Friday, March 16, 2018

The Prodigal Daughter Returns

New York City has been my home for sixteen years but five years ago I achieved an important milestone; New York City finally surpassed Augusta, GA as the place I have lived the longest. Many of my formative years were spent in Augusta; junior high, high school, some of college. Though I've lived in many different places, it's generally where I claim to be "from." If you've read my book American Transgirl, then you know that it's where I took my first steps out of the closet.

Augusta, GA, if you're unfamiliar, is the protypical sleepy suburban town. It has no culture, no real identity, and it's known for only a rich, elitist, racist golf tournament. It consists of nothing but endless strip malls, parking lots, corporate businesses, housing subdivisions, McMansions, and a decaying and rusted mostly abandoned downtown. It was the kind of place weird kids like me longed to escape. And I finally did in 2002.

Since then I've only been back twice. The first was maybe three months after I left. I was still feeling a little intimidated by New York and a quite a bit lonely. But visiting Augusta didn't help me. I saw some friends and stopped by some old haunts, but it felt perfunctory. I was out of place in a way that I hadn't quite felt before. 

The next time I visited was nine or ten years later. This time I kept my visit to family and didn't bother seeing any old friends or old favorite places. Augusta was still the same though. They had improved downtown by leveling several square blocks of condemned and empty buildings but the vacant lot "parks" didn't feel like too much of an improvement. This trip reminded me of just how happy I was to have left. New York was my new home.

Both those times I presented male. In fact I hadn't told anyone about my gender dysphoria, my dressing up, or that I had thought seriously about transition. 

But I'm about to go back again to visit family and some old friends as well. This will be my first time visiting my old home town since I've transitioned. All the people I've seen know that I'm transgender and that I've transitioned.

Like any trip down South, I'm of course worried about encountering transphobia, and potentially even harassment or violence. That's something I just have to deal with. As I'll be with groups the whole time that feels a little better. And of course I'll also have to deal with the TSA at the Atlanta airport and that's always a potential issue.

Still, I'm kind of excited that I'll be able to go back as the real me. It feels a bit like returning as a conquering hero. I've had the courage to finally come out. I live as who I am now and I live my life without apology. And now I'm going to visit the city where I once felt terrified going to the mall to shop for dresses. It was a town where I went to Wal-Mart at 2am to buy makeup, shoes, or underthings, because I was worried about being spotted by family or people from church or my boss. It was the place where I first dared to take steps outside as a woman, and now I'm going back as the woman that I always knew I could be.  

Let's hope all goes well. And lets hope the pollen isn't bad. We shall see. We shall see. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Dream Come True

Okay, the above is not a great picture, but it represents something superbly important; a dream come true for me. This picture was taken Saturday. I went out with a good group of friends to a restaurant here in Brooklyn. We had food, a gummi candy platter (instead of cake), and a healthy amount of drinks. That sounds like a great birthday, but why is it a dream come true? Well, let's take a trip back to the wild and wily days of 2006.

Back then, I was still mostly in the closet. I officially identified as a crossdresser, though I was beginning to change that to "genderflux," which I think today would be called bigender or gender queer. Most of my friends didn't know. My family and coworkers definitely didn't know. I still wasn't quite willing to admit that I was transgender, even though I spent most of my time online researching transgender topics .

See, I had an active life online. Not only did I have my own website (yes, the url was the same as it is today), but I also had a burgeoning YouTube channel and I had a fairly lively Myspace Page.
For those of you who are too young to remember, or missed the great Myspace days, Myspace was quite different from Facebook, almost the opposite. Myspace was a place to meet people and make new friends. It was totally normal, and even a compliment, to send someone, even a complete stranger, a friend request. If you do that on Facebook people think you're a serial killer or something. But on Myspace it was cool. I had a boy and girl Myspace pages, and plenty of friends from around the world. Many of these people, I'm still friends with today.

Many of my friends were transgender women. Of course they were. And I would post up all my best photos, and chat with them, and ask them about what hormones were like. But, there was one friend in particular that I remember. It's stuck deep in my brain, because this photo produced in me a deep and abiding longing.

That picture was my transgirl Myspace friend, a cute blonde model type, was seated at a table, out at bar or restaurant, with her head on her hand, elbow on the table, and a little half-smile on her face. What's more she was surrounded by friends. It was such a simple moment captured yet to me it was beautiful beyond words. Though she was transgender, my friend was just another girl out on the town, hanging out with her friends. That was what I longed for.

I wanted to be a girl. And I wanted to be just another ordinary girl. And I wanted to be accepted socially as a girl. I wanted to be a girl to all my friends. And I wanted what was in that picture. I wanted that to be my life.

Twelve years later, I looked at that picture above and felt like my wish had come true. Sure, I have been going out and presenting female for ages. Yes, I've been out with friends a hundred times, but for some reason, when I looked at that photo it filled me with happiness. Something that I had once dreamed of and hoped for, had become a concrete reality. 

Transition is slow. It's difficult. It's expensive. It's stressful. But when you see a pic like that and realize how far you've come, it really is worth it.

Here's to all our dreams.

Gender Rebels TV: More LGBTQ+ Acryonyms