Okay… I promised my womanifesto last time and… well, as they say,
I had good intentions. But… please allow me to explain.
You see, as I said in the last pages of my book, “Getting Back To Me” from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years, I can’t wait to see the woman I will become.
Now, for those of you who have read the book, you had the context to know that what I meant was… well, like, in the future.
Like any sane person, I knew I was always going to mature, grow, get wiser, smarter… you know… like a fine wine, etc. etc. And now that dysphoria’s cloud had dissipated with the rising sun of acceptance’s brilliant light and heat, I could actually… er, um, grow up.
But then, as I started to poke my nose back into this thingy called life, and realize that a few things had somehow either slipped my gaze before, or been shot down by my Aegis Defense system (sorry that too is in the book. It’d be easier if you read it and then all these witty metaphors would make sense), but I realized that I was starting to… gosh, there’s just no better word for it, than… become.
And so, silly me, I thought I would write it all down and declare the woman I am and it eventually would go to the world in a well crafted, word-smithed Woman-ifesto. (Can you tell this feminism thingy is rubbing off on me all already?)
I got this idea because my friend, Valerie and I often discuss these things as we write. I, as trans woman, and she, as a cis-hetero, woman of color, often have very vibrant discussions about just what is male and female behavior. And let me tell you, I’m the stodgy traditionalist, while she’s the enlightened open-minded one.
So, to prepare myself for what would inevitably be a world-class, epic, on-going debate (’scuse me, discussion), I dug deep to bring up the woman I am (and had been planning to be for lifetimes) from her future, years before her debut as a very mature, worldly wise gosh-darned wonder woman with a capital Woah.
I happened to mention this as the casual answer to the standard, “what have you been up to?” asked by my dear friend and cherished older sister, Eleanor… as Mylove and I were driving her and her spouse, Lucy, to the airport. NOTE: This was a great thing for Lucy & Eleanor. They were moving to live a dream they’d had for a long time. And four-letter-wording tragic for us. We have had these great women in our lives for 14 years, spent most every holiday with them and… well, we don’t know what we’re going to do with them on the other coast. Wait… sorry… I can do this…
Yes. Back to the 405 freeway, late one summer Friday night (are you with me? I know I didn’t signal before I switched lanes, but this is LA, yes? Good.), I mentioned that I was working on this blog and the womanifesto and bla,bla,bla. Eleanor asked the obvious, “Well, what kind of woman will you be?” And she was excited about her question, she genuinely got the idea that I had a chance at 54 years of age to start with a clean slate and, given that golden opportunity, what would I do (as Jen Larkin wrote in my review) “with my left life?”
Now, as the swarms of red taillights lit our way to LAX, I knew that this question was a great distraction from the heavy hearts we all had as we were preparing ourselves to say goodbye. But, I demurely declined to offer up a speedy answer, and we laughed about yes, Scottie was changing. She never let that kinda thing stop her in the past. Of course, we all agreed how difficult that would be to do in the now, less than fifteen minutes before… well, you know, they leave. (Can you tell how I feel by now?)
The next morning, I was … a little peeved. What kind of a woman WILL I be? What did she mean by that? WILL? How about now? What am I chopped liver? (wait a minute that’s Mylove’s line). I went from zero to hissy in nuthin’ flat -- forgetting, of course, that the question was my idea. But that’s beside the point! I knew what I meant, I wanna know what she meant!
But all that Sturm und Drang doesn’t answer the question sweetheart, and the truth is… finally, the fog of stupidity lifted and I saw that Eleanor was just doing what Eleanor does. And it’s one of the reasons I will miss her so terribly—she has the superpower to hear my heart before I do. And, she takes this precious knowledge and uses it to gently help me grow.
So, the best thing I could do was take her enthusiasm as a “yes,” that I was on the right course, and oh yeah, I realized I still had much work to do. And I thought that if I promised you, dear reader, that answering this question – and putting it out as a great womanifesto as my next blog, I would magically have the Goddess of creativity grant me the space to get real.
Um… and have I said out loud that I am feeling the pressure to live up to the great women in my family who came before me? My mother is the best example, and my aunts—all of them. I knew even before I came out that getting it right, standing tall and proud with dignity as they had was way more important than knowing which shoes went with which dress.
MyLove is the best example of the ultimate woman (I hand picked her! Okay that’s not exactly accurate, my heart recognized her even before she was technically available) and Lucy & Eleanor, and Valerie, and my little sisters, and my Auntie Linda, and my new big sister Alexandra … everywhere I turn, great women are showing me the way.
I have, all around me, the greatest examples of the kind of woman I am.
And, I can tell you one thing--I’m not sure any one of these great women has ever thought it necessary to have their own womanifesto. It’s, well, not how they think. Trust me, Valerie has beaten that point into my head time and again.
But for a girl who was raised by wolves, this “how I would live (as a woman)” had been, for oh, so many years the only cooling salve for a heart in endless turmoil. (For those of you new to my story, let’s just say, that I’m a late bloomer) I would tell myself as I sat in my dank dungeon (of my own creation, in my heart) “I would wear dresses everyday.” “I would make every day a celebration of femininity, by looking my best, to light up a room with color, and beauty.” But it wasn’t always superficial, “I would never let anyone talk to me that way.” I would know that I would be as I, had always been: strong, creative, smart and caring. But I wouldn’t have to cloak those qualities in boy-ness to maintain my cover.
In essence, I have been writing this womanifesto all my life. It was scratched into the stone walls of the dungeon I had imprisoned myself in. And now that this cell is empty, and light has cleared away the moss and fungus, the walls are crumbling … and my writing is fading.
Either that, or estrogen has cleared my head and I now see that a set of rules about how to be is exactly what a woman ain’t. Sure, there’s great commonality among my role models. They are all fantastic, amazing, bright, shining lights of humanity that truly make the world a better place by their existence. But they are as individual as the facets of a diamond. For every amazing mother, there’s a woman who never wanted children. For every poet, there’s a scientist, for every artist, there’s an accountant, for every extrovert there’s a scholar, for every comedienne, there’s a healer.
They have fears.
They rise above their fears.
They can laugh at themselves.
They laugh with each other.
They rarely laugh at others.
I’m not like a lot of girls that were raised by wolves, in that I never thought I would ever be here as the woman I am. Free. Me. But now that I am here, I can drop the façade of trying to appear that I have to have the answers before I even look at the question. I can let it show that I am not sure, without making myself weak, I can allow myself to continue to blossom and know that that is the woman I am now and, as Eleanor was probably watching me discover “the woman I will be,” is a work in progress, an unwritten book, an endless possibility, and a glorious question.
Which (I can hear you laughing) is the divine answer to my prayer to the Goddess of Creativity. Oh, yes, She heard me. I asked for the space to get real… and in that space I can really see:
There’s a reason why we call them manifestos, there’s no such thing as a womanifesto…
We don’t need them.
Next time: The Company of Women.
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"