childhood memories, Christine Jorgensen, comic strips, Gender Identity, Jan Morris, Lee's Mardi Gras Boutique, Lynn Conway, Misfile, MTF transsexual, passing, reconstructed personal history, Renee Richards, Satchel Paige, socialization, stealth, Trans woman, Transition, violence against transgenders
Baseball great, Satchel Paige, was almost as well known for his sayings as for his pitching prowess. Perhaps his most famous quote was “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
Having transitioned relatively late in life, it is tempting to try to look back and ask “What if?” What if I transitioned in my twenties or thirties? What if I had been born with a body to match the gender identity in my mind?
From the exploring I did two to three years ago, trying to sort things out, I came across someone who claimed that she could transform your personal childhood memories from a boy’s memories to a girl’s memories.
It is not the purpose of this post to debate whether the mind can be manipulated in that way. So for the moment, I will allow that it could be possible.
It would be reprehensible if such a thing was a scam, duping trusting and hurting souls into parting with their money. If it is not a scam, it is equally reprehensible. To mess with someone’s mind to that extent is at the same level as people who would try to “cure” a transsexual so their core gender identity matches their anatomy. It is brainwashing, pure and simple.
There’s one other thing about the result of such a transformation. It is a lie.
In the past, I have tried to reconstruct a personal history based on either being born with a girl’s body or transitioning as a young adult. It was a fruitless exercise other than being the wiser for it.
The fact of the matter is simple. When it comes to human interaction and human choices, you cannot change one variable and assume all the other elements will remain constant. As some examples, if you raise or lower taxes, people change their behavior; if you raise or lower prices, people change their behavior.
So let’s say I had been born with a girl’s body, but all other circumstances were constant: same immediate family, same neighborhood, same public school, and same kids in school and on the block where I grew up in Queens.
Yet from day one, I would have been treated differently. I would have been given a different name (in fact, it would have been Linda). Right away, I would have been responding to something different, a different sound.
It would quickly go beyond that. I would have been spoken to differently, been given different clothes and different toys. I would have been socialized in what was expected of girls instead of what was expected of boys. I would have learned different lessons about my body and grooming.
My parents would have shown the same love to me, but they still would have treated me differently. They were very conventional and that meant boys and girls were treated differnently. My brother would have related to me differently. I would have had different best friends in school and in the neighborhood.
Perhaps my interest in sports would have been allowed to continue up to a certain age. But that would have meant playing with the guys. That would have been discouraged once my body started to change. I would have been encouraged to go into cheerleading. There were far fewer varsity sports for girls than boys in those days.
As time passes, the history diverges further. As it happened, I grew up in a two bedroom house until we moved when I was eight years old. There’s a good chance we would have moved much sooner if I had a girl’s body. It is likely that my parents would not wanted me to share a bedroom with my brother until we reached age 8 and 13. Chances are, we would have found a new home somewhere else. That means a different school and different kids than the ones I grew up with.
Teacher’s expectations would have been different, too. Even possessing the same intelligence, I probably would have been encouraged to choose a more typical career path for an intelligent woman: teacher or nurse. It is likely that with that type of goal in mind, my parents would not have made the personal sacrifice of the extra expense to send me to private school starting in sixth grade.
Furthermore, considering my current appearance at my age and with all the handicaps of transitioning late in life, it would be a reasonable assumption that I would have been a cute, fairly attractive teenage girl. I’m not talking beauty queen material, but pretty enough to be popular with my peers and having a number of guys wanting to date me. There is a good chance that I would have been very interested in being popular under those circumstances. And if it became clear that acting too smart hurt a girl’s popularity in high school, I would have started to downplay that part of me.
Yes, I might have gone to college, but not one in the Ivy League. And my course of study would have been to have something to fall back on “just in case”. My main objective would have been to get what used to be called an “MRS degree”.
True, by the time I reached high school, the feminist movement was starting to gain ground with women. Would I have rebelled and joined up? Or would I have followed the ways of my conservative, conventional parents and stayed an “old-fashioned” girl. And there was one other significant difference: I would not have had the specter of Vietnam looming over my shoulder until the middle of college.
