleepy, hurty, whimpery 3-year-old!

One exciting, howling- and struggling-filled trip to the bathtub (what, you don't want your painful head held upside-down beneath a faucet running full blast? really?) later, I was helping her out of her [faintly glowing] jammies and talking about how scary it must have been to suddenly start hurting and not know why. She was even extra-brave for me and blinked her eye open numerous times as I flushed it more gently from a cup. It's funny, the odd situations where we find these moments of sympathy, of connection and understanding. I was so proud of her: I knew just how upset she was to be pouring more things into her eye, and I knew she trusted me if I said it was necessary and that it would help her feel better.

Since this is, nominally, a "trans blog", there's an odd sense of incompleteness if I don't tie my convoluted sense of gender identity into this, draw some tangent of meaning, but I can't. There's nothing "T" about this. It's a facet of my life that I want to tie to the person I'm slowly describing, here, but only in that it's part of the foundational self from which that person springs.

Love is always hard to describe, isn't it?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Naming and Necessity (with apologies to Kripke)

I have a name: "Rachel".

I've pondered it for years, really, and never found another. It's odd how I came to know it. I remember being a junior in high school, and visiting a bunch of relatives in Los Angeles. An American melting-pot family, ours; Irish and Czech and Italian and various bits of Central Europe, and everyone goes and marries around the globe. The cousins we were visiting that night had four of the most beautiful children imaginable. Their youngest daughter, at the time, was five, perhaps six: a sprightly little almost-Levantine waif, all dark curls and flailing limbs as she ran and bounced about. Her name was Rachel. And it suited her.

I don't know why I thought that. I didn't understand a lot of things. I have no sisters; of my close friends with sisters, their ages were mostly very close to mine. So I was unprepared for the well in my heart that she uncapped, with her energetic gymnastics (around the dinner table, to her mother's consternation), her mercurial shyness, and her bright, thoughtful eyes. This was a little girl in the heyday of early girlhood. I saw myself in her. I don't know if who and what I saw were really there, or if something deep inside was projecting, desperately, earnestly, upon my unsuspecting young cousin, but the effect was and is the same. Here was childhood, a childhood I didn't recognize, yet knew, instinctively.

Bear in mind that I had no real concept of my own transness at the time. I had begun to look in those directions to explain my inauthentic personalities, my sense of hollowness, but the clear connections had yet to be made. So I had no framework in which to place this recognition, with which to explain it. So it was an amorphous sort of understanding—I knew that I recognized and understood something, but I couldn't articulate it. Not at all.

Such gnosis seems to live in me as experiential memory: a sheaf of visual percepts, uninterpreted, but instead edited to discard everything unimportant to the meaning contained, all then bound together with the faint memory of feelings, intangible impressions, acting as glue and binding to carry the memory down through the years, until I can pare it apart and begin to read it anew. I see her curious, shy face, mahogany curls setting off dark, watching eyes. I feel startled. I hear the name "Rachel". Did I know I was being named? Could she know, then, impossibly, that I somehow shared her name, and wonder "who is this strange person, this boy, this stranger, to take my name?"

I met her again, briefly, when my daughter was tiny, at a family wedding. She had grown into a stunning teen, and I suppose I should have noted myriad other details … but all I can recall is that her face, while it more strongly echoed her father's and mother's adult faces, having lost the baby fat I remembered, was the same: the shy curiosity, the reticence, the alert life behind her eyes. And the name still fit; it fit admirably.

And no other name fits me. I don't really know why not. I think I named myself so many years ago, when I first encountered the sort of child I might have been (and who, unsurprisingly, my daughter is swiftly growing to be), and perhaps it's simply that, once forged, the name will not be broken.

Certainly, my old name—avoided, set aside, but not denied—will never cease to be me. That might have happened, once. That individual might have half-died, given-up his presence so that I might "truly live", had I transitioned in my teens or early twenties, before I learned to love again, before I found my crafts, before I began to build a home. But there's something ineffable and powerful about giving life and welcoming life. HeIfathered my children. I may understand myself, now, to be their mother, but I have always been their father. I can no more erase that existence and presencemy existencethan I can cease to be their parent, cease to love and cherish them.

