One of the surprising side effects of estrogen is the melting of a chain that I tried to keep ignoring for my whole adult life. This chain was short by design and the links felt lighter than the other restraints I had used to chain my heart into its dungeon keep. They were lighter, so I would almost forget I was wearing it… but it was made of some seriously strong stuff.
I tried to convince myself that I had several tools that helped make up for the lack of mobility because of this chain, that I had ways to get the work done despite this chain.
I used to talk about this chain metaphorically, because that made it easier to dismiss that I was the blacksmith that forged it, that I probably had the strength to break it, and that I did know where it leads, what it was restraining, and that I even knew why it had been forged in the first place, and therefore…
that I was the only one who could break it.
This chain? Let’s call it Miss-direction. And it restrains the raptor of self-inquiry that hunts the smaller rodents of denial that gnaw on normal, everyday reality.
No, I am not on Molly, hang with me, I can stick this landing, I swear.
You would think that a woman who has been able to claw her way out of the dungeon, past the fire-breathing dragon of dysphoria should be able to deal with the little critters of everyday reality without so much as breaking a sweat. And you would be right.
You would say that a yogini who had dedicated her entire adult life to the practice, study, and pursuit of self-realization, after removing the large boulders of identity and fear with Grace, should have weeded out these pesky weeds in the garden of self-awareness in the process. Again, you would be right.
But the iron chain of Miss-direction was a rusted relic that I discovered as I was redecorating the deeper chambers of the temple of myself. As I said, I was surprised to discover it – it was carefully camouflaged by a thin veneer of “been there done that.”
I wish I had found it through an intentionally targeted search because that would mean I’m on my game. But the truth is, I only saw the rust marks on the floor when I pulled up the carpets that I had used for years to sweep things under.
Along with the skeletal frames of bravado and crass, it had been dissolved when estrogen began to scour the inner walls of my heart.
I guess what I’m just now realizing is that the chain had been unnecessary for a very long time – the raptor it had held captive had given up long ago – the muscle memory from her initial tests of the restraint was still there, she had thought that she was forever chained. But when I threw open the drapes and let light flood in, she could see that she was no longer clapped in iron.
And her tummy was rumbling… she was hungry.
She is stretching her wings in the sunlight, and it couldn’t be a moment too soon.
“Transition” (a noun in our community spelled with a capital T) can be so… what’s the word here, full? Sure that works. So full of both physical and emotional experiences and tasks, that it can be a full-time job just keeping your footing as your entire world shifts on its axis. This “fullness” can be all you could possibly do in a 24 hour day, between trying to shed these “Post-Surgical Pounds” and fending off the impulse to engage with that idiot who thinks their opinion on whether having transgender military personnel will affect unit cohesion is somehow more accurate or pertinent than what the Joint Chiefs already took years to know.
Yes. Good ol’ life can seem like a full time job.
Oh and then there’s getting a job. Keeping the projects that are in progress progressing. Nurturing the new ideas. And none of this takes into account the time that life is really here for, loving and caring and living with the most amazing person in the history of persondom.
That leaves about 7 minutes per day for self-inquiry. That usually comes in the shower.
But one has to take it when one can get it, right?
But as I said, I realized that the biggest restraint is gone and lo and behold, in its place is a strength and refreshed sense of… is that wonder? Why, so it is… okay, a wonder at…
how am I doing?
Well. Yes. How. Am. I. Doing?
To understand the gravity of this question, I think I need a breath here. I have not only dreamed of being “where I am now” – on the other side of GCS, but I fantasized about it (two very different things) like forever, even though I never believed I would ever really get to here. This fantasy was as painful as much as it was temporarily liberating…
until finally it just got depressing
Too painful. I knew it was just vapor. A future that would never be. A pall on my present. And, if I’m going to try to be brutally realistic, a waste of my time to “even go there.” Which was the shillelagh I used to pound myself with when my commitment wavered.
So, I finally got myself to just stop dreaming.
I built wall after wall after wall to seal off the dungeon so the light would never get in, because even just one deflected ray could pierce my heart so deeply that it would take weeks to recover.
But… back when I did dream…
Despite knowing that it would end back in drab reality, I would sometimes be able to soar… and it was giddy, euphoric, blissful (have I made it clear, yet?), ecstatic. A wonderland of gold and pink light, of sparkling newness, and glistening, scintillating… normalcy.
My life as I hoped to live it would be as normal as yours. A life with no questions that started with “how come” and ended with “why me?” In this vast and glorious queendom, I would no longer deal with the body of some guy; I would no longer have the life of that dude. I could drop pretense and fear. I could let fall the shield of appearance. I would reallocate mental energy from navigation and defense to creation and nurture. My fantasies were not of riches and creature comfort but of my family seeing me and accepting me. MyLove loving me as a woman.
I wasn’t some super heroine, but a normal, average ordinary girl.
Yeah, I know. It was just a fantasy.
So, the other day when Mylove asked, “ So… how are you really?” Which for those of you who read GBTM might remember, was a question I would dread hearing, usually about once a month from Mylove after I came out to her.
It’s a question that I also used to ask of myself, not really wanting to know the answer.
And now, as one who has made it to this side of the river trans, I confess to knowing that if I were to ask this of myself, and if that answer were to ever be negative, there would be nothing I could do about it.
So it might be better not to ask?
Yes, I know, I know, to not ask this question of one’s self is (normally) to have doubt that one may not have made the right decision in the first place. I tried to threaten the raptor with a new chain by saying to myself that I would not have this question if there was nothing to question.
But srsly girl?
And that’s why it’s important that I realized the raptor could fly the day before Mylove asked. Because I did it under my own power and direction. I didn’t relegate it to the “so what department.” I actually walked right toward this question and stared it in the face and that’s when I first discovered that the tell-tale tug on my ankle that would have stopped me from going any further “down this road”…
I wasn’t afraid to ask this question and hang around for the answer.
