The Advance Guard Has Arrived

16 06 2010

I found a chin hair. It is long enough that I am unable to comprehend how I missed noticing it until now. Quarter-inch-long hairs take a few days to grow, or they did the last time I sprouted any new hairs. This means I washed my face and brushed my teeth and tousled my hair in the mirror on multiple mornings in a row without once taking a good look at my chin.

As a result of its surprise entrance, this hair has reigned in my thoughts all afternoon. As soon as I decide to pluck it out (because a single lonely hair looks utterly accidental, like the cat rubbed up on my face during shedding season), I decide that I have to show it to someone first. As soon as I decide to show my boss (because, as the director of an LGBT center, he would probably understand why it’s a big deal), I decide that the ability to grow very sparse and mostly unnoticeable body hair is probably not among the skills they hired me for.

It is perhaps true that of all the things I could be doing to help our community out, sitting in the center toying with my lone chin hair ranks among the least productive. Still, it is also true that I got hired to help make this center even better for every queer, whether questioning or ally, genderfucking or pansexual, trans admirer or straight-presenting, on campus. And how can you possibly do that job without sharing in the enthusiasm, the orgy of selfhood that necessitates a center like this? How could I sit on this veritable throne of new books for the library, reading pages of each one before I tape a call number to its spine, and not excitedly toy with this chin hair every few minutes?

newly trans gay tie-wearing me

It is with exhilaration that I take full responsibility for this chin hair. I feel as though I personally crafted this chin hair, and that the process has taken me years. I was crafting this hair as the bemused, straight version of me learned by trial and error to put the eyeliner on first and that my forehead is lovely but just too large to permit haircuts without bangs. Tentatively lesbian me was crafting this hair as I discovered how soft and warm sex can be when you’re sleeping with someone who pays attention to your body. Newly trans gay tie-wearing me was crafting this hair, even as needlephobia defeated T.

This one follicle comes from the part of me that keeps searching, every time some identity, word, or sexual act doesn’t feel quite right. This is the part of me that has always believed that I can find a way to be happy, whether I’m wearing clothes or not, inebriated or not, at school or in Boise, working hard or playing rough. It’s the part of me that crows lovingly about this job. I am unable to face this center, our shared and staggering multiplicity, without feeling my dear, queer little heart bounce proudly.





T is the Culprit; or, Why Singing is Like Driving

14 06 2010

This summer, I’ve been observing with concern a very strong, unfamiliar smell on my skin. What if other people can smell it? What if the people sitting next to me in class lean away from me, not to see the blackboard better, but instead to evade this overwhelming cloud of scent around me? I finally confided in someone whom I subject to my smell on a daily basis. My confidante accepted my fears and sagely pointed out that it’s entirely likely that T is changing my body’s smell. “You’re basically a 13-year-old boy,” ze reminded me. “That’s a pretty smelly critter.”

Ze also allowed that because I’ve spent over 20 years smelling like lilacs and raindrops (that’s what girls smell like), my smell change probably seems far more glaring to me than it does to other people. People around me probably just smell some vague and unsurprising boy smell, just another human being. My nostrils have been trained to expect some other smell from my person. I smell muskier, darker, no longer tangy and sharp. From white wine to red.

The good news is, music is coming back into my voice. For a bit there, everything middle dropped out of my vocal capabilities. The middle of my singing range became nothing but a rush of air, no matter how hard I tried. The middle volumes (the volume appropriate for volunteering answers in class, for instance) disappeared into one of two unpredictable extremes: hockey-game-loud or conspiratorial whisper. I’m sure my German class thinks my feelings toward translating Nietzsche vacillate wildly from rabid enthusiasm to clandestine reverence.

To my relief, some modicum of grace has returned, as of the past week, to my vocal stylings. I’ve very gratefully taken to singing along again to the Glee soundtrack while I’m at work.

In a sense, my voice and my smell are traveling at the same speed in opposite directions. As my smell grows less recognizable, my voice gets more and more familiar. After always hearing my voice as though it’s the sound of someone else calling out from the other side of a thick, dense wall, I’m beginning to hear a voice—my voice—come out of my own chest. Its nearness, its familiarity, is startling. Like a close friend tiptoed up behind me and started a conversation right into my ear.

This voice feels solid, like a physical weight resting comfortingly at the center of my diaphragm. Singing suddenly feels like what slipping into my first car felt like. It’s the feeling of knowing exactly what to do with every lever, every button. It feels intimate.

The end of the story is, I smell fine. I keep smelling my clothes periodically just to be sure.  I sing with gusto, perhaps more loudly than is strictly necessary. With great relief, I’ve found that second puberty is way funnier than first puberty.





5’6″, Medium Build, Brown Hair

10 06 2010

My body is startling. It has so many parts, first of all. Second, all these parts work at far less than minimum wage for a brain that pretty emphatically disagrees with them some of the time. A brain that has flatly disowned them at multiple points in their time together.

This body can work itself to exhaustion on a pull-up bar (not having accomplished much), but it refuses to stay awake through more than half an hour of Garden State. It can consume literally a plateful of ears of corn, but it feels full to the very edges before I’m halfway through a yogurt. It turns white and limp when I have to get even the smallest blood sample taken out of it. It sweats constantly, every single moment, of an east coast summer. It smells totally different now that I’ve been on T for a few months. Like I say, it’s a funny bunch of pieces.

My fingers, for instance, seem unfazed by the biting judgments my brain has passed upon them. Not once did my fingers rebel when I cursed them for being too delicate, for hurting when I tried to wrestle with other boys. Not once while I railed at them for being too thin for men’s ring sizes. Not once while I held them stiff at my sides, certain they’d outed me by flitting around like moths. My fingers just carry on, doing whatever I tell them to do. They’re either fiercely loyal or they’re huge losers.

I made the right choice when I decided to start medically transitioning. Not that many things have changed about my appearance yet (excepting the disappearance of some almost belligerently round ta-tas—that was pretty major). It isn’t about passing (often I still don’t), and it isn’t about erasing the body I was born in. I’m keeping this body. It’s downright hilarious. Acquaintanceship with this body became a roaring, raucous friendship when I started T. I didn’t have to medically transition; I was functioning all right beforehand. I decided to transition because I wanted to connect with my body, all the way out to the skin. Instead of just telling it to do things and letting it exist alongside me.

There are so many things about bodies that I could only ignore for the first 21 years of my life. In particular, I now cannot get enough of the multitude of words available to describe our body parts. There is nothing more satisfying than to have an itch somewhere on my body and to call out the exact right word for what that body part feels like to me. To be able to call out, with perfect accuracy and clarity, “I have an itch on the lower half of my left asscheek,” is frankly exhilarating. My manly, flat, unabashed asscheek, pale but still just barely tinged with my mom’s golden skin tone, has an itch and may imminently be scratched by my prim but resolved man-fingernails.

I have so many words and so many parts. It feels like I’ve just come into previously unimaginable wealth. My body is the funniest friend I have. I’ve spent so much more time laughing with my whole self lately. Using every muscle you can possibly engage in laughter. Being able to name each one of them as they spasm with mirth and let my voice fly.