What’s in a Name

Shakespeare was right, a rose is a rose, no matter what we call it.  It would be easy to go off on a tangent here.  My actions won’t change the rose if I call it a tulip.  The rose will carry on as a rose, what a nice thought.  That’s a trip I won’t take though.

 In Shakespeare’s writing, it turns out names meant much more to the humans than the plants.  Wasn’t the whole tragedy because of their family names?  In the real world names matter to people, too.  

My legal name change is mailed off, now it’s just waiting.  As part of the process, I had to go to the Vancouver Police Department to get fingerprinted.  I give them full credit, even having to use my current legal name and ID, the person that helped me addressed me by my new name without me having to ask.  That is so respectful.  I am not a flower, I notice if someone uses the wrong name or pronoun and it does effect me.  

I know people might make an honest mistake, it’s OK when respect is shown.  It is not OK to use an improper pronoun or name because of your own issues.  It might take a little effort, but trust me, that effort is less than the hurt you can cause someone, not to mention the disrespect you show and the ignorance it shows to refuse to use proper names and pronouns.  Thank you!

Now for a totally positive thing about my new name – My new midle name is a tribute to my grandmother.  Born in the American South in 1908 and growing up in a depressed rural area, she somehow turned out to be this amazingly strong person who not only believed in and practiced equality for women, but also racial equality.  She did this in a time when neither were looked at favorably in that area.  She had such a combination of strength, compassion and love, that is the type of woman I want to be.

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Complacency 

One if the more common reactions I get when I come out to someone is how lucky I am to live in Vancouver.  I do consider myself lucky to live in this city.  It is far more friendly to the LGBT community as a whole than anywhere else I have lived. Still though, couldn’t it be better?

Sometimes I think that by being better than most, people are lulled into a sense of complacency.  As long as we are better, there is no need to arrive for true equality.  Of course, most people who are not part of a marginalized community don’t think that way, exactly.  I personally believe that they feel good that their city is more open and accepting than most.  They should feel good about that, too.  

I don’t think there is any place for complacency or thinking it is good or good enough as long as there is still violence and discrimination based on gender or orientation.  Vancouver being better than most does not make it good.  Good would be no worries about sexual assaults, especially on the public transit system.  Good would mean support workers would never have to ask someone if their housing or employment was in jeopardy because they are coming out.  Good would also mean less of a need for those support workers and specialized healthcare.  Any doctor I go to should be familiar with the special care I need.

While Vancouver is an accepting city, I think the standards for good should be set at equality and integration, not tolerance.  Yes, I am happy I am coming out here, but safety is still a concern.  If Vancouver could make the leap from better to good, maybe the model could be duplicated in other cities around the world.  

My Sister 

Fiction 

My little sister is the best.  In all honesty, we are twins, so she technically isn’t my little sister, but I will always think of her that way.  I had to grow up faster than her, she has always been the childish one.  Mind you, I don’t mean that in any negative way at all, one of the things I love most about her is her playfulness.

I have had to protect her for as long as I can remember.  When we were young, I shielded her from the grown ups.  I was too young to really understand why they wanted to hurt her, but I could sense when she was in danger.  That’s when I started hiding her away.  I was very good at keeping her in places where she wouldn’t be found, then distracting the grown ups.  They didn’t hurt me as much, at least as far as they knew.  They may not have been as hostile to me, but they never considered how it makes a child feel to have to be his sister’s protector and caregiver.  I learned distrust at an early age.

As the years went on, I kept her hidden away.  It was the best, and only way I knew to keep her safe.  She got to continue to be a child while I was the responsible one.  Maybe she wasn’t totally oblivious to what was happening, but I kept her from knowing the worst of it.  

One of my regrets in keeping her in hiding is that I didn’t nurture her as much as she needed.  I did the best I knew, but now I can see I could have done a lot more.  Just keeping her safe was a huge accomplishment though.  

I may have have kept her locked away longer than was necessary.  I think we both fell into a pattern that seemed best for us.  She could play in the safety of our home and I faced the world for us and took on the responsibilities. This went on for years, until she started getting restless and wanted to go out into the world herself.

That was such a huge struggle, I was so used to keeping her safe, I could only imagine disaster if she left my protection.  She kept trying though, and I started to see that she needed to be out on her own.  I wasn’t convinced she didn’t need my protection, but honestly she was just wearing me down. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still love her and will be here to take care of her if she needs me.  All the years of being the grown up, even when we were kids has taken their toll.  I am tired, and she is right, she can face the world now in relative safety, and let me rest.  She goes out more and more now, testing the waters.  After all those years if seclusion, she needs to adjust.  The day is coming soon though, that she will take on my role.  She will keep me safely away, let me rest.  She can’t give me back the childhood I didn’t get, but I can take pleasure in watching her explore.  She is still a child.  She can benefit from my knowledge while remaining curious and playful.  I can live my childhood vicariously through her now.  

I love my little sister. She knows I was just trying to keep her safe, but I know she is a bit afraid that I will try to lock her away again. Honestly though, I don’t have the energy.  I will be totally content to “retire” and let her lock me away.  She can be free now.  

Body and Soul

I have had a lot of random thoughts lately about ghosts, souls, and what makes a person.  Once again, I figured I may as well write about these thoughts.  Again, it’s just my personal thoughts, not organized at all and in no way a concrete coherent theory I base my life on.  More just musings in my head.  

