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Thursday, March 22, 2012

A stealthy moment

Yesterday I finally did something I've wanted to do for a while and gone momentarily stealth.
In the last few months, 3 years after starting transition, I must have had about a dozen people, who'd known me before, coming into the shop. Berlin tends to be a lasting magnet once you've spent some time here.
Sometimes it gets a little awkward when they ask directly where I've gone to. In this case it happened like that, and they also queried the whereabouts of other people who are / were fixtures here.
So this time I answered only about those others, and they went off saying they'd be in one friday soon, when no doubt someone will enlighten them.
It's not, after so many hundreds of meetings , that I'm exactly shy about being out. It's just that I am so weary of the comments afterwards about how they thought I was me but didn't like to ask to confirm. In some cases it may be true, and I'm sure it's not meant as a variant of the 'deceiver' meme.
But equally I'm sure that several really had no idea at all and simply want not to feel as if they've failed a recognition test.
Thinking about it afterwards and actually I can only remember one time when someone came in, didn't react like that and weren't shy of expressing astonishment. They were a trans couple. Figures.
Of course I do have a particular reason why people don't recognise me readily.
Because this was how I looked before...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

such stuff...

Thinking about acceptance a lot recently.
For such an ordinary thing, especially if one puts the focus on acceptance of one's gender, it does seem to get remarkably complicated. It's easy enough to say that everyone who stays with you are accepting and those who fall away not. But really that extreme a binary doesn't exist in nature.
I've got one friend of about 10 years standing. She comes by a lot, we talk, we plan some small things together, we have our ups and downs but we're good friends. But, no, I wouldn't say she accepts my gender. She had a problematic thing with her own endocrine system years back and that ties in to an absolute belief in second wave principles, which don't readily allow for trans realities.
I had only one good friend who broke off contact. She's got a phd in gender studies and mostly was a committed cyberfeminist. Her reactions to me now, if we happen to meet somewhere, are extreme and utterly phobic. I think, though, that she actually is accepting of my gender, just extremely scared of it.
And then there's the question of how great a substance there is in a meeting, how deep it's possible to make a relationship. Selling books, or rather being an active librarian which is far more what I do during the day, there's a strange sort of meeting. Talking to a relative stranger about themselves, in terms of what they get from books, makes for an odd kind of initial intimacy. Being an oasis of english in a desert of german adds to that, it's an encouragement to relaxed communication.So I'm quite used to that pattern, an initial artificiality that one can build greater intimacy on.
Being out does make for the same preliminary artificial intimacy. I don't make any sort of song and dance about it but most people start the 'how long have you been in Berlin ?' conversation themselves and an exchange of histories that goes beyond the superficial is often a route to referring to being trans,assuming the person seems relatively receptive. Maybe I get a good set of people through, or maybe I've got some reasonable judgement about them, but most do regard it as an act of intimacy and respond on that basis.Certainly the depth of friendship that can spring from such sharing is something of a blessing and the acceptance being not of me the trans woman, or simply the woman, but just me.
And then there's the acceptance of girlhood. Whatever the history, we all enter transition as girls and not as women. We haven't been through the hormonal changes or experienced the social realities that are such an enormous part of the reality of being a woman. Frankly I find the attempts to write off such aspects of transition as only of trivial importance in the action of 'putting right one's birth defect' or similar, both dangerous and misleading. To have people, which for me translates to cis female friends, around me to share and help through one's second adolescence is of enormous personal benefit as well as a process that they find of interest in the light that it sheds on their own gendered history.
Then there's also the problems of self acceptance. That's something that operates on many levels. Acceptance of my changed gender identity was relatively swift in terms of knowing sufficiently that I simply had to transition rather than live in the absurd world that male presentation created around me. That didn't mean that I could put aside all doubts, though any based on still being a guy were history in a month or so. But even if I had, putting doubts aside doesn't necessarily mean positive self acceptance. And the extent to which conscious and unconscious processes were aligned in female self identification has been a process that has only slowly grown from an imperfect base.
Maybe this is excessively backward of me compared to most trans people, who may start off with this, but I was particularly pleased at something that happened last month. For the first time I woke up knowing definitely, sans sexuality, I'd also been a woman in my dreams.