“February 1st, 2012: All of a sudden, I looked up and I was sitting in Harvey Milk Plaza, staring up at the giant rainbow flag, and my heart swelled as I realized that, starting today, I was finally a resident of San Francisco.”
I haven’t been back here to post in a long time, but if anything warranted a reboot of my blog, this is it.
I just went back and read my first post on this transition blog, from July 24th, 2009. It was almost 3 years ago when I finally sat down and committed, whole heartedly, to transitioning to male. It made me burst into exhilarated laughter to realize that, in that post, I was musing wistfully about moving to San Francisco, some day, like a person who dreams of one day getting a jetpack so they can fly.
Today, I’m flying, and there’s nothing that can weigh me down. I wrapped up my old life, trusted to Fate that I was doing the right thing, closed my eyes and jumped. The car ride down felt unreal- I’ve broken free, today is the first day of my real life, and I’ll never spend another day living where I don’t want to live, working towards things I don’t want, or being who I don’t want to be. There’s no guarantee that I’ll have a place to sleep from one night to the next, no guarantee that anything will work out for me, no guarantee that I’ll even live past the end of the day. But, wait a minute- isn’t that what waking up and living your life every single day is all about? You take that risk every time you get in your car and run down to the corner market for milk, so why get that milk if it isn’t fueling a body in motion, aimed on a trajectory towards the galaxy you want to live in?
It doesn’t matter where or how dangerously you do the things that you know you were meant to do, anything could happen, you have to pursue your dreams and LIVE your life instead of planning, hoping, and saying “maybe tomorrow” forever. We have a limited number of minutes on this Earth, so why spend even a single one of them being or doing things you don’t want?
God’s honest truth is that I could have stayed in Tuolumne County. I could have gotten that daily grind job, worked my butt off to pay rent and bills and nothing else, not had any resources to go through with medical transition, not lived in an area where my way of life was acceptable, not been able to go to an art school where I could actually learn anything. I could have survived, and it makes me guilty to think that, with the economy the way it is, I threw away a potentially stable lifestyle and flung myself on the mercy of a collapsing economic structure and the kindness of strangers to get where I need to be faster. But the truth is, I’ve been watching my life slip away from me day at a time for as long as I can remember. Extenuating circumstances aside, whether my roomies had needed me gone by February or not, I couldn’t make myself miserable there, flipping burgers for a future I don’t have any stakes in, working towards nothing but a desperate gray existence, quietly being a martyr because “people who throw away potential job openings in a climate like this are foolish lazy bums.” Do I deserve to be happy? Who knows. I think the question here is, do any of us? I think if people spent more time focusing on working towards the things that light up their life, rather than being dragged down by guilt, expectations, moral fallacies, societal obligations, quantifiable monetary “success”, and all the trappings that lead to the white picket fence life… we’d all be a lot happier and have much less shame about who we are. The expectations of others based on their own twisted moral compasses can do so much to destroy people’s lives, or if nothing else, grind them to a squeaky gray halt.
I know only one thing. My life is mine, I’m the one who has to live it, and I finally have to courage, fortitude, and will to chase my dreams without stopping for breath. Call me back when you can say that and we’ll have cake together.
Back on the subject of that first blog, it’s a bizarre thing that July 24th 2009 felt like the beginning of my journey, when now, today feels like it. I thought I was living the great adventure of my life by starting to transition, and truly, I’d like to say that those three years were a massive chapter in my life. But they’re beginning to really feel more like a prologue than anything. If I had to make a comparison of my life to literature, then those first three epic years were the Hobbit, but today I’ve cracked the first page of the Fellowship of the Ring. So much lies before me, I can barely wait to start the adventure!
It’s funny to think back to that summer summer morning so long ago- I was already so far with some things, but so behind in others. For example, even at that point, I’d already learned how to use an STP, little things like that. But I wasn’t standing up for myself in public yet- it horrifies me to realize that, according to my blog, up until that day I was still job hunting “in costume” (or dressed as what I perceived as an attractive female, so I’d match my documents and be appealing in some abstract way.) But, oh, I’ve come so far in those years!
I’ve grown a lot of balls (pun fully and shamelessly intended) as far as expressing my gender. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have let a person in on my male gender unless I really trusted them, and certainly not in a professional setting.
Today, I’m not afraid of walking into a job interview (that most vulnerable of places in our current climate), with my binder and suit on, introducing myself up front as Tom, requesting my potential employer not to use my legal name as I’m still in the paperwork process of getting it changed, and then letting their deductive capabilities fill in the rest.
Today, I’m not afraid of correcting people over the phone when they say “ma’am”, and saying, “Yes, I know my voice is high pitched, it’s a hormonal imbalance,” and letting them deal with the feeling of awkward if they so choose to feel that way. I’m done with awkward.
Today, I’m not afraid of walking into the men’s restroom and using the stall if I have to, because I know the last thing on most men’s minds is the bathroom habits of the people around them.
