Nov 18, 2012

Seeing as you asked Lynn m'dear ...

I have a great fondness for Lynn Jones, the proprietress of Yet Another T-Girl Blog. YATGB is the supremely well considered and seven years sustained weekly diary of a lovely life. If you do not already know her, well I just don't know you as well as I thought. Go read, then bounce back here would you?

Lynn has a questionnaire on her site. She asked for responses that she might pull together into a big colorful tapestry that might help all of us understand all of us just a little better. I cannot remember that last time I said no a pretty English woman, and I confess to a sad propensity to prattle on about myself. So you just know how my morning went today.

I share the Q&A with you here below the line.

For readers who do a little blogging themselves on related matters, I encourage you to do the same exercise. Good therapy, happy memories and provocations about the future too. Get to work!

Lynn, darling, you are a marvel. Drop me a line would you so we can figure out what to do with all of this.


AWARENESS: When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

Before the age of reason. Before the onset of puberty for certain. Long before I could knit the concepts of gender, femininity and sexuality together, and much longer before I could tease them apart. I would pick age 8. The Sears catalog, all the pages of long-line girdles and thigh-high stockings seemed to be a gateway drug for the imagination. Did it feel trans? It felt transgressive. I knew that I was curious about things that were not staples of polite conversation. I embraced it all, but stuffed it pretty deep in my pocket.

ADOLESCENT COPING: How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

Adolescence is a gale force multivariate storm in any event. In the middle of that funnel cloud of hormones and insecurities, my curiosities did not stand out then as defining elements of my life. Measured against people who were bullied by peers, ignored by teachers, left alone by parents, my adolescence was trauma free and really quite a doddle. Smart enough in class, tough enough outdoors, cool enough to hang out with the cool kids, youth was easy.

I was a champion wanker. There. I said it. It was hereabouts that concepts of gender, femininity and sexuality together got co-mingled.

EARLY LIFE/ UNIVERSITY / COLLEGE: Having grown up - at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to University, college or work?

All of the above. College disappointed me in part because of misshapen expectations. All the dull minded louts I was in high school with wound up at Uni. I looked around for the Elysian lounges of like-minded aesthetes arguing JP Sartre and JD Salinger over brandy and bongs, shagging each other senseless in the flickering minutes before we were plunged into a long nuclear darkness. Couldn’t quite find that society but did make some lovely friends.

There, in the intimate company of women, I felt as though the universe was endowing me with an extravagant gift. I could never get enough. It was, early 80’s darlings, a kinkier time. Frankfurter was in fishnets. David Sylvain wore eye makeup. Why not me? With a little bravado and a gentle hint here and there, one might find oneself in tights getting a makeover from the girlfriend.

There was furtive under-dressing here and there, and the odd visit to a dressing service. It was all very much on the surface and fetishy. Gender and femininity went into the service of sexuality, rather concretely by this point. I felt, still, as though I was in the grip of a phase and that naturally, these things would go away, quietly, when bidden.

CAREER: What you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

Career(s) have shaped so much. I am on my 6th now I think. Likely to have a couple left. Changing things radically the moment I get comfy with what I am doing is the general recipe. A desire to get out to and beyond my comfort frontiers is key to career happiness, and a key element of my gender discoveries.

Something I long to do? Bubble bath and fourteen dresses tossed on the bed before finding the right one. Then lunch. Get bombed with Sylvia Path or Dorothy Parker, go shopping with Audrey or Jackie and keep a diary. Nap. Rinse and repeat.

All that being quite unlikely, I suppose writing a line or two now and then, playing my piano and travel will do. I would not mind getting to understand food better. I so like to eat, I suspect that cooking would please me.

RELATIONSHIPS: Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single? How is family life?

Seventeen enormously privileged years married. No kids. Issues of gender do not dominate things here, they seem to be a sub-plot in our lives. Mrs. B cheerfully, but insistently said a funny thing not long after I shared my Petra-ness with her:

“you realize of course that I have no lesbian tendencies … right?”

Petra is therefore held at arm’s length. We all three of us (or 2 ½ ??) are patient souls though.

COMING OUT: Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

Outside of Mrs. B, there are only of couple of people who know both halves of me. At least, that I know of. I suppose that being relatively out there, there is always the risk of being “outed”, and I maintain a dignified “I don’t care” attitude on the matter. Thing is though, I do care.

