Discovery of a Lifetime .... or is it a Lifetime of Discovery?
Is the reflection I see in the mirror who I am, or just the taxi that carries "me" around? As a TG journalist I have explored this and many other ideas along the detour that has become my life. Being transgender is by far the most confused, conflicted, distracting and yet amazing journey I have ever encountered thus far.
Like many, my first memory of being transgender was before I even knew what being transgender was. I was about 5 years old, and my sister (3 years older) and I were playing dress up. So we did a role swap, and I put on my sisters dress and shoes. I knew something was happening - and I was enjoying it. I felt an excitement running through me that made me shiver as my heart pounded. My sister thought I was so cute and ran to get our Mom.
I was horrified and stood in front of the door -- feet slipping on the hardwood floors as I frantically pushed against the door as she tried to get back in to show me off. I went into the closet at that moment and remained there for the next 30+ years.
During those early years I would rummage through my sister's closet when she wasn't home. I would try on everything, and in time found my favorite wardrobes. I would fantasize about being a girl often, and lived vicariously through women I watched on television: Barbra Eden comes to mind. By the age of 12, and for the next year or two, her shoes, dresses etc. - all a perfect fit. I began to experiment with makeup and perfume by the age of 16.
But as I entered high school I had developed into a rather athletic guy, making transformations very dramatic, but also difficult. Through the college years and the few that followed, I didn't indulge in dressing much. After all, building the man to fulfill all those expectations took a lot of effort: whether the expectations were mine or of others remains unclear.
Four thoughts rattled around in my brain all along: 1) What would it be like to be a girl? 2) Could I become a girl? 3) Would I prefer to be a girl? And, 4) am I supposed be a girl?
I often thought it was just a phase. Well into my 20's I started buying my own wardrobe and then purging it, seeing how each time I decided this was the last time! Eventually you come to realize that it always comes back because it is part of who you are, not just some wicked thing that you do. In the 1980's I found Lee's Mardi Gras, and thought "WOW, I'm not alone!!! Lee and I became friends and it was through her that I met the transsexual cabaret singer Chrysis International (R.I.P.), who helped me so much, and became a special friend to me. Tish was also a sweetheart, though I only knew her from chatting at the Greenwich Pub. Lee's party at the Palm was my first social event. Prior to that it was just lurking around dark places in the city. I even stumbled into Hellfire one night, which is another story all together. But, I needed to get out, so whether it was gay bars or Lee's parties, I started to explore the female that dwelled inside me.
In 2000 I had been pushed to my limits of patience with this "compulsion" that was so disrupting my life. So, after lying to myself -- yet again -- that this would be the last time, I decided right then and there that I was going to "cure myself." I would attack this thing head on; search the depths of my soul -- without the fear of what I might find; explore my compulsion until I find its root source and then, once and for all, eradicate or exercise it from within me.
Brianna was born in the spring of 2000 and burst onto the trans-scene that fall like a whirling dervish. I formed the Girls Club in the winter of that year, and during the next few years -- despite enduring a financial downturn of catastrophic proportions -- led the girls on many an adventure around NYC; whether in the transgender, gay, or mainstream communities. I began doing a lot of soul searching. While focused on trying to discover answers about my transgenderism, I found myself confronted with that universal question every human being has to unravel: "Who am I" as a person?
And because I was in search of truth, as it related to me, rather than transition as a preconceived quest, I was able to continually evaluate -- with unbiased eyes -- my own experiences. I could take things in as they were -- rather than as I wanted, or hoped they would be. I thought a lot, and found myself re-examining faith and spirit. These books included, but were not limited to, Conversations with God, The Fruitful Darkness and other books about native indigenous cultures, as well as Dr. Wayne Dyer's You'll See It When You believe it, which all together began to paint a picture of things I had often felt, but for which I could never before put into words.
So for the next three years I set out on a path with no destination, or agenda; except to experience that with which I encountered, without any preconceived notions about it. I evolved physically, and by the spring of 2002 my roommate watched my metamorphosis from typical guy into Brianna, until one day he asked, "So, are you a girl now?" I laughed, "I'm not a girl, no ... I'm just living a girls life." Although most people knew I was physically a guy, certain days others weren't quite sure. Thus began my "gender fluid" stage, where I would let people take me as they will. I spent many days androgynous. A friend commented, "Make up your mind you're confusing the tourists!" I didn't care.
