Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Intergender-Transgender Sit-down Discussion

image is from here

Tonight two people sit together, talking about things that are pressing in their lives, while one makes dinner.

I: Thanks for making it tonight. What can I get you to nibble on before dinner?
T: [takes off coat and checks short, mussed up hair in the mirror] It's windy out there. No wonder they call this city what they do. Anything is good. 

I: [at the fridge] I've got some corn some chips and I've got some salsa somewhere in here.
T: That works for me.

I: [sets out the chips and salsa on the found-on-side-of-the-street coffee table that just needed some glue around one leg] I'm just feeling kind of pissed about so much. The struggles don't feel like they're getting easier. The country seems to be headed towards real crisis on a lot of levels, which it needs to be, probably, for anything to happen of substance.
T: What's getting you down? What's going on?

I: Do you get how much self-hatred there is in our community? I mean we're kind of all ready to yell at each other or curse each other out, at every turn.
T: I know. I know. Es una locura. That's why I'm steering clear of most stuff these days--events, clubs. Too much aggravation. I don't need more reasons to get upset.

I: What's the biggest thing for you right now?
T: Immigration issues on top of my mother being sick and me not being able to get back to her. And I get scared about the hormones sometimes.

I: Did you call that immigration attorney I gave you the name of? And what's the latest on your mom?
T: I haven't called yet. I'm just kind of overwhelmed. She's having some more trouble with her balance. No one seems to know what's going on and my father's not any help. He needs her for everything. He'd be lost within one day without her around.

I: I'm sorry. I can't imagine the stress of not being able to get back to see them and be there for your mom.
T: Thanks. [silence]

I: Call the lawyer, okay?
T: I will. I promise.

[T and I. hug on the couch and I. caresses T's back.]

I: What's going on with the hormones?
T: Things were going well. I was feeling pretty good about things--I got a good connection for the T and then my contact disappeared for a few days and I ran out and things got really shaky. Emotional rollercoaster time.

I: Yikes. What's going on with this person? Why aren't they available?
T: I'm afraid [name] is getting in trouble at work--I knew he was going to. He had a fake name and script to use to take stuff I need. But the head doctor is getting suspicious. And I'm just not sure if he's going to get fired.

I: He's too good a nurse--they can't afford to lose him.
T: They can't afford to keep him if he's caught.

I: So are you out? You ran out??
T: Yeah. And I'm feeling like shit. Moody. Weepy. Scared. The fucking roller coaster I hate and swore I'd never experience again.

I: What can I do?
T: Feed me a good meal and get me some T. [laughs]

I: I'm all over the first part. Can't help with the other. Wish I could. Have you called [name] to find out about their supplier?
T: No, I haven't even thought about it. It feels like I'm sinking and I don't want to bring everyone down with me.

I: [hands T the phone]. Call him. He'll help.
T: [dials Ts ex's number:] Hey [name]. I'm with I. who suggested I call you--I'm probably the last person you want to hear from but I'm out of T. I'm kind of freaking out. My connection might be gone. Not sure yet. [name] responds. T. listens. They hang up.

I: What?
T: He's going to make some calls and get back to me.

I: When did you know?
T: Know? About running out?

I: No. I mean know that taking T was right.
T: I just decided it would be worth it to try and see--I knew I could stop if things weren't getting better. The anti-depressants weren't really doing the trick. It is kind of a last straw. And it's been helping a lot. I've been a whole lot more stable. I like my voice lowering. I'm beginning to think I might pass... someday.

I: Does everyone at work still think you're a lesbian just because your hair is short and because of your clothes?
T: Kind of. But now with my voice lowering, I think they think I've just hit puberty and am some kind of freak who is changing sexes in the process.

I: I am glad I didn't go that route. But that's not really been my path--I'm just too damned distrustful of doctors.
T: Well, notice I'm dealing with a nurse! [laughs, then looks sad]

[I. leans over and gives T another hug]
T: Thanks.

I: I haven't really found much out there about what I'm experiencing. It seems like the medical world is convinced there's only one way to be transgender and that's about switching, crossing over, going from here to there.
T: No one gets it, really. That's the truth of it. We're all just making our way. Did you seriously ever consider taking hormones? I'm not sure I've asked you that before.