And it was, I’m admitting right here, a bit disorienting because as I went searching for “how” I was. I realized I had been trained to look for only two things – the pink and gold blissful sunshine of my fantasy future life, or the dank and choking fog of regret. I wasn’t prepared for what I found, and that’s why it confused me… I wasn’t sure what it was, at first.
Because it was so… um… well, this is a bit embarrassing, to admit, but… it was so… real. Realer than real. It was as if this was, and had only ever been my experience.
Because it was, you silly.
I was almost disappointed. Where were the flocks of rainbow doves? Where was the golden sparkle of reality, the crystal ring of each moment? Where was the ecstasy of “finally?” Where was the euphoria of “inevitable?” Where was the radiance of angels’ singing welcome?
I had had amazing peak experiences during the days right after (gender confirming) surgery, so now that I was healed, and starting to return to my workout and feeling physically good for the first time in like forever, why wasn’t I still floating in bliss? Why were my days just like any other days… uh! Oh…
… does that mean…?
Yes, girlfriend, it means your dream came true. Your life, your living, your reality is…
It happened so gently and gracefully that I almost missed it. Now, my everyday life looks anything but normal. I didn’t sign-up to have a sitting President try to institutionalize discrimination by not only dismantling long and hard-won rights and protections such as Title IX, the Civil Rights Act, and trying to ban transgender people currently serving in our military, or from ever serving. So there’s that.
But that’s not the normal I’m talking about. I don’t feel like a stranger in my own body. I don’t feel like a charade trying to be “okay” so you can be okay that I’m okay. I don’t think about how to get through another day, despite feeling like any moment I will be swallowed by “the hijacker” (my pet name for the dragon that came as bouts of dysphoria that stalked me for fifty years).
So when Mylove asked me how I was doing, I knew neither she nor I had the time to say all of the above, and I immediately remembered my sister Kimm’s words from a text she sent me after seeing her big sister (me) for the very first time:
“I finally figured it out. It’s weird cuz it’s not weird. Am I right ladies?”
Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe our genes view reality through a “Seat-o-the-pants” filter, an instinctual jedi–scan that looks for disturbances in the Force, that pings under the crust of appearances to scrutinize the heart of the matter to heal what needs it. Whatever you call it, it was the only thing that accurately described… how I was doing.
It’s not weird. It’s not euphoric. It is not “not normal.”
Which is weird.
I just had major surgery. I’m still trying to get the hang of lipstick. I can’t remember the last time I even watched a war movie. I walk through my daily world, where I had previously walked as a relatively high profile “dude” (albeit a flamboyantly independent Hollywood freak) gracefully, unapologetically, and even, dare I say, tastefully feminine. Not a trace of “guy” anywhere. It’s not so much how I look that I’m reveling in, but more the acceptance that greets me. Most of my people do know that I was raised by wolves, and they either don’t care, like this version much better, or are too polite to make a fuss. “It’s” not weird, am I right, ladies?”
Yes. I notice that I am different. I think twice when I feel a string of expletives revving their engines while the catapult prepares to hurl them from the deck of the carrier into an aerial dogfight. But, I flinch at the use of explosive violent adjectives to describe a benign human interaction. (example, I don’t SLAM anyone, I’m COUNTERING their opinion). I used to cringe at the assumptions of patriarchal misogyny in all human endeavors, and resort to “workarounds.” Now I (either it’s estrogen or age) weed them out. Even my sense of humor has gotten different – the jokes I now tell I either modify on the spot or let die a lonely death, unsaid. I don’t need to be the “jokester,” I can graciously just smile at the ones I’ve heard a million times (daughter of a car salesman-bartender – I grew up on the classics) knowing that every comedian needs an audience.
And… yes, I still practically dare the a**hole in the Camaro staring me down at the red light to give me an excuse to… to… to what? My adrenaline still spikes from the same stimuli, but the second part of that is when my brain kicks back in and reminds me that I was never a fighter at any time, in my life and I for damn sure won’t turn into one now. So I can stop “frontin’” here and now. When this does happen now, I spend the next hour probing my psyche for the accelerant that still wants to turn a spark into a backdraft. Before I just wrote that a**hole off without a second thought.
I’m not sure if other girls think this much about thinking.
I’ve come too far to not go all the way. But navigating the way forward by measuring the distance traveled is a cumbersome way to sail. And truly speaking, now that I’m in the seas of normal, it’s getting harder and harder to recall the weird past. The pain suffered is only a vague concept now. I made land driven by winds that came from the original desire to relieve the cause of that suffering almost… um… gee… I guess that would be… well, a few months ago. With that cause now gone, so too are those winds that filled my sails.
Which means that other winds can now take me in new directions.
I guess I will still be of service to others in the sharing of the charts from my journey. And I guess, if I’m really transparent, that’s what these writings are. The reality is that watching this raptor of self-inquiry hunt her prey is not the moment by moment experience that ignoring her had once been. She’s free to hunt. But I am free…
I’m not worried what she will find.
I am strong. I am in my body. Nothing is weird or strange. I have a lot of new in my life. I have a lot of unfamiliar. I have a lot of “really? Me? You mean I can, I am, I will, I don’t have to…” And yes, some of that recalls the vague memories in my muscles of the ways and whys of my time running with wolves, when the opposites were true, “I can’t, I am not, I won’t ever…”
I am doing all right. But that’s now, finally, wonderfully an assessment that comes by measuring the way forward rather than looking back. I’m no longer defined in the negative. Wow.
Am I right, ladies?
Yes. I’m right. I’m all right.
Actually, I’m just…
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"