When my partner and I got married ten years ago, we decided to get tattoos instead of wedding rings. We each got half of a circular symmetrical tribal design that we liked. The design didn’t have any other intrinsic meaning. It was just something we could both agree we wanted permanently etched on our left wrists.
My partner and I celebrated a decade of marriage this past weekend, and our actual anniversary is today. We threw a party with our friends and family at a beautiful county park with a lake, and it was a gorgeous, sunny spring day. We held a little ceremony to honor this milestone in our relationship, and I told this story:
Recently, one of my cousins sent me questions from a class of 8th graders she teaches. They were curious to know more about my experience of being transgender. I always appreciate being able to share my thoughts and feelings with others, especially with people who haven’t thought much about gender and have just accepted the prevailing view of a binary construct of male and female. I enjoy having the chance to provide them with a perspective they hadn’t considered before. I’ve also had friends ask if they can share the Fierce Vulnerability blog with their family and friends who are interested in understanding more about the trans experience. Considering these opportunities to illuminate others on this important subject, and realizing that more people might end up here while seeking this kind of info, I decided to post links to the websites and articles I typically offer to others when they want or need to know more.
If you read my previous blog entry, you know that I was feeling depressed in December because of my gender dysphoria. I’ve struggled to accept the male body and features I’ve been given, since my gender identity is female and I would much rather have a physical form that aligns with it. One of the aspects that upsets me most is my hair. I’ve always looked to my hair as an expression of my femininity. Through most of my twenties, I had long hair that I treasured because I felt it was a symbol of my femininity. It allowed me to express my feminine nature in a way that was subtle and socially acceptable, and it allowed me to feel more comfortable about my appearance when I would dress in feminine attire. It was hard to let it go, but when my partner and I were sent to Africa for service in the Peace Corps, it was too much to deal with. The extreme heat made it difficult to keep my long locks, as did the fact that we had to pump and carry water from the village well to bathe ourselves with, and keeping my hair meant I needed to use most of two buckets, rather than just one. Two weeks into our service, I shaved it off.
I have a confession to make. Not all is as well and easy as I’ve made it out to be in what I’ve written on this blog so far. I’ve talked some about what I struggle with as a trans woman, but I think I’ve left a rosier picture than my reality would dictate. So, in the interest of being fiercely vulnerable, I want to share more about the difficult thoughts and emotions that eat at me daily.
I’m astounded by how much my connections to others have grown since I’ve become more vulnerable. I hadn’t thought that revealing the truth about my gender identity and transition would offer me the opportunity to become closer to so many people from all areas of my life. It’s truly amazing to see how people respond when I share more about my experience with them.
I recently took a trip to visit my family. It was the first time I’d seen them since beginning gender transition one year earlier. The previous visit was miserable for me. I was going through an intense period of life trying to figure out how to deal with my gender dissonance, and I wasn’t able to share the experience, or call on them for support. At that time, I felt an acute sense of disconnection. There was a perceivable chasm in our relationship, which was extremely difficult and painful for me.
Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s the annual day of gathering for and remembrance of the transgender people who had their lives taken from them during the past year, and from all of us, by hate and intolerance. Often times, they suffered death in the most inhumane, vicious, and brutal ways imaginable. Transgender people are disproportionately affected by this type of aggression, and trans women of color are the most likely to be targeted for violence because of the compounded elements wrought by transphobia and racism.
In a synchronistic twist to the inception of this blog, as I added finishing touches to this site early this morning, I realized that today marks the anniversary of my introduction to the concept of Fierce Vulnerability. Two years ago today, on 11/11/11, I embarked on journey that would have profound consequences for me and my life.