I have managed to present as a strong, feminine man for the entirety of my (pre-transition) adult life. I have accomplished things, as such, of which I am deeply proud: things with which I define myself, which have persisted in my identity as I have shed the male, para-masculine shells and windows and screens and grown me around my heart in their place. Accomplishments that continue to matter, even as my speech lightens, even as my curves soften and increase, even as I strive to recenter all the friendships I've knocked askew along the way. I cannot disavow that earnest, confused person, because his heart is my heart, stripped of the rest of me so as to fit in that awkward man-like form. His name is my name. Even when I do not want it.

Names, it seem, are more permanent than clothes, and not so easily outgrown. And perhaps when I saw that little girl whisk around the dining room table and peek-out from behind her brother's chair, I saw, suddenly, a ghost of the child I had half-been for so many years: unaccepted, fearful, confused, confusing, and eventually exiled. Perhaps I glimpsed this little girl and learned that her name was "Rachel". And so that is her name. My name.

Make it stop

Sleep won't come with any reliability. Work is draining, my three-year-old is feeling ignored and rebelliously independent, and in 2-3 weeks she will have a baby brother. 3-6 months after that, he'll be weaned, my wife will be able to take her meds again and think clearly, and I can start asking her to learn, learn about the details of being trans, learn about the parts of my life she's never looked too closely at, learn why being a feminine man will not stop the gradual spiral of self-destructive impulses, the attrition of self-neglect. I am terrified of discovering what happens, then, when she looks and learns, just as I am terrified of the prospect of waiting so long alone and unheard.

I want off, I want everything to stop ... but I don't really. I've come crashing through the hidden walls in my world, and from without it's clear they've insufficient value in themselves to merit rebuilding.

I'm full of resentment over her conflicted, angsty wafflings over breastfeeding. Bitterness, such deep, deep bitterness at the way she threw-up walls when I offered. But simultaneously, I cannot possibly fault her. It's jarring.

Hahn's setting of Paul Verlaine's D'Une Prison, keeps echoing in my head:

Qu'a tu fait, O toi, qui voila
pleurant sans cesse?

Dit! Qu'a tu fait, toi la,
de ta jeunesse?

... I suppose the question some part of my psyche is struggling to ask, with that, is "how did this happen?" It would be "how did it come to this?" if not for the rich, battered love we still share. Oh, desperation, you are cruel. Poor Verlaine, he broke and ran when his world shifted, and madness ate at him to the sad end of his days, the madness of being unhomed, robbed of his beginnings. Poor sweet, fiery, brilliant, mad, pious, queer Verlaine; and yet ... and yet I find only bitterness that a trans woman today can often hope for little better than the savage uprooting disjunction he suffered for his homosexuality a century ago.

I have so much anger that bubbles to the surface when fatigue thins and loosens my reserve, my blankets of hope and optimism. Why am I unable to remember this in therapy? What do I hope to gain by cooking it inside? I feel ill.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Insomnia

Normally, after sleeping 4 hours the night before, I'd ... oh, what's that inane phrase? "Practice better sleep hygiene?" Feh. Obviously not.

Also, normally, if I'm going to drop blogospheric breadcrumbs at 3:45 a.m., I'd do it on Twitter so that work would be tipped-off to my probable total lack of functionality, later today. Well, again, obviously not, although I can't say for certain why. I think there's a little bit of guilt that I'm not lavishing this little "online journal" (how badly, really, do I date myself, admitting that that's what we called it, back when I signed-up for a LiveJournal account in '01?) with as much attention and compositional effort as, oh, say, THE THERAPY DIARY THAT KEEPS ME SANE. Sheesh, I'm a thickwit about some things. But, regardless of how silly the notion may be, I feel obliged to keep writing, here.

Of course, it can't possibly hurt that I'm up this late after reading a bazillion (okay, okay; two) moving blogs by other transfolk. Well, to be fair, I wrapped-up another KoL ascension, first, but that only took a couple of hours, and is totally beside the point; stop changing the subject. I suppose I have difficulty these days being content with the sole role of consumer. So, here I go, spraying excess adverbiture all over this poor text field. Oh yes, not to mention my confused channeling of both James and Thurber, alternatingly, in my strophic comma-insertion habits. Bah.

It's funny; I only seem to use interjective sentence fragments (and this compulsively neological compositional autocritical style) (actually, I think I prefer "neologotic") between 2am and 5am, and on my lunch break. They're not states of consciousness I would normally flag as similar; it's odd.

