The Skeleton’s Wardrobe: Who Are You?

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To be boy, to be girl or to be other; it seems to be the biggest concern, privilege, and question amongst all individuals in the United States of America.

The good ol’gender spectrum or the binary gender system, to be specific. This system implies two assumptions: that gender is binary and that the core aspect of self is biologically determined.

girlsAccording to Gender Spectrum, by Joel, Baum, who opines that the binary system typically conflates gender and sex. One’s sex includes physical attributes such as external genitalia, sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and internal reproductive structures. At birth, this “biology of gender” is used to answer the boy or girl question.”

I say, “Yada, yada, yah. One may go seek the answers for themselves if they wish by clicking on Google if you will.” Go now, you’ll thank me later for the deeper appreciation and understanding of the entire subject.

Looking at it from the bottom up. Babies, to children and from children to adults.

At the age of four, a child, who would’ve been born to play with trucks and perhaps like collecting nasty bugs (prior to what I’ll call: The Be as You Will Movement) but instead gravitates towards liking ballerina tutu’s, the latest Disney movies, and even the dreaded color pink, has the legal right to be continually subjected to such back ass treatment by the adults raising him; vice versa for girls.

These young children have even been given the right to decide what bathroom they would like to use, even if the choice is different from their assigned gender identity. Then, of course, you have those who scream there shouldn’t be certain behavior traits ascertained to a specific gender and that labels are not needed. “There is no specific thing for girls and no specific thing for boys,” they would argue. They being those who are gender non-confirming.

I reached out to my long-time friend, Mike, Townsend, who I haven’t seen for about two years now; the longest of our time spent apart. We both grew up together. Mike, who was born a girl, lived down the street from my family for almost my entire childhood. Our parents, who were the best of friends and always together, would smoke a little weed, have a drink or two and forget they had children running madly around the house somehow; it was the early 80s after all.

Those days of endless movie nights where we would watch movies like: Milo & Otis, Fern Gully, or Willow, again and again; Let alone, the sleepover’s we had where going to sleep meant you slept when you wanted and where you wanted and with who you wanted. I hadn’t seen Mike since my brother’s baby shower which was in October 2015, and just thinking about the time that had gone by, made me miss him.

“Where has the time gone?” I ask as Mike answers the phone. “What?” he says. Immediately, I realize he hadn’t heard me. “Never mind, how are you?” I ask. We go through our usual exchange for a moment or two and then I jump right into the reason for my late evening call; due to the time difference, Mike lives about three hours into the future. Without hesitation, I tell Mike that I have a class assignment I’m working on and that I’d like to write about what it’s like being Transgender; I want to write about what it’s like being cisgender and what it’s like being of gender identity period.

Well, if I could’ve seen through the phone with x-ray vision of some sort, I’m sure Mike was probably having a conundrum. A long, eerie pause ensued. The kind that I’m not used to during our conversations. The kind that almost would’ve made me give up had I not been so pessimistic. At any rate, after reassuring that Mike was okay with various conditions and after agreeing to conduct the interview by email, for paper trail purposes, I felt overjoyed with relief at his agreeance to the project.

“I will answer the questions to the best of my abilities but there are some questions I won’t answer. I might explain why and mostly, I will not. These answers only speak the experience of me, a straight-cisgender-passing, transman of color, who has only lived in “blue” states for the most of his life. There is an entire spectrum of experiences out there and everyone is different.”

~ Mike Townsend

Q: Do you remember what you wanted to be as a child, career wise?

A: A doctor.

Q: Did you have any bedwetting as a child?

A: Nope

Q: What were some of your favorite toys? Remote control cars. In fact, I asked for one every year at my birthday and Christmas time. He Man action figure and Stretch Armstrong.

Q: Favorite foods?

