Sunday, 4 December 2011

About Me, Part 1: Black and White

As this year draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on my progress this past twelve months as well as my life as a whole. 2011 will go down in history as a year of revolution ... my own life no less. A year ago, after much inner turmoil around who I was and after a couple of years of general disillusionment, I made the decision to transition. A year later (I began HRT on January 12) much has changed: obviously I look different, even without make-up, most of my friends know and I'm out to most people at work. I'm also out to my radio show's audience and to others at the station, ditto in the local swing dance and at the community garden. Going out as my authentic self even at night, and briefly, was terrifying; now I go out in the day time, on public transit, downtown. To shop, I once stuck to a few well chosen clothing stores; now I go anywhere, even downtown to shop for jewelery or undergarments. I'm now on the verge of two momentous steps: legally changing my name, and coming out to family. At the end of 2011, I stand on the edge of a precipice.

Two things, a long-distance phone conversation with a parent this afternoon and a couple of YouTube videos, led to me starting a little mini-series on how I got here in life, why I've made the decisions I've made, and how many layers have had to peel off of me in order for me to finally see myself. So starting at the beginning:

I was born in Montreal on Sunday, September 6, 1970, at about ten after four in the morning: apparently a few days early according to doctors. My slightly early arrival caught a few of my folks off-guard: one set of grandparents was out of town at a wedding and had to rush back.

I have many, although vague, memories of early childhood. Music features prominently, I remember songs vividly, even though I didn't know who the artists were, I remembered the melodies, the rhythms. I remember television shows, cartoons. Households were different then, no computers of any kind, no microwaves, no cell phones or similar devices. One, maybe, two televisions (usually a large colour set in the living room and a small black and white one in the kitchen), small radio in the kitchen and a stereo in the living room. That was entertainment. We lived on a small, quiet east end street a block away from the Metropolitan expressway, and across the street from my maternal grandparents. We moved about half a mile away a couple of years later, and then, after a fire, we stayed with my grandparents for a month before moving into a second floor apartment in a block on a busy main street in the same neighbourhood. A lot of moving around in a few years.

My sense of myself was fairly neutral, or at least I don't remember anything until somewhere between three and five years. In the early 70s, women still wore wigs when they went out; both my mother and her mother did and make-up was a huge deal. I would them getting ready, fascinated. On one occasion I asked my mother to make my face up. She did. I remember a sense of lightness, and relief. But, when I asked a second time, on another occasion, she refused. At that point, I was told I was a boy ... that boys didn't wear make-up ... I remember my grandmother chiming in that God wanted me to be a little boy, not a girl. I was disappointed, even confused; why was it so wrong.

From then on, the older I got, the less confident I felt, the emptier I seemed. This could have been any  for any number of reasons, but I can't help thinking that maybe, developing into a young boy, externally, never made much sense to me at some basic level, although obviously, I had no idea why. As I went through daycare, preschool and first grade, I felt more comfortable with friends who were girls. I felt our emotions were the same. Again, I had no idea why. I was sometimes mistaken for a girl. I would answer that I was a boy, although inside the feeling was hollow.

To be continued ...

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