Oh well.

Hey, look; 94% signal-free noise!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Daily Life

O H M Y G O D

I cooked a three-course (two, actually, unless you count filling -- then later opening -- the rice cooker) meal for my family, Saturday, and THEY ALL SAT DOWN AT THE DINING ROOM TABLE AND ATE. TOGETHER. AS IN, SIMULTANEOUSLY. LIKE, CONVERSING AND STUFF.

It's still sinking-in. It's still a little hard to believe.

You see, that's a FIRST. It's never happened before, not in three and a half years of parenthood. Weirder still, it's happening while my wife is 7 months pregnant. I checked, the sky still looks securely attached. I dunno.

Oh, and better yet? WE DID IT AGAIN ON SUNDAY.

My world is a little shaky. Go figure.

In other news (news? it really is something of a conceit to pretend this is any more than a diary: isinterested googlebots, yep, that's my traffic in a nutshell ...), I'm seeing a dermatologist for a hair removal consultation, Thursday. WOO. I'm practically counting the hours. Once Epic comes along (mid-to-late November, depending on how fast he grows), endocrinology here I come! That'll be such a relief.

Sunday afternoon, my wife and I hit-up Macy's for maternity bras. Well, she got the bras; I sat and read Reviving Ophelia. I kept finding myself wondering (for what must be the umpteenth time) if maybe this time Alice Miller's Drama of the Gifted Child might not be too impenetrable. Really, I have got to read the blasted thing from cover to cover one of these years. *sigh*.

The nice thing about the outing, though, is that we were able to joke casually about how I wasn't really "joining" her in her quest for bras, this time. She also observed that chances are, I won't have quite the same fitting problems she has (ribcage size -- she's 41" around). I disagreed, but couldn't quote numbers (I checked this morning: 40". Ha!). It was ... comfortable. There was something profoundly relieving about the whole experience.

Speaking of outings, I get to come-out to my voice coach on Friday. I don't think there'll be any problem -- we've already sort of discussed this -- and it's really the only thing I can rationally do. Adjusting my speaking voice may wreak havoc upon my blossoming bel canto production, and to continue to study (stopping is not an option; I need this venue) without sharing with her what I'm up to, vocally, would be a waste of time, effort, and tuition. None of this reasoning, however, makes the anticipation any easier. Feh.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fatigue

Planning a transition is exhausting, exhilarating, and terrifying. And yet I persist. Why? Because the end result -- disoriented spouse, [moderately] confused child, and shattered social ties notwithstanding -- has got to be better than the mental and emotional sargasso of pain and distraction I presently inhabit.

But yeah, it's exhausting. So, thank you Deep Stealth Productions for providing me with the means to prevent even a day passing without advancing my plans or understanding in some fashion. I just watched Andrea James' "Breaking the Silence" speech. Interesting, somewhat galvanizing, and well-constructed. I find myself wanting to read some works by Thomas Szasz, although they may rub me rather as did my readings from John Rawls or Michel Foucault (or, heaven forbid, T. Adorno -- ick!).

However, with that done, all I can bring myself to do is go play a hundred or so adventures in the Kingdom of Loathing.

Honestly, it's better than going loopy.

Monday, September 1, 2008

the male woman

I am that great, polarizing chimera, the male woman.

I'm happily married to a beautiful [overworked], brilliant [exhausted], inspiring [god, I love her so much] female woman. We have an amazing daughter -- the other light of my life -- and a son on the way. We have good jobs, loving families, sensitive friends, and maybe even a few plans for the future. Oh, wait, did I say "happily" just now? Well, yes, true, in the context of all of the above. But I wouldn't say I'm happy.

Actually, I'd say I've been pretty miserable. Because, with the possible exception of my keenly perceptive daughter, they all think I'm a man.

Hell, I've thought that now and again. It's a confusing issue.

Nonetheless, a preponderance of evidence stands to the contrary. I say "preponderance" for its semi-homophony with "ponderous", which connotes something large, awkward, ungainly, and remarkably painful to have dropped on one's toe. A couple of months ago, it hit me squarely in the face. No part of my life has been the same, since.