I have managed over the years to tease apart the threads of gender, femininity and sexuality, weave them back together evenly, and normalize the joy I find in the discovery of the whole me. Exposing these facets of myself is so wildly life giving, so educational, so wonderful, and as great a gift I have found in life outside of the love that a few remarkable people shower on me.

But these discoveries, and the process of exposing them is a private, guarded thing.

My non-Petra life is good and full, and easy for the world around me to digest and respond to. A more broadly known Petra would add layers of complexity that I do not have the appetite to manage. I will not be broadly “out", by my own hand in any case.

THE WAY FORWARD: What’s next for you? What are your hopes - trans, or otherwise?

No real plans. I have a generalized hope that myself and Mrs. B can find a place where Petra is a little less vexatious a presence.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Anything you’d like to share to a younger you or to other trans people?

Be honest. Trust the people that love you. Breaking that trust is a far greater foul than any propensity you have for self-discovery. If you are in a relationship that means something to you, find a way to share your feelings.

Know that you are not alone. You already know somebody who feels the same way as you. There is another boy in your class, or another man at work who revels in the same delights, and wrestles with the same compulsions and confusions as you do. You just do not know who that boy or man is, and they do not suspect much of you either.

Get a grip. This is not a fever that will pass. It will return. Sorry to break the news, but you have a gift that you cannot return. If you do not care for it, unhappiness will be your inheritance.

Find a place to safely be you and share your differences. Like it or not, if you are under 30, yours is the vanguard generation. You are at the cutting edge of change, the continuance of an age old civil rights battle. You will face lower barriers to change than all of us a little older and grayer met. Your individual voice has a larger chorus to join. You know how to Google up your scene. Do it, and for goodness sake, graduate from virtual experience, get a little real life experience with other complex and beautiful people in while your complexion is still that good.

Dress appropriately. Divide your age by 2 and add 7 years when dressing.  This formula will get you to age appropriate. Dress for your setting. Fishnets, short skirts and strappy sandals are not commonly sited Saturday afternoon at the mall. Be spectacular, do not be a spectacle.

Nov 11, 2012


Last weekend, darlings, it was outdoorsy. I spent time astride the gables, peaks and shingled ridge lines of our sprawling bungalow, manfully, futilely blowing leaves, pine straw and cones out of eave troughs and downspouts. There was pruning out some excess tree limbs and the dismantling of a long since decommissioned satellite dish too.

This weekend it is indoorsy. The water closet in our en suite has become truculent. Handle jiggling no longer drives the desired silent outcome rapidly or reliably enough. The Throne has been in service at least 11 years, predating our purchase of Chateau Bellejambes and is therefore the only seating in our home that the prior residents ever sat on. Time for change.

And beneath the kitchen sink too, a little low grade Plumbing CSI is on tap for me. The In-Sink-Erato hit a couple of pitchy notes during the supper tidy up on Election Night, and then, poof, expired in a sad acrid puff of smoke which I will remember as only fractionally as offensive as the cloud of profanity that will doubtless hover over my prone and pinched body as I wrangle the new unit in later today.

There I will be, ratty jeans, scuffed steel shank boots, tools scattered here and there and the right one not ever easily in reach, grimed up with a couple of days of stubble on in a pretty compelling impression of a man who owns and cares about the half acre of heaven that Mrs. Bellejambes and myself call home.

This is not my natural setting. I am not a habitual do-it-yerselfer. But in point of fact, when I put my back into it, I am pretty handy.

I pass.

And then there is Petra.

Not much passing going on there of late.

Friends and people I admire are pressing boundaries here there and everywhere. Janie wrestles with nails and males here. Meg figures out how a girl furnishes her first apartment and splits the rent with a roomie there. Famous Stana continues to evangelize and bravely share her fuller self where her only her partial self was known and accepted before. Chrissie gets to put a few bob in the bank in support of her next threshold of change. Halle pokes, prods, and ponders causality and consequence in a way I have not had the energy for in eons. And Lynn, bless her stalwart generous heart, skis nimbly between the pylons of family and fabulous with a perfectly English pluck that I marvel at.

I salute you all. What excitement there is at the frontiers. I remember fondly so many of my own advances, the completely enlivening, crystalline and suddenly normal, perfect, special places one occupies when pressing ahead, having an appetite, and draining that loving cup of new dew.