We have only reached a little past the first twenty years of my life, and already things are vastly different. And it only keeps on moving further away from my life path from there. Therefore, there is no way to know how my life would have actually turned out if I had been born with a girl’s body.
At this point, one might hold up their hand and concede the point on having been born with a girl’s body. But let’s say that I transitioned shortly after college. Surely nothing would have been different about my life up to that point. Wouldn’t things be more predictable in terms of my life post-transition?
Not really. First of all, I wasn’t even able to predict everything about my current post-transition life. I lost friends and clients I expected to keep and kept some I expected to lose. I am going to a different (and better) church than I expected. My relationship with some of my female clients improved far better than I ever imagined. I look better and have blended in better than I expected. I was fairly certain that I would have had at least one negative incident in public by now, but it has not happened.
Now try to remember 1975. I’ve been out of college about a year with a relatively unmarketable Bachelor’s degree. Unemployment is high. And I decide, “What have I to lose?” Well, it was likely that I would have lost my family. My parents probably would have thrown me out of the house and my brother would not have taken me in to live with him.
Without the support of family, the next question is, “What path do I take?” Do I search for and approach Christine Jorgensen or Jan Morris or Renee Richards? How could I have even hoped to find someone like Lynn Conway. The plan of the typical MTF transsexual in those days was stealth and survival. The whole point was to not be found. So it would have taken an amazing stroke of luck to find a transsexual who was maintaining a respectable role in society and continuing undetected.
Yes, considering my appearance now and the fact that I blend so well, stealth would have probably been very achievable for me. But I would have needed to reach that place first, and the path was very well hidden.
There would have been another way. By this time, I had discovered Lee’s Mardi Gras Boutique a few blocks west of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. I only bought magazines there, magazines such as Ladylike and Female Impersonators International. I read them and dreamed. But I didn’t see myself as a flamboyant personality who would have flourished at balls. (Furthermore, it is difficult to sew when your small motor skills are so bad that you can’t thread a needle!)
Nor did I see myself as a drag performer. And in one way, that’s a shame, because I would not have needed to lip synch to records. My vocal range extends well into soprano (and also into baritone, for that matter). So with encouragement, I might have done quite well.
But let’s say I approached someone at Lee’s, maybe the person I found behind the counter the day I finally summoned up the courage to do so; maybe one of the other customers trying on clothing, someone who seemed friendly. Would I have found a safe place? Or would I have ended up in a gritty dangerous lifestyle?
It’s dangerous to be transgendered in this society. It was far more dangerous back then. Being out on the street, hustling, is dangerous. Would I have ended up doing drugs, or getting AIDS? Would a boyfriend react violently upon finding out my past? I might not be here today to be writing this. I might have been killed decades ago.
It appears just as problematic to try to construct a history as a female with a starting point as a young adult. So I am better served living in the present and looking to the future, rather than trying to grab onto an elusive, imaginary past.
One of my pleasures is to read my favorite comic strips. Most of the ones I read can be found at Yahoo Comics or Gocomics, mainstream comics like BC, Jump Start and One Big Happy, or classic comics like Calvin & Hobbes, Cathy and Peanuts. But I also follow an independent, online comic strip with a transgender theme. It is called Misfile (www.misfile.com). The premise is that an inept angel in heaven’s file room has misfiled the information about two teenagers who go to the same high school. A girl becomes two years younger and has to relive the last two years of high school again, just as she was ready to go to college. And she ends up in the class of the other victim, a boy who wakes up one morning as a girl.
Somehow, they figure out that similar things have happened to them and that they are the only ones aware of their previous past. Since then, with the inept angel trying to make amends and turn things back to the way they should, they try to adjust to their new reality. For the girl reliving two years, she makes some different choices and it starts to lead her to different places. For the boy become girl, the adjustment is even greater and the need to revert back is far more desperate. But somehow, they are making it through. And that is all I will say so I don’t spoil it for anyone who wants to start reading it.
One way that chess players improve is by reviewing a completed game, looking at a critical move, replaying it by making a different move, and learning the probable outcome. Life is not like chess in the sense that we can’t go back to a past decision and see what would have happened if we chose B instead of A. Oh, it’s interesting to see it happen in a comic strip to fictional characters. In real life, it is counterproductive.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. – 2nd Corinthians 5:17