Our marriage, for one. Nothing calms and soothes a hard-working, professional, very pregnant woman like being told her spouse is considering transitioning to her sex. To her credit and my immense joy and relief, I believe she will stay by my side. To my shame, I can clearly see the fear and anxiety that haunts her, now. It creases her brow as she sleeps, stiffens her smile during the day, and eats-away at her already overcommitted energy reserves.

Really, there are too many facets to itemize. My mother grieves for the son she will lose. Some of my friends wonder if I'm still taking my medications properly. Others simply wonder what the big deal is all about. My daughter is excited to learn that Daddy too will grow-up to be a woman (though she's not so sure about her little brother). Me, I dream of someday seeing myself in the mirror, and find a bitter nostalgia in the seemingly long-distant past when this didn't eat-away at each and every relationship in my life.

Fortunately, this is the year 2008, and there are blogs for people like me.

Otherwise, well, I would probably go mad. If I didn't have built-in overactive mood stabilizers (a neurological quirk of mine), I'd probably off myself. Even without major depression and suicidal ideations, I risk emotionally brutalizing myself and my family, which could very well end my family.

And that concludes the immediate basics of Me. There's the abbreviated version of the stage on which these silly little dramas play. There's some of the Me you can see in photographs.

out of nowhere in particular

So. I have a public blog. I don't say squat about me, there. I don't say much of anything, there, these days, in fact.

I have a private journal. I say plenty about me, there. I say plenty about other actual people who touch my life and might not want mentioning and who might be best left unassociated with me, there.



I do / see / consume day-to-day, stuff-I've-always-done stuff, and it goes on the public blog.

I think about anything trans and it goes into the journal. Gotta keep the records, y'know.

I want to publish anything about living through the first tremors of a transition, reading things that move me in any t fashion, or my exploding [that is, expanding] conception of t, itself, and there's nowhere for it to go.



Except, well, now there is. How nice.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Blanchard, Bailey, and Me (journal entry)

An entry from my personal journal


It’s funny, really, to find now, after coming to terms with some of the internal distinctions I’ve fought for so long, that there has been a debate raging for nearly as long as I’ve been questioning and exploring. To think if I had encountered Blanchard’s work — or J. Michael Bailey’s book, which I almost dread reading, given the preamble it’s so far received (plus, I’m always shy of consuming large works I expect myself to ultimately reject; that is, at least, without preparation) — before achieving any resolution of my entanglement: I might have been profoundly “pathologized” in my own head for many, many more years of silent unhappiness.

I would like to think that at least Bailey’s (apparently) trollish and polarizing interpretation would have met with a degree of fundamental resistance. However, while I would also hope that my first impressions, now, of Blanchard’s seminal paper1 would be similar to M. Wyndzen’s in the referenced foreword1, I can’t know that for certain. In a rational state, I would have noticed many of the underlying weaknesses, especially the confused interpretive strategy applied to autogynephilia test scores. I am not, however, reliably in a fully rational state when exploring a subject so intensely personal to me. I can’t understand how one can be, even in isolated contexts, so barren of compassion as to present such dismissive, damaging, and poorly supported arguments to a population already suffering from a dearth of acceptance or understanding.

I’m not going to talk about myself further, here; I’d rather write into a blank slate than place my heart on the same page as such a painful, external shock.


1 Blanchard, R. (1989). The Concept of Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male Gender Dysphoria. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177(10), 616-623. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2008 from http://www.genderpsychology.org/autogynephilia/male_gender_dysphoria/

Sunday, July 27, 2008

adolescence II (journal entry)

An entry from my personal journal

High School came along, and life continued to complicate. I recall one evening, at the end of the summer before High School, I took what I judged to be my most delicate and feminine blouse (it was a warm coral color, a loose-necked polo shirt in a very lightweight, thin stretch-knit cotton) and padded it (after shutting my door and being sure nobody might be stopping-by). I didn’t have anything like a bra; it didn’t even occur to me to borrow my mother’s — they’d have been dreadfully large, anyhow. I used kleenex, wadded-up and shaped, held against my chest by tucking-in the blouse into my pants as tightly as possible.