My transition is mostly a physical thing.  Hair removal, hormones (hopefully some day once I navigate the health system), dress, make up.  They are all very physical, outward signs if my transition.  What most people wouldn’t see is how complete these physical changes make me feel. I don’t think I can do a great job explaining it, but I am starting to feel like one person, a real person.  The picture I have of myself in my head is starting to line up with reality.

This in a way, has brought about my wondering about a person’s essence.  Is it contained in the physical body?  Is it in what some call the soul?  Is it a combination of the two?  When the physical body is gone, do our life experiences and our knowledge live on because of some entity or energy contained in our physical self?

I grew up immersed in a Christian Church.  Christianity and other religions seem to have a belief that your life’s experiences and your very essence is contained in something that survives your physical death.  Believers of the supernatural (I am specifically thinking of ghosts and the like) seem to think the same.  

I recently read an interesting series of books by Jose Farmer about a future world where everyone who has ever lived was able to be recreated from the energy that remained when they died.  

I have reached no conclusions, and make absolutely no claim to have a clue about any answers.  I find it interesting on a couple of levels, though.  Presupposing ghosts and souls do exist makes for very interesting stories and is a must for a lot of religious and spiritual beliefs.  No matter how much I think humans have messed up religion, deep down I do believe in the spiritual.  

I guess the biggest questions these thoughts bring up for me is around my transition right now, though.  If we are made up of different entities, these entities don’t have to align with each other.  If a religion or dogma believes part if me is going to heaven or hell when the physical is dead, why is it such a stretch for them to understand that maybe that part of me doesn’t always line up with what is presented on the outside, physical part?  Isn’t there some saying about the spirit being willing but the flesh being weak?  Isn’t this an acknowledgement that the two parts aren’t always on the same page?  So maybe the spirit is female and the flesh has been slow to follow?  Is that any more inconceivable?  Right or wrong, isn’t this some common ground that religion and the trans community could discuss and build on instead of building more hate?

Waiting in Line 

Right now everything seems like a waiting game to me.  It is all moving so much slower than I want.  I have to step back and remind myself that it hasn’t been that long.  I am further along at this point than I ever thought I would be.  At the beginning I could have never dreamed it would progress this quickly, but now in the middle of it, it seems to crawl along.

The health system is very slow.  There are long waits for every step.  This is in no way meant as a criticism for anyone in that system.  Every person I have dealt with, from the scheduling people on the phone, to the various social and support people to the healthcare providers have all been great.  You couldn’t ask for a better group of people to go through this with.  I am not even convinced in my mind that the system is bad.  I really do wish for more funding and more options in Canada for care for transgendered individuals.  There is a real need, but there are so many needs in the healthcare system.  I wouldn’t want to be the one setting the priorities for the limited funds.  Any chance I get, I will let people know that trans health needs much more attention, but I also understand the limitations of the system.

Right now there is about a six month wait for hormones, years for surgery.  There is a free program with a speech pathologist to help you with your voice, I expect at least a year to a year and a half wait for that.  

These aren’t the only bottlenecks by any means, though.  Finances create the next biggest slow downs for me.  I have to deal with limited resources as well, and set my own priorities.  The other big slow down I am running into right now is my own body.  I could push faster than I am, but I have chosen to listen to my body and take care of myself.  One example would be giving my face a break from shaving and makeup between electrolysis sessions, giving it time to recover.

As impatient as I am, maybe all this is just a time to catch my breath.  It gives me time to appreciate what I am doing, to transition mentally into my new life and to just look around and find joy where I am right now.  Whether I move forward or backward, I will never be in this exact place again, maybe I won’t have another chance to learn the lessons my current discomfort is trying to teach me.  I have to try to take advantage of where I am now.  All of my wishes won’t change it, and I am moving ahead still.

Woman in Black

The train is crowded with commuters on their way home.  For the most part it looks like every other evening, everybody seems to blend into each other, a mass of people with no real distinguishing features, crammed into a metal tube that occasionally stops and squeezes out part of the blob. 

At the first such stop after I melted into this blob, after the train has expelled all the occupants that belong on this platform, a distinguishing feature gets on the train.  Maybe she is beautifully unremarkable to most, but I am immediately drawn to her outfit.  All black and perfectly matched.  There is a story she is trying to tell with this outfit.  First of all, the blacks are all the same, not something you would notice unless you have seen it.  None more faded than the other.  Even the black of the boots matches the outfit.  Remarkable.  Was that planned? 

The other thing that really stands out is the total lack of color, except black and flesh.  Most of the non conformists you see in this part of town have the same u inform on.  Predominantly black, but always some color showing somewhere.  Maybe shoes, nail polish, or even a bra strap that won’t stay on a shoulder.  Not her, no sign of color at all.  It makes me want to find out what is underneath.  Not underneath this perfect black outfit, I want to melt into her.  I want to see the world from her eyes.  What has driven her to choose these clothes to face the world in.  Is her closet full of such outfits?  If I could see through her eyes, would the world look dark?  I don’t think so.  I think colors would look more vivid, to the point of sensory overload.  I would have to wear black to have refuge from them.

I think about my own nail polish, safely hidden under the black crinkled leather of my shoes.  Maybe this is her reason?  The black is camouflage.  By standing out in this perfect outfit, she has hidden from the world.  You can’t see any further than the dazzlingly dull clothes.  The black absorbs the gaze and protects what’s inside.  Could she be hiding things she wants no one else to know? 

My stop is near.  I shuffle towards the door so the tube can squeeze me out when they open.  I want to hug her, comfort her, see if the black would swallow me like it does the stares.  Instead, I am spit onto the platform and she has disappeared in the crowded train.