I: I just used to fantasize about waking up and being different--a total androgyne, intersex and intergender both. Not woman, not man. Just something that feels more like what I am inside.
T: Yeah, well, it's not so different for me, but I can't afford to not pass as something. I'm too vulnerable already. And besides, you have the luxury of passing as a man in social spaces.

I: Immigration, you mean? Is that the particular vulnerability you're getting at?
T: Damn right.

I: This country is so fucked up. Really. And getting more so every day.
T: [switches gears, mentally, to block out the stress of immigration bullshit] So you never wanted to do hormones, to maybe get more physically androgynous, or just to see what you'd feel like emotionally and mentally?

I: I just don't think what's going on with me is biological. I think it's social. It used to play out in my mind strongly as biological. Before I had any other way to understand my feelings. Truth is, I think I just don't fit in and nothing I do--hormones or not--is going to make me fit in any better; transitioning in some physical way will only add to my alienation from this world. And it's not exactly like my struggle is with being a woman or being a man. I'm kind of resigned to just feeling out of place. That's my thing--not fitting in anywhere.
T: Try adding on a constant fear of being caught and deported--or arrested.

I: No, I'll leave that to you. [smiles wryly]
T: [laughs] Thanks. You're a true friend.

I: Hey, I'm a better friend if we're both not in exactly the same level of stress, right?
T: Yeah, I suppose so. I need someone to call if I get arrested! [laughs]

 I: You can't get arrested. You've got enough to deal with.
T: Tell that to the government and let me know what they say.

I: I'll get right on that. Actually, no: I'll get right on dinner. Rice and beans good? Onions, peppers?
T: Sure. Sounds great. You got hot stuff?

I: You know it, baby.
T: [laughs] Only once. But we were drunk.

I: You were drunk. I was stoned.
T: Right. Sorry--you're "sober".

I: Two years next month.
T: And what do they say about that weed?

I: Depends on which meeting I go to. So I go to the ones where they don't ask.
T: You really have always known how to work a system.

I: [goes to kitchen off living room, puts water on to boil for rice. Begins opening cans of beans and chopping veggies.] So get this: after yesterday evening's meeting--the one where they only care if you're drinking--practically anything else goes--that guy I told you about--cute, sweet face, kind eyes...
T: Yeah? What happened??

I: He asked me if I'd take his phone number. He had it on a piece of paper, all ready to hand to me. His hand was kind of shaking when he asked. It was kind of adorable.
T: What'd you say??

I: I said I'll take your number, but only if it doesn't come with lots of expectations attached.
T: What did he say?

I: He put the paper in my hand and said, "Call me--I'll keep my expectations in check."
T: Can he? Do you think he can?

I: I don't know. I think he's kind of a serial monogamist. He hasn't been alone that long since leaving his abusive-drunk-for-a-boyfriend.
T: Well, his taste is getting better--you've never been abusive.

I: No, I just let my negligence and distance and dissociation do their thing. [laughs]
T: How do we get through this? I mean how is it done? How do people get through each day with so much weighing them down?

I: [mimes taking a hit off a joint] By smoking weed?
T: [laughs] Yeah, well, that's your way. I'm going to go with T and hope that helps enough to make life seem worth living.

I: You have seemed better since starting it--since getting over the fears about starting it, especially.
T: I think it's been good for me. Except it's not so good for me when I'm not sure of when I'll get more. If I get sent back, or even somehow can get back to visit mom, how will I be able to bring enough with me--I don't even know how long I'll need to be there? Or if I'll be able to come back?

I: Let's wait until you know more about how your mom is doing. She might be okay. Don't play every scenario out at once. You've got enough to deal with in the present.
T: That's for damn sure.

[T's phone rings]

T answers, listens, seems to relax, and hangs up.

I: What??
T: He's getting me some. He's going to drop it off here. [pause] Why did I dump him?

I: Because he's a drunken cheating bastard?
T: Oh, that. Well, you know. Nobody's perfect.

I: Especially him.
T: You're just jealous.

I: No. But I do love you.
T: I know you do. And I'd come over and hug you but those onions will kill my eyes.

I: This should be ready pretty soon. The rice is on, I'm getting ready to cook up the veggies and add in the beans. Another fifteen minutes maybe.
T: I'll live till then.

I: Damn straight you will. I'm not burdening your sick mother with the news of your sudden death.
T: Yeah--it's kind of sick when you have reasons like that to stay alive, though, isn't it?