In retrospect, with a little coaching and better materials to work with, I would have made a quite convincing girl: my hair was already lengthening, I still had relatively delicate features then, and my shoulders and jaw had yet to broaden and square-out. At the time, however, the effect was devastating. I had no idea how to feminize my haircut, but that wasn’t the real issue — all I could see were wrinkles of kleenex poking at the inside of the shirt. Then one form slipped down a ways. I was horrified; it was awful. I felt SO DEVASTATINGLY FAKE, a feeling that I’m not entirely certain has ever quite left me. I tore out and threw-away the little pastel-apricot kleenex forms and struggled to put the whole episode as far out of my mind as possible (which wasn’t very far; this scene haunted me for years).

Interestingly, I think that this was when I really started actively fighting masculinity. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t think I could be masculine, but that I didn’t want to be in the milieu of “boys” and “girls” — I saw the ultimate end of masculine presentation as being seen a certain way by girls and women, and that was a way I simply didn’t want to be seen. I wanted to be accepted among them, I wanted to interact without the wretched fence of gender roles. I wanted to ask for help caring for my hair, which I’d begun to let grow (and honestly didn’t know what to do with). I wanted to ask what their adolescence had been like, so far — a deep, taboo subject, to me. I wanted to know what it was I was missing. I already felt I had a pretty clear handle on what the boys were experiencing, and it was unpleasant, dull, and tedious. Muscle development, facial hair, some bone growth, infatuations, and voice changes. Ech.

Socially, I still had the small cadre of somewhat intellectual, nerdy boys that I’d been friendly with in middle school, but I tried to encourage and develop friendships with girls who seemed open to it1. Until my junior year, though, I didn’t really grow close to anyone at school (in the sense of having anything like a confidante) except for my three friends from early childhood (all male, one [we would later learn] bisexual), only one of whom attended the same high school as I did.

Role-wise, I continued to avoid athletics, pursued music and academic extracurriculars, joined a service club, and began singing. Vocally, it was an issue of significant, perverse pride for me that, while I sang tenor, I had a rich, strong falsetto with a coloratura range that could outdo any alto in the choir, and several of the sopranos.

Still, I think the weirdest thing now, looking back, is how I related to clothing. In some quirky sort of pseudo-logic, I latched-onto white cotton pants as the uniform of choice. I think part of it was that there seemed to be nothing the least bit masculine about them. They were about as emasculating as I could get and still be reasonably age- and gender-appropriate (albeit hardly tasteful). I wore literally nothing else. I owned no jeans — no denim of any sort — no khakis, no more cargo pants, no nothing. Just white cotton uncreased slacks, or white linen.

Some days, I’d couple them with intensely white sailing shirts. When the clothes were new, before the UV-reradiating pigments left the fabric over successive machine washings, I would seriously resemble a lighthouse beacon walking down the hallways of the high school. I suppose I might have been slightly embarrassed by what I could clearly see was a bit of an obsession, but I think any such feeling was eclipsed by a sense of how embarrassed and humiliated I would have been had I dressed conventionally, had I looked like any other boy. It’s even hard to write that phrase, now: “like any other boy”. It makes me shudder.

I was building a fragile little fantasy overlay for my world, wherein I could avoid the unpalatable fact of my assigned sex (or at least avoid considering it).2


1 Ironically, the one young woman out of these upon whom I developed a crush (and, at one point, to whom I confessed the infatuation) turned-out to be lesbian — I still haven’t quite figured-out how to interpret that.

2 Incidentally, I threw away all my white pants about a month into college and bought a new wardrobe of blue jeans and cargo pants. On the one hand, I’d begun a romantic relationship (with a young woman) and was trying to see if there was any way I could fit the gender role; on the other, I think I was trying to deal with the fact that the little fantasy of denial-of-masculinity wasn’t working. Plus, they really did look horrid.

adolescence I (journal entry)

An entry from my personal journal …

This has been percolating for some time.

My adolescent sexuality was … strange.

I think it was shortly after having sex ed. classes in 6th-grade and deciding to experiment with my developing genitalia (I mean, they said it was supposed to be pleasurable …) that I discovered that transformation was an erotic idea for me. I can’t recall which came first — the idea of changing sex being erotic or the idea of changing form being erotic. Actually, no, that’s not right: I’m pretty sure it was the idea of transformation itself, independent from sexuality or gender being involved in the transformation; transforming into a woman was simply doubly erotic, I supposed at the time because the female body itself was a turn-on (I’ve always been pretty solidly gynephilic).

