Saturday night, Oct. 16. The patio at the Landmark, in Fresno’s Tower District. Heather, who’s Lucy to my Ethel, and our friend Dana threw me an “It’s a girl!” party to celebrate the legal end of my gender transition a month ago — my name change in court, followed by my name/gender/photo change on my driver’s license.
It was my re-birthday party, and it was a wonderful time. I don’t think it could have been much better — maybe if I really, truly dwelt a few hours I could come up with something.
(OK — I probably would’ve ditched the false lashes — between them, the platinum blonde wig and the MAC Pink Nouveau lipstick, I kinda looked like a drag queen, which I never usually do, but no one seemed to care. And I had never able to rock pink with such impunity before: pink rose in my hair, pink lips and eye shadow, sexy new pair of pale pink patent Nine West pumps. True, if you know your history, pink was associated with boys and blue with girls until early last century, when it somehow became reversed. But no way in hell could I have rocked pink like this as a boy. If you can’t rock pink at your own “It’s a girl!” party, where can you rock it?)
Without sounding too morbid about it, it was like being able to enjoy my own memorial — lots of drink, music in the background, people saying nice things to me while I’m alive to enjoy it. And I didn’t get to throw a Christmas party last year for the first time since 1987, but Saturday night I got to enjoy a little of the same vibe, decorations aside: a large crowd of friends from a very diverse set of backgrounds.
And something I learned totally blew me away. Robert, one of my ex-colleagues, and his wife, Sara, came, and Sara told me they printed out the invitation and left it on the kitchen counter. They have three daughters in the 7-11 age range, and one of the daughters asked who the woman in the flyer was and what the party was for. And for two weeks, the flyer was a topic of conversation in the house, as Sara and Robert used it to teach the girls about diversity — as well as the little girl across the street who belongs to a conservative Christian family. I got to be a role model without even trying.
Anyway, Heather told me the day I went to DMV, “I’m throwing a party for you and you have no say.” And for that, and her, and Dana, I’m eternally grateful.
And unlike my birthday in June, when I got drunk for the first time in 16 years, I managed to keep it all together. After all, I really wanted to savor this night. Stuck to my favorite, Absolut Peach-and-cranberry, all night, and no ill side effects. And, just as importantly, no hangover.
But now that all the revelry is over, the figurative hangover is starting to kick in. As in: What happens now that the transition is done, the novelty is past and this life becomes commonplace, day to day? And, worse, are people going to start drifting away from me now?
One of the things my doctor told me the last time I saw her in August was to be prepared for the transition to become an everyday thing. The novelty wears off and life becomes everyday, boring, mundane, just as it was before I started to transition.
I thought I was ready for that. And maybe I am on most levels. But I do sense the shifting of sands, and some of the shift makes me a little uncomfortable.
I don’t have to be the center of attention, as I was Saturday night — hell, I’ve been that plenty times in the past couple of years. At least in my parts of Fresno and San Francisco, I’m just another piece of the furniture at this point — my conversations with my friends are everyday chat, for the most part. I’ve been out for a relatively long time now, so it’s no thang, y’know? Besides, part of being a transgirl successfully passing in the real world is that you don’t draw undue attention to yourself, unless you’re so stunningly beautiful that people can’t help but notice.
And the mental speed bumps still occasionally rise in the road. Except that now, instead of asking myself, “What the hell am I doing?” it’s “What the hell have I done?” As in another form of hangover. Save for the ongoing physical changes that come with the hormones, it’s over with. Legally, I’m female now. There’s a sense of finality now, after the seven weeks of the name-change process and the year of psychological and hormone therapy. I’m on the other side of the Rubicon now.
I actually wasn’t ready for the speed bumps to still appear after I was finished with everything. But my response to myself is just as firm, if not a little more resolute.
You’re not going back to being a boy. You were never much of a man, anyway. You were miserable. Even at your worst as a woman, you’re in much better shape, physically, mentally and emotionally, than you were as a guy. And let’s face it: You now get to be pretty every day of your life if you want to. And any day where you don’t get to wear pretty shoes is a wasted day. You waited your whole life for this, girlfriend.
It sounds so sickeningly superficial, but there were times a year ago when, in the midst of a prolonged depression, I would’ve stayed in my ratty boy drag — T-shirt, shorts and doo-rag — and kept mostly to my room for days on end. Now, when I’m feeling down, I force myself to doll up, and as shallow as that sounds on first blush, it really helps. Y’know, clothes make the (wo)man, or as Billy Crystal’s Fernando used to say, you look good, you feel good. And it’s done wonders. I get pretty and I remember that, except for the lingering unemployment anxiety, I’m in a much better place than I was this time last year.
