How I Got Here

Yesterday I was surfing the net looking at potential jobs. Yep, I’m on the outside of my 30’s and unemployed. There are any number of reasons and excuses I could list for why this is, but it would be a major digression. I came across jobs with the National Guard. My family has been military for generations, Navy and Marine Corps. I, myself, went to Sea Cadets and JROTC in high school with the intention of enlisting and becoming a commissioned officer, but I never did. The simple reason is that asthma is not acceptable for soldiers, however mild. The complex reason is that our military does not accept gender or sexual variance (or didn’t way back then) and when I started questioning my sexuality and gender, it was a burden I would not have been comfortable with. This doesn’t mean I didn’t speak to recruiters. I even went the MEPS after taking my ASVABs again in my 20s – which is where I saw the asthma sign. I have a brother who serves and a sister married to a soldier. Needless to say, DADT was and still is an issue that I have had an interest in – to the point of submitting college assignments on the subject.

While reading Freedom to Serve, a publication put out by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the section on transgender issues in the military struck a chord. This made me reflect on my personally assigned status of transgender and I ended up spending 7 hours surfing through the National Center for Transgender Equality and similar websites. I thought about how even if I didn’t have asthma, that the military career I contemplated would not have lasted long without being very discreet. I would not have been able to go through the day-to-day living that has allowed me to come to what minor reconciliations I have so far.

I don’t think about being trans every waking minute or even every day. It’s simply part of who I am. However, I realize more and more the number of choices I have made in my life that are directly related to my struggle to find my identity. For instance, I ‘could’ have tried to get a waiver for my asthma when I was much younger and it was still possible. But…. I was trying to come out as what I thought would be comfortable. I’ve claimed different sexualities trying to find a place where I ‘fit’. I’ve had some great (and a few not-so-great) conversations with members of the GLBTQ community about orientation and gender. I came to realize, I couldn’t be straight, gay, in between, or all of the above because they seem to rely on one’s gender, or more accurately biological sex, to classify.

Ultimately, I went to sleep with a notion to write about it and promptly put it out of my mind. Today, I was texting with my best friend. You have to love her because she has known me through my questioning phase, living as a man phase (the ‘real life test’ – more on that later), considering hormones and gender reassignment surgery, relationships, deciding not to have surgery, deciding not to live as a man, ad nauseum. She’s been there through it all, never judging and offering frank opinions and insights. Most poignantly, she has always reminded me of a very simple concept. Be yourself. What she may not know is that I have always admired her ‘Damn the Torpedoes’ outlook on such complex issues. She is a large part of why I have been able to find myself and reconcile with myself because I have always known in my gut that no matter what happens, or what road I end up on today or in 20 years, she will still be there. My falling under the transgender umbrella is a true non-issue. She could care less! If only we could all be so lucky.

I’m taking a page out of her book (after calling my brother asking hmm.. should I do it or not?) and saying ‘screw it’. That’s how I got here.

Living Between Genders

What is it like to live between genders? To wake on a daily basis, get dressed, yet remain unsure of how the world will perceive you?  Do perceptions matter? How does one perceive oneself?

In my case, I claim both genders and none. Each day is its own journey, adding to self realization and further attempts to reconcile my own perceptions with those around me. There are days when I long to embrace my female form, choosing clothes that accentuate my curves. Other days I prefer to dress as a ‘tomboy’ where my gender is neutral. On still other days, my dress is focused on embracing my masculine side – hiding my curves and presenting as male. Usually, I simply grab whatever is clean (or only worn one day – why wash jeans that aren’t dirty?). External perceptions are confused. Children look at me questioningly, I hear them ask their parents, “is that a boy or a girl?”. Parental replies can vary from “I don’t know” to choosing a sex category to “I don’t want to know” as one parental unit so eloquently told their young child.

A simple trip to the store is all it takes to know that those external perceptions can both validate and cut to the quick. Imagine for a moment paying for purchases and being thanked for your patronage. When you reply “thanks” and that feminine voice escapes, the checker’s face flinches for just a moment before professionalism attempts to mask it – if they bother. Lowering my voice and speaking with ‘male’ speech patterns which are relatively monotone, short, and even clipped, is possible and sometimes beneficial. Is it important enough to do it? At what point does meeting others expectations make one fake?

As stated earlier, this is my journey. It’s a journey of attempting to coming to grips (I think) with myself while navigating all the ‘labels’ associated with identity. It’s about finding peace and balance while challenging societal norms and mores – usually subtly, sometimes not. Shall we begin?