I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with exercise. Truth be told, exercise verged on self-harm for me for a long time, and it took some major personal revelations for me to see it. Continue reading “Exercising While Trans, Or How I Learned To Stop Lifting and Love Myself”
“Thank you,” I told them. “Thank you for being so much better than an occasional phone call asking if I’ve given up yet.”
Zoë Michelle Knox and Amanda Jetté Knox were already famous in Canada for the improbable beauty of their journey when I met them. They were the family that had gone from the picture of white suburban normalcy to a beacon of queer hope, as father and son rediscovered themselves as wife and daughter, made public by Amanda’s blog and Internet presence, and they had been all over Canada’s magazines and web sites. The fact that they were local meant that my friends and extended circles were particularly aware of these lovely people, and made sure I heard when their speaking tour brought them to an auditorium within not-too-forbidding walking distance of my home. They spoke about Amanda’s then-nascent book, Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family, about trans issues in general, about how society fails us and how people can make sure the transgender family members among them feel loved, supported, and cared for despite widespread social disapproval and even violence.
The online left is a very, very strange place. It’s full of people who are all urgently certain of how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. It’s loud and hostile, with minor ideological differences turning into over-dramatic schisms in bizarrely little time. Vast slices of it are chronically, toxically vigilant, waiting with unwholesome eagerness to be the one who gets to turn on or cast out someone else for a misstep. Dial all of that up to 11, and you get the tankies.
For those who don’t know, “tankies” are devotees of the strand of leftist thinking usually called Marxism-Leninism, the philosophy of Josef Stalin rather than the eponymous Marx and Lenin. An extension of this idea, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, incorporates thoughts from Mao Zedong. They get the name “tankie” from their penchant for defending the less defensible actions of the Soviet Union and similar governments throughout history, in particular the mechanized (hence “tankie”) invasion of Hungary during its anti-communist revolt in 1956. In the modern era, long arguments about specific events from 70 years ago are far less salient than their modern corollaries. Tankies are, these days, characterized by their full-throated defenses of modern China and North Korea, which become more and more uncomfortable the clearer it becomes that some rather nefarious things are happening in those countries.
Here’s where I come in.
The past eight months have in no way been what I imagined. To not bury the lede: I am, unexpectedly, now the owner of a condominium unit, and my parents have begun to understand how real my transition is. And it started with my childhood bedroom.
There are a lot of good things to be said about the body positivity movement. Encouraging people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and abilities to feel beautiful and valuable despite not fitting into their society’s narrow mold is a transparently good idea. People deserve to not feel insecure or ashamed of their bodies, especially when the source of that insecurity isn’t much bigger than marketing. There is a darker side to constantly proclaiming that people should accept themselves “just as they are,” however. Some people’s problems with how their bodies are shaped aren’t a matter of trying to live up to an unreachable beauty standard, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Transgender people face continuous, intense opposition to everything we are and everything we do in much of the world. One of the forms that this aggression takes is proclaiming that trans people shouldn’t want to reshape our bodies to fit with their genders, and should accept our deviant shapes “just as they are,” all couched in the language of body positivity. To undertake aesthetic, medical, or surgical interventions to change appearance is, in this view, to succumb to social pressures that we should instead be resisting. By their logic, a trans man should strive to be content with growing breasts he never wanted, and a trans woman should embrace the androgenic baldness that awaits her if she doesn’t take hormone replacement therapy, because to do otherwise would be insufficiently “positive.”
Today, we are candles.
You’re attending a quinceañera. You’ve never seen the birthday girl before. Everyone else in attendance knows you, but if you ask them how, they change the subject. The caterers kiss you on the cheek and ask you when you’ll give them grandkids. You’ve never seen them before, either.
I didn’t grow up with the word “dyke” meaning anything to me. The dialects of Spanish that were my first language don’t have ready equivalents for it, preferring euphemisms that only become offensive in certain tones. I don’t know if the people I came from use “perica” or “tortillera” for themselves, or if they borrow the more evocative slurs used for gay men, or use some other language entirely. My mother preferred to stammer out her disgust in English half-syllables whenever she had to mention queer women, and that sense of wrongness stayed attached to those words in my mind. I was closed to this part of myself in those days, unaware of my queer heritage even as I found no room in my heart for their contempt. The queer community where I finally found myself speaks primarily English, and it’s here that I finally met proud dykes.
I come from huge families. My mother was one of seven, and my father’s mother was one of nine. Between them, I have fourteen first cousins, at least five second cousins, eleven first cousins once removed that I know about, and more miscellaneous spouses and siblings than I care to track.
Mom never forgave her siblings for moving away from each other. Most of the brood ended up within driving distance of one another in the Great Northeastern Conurbation, albeit in three different states, but one stayed in Puerto Rico, one followed work to North Carolina, and Mom followed the needs of her husband’s family and moved to Miami. Most of the seven are involved in the US military in some way, and some of my cousins continued that legacy, and that meant being passed around bases and active duty for years at a time, far from their kin.
Dad’s family all ended up in Miami, sooner or later. My grandmother used to visit relatives in Cuba, but she is long gone, and it is likely they are as well. Most of Dad’s side of the family made Miami their first home outside of Cuba, but Dad’s path passed through New Jersey first. I grew up there, getting acquainted with Mom’s nearby relatives first and not really recognizing Dad’s side of the family until they became our frequent reality after the move. Even then, Dad was an only child, so all of the relatives were a generation apart from me, whereas my maternal cousins were close to my age, so Dad’s family and I are not well acquainted.
After picking through the family tree to survey my safety within it, I find this a tragedy.
We always picked the Crawlspace. Nobody really liked the Crawlspace. Some of the roof is strapped to the half-dead chestnut tree whose roots are damaging the sidewalk outside, and the constant drip in that part of the bar was used to water a bamboo that no one dared call lucky. At least one bar stool was half of a barber’s chair that the owners never bothered to unbolt from the floor after buying Crabbie’s Cuts, and it still smelled like old hair. We were pretty sure that the combination of fluids that, over the years, made the light brown stain at the far corner swell to take up half of the floor would make a health inspector blanch, but the last health inspector who looked at the Crawlspace did an about-face at the door while reciting “NOPE” under his breath, so, that hasn’t been a problem.
Continue reading “Future Dive”