I enjoyed going out with friends dancing at clubs, which we (the Girls Club) did every weekend from the fall of 2000 until summer of 2002. I sort of burned out of the club scene after that and I began to discover quieter nights at dinner, Jazz clubs, shows or the movies. I spent a lot of time at the gay clubs. I had been going there on and off for 20 years. But now, I was starting to mingle, got to know people: I was no longer the cross-dressing wall flower. At first they would say, "Oh, you're one of them." But in time, I befriended many there and they saw "me," rather than the expectation they had from what they saw. It was from those experiences that I wrote "Surviving the Gay Bar." I like gay men, and spent many a night at the piano bar uptown. Men at Trans bars seem to want sex, or want sex, or want sex. A fellow one night, after I told him "no" at a trans club ... about 6 times, finally said, "How about if we go to my car and not have sex, but I can just lay on top of you?" How appealing, but no thanks. Tranny chasers are a different breed altogether, which I touch upon in "Chasing Tranny."
For a time I actually considered myself gay, though other times I just think I'm a straight woman who wants to be a straight man. I took estrogen herbs over the years, and indulged in prescription estrogen -- without the prescription -- until the spring of 2003 (read "Truth Or Dare"). The estrogen has such a dramatic affect on how you think and feel, and the subject of yet another story.
As for my hobbies during this time, I loved to dance, go to the park, had a passion for music - film. I'd gone to the movies quite a bit and watch Hollywood films and independents alike. I enjoyed jazz clubs and dinning out: Chinese & Thai, American, Cajun, Italian, French and Mexican to name just a few. I really enjoy good company and conversation, spontaneous humor and quiet meditation.Luckily, I have a few good friends from various backgrounds (men, woman, trans, gay, straight ), who all met me and know me as Brianna. And, a few who met me as a guy and remained my friends after they found out about Brianna. They take me as I am, which is all I think anybody can really ever hope for in this life. I may use the word "drag" and "drag queen" sometimes, which does not really fit most transgender people, or myself for that matter, but old habits die hard, and when I first started writing about my journey that is what I thought I was.
It was during this exploration as Brianna and the subsequent collapse of my previous life, that I discovered how to let go; how to live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is, rather than what I wanted it to be. A quote from HORACE sums it up: "Cease to inquire what the future has in store, and take as a gift whatever the day brings forth."
During a trip to Argentina in, 2003, I realized that not only could I be happy living as a woman, but that given the choice I would prefer it. And in that moment of clarity I had found the elusive answer to the questions that plagued me my whole life, and subconsciously undermined everything else. Suddenly I had nothing left to explore; my girl experiences, the pushing of the envelope -- it now seemed -- was not only for the good time sensations I got from them, but ultimately was a wandering search to bring me to this clarity.
This brought me face-to-face with a dilemma: I didn't want to give up being a father, and maybe a grandfather some day; I didn't have the funding for transition surgery (FFS, GRS), and, I was 48 years old. So I began to wonder who I could be as a man. Not the guy I pretended to be all those years, but the person living inside this shell, the person inside this taxi that carries "me" around. Suddenly, I knew more about me as a woman then as a man, and needed to explore the latter.
So just as everyone thought I was gearing up to make the big plunge into surgically adjusted womanhood, I surprised everyone -- including myself -- and returned to New York and reversed course; I ceased taking the estrogen that had become a part of my daily routine for so long, and modified my wardrobe accordingly. It would take almost another year, maybe a little more, before all the tell tale signs from the hormones would recede. But with each day a little bit more of Brianna slipped away into the abyss.
I thought that now I could revert back to a guy 24/7 and experience being a man without all that white noise in the back of my head. I was so conflicted my whole life, with this internal gender contradiction, that I may not have ever really experienced myself being a man. Perhaps now that I knew what the white noise was, I could settle into this skin and finally experience the man I was born as.
So that is where I am on the gender highway. Gender is not what you are, but where you're at on the road of your own evolution; because nothing is for certain and everything is subject to change.
And the search continues, as I work on my autobiographical novel -- The Last Woman and Me --, which I hope to have completed this year (2012), each week brings new thoughts, new experiences, and questions.
Want to still know more about me? Check out my Bio and Photo Gallery