A: Peanut butter! I just love it. Macaroni and cheese. Waffles.

transgenderWhen I finally reached my brother, Jarred, Palmer, and had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about what he remembered growing up on the same street as Mike and a few early memories pertaining to our childhood, my brother simply smiled and stated, “Well, I remember every time we played Barbie’s or house (you know the children’s pretend game that usually requires at least 2-3 kids, where a role is assumed; a mother, father and perhaps a child that almost always acts irate, clearly showing you that children are smarter than they appear.) that she (referring to Mike as a girl from our past) wanted to always be the Ken doll or the Dad. It weirded me out a little but that was our friend and we loved her. Plus, I think it helped that we were raised differently than most kids. You know to not ask adult-like questions, to always respect everyone, and to just go with the flow. Products of 80s parents, I guess. So, we never gave her any slack, know what I mean?” He stated, yet asked at the same time. And I understood perfectly.
~ ‘Reflected Agony by Nicholas, Sherman

Mirrors hold horrors That scare me and scar me. The picture before me— They say it’s my face He blinks, she blinks back at him… It’s me, but trapped within Looking glass nightmares Wrapped up in pink lace. Shreds of glass show me The terrors that throw me —the shattered self-portrait I cast as I pass Hot tears hit mirrored floor Fallen from a mirrored orb Silent explosions Mark splashes steadfast. His fist flew to smash it Hers flew out to match it They met in the middle Where crimson blood ran The blood of a stranger Whose face she endangered With dimples and lashes So far from a man.
Taken from allpoetry.com

So, in the world of transitioning out of what you’re physically born into, I’d say, “There is a high demand for education on the topic and into the entire spectrum as to what people are going through and how it affects people around them, as well.”

In a publication from Transgender People 2015 and The American Psychological Association, What Does It Mean to Be Transgender? It states that deciding to transition can be a difficult, but rewarding choice for the gender involved in making the decision. Most times the transition can be subtle and normally begins with the obvious.

– While there is no “right” way to transition genders, there are some common social changes transgender people experience that may involve one or more of the following: adopting the appearance of the desired sex through changes in clothing and grooming, adopting a new name, changing sex designation on identity documents (if possible), using hormone therapy treatment, and/or undergoing medical procedures that modify their body to conform with their gender identity.

Imagine if you will for a moment:
– Growing baby grows. Growing baby is now subjected to the bells and whistles of what his parents provide through stimuli and now Baby, Jackson, if you will, is now walking, talking, and acting like Baby, Jackie. Baby, Jackie, is now a teenager, who is very confused and upset. Upset, because his entire life, his body has failed him, his clothes have failed him, and his parents may —– have even failed him, —– and now he decides to fully transform into Jackie because Jackie is who he really wants to transition into. Why? Not because of choice at this point, but because he has known all along, influenced or not, that he was different, and to be a girl is his decision.

Origin of Stimulus-Stimuli:

  1. something that incites to action or exertion or quickens action, feeling, thought.
  2. incitement, enticement, motive, provocation.
  3. stimulant

The sweat under my breasts irritated me. There wasn’t and still isn’t enough powder in the world to absorb the moisture of the heavy boob syndrome. I had probably already taken about two or three showers that day, it just happened to be that hot and humid. I remember specifically because I was going out to the Brooklyn Market for the first time with my friend who had finally arrived in New York for the year. What made it most exciting, this was our first year as actual adults, well at least being twenty-one years of age. But this “Heffa,” had yet, to come and visit me.

Needlessly to say, we or I, for the most part, missed the market. About a week or maybe even two later she arrived at my house and made her peace with me. She had brought donuts. It worked and still does, almost every time. And then, before things could start to make sense, they started to get even more confusing. As not even four months into my friend’s serenity, did she really start to show us who she wanted to be? It was a warm summer afternoon on Long Island, New York, and my friend, with her beautiful, black, buoyantly-amazing hair; the kind that I had always been so jealous of for the way it just hung-long, as fucking Rapunzel’s, from that Disney movie; and how it shimmered in the sun like diamonds because obviously, her mom used something my mom didn’t; went out into town and hours later came back, with what would be considered as a boy’s hairstyle. It had all been cut off! And proudly, she made sure each of us who loved her, saw the abrupt change immediately.

