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.