I am, just now, in a nether world, a neutral place, not moving and shaking much in the way of anything up, sipping now and then but not gobbling big drafts of change with any regularity.

Petra has a very real presence in our home. A full bedroom is dedicated to me. Drawers of knickers, bras, slips and such. Racks of shoes and a tumble of bags. A largish armoire and full closet, neatly hung frocks and tops and coats. A Smithsonian-worthy archive of hosiery. Wigs, make-up, jewelry, the whole She-bang. Largely unused.

I do dress. I skip the commute and work from home a couple of days each week, and on those days when Mrs. Bellejambes is busy on the road with her case load and client visits, I take the time to dress. Not head-to-toe, most often toe-to-shoulder, minus the hair and maquillage. I take on my business activities with the same gusto and macho aplomb as any other day, conference calls, vendor wrangling and tweaking my ever evolving market maturity and penetration models.

I just do all of that with my knees pressed a little closer together by a fitted skirt. Sometimes the knees brush the underside of my desk as a result of a few extra inches of heel beneath sheer clad ankles. My shoulders are held back more, my elbows hew closer to my sides, the surface elements changing all motion, more sway, more grace, more attention to, well everything.

The work, for what it is worth, gets done with as much good, bad or indifferent effect as it does in any setting.

And then, mindful of Mrs. Bellejambes schedule, after a few hours I will change surfaces, hang and fold things away and get back to what … passes …. as …. well, normal.

It is all a little furtive, acknowledged but not spoken much of. Petra is not a confrontational or indeed a needy, greedy presence. Mrs. B has a whole and entirely creditable host of concerns, feelings of unease, and generalized agita around the whole Petra issue. I get it. I really do. I am, above all, a good and loving husband and partner in our shared enterprise. Petra pads about on tip toe, no lightning strikes of stiletto heard here.

Organizing a “hall pass” for Petra remains therefore a touchy thing. We discussed an outing in fact earlier this week. I had a Friday invite for cocktails and a dinner with a dear friend. Much to catch up on, the sort of easy chit-chat that a girl looks forward to. Mrs. B did not want to say, "...please no...", and she did not need to. She hesitated. Her eyes said everything perfectly, and beautifully even when sadness and worry dust her gorgeous, soft and warm face.

I did not get the pass. I took a pass. And I did not, therefore, get out and try to pass.

I stowed my hope much in the same way that I stow my wardrobe, after it flickers and dances for a while. All quiet orderly and free of fuss. No drama. No confrontation. A nice, adult accommodation, the imperfect balancing acts that we, all of us more or less grown-up types make a dozen times a day.

It is all a little unsettling. I would say that I am in a waiting room of sorts, except that I do not have a destination. I would enjoy more access to the rest of me, and more opportunities to dart across the lines of engagement in the gentle gender wars that we are all partisans in. Good things happen out there. When I return from those too infrequent Voyages en Rose, I have had my loving cup.

Honestly, I cannot see my appetites getting much more ravenous. Pierce the ears? Nah. Paint the nails? Maybe for a night. Change any element of my masculine inheritance in a permanent way? No such urges. What I shave or pluck grows back. I will groom with a blade, but nothing, and I mean nothing, is going under the knife.

Yeah, not a waiting room. A different place. Somewhere between the sovereign lands of contentment and contention, embraced and embargoed. No bucket list and nowhere near kicking the bucket. Don't quite know what to call it my dears. Must do a little something to moves things along though. Life is short and ought to be sweet, yes?


Update: Got all the handy stuff done, and more in fact, than initially planned. Pleasant as that outcome is, all the chores were done without a single outbreak of profanity. People who do not know me could be forgiven for believing that I have a persistent and ungovernable form of Tourette's. Seems to be better managed these days.

I am more likely, of late, to deploy profanity as a spice, a piquant grace note that complements the flavors of a story. In times gone by it fanned out indiscriminately behind me as though from a crop duster or, on a bad day, Agent Orange from a Fairchild C-123 leaving nothing but scorched earth and tears in my wake.

Certainly, the passing of years has a little something to do with the changes, the mellowing. Experience and all that good stuff, natch.

Chemistry too m'dears. T-levels drop for even the most chest-thumping primate with enough turns of the odometer.

But even without an ounce of empirical support, I have to give credit to the influence of Petra. Seems that my more masculine self smartens up and flies right in the presence of a lady.

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