Tuesday, April 28, 2009

visiting the old home

Standing in the hallway for hours, looking at pictures in old photo albums, I notice things. I am so unhappy-looking, so serious, in these pictures. They date from eight to eighteen years of age.

There are a few exceptions. A few images from the end of my senior year of high school have smiles—what I remember of the time is that my future was an open book, full of the promise of adventure. I’d been accepted to a marvelous school, I had shaved my beard and begun to think more honestly about my gender. I had reason to be optimistic.

The other systematic exception is in pictures from my teens in which I am interacting with children. I am happy, there. I don’t look calculating. I don’t look reserved. I look like I feel genuine.

The only other time I have seen that genuine look is as a little child, in even earlier pictures, and only when I’m expressing excitement or distaste. When I’m calm … I look thoughtful. I look wistful. I don’t look present. I’m not there.

And then … then I see a picture of myself in a swimming pool, and there’s a stab of pain. I should have been in a one-piece, with narrower shoulders, a small but defined chest, a too-high forehead and longer limbs than I knew what to do with, spending a mid-teens summer vacation trying to come to terms with young womanhood in America in the early nineties. Instead, I’m in swim trunks, baffled and uncertain about developing chest and facial hair, completely failing to come to terms with an even more oppressed and confusing status.

I cry. All those years of isolation in rich company, gilded imprisonment in privilege. I never stopped trying to understand—not once—who and what I was, but I only rarely paused in my desperate flight from the answer. Transgender. Transsexual.

I cry because I remember the moment so well. I remember feeling, clearly, what I just wrote, above: every…single…thought. I don’t remember what I was thinking—the words, the meanings I attached to them, the boxes in my head into which I finally shoved them at a loss for options. I could probably reconstruct them, now, if I tried, but I have no desire to do so. I have options, now. I have words for these feelings. Loneliness, isolation, and fear. Heartache. Regret; longing. Grief. Deep wells of grief. Such sorrow, over what I feared to do, what I was too afraid to assert, to claim, to demand. Womanhood. My body. My name. Me.

It’s funny how in times of emotion, it’s just words—“womanhood”, “transgender”, “name”—that I fall back upon. It’s simple, powerful words—the right words, hard-won over many years—that are the foundation-stones of my redoubt. They are my spell, my name, my Polaris. I don’t so much write about these feelings or articulate them as—using an embarrassingly awkward analogy which I nevertheless cannot seem to shake—instead toss words onto a Pollock canvas and mutely ponder the wreckage. It paints a map, in adolescent, stuttering cadences, to authenticity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

booooring / good news / whinyriffic

So. Attractive Job Prospect apparently wants me to go and visit them to interview some more, and is still interested. I appear to be unable to read these things. *sigh*.

Well, anyhow, thank goodness. The mechanics are charging us two paychecks. Feh. At least the baby had a wonderful time at daycare.

Looking at pretty much all of my posts tagged "interviewing" or "grumbling", I am forced to conclude that it is impossible, at this point, even to pretend to an air of stoic grace. Honestly, I didn't know I could be this whiny at this age and stage. It's a little disheartening. And hey, there I go again.

Hey, wait, isn't this supposed to be a transition blog?

Images, Bodies, Memories

A comment, elsewhere, got me started thinking at length about self-image. I suppose you could say that this is what this blog is named after—the fact that I rarely, if ever, see myself when I look in a mirror; I see a familiar person, someone who "plays me on TV", actually. Except the "TV" is the waking world, and the casting really sucked.

Anyhow, I've been reflecting [hah; at my punniest when not even trying] on my feelings of detachment from the images of myself which I see in photographs. Something struck me—the pictures from my earliest childhood, after my memories began to crystallize, but only barely, don't suffer from this. The little boygirl I see in them is me. I remember the tableaux, I remember watching the camera, I remember the feel of my body, I was there. And I remember looking as I do in the photographs. That's not somebody else, standing where I stood.

What was it that took this from me? Yes, I'm trans. Yes, my brain has structures conditioned prenatally to be part of a female body. Never mind any of that. What I want to know is "what can I remember of this loss? What did it feel like?"

There are some curious sides to this. So, the pictures I've been contemplating most are a pair of me at 2½ years, snuggling with my favorite blanket. I've another picture taken at approximately the same time, showing me in our garden wearing a straw hat borrowed from my mother. I remember the blanket pictures being taken, and I do not remember the hat picture being taken. But I do remember the hat. And what I remember most strongly about the hat is this: it was gendered.