Even on my worst days, I can look in the bathroom mirror after I finish putting on my lipstick, then take a glance in the full-length mirror in the bedroom, and manage to smile. I look pretty. Some days I even look fantastic. And for that, I smile.
Still, there are two things I worry about now.
The first is the other big transition I’ve had to navigate — the job world. This will be part of another, longer post, but there are days when I feel as if I’m tottering close to the cliff.
I was figuring that once I had the new license in hand, the cosmic floodgates would open and in would walk some wonderful job opportunity or two. No such luck.
Still, I continue the exercise in futility. On tips from a couple of friends earlier this week, I updated the resume I had on file for one job opening (which is open for the third time now) and also inquired about writing or editing for a blogsite. I’ll see where either of those two things go. Not holding my breath. I keep saying maybe this will be the week. I keep saying to myself that the job will happen when it’s supposed to happen. I’m really having a hard time believing it right now.
As it is, the past four weeks now, I’ve been getting four, five hours of sleep, regardless of what time I get to bed and how much caffeine I’ve had, and then I slowly move from deep sleep to the dream world and then — squirt! — I’m ejected from the nocturnal womb into the cold, cruel world of consciousness. And then I fight for an hour or two to get back to sleep; sometimes I win, most times I lose. The anxiety is never far beneath the surface, and it pops up in my sleep all the time now. It’s extremely frustrating.
The other thing I worry about is the people around me. To be more specific, I fear losing my friends through no fault of my own. Some of the old anxieties from boyhood — ones I thought I overcame for good when I came out — are starting to re-emerge, and they’re beginning to nibble at the self-confidence I gained during my transition.
My official party line the past year has been that everyone who was my friend before I came out is still my friend now, and then some. For the most part, that’s been true. The people who knew me as the boy Fran for a long time and have stuck around for the girl Fran have been so supportive and loving and nurturing that I can’t even begin to know how to pay them back.
And my circle of friends and acquaintances has exploded in the past year or so. For the most part, I’ve been a hell of a lot more fun to be around as my better half — more confident, much better looking, more comfortable in my own skin, more myself. And it seems people gravitate to that. The people I’ve met over the past year or so seem to like me not because I’m a novelty or a freak show, not because I’m the Tower District’s resident out tranny. They see someone with personality and brains who can be funny as hell sometimes and who’s a lot happier than I used to be.
But the truth is that some people I’ve known a while — some I’ve known from my Connecticut days, some I’ve known here — seem to have distanced themselves from me and/or just plain disappeared. And I have no idea whether it’s because life just happens, or because they’re weirded out by me and won’t tell me. And the insecure little kid who was shunned and ostracized through almost all of adolescence has come raging back in spades. And it’s odd that I’m feeling this right on the heels of a wonderful party that was and should be, by all logic, a very reaffirming experience. But it is emotional hangover time, so maybe I’m just a little more susceptible to this feeling this week.
Or maybe people are just sick of me but won’t admit it.
So anyway, why am I so worried about losing friends? And as Heather pointed out this week, “Why do you give a fuck what they think?”
It’s partially because I care about people and generally treat them the way I want to be treated. I guess it’s also partially my Catholic upbringing — the story of the good shepherd who leaves his hundred sheep behind to retrieve the one who strays. And part of it’s the way I’m drawn. It’s really not my nature to hate, so if someone does wrong by me, does something that really hurts me, I don’t spend much time consumed by hatred; I shun them. The Amish had the right idea. I write them off, at least until I get some satisfactory explanation for their shitty behavior. So the reverse is that if someone seems to drop off the face of the earth on me, it feels as if I’ve been shunned — like maybe I did something wrong, even if I didn’t. Or that someone hates me.
Heather did reason that maybe everyone else has been busy (which, compared to unemployed me, still seems like four-fifths of the country). Or maybe some of my friends are going through some really shitty situations that they don’t really feel like explaining. With the ongoing economic thievery, she said she doesn’t know of anyone who’s really happy at the moment, even the corporate thieves. And I do know that people get busy, especially compared to someone who’s been out of work way too long.
I guess it’s a sign of progress — and maybe the hormone therapy — that I haven’t spiraled into a total tailspin, as I would have a few months ago. But this is an emotional hangover, and my old college friend Evan’s third rule for living was “Hangovers suck.” (Actually, that’s cleaned up oh so slightly. By the way, the first was “Money is good” and the second was “Physical relationships are fun.”)
I should be back to normal any day now, whatever the hell “normal” is. The hangover will subside, but the anxiety lingers. Maybe I just need a good massage or a long bath …