Transgender Artist II : My Story

WARNING: This is my personal story – my story of learning to cope and deal with a medical problem. If you don’t believe in medicine and/or facts don’t matter to you, don’t read this. Few will understand what I have been through, I realize, but I feel compelled to share my story for those who need to know.

From The Beginning

If you’ve read my bio or the blog entries, you know I had a pretty turbulent upbringing: Lots of homelessness, a shooting, beatings, and general domestic violence. We called beatings ‘attitude adjustments’ and homelessness, ‘camping.’ Many people jump to the conclusion that this is what made me who I am today. When it comes to gender issues, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case. And if you read the Gender Identity Disorder discussion, you may understand why that is so.

All of the turmoil and lack of roots aside, I was still dealing with my own personal oddities. So was my family. I’m sure it didn’t make them comfortable to have their small son ask for dolls or that he only played with the girls. I remember eavesdropping on their private bedroom discussions about this when I was 7.

I didn’t want to be a problem, I guess I just didn’t understand that I wasn’t supposed to do these things.

In the third grade the school demanded that I get counseling because I “acted like a girl” and “only played with the girls.” Again, I didn’t know it was wrong, I was just being myself.

I started learning to suppress. But then I kind of/sort of had a boyfriend my freshman high school year. Paul was more – well, gay, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t want to besmirch anyone. I’m not sure. I wanted to be treated like a girl, but I don’t know if he really saw me as a girlfriend or boyfriend. We didn’t really DO all that much, but I was smitten for a while. Then there was Kent, but like everything else it didn’t really exactly work out.

I got desperate in my late teens. A lot of us do. I read “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask” – boy did that guy hate transsexuals! Reading his ultra negative characterizations almost led me to suicide right then and there. But I didn’t kill myself, I started looking for some other way out instead.

At 17, I tried to do some self-surgery. Yes, it’s what you’re thinking… I used an Xacto knife, a hunting knife, some ice, and a mirror. Pretty desperate sounding, hmm? But not many people can say they’ve seen their own insides. You know, sawing through skin is much harder than it looks. A hobby knife tends to bend. And as sensitive as those things between your legs seem they’re even more sensitive once you start cutting through them.

I passed out halfway through from the pain. I woke up several hours later in a big pool of blood and I couldn’t get the bleeding stop. I felt I couldn’t wake my mom – it was like 4 am now. I decided I would have to drive myself to the hospital. Somehow, I managed to do that. Of course, they called my mom anyway. In the Emergency Room I had no measurable (by the regular way, at least) blood pressure. I had lost a LOT of blood.

I made up some piece of crap story about how it was an accident and such. I’m not sure anybody believed that. I know my mother didn’t because I had long since told her how I felt like a girl and stuff so she was sure I did it deliberately. But she thought I was trying to kill myself.

Then I went to college where I promptly fell in love with my roommate, Ray. I of course confessed everything about feeling like a girl and stuff and he was weirded-out by it. But then he kind of started treating me like one and I started cooking for him and such. It was pretty good for a while, but then he wanted to go out with real girls and I got all jealous… And you can guess the rest.

Some time after that I decided it was all-hopeless and I should just try to “live with it” – you know, what all the crazies and ill-informed folk tell you to do.

Adulthood ..Sort Of

I tried really hard to be a normal person. I even got married at 22. To a girl, I mean. She was my pen pal. Yeah, we were pen pals! Okay, so it’s lame. She thought I was okay even after I explained to her repeatedly the whole “girl thing.” How unlikely is that?

So we got married, and she helped me be a girl part time. She got me my first hormones: Birth control pills. But before that we had a son. Then it was several years later that we had a daughter.. but ultimately we both wanted different lives. We remained friends but separated. I got custody of the kids, being the primary caregiver.

It was while I was raising the children by myself (several years into it) that I found I just couldn’t handle the living of two lives anymore and I started going to a therapist. Before I could go further, I had to discuss it with my kids. I tried to give them every opportunity to veto the whole process but they stuck with me. Some people said I hurt them, but they say no. They are very adamant about that to this day. It seems like they would know best, don’t you think?

Some people will say that someone like me shouldn’t be a parent. That’s crap. My kids turned out to be honor students and super incredible human beings. They also lead pretty normal lives. You couldn’t ask for nicer people; they’re popular and successful. Sorry to disappoint those of you who prayed for a horrible outcome in order to prove that I am evil and cursed by God. Oh, no I’m not!

Transition:

Just over a decade ago I began taking female hormones full time. I had been on them off and on before that, but this was the serious business. I had been in therapy for a few years, I had received letters from two therapists (A PhD and an MD) and so I got a prescription from my new doctor. I started with 5 mg of Premarin and moved up to 7.5 mg of Premarin. He also added an anti-androgen – which later we found maybe wasn’t that great an idea. But that’s another story.