Certainly I didn't have that term for it, but the idea is quite precisely that. The hat was my mother's. It was a woman's hat. I liked it: it felt comfortable, in a way most clothing did not. But I knew, somehow, that getting to wear it out in the yard, there, was a special treat, not something to take for granted, because it was girl clothing, and I wore boy clothing. I regretted this, I remember that much, but there's no pain. And this is the same me I can recall being, there in the blanket pictures. I may have understood gendering of identities, but I'm still authentic, then; I'm still just me, and haven't yet been carved-up.

When did my face stop being mine?

I can remember, in kindergarten, I was terrified by a fairy tale story assigned to us for reading homework. In the tale, a savage dragon was terrorizing a kingdom, and a pair of knights and a squire of sorts had been tasked with eliminating the threat. The knights sought-out a powerful wizard for aid against the magical beast, and the wizard helpfully provided them with a potion that would transform them into dragons—operating, I suppose, on the theory that anything less would be unable to best the beast in combat. Unfortunately, the enchantment made dragons of them in mind, as well, and they joined the first dragon in harassing the populace. And that's all I can tell you of the story, as I could not bring myself to read any more. Something terrified me about the thought of losing oneself—losing one's sense of self—inside an unfamiliar body.

It was early in the school year, so I cannot have been much past my fifth birthday. This is the first memory I have of being insecure about my own identity. I know I puzzled over earlier photographs of myself, that year and the next few, and watched my face in the mirror as I changed expressions, trying to figure out just what this person—whom I seemed to be—looked like. I recall wondering what, and where, I was—where was my self? I wondered if there was a point somewhere inside my head, a tiny spot in my brain, that was "me", that looked-out through the eyes in my face, that controlled my limbs and fingers and mouth. I think the only given was that "I" was not this body which housed me. I was something different from it, somehow. I don't know if that's a normal perspective for a five-year-old. I sort of doubt it.

I'm presently stymied by lack of images. I have an album from birth to three years of age, but nothing else until nine—by which point there's only an awkward boy in the photographs, my erstwhile stand-in. My parents are moving, this month, but when they've settled and unpacked, I need to dig further and collect more images to consider.

Somewhere between two and five, perhaps later, something fell apart. Something in my head drew away from my form, rejecting it. I want to know what it felt like. I want to know what happened to Rachel. What did it feel like to be broken apart? Did it hurt? Did I even notice, at the time? Was there a trauma that shook me and forced me to examine things that were too delicate to withstand scrutiny? Did I just notice, one day, that something didn't feel right?

I want to know.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

more than 140 chars of banal

Today's accomplishments:
  1. I shipped the baby off to daycare for his first time EVAR
  2. I surrendered our car to the mechanics (who will undoubtedly charge us about a paycheck)
  3. I will shortly begin prostituting myself to recruiters. Yay me.
It might be fair to clarify #3: I don't have any official feedback from the Potential Employer of Great Desirability, but things look highly doubtful. This is demoralizing, but hey, might as well get used to it. So I'm not spending the days with the baby anymore, at least until I've secured employment (and then, well, not then either). I miss him. I'm sure he's having a marvelous time, and I know his sister is having the best day at daycare ever. Moreover, I've got complete freedom from his amazing powers of distraction for the entire afternoon.

It's still crummy. I miss my sweet baby. God, I'm such a mother hen.

Meanwhile, in what appears to be an attempt to procrastinate and avoid contacting recruiters, I'm getting all literate and stuff, tweeting, catching-up on blogs, all that nonsense. In an IM exchange with my wife, I came up with this:
[me] am drinking San Benedetto "Naturale" water.
[me] they were out of San Pellegrino "What I Normally Drink For Sparkly Waterz" water.
[me] and it turns-out that "Naturale" is San Benedettese not for "is an acceptably overpriced, attractively-bottled, Italian sparkling water beverage product for consumption when our local beverage purveyor's San Pellegrino supply has been terminally depleted," as I had originally surmised, but rather for "totally flat, non-sparkling water thing without bubbles or fizz. or carbonation. of any sort."
[me] boooo.
From the above, of course, you can deduce primarily that, when unemployed, I become much more whiny and infatuated with my own [attempts at] wit. I need a job.

Monday, April 6, 2009

So. I'm interviewing for a senior engineering position with a major multinational, one that has super-dreamy benefits, trans-friendliness, cool co-workers, interesting work, great location: in short, a whole can o' aw3sum. I'm also a basket case over this. There's a lot of panic, there's a lot of "what if I blow it all?" ... there's a lot of second-guessing, a lot of internal drama, and a lot of time to kill as I move from stage to stage in the process. I guess this is all normal. That doesn't really help, though.

Friday, April 3, 2009

AUUUUUUUGHH

I hate interviewing.

Here's an interesting observation: The baby just lunged at my chest and barfed all over the pajamas I happen to still be wearing at 6:30pm. And you know what first springs to mind?

I think I like wearing sour baby barf more than I like interviewing.