I: Those are sometimes the only things to keep us going--not making life harder on everyone else. That's why you came here, remember?
T: I just couldn't come out to them about this stuff. It wouldn't make any sense. Mom doesn't even know I'm a lesbian.

I: Won't she be thrilled in a year or two when you're not?!
T: Cute. Very cute. I don't know what I'll be then. I don't think I'll ever be heterosexual. I never have been--I don't know how to do it.

I: I hear you. I don't get heterosexuality either.
T: You don't get sexuality, period.

I: Well... that too.
T: You always been asexual?

I: I did the compulsory sexuality thing. But I think honestly a lot of that has to do with the abuse.
T: Childhood?

I: Yeah. I honestly wonder how many kids and adolescents are sexual because they are acting out being abused.
T: But you weren't acting out much, were you? You had a boyfriend--that wasn't acting out was it?

I: No. I loved him. But there's always been a weird line for me. Like doing what adults do isn't really what I want, but if I'm with someone, I'm so used to trying to please them that if I'm in a sexual situation, I kind of just go on autopilot. I disappear, please them, and then come back into my body.
T: That's not very loving of them or especially of you if Mr. Serial Monogamy wants to kiss or fool around?

I: My goal is to tell him pretty up front, if he's actually interested in me that way...
T: He is. Trust me. He is.

I: How do you know, Mr. Smartypants??
T: Because his hand was shaking. Please. Don't be so naive.

I: Okay. He's probably interested. [pause] I just have to tell him I'm asexual.
T: And what will you say when he asks what the hell that means? Will you come out to him as intergender too?

I: I can't seem to come out as intergender to anyone who doesn't get something about being transgender. And I don't know--he could just be a gay boy who is clueless about all this. I'll let "asexual" sink in and see where it goes, because in some ways if he respects that, there's no need to get into the intergender stuff.
T: A convenient way to stay in the closet. Aren't we done with closets?

I: Right, Mr. I Can't Come Out To My Mother.
T: That's low. She's ill.

I: [snidely, but only the kind that comes with a loving challenge, like between siblings] She wasn't ill last year. Or the year before.
T: I wasn't on T then. I didn't know what I was going to do and didn't want to come out and then have her ask what that meant and not have an answer for her. I'm going to see how far I go on T before telling her.

I: You don't think she'll know just from your voice that something's going on?
T: I can kind of disguise that, sort of. Or just say I've got this cold thing that's going around.

I: Are you really happy with the T? What is it doing for you, exactly? I mean what besides mood stabilisation and lowering your voice? What else are you noticing?
T: I think my body is shifting its shape a bit. I'm getting a bit more muscular in my arms. Less "soft". Can't you tell?

I: I see you too often to notice changes like that. I can hear it in your voice though, when I get a message from you on voicemail. Then I notice it especially.
T: Yeah, when I hear my voice recorded it is kind of shocking to me.

I: How's it going at work? What do the guys say you work with?
T: They don't really get it. And they're too straight to get it. I'm just going to let them be confused. I think that's their permanent condition anyway. [laughs]

I: Yeah, them and my family!
T: You haven't come out to anyone yet?

I: We agreed to come out to the people who matter most. That wouldn't be my family. That'd be my friends.
T: I kind of wish you were closer with them.

[I. stirs the veggies, adds the beans. Checks the rice. Put's the lid down to let the rice finish.]

I: Why? So I could feel invisible? So I could feel misunderstood? So I could feel neglected by people telling me how much they love and miss me but don't ever really want to know anything that's going on within me?
T: They weren't raised to want to know that--they don't want to anything significant about themselves either. It's kind of the same with my family. You get through life, you don't examine it. That's their way. Sometimes the burden of knowing is too much.

I: I get the appeal of "not knowing". I just never could be like that. I was always questioning everything--all my feelings, the feelings of others, their rules, why society is what it is. Since childhood, really. I think being intergender put me on this course of feeling so outside everything that was being told to me about how the world is. And not being heterosexual too.
T: I know. Same here. You can't be a lesbian girl and a trans teen and not be burdened with questions that don't have easy answers.

I: How is your roommate dealing with this. Is she still separatist?
T: Yeah. She's not a happy camper. I get it. She's had enough with the boys for one life. She doesn't need her lesbian roommate turning into one.