Q: Was it a subtle change?

A: Lol, no not really. I just jumped in and did it. First open thing I did was to cut my hair off. Shocked the crap out of everyone!

Q: When did you decide to transition?

A: The day after I heard it was a thing. Had never heard of the term, Transman before. But a friend was talking about it one day and explained it to me and that was pretty much it. I googled everything I could on the subject and was looking up support groups the next day.

Q: Was it a hard decision?

A: Hard, no. Scary, yes!

Q: Were people against it?

A: Some people were. My mom was for the longest time. She has since come around. Friends were kind of shocked but not completely. My dad took it pretty well and that helped.

Q: At some point, were you gay? And if so, how many relationships did it take before realizing that was so?

A: Yes, in the beginning stage of my transition I was gay. And I went through one before I realized it. I do not consider myself to be gay any longer.

Q: How old were you when you entered your first gay relationship?

A: I was 18.

Q: Did you suspect you were different as a young adult? If so, how?

A: I didn’t like hanging out with the girls. But at the time, everyone suspected I was just going through a “tomboy” phase. So, not even I stressed what was happening with me. Although, I do remember daydreaming quite often about growing up and being this man. I never knew how, or why, or where to even begin or if in fact it was me. But I had em.

Q: At what age did you lose your virginity and was it to a man/boy, or woman/girl, or other?

A: I was 15 and it was to a boy.

Q: Any crushes?

A: Of course, I was still human! Her name was Lisa, Turtle, from Saved by The Bell; Oh, yeah and Clarissa, from Clarissa Explains It All, and one of those guys from the Criss Cross group we’d listen to all the time; although, I can’t recall which one it was after all this time.

It is said that women who cross-dress gain power. In western culture, “Women must constantly prove their worth and are not always given the same exact value for those worth’s, as their male counterparts.”

A woman must always prove their worth. A man must never fall too far into the feminine zone.

Q: Has being a Cisgender person changed your way of thinking towards anything? And if so, like what?

A: I am more open to different experiences than I was before.

Q: What are your favorite things to do for fun?

A: I hang out with my wife. I play video games. I even enjoy going hiking occasionally.

Q: Have you ever purposely lied about your sex to hurt someone?

A: No.

Q: What is your bathroom of choice?

A: Men’s

Q: Where do you usually shop for clothes?

A: Old Navy

Q: Have you ever faced discrimination for being a person who identifies as a person of a different gender?

A: There are several laws in the state I live in that specifically target trans-people.

Q: Are you nervous about your future in America?

A: Sometimes. Especially, with the most current administration. Luckily, I pass as male without question. My wife and I are straight, Christian, and financially stable. We are afforded a lot of privilege that not all trans people, especially trans women, are granted.

Q: Do you still get a monthly cycle? If so, will you go through menopause?

A: No, I went through it already. And F. Y. FUCKING.I, menopause-sucks!

Q: Can you or would you still have any children?

A: I could but I would not.

Q: Is there ever any going back?

A: No.

Q: What’s easier, being man or woman?

A: In my experience so far, being a man is a lot easier. There is a lot less expected emotionally and life so far has been awesome without that monthly cycle.

There were so many things on my mind. Thoughts entertained my mind wickedly with this project I entertained. Some, that I didn’t even think I should have. I had to really pull myself back down from cloud la-la-land a bit to be sure I wasn’t crossing over into some sort of an invasion of the privacy act. Feeling slight-fully sinful towards myself, at just how curious I indeed was with my unanswered questions. Questions I decided both not to ask and then the questions I said what the hell to and asked anyway, left me realizing I had probably crossed the line just a bit, no matter if we were childhood friends or not. In fact, the few questions I was brave enough to ask but unfortunately did not receive a response; questions pertaining to roles played in the bedroom during intimacy; questions pertaining to methods or procedures that are routinely followed to maintain a daily appearance; questions pertaining to inspirational individuals that had given hope and inspiration throughout the transition stage; and many others that I guess I’ll just have to forget like yesteryears one hit wonders.

