It was an odd weekend for me. A blend of old and new.
It began with a long overdue dinner with a couple of old friends. They knew me before… you know… before, before. This couple knew me all the way back in my college days (and one half of the couple all the way back to my grade school days). The reminiscing was strange, what with my gender having changed and all. But it still felt comfortable and grounded. It reminded me that there is never really a break with your former self. You just change. Some friends can handle that better than others. These friends seem to have rolled with it very well.
The electrolysis chair darned near broke me the following day. I don’t know what it was. It’s not like I’m new to the electro-torture needle. But this weekend it just burned and then burned hotter until I couldn’t take any more. I quit my session half way through, which is the first time I’ve ever done that. Maybe the pain decided to match my level of fed-upness with the whole process. The charm and excitement of losing the beard long ago gave way to annoyance, and now I fear we’ve drifted into antagonism. I no longer feel like a man taking a big step toward transition. I feel like a woman dealing with an embarrassment I’d rather not think about. I suppose it’s a sign of progress.
Sunday was spent helping the kids (all three of them) catch up on schoolwork they’d been letting slip. I spent my day playing school marm for our little schoolhouse on the tundra. And it was all I could do to resist finding a big wooden yard stick and whacking some knuckles. Each one of them fought me in their own particular style every step of the way. They’re all smart kids. None of this resistance is based on the work being too hard, which just totally sucks. It shattered my vision of stepping in with a heart-warming tutorial session, at the end of which I would be rewarded by the light of understanding shining from their eyes and an enthusiastic, “thank you!” before they scurried off to put their new found knowledge to use. No, no. My school marming consisted of battling software installation and configuration, searching for equipment, settling disputes over conflicting study schedules, arguing over how much work needed to be completed, and how many breaks they got to have. *sigh*
Still… I was reminded to be thankful that I have the screwy little rugrats in my life. I wouldn’t give them up for the world. It wasn’t all that long ago when a session like Sunday’s would have been impossible. I was so checked out, disengaged, and distant. These days I’m an active parent with all the same frustrations as any other. And, once I get out of the frustrations of the moment, that feels pretty good.
Later in the day I had occasion to think about other paths people take to keep them active while figuring out their lives-to-be during transition. A friend of mine is volunteering for the Creating Change conference in Minneapolis this week. We got to talking a bit about the conference and how we both feel the urge to “give back” in some way, as we’re beginning to feel like we’re now “survivors” in a sense. Her chosen path for that is a much more activist one than my own. And on one level I really see the appeal of that. So many of the challenges trans people face are very fresh on our minds when we’re hitting our “I survived” moment in our transition. The urge to do something about it is strong.
Personally I’m holding back from becoming too activist, at least for now, based largely on the advice of some trans male friends. In various forms they offered the advice that your first year in transition is … messy. It’s the kind of year you’ll want to forget about five years from now. There’s so much to figure out in terms of your life, social roles, appearance, and relationships. Concentrate on getting yourself right in the first year, is their advice. That’s a huge enough task in itself. I’m trying to focus on becoming the woman I want to be. After that I believe I’ll be far more capable of affecting change in any number of ways.
In the mean time my focus this year is on family, friends, and career. Re-building a life during transition is a little bit like re-engineering an airplane in mid flight. Until you’ve safely landed it’s best not the best time to assume you’ve got it all under control, is my point. All the more reason to admire those who do take the time to give back and still hold it all together.