I: But you're not really turning into a boy. You're turning into a more whole version of you. You're becoming you.
T: Still, the pronoun thing is hard for her. I get it. She's been a separatist for a long time. Her generation didn't deal with this stuff. Back when she came out, you had two choices if lesbian: separatist or not separatist. And that decision often got made based on who you were going out with.

I: All of this really is a lot more social than we want to admit some times, I think.
T: I think it is too. But knowing it's social doesn't make taking T a wrong move for me.

I: No, I wasn't meaning to imply that. I just meant that it's all kind of unknowable--what causes what. Why we make the decisions we do.
T: If I was a twentysomething back when my roommate was, I'd probably be a lesbian separatist.

I: Really??
T: Yeah. Well, if I was around separatists I would be. I mean it's really cool just being with women. It's soooo different than being around guys who are into putting on their guy acts.

I: Do I do that?
T: You're intergender. Believe me--it shows. How everyone doesn't just know automatically when meeting you is beyond me, except that they don't know there is such a thing.

I: Yeah, it's like when new white people meet me and want to know my race--with that questioning face that is scanning for tell-tale signs of Blackness or whiteness or being Latino or American Indian. It's like the way strangers look anxiously at new babies who aren't wearing pink or blue. And they're kind of freaking out that they might guess wrong.
T: Well, they'd be right on all counts.

I: But you know that's not how race works here. It's primarily white or nonwhite. Black, or something that tips you into being close enough to Black to not be seen as white.
T: So what do most white people assume?

I: They kind of are willing to accept me as white except that I talk about the problem of white people too much. So they know I'm not. But I'm light enough. Not as white as them, but not dark enough to be clearly and unequivocally "nonwhite".
T: This country is crazy. It can't deal with anything "in between".

I: Well, I don't really think getting to that place would even be sufficient.
T: What do you mean?

I: I mean that unless we end male and white supremacy, "in between" is just a few more options in an oppressive system that's still killing people in a whole lot of ways. We don't need more choices as much as we need an end to oppression by the social dominants. Because no matter how many genders there are in CRAP, it will remain male supremacist, and that means it'll remain misogynistic, and that means anyone deemed "not man enough" is targeted for a certain kind of violence. Same with race. Even though dominant society is learning to get it that there are more races than just white and Black, white supremacy is still the problem when it comes to race. That's why everyone else hates themselves so much. Male supremacy is why so many women hate themselves so much.
T: Well, why does it have to be either/or? Isn't that the same old thinking--that we only have one route? That we can't both work to expand the categories AND end male and white supremacy?

I: That's what we are doing, T. That's what our community has been doing for over a decade now, thanks to post-structuralism. We're making more and more and more categories.
T: Like "intergender" you mean?

I: Well, kind of. I mean me being intergender, really, what does that mean? It's a subjecting thing. I mean it's real, as real as anything else that's subjective. But it's not medically recognised so it doesn't really exist in the dominant society. And even if it were, it'll just be used to reinforce the binary, the hierarchy. I'll just slip a bit lower on the "real man" scale.
T: Honey, you're already kind of low on that scale! You think calling out men all the time makes you "one of them?"

I: I know. But I have male privilege, and some strange kinds of white privilege because depending on where I am and what I'm doing, whites won't interrogate me or wonder why I'm hanging out with them.
T: You mean like if you're not with me.

I: Sadly, yes. If I'm with anyone else of color, then somehow to whites, that means I'm of color too because then I'm not acting as white. I have only being around white people. It's really oppressive. It's just like only being around men. It's suffocating.
T: Don't worry--I'll never really be a man. I have no interest in "being A MAN".

I: I'm not worried about you. You'll always be "you" to me. No matter how deep your voice gets.
T: Even Barry White deep?

I: If I hear a voicemail from you and I think Barry White was calling from beyond, we can talk about it then. And if your voice goes that deep, you've got one helluva singing career in front of you.

[they both laugh out loud and fix plates of food and sit at the kitchen table eat, talking more about T's mom's balance problem.]


Osha said...

Oh my god. This reads exactly like a conversation between my roommate and I.

Wow. So there are other people like us out there in the world.

Julian Real said...

Hi Osha,

I couldn't have asked for a better comment than that!!

Pull up a chair to the kitchen table. There's still some food here for ya. :)