I have been an ardent supporter of the LGBT community including inter-sexed and asexual peoples my whole life. In short, I wasn’t raised to have preconceived ideas about sexuality and gender so I never hated. To me, it is a true blessing to be able to open my arms to everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. I never truly understood the rigid beliefs some people hold on gender roles in particular.
As a kid, I was a tomboy and fought off any attempts to separate the genders. In one scene, I am screaming because my male cousin is allowed to be outside in the summer without his shirt on and I wanted to do the same but was told to button it up. I might have been as old as seven. Later on, I wore my spring coat to the kitchen table so my mom couldn’t see that I wasn’t wearing the itchy white training bra with the blue flower in the middle. I worked that angle for as long as I could until I became a B cup and eventually, a C cup. Needless to say, I have to wear a bra now for comfort.
In adulthood, I meet Wayne, who is a cross-dresser from Canada. A close friend of my husband’s, I marveled at how much he enjoyed shopping for bras at Victoria’s Secret and feminine clothes in general. (I hesitate to label clothes masculine or feminine at all but I’m at a loss to describe it any other way.) It seemed that Wayne was born with more enthusiasm for makeup, hair, and jewelry than I ever would have for them as a biological woman.
So, when Wayne underwent the transition to the female gender, we were all very supportive. She passed well with her wigs, manicures, leather skirts, and pumps. The operation was a success and she adopted the name Joanne. Joanne now possesses all the same female anatomy as I do and lives as a woman. She is very happy being what it is called a male to female transsexual.
Not everyone understands Joanne’s journey. She was fired from her corporate job and won a lawsuit against the company on grounds of discrimination in the Canadian courts. No such laws exist in America to protect transsexuals from discrimination. She still weathers stares from time to time in restaurants and once, a whole parade of waitresses marched by our table to take a glance at this tall woman with long fingers.
I wrote the poem Trans-Fixed for Joanne. To be born into the wrong body physically must be a nightmare. I can only imagine the life path for people who find themselves in this predicament. The decision to have surgery is not made lightly and takes many years. There are processes involved that involve psychiatry to make sure the person undergoing the transition is aware of all the ramifications of changing gender. How wonderful that modern medical science can allow us to match our mind to our body.
I champion people like Joanne who are brave enough to undergo the transition and face the world as they truly are inside. We all struggle to be who we are and I don’t believe any of us really fit very easily into sexual and gender categories evenly. We need to adopt a more fluid way of identifying ourselves. I favor the continuum model myself. If we looked at gender and sexuality as existing on a continuum with extremes on each end but with many shades in between, we could honor the place in which everyone finds themselves.
She took off her golden wig
and showed me her manicure,
her nails looked better than mine.
Long lacquered in strawberry,
she looked the part in leather
and a crisp white blouse buttoned
up to hide obvious cleavage.
“Two months and I’m complete,”
she said to me and I knew I’d
never see her in a tie again.