“Do you remember when we went and got super drunk at Applebee’s in Bellmore? Oh yeah,” I said, as my hand’s fist pumped in the air but you couldn’t see me.  “We were throwing everything back. It was what? A two-for-one night and your night off. A bartender, someone — who was crushing on you— just kept supplying the ½ filled cups, two at a time, of different brands of alcohol, like he just knew he was getting some. And he didn’t,” we both laughed as I said that!

“The drive home was a straight shot. But before we decided to go home, we stopped at Tee’s house with baseball bats ready for anything. That fucking bitch had it coming and that night, was the right night. ‘This nasty she-troll wanna run around town while I’m away on vacation and spread lies to my husband about me, regarding some bull shit and about some man I barely know. We’ll see about that!’ I shouted and you instigated in a normal fashion. We were beyond drunk if I really recall; probably high- after smoking a couple marijuana blunts in the Applebee’s parking lot before taking off in an attempt to lower our drunkenness. Which, I can’t recall if it worked or not, and dressed to kill in the latest NY style.

You pulled the car into the underground parking garage, did a marvelous job at parking, and we both stumbled out of my red, Pontiac-Grand-Prix-with the broken sunroof, ‘Remember, the one with the trash bag sealed down on top?’” I asked laughing a bit just thinking about how far we both have come from this situation. I’m not sure at this point if Mike is getting old, because I am older, or if being cisgender makes you less aware of your goddamn past because for whatever reason he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I couldn’t believe it when he said he didn’t remember. After all, we had made it all the way up to her third-floor, apartment door and we knocked, no we banged, kicked even on that damn-dingy, ass, door-worse than the DEA would’ve done during a raid in a crack house!

No one was home. Damn, I miss my down for “whatever” girlfriend.

Transgender: The term transgender has largely replaced the older term transsexual, which is now considered outdated. Transgender is a less clinical term, referring more to gender identity and gender expression than to sexual orientation or physical sex characteristics. It is also a more general and inclusive term: a transgender person may be gay, transsexual, transvestite, or even genderqueer. Use of transgender as a noun is declining in use and is usually taken as offensive. And people object to the adjectival variant transgendered because the –ed suffix could imply that something happened to make the person transgender

Transman: an adult who was born female but whose gender identity is male.

Transwoman: an adult who was born male but whose gender identity is female.

Cisgender: There is A LOT you need to research on this topic. In fact, my initial reaction as I dived into looking up what CIS genderism is, “FUCK my life,” pretty much came to mind. There’s so much information out there regarding what it’s like being Cisgender and what it all involves. My advice is to always ask questions and research, research, research. And you can start here, by all means necessary: CIS genderism: Gavriel Y. Ansara and Israel Berger, The Sage Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies. Ed. Abbie E. Goldberg. Vol. 1. Los Angeles; Page 230

I am not sure where I stand on this entire debate. I just know that I am respectful. I was raised that way. I am not sure who I am. Because if everyone else can determine themselves to be other than what they were born, why can’t I? Or should I even want to think that way? Thanks, U.S.A! And what is stopping people from becoming or transitioning into unicorns or robots or fury’s or Princesses or dogs or leopards or invisibility cloaks, for all that matters? When we all live in a society that is now open or at least trying to be open to people seeing themselves as they wish and then expecting and gaining respect for their wishes in retrospect, what can you do to prepare yourself and those around you, other than learning about it?

And my sincere question is: What is the big fuss? It seems to me that even when a gender transgression is present, an identification with either one gender binary is made. So, are there truly any androgynous identities out there?

Just exactly who is Mike? Who are you? Who is she? Who is he? And who are we?

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