In fact, a few months ago I used the ladies’ room for what I know will be the last time (I was dining out with old family who haven’t caught on yet and I didn’t want to create an awkward situation by running into one of them in the men’s room.) At this point, the men in my family are going to have to deal with it, though, because a girl in the ladies’ room tried telling me I was using the wrong bathroom. Through the awkwardness, potential danger and confusion, some little chord in the background sang out, “YES, I AM using the wrong bathroom- and people finally agree with me. I’ll never walk in here again.” I had to pop my voice back into a female register I haven’t used in years so she wouldn’t get freaked out, but at the same time, I suddenly realized that, for the first time, pretending my gender was female to use the ladies’ room under false pretenses made me feel inappropriate, and even though I didn’t mean anyone harm, it was suddenly unmistakably clear which bathroom I belonged to.
It was a little chilling to realize I’d passed over that line where I could get away with using either restroom if one room or the other made me feel too uncomfortable- that now there was no safe room to run to, no net to fall back on. I was back in that area where I had an assigned restroom, and if I used the other, I’d be in trouble, only I was on the other side of that fence, and it was jarring to realize I’d finally toppled off of straddling it. But at the same time, it’s exhilarating to realize that, even just in one area of my life, everything is finally lining up. Plus, I feel much more comfortable in the men’s room now anyway. I no longer get that rush of adrenaline/sweaty-palm feeling when I realize I have to use the bathroom. I just take care of business and trust that what I’m doing just isn’t that important to other people– I’m not under a microscope, I’m just an average Joe who has to piss.
It’s interesting to note the things that have changed. But I think the oddest thing was the number of thoughts and sentiments in my old work that have stayed the same. Through my ugly teenage years, I’d write something and then go back and read it a year later, and be completely repulsed by myself. So, I was preparing for that familiar acid reflux feeling on going back to read my 3 year old post. BUT, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of values that remain the same. I’ve definitely learned more, grown in myself, and become stronger in the things that I believe in, but the core values are still the same. What does that mean? It scares me a little to think that I might be getting comfortable with my way of thought- through those teen years I was an ever-changing entity (weren’t we all?) who believed that anyone who settled with a given moral code or mental structure was a closed-minded bigot who was unwilling to learn, change themselves or compromise with an infinite world. I truly felt that if I didn’t see some gaping flaw in my thoughts from a month prior, then I wasn’t growing right.
But at the same time, I feel more like maybe it’s just that I’m finally figuring out who I am, and most importantly, getting comfortable with that person for once. I’ve never known what that was like- to like me, completely, without bullshit, and realize that maybe I’ve got one or two things figured out. I have SO much to learn, but the things to learn in this life are infinite and we are finite beings, and maybe it’s not so bad to know where oneself starts and stops, and to be okay with that.
Hopefully I’ll be posting daily updates with my current situation. For those who might be curious about specifics, I had to leave my current living situation in the hills by February due to a lack of income. I’m on the waitlist for a bed at Lark-Inn, a shelter in San Francisco that caters to impoverished LGBTQII youth by providing counseling, helping them find jobs, and get onto their feet. They say the wait time is 3 to 4 weeks. I asked one of my trans communities online for ideas and help to patch up the intervening gap, and one of them responded with a site called couchsurfing.org.
I went on the site and found several people in the bay area willing to open their homes to LGBT individuals, some specifically on emergency conditions. One such, a crisis counselor at the Trevor Project among other things, agreed to take me in for a few days starting today. Several others responded as well, and the idea of moving from couch to couch in the bay area for a few weeks just didn’t scare me enough to stop me. It really isn’t as if I can come up with any other options. So, I packed my stuff and here I am. Soon, hopefully they’ll be able to get me on an insurance and refer me to a gender therapist who can approve me for T (I think ~3 years living full time with professional and family references will go far for credibility), and I’m looking at starting my own business as a dog walker (it’s a very lucrative business down here!)
Also very soon, I’ll be posting the introductory video to my vlog of my journey and gender transition. I’m still in editing- I just shot the primary footage with a friend’s camera over the last couple days, and thank god I have a computer savvy friend who fixed my laptop for free! So I can do decent quality videos from down here, at least in the beginning. I don’t know if they’re going to make me sell my laptop before they take me at the shelter, but I’m prepared for that option- my phone is synched with my youtube account so I can directly upload videos from my tracfone. (This computer, I bartered from a friend with a laptop I won in a raffle in 2007, so that’s two degrees of working with equipment I didn’t pay for.) Who says the poor can’t be technologically advanced?
If you’re interested in following the journey, my channel is here. http://www.youtube.com/user/atTheTomFace/videos
On the topic of webthings of mine, my Twitter account is @TheTomFace. I’ll be sending frequent updates on my situation, so if you want to stay abreast of current events, go on ahead and follow me! I try to keep it entertaining, I promise. 😀
To the world: