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Midas disenchanted

  • Posted on December 20, 2014 at 11:40 am

‘I am not a lesbian …’, she said, as she lay in my arms, aglow.

‘No’, I replied, ‘I don’t make you anything. You are a lover.’

Midas sulked. We had found gold, because we had touched each other without enchantments, neither to gain nor to grasp, not to enrich ourselves nor possess, but to share what we had to give. We did not turn each other into anything; only lovers.

From the beginning of this blog, I have known that for very many people, simply to know me is almost too much. I evoke a response by being present. I disturb expectations with my confidence, with my presumption that I belong wherever I go. I confuse by not enacting that I am different. I am who I am, not changed, but released; but I am also an influence, a provoker of response, simply by being there.

Just over three years ago I would walk on the side of the street in the same direction as traffic, so that no-one driving would have time to look at me and decide I was not a woman after all. Once, when I didn’t, I was shouted at from a car. The story is Hey, Mr Transvestite, where I learned that people’s responses said more about them than about me. Always. Even my then wife, who would no longer undress fully in front of me, because of the implication of having a woman in her bedroom, even if I did not look like one, at the end of each day.

And so I learned to think of Midas, of the awful truth, that anyone who touched me would be changed, would be afraid to touch.

Over the years I have missed touch more than anything else, but yes, I have changed people. Those who have said that at first it was hard to be with me, but who came to see that I was real and honest. Those who decided that I am unacceptable, and in whom something of themselves has fossilised. And those I have met for the first time with my subsequent complete confidence in being alive, who may have been surprised that I dare be ‘normal’. Or who did not, or do not, know my past, and then come to find out, with a realisation that I am authentic, not acting, trustworthy.

Yes, I change people, but none of this is about me.

This last week, I and a woman I really like and trust, fell in love. Without expectation or condition, we could never have matched up in online dating, only in meeting minds and finding that unspoken connection. Guided? I feel so. But the most wonderful part of it all has been having no need to explain in order to be touched and experienced. We left the labels on the floor by the door. She is. I am. We are. And together we experience togetherness in a way I feel I have never known. Maybe because I have never been so honest and uncomplicated. Maybe because I ask nothing but honesty in return. Mostly, because there is no strength in anything without honesty and complete vulnerability, and I would rather give of myself out of this, than make deals on anything less.

The advantage? Well, maybe hundreds of pages of this blog, in which I have bared my soul, and at times my body, almost. I can have no pretence, and I no longer can bear to. So I have few secrets from my lover, who has read so much.

And yet we still face the shadow of Midas, sulking, disenchanted. Am I a woman? Or am I just forever trans, suspect, ambiguous? Which, if either, of us is lesbian to other people? What does this mean to friends and family? The chain reaction goes on, because to us we are simply what we are together, and only when we part and move with others does any of this matter. Midas’s shadow is out there, with all the wrong values, whilst we have found something far beyond gold.

Dieses Blog ist für dich, mein Herz … Midas ist tod.

Found images

  • Posted on November 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

The sepia girl stares expressionless,
shuffled from the pack of brown mottled paper
in crisp white lace dress and Sunday shoes.
She’s young, innocent and a long time ago –
it’s the camera that says she cannot smile.
I imagine her jumping up and running free.

Next a military man, too young to fight,
a smaller square, a formal pose –
maybe the one before leaving on campaign.
He’s innocent too, unsmiling but proud
in uniform undisturbed by war.
I imagine him standing up and marching away.

Now a grey-tone picture of an older man,
and he is grey too, gravity of age, no smile
in suit and tie, tall starched collar, cane.
Nothing in his stiff upper lip betrays his life –
his wars and wages pushed it deep inside.
I imagine him staying there when all have left.

‘That’s your great grandfather’, she called.
‘All of them. Yes, I know – the dress.
They all did. Such pretty boys that
went to war, to colonies, to banks –
trading British manliness for all their lives.
I imagine they forgot their growing days.’

‘I wouldn’t look at those’, she called.
‘Erotica is as old as the camera – or paint!’
The tiny prints scatter on the table,
ivory nudes, draped in studios –
nature for the discerning gentleman.
I notice one is different, lift it up.

There’s a coy sepia smile in this one,
unblemished by time, rarely seen by light.
In elegant gown, jewels, upright, proud –
and innocent too. On this rare occasion
inside out, this one true picture of him.
I imagine he remembered the lacy dress.

 

2012 © Andie Davidson

Shocking

  • Posted on February 23, 2014 at 8:57 am

This poem is from my book Realisations, which I still feel is an important chapter for my life and those involved with coming to terms with being trans*, or a partner emerging as trans*. I’ve added it now because it’s an elegant expression in context of my thoughts on relationships, more than ten years on from this event.

Whose?
The accusing angle of her finger
suspends distaste – and a stocking.
No relief wrapped in a reply
can change this gift,
this poison present.

Her fear.
Two answers hang
neither the better truth
she doesn’t want to know
the other woman
whose lace-edged discovery
invades her home.

His delight
slips from her finger
curls foetal on the floor
its elegance as lost as words.
Its lie even worse.
He wills it to rise and run,
be unfound before she speaks
or fear to anger springs tears.

His faithfulness
so complete, so safe,
worthless as any words.
‘It’s mine.’

 

2011 © Andie Davidson

Dis-appearances: stealth or skin?

  • Posted on July 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

We have evolved and survived – we being every living creature on this planet – through expert pattern recognition of things that matter most. For a bacterium, perhaps a chemical signature, for a bat an auditory echo, for an antelope, stripes moving the wrong way in tall grass, for a human, maybe a facial expression or the face itself. In fact our senses are all designed for pattern recognition, to know food from poison, welcome from warning, friend from foe, mate from challenger.

But for us as humans it has become incredibly complex. An actor is not really threatening you; their terrifying violence will become beans on toast as soon as the camera stops or the curtains close. And we thrive on novelty and invention, so the challenge of the unfamiliar is always with us. Sometimes we lose and a real danger is not spotted: insecticide toxins, environmental disaster, over-confidence is a dangerous place, early experiments with radioactive substances. Sometimes we win, and a new invention raises our game, an unexpected relationship becomes love, a crowded room of strangers becomes a welcome.

Stealth

Military technology that deflects radar enquiry (stealth) removes pattern from the response. Signals are absorbed, scattered and confused. You don’t get back a clear picture, or any meaningful picture or signature at all. It’s better than being ‘under the radar’. Its purpose is to confuse, to be invisible, so that an infiltrating mission, aggressive or surveillance, can go undetected.

As a borrowed term, I am very uncomfortable with adopting it for living as a transsexual woman. I am not intending to deceive anyone, but neither do I want to stand out. I want to adopt normality, not invisibility, and as trans* people do gain more acceptability in society, the fear factor will reduce. Being ‘found out’ is not something I want to happen. I want the conversation always to be:

‘You’re trans, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘Oh. OK.’

In other words, my pattern has been noticed but it means I am friend not foe.

But this is a very difficult one indeed, because being trans* is not like being gay or lesbian or bi. I do not need another trans* person in order to have a relationship that is normal to me, whereas being gay or lesbian does. So I may need to be openly lesbian whilst not openly trans*. Being trans* is a diagnosis that has treatment to make you as un-trans* as possible. I used to think I had to live as if I was a man, because of my physiology and social expectation, but that is history. It is over; done; finished.

My male features, some of which I can do nothing about, like hand size, large big toes, a broader ribcage, will always make me noticeable. So I really do understand the grief a younger person feels, that correcting their genitals and torso, even their face, may still not be enough to assert without explanation, their own gender. If it didn’t matter to anyone else, it wouldn’t matter at all. But can I really ever be the object of desire to another? A frightening thought.

We present patterns to those around us, and they recognise and respond. I cannot make my big toes slender, but you can let it be completely OK. I don’t need stealth, you need to adjust your pattern recognition response. Being trans* is normal, not disconcerting or repulsive. The trouble is, I am in charge of myself, but I cannot change society around me except by slow, if vocal, influence. I am living now, today; tomorrow will not do for social acceptance.

Under the radar?

We do live with pattern recognition, and society assuredly has not adjusted. Most of the time I am just flying under the radar. I get on with life, I make myself look as normal as possible, whilst expressing my personality and individuality. I do a good job at work, I meet lots of people in many different settings. Being transsexual is not an issue. Until …

‘There’s that man in drag!’

As I left my flat a few evenings ago, a young man (isn’t it always?) in a car, announced this loudly to his friend. He was announcing his insecurity. His pattern recognition (maybe he has been around since I moved in, and remembers the earlier days) still says: ‘I know what to do with man, and I know what to do with a woman. This person confuses me. They are only in my book of shapes as a man in drag, and I have no better understanding. I feel safer by alerting my friends to something I don’t understand, rather than saying nothing because it doesn’t matter.’

As always, this young man spoke about himself, not me, but yes, I did find it offensive. And disappointing. Why was I being mis-identified at all?

I have no need to avoid this person in future, because the problem on one level isn’t mine at all. But if I could wave a magic wand, and become an attractive woman, would I? Well, maybe I would, just to avoid the hassle. But being stealth-configured to avoid hassle, risks the accusation of deceit, and frankly, I should not need to hide anything.

Skins

A lot of popular software applications, from this blog to games, offer alternative ‘skins’. The same thing underneath, no change in functionality or rules, just pink instead of green, flowers instead of camouflage. As an alternative to stealth, adopting a different skin, is perhaps feasible. I am what you see, and I want you to recognise that this is only a skin, and that yes, we have all chosen these presentations: I, as a transsexual woman with my style, and you, as a cis-person with your style. Or as a lesbian with your dyke style, another with a femme style, and so on.

So instead of stealth, in place of acting, and renouncing fear, throwing away the pattern-recognition manual for gender, I want you to know that inside I am exactly what I say I am. And that my skin is my familiar garb, not for you to question, but to understand why I wear it.

My ribcage does not make me a man. My dress is not drag. Ask me and I will be straight with you, and explain as best I can. But I will not hide just to assuage your prejudices. I did not choose this, just as you did not choose your gender – or your shoe size.

Well, this is what I would like. I am horribly aware that even for me, there are those I counted even as friends who ‘don’t know how to relate to me’. Even my wife and daughter don’t know, so have distanced themselves to a safe place for them. Yes, me, a threat to their normality: you can’t be my dad so you can’t be my parent. You can’t be my man, so you can’t be my partner or lover. Pattern recognition has destroyed my family, and there is no stealth imaginable there. If anything, living before realisation was stealth, and I have renounced it.

All around the world, every month, trans* people are murdered for being unfamiliar to the pattern-recognition handbook. Stealth would present a constant fear of being discovered, the radar points too low, the unwillingness of society to learn new patterns is not there. They are hated for being different. I am lucky. Very lucky.

Out in my skin

I can’t get out of my skin, I own it. But this is the bit I also choose. I choose for taste, but also for acceptability, not to hide, but to present. Some have a problem with it, but I don’t. Stealth? No. Discretion? Maybe. I am confident in my skin. But see me beyond it, because that’s where recognition really lies.

Related poem for reflection and fun: Patterns

The first year …

  • Posted on March 29, 2013 at 8:42 pm

It’s my first year of school. I remember all sorts of things; so much impressed itself on me. The climbing frame in the playground was a welded metal pipe affair in the days before soft ground, of coloured coatings, and attractive shapes like tanks. (Why, dear god why, do we make tanks for kids to play on? Or tractors, or why not animals?) Anyhow, I remember the cold metal, how brown and shiny it was in all the places most played on. Looking at it today it would be maybe five feet tall, mainly cubic in design with a high point. That was for king of the castle. For boys to shout from, while girls used the swings. They brought their own skipping ropes. I had one, with blue handles, because I asked for one, and didn’t see why only my sister should have one.

I think that one day I may have got to the top, and thought it bravely high, but I didn’t go on the climbing frame with the boy swarm. There was a bar instead that girls swung around. It once had attachments, but no more; just the same brown-shiny, hand-polished, tummy-buffed bar. Girls at least used to do that: swing upside down from their knees, and show their knickers because this was before they wore trousers. And I am in this playground, walking around the perimeter kerb between grass and gravel, talking to a girl, sharing biscuits, belonging.

People still ask me: ‘When did you know?’ Of course I didn’t ‘know’, I just didn’t feel the same as everyone else. Thankfully at home I didn’t have many expectations placed on me, and had the freedom to play with dolls, at house, anything my sister and the girl up the road wanted to. I didn’t especially do boy stuff, other than that is what I was given, so a boat with a motor that went the length of the bath in two seconds and had to be turned around, was just as fun, if limited to weekly bath times. Mixing cement was no different from mixing a cake (both when very young). It was just joining in.

My first year of junior school, placed me in a grim and blackened old building, where entrances were headed ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ in sandstone swirls, behind which lay girls’ and boys’ cloakrooms. Separate playgrounds prevented boys from being too rough around girls, because their games were so different. I never did find the playground where I could feel safe. This same year saw our one family holiday, conceded with yellow holiday forms during term time. There was special pocket money budget for the week in mixed-weather Wales, and my sister chose a toffee coloured bear (actually he was chocolate and I remember the smell of his fur, but ‘toffee’ made a better name). That bear was loved and hugged every day and went everywhere. I chose a yacht with red sails called Diana. I can’t remember the choosing process much, but my dad enjoyed it, sailed it, reinforced the rigging because the weather wasn’t very good, had to buy a boat hook, then a ball and string in order to retrieve it after the wind blew it (of course) from A to B, where B was the other side of accessible. I can’t remember how many times it sailed, but it must in all have been about half a dozen times I stood and watched my boat. I got what boys got. Yes I felt a proud owner, but it wasn’t, in so many ways, mine.

A visiting aunt bought us a little present to come home to, and they were little pairs of dancers about two inches high. My sister’s were ballet dancers. Mine were Hawaiian and I loved them; especially the girl, for the swirl of her hair and blue skirt, the smoothness of her body, the sway of her arms. There was more liking and meaning in that tiny figure than any boats and rockets. Maybe I was already dancing inside.

My first year of (single sex) grammar school has featured in another blog, but for the first time I was in a place without rescue, where the expectations, academically, socially, behaviourally, were fairly plain, and this was where boys became men. Thus undistracted by everything most of my peers liked to do in breaks, after school or at weekends, I kept my head down and simply did very well. It was the year I was ill with scarlet fever, self-diagnosed by intuition, guided by goodness-knows what, but which took me into isolation for a number of weeks. I think it was the last time I had an illness that really grounded me for more than a couple of weeks, until pneumonia this month. It was about the same time of year as this. I read, copiously. It snowed.

My first year of university was probably my lowest ever point. I scraped in on clearing, separated from my best friend, my girlfriend, and entered a men’s hall of residence, with the blokiest blokes you can imagine, sharing a study with one, and understanding nothing of their way of life. By now feminine urges were long in place, but this was scary. I could be found out, and I was completely alone.

My first year in employment wasn’t good either. Sending a fresh creative postgraduate to Stockton on Tees (no offence, I’m sure it’s much improved!) into then somewhat gender-segregated management isn’t clever, especially when they have chosen office management (a largely female domain at the time) and are expected to do the male things outside work in a competitive commercial environment. I did not fit, was not well-trained or supported and found my way back into publishing in order to retrieve my integrity and self-esteem. And can you imagine an unknowing trans 20-something having to stocktake women’s clothes? I felt extremely vulnerable.

Of course since then there have been other first years, with better outcomes, but just as equivocal. However, being more of my choosing, at least were moderated with some small sense of security.

But of course the significance really, having just been asked again yesterday: ‘When did you first know?’, is that this weekend is my first anniversary. One year ago I kicked over the traces and forever left the presumption of male. One year ago I was truly freed, not with permissions (that was very mixed) but with complete certainty and conviction. The year between is largely in this blog. Some bits I intend to feature more carefully in weeks to come (now that I feel I can), and some are quite sensitive. But as it is now, I’ve gone through so much, and every single potential challenge to my transition has been as mist. Clinging, maybe, dragging on, but finally, I feel now, laid to rest. I am where I want to be, and when I walk into my next gender clinic assessment in just over a month, there will be a very settled and ordinary woman with things to discuss about her future.

It may have been a traumatic year, but it has all come good so far. No climbing, no kings and castles, no more struggling to fit into behaviours and roles that were never mine, and life is very much my choice.

Happy Anniversary, Andie.