Meanwhile, as adolescence progressed, I became progressively more difficult to dress. I’d expended little effort developing a wardrobe to that point, save for a preference against T-shirts, and against anything with a designer’s name or slogan on it1. When middle school struck, the first thing to change was pants: slacks were out. That much I could tell, and I didn’t care to cross that line. Actually, I’d almost come to that conclusion on my own, a priori, but a couple standard middle school jibes were all it took to ensure that nothing with a crease made it into my standard wardrobe for some long number of years — it's still mostly the case today.

So, my standard article of clothing below the waist became cargo pants. I believe it was around this time that I ceased wearing shorts … I think it had a lot to do with the feeling that I wanted my legs to be athletic and attractive, and they were manifestly not (to me). I was not particularly athletic, period — I was pretty wretched in endurance sports, and not much better at team sports — it was solo or bust, and I didn’t derive enough pleasure from solo sports to make them a priority. Anyhow, I had this notion that my legs were pasty and flabby and hairy — which in retrospect I very much doubt they were, but nonetheless — and I resolved not to wear shorts any longer.

I think I was also very sensitive about “exposing” my body, physically, to the environment. Years of outdoor activity in scouting had inculcated a certain paranoia when it came to underbrush, grasses, trees one might climb, pretty much anything not artificial/manufactured and regularly cleaned that might come into contact with bare skin in such a way that I might not notice. Since I didn’t make a habit of a regular VSE, nor did I care to keep my attention steadily on my legs and feet while walking about outside, it became SOP for me to always wear pants, and wherever others might go barefoot, to retain my socks on my feet. I put a great deal of wear into my socks, this way.

So, throughout my 2 years of middle school, I wore cargo pants or loose, uncreased linen slacks, and a poorly-coordinated selection of polo shirts and turtlenecks. The polo shirts … I think that sort of just fell-out of some things my mother picked for me, and the volume of polo shirts I’d received as hand-me-downs throughout elementary school. The turtlenecks …

I think that might be one of the earlier appearances of body dysmorphia. To me there was an undeniable rightness to something in how they made me feel I appeared; I think it must have been the snug-fitting aspect, the de-emphasis of shoulders, and the smoothness of the arms. I loved the colder months because I didn’t have to bare my arms, which were starting to develop a bit of disturbing hairiness.

It was also during middle school that I began to notice that there were clothing options that I wished to have that weren’t available to boys. I couldn’t wear fluffy, delicate, open-necked sweaters (this was the end of the ’80s). I couldn’t wear cashmere (not without guaranteeing it was the darkest, dullest, most neutral, boring, and masculine style possible, with a minimum of decoration). I loved cashmere. I felt rather cheated that stockings and long gloves were too effeminate to avoid ridicule (at least, to my perception).

I also happened to strike-up a number of friendships with other girls at this time, which I enjoyed primarily for the sense of being taken as an equal — just someone like them. It so happens, I note with some bitterness, that three out of four, it turned-out, had in fact developed crushes on me; two confessed this by mail a year or so later, after moving away; one I learned-about near the end of high school.

This is not to say that I wasn’t myself developing crushes on various girls. Of course, they generally didn’t give me the time of day, but I just figured that was normal, and stuffed it away. Great sense of self-esteem, there. To some degree, I’ll note, the existence of these crushes tended to conflict with — and to obscure — any developing sense of gender-role confusion; I hadn’t really encountered the idea of homosexuality yet, so my attraction to girls was sort of a tangible barrier to thinking about being one.

It would have been so much more helpful if 6th-grade sex ed. had actually discussed the social and communicative aspects of sexuality and sexual relationships, and had explained that sexual interaction is conceptually possible between any two individuals, regardless of sex, and that — barring actual reproduction — all the same issues of consensuality, hygiene, potential for abuse and exploitation, and emotional involvement apply, regardless. Yaright. Ha. Ha ha.

Oh well. Maybe someday. If it doesn’t gross them out too much (and probably even if it does), I’m pretty sure that’s the talk I’ll be giving to my children.

Anyway, that was middle school. I also began to grow some peach fuzz on my face, which I didn’t much care for, but didn’t really mind since it wasn’t pigmented.


1 I was not a fan of commercials as a child, and was convinced that marketing was a quintessentially hostile and aggressive act, competing for the belief and attention of consumers with dissimulation, misdirection, deception, and misinformation. And no, I’ve never voted for Nader.