I changed my name legally at that time. There are other things involved, like electrolysis to remove facial hair, or laser treatments for same. I guess I’ve spent seven to ten thousand dollars on those over the last several years — and I’m still not ‘there’ yet.

Good old Estrofem - estradiol. Most of the time I took Premarin 7.5 mg but then they stopped making the larger dosesHormones don’t change your voice, either. I just live with that. And they don’t change the fact that I’m a big fat cow… going on and off of hormones really made me balloon up. I still don’t have a steady supply of hormones – it depends on money. Mostly the money to go to a doctor for a new prescription, but the hormones aren’t cheap, either. And then if I DO come up with the money to go to the doctor, I get nagged about my weight. So I haven’t gone in a while. I need to.

So anyway, back to the story. I ended up moving to the Washington DC area. I got a guy, too! A temp position led to a permanent job in publishing. And while there, I volunteered to do some illustrations for a few books when other flakier artists didn’t come through on time. That was how I got back into the arts.

I had painted a lot in my teens — then again in my late twenties. But I only dabbled occasionally until that odd combination of circumstances brought me back to art.

Then the company, which I had risen nearly to the top in, went out of business. I had to rely on my art for real! I wasn’t prepared for this. I thought I was going to build something so that eventually my kids might make a few bucks on my art after I was gone. I didn’t ever think that I’d be in the position of having to live on it. My guy can’t support me, so I’ve had to figure things out for myself.

The problem is, most companies won’t hire people like me. It isn’t me in particular, it’s just the common belief that this particular type of bigotry is morally justified. Not even Wal-Mart, which seems to have something against TG people in particular and even has a written policy against TG people last I heard. I have a lot of computer and management skills, but my education is divided up into Bible Studies and Medicine, with minors in music and psychology. AND of course, some people “read” me. Reading, that’s an insider’s term. Think of it as in the old expression, to “read like a book.” Roughly, it means they look at me and think, “hey, there’s something odd about her. She’s really big and she has a deep voice. I think she is really a man!” Or some such (incorrect) thing. It’s a crappy term. More enlightened people use the terms accept or not accept. But there aren’t many enlightened people in the world. You can thank Jerry Springer for the fact that cruelty to transgender people is considered to be family entertainment.


The Present

Sharing some land with my sister in South Tillamook County has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my art. I’ve been doing some traveling, too, and have tried to promote my art that way. Recently I got a gallery or two to have some of my work after a good long run of selling on eBay. I always sell well on eBay but the prices are just too low. Bargain hunters are fine, but when it comes to art they have no idea what they’re getting. Anyway, as long as people buy stuff at least some of the time – AND my sister is here to help keep me going.

On the gender front, hormones have done what they are supposed to do and if I were just built lighter I might really have something. Now, I can’t say that everyone is accepting. My family loves and accepts me but some of the neighbors do not understand and apparently feel qualified to judge others even though they lack actual understanding or knowledge. That’s sad, really. What do they think their fear or hatred really accomplishes? What good thing are they doing for the world by being bigoted?

I’m sure they never ask themselves these questions. I know what they’re missing, though, so I feel sad for them.

I’ve resisted the suggestion that I do transgender-oriented art. Why? First of all, I’m not even sure what “transgender art” is, other than perhaps an illustration of what being TG means to me. Second, being known as the tg artist is the furthest thing from my mind. I always wanted acceptance instead, something that has eluded me.

WHERE WE ARE AT: I’m doing okay, now. I’ve learned to be resilient. I wish there were fewer bigots and more accepting people in the world, but that’s just not human nature: Some of the meanest, least compassionate people often have good intentions, they are just ignorant and misguided. One has to learn to live with that. I call this “mean but well-intentioned” phenomena “Aggressive Ignorance” – they don’t know, don’t want to know, don’t care. They will preface their bigotry with things like “All I know is…” (and they mean it!). The problem is that they don’t know much and/or what they think they know is just plain WRONG, but they have decided that whatever they think/are sure know is the sum total of knowledge – and sufficient to render negative judgment upon others. That’s Aggressive Ignorance. We see a lot of that around here.

I’m still hoping that my paintings will start selling for decent money. I get closer all the time but the big break hasn’t happened yet. I need to sell more paintings so I can go back and get more laser treatments and get back on hormones again.

In closing, it is not my usual style to talk about these private things on my public blog and I will not continue to do so. I’m hoping that this will end all questions on the subject. As far as I’m concerned, the general public now has more than enough information about me and about GID to make whatever decisions they are going to make.

So that’s my story…

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